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Changes to Stamp Duty Concessions in Victoria

The Victorian Government has proposed changes to current stamp duty charges, to take effect from 1 July 2017, with the aim of easing housing affordability for first home buyers.

As a result of these proposed changes, investors will no longer be eligible for stamp duty concessions previously available on off the plan property purchases.

There will be new benefits for first home buyers with stamp duty to be abolished for those purchasing properties valued below $600,000.

The changes will have a flow-on effect on the property and construction industries and investors are encouraged to consider their options before the end of the financial year to make the most of the dutiable value of off the plan apartments.

Understand the issues

The Hopkins Group has considered the Government’s proposal and hypothesised what effect the changes to the stamp duty charges will have on the property market as a whole – from a first home buyer angle, to a property investor, and even a construction and wider economy perspective.

Watch Executive Chairman John Hopkins and Managing Director Michael Williams work through the issues and give some insight into their experience of how the markets have ridden the wave of similar initiatives over the years.

Download our fact sheets to find out more about how the stamp duty concession changes will affect certain buyers and what you can do to prepare for looming deadlines.

To discuss how the stamp duty changes will affect you and your individual circumstances, call The Hopkins Group on 1300 726 082 to book an appointment with an adviser and start talking about your first home ownership or investment goals.


John Hopkins Mortgages operates under Australian Credit Licence 389093


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Gen Y: Time to get a grip on your finances with Bubbles, Beer & Budgeting

Gen Y has the world at its feet – but can it afford to make the most of the opportunities thrown its way?


In the age of avocado on toast and double shot soy lattes, it’s easy to get caught up in the now and ignore tomorrow. Gen Y’s pay is eaten up by rent, Myki, Netflix, phone plan, brunches and gym – it’s swallowed up by life, leaving nothing for the future.

But we’re here to help you (or your friends and family); to break down the steps to achieving the kind of freedom we all dream of as we navigate study, travel, work, relationships and . . . well, life!

Bubbles, Beer and Budgeting is kicking off for season 2017 and we’re looking for our next group of Gen Y/Millennials to hit with some #finspiration

Join us for a beer or a bubbles and get a grip on your financial future!

The workshops will cover:

  • Financial basics of budgeting and cashflow management
  • Different types of investments at a grassroots level
  • Tools to help you achieve your savings goals
  • Saving for your first home

All this at a cool venue, surrounded by like-minded movers and shakers in their 20s and 30s who want to make a go of their life.

Stay in touch on our Facebook page

Workshop Details

You can choose from one of three dates; the content will be the same with different topics scheduled for later in the year.

  • Thursday 20 April
  • Tuesday 2 May
  • Wednesday 7 June

Time: 6pm – 8pm

Where: Henry and the Fox, 525 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Price: $10, includes bubbles, beers, nibbles and take home workbook


Click here to book now!

Self-imposed exile won’t HELP you avoid HECS Repayments

Since its inception in 1989 the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP – also known as HECS pre 2005) has become an integral part of the Australian higher education system.

It has allowed many young graduates to work for a few years and accumulate some cash post-study without the burden of repaying their debt until their earnings reached a certain threshold. This system of government-funded, interest free “loans” has also enabled many young Australians to earn enough money to travel to see the world and work overseas – with the added perk being able to put their HELP debt repayments on hold indefinitely.

You see, overseas earnings were never counted toward the repayment income levels – so if you ran away and never came home, you never had to pay the loans back. That is until the 2015 Federal Budget flagged the loophole and marked changes to come in from 1 July 2017.

With student debts expected to hit $70.4 billion by 2018, the Australian government was looking for ways to stop this self-imposed exile of young university graduates who were avoiding their debt. Their solution? From 1 July 2017, those with a study debt who move – or are already living – overseas, will now need to make repayments on their HELP debts based on their income – wherever in the world it is earned.

What does this mean for me?

From 1 July 2017, repayments against your HELP debts will be based on your worldwide income for the 2016/17 income year. So if you live and work overseas and earn any type of income (including Australian and foreign sourced income) that exceeds the minimum HELP repayment thresholds, you will be required to make repayments against your loan.

What is the repayment threshold?

The repayment threshold is AUD$54,869 for the 2017 income year.

If you earn above this amount you have to make an overseas levy repayment.

The ATO has provided guidance on how to convert your foreign sourced income into AUD, which will help you calculate whether or not your earnings are above the threshold.

I am going overseas.  What do I need to do?

If you are going overseas for 183 days or more, in any 12 month period, you will need to let the ATO know within seven days of leaving Australia. This is cumulative and does not have to be all at the same time.

You can notify the ATO through your myGov account.  If you don’t already have an account, visit the ATO’s overseas obligations webpage for details on creating your myGov account.

I’m already living overseas.  Do I need to do anything?

Yes.  If you have a HELP debt, then from 1 July 2017 you will be required to report your worldwide income to the ATO. If your 2016/17 worldwide income exceeds the minimum repayment threshold, the ATO will raise a compulsory repayment known as an overseas levy.

How do I declare my worldwide income?

You can engage an Australian tax agent, like The Hopkins Group, to submit your worldwide income on your behalf. Alternatively, you can do it yourself through myGov.

If you choose to lodge yourself through myGov, then your declaration will be due by 31 October each year.  Should you engage an agent, like The Hopkins Group, then the due date will be extended to the date usually afforded to tax agents (usually 15 May of the following year).

When calculating your income, there are currently three income assessment methods available.

What if my worldwide income is below the minimum repayment threshold?

For the 2017 income year, if you are a non-resident for tax purposes and your worldwide income is at or below AUD$13,717 then you simply need to submit a non-lodgment advice to the ATO and there will be no HELP repayment consequences.

If your worldwide income is above AUD$13,717 but below AUD$54,869, you will need to declare your income to the ATO. However no overseas levy will be raised as you’re below the minimum repayment level.

As the saying goes – all good things must come to an end. Come 1 July, there’s no running away from your HELP debt repayment obligations. If you have any further questions about what this might mean for you or if you would like to discuss anything else related to your HELP debt and/or tax matters generally, please do not hesitate to contact us and speak with one of our accountants today.

General Advice Warning: This advice may not be suitable to you because it contains general advice that has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. Please seek personal financial advice prior to acting on this information.

Credit Cards: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Credit cards can be a very valuable tool if they are used correctly and responsibly – but used wrongly, you can find yourself in a whole spot of bother. The majority of bad credit card debt comes from irresponsible spending and a lack of discipline when using borrowed credit. In this blog post, I will discuss some of the pros and cons of including a credit card in your financial toolkit.

The Good


No need to walk around with a wallet full of cash and worrying about somebody pick pocketing you and taking your hard earned dollars these days. Thankfully, with our modern society, we can walk into any store and pull out our card and tap and go. Not only can we use a credit card in store, but we are also able to use it in a secure manner when purchasing online. Most banks will cop the burden of fraudulent transaction on your credit card but if you use a regular debit card linked to your savings account, more often than not you’ll have to wear the cost yourself.

Travel insurance

Some cards offer the perks of travel insurance when you pay for your holiday using your card. One less thing to worry about – or have to pay for! This can come in very handy if you’re planning a few weeks in Bali, sitting by the pool, enjoying a few rays and a Bintang . . . and your hotel room gets broken in to or you drop your DSLR camera in the pool. Policies do differ so always be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure you are taking full advantage of this feature.

Rewards points

Ahh one of my favourite things: being rewarded for spending money. Most credit cards come with a rewards points system which can be used to your advantage if you play the game right. Points can be used to pay annual fees on credit cards, purchase flights, fuel and even gifts for your other half (or yourself which is my preferred option). Just note that you actually have to spend a lot of money to actually earn a decent amount of points; although the way I look at it is that you were going to spend the money anyway so why not get a bit extra for your dollar?

Credit ratings

If you are a young buck stepping out into the big wide world of independence, then a credit card is a great way to show banks that you are good with money and are able to meet financial commitments. You just have to make sure you make all your repayments and keep it under control! If you have a strong history of responsibly managing your credit card, the banks will look favourably upon you when you’re applying for a loan for a new car or house in the future. A good credit rating will open a lot of doors for you.


One handy – yet often overlooked – benefit of a credit card is the ability to use it in your budget planning. But how? you ask. Every transaction that you make from paying bills to buying a coffee can be paid for by your credit card, and in doing so, creating a bit of an audit trail. If you use cash, you don’t have that recorded history of your spending. Come the end of the month, when you look back through your credit card transaction statement, you can see exactly where your money is going (hello pub lunches) and see where you need to cut back on your spending to enable you to save that little bit extra money.

Interest free periods

In my eyes, this is where the magic happens. Most credit cards come with an interest free period which typically can vary from 15 to 60 days. Instead of using the money sitting in your savings account (or better still, an offset account linked to a home loan) you can use the dollars on the credit card which will cost you nothing if paid back on the due date. This will allow you to earn interest (or avoid paying more interest if you have an offset account) as your money will be sitting in an account you own until the bill due date, and you will be spending the bank’s money in the meantime.

The Bad

Don’t get greedy

It’s easy to get carried away with spending money you don’t have, but you really need to be conscious of your limits and know to spend within your own boundaries. Banks will often send you invitations to increase your credit card limit and before you know it, you could be the proud – yet stretched – owner of a credit card with a $50,000 limit. But do you really need a card with that much freedom; that much potential to dig yourself into some serious debt? If you can’t afford to make ongoing repayments on large sums, you should go back to the old-school ways and save for big ticket items. This way, you’ll be earning interest on your savings rather than accruing interest on your credit card. Resist the urge to click on the ‘apply now’ button when you receive these credit increase emails and stand your ground!

The Ugly

Look after future you

You really need to consider the impact of your actions today on your financial freedom in the future. If a credit card is used irresponsibly, it can lead to a lot of financial distress for the cardholder. Perhaps the most devastating result of using a credit card irresponsibly is the effect it may have on your credit rating and subsequent ability to apply for a loan. As a young, single party goer, it might be socially acceptable to have a few credit card debts and some baggage from your world travels, but what happens when you go to buy a house with your partner in a few years and your borrowing capacity is affected by your less than impressive credit rating?

All the fees

Make sure you make your repayments by the due date each month! In a perfect world, you should pay off the entire amount each month but at the very least, you need to meet the minimum repayment. Keep in mind, if you only ever pay the minimum, you’ll never really make tracks on your debt – it’s kind of like treading water in the ocean, but not getting any closer to the shore. The banks make their money by charging massive amounts of interest on the money borrowed if you cannot repay it on time. This can be more than 20% so it is extremely important to have your card paid off in full by the due date so you are not charged any interest on the outstanding balance, nor any late fees.

Tips and Tricks

Sure, in travelling the world and eating at the best restaurants, you might collect some awesome Facebook memories, but you’ll also collect some hefty ongoing financial commitments. Wouldn’t you rather redirect those funds to a savings plan or holiday deposit instead?

Here are some final tips to help you get a grip on your credit card behaviours:

  • Before pulling out your credit card, ask yourself “Do I want or need this?” If you want it – rather than need it – then it is not a necessity and can be put back on the shelf.
  • Lower your credit limit to an amount that you know you will be able to comfortably pay back within the month. This will also reduce the risk of over spending and hopefully avoiding any financial distress in the future.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of having multiple credit cards as you only need one at most. This will allow you to more easily track your spending and stay on top of it.

Credit cards can be a very useful tool and even help you save money, but you need to use them wisely. If you find yourself in trouble and unable to stay on top of your debts, then a financial planner can assist in creating an appropriate overall financial strategy to help you recover from bad debt.

To take that first step, send us an email or call The Hopkins Group on 1800 726 082 and ask to speak to a financial adviser who will be more than willing to help you break the cycle of bad debt and put you on the path to financial security.


Disclaimer: Shane Light is an Authorised Representative and John Hopkins Financial Services Pty Ltd is a Corporate Representative of WealthSure Financial Services Pty Ltd Level 1 190 Stirling Street PERTH WA 6000 ACN:130 288 578 AFSL: 326450.

General Advice Warning: This advice may not be suitable to you because it contains general advice that has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. Please seek personal financial advice prior to acting on this information.

In reply | ‘’What I wouldn’t buy: Five successful investors share their advice”

Domain recently published an article titled “What I wouldn’t buy: Five successful investors share their advice”. An associate of John Hopkins wrote to us to seek John’s views on comments made in the article. The following blog post provides an edit of John’s reply.


I have never met Steve McKnight, however my understanding is that he is a seasoned, experienced and successful property person. My understanding is that he, unlike many, has never been one of those property spruikers that has promised or stated things as fact that cannot be promised and or are not facts.

So, my comments in relation to this part of the article are purely comments about what Steve has been quoted to have said.

Firstly, I find it fascinating that the media and  many others are negative of property that has been purchased ‘Off the Plan’; in other words, property purchased before it has been developed.

There is a suggestion that this is bad, or that somehow between the start of development and the completion there is a transformation that makes an Off the Plan purchase safe because it is now completed. Or in the reverse that it was necessarily dangerous to purchase before it was developed.

I cannot imagine any professional experienced property person, a valuer, a competent property estate agent (as distinct from a good sales agent, I really mean property competent) or an experienced property investment advisor ever saying property cannot be assessed and valued accurately before it is developed.

Whether it is commercial or residential, or most other categories of property, for decades, for centuries around the world, professionals have made assessments of the end property, assessments about value, assessments about the end improvements, about the suitability of the developed property for that particular location, likely demand of occupation and likely demand ownership.  How would property development, the subdividing and the improvements on land with the completion of developments ever happen if it was impossible to make careful judgements before the start of development?

Developers would not develop and banks would not lend if it was not possible.

It is the same for buyers, residential buyers, commercial and other property buyers. Accurate and correct assessments can be made about property before it is developed.

So to say across the board that ‘Off the Plan’ purchasers are bad, is wrong, it is very wrong and would be laughed at by seasoned professionals. These statements are made either out of ignorance, vested interest or playing to popular thought or to obtaining media space or recognition.

Steve says that it is like a new car. The point he is making is that the new car will lose value the moment you drive it out of the show room or, that new property purchased off the plan will lose value the moment you settle.

Firstly, that is not a fact across the board by any means.

Secondly, it is important to say that getting access to quality property in a strong market is not easy and purchasing before a property is developed often gives access to quality.

Thirdly, by buying off the plan it is reasonable to say you can make certain you are purchasing the newest and best properties. The latest in design internally and externally, the best fixtures and fittings, the most up to date in landscaping and common facilities and owners corporation regulations.

And finally, for an investor, that new property offers the highest non cash tax deductions because of sections 40 and 43 of the taxation act through the depreciation of fixtures and fittings and what is referred to as the building allowance.

Respectfully to Steve, if the market is right (in terms of the general and particular markets the property or properties exist in), if the timing is reasonable (in relation to the economy and those property markets), if the development is appropriate (for the location and that market place) and if the specific properties (houses, townhouses or apartments) are quality developments produced by a team that is financially strong, experienced and acting with integrity, there in fact CAN BE great advantages and increases in value before finalisation.

Thousands and thousands of investors and owner occupiers throughout Australia and around the world have definitely had great success by purchasing off the plan over many, many, years past and will continue to do so in the years and markets to come.

To say that is not true is either a lie or it is a statement made by somebody, as I said above, without knowledge or with vested interests.

What is correct to say is, yes, some have purchased the wrong properties, or possibly purchased at the wrong time, or in the wrong market, or purchased property that is poorly conceived, developed or built or purchased from the wrong developers and have not got what they should have or what they wanted.

The answer is to know what you are doing, or take the correct competent advice.

Steve has also made the comment that scarcity drives value. I presume he correctly means value both in regard to capital and income, because they are equally important; definitely so for investors. For heritage type properties, in the right locations, scarcity can definitely be a driver of value. Our clients that purchased terraces in suburbs like South Melbourne or Paddington in Sydney have been the beneficiaries of scarcity value.

However those that bought apartments, and not particularly special apartments, in Kirribilli or Albert Park in Melbourne didn’t miss a beat. Scarcity is definitely one factor in the supply-demand relationship. But so is population increases in strong and independent economies, fashion changes – in regard to types of property or locations – and there are many more factors that add to demand for property.

Steve makes the point; ‘it is hard to see how a new property would outperform the general property market’.

It is crucial when talking about the performance of property markets to categorise into finite categories. To say it is hard to see how apartments would outperform the general market is way too generalised, especially when one adds in ease of ownership compared to some other categories of property or if new, as mentioned above, the benefits of Divisions 40 and 43 of the taxation act.

Also apartments are affordable in the best inner urban locations of ‘major metropolis’s’. Most investors could not afford houses in those quality locations.

Ask those that own apartments in central London, the inner districts of Paris, on Manhattan Island or next to the Ginza Strip in Tokyo. Or for that matter, in Elizabeth Bay, or Cremorne in Sydney, or East Melbourne, or Carlton in Melbourne what they think. Or in the future ask those that have purchased quality apartments in quality locations in Melbourne and Brisbane how they feel.

I can say without any fear of contradiction, if the past is any indication of the future they will be very happy with their actions.

In discussing the case for apartments I am not in any way suggesting they are the only category of residential property to invest in; I am discussing it because it has been suggested that they are bad investments. That is so wrong.

In regard to Steve’s comment about negative gearing, he is referring to the negative gearing of a property investment. I state that because we could purchase a business and negatively gear that purchase or we could purchase a portfolio of shares and negatively gear those purchases.

Secondly, it would be important to know if Steve is talking about negatively gearing costs before tax or after tax.

Gearing (leverage), that is, borrowing money to purchase an investment, or any asset for that matter, can be a worthwhile strategy if it is appropriate in regard to the particular investor and for the purchase of the right investments.

The same is absolutely correct with regard to negative gearing, which is where the costs of owning an investment, including interest, are greater than the income from that investment. In the case of property, this is rent. For certain investors this loss would be deductable by that tax payer against income from other sources of income in that particular tax year.

Gearing and negative gearing can be a very successful method of increasing returns on equity or capital.

Those returns are because the combining of capital growth, income growth and the devaluing of money, thanks to inflation, out strip the losses due to negative gearing whether pre or after tax, most likely over years into the future.

Millions and millions of property investors worldwide have safely enjoyed the benefits of this investment strategy.

The issue is the right investment for the right individual or entity, at the right time, acting as an investor and not a speculator or property trader.

I won’t address the issues here but if the suggestion is that positive gearing is the way to go, be wary; all that glitters is not gold. That is a strategy to be very careful with. However it is often presented as the opposite.

Mass-scale apartment developments

Respectfully to Marion Mays, whom from these accounts knows what she is doing, if the only reason to potentially avoid purchasing ‘Off the Plan’ apartments is because of long sunset clauses, I would make these comments.

Firstly, there could be hundreds of reasons not to purchase a particular off the plan apartment.

Macro, micro economic or property market issues, issues to do with the general or particular location of the proposed property, the funding of the project or the organisations involved – the developer most importantly, but also the architect, the builder and others.

It is important to understand the impact of particular sunset clauses – however if we know a particular development will be completed because we know the developer and the development, it is reasonable to accept a reasonable sunset clause.

The fact is most development financiers will not fund a development if there is not a reasonable sunset clause in the contract. Therefore there would not be a property to purchase at all without it. It is the particular circumstances that have to be considered and judged.

In regard to the last paragraph, some of the points sound reasonable but they really depend on the particular property and the particular investor. Marion says to avoid heritage property but how many investors have purchased Victorian houses in Kirribilli, Paddington, Albert Park, South Yarra or other similar locations. They have made millions and millions.

I agree avoid asbestos and flood plains. But I don’t think you need me to tell you that.

When discussing and investigating property, it is so important not to generalise. Further it is crucial not to be glib and to short cut important and often complicated research and due diligence processes.

Capital cities other than Melbourne, Sydney

I do know Michael Yardney and he is to be respected for his many involvements in property over many years.

It is a bit hard to say if Michael is referring to buying off the plan throughout Australia because he would of course know that many have made good money on apartments over the last six years in Sydney. Many have also purchased quality property in Melbourne in recent times, let’s say ten years, and in the right properties and locations these have done well; and that’s not even considering those that purchased at times earlier.

Michael is correct when he infers it is important to be careful. Docklands in Melbourne or the CBD are to be avoided. Brisbane offers opportunity and yet it is half the population of Sydney and Melbourne; therefore it is not as forgiving, so being much more careful about what and where is crucial here.

In Brisbane, just because New Farm and the right property in The Valley (Fortitude Valley) may have done very well from the perspective of income and capital growth, it does not mean all of Bowen Hills will be good. So compared to Sydney and Melbourne – which are both very forgiving, fundamentally because of the population sizes, population growth and the fact that they have strong and independent economies – it is crucial in Brisbane to be very much more discerning and careful.

If the reference is to off the plan purchases, I have discussed this above but to repeat; it is no different to being careful when buying an established property, if you know what you are doing.

An important point to make is that timing in regard to property markets is a very real consideration that has not been discussed in this article.

Michael is correct in regard to his comments about the other states and capital cities; Hobart, Adelaide, Darwin and to some degree Perth, they fundamentally do not have the populations or strong and independent economies that will support their property markets.

Rural properties, hotspots and (just) houses and Dime-a-dozen properties.

In regard to both of these sections I make the following comments.

Firstly, there are some statements that seem reasonable. For example, “steer clear of rural property”, “off the plan apartment purchases aren’t’ always a no go”, “make certain it is a quality build”, “have a balanced portfolio” and “keep away from rural property that depends on one industry”.

They are all possibly relevant issues but frankly each one needs a lot more in explanation, proof, and why or why not these issues matter, in regard to property investment decisions, is essential.

What really does concern me in regard to these two sections is that you can only know so much at the ages of Stephanie and Brenton.

Experiencing and learning and success in property investment is a long term activity and with great respect to both Stephanie and Brenton, it isn’t five years or ten. It is watching, learning and taking actions with both positive and negative results, for twenty years or more that would put an individual in a position to carefully advise on property selection and investment advice for individuals.

With property it is often that many individuals don’t know what they don’t know.

It surprises me that at every dinner party I go to everyone knows more about property than I do.

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