Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our past present and future customers and clients.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 18 December 2009
Merry Christmas!
Wishing you all the best for the holiday season. In the news this week, Aussies still want to buy houses; and looking after the little guys while you're away on holiday...
More loans for new housing

Lending for new homes continues to increase, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Loans for the construction of new dwellings and the purchase of newly-built homes combined increased by 5.7 per cent in October, following a rise in September. New housing loans have increased in 13 of the past 14 months.

New investment housing did not fare so well, dropping by 0.6 per cent. Loans for new investment housing were down 10.5 per cent over the last 3 months relative to the corresponding period last year.

During October, loans for the construction of new dwellings increased by 9.2 per cent, while loans for the purchase of newly-built dwellings dropped by 3.9 per cent.

The total number of seasonally adjusted loans for owner-occupiers (net of refinancing) fell by 1.5 per cent in the month of October 2009 but was up by 37.4 per cent compared to October 2008.

In seasonally adjusted terms the total number of owner-occupier loans (net of refinancing) in October 2009 declined in New South Wales (5 per cent), Queensland (0.6 per cent), Victoria (0.4 per cent), the Australian Capital Territory (1 per cent) and South Australia (3.8 per cent).

The total number of loans increased by 0.8 per cent in Western Australia, the Northern Territory (7.9 per cent) and by 6.2 per cent in Tasmania.

Home comfort

More than one third of Australians plan to buy a property in the next two years despite concerns over interest rates and higher living costs, according to the annual Consumer Sentiment Survey commissioned by mortgage broker, Mortgage Choice.

The results indicate the country's more positive economic outlook is prompting almost half (40 per cent) of Australians to revisit their financial plans. Furthermore, 40 per cent of responding mortgage holders believed they could afford to make repayments at an interest rate of over 11 per cent.

Mortgage Choice senior corporate affairs manager, Kristy Sheppard said that since the global financial crisis hit home, more borrowers are taking ownership over their financial situation and although many see rates as concerning, a high percentage are prepared for rate rises of at least five percentage points, which is much higher than is being predicted for the next couple of years.

"This suggests many borrowers can comfortably repay their home loan sooner, if they put their mind and budget to it", Ms Sheppard said.

"Improved sentiment from Australians around their livelihoods is also terrific to see. When compared to last year's results, job security slipped from the top of the `biggest concern' list to third place this year, behind interest rates rises and other costs of living."

The survey data shows that for 2010, respondents were most concerned by interest rates (19 per cent of respondents) and other costs of living such as utility bills and clothing (17 per cent) than they were about their job security (16 per cent) and economic management at Federal Government level (15 per cent).

Last year, the major personal concerns were job security (20 per cent), followed by economic management at Federal Government level (18 per cent) and other costs of living (17 per cent).

This aside, almost three quarters of this year's respondents were confident the Australian economy would be strong during 2010, so much so that almost half of those without a mortgage (41 per cent) planned to take the leap into property ownership within the next two years.

When asked to consider higher mortgage interest rates, 40 per cent of mortgage holders said they could afford a rate increase of more than five percentage points before they would need to consider selling their property. 17 per cent of those said they could afford `any' increase - the second most popular response.

On the lower end of the scale, 14 per cent could afford four to five percentage points, 13 per cent between three and four points, 15 per cent between two and three, and 6 per cent between 1.5 and 2 percentage points. 6 per cent said they couldn't afford any rate rise before considering selling.

Over half of all respondents (57 per cent) felt the global financial crisis had made investing in property seem safer than shares.

Generation Y was the most comfortable investing in property, with 62 per cent believing property is safer. 58 per cent of Baby Boomers agreed and 56 per cent Generation X. Western Australia had the highest percentage of respondents who believed this to be the case, at 61 per cent.

"As a housing market service provider, Mortgage Choice is pleased to see 41 per cent of respondents planning to buy property in the next two years and 43 per cent of them planning on an investment property.

Hopefully, increasing demand from this buyer group will stimulate more housing construction," Ms Sheppard said.

Take a gander at George's house!

No one knows exactly why George Stacy chose to construct his family home in the shape of a goose. The railway worker just came up with the concept impulsively, his wife Ollie says.

"He came home one day with the idea in his mind, I have no idea how he came up with that notion".

In fine Darwinian form, Stacy shot down a sacrificial goose and used the carefully prepared carcass as a scale model of his vision. This would provide a natural blueprint.

For six years, the Stacys lived in an old shack above the site whilst construction was taking place. Determination was key, and without the money to build continually they had to "work a while and build a while", Ollie recalls.

The result is a truly unique home featuring eight egg-shaped windows, two of which contained car lights that served as life-like goose eyes.
Ollie reports that at one stage these lights would blink to passing motorists. Sandstone from the local creeks, most of it hauled to the site by Stacy's three sons, was used for the external walls. Akin to the model, the roof of the building is ribbed, with a `head' protruding about 15 feet high. There is a tail at the other end of the roof and the entire building sits within an oval `nest'.

Completed in 1940, the Mother Goose building in Hazard still continues to attract attention around the world and has been featured in the New York Times and on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Although George Stacy has passed away, his monumental display of imagination and creative genius lives lives on. Not only as the `Mother Goose' building, but as concrete reminder of the magical imagination that lies within us all, just waiting for a chance to hatch out.

It's what's outside that counts

If you're planning to go away for the holidays, spare a thought for your buddies who stay behind to keep an eye on the house. Just as you make arrangements to have your pets and plants cared for, it is important to ensure there is shelter and water for the variety of birds, lizards and a number of other insects and small animals that share your patch.

Not only do these critters live and find food in your backyard, but they also play an important role in maintaining the biodiversity of our land. Birds, bees and butterflies help propagate the plants, while the bluetongues, skinks and frogs all love to hunt and eat garden pests.

The National Parks and Wildlife Foundation, through its Backyard Buddies initiative, offers a few suggestions of things you can do to make sure your co-habitors enjoy their summer too:

Install a bird bath. Your feathered friends will love to splash and cool down. You can even add a timer to your pond or birdbath to keep water fresh and clean. If water restrictions are an issue, birds love to roll around in a shallow sand bath. Make sure the bath is beyond the reach of neighbourhood moggies - spiky ground cover makes an effective and attractive natural barrier!

Tadpoles are growing legs and will be looking for ponds, so keeping yours in good shape while you are away could see some new residents move in. Again, a timer is a cheap and simple way to keep water levels stable for your plants, fish and frog buddies.

Add shade and plenty of leaf litter or fallen bark for your smaller visitors. Before you go, how about adding some rocks and logs in a corner of your backyard? They provide shade and shelter for lizards and other small animals while you are away, and these guys will keep your backyard free of snails and other pests while you're on holidays.

Housing starts up

Housing starts increased by 9.4 per cent in the September 2009 quarter, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The seasonally adjusted estimate for new private sector house commencements rose 8.1 per cent following a rise of 5.1 per cent in the June quarter.

The estimate for new private sector other residential building

Staircase je t'aime

Ever had a friend or relative go to France and bring you back a tiny model of the Eiffel Tower?

Here's one sure to trump their gift - a 40-step section of spiral staircase removed from the Eiffel Tower was sold by auction recently.

Part of a flight of stairs dismantled in 1983 when elevators were installed, the 7.8 metre section sold for A$136,000 in Paris to a man who also bought a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 11 December 2009
It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
Harry S Truman
Australian PCI®: Construction falls as demand weakens
The number of houses being built has grown for the past five months, but not enough to prevent the national construction industry from contracting in November, according to the latest Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association Performance of Construction Index (Australian PCI®).

The seasonally adjusted Australian PCI® was down 3.3 points to 47.6 for November, slipping below the critical 50 point level separating expansion from contraction.

Australian Industry Group Director Public Policy, Dr Peter Burn said that a slump in apartment building and a further decline in engineering and commercial construction underpinned November's results.

"Despite the fall, the performance of the sector was still well above the lows of early this year", he said.

The index shows that the housing sector has continued to grow, although the rate of improvement has slowed over the past two months due to a weakening in first home buyer activity.

Across the sectors, the apartment activity index dropped 4.7 points to 48.5. The engineering and commercial construction indexes also fell below 50 for the month.

House building grew for the fifth consecutive month, taking the sub-index to 51.1 for November.

"With little price pressure, and trade availability still considerably better than it was up until late last year, it is a good time to engage in renovating an existing property or building a new home", Harley Dale said.

Investors still hungry
Appetite for new apartments has been resilient, despite interest rate rises, according to a recent survey released by industry analyst and economic forecaster, BIS Shrapnel.

BIS Shrapnel's Home Buyer Monitor survey, which was conducted after the November 2009 rate rise, showed that 30 per cent of all households looking to purchase a dwelling were investors.

This proportion was unchanged from the previous survey in August 2009, indicating that investor appetite was unaffected by the initial rate rises.

The low rate of medium and high-density dwelling construction is largely attributable to tighter lending restrictions on development projects. BIS Shrapnel says it is uncertain as to how long it will be before lending restrictions are eased and, even if some improvement were to occur in the near future, it would be some time before supply improves as most medium and high-density dwelling projects take 12 to 18 months to complete.

BIS Shrapnel Senior Economist Jason Anderson says the forecast growth in rents will complicate the Reserve Bank of Australia's fight against inflation.

"Continued strong growth in residential rentals will limit the potential decline in underlying inflation measures," he says.

"Given that underlying inflation remains high, relative to the Reserve Bank of Australia's target range, we expect that the escalating shortage of rental properties will be a significant factor contributing to further interest rate rises.

"Higher interest rates would dampen the construction of new dwellings, exacerbate the housing shortage, and thereby place upward pressure on rentals. This dilemma is set to become much more evident during 2010."

BIS Shrapnel says the causes of escalating housing costs require close attention from governments at all levels. Australia is nearing the end of a decade where housing costs have risen far more sharply than the price of overall household good and services.

During the 1990s, the housing component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was flat, and did not contribute anything to inflation over the decade. However, over the ten years since the start of the millennium, the housing component of the CPI has risen by 56 per cent, which is well above overall CPI inflation of 36 per cent.

"To put this in perspective, housing costs have jumped by more than the social `bads' of alcohol and tobacco, for which average prices have risen by 55 per cent over the decade, and are transparently affected by rising government levies," says Anderson.

"The burden of government charges and policies on housing are more indirect, but pervasive.

Both owner-occupiers and renters are being affected and unlike cigarettes and alcohol, housing is not a service that can be picked-up `duty free'."

Impact of climate change on coastal homes

Almost half a million existing Australian homes could be under water by 2100, according to a report released by the Department for Climate Change mapping the impacts of climate change on Australia's coastal communities.

The report - Climate Change Risks to Australia's Coasts - is the first continental scale mapping of residential buildings at risk from climate change.

Focusing particularly on risks to residential buildings from inundation and erosion, the report identifies areas at high risk and what can be done to reduce the impact

Key Findings:

Of the 711,000 existing residential properties close to the water, between 157,000-247,600 properties are identified as potentially exposed to inundation with a sea-level rise scenario of 1.1 metres.

Nearly 39,000 properties are located within 110 metres of `soft' shorelines and at risk from accelerated erosion due to sea-level rise and changing climate conditions.

The current value of existing residential buildings at risk from inundation ranges from $41 billion to $63 billion (2008 replacement value).

Decisions on future development, particularly in areas highly exposed to the impacts of climate change, should not increase risk.
Government roles in planning and setting benchmarks will be central to risk management, and there is a high level of public good assets in the coastal region.

The rising value and number of coastal properties (as a result of this increasing supply and increasing population) in turn exacerbates risk exposure from climate change impacts.

Some development and related land use decisions may need to be further constrained to ensure climate change impacts will not come with further exacerbated risks.

The full report can be downloaded at:

Average mortgage hits all-time high

Mortgages in Australia have hit a new high, according to a report released this week by mortgage broker AFG.

The average new mortgage arranged in Australia in November reached $367,000, the highest on record.

The AFG Mortgage Index shows that mortgage sizes have been on the rise since the middle of the year, having increased by 6.4 per cent since May.

Supporting recent reports of increasing property prices, average mortgage sizes have grown particularly strongly in Victoria (up 12.1 per cent since May) and New South Wales (up 10.7 per cent), but less so in WA, where they rose by 3 per cent and Queensland, where they have held steady since May.

November also saw the continuing re-emergence of property investors, who accounted for one in three of all new mortgages arranged (33.8 per cent), the highest such figure all year, and well up on the one in four (24.7 per cent) figure for March when investment reached its lowest point.

However, overall monthly sales of mortgages in November declined for the second month in a row, off the back of increasing interest rates and sharply declining First Home Buyer numbers. First Home Buyers accounted for just 13.7 per cent of all mortgages arranged in November, compared to 28.1 per cent at their peak in March this year.

The Index also shows a slight change in the balance of lenders from banks to non-banks during the past two quarters, suggesting that second-tier lenders are becoming somewhat more competitive as global credit conditions ease.

Bots spice it up

The holiday season is a time when many of us find family and friends filling our homes and crowding around the table at mealtimes.

It's also a time to cast our minds back two millennia to the manger scene, or bring a futuristic edge to the table with robots that serve food. Well, serve salt and pepper, at least.

Salt & Pepper Bots are little wind-up toy robots that will walk salt and pepper around the table, so they won't need to pass through 10 hands this Christmas lunch just to get to you.

No window of opportunity here

Imagine not being able to open a window in your home because your neighbours are worried about you looking into their house. That's the situation facing a British couple, who recently appeared in court for breaching planning consents that forbid their bathroom window from being opened, the UK Daily Mail reported recently.

When Tony and Carmen George proposed to extend their house, the neighbours objected to the window being located in a position that allowed the Georges to see into their home. The council allowed the window, but said it must remain closed at all times.

When investigating a possible leak that was causing damp around the window, the Georges opened the sealed window in 2008 and received a notice from an enforcement officer. A more recent attempt to find the cause of the damp received a complaint from the neighbours, resulting in the court summons. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard case.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 04 December 2009
Quote of the Week

"The difference between a Flower and a Weed is a Judgment."

~Author Unknown~

House prices on the rise

Australia's housing market bounced back strongly in October after a relatively flat September, according to a report released this week.

The RP Data-Rismark National Capital City Hedonic Index shows that Australian home values rose by an indicative 1.4 per cent in the month of October after just 0.4 per cent growth in September.

Over the first ten months of 2009, Australian home values have now risen by 10 per cent following on from their 3.8 per cent peak-to-trough falls in 2008.'s Senior Research Analyst, Cameron Kusher, remarked that the strong growth figures show that the market is very resilient and that the 25 basis point interest rate increase during the month has not immediately impacted the market.

Rismark International Managing Director Christopher Joye added that while a resilient recovery had been forecast for 2009, it was good to see such a strong growth, which reflects Australia's better-than-expected employment and growth outcomes.

"We project that as mortgage rates normalise, capital growth rates will fall back to more subdued levels", Joye said.

Cameron Kusher said the likeliness of further interest rate rises over the next 12 to 18 months is likely to result in more normal growth conditions over 2010.

"The removal of the First Home Buyers Grant Boost and higher loan costs will also result in greater pressure on the rental market," he said.

"According to our analysis of all home sales in Australia, which we have privately shared with
the RBA, the median Australian home value is only four times average disposable household incomes", Joye commented.

"This is inconsistent with claims that Australian dwelling prices are 6-8 times household incomes.

"People forget that 40 per cent of the housing stock is not located in the capital cities.

"This data implies that Australian housing is not expensive by overseas standards, and also helps explain our internationally high rates of home ownership combined with very low mortgage default rates."

Joye remarked that one question exercising people's minds is the impact of higher interest rates, yet the Reserve Bank (RBA) has pointed out that when they cut mortgage rates by 40 per cent in the second half of 2008 most borrowers did not actually reduce their repayments.

In the RBA's October Board Minutes, the Bank noted:

"[M]any households with home loans had not sought to lower their monthly payments when mortgage rates had fallen and had instead paid down their loan balances ahead of schedule. This would reduce the vulnerability of that part of the household sector to rising mortgage rates."

"The RBA suggested that this means that borrowers should be able to absorb future rate hikes as mortgage costs normalise," Joye concluded.


The Reserve Bank of Australia again raised the official cash rate by one quarter of a percentage point this week, bringing it back to 3.75 per cent.

This is the third consecutive monthly increase since rates bottomed at 3 per cent earlier in the year in response to the Global Financial Crisis.

Announcing the decision, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens said that with the risk of serious economic contraction in Australia having passed, the Board has moved at recent meetings to lessen gradually the degree of monetary stimulus that was put in place when the outlook appeared to be much weaker.

"These material adjustments to the stance of monetary policy will, in the Board's view, work to increase the sustainability of growth in economic activity and keep inflation consistent with the target over the years ahead", Governor Stevens said.

Protect your position

This week's announcement by the Reserve Bank of another successive rate rise will lead more borrowers to move to protect their financial position and prepare accordingly for the new rate cycle ahead, according to Resi Mortgage Corporation.

Resi's Head of Consumer Advocacy, Lisa Montgomery says although this rate rise may only add around $46 to monthly repayments on an average $300,000 loan*, which in isolation seems a manageable figure, the effect of these rate rises will compound as more occur.

"During the decade prior to the GFC, even when interest rates were rising, Australians were spending like never before - but thankfully there now seems to have been a shift to borrowers being more aware of the implications of their spending and the options available to them", she says.

"However, despite this trend, it is inevitable that there will still be some who will be caught short as more rate increases occur and as with planning for anything - protecting your position is the key."

Montgomery says for many mortgage holders, now is a good time to do an audit of their home loan and its features and determine whether it is still providing them with the flexibility they may need in the future.

"See if you can negotiate a better rate with your lender and if that's not possible, consider shopping around for a lender with a more valuable service proposition", she suggests.

In the current climate of rising rates there are several things that each category of borrower might take into consideration:


  • Always allocate more funds for your current mortgage repayments which will give you breathing space for rate rises, as well as providing a slush fund for any necessary works you may have to carry out on your property.
  • Limit discretionary spending, particularly during the festive period when budgets can blow out.


  • Hold off on purchasing everything new to go with the new house and instead acquire household items as you can afford to pay for them - preferably in cash. Don't rack up additional debt if you don't need to.
  • With rental demand still high and provided your living circumstances allow for it, consider taking in someone to rent a room and help you pay your mortgage.


  • Don't take it for granted you will always have tenants to help you pay the mortgage - have a plan B ready in case the property is untenanted for any period such as having funds set aside to continue paying the mortgage or moving in yourself if your situation allows
  • Remind yourself that repairs and maintenance costs are a necessary part of owning an investment property so allow for them in your annual budget and remember they are tax deductible and will over the long term add value to your property.
  • Monthly repayment figures based on an average $300,000 principal and interest standard variable loan taken out over 25 years.

* Monthly repayment figures based on an average $300,000 principal and interest standard variable loan taken out over 25 years.

Apartments bring down approvals

October saw a large drop in the number of building approvals for units and townhouses, causing an overall drop for the month, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Total seasonally adjusted building approvals eased by 0.7 per cent in October, driven by a 17.9 per cent drop in multi-unit approvals.

On the other hand, detached house approvals increased by 5.7 per cent following an upwardly revised 1.1 per cent gain in September.

Building approvals increased in three states and fell in three states in October.

The number of seasonally adjusted residential dwelling approvals increased in October by 10.5 per cent in Tasmania, 9.7 per cent in Western Australia, and 4.2 per cent in Queensland.

Approvals dropped by 10.2 per cent in New South Wales and were down by 4.5 per cent in South Australia and 0.3 per cent in Victoria.

The trend number of approvals increased by 2 per cent in the Northern Territory and by 1 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory.

Commenting on the data, Master Builders Australia Chief Economist Peter Jones said that the negative headline figure masks encouraging strength in the growth of new house approvals, but cannot hide the extreme volatility occurring around a disastrously low base in `other dwellings' approvals.

"Investor-driven building of units and apartments continues to be affected by the credit crunch with approvals running at an annualised 35,000 - still 40 per cent below the peak", Jones said.

"The concern is that the fragile housing recovery is still very one-dimensional, and remains hamstrung by tight lending requirements affecting investor-driven unit and apartment builders", he added.

Housing Industry Association Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale said that building approvals levels currently implied around 145,000 housing starts per year, well short of the new homes required to meet Australia's rapidly growing population.

Breaking the bank

As we watch the four major banks rush to increase interest rates this week, one establishment on the other side of the world has been hit hard for not looking after the little guy.

According to the New York Post, a US couple has received a blue-moon-style Christmas present after a judge - outraged at OneWest bank for what he called harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive behavior - cancelled their half-million dollar mortgage debt.

The decision saw over AU$315,000 erased on the principal and $255,000 in interest and penalties cancelled from the bank which had received over $887.3M in the Federal bailout, yet still had a record of cold-bloodedly foreclosing on any homeowner owing money.

The bank is reportedly involved in a similar case in California, where it's trying to foreclose on an 89-year-old woman, despite two court orders telling it to stop.

The lighter side of clouds

Every cloud may have a silver lining, though seeing it isn't always so simple as flicking a switch.

At least it wasn't, until Silver Lining in a Box - a lamp that uses light to paint your walls with the silver lining of cloud shapes. Hand-assembled with a production process that minimises the environmental impact, it's an easy way to keep the brighter side in sight.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 27 November 2009
Quote of the Week

"In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins- not through strength but by perseverance."
~H. Jackson Brown~

Still 50,000 homes short

The recovery in new home building will fall short of what is required to meet increases in Australia's population, according to the latest National Outlook released this week by the Housing Industry Association (HIA).

HIA Chief Economist Dr Harley Dale said that more than six million dwellings will be needed over the next forty years to match Australia's projected population growth.

HIA is forecasting the number of housing starts to increase by 9 per cent over 2009/10 following a drop of 18 per cent last financial year.
Starts are forecast to grow by a further 16 per cent over the period 2010/11 to 2011/12 to reach 166,000 dwellings.

After suffering a 4 per cent decline in 2008/09, total investment in renovations is forecast to increase by 10 per cent over the three-year period to 2011/12, reaching a record worth of $32.8 billion.

The state of the land

The gap between supply and demand for housing land has widened even further, according to a new report released this week by the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA).

The 2009 State of the Land Report has found that there is a substantial undersupply of land for new housing across Australia's major capital cities and that the situation has been ongoing since 2005.

The Report highlights that Melbourne is currently managing its land supply the best of any capital city. On the other hand, Sydney, while delivering higher levels of infill development, is significantly underperforming in greenfield land production and housing supply generally.

According to UDIA National President Stephen Holmes, the Report shows that the gap between land supply and demand has widened and there is a growing undersupply of housing right across Australia.

"Housing demand in Australia is increasing due to changes in household formation, natural population growth, and most significantly, historically high levels of immigration", Holmes says.

"The adequate supply of land to support new housing is the principal driver for ensuring the maintenance of housing affordability in Australia, so unless the supply-side issues are rectified, housing will increasingly become less affordable for Australians."

UDIA has made the following recommendations to start addressing the gravity of the issue and implementing actions to improve land supply production and delivery:

1. That the Productivity Commission be charged with undertaking an inquiry into financing local infrastructure and specifically examine the proliferation and impact of development levies.

2. That the Major Cities Unit of Infrastructure Australia assume responsibility of the inter-Governmental co-ordination of residential land supply to ensure that there is sufficient supply available in all capital cities across Australia.

Tough guys cry, too

We're used to seeing stars like Nicholas Cage and Eddy Murphy winning, losing and toughing it out as celluloid heroes, but even they are vulnerable to the perils of the real estate bust in the United States over the past twelve months, according to Forbes Magazine.

Forbes recently reported that Cage lost two New Orleans properties at auction (a bank was the buyer) for just two-thirds their appraisal value of US$3.4 million.

It is a problem facing many owners of high-end homes across the States, where the asking price of luxury homes has reduced by an average 14% compared with the national average of 10 percent.

Actor-comedian Edie Murphy reportedly slashed the price of his 32-room home by 50 per cent from its original listing price of $30 million, while hip-hop label Def Jam creator Russell Simmons dropped the price on his home by a third to 16.5 million.

Fire-resistant? Irresistible

The growing urban sprawl surrounding Australia's capital cities, combined with the baby boomer tree-change and sea-change phenomena, has increased the need and demand for fire-resistant homes, building advisory service Archicentre warned this week.

Victorian State Manager David Hallett said that stark memories of the major fires that have swept through most states in Australia over the past decade, together with current fires in South Australia, Tasmania and New South Wales, continue to place a focus on the importance of building fire-resistant homes.

"Traditionally people have seen fire resistant homes as a regional or rural issue", Hallett said.

He pointed out that the urban sprawl is placing tens of thousands of new homes on the fringe of major cities every year, often interfacing with state forests.

This situation is being compounded as baby boomers move away from the cities into coastal and rural areas.

"Anyone building a new home or renovating on the urban fringe should ensure fire prevention standards are included in their design and permit applications."

Mr Hallett advised homebuyers to be aware of local, state or national building standards, to complete a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment of their property before they move in and to consider upgrading the building to reflect current requirements.

The Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment is part of the residential building Australian Standard, (AS 3959-2009), to improve the ability of buildings to withstand attack from bushfires. The BAL takes into consideration a number of factors including the Fire Danger Index, the slope of land, types of surrounding vegetation and its proximity to any building.

"Information on fire resistant home design should also become part of apprenticeship training programs for builders and associated trades such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters and landscapers in relation to fire resistant plants as a whole-of-industry approach", Mr Hallett suggested.

"A well-designed and sited home including fire prevention measures stands a significantly better chance of survival especially after the fire has passed."

Archicentre's Bushfire Design Guide, which is available for download, contains advice for homeowners and builders and covers topics including.

Design Principles in Bushfire Prone Areas :

  • Keep the exterior design of the house simple and avoid crevices or cracks where burning material can lodge.
  • Avoid decorative timberwork such as trellis and lattice-work on exposed areas of the building. Remember timber balconies and decks are also high danger areas for trapping burning debris and should be kept to a minimum.
  • Make sure you have any chimneys screened off to stop embers blowing down the chimney during the fire and entering the home.
  • In designing the home ensure the use of leafless guttering or if allowed by council install ground level rubble drain collectors.

Management Issues:

  • Do not store firewood against or under the home
  • Make sure all doors have close fitting screens
  • Clear all debris from guttering and decks
  • Have a fire emergency plan - check with local fire brigade
A natural selection from the shelf

It seems an exceptionally rare and valuable first edition of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" may not have survived by being the fittest, but by hiding in a toilet bookcase.

A family bought the copy for "a few shillings" in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Reuters reported recently, saying they only recognized it as valuable when they saw another first edition at a Darwin exhibition.

Christie's auction house will offer the book this week on the 150th anniversary of its original publication, and expects it to fetch AU$70,000-110,000.

Walls come down in cookie town

The hunt is on in Norway for the vandals who destroyed an entire city. An entire city made of gingerbread, that is.

Residents of Bergen, home to the traditional pre-Christmas display "Gingerbread City", were in pieces recently when they found all the 1200-1300 "buildings" had been smashed only hours after the project was completed, the Norway Post reports. Each year up to 10,000 people from the larger Bergen region participate in the event, 2,000 of whom had helped to set up and decorate the miniature cookie-structures earlier that day.

While police are investigating the matter, many residents have already begun making new gingerbread houses, including professional bakers intent on seeing the sweetest city around.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 20 November 2009
Quote of the week

"They may forget what you said, they may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel."

~Carl W. Buecher~

Construction activity building

The national construction industry continued to grow modestly in October reflecting a rise in building activity, improved employment levels and supplier deliveries, according to the latest Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association Performance of Construction Index (Australian PCI®).

The seasonally adjusted Australian PCI® remained relatively steady, up 0.1 points to 50.9, slightly above September's level and still above the 50 point mark separating expansion and contraction.

The continued growth in house building, although at a much slower rate, combined with a boost in apartment building, kept construction in positive territory in October.

Australian Industry Group, Associate Director Public Policy, Dr Peter Burn said that while the growth in the sector is welcome, it clearly remains tentative and uneven.

"While there was a pick-up in the apartment sector, house building grew at a slower pace in October on the back of the winding down of the First Home Owners subsidy and rising interest rates", Dr Burn said.

"This suggests that a durable upturn in housing activity remains some way off."

The continued growth was found to have contributed to a further rise in employment, registering 52.5 on the sub-index.

Investigation urged on blackout threat

Environment groups have this week asked the national energy watchdog to investigate claims by TRUenergy that suggest the company may be about to default on electricity supply contracts.

Over the past year TRUenergy has repeatedly claimed there was a risk of blackouts if it did not receive more compensation under a national emissions trading scheme.

Environment Victoria and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) have this week written to the Australian Energy Regulator, asking the regulator to examine the accuracy of
TRUenergy's claims that the company may be about to default on contracts.

Environment Victoria Campaigns Director Mark Wakeham said that TRUenergy's 1.3 million customers deserve to know whether they can rely on TRUenergy to deliver on its contracts and whether the company is crying wolf in an attempt to line its own pockets.

"Claims that the electricity supply is at risk and that the company has reduced maintenance spending at Yallourn power station should be thoroughly investigated", Mr Wakeham said.

TRUenergy is 100 per cent foreign owned by CLP Power International (formerly China Light and Power). ACF climate campaigner Phil Freeman said he was concerned about windfall profits going offshore with no benefit to Australian households or taxpayers.

"TRUenergy is already set to receive $738 million worth of free permits in the first five years of the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme - there is no case for the company to get more handouts from the public purse", Mr Freeman said.

Not so happy now...

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment fell by 2.5 per cent this month, from 121.4 in October to 118.3 in November.

Westpac's Chief Economist, Bill Evans, commented that considering this drop comes after a second consecutive increase in the Reserve Bank's overnight cash rate and associated increases in variable mortgage rates, it has to be classified as a modest response.

The level of the Index is still 38.3 per cent above its level from a year ago.

The average read for the Index over the last three months (119.7) has, in fact, only been
exceeded in four previous periods of strong optimism since the survey began in 1975. Those were December 1983-May 1984 (120.2); March 1994-July 1994 (121.4); July 2004-February 2005 (119.8) and May 2007-July 2007 (122.1).

"There was a fall of 4 per cent in sentiment towards housing in November", Mr Evans said.

"'Whether now is a good time to purchase a dwelling' is now down by 15 per cent over the last three months.

"However that is a more resilient result than we saw in those periods of consecutive rate hikes in 2002 and 2003 when sentiment towards housing fell by over 30 per cent on both occasions."

Mr Evans said it is likely that the Reserve Bank Board will raise rates when it next meets on December 1, in order to gradually remove more of the stimulus.

"Today's results do, however, signal that the extent of rate hikes in 2010 envisaged by current market pricing is unlikely to transpire", he suggested.

Time to go, e-waste

In case you missed National Recycling Week this month, there's good news across the country for our tech-age waste.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett this week opened a new e-waste recycling facility, which is expected to divert as much as 20,000 tonnes of electronic waste from landfills when it operates at full capacity.

Mr Garrett commended the development of recycling plants capable of processing electronic waste such as computers and televisions, which have been recognised as a priority waste by all levels of government in Australia.

"Recycling delivers important environmental benefits, including energy and water savings, and a reduced demand for landfill space", he said.

The SIMS e-waste recycling plant in Sydney is expected to divert up to 20,000 tonnes of material from landfill per year and recycle up to 98 per cent of the material that passes through its front gate.

A recent snapshot of waste and recycling trends in Australia showed the amount of waste Australia generates has increased by 28 per cent between 2003 and 2007.

"A national waste policy will provide much-needed clarity on what is appropriately dealt with at which level of government, and will improve economic efficiencies by better harmonizing waste policies between jurisdictions", Mr Garrett said.

"It also affords a timely opportunity to revisit waste policy in the context of broader Government policies on climate change and sustainability."

Valued by association

While a good education can be invaluable for a student, new research has found that a good school can also have a marked impact on local property values.

Research done by UK property consultants Savills found properties located within the vicinity of "good" schools are attracting asking prices up to three times higher than their neighbouring counterparts.

Due to the demand for good schools, homes that fall into the right catchment areas come with significantly higher than average asking prices.

According to the research, homes within the vicinity of the top 25 per cent of secondary schools can fetch up to 16 per cent more than properties outside the schools catchment area - up from 13 per cent in 2007. Furthermore, homes in areas with an amalgamation of good state and independent schools can be worth up to three times the county average.

Power now, brown cow

We often see people kicking up a stink over energy conservation, so it's refreshing to see some are using stink to fix the problem.

A plant that converts cow dung into energy for homes began operating in the Netherlands last Friday, Reuters reported this week.

Manure from cows at a nearby dairy farm will be fermented along with grass and food industry residues and the biogas released during the process will be used as fuel for the thermal plant's gas turbines.

According to the plant's operator Essent, the heat generated will be distributed to around 1,100 homes in the area around Leeuwarden in the north of the Netherlands.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 06 November 2009
Quote of the Week

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

~Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.~

OCR up to 3.5

The Reserve Bank decided this week to raise the official cash rate (OCR) for the second month in a row.

The move takes the OCR to 3.5 per cent, adding about $45 to the average monthly payment for a typical 25-year, $300,000 mortgage.

In a statement announcing the decision, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens said that the strong economic conditions in Australia have meant that inflation is not likely to drop as much as previously expected.

Higher dwelling activity and public infrastructure spending are also starting to provide more support to spending.

Inflation has been declining for the past year, but the Reserve Bank Board expects that both CPI and underlying inflation will be consistent with the target in 2010.

"With the risk of serious economic contraction in Australia now having passed, the Board's view is that it is prudent to lessen gradually the degree of monetary stimulus that was put in place when the outlook appeared to be much weaker."

Governor Stevens hinted that there might not be further rises in the near future.

"The adjustments at the October and November meetings will work to increase the sustainability of growth in economic activity and keep inflation consistent with the target over the years ahead", he said.

Home prices rise

House prices in all capital cities have risen over the past twelve months, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Over the year to September 2009, preliminary estimates show that the price index for established houses for the weighted average of the eight capital cities increased 6.2 per cent.

Annually, house prices rose in Darwin (+12.3 per cent), Melbourne (+8.4 per cent), Canberra (+7.8 per cent), Sydney (+5.9 per cent), Brisbane (+5.6 per cent), Hobart (+5.4 per cent), Perth (+4.4 per cent), and Adelaide (+3.7 per cent).

The movement in the preliminary established house price index between June quarters 2008 and 2009 has been revised from an estimated decrease of 1.4 per cent to an estimated decrease of 0.7 per cent.

Preliminary estimates show the price index for established houses for the weighted average of the eight capital cities increased 4.2 per cent in the September quarter 2009.

The established house price index increased by 4.3 per cent in Sydney, 4.7 per cent in Melbourne, 4.4 per cent in Brisbane, 1.7 per cent in Adelaide, 4.5 per cent in Perth, 1.8 per cent in Hobart, 3.4 per cent in Darwin, and 4.3 per cent in Canberra.

The movement in the preliminary established house price index between March quarter 2009 and June quarter 2009 has not been revised, showing an estimated increase of 4.2 per cent.

National Architecture Awards announced

Australia's major new arts, theatre and `culture palaces' from Canberra to Melbourne to New York, and the architects who designed them, are among major winners at this year's Australian Institute of Architects' National Architecture Awards.

For the first time in four years, Australia's most prestigious residential award returned to Sydney, with the Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture/ Houses going to an innovative house on Sydney's northern beaches - the Freshwater House by young Sydney husband and wife team Tony Chenchow and Stephanie Little of Chenchow Little Architects.

In describing the project, a four-bedroom home for a young family of five on a small 332 sq m site, the jury commended the design for providing "an outstanding solution for an elevated site, and achieves a private compound, screened from the neighbours, yet open and expansive towards an outdoor lawn terrace, the beach and sea."

In a second major win for the couple, Chenchow Little Architects shared the National Award for Small Project Architecture for the Ang House in Sydney's Mosman, with young Victorian firm Bellemo & Cat for their Polygreen House in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote.

In a double scoop for fellow young Sydney-based husband and wife team Rachel Neeson and Nick Murcutt of Neeson Murcutt Architecture, the couple received National Awards for Residential Architecture for two strikingly unique houses in NSW and Victoria - the Whale Beach House at Whale Beach in Sydney and Zac's House at Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsular.

The Frederick Romberg Award for Residential Architecture - Multiple Housing was presented to Melbourne-based practice Wood Marsh for the 22-storey Balencia Apartments on St Kilda Road in Melbourne.

Of the project, the jury said: "The architects have demonstrated sensitivity, skill and experience in negotiating an impressive balance between the commercial interests of the client, the comfort and amenity of the occupants and architecture's responsibility to the public domain. They have created an exemplary model for sophisticated multiple housing in an urban setting."

The Colorbond® Award for Steel Architecture was presented to young Sydney-based architect James Stockwell for the Snowy Mountains House overlooking Lake Jindabyne.

"James Stockwell's commission to create a robust, economical house for an extended family carefully addresses issues of climatic extremes, simple maintenance, and sustainable objectives. It has its origins in simple alpine huts and basic ski lodges, but here delivered with a straightforward finesse. The house combines autonomy with reasonable construction cost, minimum maintenance, and good longevity, achieving excellent sustainable credentials."

Insulation rebate thins out

Insulating our homes became more expensive but safer this week, with the reduction of government subsidies and the introduction of new regulations.

From November 1, the insulation rebate has been reduced to $1200. Transitional arrangements apply for people who have accepted a quote but are waiting for the work to be done, provided the work is completed by 16 November 2009.

Announcing the changes, Environment Minister Peter Garrett said that demand for the rebate in the first four months of the full roll out of the scheme has been significant and is currently running well above projected demand.

"More than 500,000 Australian households have already installed ceiling insulation putting them on the path to reductions in their heating and cooling costs of up to 40 per cent", Mr Garrett said.

The new safety precautions and consumer protections, which also apply from midnight on Sunday 1 November 2009, include:

  • a ban on metal fasteners for foil insulation such as metal staples or nails
  • mandatory installation of covers over downlights and other ceiling appliances , which have always been commonly used but are not compulsory under Australian Standards
  • a targeted electrical safety inspection program of Queensland homes with foil insulation installed under the program, starting at 10 per cent of installations, with the potential to adjust upwards as results are analysed.

From December 1 the Government will also:

  • publish a 'name and shame list' for any business struck from the installer register as a consequence of failure to meet program guidelines including 'dodgy' behaviour
  • a requirement for the provision of two genuinely independent quotes
  • a mandatory requirement that a formal risk assessment be completed for every installation before any installer is allowed to start work.

The Minister said the creation of a 'name and shame' list was also an important change to the program guidelines.

"Through our audit and compliance program I expect some 6,000 ceilings to have been inspected by the end of November, escalating to 11,000 by the end of the year", he said.

"Insulation installers are on notice that we will not hesitate to strike them from the register, take legal action and name and shame them if they are found doing the wrong thing."

Mr Garrett added that the two-quote rule will encourage householders to shop around, find a reputable installer that they're comfortable with and get value for money.

What did you say, sleepyhead?

Most of us have woken from a deep sleep sometime with pillow creases imprinted on our face, in which case greeting others is the last thing we want to do.

Now a UK-based designer has come up with a way to let your early-morning face speak for you.

With the words Good Morning Sweetheart embroidered on a 100 per cent cotton pillow slip to imprint onto your skin as you enjoy those last few Zs, your loved ones can see how you feel even when you're tired and drowsy.

Vacation with the Jetsons

Hotels often lure vacationers by offering out-of-this-world attractions, though not many can claim to be literally out of this world. With the ultimate goal of being the largest chain of space resorts, Galactic Suite has its sights set on launching the very first private space station as an orbital hotel by 2012.

According to its website, the entire experience will include an 8-week astronaut training course on a tropical island from where the space ship will launch.

After arriving at the outer-space resort, vacationers can enjoy weightlessness, Velcro suits (to help with the weightlessness), showers in a spa room with bubbles of floating water and the experience of orbiting the Earth at 30,000 km/h, completing 15 orbits each day. In simpler terms, travelling around the world in 90 minutes, meaning every 45 minutes you witness the sunrise and sunset.

If things go to plan the galactic resort will be up and running by the end of 2012, and it looks like a 3-day vacation will cost just under AU$5M per person. Better start saving!