Archive for March, 2013

Things I Don’t Quite Understand

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013

There are a bunch of things I don’t really get. I don’t understand how the bottled water industry remains viable when their biggest competition should be free tap water. It amazes me why anyone who owns both a car and a mobile phone would not be able to afford to purchase a $40 phone holder for their car without taking up the offer of “Five easy payments of $7.95!” I don’t get people who believe the Facebook ad claiming that you can make thousands of dollars a week from home with nothing other than your computer and six hours of your time. And why anyone would ever think that money spent on a Star Wars figurine is a better investment than purchasing shares in the chain of stores that sells them, is beyond me.

But a big one I can’t understand is how the people behind We Buy All Homes can sleep at night. The two pics below are ads that may be similar to ones you have seen in your area. Handwritten in texta on a bit of cardboard, you could be forgiven for thinking that someone is trying to make an honest buck by dabbling in real estate without you having to deal with an estate agent.

At this point I must disclose that I hate the average real estate agent with a passion. But these “Homes For Cash” type real estate speculators are something altogether different. They’ll tear you a new arsehole.

Take the sign below. How much do you reckon you would get for your house if you were able to make a quick sale? Market price? Above market price? Or would the buyer pressure you into an offer tens of thousands below what your place is worth? Nothing illegal in doing that and arguably nothing unethical. After all, the seller doesn’t have to hand over any keys if the price isn’t high enough.

Photo of a sign that reads "We buy houses fast" with a mobile number below.

Now look at the next photo (yep, it’s the same mobile number). I was interested to know what “NO Bank Req’d” meant, so I rang.

Photo of a dodgy sign that reads "No bank req'd. 4 bed 2 bath $747 p w with a mobile number underneath.

“Have you heard of radio rentals or Flexirent?”, asked the voice on the other end of the phone.

“Yeah, I have,” I replied, but neglected to add that I have a specific case on my website where Flexirent’s fine print is explained in simple terms so that they can be seen for the rip off merchants that they are.

“Well this works the same sort of way. Let’s say the house you’re after costs $545,000. You pay rent of $747 per week for three years, then you buy it for $545,000, even if the value has gone up in the meantime.”

Wow, that’s really generous. You can lock in the price of a house now and buy it in three years without having to worry about house prices going up. All you have to do is give the guy $116, 532. Over a hundred and sixteen grand in “rent” for the privilege of locking in a house price.

This is such a big rip off I had to do the calculation twice before I believed my calculator. All done in the guise of helping renters to get into the housing market. Good luck raising a deposit.

If you’re wondering wether or not $747 a week rent’s a bit steep, a rule of thumb is that the value of a property divided by 1,000 will be a fair weekly rent. So normal rental prices for a $545,000 property are closer to $545/week. Much higher than this amount and it means the place is under-valued or that the rent’s too high. A bit of quick searching and I found the property in question on a prominent real estate website advertised for not $545,000 but $505,000+. So as well as being a rip off, they’re using bait advertising.

As for the “NO Bank Req’d” unless you can pay cash for a $545,000 in three years time, it’s just delaying the inevitable.

The Flexi Loan

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

I walked into a Westpac branch recently and noticed a brochure for a new product – the Westpac Flexi Loan. This is a “convenient” product that will help you “start afresh in 2013” if you believe the bold print. As with any bank issued information there is fine print on the back of the brochure, right down the bottom, which makes for interesting reading.

A Flexi Loan is like a combination of a line of credit, personal loan and credit card. Effectively, it’s a personal loan that you have a pre-determined credit limit on, between $4,000 and $75,000. Like a line of credit you may redraw up to the amount of your approved limit, without reapplying. Like a personal loan, the Flexi Loan can be for one, two, three, four or five years. Like a credit card, the minimum repayment is equal to 2% of the unpaid balance (or $10 – whichever is greater), plus any unpaid amounts and any amount that exceeds your credit limit. (I have always wondered how it’s possible to exceed a credit limit, especially as just about all exchanges of money these days involves using a card (credit card purchases, debit card ATM withdrawals, withdrawing cash over the counter at a bank after swiping your relevant bank issued card, etc) and that any attempt to withdraw/purchase over your available amount should simply be disallowed by the card issuer.)

Upon application you’ll be encouraged to get a loan with a higher credit limit than you need, just in case you need it in the future. You’ll pay an establishment fee of $150, plus $10 per month at a variable rate of, currently, an incredibly high 14.69%.

Reading the Flexi Loan brochure was the first time I’ve come across this type of loan but I dare say it won’t be the last. It’s something that has the potential for decent bank profits, regardless of whether or not it’s in the best interests of consumers.

As this product is a combination of a credit card and a line of credit, it’s the sort of loan that I reckon should only be used by people who really know what they’re doing. People who are really good with their dough.

Ironically this means that it’s really best suited for people who don’t need a personal loan.