LinkedIn – what’s in it for me as a business?

LinkedIn is often described as Facebook for the professional. It’s the social network with more of a focus on business-to-business or professional-to-professional.

LinkedIn tells us they have around 450 million professional users (growing at a rate of 1 million a week) who exchange information, ideas and opportunities and either look for a job or for someone to fill a role.

Australia accounts for five million of these users, representing an estimated 80 percent of professionals in the country.

It’s a great tool to help you stay informed about your contacts and industry, find the people and knowledge you need to achieve your goals, engage your potential clients in a two-way conversation and to control your professional identity online. Often when you’re searching for someone by their name on Google, their LinkedIn profile is the first thing to appear, so you can see how important having a good presence on the site is.

Businesses and organisations can also set up profiles on the site; many businesses use it to recruit (and check references) for new recruits. The largest part of the LinkedIn business is the Talent Services division, which lets recruiters search for LinkedIn users in a targeted way, and LinkedIn Jobs, whereby organisations post a job advert ensuring it’s targeted to the specific audience or prospect they are looking to attract. Companies also advertise more broadly on LinkedIn given its corporate audience – you’ll often find airlines advertising to attract business travellers.

LinkedIn is basically a content platform where members update their own information. Your home page is a mini news feed where you can see all of your linked connections and organisations’ updates in the one spot.

LinkedIn is free in terms of basic membership, but there are options to upgrade to enable you to search its databases, send an increased quota of messages directly to other members and also see detailed reporting on who has been digging through your profile.

Are your tenants secure?

From July 1 landlords in WA have been required to step up home security measures for tenants. If you own a rental property, are you doing enough to deter thieves? It’s worth checking with your relevant state authority for specific rules in your market. Here’s a brief round-up of what’s required where.

Western Australia: The first state to spell out in detail minimum security requirements for rentals, mostly around deadlocks, key lockable security screen doors and outside lighting. For more information on all of the changes visit

New South Wales: Rules are less prescriptive than most other states, but landlords must still provide locks or security devices to ensure premises are reasonably secure. Visit

Queensland: Locks and security devices must be in good working order and all keys made available to tenants. Visit

South Australia: Rules are not very specific other than to say landlords must provide and maintain locks to ensure the property is reasonably secure. Visit

Victoria: Owners must take all reasonable steps to ensure a property is safe and secure, while a tenant must get the landlord’s consent to change a lock. Visit

Tasmania: Owners must provide and maintain adequate locks and security devices to secure the property. Visit

Northern Territory: Locks and other security devices must be maintained to ensure the premises are secure. Tenants must get landlord permission to switch a lock and hand over copies of all keys. Visit

Australian Capital Territory: Tenants who feel their rental property’s security is at risk can apply to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a reduction in rent. Visit

Are you ready for SuperStream?

Mandatory changes to Australia’s superannuation regime beginning on July 1 will affect how employers make their super contributions.

SuperStream will require employers to update existing payroll systems so additional information about employees can be provided to the ATO and to ensure transactions and data comply with a prescribed electronic format.

The changes, which are part of broader superannuation reforms, will also give businesses with annual turnover below $2million access to the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House (SBSCH).

“This single measure will provide approximately 27,500 additional small businesses with a cost-free solution to help them meet their superannuation obligations,” Federal Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson said.

The SBSCH is designed to help small businesses meet their Superannuation Guarantee obligations by allowing them to pay superannuation contributions in one transaction to a single location.

From July 1, employers will also no longer be required to offer choice of fund forms to temporary resident employees or to employees whose superannuation fund has merged.

“This measure will not only reduce unnecessary red tape but it will also reduce the number of employers who become liable for heavy penalties after inadvertently neglecting to provide choice,” Mr Billson said.


If you have more than 20 employees
The SuperStream rollout started on July 1, 2014. You have until June 30 to ensure you are compliant with the new requirements when sending super contributions on your employee’s behalf.

If you have 19 employees or fewer
SuperStream roll out will begin on July 1. You have until June 30, 2016 to ensure you meet the new requirements when sending super contributions on your employee’s behalf. Voluntary adoption of the scheme was available from July 1, 2014.

More information is available from

Bidder up!

A record 101,000 properties – or around one in five of those put on the market in Australia last year – went to auction 1. And while clearance rates vary between markets, there is no denying plenty of buyers are willing to go head-to-head with the hammer.

Onsite or in a room, auctions can be both exhilarating and daunting, especially for novice bidders. As with any property purchase, the keys to success are prior preparation, research and a clear head.

Haven has help at hand so you can make the most of the auction action.

Know how much you can afford
Before you set your sights and heart on any particular property, visit your mortgage broker to find out how much you can borrow. Knowing how much you can spend will narrow down your search, keep your expectations in check and prevent you wasting time and energy looking at properties beyond your reach. Most lenders will also pre-approve the amount, but keep in mind this does not guarantee the loan. The property, for example, still needs to be valued by the lender to ensure it meets the value-to-loan ratio. In other words, if you pay more for the property than what it is worth, you may be denied the loan, even if pre-approved.

Know the market
Once you set a budget, narrow down the market and identify properties of interest. Research the asking price and previous sales of similar properties in that postcode, especially those in surrounding streets. You should also visit local open houses (auctions and regular sales) and sit on the sidelines of a couple of auctions before bidding yourself.

Know the property
If a property ticks all of your boxes and you feel you stand a good chance of landing it at auction, consider investing in an independent valuation with a certified practitioner.

For around $400 to $600, depending on the property size and location, an independent valuation generally provides a more accurate appraisal of the market value than the selling agent’s estimate. This will also give you a guide on how your lender will value the property. Just remember, valuations are just that – a guide. Auctions can go either way, often eclipsing price expectations or leaving vendors disappointed, so it’s important you know as much about your market as possible and how much you are prepared to spend.

No cooling off
Unlike standard property purchases, there is no cooling off period when you buy at auction, nor is the property sold subject to finance, inspections or other conditions. If you are the successful bidder, you are the buyer, and a 10 per cent deposit is usually due that day or within 24 hours. If you change your mind, are declined finance or find fault with the property before the settlement due date, you will forfeit the deposit and possibly incur other costs if the vendor has to sell at a lower price.

It may sound like buying at auction is fraught with traps, but it’s really just a case of finding out as much about the property as possible beforehand.

All properties up for auction must have a contract, which should include the title documents, the zoning certificate, drainage diagram and approvals for additions such as a swimming pool. Show a copy of the contract to your legal adviser, who may run some other property checks or request a survey.

You should also get a pest and building inspection before the auction. Some buyers may be reluctant to fork out on inspections and legal advice when there is no guarantee of winning the auction, but you are taking a significant financial gamble if you are the successful bidder and haven’t done your homework.

Stick to your limit
Before you start bidding, it’s critical you set an upper limit – and stick to it. If buying a property with your partner or another party, have a direct and honest conversation prior to ensure you are both on the same page when it comes to maximum spend. Emotions can run high in auctions, and competitive spirits often compete with cool heads.

Attend or agent
If you’re concerned about getting swept up in the auction frenzy and spending more than planned, you might be wise to send a buying agent to do your bidding. Just as a real estate agent represents the vendor, a buyer’s agent represents you and can help search, evaluate, bid and negotiate on your behalf. Some buyer’s agents work for a flat fee, while some charge a percentage of the property purchase price, or a combination of both.

The advantage of a buyer’s agent is that they are emotionally detached and focused only on your brief. This can be especially useful if bidding on an investment property, where emotional attachment is relatively low.

When to bid
It’s probably more a case of when not to bid. Don’t bid until the property reaches its reserve price and the auctioneer declares it officially on the market. If you have taken a contract, the selling agent will have you in their sights and may pressure you to bid sooner or more than you wish. Resist the pressure and stick to your plan.

If successful, you will be asked to pay the deposit, which is held in trust until settlement – usually four to six weeks, depending on the regulations in your state and terms of the sale contract. Your lender will then finalise your loan and also ask you to take out insurance cover in the unlikely event the property is damaged or destroyed during settlement. Technically the property still belongs to the vendor until settlement, but ownership can be grey in the case of insurance once a sale contract has been signed.

1 CoreLogic RP Data

Pets please apply

Pets have been long maligned by landlords for their potential to make a mess and cause damage. But with pet ownership in Australia ranking the highest in the world, property investors who turn their backs on our furry friends could be missing out on tenants and dollars.

Before they dismiss dogs and cats, landlords should consider that 60 per cent of Australians have pets and one-third of households rent. Saying “no” to Fido and his feline foes means narrowing the rental funnel. At a time when national vacancy rates are climbing, this could be a costly choice.

Many landlords are now welcoming pets and reaping rewards. Here are some tips to help you embrace a pro-pet policy.

Pets don’t rent – their owners do

Opening the door to pets immediately makes your property more attractive to a wider range of tenants. The key is to consider whether the pets, particularly dogs, are well managed and trained. This can be hard to assess unless you happen to know your renters, so a little extra leg work is required.

Arrange to meet the applicant with their pet so you can see the animal for yourself and how it behaves. Reference checks are also crucial and, if you are especially diligent, a chat with the applicant’s previous neighbours should give you extra insight into their pet management. Some renters are even developing resumes for their pets, with photos, references and medical history.

Keep in mind that while you are not allowed to discriminate against rental applicants on the basis of race, gender, marital status etc, applicants cannot claim discrimination if you reject a particular pet.

Higher yields, longer stays

So prevalent are anti-pet policies that a researcher at the University of Western Sydney is now investigating the social impacts of these restrictions on renters and the broader community.

Because it can be so hard for tenants with pets to get a paw in the door, they are often prepared to pay a premium to secure a property. While this does not mean charging more because someone rocks up with a pet, it gives landlords the opportunity to pitch their properties to pet owners and structure their rents accordingly.

For the same reason, pet-lovers are also likely to stay longer, which means lower turn-over and lower rental costs for landlords. Although data is scant, one 2003 survey in the United States showed renters with pets stayed an average of 46 months, compared to just 18 months for those without.

Have a pet agreement

Make sure your rental agreement includes a pet policy that stipulates the pet owner is responsible for:

  • Any property damage caused by the pet (inside and out).
  • Injuries caused to the pet on the property.
  • The pet’s behaviour (including barking).
  • Regularly cleaning up after the pet.

Strata permission

If you own a strata property, such as an apartment, you will also probably have to convince the body corporate to permit pets. If you are on the body corporate you may have more sway in arguing your case. Some body corporates are loosening up, realising many buyers often have pets. Once owner-occupiers pave the way, it’s easier for renters with pets to get the nod.

It’ll be right – won’t it? Tips for income protection

More than 80 per cent of Australians have insurance for their car but fewer than one-third of us have income protection insurance* to protect our livelihoods should the worst happen. While the odds of a crash are higher – once every seven years on average – being waylaid by injury or sickness for a lengthy period is not as unlikely as you may think. In fact, a staggering 60 per cent of Australians will be off work due to serious injury or sickness for more than a month at least once in their working lives, according to a 2012 Rice Warner report on underinsurance.

Sadly, many who find themselves in this position are far from financially prepared. The same report revealed more than 50 percent of couples don’t have enough life insurance cover for one partner to maintain their standard of living if the other passed away, while nine out of ten families with dependent children would not be able to maintain their usual lifestyle if the main earner died.

While many view insurance as a grudge purchase, the harsh reality is bad things can, and do, happen – often when you least expect it. What you need to consider is how you would pay the mortgage, household bills and life’s other ever-increasing costs if you or your partner passed away or could not work.

It seems many Australians, given our comfortable lot in life, are either too reluctant or too busy to contemplate financial protection or feel our funds are better spent elsewhere. Our inertia has become so apparent that the Australian life insurance industry has set up the Lifewise campaign in a bid to boost coverage. While the move may seem a little self-serving, Australia has one of the lowest levels of life insurance in the developed world, and that’s despite most of us having some life cover in our superannuation.

Unfortunately, underinsurance is as much a burden for society as it is for individuals, with Rice Warner Actuaries estimating that around $250 million is made in welfare payments in Australia each year for deaths of parents with insufficient life insurance.

Having some savings, plus adequate income protection and life insurance should be part of every household’s personal finance plan. It could mean the difference between getting wiped out or getting back on your feet.

Get some professional help to determine which insurance products suit your individual needs. Your broker may be able to point you in the right direction through their networks in the insurance industry, to determine which products suit your requirements. Here’s a snapshot of what you should consider.

Life insurance

Life insurance is a lump sum paid to your estate when you die. The larger the lump sum, the higher your insurance premiums. While superannuation funds have a life component, or death benefit, the default payment – which around 90 per cent of fund members rely on – is usually well below the needs of families with dependent children.

Do your sums and consider how much equity you have in your home and any investment properties, how much you owe on your mortgage and any other debts, and how much money you have tucked away in savings or shares.

You should also consider your partner’s working capacity. If you have insufficient life insurance, chances are they will have to work to help make ends meet.

Many couples make the mistake of just covering the main breadwinner, but stay-at-home partners and parents should have some level of cover too. If they suddenly pass away, the current income earner may need to spend more time at home with children and have less capacity to earn.

Total and permanent disability (TPD)

Usually bundled with life insurance, TPD covers the costs of rehabilitation, debt repayments and the future cost of living if you are totally and permanently disabled. Check if your super fund offers cover in addition to a death benefit and consider whether this amount would realistically cover your family’s needs if you were unable to work again.

Income protection

Income protection, or income continuance insurance, covers up to 75 per cent of your usual income if you can’t work for an extended period due to injury or illness. Some employees count solely on workers compensation insurance to take care of them financially if they are hurt, but not all injuries are work-related and workers compensation won’t cover serious illness or many other mishaps that might take you out of action. Workers compensation insurance may also not be enough to cover your mortgage, which would still need to be paid whether you have the capacity to work or not.

Premiums vary, depending how much cover you need and are generally tax deductible**. As with most insurance products, premiums increase with age because you are more likely to make a claim. Some products, however, offer level premiums where you pay the same throughout the term.

A lot of policy holders reduce their premiums when their kids get older and need less support. You can also save on premiums by taking out a policy with a six-month wait period before you can claim.

Trauma cover

Also known as critical illness cover, this provides a lump sum payment if you are diagnosed with a specific serious illness, such as cancer or stroke. There are about 45 diseases that fall into this category for insurance purposes, but insurers may not cover all of them.

Plan ahead

Life throws curve balls but some events can be planned for. If, for example, you are expecting a baby or need to have an operation, and you know income will be short for a while, take steps to ensure you can still service your mortgage. Your broker can look into options to postpone payments, revert to interest-only for a period or refinance the loan. You may end up paying more in interest by adding to the length of your loan, but you will at least get some reprieve while funds are tight.

Private health cover

If you are debilitated and unable to work – and the condition isn’t covered by workers compensation – you may end up on a waiting list for surgery, unless you have private health cover. While it’s another cost to carry and one that increases by about six per cent a year, private health insurance can help you access treatment quicker and get you back to work faster.


**Tax information: the information in this article does not constitute advice. As taxation legislation is complex, we recommend you speak with your financial advisor, tax advisor or contact the ATO for further details and expert advice regarding your personal circumstances.

Social media – how to avoid it all going wrong for your business – the real risks you need to know

Where customers go, business will follow but experts warn that the rules learned from traditional retail and online shopping will not always apply on social platforms.

“The environment of social media is a difficult one in which to sell products too overtly, or even to deliver advertising in an effective way,” according to Deloitte Access Economics’ recent ‘Digital disruption – short fuse, big bang?’ report.

“The art of using social media to grow revenue lies in fostering exchanges that directly support sales, or that deliver value back to customers in terms of information, service or the ability to shape future products and services – it is, in effect, the new ‘word of mouth’ and the aim is to support and grow advocates,” the report said.

Once companies have decided to take the plunge, various risks across the business need to be managed.

“The business risks that companies should consider include damage to corporate reputations arising from social media campaigns, financial risks from portfolio decisions, competitive risks from new entrants with innovative business models and economic risks arising from the way digital innovation may change business cycles,” Deloitte said.

Social media for business expert Stephen Sealey from Pitch PR said that simply avoiding social media or shutting down profiles could actually make the problems worse.

“Companies can be almost certain that their customers will be talking about them in some way on social media, he said.

“You can either choose to join the conversation and play a leading role in how your business is viewed on social media or stay silent and let the discussion take place without you.”

Social media disasters occur when businesses lack the knowledge or capacity to ensure their social strategy is engaging, yet flexible.

“Unlike your website, TV commercial, billboard or other marketing activity, social media is two-way communication so has unique risks and challenges associated with its use,” Mr Sealey said.

“You would not allow customers to write your website content or invite them into your store to start telling other customers what they think, but this is exactly what you have to expect from social media.”

Once launched, social channels should be populated with regular, relevant and informative content and monitored to see how your fans are responding.

“Not answering questions, deleting comments that you simply don’t like or just leaving pages sit dormant all send a message about the sort of business you are,” Mr Sealey said.

“The impacts from providing poor service or making mistakes are also amplified many times over on social media as customers quickly tell you and anyone else that will listen how they really feel.”

One of the biggest sins was always talking about yourself.

“Less than one in five or even one in 10 posts should be solely about your product or service – social media is an opportunity to discuss what’s interesting and relevant to your industry and the lives of your customers and followers,” Mr Sealey said.

Businesses should also avoid posting irrelevant content.

“We all have calendars and know when it is Friday without being told by the local automotive parts business,” Sealey says. “Your customers would rather get some tips on something relevant – they might give your cute kitten picture a Like but over time they will tune out.”

Another mistake was failing to resource the social media strategy properly, particularly in regard to personnel.

“We often see the wrong people looking after social media. Being the newest or youngest staff member is not a qualification for running social accounts – last night’s episode of Game of Thrones may well have been awesome but has nothing to do with your bookkeeping business,” he said.

The right staff member needs the ability to make sound judgments about the style of content, but they also need to be aware that laws about false and misleading advertising apply to social media in the same way as they do to other marketing and sales channels.

The other common issue was inactivity.

“A Facebook page or Twitter account in which the most recent post is weeks or months ago feels like tumbleweeds blowing down the main street of a once-thriving town,” Mr Sealey said.

“You wouldn’t leave the door to your shop open and go on holidays, so don’t do it with your Facebook page either.”


Pitch PR’s Stephen Sealey shares his top five tips for managing social risk.

  1. Don’t be left behind. Follow the steps above to get social media working for your company.
  2. Start as you mean to continue. If you are not committed to the long-term, don’t start at all.
  3. Respond to questions and comments in a timely manner, which on social media means hours not days and weeks. Monitor your platforms regularly so you don’t miss questions and can remove anything inappropriate, and yes, this means on the weekend too.
  4. Be open and available not defensive and reactive. Admit mistakes if they occur, apologise and move on, just as you should celebrate success and embrace praise.
  5. Have a simple social media policy that everyone understands but that is not so prescriptive and risk averse to crush all creativity and experimentation. Social media is supposed to be fun.

First home buyers have the first mover advantage

Low-interest rates, flat property prices and government grants continue to entice plenty of first-time buyers into the home market. In fact, one in seven home loans last year was for first homes, according to the latest AFG Mortgage Index.

While home is where the heart is, savvy first home buyers are also using their heads. We look at some of the best ways to make your first move.


It’s generally accepted that, on average, units achieve lower capital growth than houses over the long haul. However, that average tends to over-simplify things and ignore the many lifestyle benefits that can come with a unit in a handy location.

Units generally allow first-time buyers into areas they couldn’t afford if they were buying a house. The lower capital return is often a trade-off.

The right unit, though, can still provide capital growth over time and a solid leg-up to something bigger or better, while owners get the benefit of convenience and low maintenance in the meantime.

What to look for:

  • Within 15km of the CBD.
  • Walking distance to public transport, cafes and restaurants.
  • Internal laundry.
  • Lock-up garage.
  • A complex with a high percentage of other owner-occupiers.
  • Affordable body corporate fees.
  • City views.
  • Built-in wardrobes and other storage.

What to avoid:

  • Too many stairs.
  • Areas with a glut of new apartments for sale.
  • Over-capitalising on any make-over.
  • High body corporate fees.

Something to consider:

If you decide to trade up to something bigger, you may find your unit becomes an ideal starter for an investment portfolio.


If you’re set on a certain area but find yourself short on the sale price, consider an older house in need of renovation. With property prices flattening, the opportunities for a quick profit with a lick-and-flick have dwindled. But for first-home owners looking to settle for five or more years, a renovator’s delight could still have plenty of an upside.

Fixer-uppers generally appeal to buyers who plan to do most or some of the work themselves. If you’re not handy or don’t have time to work on the property, steer clear.

A professional building inspection is a must for all properties, but the devil is always in the detail when it comes to older homes. Read the inspection report thoroughly and seek more information and repair quotes if any issues are highlighted.

What to look for:

  • Houses that only need cosmetic work such as a new kitchen, bathroom, paint, floor coverings and landscaping.
  • Sound electrical and plumbing.
  • A high aspect (views always add value).
  • Signs of other renovations in the neighbourhood.
  • Excellent local infrastructure, such as public transport, or plans for improvements.
  • Good property drainage.

What to avoid:

  • Asbestos (unless it is a bargaining chip and can be removed easily by an expert).
  • Structural deterioration.
  • Damp.
  • Properties prone to flood.

Something to consider:

Look in post-war suburbs with ageing populations, especially if they are near other areas that have already undergone urban renewal.


Your first home doesn’t have to be your dream home, but a house and land package could get you close.

If you are prepared to be further from the city, the house and land bundle is worth considering. You not only get all the conveniences of a new home, often built to your design but better energy efficiency than an older home due to new regulations and improved green technology. You may also be able to take advantage of government incentives for new homes, on top of regular first-home buyer grants.

The trade-off for all of this is usually distance. If you work in the city, a long commute to the office may soon take the gloss off your new home and neighbourhood. On the other hand, affordable, new developments are opening up in smaller cities, such as Brisbane and Perth, which are not as far flung as the new home and land packages in Sydney.

The biggest challenge with new neighbourhoods is infrastructure, especially transport. Talk to the local council about what is planned for the area and when.

What to look for:

  • Infrastructure to support a new suburb, including shops, public transport and schools.
  • A reputable builder who has built other homes in the area, not another state.
  • Land that will help set your home apart – a high aspect, city or bush views.
  • An easy-to-read contract that spells out all inclusions, progress payments, completion date, allowable delays and treatment of unforeseen conditions.
  • Good drainage.

What to avoid:

  • Flood-prone land — reclaimed industrial sites and land near golf courses and parks are often on flood plains.


Many singles are now finding two heads and wallets are better than one when it comes to their first home. Siblings and friends are buddying up to get a better quality first home than they would solo. Finding the right partner is key, with trust and reliability critical. Contracts now accommodate tenants-in-common with equal and unequal shares in a property. Your broker can then help you structure a loan that reflects each owner’s share and repayments.


Your house hunt should start with a visit to a mortgage broker. Brokers work for you, not the lender. Their aim is to find the best home loan for your situation, saving you money over the life of the loan. A broker can also manage the entire loan process and organise pre-approval so you can start your property search with confidence.

Mortgage Index – April 2015

Biggest month for mortgages in 21 years: March figures

AFG, Australia’s largest mortgage broker, processed $5.2 billion in mortgages last month – the biggest volume in any single month for the company in its 21 years in business.

The $5.2 billion figure represents a 29% increase on March last year. It equates to a total of 11,235 mortgages. AFG has approximately 10% of the total mortgage market.

Volumes were particularly strong in NSW which recorded a 47% increase on March 2014 ($1.9 billion processed) and VIC, where a 30% greater volume was processed ($1.2 billion). Increases reported for other states were SA (23%), QLD (16%) and WA (11%).

Property investment nudged to a new record high of 41.7%, driven by especially strong activity in NSW, where 52.9% of all mortgages were processed for investors.

This investor loan figure compares with 37.7% in SA, 36.7% in Victoria, 33.6% in WA and 33.3% in QLD.

Mark Hewitt, General Manager of Sales and Operations says: ‘What happened in March is really the story of Sydney and Melbourne. Volumes in other cities were strong but unspectacular. The combination of rate expectations, with a traditionally buoyant month for property sales, made March a stand-out month.’

Fixed rate loans comprised 14.2% of the mortgage mix, with 68.8% of borrowers opting for standard variable loans.

Loan to value ratios (LVRs), loans stated as a proportion of the value of a property, remained steady at 67% nationally, relatively lower in NSW (64%) than in VIC and WA (71% in both cases) on account of the typically higher levels of equity provided by investors seeking loans.

First home buying continues at very low levels – 7.4% nationally – especially low in NSW where first home buyers comprise just 2.4% of new borrowers, SA (4.6%) and QLD (5.0%).

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