Summer means outdoor dining and that means barbecues. With a bit of research, you’ll find the best barbecue for your backyard to help you achieve summer style you’ll love.


Barbecue Budget

Budget is the basis for many people’s BBQ preferences and the good news is that you can find a barbecue to suit. If you’re planning a bigger backyard makeover, though, you can design a stunning outdoor entertaining area – complete with a built-in barbecue to last a lifetime. Not sure you have the funds available right now? If you own your own home, you can refinance for renovation to give you access to the money you need to turn your home into a fantastic summer hub for food, family, friends and fun – and add value to your property too.


Choosing A Barbecue That’s Best For You

Barbecues are such a personal thing. People swear by their smokers, their flame-grilled beauties, or their hot plate models.

What’s the best one for your average Australian backyard?

It really depends on your available budget. And how much you are willing to spend on your outdoor cooking tools depends on how much you are likely to use it, what types of foods you enjoy cooking the most, and how many people you need to cook for regularly.


If you’re renting, you’ll be looking at models that are portable – perfect for moving around your back yard and something you can move on with to your next rental property adventure. Home-owners who are there to stay for a while, though, have other options available – including the luxury of a built-in barbecue that, bought wisely, may add style to your outdoor entertaining area, as well as extra value to your home.


Types of BBQs

1. Gas BBQ

The most popular backyard barbie? Gas. This type of BBQ can run on bottled or natural gas from your utility supplier.

Best for? Chefs in a hurry! Want to fire up quickly and cook without the hassle of charcoal? Then this might be the BBQ for you.

Cons: Price (expensive) and flavour (not smoky). Some gas grills do have small smoker boxes, but the smoke flavour will be delivered with a hint, rather than a punch.  Smoky meat can’t be achieved without a charcoal grill. It’s like the convenience of cooking inside – but outdoors.

Stainless steel is best but even painted aluminium can last – and if you cover it and protect it, it will last longer, rust-free.

High-quality iron grates are good but remember they need to be removed and cleaned by hand. For the ultimate grilling surface, look for stainless steel bars that are durable. You’ll be able to keep them clean with a wire brush and they make great grill marks for that fresh BBQ look.

Price: Can range from low in cost up to $1000 of dollars, depending on quality and size.

2. Charcoal BBQ

The fuel for cooking in these BBQs is charcoal briquettes – something more time-consuming and expensive to cook with but something that adds a unique BBQ flavour. Charcoal made from natural wood gives the best flavour. Because charcoal burns at a higher temperature, skilled BBQ chefs can sear meat and then cook slowly – for maximum flavour and tenderness. For purist BBQ fanatics, it’s the only way to cook.

Cons: Cooking this way takes extra time – and extra expense.

Lighting coals and heating the BBQ can require as long as 45 minutes – plus cleaning takes extra time and care to dispose of the ashes. The charcoal itself is also more expensive than gas.

The classic charcoal grill is the kettle-style grill, original designed by Weber. These days, the Weber range is huge and many others have copied the design to offer a variety of charcoal grills on the market. Just be aware that you do get what you pay for and the difference between expensive and cheaper barbecues is most likely lifespan – with many cheaper models faster to rust and fall apart, when compared with the sturdier models on offer.

Barrel-shaped charcoal grills are also good to cook with. Many of the horizontal barrel grills have the added benefit of an adjustable charcoal tray that can be moved to control the intensity of the heat close to the food – something kettle grills don’t offer.

Steel-plated or porcelain-coated steel bars are standard for charcoal grills. You get the look of grill marks and they can be kept clean with a wire brush.

Stainless steel bars are always best but can be hard to find in charcoal BBQs.

Price: Charcoal grill BBQs can range from under $100 or a couple of thousand dollars, typically.

3. Electric Grills

Heated grill plates powered by electricity cook the food – something you can use inside or out for smoke-less, clean cooking. Strictly speaking, it’s not a BBQ but can be ideal for anyone in a small apartment who just wants the feeling of cooking outside on their balcony.

If your property has issues around fire restrictions, then an electric grill BBQ might be best for you.

Cons: Flavour. Sure, that electric grill can produce results that look similar to flame-style BBQs but the reality is that the flavour is far from it.

If smoky BBQ flavour is your favourite, this is not the BBQ you’ll crave.

Price: Depending on the model and size, you can pick up electric grills from between $100 – $500.

4. Portable BBQ

These BBQs are powered by gas or charcoal. The one common thing? They are portable – perfect for people in rental homes, or anyone who loves camping and taking their barbecue on holidays.

Portable BBQs come in all shapes and sizes – the choice is yours, based on how many you need to cook for and how much room you have to house it/transport it.

Disadvantages: Size. Although there are different sizes available – they usually aren’t large enough to cook for a crowd. Think about how many people you need to cook for regularly and make sure you get one that can accommodate that without having to keep food warm, while you cook a second round.

Price: Shop around and you might be able to find one for as little as $30 – or splurge a bit and spend up to a few hundred dollars..

Comparing BBQs? The Choice Is Yours…

In October 2016, Choice magazine released a very helpful guide to some of the best barbecues on the market currently, as well as some tips about which ones might be best avoided.


The article compares named brands based on cost and performance and is a must-read for anyone keen to make an investment in outdoor summer cooking.


You can read more here:


Here’s to a happy summer cooking season – and many more barbecues to come.


If you need advice for a personal loanhome loan, business or commercial loan, self-managed super fund loan, or an investment home loan, speak to a broker at Lending Specialists. We have a wealth of experience under our belt and a robust network to connect you to the right industry professional for the loan you need.

For many cultures, looking after elderly parents in your own family home is very important – and a preferred alternative to nursing home care. But how can you add a granny flat to your property without devaluing your property? And how can refinancing help you renovate and extend to support the care of your ageing parent or parents?

Examining the potential pros and cons of adding a granny flat on your property is a good way to explore your options and decide whether granny flat living is the right choice for your family. Getting a solid understanding of the complete construction and fit-out costs is a practical starting point and by talking to a trusted mortgage broker, you’ll also know what type of finance, or re-finance options are open to you

Adding a granny flat is an investment – and investments should be done with careful consideration.

Whether you’re planning a basic model, or splurging on a more spacious floorplan for around $200,000, how your granny flat impacts on the value of your main home is an important thing to think about.

For potential buyers, the addition of a granny flat can be the deal-maker. These days, with a growing number of people running home offices, it’s not just elderly in-laws or dependent adult children with disabilities who might need to be close to you – the benefit of having a self-contained space to enjoy peace and quiet to concentrate can also be attractive.

Still, you shouldn’t go into the creation of a granny flat just because you believe it will add value – in some cases, it could put people off buying your property.

What’s important, is how much it benefits your own lifestyle needs. If having a granny flat saves you other financial outlays and also offers peace of mind, then building a granny flat on your land could be the best thing you’ve ever done.

It’s important to be aware that, in Victoria, there are restrictions on who lives in granny flats, and on renting them out. For example, in some municipalities, granny flats can only be occupied by a person who is dependent on a resident in the main dwelling – typically a member of the family. Once that dependent person leaves, the granny flat cannot be rented out to any private tenant.

Councils can enforce these rules through the enforcement provisions of the Planning and Environment Act. In other states, including NSW and WA, renting out a granny flat is allowed.


Pros of Building a Granny Flat:

Looking After Your Family At Home – Whether it is a home for an elderly parent or a way to look after a dependent adult in your family, building a granny flat gives you the space to care for your loved one at home.

Saving Money – The costs associated with building a granny flat in your garden are usually significantly less than paying their way into nursing home care.


Cons of Building a Granny Flat:

It may not add value to the house – a well-designed granny flat can cost a lot to build but may not add much value to your house, if any. Why? Because although land and houses increase in value, granny flats don’t. For potential owner-occupiers looking to purchase your property one day, a granny flat might actually motivate them to look elsewhere.

Added family stress – if the reason behind building your granny flat is to house an elderly relative or relatives, or dependent relatives, be sure you understand what workload that really brings to you and your family. Working out how to offer safe, effective care for loved ones can be a motivating force in granny flat investment but when the reality of around-the-clock care becomes overwhelming, the alternative – placing your family member in professional care – may be better for both you and them.

Do Your Research

Just remember – talking to finance professionals, including your mortgage broker and your accountant, is a positive way to make an informed decision. Buying a granny flat can be done by refinancing using the equity in your home – and this could be a great financial decision for your family.


If you need advice for a personal loanhome loan, business or commercial loan, self-managed super fund loan, or an investment home loan, speak to a broker at Lending Specialists. We have a wealth of experience under our belt and a robust network to connect you to the right industry professional for the loan you need.

Whether you’ve bought your own property or you’re a landlord, offering your own investment property to potential tenants, thinking about the realities of pet ownership is something to consider.

But what pet is right for you and your home?

From guinea pigs to greyhounds, there is a type of pet to suit your style of home.

And for landlords? Deciding whether to make your investment property open to tenants with pets is a big decision – and one that should inspire some extra clauses on your lease agreement and an understanding of the potential risks and potential benefits.


A Pet Is For Life

How to turn a house into a home? For many people, getting a pet is a way to feel comfortable, secure and happy in a property.

But does your lifestyle support all the care that a dog or cat require? Or are you more of a goldfish type of pet owner?


Choosing a Pet For Your Property

Room to Move – Thinking of a dog? They need room to move. If your yard is small or non-existent, it’s possible to still keep a dog but you need to be realistic as it will rely on you for all its exercise and entertainment. How much time can you allocate each day to get the dog out in the fresh air and sunshine – and to take it to the toilet? Small dogs still need sunshine and exercise so think carefully about your lifestyle before deciding a dog is the best pet for you.

Even cats need space – and access to fresh air and sunshine. While your cat may be happy enough to lounge on a balcony, you’ll need to check its safety and make sure you invest in some interesting indoor cat toys to keep it stimulated and happy.

Smaller pets, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, can be kept inside in appropriate hutches – but be realistic about the smell these creatures can create and whether you want your living room filled with the aromas of hay and animal droppings. Kept clean, these can make great pets in small spaces – just make sure they can’t escape.

Pets, such as lizards, fish, mice, and other small animals or reptiles, don’t need much room at all – just a secure, purpose-built enclosure that keeps them safe. Talk to your local pet shop about some pet choices you might not have considered. Smaller pets can be a great way to have an addition to the family without the high maintenance of a larger pet, such as a dog or cat – and it won’t run the risk of damaging your property in any way.

Safe and Sound– if a dog is your number one choice, keeping it secure is paramount – both for your dog’s safety and the safety of other dogs and people in your neighbourhood.

Dogs can roam so they must be kept in yards with secure fencing – and barriers to stop them digging their way out.  Do your research on dog breeds that aren’t diggers to save you the stress. Other pets need safe, warm, dry housing, so if your pet is going to spend time in a courtyard, backyard or balcony, make sure it is safe and out of the rain and hot sun.

Fit and Healthy– how much daily exercise will your pet get in your property?

Be realistic: if you’re keeping a dog in a small house or apartment, you need to make time for walks – even when it’s raining outside.

Permission Granted– Are you renting while you save for your own mortgage? In some strata developments and rental accommodation, dogs, cats, or other pets are not allowed. It’s wise to check with your landlord, real estate agent or body corporate – and also think about what will happen if you move on to a new property and still need to find a home for your much-loved pet too.

Time and Space– Dogs are social animals and need company. Even aloof cats love a cuddle and a lap to sit on. If you’re not going to be able to spend a lot of time with your dog or cat, perhaps you should consider having an additional pet, an alternative pet – or not having a pet at all. Dogs that are left outside alone a lot are more likely to bark excessively (and this can annoy your neighbours and get you fined from the local council) or indulge in other destructive behaviour (such as digging up your garden).

All animals need some level of attention – whether it’s simply changing their water each day, cleaning up their messes, or playing with them. And if you love holidaying, take the time to think about who will look after your pets when you’re not there.

There are many options – boarding and house-sitting, for example. Just make sure you are realistic about the costs involved. Pet ownership can be expensive in many different ways.

Type and Temperament– How active are you? Pets can react to your energy and if you are a calm person who is more of a home-body, it’s important to find a pet that suits your personality. Other animals are highly social and need lots of stimulation. If that’s you, perhaps a high-energy dog breed you can take to obedience classes is your perfect pet.

Care and Grooming– Grooming your pets can be time-consuming – and costly. If you are in a home with carpet, you may prefer a smooth-coated dog or cat that won’t shed fur.  There are plenty of short-haired dogs and cats to choose from – including breeds that claim not to shed hair at all.

Buying a cat that will like to stretch its claws may not be the smartest choice for you if you have expensive furnishings, such as precious drapes, leather couches or antique rugs.


Pets for You?

There is a pet for everyone but it might take time to find your ideal match. Don’t rush it – remember, a pet is for life and in the case of a dog or cat that could mean many years.

If you are a landlord, talk to your real estate agent for their advice about whether you should let tenants have pets on your property or not. At the end of the day, it’s your choice, but by talking to an experienced agent and discussing the extra clauses you can put in your lease agreement to ensure any pet-related damage is covered by your tenant, you might find you attract happier, stable tenants who are keen to call your investment property their home – and help you protect your financial investment with pride.

If you need advice for a personal loanhome loan, business or commercial loan, self-managed super fund loan, or an investment home loan, speak to a broker at Lending Specialists. We have a wealth of experience under our belt and a robust network to connect you to the right industry professional for the loan you need.


With so much media about how the Australian dream of property ownership seems increasingly out of reach for many young Australians, understanding how you can help your children buy their first property is a positive, proactive step many established home-owners can take to help the next generation.

The right thing for you and your family? There are many ways you can assist your adult children – or even grandchildren – get their foot in the property-buying door. You might want to look at different types of mortgages that allow you to leverage from your own home to help your children – without risking your own property.

In 2015, a survey by REST Industry Super revealed that one in three retirees in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney and one in five Adelaide and Brisbane-based retirees were keen to give their adult children financial assistance to buy their own properties.

It’s a growing trend – a response to the reality that salaries have not kept pace with house prices. Go back four decades and the percentage of median family income needed to service an average loan commitment was somewhere around 10-15%.

According to recent figures from the Real Estate Institute of Australia, today’s figure is closer to 30%.

Luckily, there are solutions.

Buy Them A House

If you own your own property and are comfortable, you might consider purchasing property to give to your children. Your mortgage could be supported by drawing down from your superannuation, or using money you may have inherited or invested in the past – and you can buy the property, or properties, in your name with your children installed as tenants who only pay minimal rent.

By charging a nominal rental amount, you can have your needs covered – your living expenses and some pocket money – and your children can enjoy the benefits of home ownership in properties they will, ultimately, inherit anyway.

A conversation with a trusted mortgage broker, a property lawyer and your own accountant and/or financial adviser will help you understand the tax and legal implications of this arrangement – things you definitely need to consider before making such an offer.

With tax charged on money you make from rental, plus ongoing expenses of rates and insurances, it’s important to know if this arrangement will work for your family.

Another risk worth thinking about is if a future government introduces death duties. Talking to your financial adviser may shed added light on the risks and potential benefits.

Give Them Money

One popular way to help your adult children enter the property market is to gift them some money – funds from investments or savings that can go towards their deposit, or, if you are generous and can afford it, cover the entire deposit.

Again – any decision like this needs to be well thought through and discussion with a range of property and financial professionals – including a lawyer, accountant and financial planner, is recommended to ensure that by helping your adult children buy property it is not risking your own financial security.

Imagine if you needed access to a large amount of funds in your future for reasons that you can’t predict right now – protecting yourself is important so never go into any arrangements lightly, even if it is for family.

Offer A Private Loan

Providing a loan, that is forgiven following your death, is often recommended as being better than a gift – especially when you run the risk of providing a large sum that you may not be able to recover if you need it.

Talking to a trusted mortgage broker can help you understand your options here and can help you understand how refinancing your own property could enable you to loan funds to your adult child/children.

Your Will can be created to include a clause that forgives the loan on death, but if your adult child/children move up in the property world after your helping hand, you should get the loan back while you can – especially if you have other children you may also wish to help.

Before entering into this type of arrangement you should obtain separate legal and/or financial advice.

Provide A Family Pledge Guarantee On Part Of Their Mortgage

Being a guarantor on part of your child’s mortgage is one of the most popular ways you can help.

An experienced mortgage broker can show you ways that your child’s borrowing capacity can be increased, and possibly remove the need to pay a deposit or pay potentially expensive lenders’ mortgage insurance (that is usually needed when someone borrows more than 80% of a property’s value).

Budgeting Is Best

One of the most positive, sustainable ways to help your adult children get into the property market? Teach them how to budget and be wise with their money. The recent Bernard Salt article talking about Generation Y favouring café breakfasts that cost money they could be saving for their first home hit a nerve with many and, if your adult children are living a lifestyle where money flows out as quickly as it comes into their bank accounts, some education about better budgeting and smart saving could be a gift for life.

Ideally, these lessons start from childhood and are best taught by our own example.

Talking to your children about how you got your own start on the property ladder might be worth having.

Encourage them to talk to a mortgage broker to assess their current position and give them realistic advice and tips about what they need to buy that first property.

With your insights and shared experience, they may not need your financial help, after all.

The advice provided on this article is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

If you have any questions about your finances, either personal or business, please do not hesitate to contact Lending Specialist on (03) 8805-1800 or email

When you’re re-financing to renovate, it’s important to spend your money wisely. For the average family home looking to create extra space, the two main choices are extending upwards or outwards. But before you start, there are pros and cons for each that are important to consider to help you choose the one that suits your lifestyle needs and financial goals.

Renovating is one of the favourite past-times for many Australians, with about one-third of Australian home-owners renovating every 5 years.

The chances that you, or someone you know, are renovating – or at least thinking about renovating – are very real. And if that’s the case, the question about whether to go up or out, is one you’ve probably considered carefully.

To help you decide what the best renovation for you is, check these insights.

Renovating Up

In general terms, extending upwards is more expensive than extending out.

So, if you have a vision for fantastic fixtures and fittings, or other add-ons, such as a swimming pool, or spa, you might need to crunch the numbers to see how you can tick most of the renovation goals you have – and stay within your budget.

Anything to do with your home can be very emotional but when it comes to renovation, it’s important to focus on the numbers. Yes, you love your home, but you also want it to be a smart investment – so be careful not to over-capitalise with an overly expensive renovation, especially if you plan to sell within a certain time-frame.

Building an upper-storey extension has more benefits than just added space. Second-storey additions can bring more light into your property – and it will save your current garden.

With an added storey, you’ll also have the potential to enjoy better views and, depending on your location, this can add real value to your property.

Just remember that you will lose some of your downstairs space for the staircase entrance.

Although some builders promise all-weather work, removing the roof while you deal with an upper-storey extension can be problematic – especially in wintry, wet months. Many outward extensions enable you to live in the property while the work is being done. If your upwards extension means you need to clear out for a while, make sure you add the costs associated with your relocation into your assessment of what will work best for you.

Second-storey additions add extra weight into your home – so that can mean extra support to ensure your home stands up to the pressure. Some older slab homes or cheaper package homes are not built to stand up to the extra load. Get a few different opinions from professional builders to get an opinion you can trust – any error here can be very costly, and dangerous.

Renovating out

With a wide block at your disposal, you can add to the street appeal of your property with a thoughtful extension. You can keep your original roof – something that saves money – although you will need to match the new section with the existing one and if you scrimp, it can look really terrible.

Again, depending on the extent of your renovation, factor in the costs associated with having to move out and live elsewhere (and store your belongings) if your renovation means there is no way you can live there with the builders.

If your block is one that slopes, be sure to include excavation costs into your renovation budget – these can be costly.

Top tip:

Whether you decide to go up or out, any renovation work can be expensive.

No matter what building work you decide to do, smart renovators keep a buffer of at least 10% to cover any unforeseen costs due to problems that invariably crop up.

Refinancing your existing mortgage can be a great way to access the funds you need to enjoy the renovation of your dreams.

Seeking multiple opinions and talking to friends who have already undertaken renovations you like is a good starting point. Your home really is your castle and getting it right is an investment in your happiness – as well as your financial security.

If you need advice for a personal loanhome loan, business or commercial loan, self-managed super fund loan, or an investment home loan, speak to a broker at Lending Specialists. We have a wealth of experience under our belt and a robust network to connect you to the right industry professional for the loan you need.