Buying a Family House – In a Child Friendly Area

One of the reasons we buy a house is because we have or are planning to have children. We focus a lot on the house and property itself, but if you think back to your own childhood, it was very much about the friends you made. It was also about the freedom to play on the street, have fun and be safe. Many of us have life long friends because we grew up together, played together and perhaps went to school together.

How do you find places like that? One place I’d look would be a cul-de-sac. A dead-end street. Somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of traffic. The last thing you want is a busy street where you are afraid to let your kids go past the gate unsupervised.

IMG_5685Going for a walk in the street where the house you are interested in is a good idea.

If there are kids, you might see a group playing and get an idea of their age group. You’ll see swings, trampolines and maybe bikes parked up by the footpath.

That will tell you that not only are there kids around, but their parents feel safe having them play on or near the road. In my area I often see parents working in the garage, or looking out from the kitchen. That means they are not only looking out for their kids, but will be aware if there is anything to be concerned about for other kids.

IMG_5686If you see a group of kids playing on the street, you’ll be able to gauge the age group as well as see how they play and interact together.

With all that activity you should also have the confidence that most people driving on the street will be aware that there may be kids around, so will drive with more caution.

Streetview KidsIf it’s a long way away, you might find that a virtual along the street with Google Street View will give you an idea of whether it is a child friendly area.

You can look pretty much at any street in the world from the comfort of your home, like this one in Antioch, California. Looks like a great sport for a family to me….

Posted in Auckland, Australia Real Estate, bikes, Buying a Home Research, Buying a House, Buying a House Mistakes, Canada Real Estate, driver behavior, drivers, Family, First Home Buyer, Google, Google maps, Google Satellite View, Google Street View, home, home loan, house hunting, Lifestyle, location based apps, Location Based Services, Map data, Maps, Mistakes Buying a House, Money, mortgage, Neighbors, Neighbours, New Zealand, New Zealand Real Estate, People, Real Estate, risk, SoLoMo, The Location Guru, traffic, UK, UK Real Estate, Urban design, US Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buying a House? How Good is Your Credit Rating and How Do You Find Out?

Wah PedalWhen I was a teenager and still at school I bought a Cry Baby Wah Pedal for my guitar from a department store. It was probably a couple of hundred dollars and I was earning about $30 a week giving guitar lessons after school, so I had to pay for it on hire purchase. What’s a Wah Pedal? If you really don’t know, check out this demo of the unit I bought on YouTube and think Jimi Hendrix.

Unfortunately it was faulty, and I had to get on the bus, go into the city and take it back under warranty. They told me they didn’t have any replacements in stock and they would have to send it away.

To cut a long story short, something went wrong with their paperwork, I never got a replacement pedal or a repaired pedal. I went in a couple of times (a 45-minute bus ride each way) but couldn’t get any sense out of them and in the end, I gave up on it, didn’t pay for it, because I didn’t have it and totally forgot about it, other than never going back to that chain again.

Little did I know that therefore I got a bad mark against my credit rating and next time I went to buy something on Hire Purchase several years later, my loan request was turned down. It took quite a while to work out what it was about, and you can imagine how frustrated I was.

It wasn’t my fault, it was their mistake. I lost my deposit, didn’t have the pedal and got a bad mark against my credit history and couldn’t buy the Dobro guitar I wanted on finance.

I had done nothing wrong, but I was now seen as a credit risk.

There are several scenarios where people may have to or want to check your credit rating, it may be for a purchase, a loan, it may be when you are shortlisted for a job, it could be when you are renting or buying a house.

In each country there are ways to find out what your credit rating is. One thing you need to know is that each time someone requests a rating on you it is registered and becomes a statistic, even if your rating is good. People checking can see how often other people have checked your rating.

What you don’t want is any nasty surprises when it counts. A simple error became a major annoyance to me but could be much worse if its something like a car that you need to be able to get a job, or you are about to rent your first home.

Maybe you have never even had credit. I’ve always maintained it’s good if you can get interest free finance, to do so occasionally even if you don’t need it and then pay it off, always making the payments before the due date. You could even put the money into a savings account, collect interest and make direct payments automatically, so you don’t have to think about it.

Where do you go to get a FREE Credit Check?

In New Zealand, there are three agencies which are required by law to provide you with your credit rating for free. They are Illion, Centrix and Equifax. All these sites have information about how to get your report and other useful information about finance, budgets and loans.

In Australia, you can also go to Equifax, CreditSmart, or Again these are all free.

If you are in the UK, you can go to ClearScore, Equifax, or TotallyMoney, also all free sites.

Free reports are also available for Canada at Equifax, or TransUnion.

Finally in the USA, you can go to Experian, credit karma, or Credit Sesame.

This list isn’t exclusive, there are more. I just wanted to give you some options.

These sites all have useful tips about borrowing money, and tools like calculators to help you get an idea on what you can afford. You will find more information about buying a house on my blog at This includes other things you need to think about. The mortgage repayments are just one of the costs you need to consider.

What about a Credit Score and What Is It?

There is your credit rating and an internationally recognized formula called your Credit Score. This is a 3-digit number that is based on analysis of your credit history. Lenders will use this to predict whether you will be able to repay your loan on time or not. Credit Scores are used by many organizations who may be taking a ‘risk’ on providing you with money or services. It includes everything from credit card companies, banks, insurance companies, utility and telecommunications companies and in some cases as I mentioned above, potential employers.

So What?

Even if you aren’t planning to buy a house in the next year or two, you want to know that when you do go to a mortgage lender that your financial ‘house’ is in order. You need to know that there aren’t any misunderstandings or little problems that can trip you up just when you have found that perfect house. Get it sorted when you don’t need it. If there is anything inaccurate in your information, you have the right to get it set straight.

I do also think it is a good idea to use credit occasionally even if you don’t need it. If you have never had any debt, how can anyone know whether you can pay it back or not? Don’t think about paying your electricity or gas as giving you a good record. They know you must pay those bills, so its not going to help much, but it could go against you if you haven’t been able to pay them on time.

If you’re score needs improving, do it now, not when you want a loan

Posted in Australia, Australia Real Estate, Banks, Buying a Home Research, Buying a House, Buying a House Mistakes, Canada, Canada Real Estate, Finance, First Home Buyer, home, home loan, house hunting, insurance, insurance risk, Mistakes Buying a House, Money, mortgage, Mortgage Calculator, New Zealand Real Estate, property, Real Estate, Retail, SoLoMo, UK Real Estate, US Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On Neighbors, Earthquakes and Terrorism

Yesterday I read an article called What to do in a Terrorist Attack in your Neighborhood on a website called I thought why would this be relevant to me? I live in a country where the only terrorism attack I can remember is when French agents sunk the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand 33 years ago.  Yes it was a shock, but it didn’t affect us other than the shock horror of a sovereign nation committing an attack on our soil, so to speak.

Then I took the analogy of an earthquake and even events like gang or other street violence and regrettably we have had our share of those and the stories remain.

NeighborsThis brings me back again to the topic of neighbors, which I have now raised in a number of these blogs. The article points out to get to know your neighbors. In many cities the hedges and fences grow taller and we are less in touch with the people around us.

There are lots of websites and mobile apps where you can can check crime statistics right down to city blocks or mesh blocks. If you want to know more about these, follow this blog and I will write about them with links in coming episodes.

Yesterday I was in a taxi on my way to Float Culture to get some relief for my back. If sensory deprivation and alternative ways of healing injuries and dealing with stress are of interest to you, bookmark my personal blog where I will be writing about this. For at least a few hours I went from pain at 7/10 to almost none.

The taxi driver told me proudly that he had finally bought a home after renting for 30 years. He had been an immigrant in the health sector and had eventually saved enough to buy and was able to meet the mortgage payments by having his adult children move into his 4 bedroom home and help with the repayments and only had to work 6 hours a day in the cab to meet his living costs along with his wife who was also working. He loved his neighborhood in West Auckland.

I mention the region because parts of it have a poor reputation including where I had my first home. But other parts where I have also lived were fantastic neighborhoods with great people. The key is to do your research and this comes back to talking to your potential neighbors and finding out if you are going to like them, or at least get on with them.

I’ve said it before. We like to live in places where the people are like us and that’s what our neighbors want too. There is other simple advice in the article that is worth reading too, about being prepared for emergencies.

Earthquake Damaged Apartment in Christchurch

September 2011 in Christchurch

Throughout the world we have experienced earthquakes, floods, horrific storms, tsunami and more. Being prepared means having emergency kits but it also means knowing you will have the kind of neighbor and be the kind of neighbour that checks on those around you.

I strongly recommend meeting and talking to the people that live on either side of the property you are thinking of buying. You can have bad neighbors in a good area and great neighbors in a not so great area. It’s something you want to know about before you buy.

Don’t forget, you can follow this blog or receive it by email if you want to know about how to find out more about a neighborhood before you even consider going to look at houses to buy (or rent).



Posted in Apps, Auckland, Australia Real Estate, burglary, Buying a Home Research, Buying a House, Canada Real Estate, climate change, Crime, Crime Prevention, earthquake, Education, emergency, First Home Buyer, home, house hunting, Lifestyle, location based apps, Location Based Consultant, Location Based Education, Location Based Services, Map apps, neighborhood crime, Neighbors, Neighbourhood Crime, Neighbours, New Zealand, New Zealand Real Estate, News, People, property, Real Estate, real estate agent, safety, Safety app, Society, taxi industry, taxis, terrorism, tsunami, UK Real Estate, United Kingdom, US Real Estate, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do Real Estate Agents Take You to Houses You Don’t Want? Could it be You?

For SaleWhy are you looking to buy a house? Is it an investment for the future? Are you getting married? Are you planning to have children or perhaps already have some? Are you really clear on what you want? Whether you are or aren’t clear, there will be some important factors and if you can’t explain them to a Real Estate Agent, you will get what you asked for.

At the very least you should have a list of the things that are show stoppers and what you like in a house. Get a house viewing app that allows you to include pictures or put them on a spreadsheet and when you are looking at houses, rate them out of 10. Before the Agent even gets you in their car, or you go to Open Homes, see if you can match the advertisement information against your list.

If you must have 2 bathrooms, don’t look at any houses with just one. If, like me, you are not a handyman’s rear end, don’t go to the house that says “So much potential!” 

I was in an Uber going to the pool on Sunday to do my hydrotherapy exercises for my back (I can’t drive at the moment) and the driver started asking me all sorts of questions about my neighborhood. He was quite specific. 

Uber Prius

Why are Prius’ so ugly?

He asked about price and mentioned how nice it was to have a beach close by. He wanted to know if there was a supermarket close by and other shops. He asked about crime. Where there many burglaries in the area or things stolen from cars. What were the schools like? What are the school zones? What was the ethnic mix in the area?

Notice that these are location based questions. He told me he was interested in the area and had just started renting a house locally because he heard it was a nice place to live and was asking all of his passengers to find out more about it before he decided to look at houses.

What a great opportunity he had to research, and he was getting paid for it! It was clear by his questions that it was as much about what he didn’t want as what he was looking for.

Ads for houses, whether they are online or in your junk mail, have to make every single property look attractive. If the house is amazing, it will have a picture showing why, if not, it is likely to talk about the potential “Bring paint brush, roll up your sleeves and finish the project”. It might talk about the location, but not the house. “In the school zone”, or “Seller’s motivation is high”.

Having said that, most realtors these days have websites and mobile apps where you can select the features you are looking for. If you’re not really sure what you want and only know what you can afford, maybe start with looking at the features you can choose from on one of those apps and start making a list of things you want and things you don’t want.

I was interviewed yesterday by a person from the Department of Statistics as part of a 3 year survey. He asked me questions like:

  • How easy is it to get to public transport? For me right now (injury notwithstanding) it was a 20 minute walk to the bus stop through a park. At the moment they have closed the park as they are concreting a new walkway through it, so it would be about a 30 minute walk to the nearest suitable bus stop.
  • He asked how safe I felt in the neighborhood. Then he embellished on that and said  “Would you feel safe walking on the streets at night when it’s dark? He said “What about waiting at a bus stop in the dark?
  • He asked whether I was concerned about crime in the area. He asked if neighborhood crime was better or worse than it was when I bought the house. There is a public meeting at the end of this month arranged by our local Member of Parliament and the Police, together with Neighborhood Watch, Community Patrol ‘and other groups’. You would only know about that if you did some research.
  • He asked me whether I was happy with the distance I had to travel to the nearest convenience store and supermarket.
  • He also asked a lot of questions about community, social questions and how I would rate my happiness. Subjective yes, but when you have a critical mass, you can start painting a picture of a neighborhood and this information anonymized of course, is available to anyone with access to the Internet. That’s you.

When you put together your list, think about the soft things as much as the hard things. So you need at least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. You can get those in any neighborhood. You are going to spend about 2/3 of your time there.

Once you have that list, you can start narrowing down what you are looking at and instead of going out looking at properties, streets or suburbs that you have no interest in, you can start being smart. If you are a first home buyer, some of these things may not have occurred to you because you are focused more on the money. If you have some experience, this will be logical and if you think back to last time, you know you should have done more research right?

How do you do that research? If you can be specific to a Real Estate Agent, you can also be specific in researching the questions online. School Zones, Crime Statistics, Floodplains (don’t forget global warming and the risk of sea level rising from global warm or climate change). Don’t know where to start? Read a few more of my blogs. They might give you answers. Here’s a good place to start. 

I also have a FREE eBook coming out soon. If you subscribe to this blog, you can find out how to get it when it is launched.


Posted in Australia Real Estate, Buying a Home Research, Buying a House, Buying a House Mistakes, Canada Real Estate, eBook, Education, First Home Buyer, Google Street View, grocery, home, location based apps, Location Based Education, Mobile Apps, Money, New Zealand Real Estate, property, Selling a House, The Location Guru, UK Real Estate, US Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

STOP. Before You Buy That Business, Talk to the Neighbors

3d (2)I’ve just finished the draft of an eBook called ‘5 Top Mistakes People Make When They Are Buying a House’ and it struck me that there are many similarities when buying or locating a business. In this case I want to talk about neighbors.

Everyone always talks about location, location, location and many businesses don’t have the advantage of being a strategic destination like a Supermarket where they have the resources to buy land, a big car park and even securing land that would be perfect near their own stores, to prevent a competitor buying it.

In my book I talk about the impact neighbors can have on your home life. Good neighbors like I have, form a community who look out for each other, bad neighbors can make life a misery. I’ll be releasing the book soon for free. If you would like a copy, connect with me, let me know and I will send you a link when it is ready. It’s only about 40 pages, but IMHO full of golden nuggets that many people don’t think about. It isn’t just for first home buyers either.

I have often blogged and spoken about commercial neighbors. As a keynote at a Parking Industry Conference I spoke about the fact that car parks are not a destination and that they would do well to understand where the customer is actually going and find ways to network and collaborate with those places.

I have blogged about collaborations going right back to when Mike Blumsky owned a shoe store in Wellington and had a reciprocal arrangement with a cafe. Buy a pair of shoes and get a free coffee. Buy a coffee and get a discount voucher for shoes. So simple and obvious isn’t it? Yet almost no one does it.

Commercial Neighbors

©Google 2018 from Google Streetview

Have a look at this picture and think about the synergies and look at the parking zone. How’s that for location? Nice kayak though…

In conjunction with my eBook I have a couple of recommendations. One is to go onto Streetview and look at a location before you even get in your car to look at it. I describe a journey I made from Auckland to Hamilton in New Zealand to look at a potential rental property several years ago. It was 146 km each way from my home. If I had looked on Streetview I would have seen rusting car carcasses and other artifacts next door, which explained why the selling price was low. I wouldn’t have wasted my time or money.

If you’re still here, I’ll get to the crux of the matter. If you are looking at investing in a business or a business location. Talk to the neighbors first.

I’m sure you can come up with a good list of questions.

  • Is it a good location for business?
  • Do you get good foot traffic?
  • What’s the gossip about the area?
  • Why is the business or location up for sale?
  • Is the location working for you?
  • Are their opportunities to collaborate somehow?
  • Are there any major changes happening at this location, strip, mall, land use, neighborhood that will impact you?

The neighboring businesses are a gold mine. The vendor will be showing you books and statistics designed to make the business look great and it may be, but quite possibly isn’t. They want out and have skin in you getting in.

The neighbors don’t want anything from you other than perhaps that you don’t compete with them; and perhaps that you will help them get more customers if there is a synergy. If there are problems, most will take great pleasure in telling you their stories.

So whether you are buying a business, a lease or purchase of a building to house your business, or buying a house, talk to the neighbors second, after you have checked it out on Google Streetview first. Neighbors are a goldmine of information and will either fill you with confidence, or quickly help you decide that it is not a good fit for you.

Common sense? I’ve heard some interesting stories where emotional attachment to an idea, to a property through the presentation by a good sales person, or just wanting to get on with it, means that the most obvious (in hindsight perhaps) thing to do is talk to the neighbors first doesn’t come to mind.

I’d love you to leave a comment of your experience.

Posted in Auckland, Business, Business Consultant, Buying a Business, Buying a House, carpark information, carparking, Collaboration, Customer Research, Education, First Home Buyer, Foresight, good books, Google maps, Google Street View, grocery, Lifestyle, Location Based Consultant, Location Based Education, Map apps, Map data, Maps, Market Research, Marketing, parking, People, property, Real Estate, real estate agent, Restaurant, Retail, retail survival, SoLoMo, The Location Guru | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Stays and What Goes When You Buy a House? AND Making Sure You Don’t Get Ripped Off!

This is so important that you need to question everything you are not sure of AND you need to confirm that everything you expect the vendor to leave is written into the contract under chattels, or fixtures and fittings.

“But they are nice people and they said they would leave it.” I hear you saying. Let me share with you from my experience.

iPhone 412First you are often buying from a couple and one of them may not agree with the other, or be aware of what the other have said. It’s all very well to argue that an offer and acceptance during a conversation make a verbal contract and if you want to fight it after you have taken possession, great, you can try. Wouldn’t it be easier to just make sure.

Often a house contract has standard inclusions like the stove, bench-top oven, drapes, TV aerial or satellite dish (often owned by the cable company anyway), but don’t assume anything.

You also don’t want to pay all the money over until you have made a final inspection. In our second house we had an outside kitchen bench with a sink and a waste disposal unit at the back of the house.  The owner was a keen fisherman and this was where he scaled and filleted his catch, so the smell wouldn’t end up inside. It was bolted onto the house and it had been agreed that it would stay with the house.

When we were moving in, they hadn’t finished moving out and a relative had decided he would quite like to have it, so he had already unbolted it and was working on the plumbing when we started moving some of out things into the garage while we waited for our empty house.

The relative didn’t know that this had been agreed, it wasn’t on the contract, but fortunately we caught it in time and the vendor confirmed he had agreed it should stay, and it was more or less restored to its previous condition.

In another house there were fixtures like large mirrors that the vendor had said he would keep, however he decided they were worth money and our moving in day turned into a garage sale, where he wanted to charge us for everything from the mirrors and spare floor tiles to left over wall paint from slap dash tidy ups they had done, after removing things from the wall, and rooms they had painted previously The paint had absolutely no no value to them after they sold the house, but they tried. We told them to take it if another $30 was such a big deal to them. The truth is they didn’t want it and left junk that we said we didn’t want as well. It all got annoying and took some of the gloss out of enjoying moving into our new home.

So, my advice is, take nothing for granted. Anything that could potentially be removed from the stove, to solar panels, TV aerials, drapes and blinds, should be documented on the contract if you want them. A verbal contract, as they say, is only as good as the paper it is printed on.

The contract protects both parties from misunderstandings and there is more than enough tension on moving day.

Taking a photo of the chattels isn’t a bad idea either. I’ve heard of things like people replacing the nice stove with a cheap and nasty old one.

Have you had any experiences like that?


Posted in Buying a House, Buying a House Mistakes, First Home Buyer, home, Mistakes Buying a House, property, Real Estate, Selling a House | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s a Facebook Stalker Waiting to Burgle Your Home

I recently wrote an article on LinkedIn about how there are criminals who prey on people who put out ‘public’ posts about cool big boys toys or other items that they own. Things like shots of the boat on a trailer, or a couple of jet-skis in the garage, or having fun out on the lake.

IncomingThen with location services on, they check into their holiday location and start posting holiday photos from their holiday to Montego Bay in Jamaica, where they are snorkeling on the reef.

Now it doesn’t say their house is empty, but it does tell a Facebook Stalker that they won’t be back home in a hurry.

I have heard plenty of stories of criminal gangs who steal things to order and it is incredibly easy to search for people, things interests and location. The ability to do those searches are second nature to teenagers and young people who are looking for some easy money.

Just to prove how easy it is to do, I did a search for ‘Jet Ski Fun’ on Facebook. I found posts from individual people and was able to see where they work, which would make it pretty easy to find out where they live. Then I was able to see from their public posts whether they were home or away.

For someone who is on minimum wage or perhaps not working and living on the proceeds of organized crime, how much time do you think they would be prepared to invest in an item they could easily steal and sell for a few thousand dollars? I can tell you that a smart person could probably find a list of prospects in a specific town in a matter of an hour or two. Long before the owners get back home, their pride and joy could be in another part of the country.

How serious is this? Check out this article that came out a few days ago in The Independent that says “One in 12 Brits have reported a burglary after posting on social media, with more than half of these admitting they had location tagging turned on.”

The statistics in the article are pretty scary and the Internet is full of stories about the risk that people posting their stories, photos and video with location services turned on, are not adequately protecting their property.

I did a search on Google about ‘Insurance Companies Using Facebook.’ I got 422 million results in half a second. That should give you an idea of whether the industry is looking at this problem.

Maybe it would be a good idea to share your posts more privately and share your holiday pics when you get back home. What do you think?

Posted in Best Practice GPS, burglary, Buying a House, car insurance, Checkins, Cool Tech, Crime, Crime Prevention, cybercrime, Facebook, First Home Buyer, Foresight, Gadgets, GPS, GPS features, GPS Maps, GPS Problems, GPS Track People, Hackers, home, insurance, insurance risk, location based apps, Location Based Services, Mobile Apps, mobile holiday apps, mobile travel apps, neighborhood crime, Neighbourhood Crime, News, people tracking, Personal security, Personal tracker, photo apps, Privacy, risk, Skiing, SmartPhone, Social Media, Social Media Insight, stolen, Stolen cars, Stolen truck, Stories, theft, Tourism, Tourism apps, tourism tech, track crime, Track phone, Tracking a cellphone, Tracking criminals, tracking data, Tracking stolen property, Travel, Travel Apps, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment