Thursday, October 29, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 30 October 2009
Quote of the week

"You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair."

~Chinese Proverb~

Land prices on the rise

The price of land is increasing nationally, according to the latest residential land report released by the Housing Industry Association (HIA) and property information and analytics provider,

The Residential Land Report shows the weighted median price of raw land in Australia increased by 1.1 per cent in the June 2009 quarter to $174,490.

Sydney remained the most expensive market with a median price of $255,000, while the most affordable market was Mallee in Victoria with a median price of $70,000.

The report shows that median land prices rose for the second consecutive quarter, after declining throughout 2008.

The volume of land sales for Australia is also trending higher, with sales up by 1.3 per cent in the June 2009 quarter compared to the same period last year.

Of the 40 non-metropolitan areas around Australia reported on for the first time in this report, 25 saw an increase in median land value over the June 2009 quarter.

According to Tim Lawless, National Research Director, the effect of land supply constraints are likely to be compounded by ongoing increases in demand for housing.

"In raw numbers, population growth is at record levels and Australia's population hasn't increased this fast since the baby boom", Lawless said.

"The latest population projections released by Treasury suggest the rate of population growth in Australia is not likely to let up any time soon."

Lawless suggested that this fact alone should spark policy makers to act sooner rather than later with regards to instigating a more proactive and strategic land release program.

Buying a home not so scary

Halloween can be for many people a time for scary films, eerie pumpkin carvings and lolly-seeking children dressed up as ghosts and goblins. In the midst of a busy Spring property season and with so much `spook' about, it's understandable if you find buying your first property frightening.

Property ownership need not be scary, as long as you take the time to research your options, prepare yourself for the lifestyle change - emotionally and financially - and think through each decision before finally committing yourself, according to national mortgage broker Mortgage Choice.

Senior corporate affairs manager Kristy Sheppard says it is also important to remember that a property purchase provides you with an asset. So, while accruing the related debt may be daunting, you're actually adding to your long-term financial wealth.

"There are no real tricks to achieving property ownership; it's hard work but many Australians will vouch the treat is well worth it", Ms Sheppard says.

"To put the `scariness' into perspective, the top five concerns for first homebuyers aiming to purchase this year, according to our 2009 Mortgage Choice First Homebuyer Survey, were the length it takes to pay off a home loan, the fear of not being able to afford repayments, the concern of being committed to such a large financial obligation for such a long time, the amount of money repaid by the end of the loan term and buying the wrong home."

"These are all valid concerns, especially when considering imminent rate rises, widespread pay increase freezes, high migration figures and the pressure of supply versus increasing demand", Ms Sheppard said.

"Yet, undertaking thorough research while seeking professional knowledge and support can help ensure nothing scary comes your way."

She suggests asking all the necessary questions before you are locked in; careful research will help you understand what those questions are. This may involve searching the web, talking to friends and family about the purchase decision and your mortgage choices and seeking professional finance advice.

If you're still in doubt about your ability to repay a mortgage on your own, consider purchasing with a friend, partner or family member.

The survey found that an increasing number of first time buyers were looking to purchase with someone else to ease the financial obligation.

"Make sure, however, that you consult professional legal advice to understand the roles and responsibilities of each party before committing yourself", Ms Sheppard advises.

This Halloween, Mortgage Choice offers these handy treats to help make buying your first property a rewarding experience.

Research all that you can but save yourself valuable time by embracing new media - online forums and social networking sites are a great place to ask questions and gather firsthand accounts of the pitfalls and benefits.

Set up a great savings plan early on so you don't feel overwhelmed or rushed to scrape together a deposit when you find your ideal home. Challenge yourself to save as much as you can within a timeframe; this will give you a clear goal post and help you to create a good savings habit. A small treat here and there is a good reward for staying on track.

Practice making loan repayments ahead of time. Visit a reputable mortgage broker to help you figure out what your weekly/fortnightly/monthly repayments would be and budget accordingly so when the time comes it's no real financial surprise.

Be organised with your paperwork. Set up a folder to collect all of the documents you'll need for applying for a home loan so when the time comes you're not rushing around searching for that important piece of paper. Documents such as passports, bank statements, recent pay slips or tax returns, plus written details about assets, liabilities and any other income will all be required.

You don't have to do this on your own. Forty-one per cent of all new Australian home loans are written through a mortgage broker. Offering a step-by-step guide to the mortgage market, they can help reduce your apprehension and empower you to make the right move.

Make your renovation a winner

Renovating a property for sale can appear to be a trump card, but homeowners have been advised this week to study the deck before judging the strength of their hand.

Building advisory service Archicentre suggests homeowners who are considering renovating their homes on the strength of predictions of a dramatic jump in property values over the next few years take a conservative approach to avoid over-capitalising.

David Hallett, Victorian State Manager of Archicentre says that while design, budgets and cost controlling are not at the sexy end of renovation, these are the things that are more likely to return value on renovation projects.

"More than half of all Australians renovate at some point in their lives with the hope of generating extra non-taxable income when they sell the family home, the principal place of residence", Mr Hallett says.

"If home owners get the renovation design wrong they can end up spending tens of thousands of dollars to devalue their home or reduce its market appeal."

He cited the example of the young couple who turned a three-bedroom home into a `two-bedder' by building a new large bathroom and walk-in robe at great cost.

"When the couple called the real estate agent to sell the property they were stunned to find the removal of the third bedroom had devalued their property by between 10-15 per cent as they had made it unmarketable to families with more than one child - thus a large part of the market."

Mr Hallett said renovators who pour money into expensive fittings such as taps, benchtops and whitegoods in the kitchen and bathroom areas can find they add little or no extra value to the sale of the home, cutting into the financial return.

Archicentre is urging caution for homeowners to ensure they maximise their profit return by doing their homework and not bank on forecasts of property values.

"For many cashed up home owners the renovation of the family home is often the last roll of the dice to substantially increase their wealth in retirement by investing in the family home, which becomes a tax free investment when ultimately sold."

"With a quarter of Australia's population expected to be 65 or more by 2047, the use of equity in the family home to boost retirement funding through renovation has become an important national wealth creation strategy as well as underpinning jobs."

Mr Hallett urged home owners who are considering renovating as a way of generating savings or boosting their retirement funds to make sure they do their homework on the design of the renovation, cost, tendering and management of the project.

"Undertaking a renovation is like running a small business by dealing with the many suppliers, tradespersons, and gathering the materials, fixtures and fittings", he said.

Archicentre recently polled its membership of over 800 architects on what requests their clients were making to improve their homes through renovation. This is what they found:

Kitchen Trends

* Drawers not cupboards 81.7%
* Large island benches 77.2%
* Walk-in pantries 58.0%
* Concealing appliances 50.2%
* Colourful splashbacks 35.6%
* Computer data points 22.8%
* Concealed food preparation area 20.5%

Master Bedroom Trends

* En suite 93.2%
* Walk-in-robe 85.4%
* Deck or balconies 57.5%
* Study 28.8%
* Freestanding furniture (sofas) 17.8%
* Bidet 7.3%

Bathroom Trends

* Frameless showers 80.8%
* Double basins 54.8%
* Separate powder rooms 50.2%
* Baths 48.4%
* Double showers 37.9%
* Concealed cisterns 37.0%
* Heated floor 37.0%
* Free-standing baths 30.1%
* Views of internal courtyard 28.8%
* Spa baths 13.7%

What's the buzz about?

The sweet taste of honey, the sound of Spring or a sharp and painful sensation brought on by a sting - we all have particular associations when we think of bees.

As pollinators, however, bees play a major role in multi-billion dollar industries all over the world, as well as a critical role in the way our ecosystem thrives.

Australia has over 1,500 species of native bees that live in a wide variety of nest sites, which unfortunately can be destroyed through landscaping and careless gardening.

The good news is there are things you can do at home to help the buzzing little workers thrive, like cultivating flowers and plants suitable for bees, providing them with a healthy environment in which to exist.

We tend to pay close attention to the plants we personally want and don't want in our gardens (such as "weeds").

However, animals and insects aren't so picky - even weeds will at times provide pollen and nectar, so before you go clearing them out, consider removing them after their flowers are spent (but before they go to seed).

If you really want to help out nature's pollinators - not just bees, but butterflies, flies, wasps and beetles also perform the function - plan your garden to include a range of plants that will offer pollen and nectar throughout the year.

Plant or encourage the growth of plants native to your area, as native bees will automatically have a stronger attraction to them. They particularly like eucalypts, grevilleas, callistemons and melaleucas, amongst many others, though they also like non-native plants like roses.

Some of the best non-native plants to encourage an increase of bee activity around your garden are herbs such as borage, basil, lavender, hyssop or rosemary or flowers such as Zinnia, Wallflower, Globe thistle or Cotoneaster.

If you can avoid using pesticides, do, or aim for one with low levels of toxins, and keep bees in mind while you're planting - they will need shelter from strong winds, and have been found to prefer warmer sunlit spots to shaded areas.

According to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife, bees come in a great range of colours and sizes, from a tiny 2mm to 24mm. Some have furry overcoats while others are smooth and shiny like a stainless steel kettle. During these warmer months, you have a good chance of seeing native bees anywhere in Australia. Bees nest in habitats as diverse as tree hollows, underground burrows or inside plant stems.

Native bees that you are most likely to see include:

Stingless Social Bees (Trigona and Austroplebeia)

Australia's own native honeybees can be found building resinous nests inside hollow trees. They store their aromatic honey in tiny pots.

Leafcutter Bees (Megachile)

Many gardeners first discover leafcutter bees when they notice the neat circular pieces that the bees have cut away from the edges of leaves. The bees weave these leaf pieces making tiny cells for their young.

Blue Banded Bees (Amegilla)

These bees love visiting purple flowers such as native peas.

Teddy Bear Bees (Amegilla)

These fat bees can be found nesting in shallow burrows in the soil.

Reed Bees (Exoneura)

Reed bees make a habit of nesting in dried stems of a number of plants including tree ferns and the dead canes of lantana. When these plants are removed from gardens or bushland people often don't realise they are destroying the colonies of these bees. Check for nests and relocate them before removing.


  • European honeybees collect 90% of available nectar and pollen but pollinate only about 5% of our plants.
  • Native bee honey called Sugarbag has a unique, tangy flavour.
  • Not all bees sting. In fact, most Australian bees don't.
  • Most Australian bees are solitary. Of the 2000 species of native bees, only 10 are social and form hives.
Out of the big house, into the fire

Choose wisely the people you live with, as the wrong combination of people can make your home feel less like a safe house and more like a prison. An Italian man recently opted to return to prison than serve out his term under house arrest arguing with his wife, Reuters reports.

Santo Gambino had already served time in prison for dumping hazardous waste before being transferred to house arrest, but found it more peaceful on the inside.

When Gambino went to the local police station and asked to be put away again, police charged him with violating the conditions of his sentence and made him go home to patch things up with his wife.

A new bathroom page-turner

Sharing a house with friends or family can save lots of money and keep things lively, though a shared fridge, sink and toilet seat can raise points of tension.

The book may have been re-written on the latter with Toilet Pages, a concept from an Italian designer that offers a set of individual wafer-thin seats for each member of the house, with a bookmark-style tab on the side to tell whose is whose.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 23 October 2009
Quote of the Week

"When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters--one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity."

~John F. Kennedy~

House prices to grow by 20 per cent

The strong housing market activity in late 2009 is set to continue into 2010 with ongoing positive incentives for property investors and `upgrader' to enter the market, according to a new report released by QBE Lenders' Mortgage Insurance (QBE LMI).

The latest LMI Housing Outlook 2010 - 2012 (researched and written by BIS Shrapnel) confirms that current low interest rates have helped to alleviate the mortgage pressure on households while bringing housing affordability back to its most attractive level for almost a decade.

Prices at the top end of the market have fallen more than the medians, giving home owners the opportunity to trade up to their next dwelling after selling their current house into the buoyant first home buyer market.

Furthermore, the strong rental environment and stabilisation of house prices are favourable factors for property investors to also come back into the market.

Ian Graham, CEO of QBE LMI, said that the outlook for the housing market is also positive for those who have recently entered the market, particularly first home buyers.

"Low interest rates, solid growth in rents and housing shortages will create favourable conditions for a strong recovery in residential property prices in the second half of 2010, through to 2012", Mr Graham said.

"Double digit house price growth is forecast across all capital cities from June 2009 to June 2012, particularly in those markets with positive affordability (Adelaide +23 per cent) and a continuing undersupply of housing (Sydney +21 per cent and Melbourne +19 per cent)."

The report forecasts that prices in Brisbane could grow by up to 15 per cent as moderate economic conditions offset the affordability advantage. Lower growth is projected for Perth (+12 per cent), influenced by a decline in investment in the resource sector after the record levels seen in recent years.

"Despite a 0.25 per cent rate rise in the first week of October, housing interest rates are expected to remain at a stimulatory level for some time, with the low interest rate environment remaining supportive of the first home buyer", Mr Graham said.

"Demand from first home buyers is expected to continue, notwithstanding the expiration of the First Home Owner Grant Boost Scheme in December 2009."

Not there yet

New home building fell in the June 2009 quarter, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Seasonally adjusted work done on new residential dwellings fell by 1.2 per cent in the June 2009 quarter to an annualised worth of $33.2 billion, 6.5 per cent down on a year earlier.

Work done on detached houses fell by 1.8 per cent over the June quarter to be worth $22.3 billion in annualised terms. Work done on `other residential building' was essentially flat at an annualised $10.9 billion.

Seasonally adjusted new residential work commenced in the June 2009 quarter fell by 7.4 per cent to an anualised $32.3 billion.

Housing Industry Association Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale said that while 2009/10 should be a healthier year for new residential construction, there is still likely to be a shortage of new dwelling stock.

"We are on the cusp of a moderate recovery in new home starts and that should feed through to a positive year for new dwelling investment in 2009/10", Dale said.

"However, the sixth consecutive decline in the worth of dwelling commencements in the June 2009 quarter highlights that dwelling investment isn't turning the corner yet.

"There are a number of factors likely to constrain the increase in new housing supply over the next 18 months, including projects bogged down in the approvals process and lack of available finance", he added.

"These factors suggest that the pressure lower income rental households face from tight rental market conditions will remain with us for some time to come."

The weakness in seasonally adjusted new residential work done in the June 2009 quarter was primarily reflected in Queensland where activity fell by 13.6 per cent. New residential work done fell by 1.8 per cent in South Australia, by 0.4 per cent in New South Wales and by 0.2 per cent in Western Australia.

New residential work done increased by 5.5 per cent in Victoria and was up by 5.6 per cent in Tasmania, 27.8 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory and 48.6 per cent in the Northern Territory.

Debunking bushfire bunkers

Consumers must carefully examine representations made about fire bunkers before they buy, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman, Graeme Samuel, warned this week.

The ACCC is concerned that some web-based advertising may have given consumers the impression that there was an Australian Standard for bushfire bunkers which their product met.

"The simple fact is that there is currently no Australian Standard for bushfire bunkers", Mr Samuel said.

The ACCC raised concerns with three traders who had made claims about compliance with standards linked to products such as septic tanks or concrete structures.

After the ACCC's approach, the traders promptly removed the representations and are in discussions with the ACCC with the best way to correct any misleading impression given.

"Consumers obtain a high level of comfort from claims that products meet Australian standards," Mr Samuel said.

"The ACCC is conscious that residents in bushfire prone areas are deciding now about how to protect themselves during the fire season.

"In view of this the ACCC moved to investigate the issue and obtained the prompt withdrawal of the representations."

Before making decisions in relation to the best means of protecting themselves from the risk of fire or the possible installation of a fire bunker, consumers should talk to experts in the field.

The Australian Building Codes Board has recently begun work on a national standard for the design and construction of bushfire bunkers for personal use.

The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission is also considering making interim recommendations in relation to regulation of bushfire bunkers.

No kidding when it comes to child safety

With warm weather on the way, nature is calling young and old alike to venture outdoors.

The mature among us are fairly well-equipped to look after ourselves, however when there are children around it's always best to take safety precautions and keep an eye on them at all times, especially in the vicinity of a swimming pool.

Monday the 26th October is National Kidsafe Day, which coincides with Childrens' Week, providing a great opportunity to increase awareness of unintentional childhood injuries and ways they can be prevented.

If you or the neighbours have a pool, some good points to remember are -

According to the Royal Lifesaving Society of Australia, home swimming pools are the most common site for accidental drowning of children under the age of 4. The good news is many of these accidents can be prevented. There are a number of security features that can be added to home swimming pools to help make them safer.

Pool alarms are one safety item that is becoming popular with homeowners in the United States. In fact, pool alarm sales in the USA have doubled since 1994. When used properly, pool alarms can alert a homeowner if a child enters the water accidentally.

Although alarms vary, generally electronic sensors trigger a loud signal both inside the home and around the pool area alerting others that something has entered the water.

Pool alarms can either be fitted to the edge of the pool or left floating in the water.

Many home owners are starting to use powered safety covers that are like a garage door going across the pool. They are very secure and if a child accidentally falls on the cover, they are not likely to penetrate it.

In many States and Territories, Kidsafe will be participating in local Children's Week events as well as running activities. For more information, visit

The good, the bad, and the eccentric

Would you fancy living in a lighthouse? Or perhaps a superhero lair like the Batcave? What about a replica castle with a drawbridge and dungeon?

Not what most of us want, perhaps. Yet these and more have been designed and built by architects and contractors in the United States, resulting in some weird albeit intriguing homes available on the market.

With their curiosity piqued, Forbes Magazine teamed up with a collection of US real estate agencies to uncover some of the strangest homes on the US market at the moment.

One home that explodes off the list is the Volcano House. Located in Newberry Springs, California, from a distance the house looks like a spaceship that crash-landed in the desert, charring the surrounding hillside. In reality the home is more in this world than out of it, as the dome like structure is built into the top of a real volcanic peak. It is listed at around AU$807,500.

Another even more secretive abode is the Batcave - an angular, jutting Laguna Beach CA estate built into a cliff-side that's almost completely hidden from the road by the mountainous surrounds. Listed at around $12,765,000, it's a fair guess to say the name comes from the entry to the lair, which, just like Batman's, is accessed by driving through a hidden tunnel and ascending into the home (while still in your car) on a hydraulic lift.

For the perpetual rolling stone with a desire to own a home, Apartment at Sea is a residential community at sea, giving luxury homeowners a chance to travel the world without sacrificing the high-end surroundings they're used to. More elaborate and exclusive than a cruise ship, the boat encourages owners to design their own "apartments" - while they may gather no moss, there is a risk of barnacles. Apartments range from $1.5M to $14.5M.

Also among the weird and wonderful homes that made it onto the list is Red Rock Drive Castle, a dentist's 30 year-old castle in Maine. With turrets, a drawbridge and dungeon, it is listed for $3.77M.

Another, Riverfront Playground, has almost every amenity its designers could dream up, including a wedding chapel, a seashell-shaped pool, an orchestra-sized amphitheatre, a 1950s ice cream parlor and an Egyptian-themed lavatory that features a faux sphinx and tomb. It is listed for almost $15M.

Identified Firing Object

The months surrounding the holiday season are often filled with outdoor activities, with friends and family around for a BBQ, party or just a quiet al fresco meal. For the chillier evenings, UFO outdoor fireplaces are an out-of-this-world source of warm mood-lighting.

And they come in environmental peace. Finished in mineral stone, the sleek UFO-shaped burner uses natural plant alcohol, so there's no carbon residue, vapours or smoke.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 16 October 2009
Quote of the Week

"Don't let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use."
~Earl Nightingale~

Investment housing finance rises

Investors are moving in to fill the gaps being left as first home buyer numbers decrease, according to latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the total value of dwelling finance commitments excluding alterations and additions increased 0.7 per cent.

An increase was recorded in investment housing commitments, up 7.6 per cent, while owner occupied housing commitments fell 1.7 per cent.

First home owners represented 24.9 per cent of the total number of finance commitments in August, down from the high of 28.5 per cent in May. This is the lowest result in nine months.

Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) President David Airey pointed out this week that the number of loans to first home buyers is now similar to that in December 2008, two months after the First Home Owners Grant Boost (FHOG Boost) was announced.

"This is an indicator of what can be expected between now and the end of the year, as the FHOG Boost is phased out", Mr Airey said.

"We continue to see investors filling the gap left by first home buyers with the value of investment housing commitments up 7.6 per cent", he added.

The number of finance commitments for new housing increased by 4.6 per cent for the construction of new dwellings and 4.9 per cent for the purchase of new dwellings in seasonally adjusted terms.

The REIA suggests this indicates the Government stimulus for the construction industry is working, although a slightly lagged response.

Loans for owner occupied housing decreased in most states and territories, with the exception of ACT, SA and VIC. The decrease in the number of loans was not so great as that observed in July 2009, when the number of loans decreased by 2.8 per cent.

Construction activity resumes: Australian PCI®

Stronger demand in the housebuilding sector has driven the national construction industry back into positive growth in September 2009 following 18 months of contraction, according to the latest Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association Performance of Construction Index (Australian PCI®).

The seasonally adjusted Australian PCI® rose by 8.4 points to 50.8, to be above the critical 50 points level for the first time since February 2008.

By industry sector, growth was confined to house building where the rate of growth in activity increased to its highest level since December 2007.

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) Associate Director, Economics and Research, Tony Pensabene, said the results provide further encouraging signs of an improvement in the industry from the extreme weakness reported at the start of the year.

"Underlying the move into positive territory in September was house building activity, which expanded for a third consecutive month on the back of low interest rates and the stimulus from the First Home Owners Grant both of which are now in reverse", Mr Pensabene said.

"Moreover, while the pace in decline in new orders eased, it is clear that weak conditions persist in the apartment, engineering and commercial construction sectors."

The results show that industry conditions remain tough overall with companies facing intense competition to secure new contracts amid the on-going difficulties of tight credit conditions and poor investor sentiment.

"While this persists, growth will be held back and conditions are likely to remain fragile," Mr Pensabene warned.

Key findings for September include:

  • Total industry activity moved from negative territory to a position of stabilisation.
  • House building exhibited solid improvement in September, signalling the third consecutive month of growth in housing output.
  • New orders (seasonally adjusted) increased in September, although overall growth was at a modest level.
  • Employment expanded in September as an increased number of firms adjusted capacity to accommodate higher workload requirements.
Keeping the roof on

We all know we need to look after our bodies in order to live longer, yet we often forget that our homes also require maintenance over time. While things like cracking paint, peeling wallpaper or squeaking doors are easily noticed and repaired, other areas of the house such as the roof can be overlooked - until it springs a leak, or a possum makes a new home there.

So how do you know when to repair the roof, restore it or replace it altogether?

Leaves and foliage left to pile up on the roof and in gutters can cause rotting and in turn lead to leaks or structural damage, so the first and easiest step in roof maintenance would have to be keeping an eye on the gutters and on overhanging trees.

If your roof is in generally good condition, you may be able to save a considerable amount by only repairing the particular areas that need attention. If you do decide to repair, remember to take into account what the replacement tiles look like and where you can get them from, as similar tiles are often unavailable or difficult to match, and the "patchwork" look may not be for everyone.

Restoring your roof involves repairing the damaged materials on your roof and removing lichen and moss with a chemical spray treatment. You may wish to have a professional do the job for you, or at least have one inspect your roof to check if a pressure hose could do further damage.

If your roof is just beyond repair, or you are looking to alter or change the material, a full roof replacement may be in order. Also, if you are renovating or extending your home, it can be worthwhile to replace the entire roof to keep continuity throughout the house.

An alarm you won't want to miss

House fires aren't the type of thing you want to sleep through. A US man whose home caught on fire and partially collapsed early one morning this week slept through the entire ordeal, only to be awakened when fire-fighters were doing a walk-through of the home 2 1/2 hours later, the Pittsburgh Post reported recently.

The early morning blaze was so out of control when firefighters arrived, they were unable to gain access to the home for two hours.

Firemen inspecting the house after the flames had died down were alarmed to find a man sleeping in a bedroom. Perhaps not as alarmed as the newly woken man, who appeared to have no idea what was going on. No one else was harmed in the blaze, though fire-fighters were baffled at how the man had survived.

When it comes to house fires, we aren't all so lucky to escape unharmed, and that's where smoke alarms come in handy. As we edge closer to summer, it's a good time to check and even replace your current ones.

When purchasing smoke alarms, be sure they have been certified as meeting the requirements of the Australian Standard and carry the Standards Australia Tick Mark.

There are two main types of alarms available, and it's helpful to know what the main differences are.

Ionisation alarms detect the presence of large quantities of very small particles entering the ionisation chamber, which when in sufficient quantity will cause an alarm to sound. They are more responsive to fires that start as, or quickly escalate into a flaming stage. This type of fire often produces less visible smoke.

Ionisation smoke alarms are prone to nuisance alarms from cooking (toasters, open grillers, birthday cake candles and the like) and should not be installed near kitchens.

Photoelectric alarms have a chamber with a light source and visible smoke entering the chamber makes the light scatter (like the dust in the air in a sunbeam of light), and in sufficient quantity will make the alarm sound. These alarms are superior to ionisation smoke alarms in detecting the visible smoke produced by smoldering fires. Most residential dwelling fires, whether flaming or smoldering, tend to produce large amounts of visible smoke.

Photoelectric smoke alarms should be installed in sleeping areas and paths of travel to sleeping areas.

Top tips for saving water

Next week is National Water Week, which seems like the perfect time to look at reducing water usage around our homes.

If you have a garden, mulch it well to reduce evaporation by up to 70 per cent and fill it with native plants such as grevilleas. They don't need a lot of water, flower all year and attract bees and birds.

If you don't have a garden, reduce the time you spend in the shower and check taps for drips - a leaking tap can waste up to 20,000 litres of water a year.

Soaking up good vibes

And during Water Week, what could be more relaxing than kicking back in a nice warm bath, listening to your favourite music?

In an innovative new design from Kohler, VibrAcoustic bathtubs create an environment of harmony and vibration.

Built-in panels broadcast sound waves through the water and resound in your body, while colour-changing lights perform chromatherapy functions; and if that's not enough, the DTV-Bath interface that controls all the features will let you program your own favourite playlist or choose a radio station.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

It really is the little things that count....

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

~ Leo Buscaglia ~

OCR rises to 3.25

It came as no big surprise this week when the Reserve Bank decided to raise the cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.25 per cent, effective 7 October 2009.

In his statement, Bank Governor Glenn Stevens cited the ongoing recovery of the global economy as well as the strength and confidence in Australia's economic conditions.

"Higher dwelling activity and public infrastructure spending is also starting to provide more support to spending", Governor Stevens said.

"Overall, growth through 2010 looks likely to be close to trend."

He noted that housing credit growth has been solid and dwelling prices have risen appreciably over the past six months.

"In late 2008 and early 2009, the cash rate was lowered quickly, to a very low level, in expectation of very weak economic conditions and a recognition that considerable downside risks existed," he said.

He suggested that as the basis for such a low interest rate setting has now passed, however, the Board's view is that it is now prudent to begin gradually lessening the stimulus provided by monetary policy.

Approvals drop for apartments

August was another positive month of approvals for new houses, however demand for new apartments dropped again, bringing the total result to reflect very little change.

Latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the seasonally adjusted estimate for private sector other dwellings approved fell 11.7 per cent after rising in the previous two months.

On the other hand, the number of private sector houses approved rose 3.1 per cent and has risen for eight months in a row.

The seasonally adjusted estimate for the value of new residential building approved fell 1.9 per cent while the value of alterations and additions approved rose 7.1 per cent.

Housing industry experts suggest that the August result reflects the continued dichotomy between a stronger detached housing market, buoyed by the first home owners grant, and a very weak multi-units sector which continues to be hit by finance difficulties.

Master Builders Australia Chief Economist, Peter Jones, remarked that the latest figures are a mixed bag, with further evidence that the supply of houses is beginning to respond to the pick up in demand, but with investor-driven approvals of units and apartments remaining in the doldrums.

"The fall in unit and apartment approvals suggests that part of the supply chain has yet to overcome strong negative forces that have developed over the past 12 months", Jones said.

HIA Senior Economist, Ben Phillips observed this week that multi-unit approvals have plunged by a third over the past 12 months, particularly in New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland.

"It will be important to see further signs in coming months of a broadening home building recovery encompassing detached and non-detached dwellings, first time and trade-up buyers, investors, and social housing", Phillips said.

"The lack of a broad recovery in housing is particularly worrying given record levels of population growth across Australia.

"Without a strong new housing sector, housing affordability in both the rental and purchaser markets will be under pressure," he predicted.

The number of seasonally adjusted residential dwelling approvals increased in August by 19.7 per cent in New South Wales, and 1.7 per cent in Queensland, 14.9 per cent in South Australia, 1.3 per cent in Western Australia, and 26.6 per cent in Tasmania.

Dwelling approvals fell by 9.4 per cent in Victoria. The trend number of approvals fell by 5.2 per cent in the Northern Territory and by 3.4 in the Australian Capital Territory.

Award winning developments

Housing development projects that deliver community and environmental benefits are outright winners in this year's Development Excellence Awards, announced this week.

Aaron Gadiel, chief executive of the Urban Taskforce, said that these projects represent the pinnacle of achievement for the property industry.

"This has been an exceptionally strong year for the awards - with a remarkable array of projects for the judges to choose from", Mr Gadiel said.

"These developers have worked hard to make sure their projects deliver community benefits, care for the environment and adopt the highest standards of urban design and architectural distinction."

Chris Johnson, chairman of the panel of judges, said that the 2009 Development of the Year was Jacksons Landing, at Sydney's Pyrmont Point by Vivas Lend Lease. The project also won the Development Excellence Award for Residential Apartment Development.

Most of the precinct, which will house around 680 dwellings, is not directly on the water, yet many of the apartments get stunning views due to clever design.

"The project has become a commercial success with all buildings having excellent presales", Johnson said.

Sandstone has been used for retaining walls and landscape mainly features native species, while water is recycled with a 70,000 litre rainwater tank.

The Development Excellence Award for Industrial Development was given to Goodman for the Coca Cola Amatil Distribution Centre at Eastern Creek, in Sydney.

"Goodman's impressive industrial facility for Coca Cola Amatil at the M7 Business Hub illustrates the land use benefits of the M7," Mr Johnson said.

"This massive centre has 2,000 square meters of solar collectors on the roof and collects 240,000 litres of rainwater for recycling."

The Development Excellence Award for Masterplanned Communities was given to Landcom for its development Park Central in Campbelltown in the south-west of Sydney.

"Located near the centre of Campbelltown, on the old golf course, Park Central has 177 houses, 50 terraces and 186 apartments as well as a 310 apartment retirement village and 22,000 square metres of retail and commercial space.

"The new development is clustered around a 10.5 hectare town park.

"The masterplanned community cleverly manages water with sensitive urban design and bioswales.

"The park has already become a major amenity for the residents and the local workforce."

Brisbane's Portside Wharf, by Multiplex Living, secured the Development Excellence Award for Mixed Use Development.

"This impressive project includes residential, retail and the Brisbane Cruise Terminal," Mr Johnson said.

The Urban Taskforce is a property development industry group, representing Australia's most prominent property developers and equity financiers.

Selling? How green is your home?

The energy, greenhouse and water performance of a home will soon have to be disclosed when its owner sells or rents the property, following a recent decision by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

The system is due to start with energy efficiency rating in May 2011.

This will result in homeowners placing a greater emphasis on the energy efficiency of homes, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (REIV) said this week.

It will also mean that both buyers and renters will take the relative performance of different properties into account when they are looking for a new home.

A similar system has been in place for a few years now in the Australian Capital Territory, where vendors are required to disclose to prospective purchasers the current level of energy performance of the dwelling.

The REIV warns that to comply with this requirement you need to have an Energy Efficiency Rating Statement (EER) undertaken by an accredited energy assessor, not dissimilar to having a qualified person inspect the structure of a home prior to purchase except in this case the assessor is employed by the seller and all prospective purchasers are provided with the EER.

"In the ACT the EER provides sellers with a numbered rating from zero to six stars - the higher the number of stars, the better is the homes energy efficiency."

The Institute is calling for a speedy resolution on details of the scheme, so that owners considering selling in the next two years can take these matters into account as they prepare for sale.

Fossil fueled ornament

A Tyrannosaurus Rex named Samson is still looking for a home after a recent auction in the US failed to lure a big enough bite.

Bids for the skeletal remains of the prehistoric giant neared AU$4.2M, a far cry from the $6.7M auctioneer house Bonhams & Butterfields had been hoping for.

The 170 fossilized bones are said to represent more than half the skeleton, making Samson the third most complete T. Rex ever discovered. But the 40-foot-long, 7.5-tonne colossus is one treasure that may not make it `straight to the poolroom'.

Lego`a my lantern

Lego has lit up our imagination for decades, and now has something to light up the rest of the house too, with its new Lego LED Lantern.

The lantern, which is designed to look just like a Lego man, stands 8.8 inches (22 cms) tall and beams light out 360 degrees from his shirt.

Running on 4 AA batteries, the lantern has a swinging handle so the little ones can take it with them if they wake in the middle of the night and are brave enough to leave the comfort and safety of bed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

What's really important

"It is good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven't lost the things money can't buy." ~George Lorimer~

New homes selling like hotcakes

> The number of new homes sold came roaring back in August after a flat mid 2009, according to the Housing Industry Association (HIA).

Commenting on the association's latest survey of Australia's largest builders, HIA Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale said that a fresh wave of first time buyer interest helped spur significant growth in new home sales in August.

"A late surge in sales to first home buyers ahead of the step-down in the new home boost, propelled new home sales by more than 11 per cent in August, the best monthly result for over three and a half years," Dale said.

"The boost to new home construction from the tripling of the First Home Owner Grant for new dwellings will be apparent throughout the second half of 2009 and well into 2010."

In the month of August 2009 the number of detached house sales increased by 11.8 per cent while the number of apartments sold rose by 7.5 per cent.

Dr Dale noted that the stimulus to first home buyers is clearly still exerting a positive impact on new home demand.

"At the same time there is moderate evidence of a lift in trade-up buyer activity in the new home market, but it is difficult to say the same for investors", he said.

"It remains the case that we need to see further evidence of a broad-based recovery in private new home demand to compliment the activity that will be generated in 2010 by Federal programs such as the Social Housing Initiative and the National Rental Affordability Scheme."

Detached New Home Sales in August increased by 21.8 per cent in Victoria, 20.9 per cent in Queensland, and 15.1 per cent in Western Australia. Sales fell by 11.3 per cent in New South Wales and by 2.5 per cent in South Australia.

Beautiful one day, expensive the next

> Property owners throughout Queensland are reeling from hefty land tax bills received from their State Government, the Property Council of Australia reported this week.

Property Council Queensland Executive Director, Steve Greenwood, said the Property Council office has been flooded with calls from a variety of distressed property owners - some reporting increases in their land tax bills of up to 43 per cent.

"Queensland is the only State that increased its land tax take by 30 per cent in 2009 - by comparison, New South Wales and Victoria have seen an increase of 3 per cent and a decrease of 2 per cent, respectively", Mr Greenwood said.

"The rise in land tax bills in a market where property prices have taken a nose dive is a direct result of the Queensland Government not revaluing properties in late 2008, the three-year averaging process and the impact of the $93 million surcharge announced in December 2008."

Traditionally, valuations are conducted towards the end of each year, with land tax imposed on owners as at midnight on June 30 of the next calendar year.

As revaluations were not undertaken in 2008, the 2009 land tax bills are artificially inflated as they are based on valuations conducted in 2007 - at the height of the property boom.

Save now - buy sooner

> Property ownership, whether for home or investment, is an aspiration for many Australians, yet the prospect of saving what can be an entire annual wage for a deposit puts the dream further into the future.

Goal setting, clever planning and a commitment to following through are often the keys to solving this savings problem.

According to mortgage broking firm Mortgage Choice, creating a savings plan need not result in the stripping away all the good bits life has to offer; more likely, it will prioritise them.

Mortgage Choice senior corporate affairs manager, Kristy Sheppard suggests it is best to know what you're in for from the very start.

Begin your deposit savings process by speaking to an accountant plus a professional and accessible mortgage broker who has access to a wide range of lenders.

"This will give you a good idea of how much you can and need to save for your deposit in order to buy within a particular price range", Ms Sheppard says.

"Then, create a comprehensive budget, constantly reassess it, and follow it to the best of your ability. It can be as elaborate or as simple as you like however, even a basic Excel spreadsheet with your cost detailed in consecutive columns will often suffice. The easier it is to maintain, the more likely you are to keep it up.

"Don't stop there; seriously consider setting up automatic payments into high interest savings accounts from your salary account for ongoing costs such as your car, rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment and, of course, home deposit.

"While this may limit your disposable income, don't deny yourself treats every now and then - but remember, every treat you give yourself takes you a little further away from the end result of property ownership. Nothing comes free and earning your badge as a property owner takes effort.

"Most importantly, be realistic about what you can achieve. Remember most people can't afford to buy their ideal property the first, second or sometimes even third time around. Regardless, saving for your own property is a journey you will look back on with pride."

When planning your budget, consider these tried and tested savings tips:

Give yourself a holiday every now and then, but reduce all costs where possible. Fly with a discount airline and/or wait for airfare sales.

Also, consider giving a cheap cabin, van or tent a go and enjoy the adventure.

Take your lunch to work rather than buying it. Same goes for coffee and tea - bite the bullet and make it at work. Every cent counts.

Don't turf the old faithful. If you have an old car that isn't in the best aesthetic condition but runs well, then resist the temptation to buy a new one. Which would you prefer: a vehicle upgrade or being months/years closer to owning your own home?

Don't be a clothes fanatic or hoarder. Shop at funky seconds and samples shops, warehouse sales, factory outlets or even online. You could also look into selling your old clothes (or other household items) online or at markets, to save extra money.

Keep up your social life. Keep the smile on your face but tone down your social agenda where possible, such as encouraging friends around to dinner or out for a picnic or barbeque instead of heading out on the town.

Who let the dust in?

> For many people Spring is the season of sniffing, coughing, itchy eyes and allergies. Then on top of that, this past week we have had some of the worst dust storms in decades, coupled in many areas with smoke from bushfires.

With the change of season come all types of air born pollens and pollutants and while we often think staying indoors is the best solution, sometimes inside our homes is just as bad as outside.

Of course, you may never fully eliminate odours or allergy-causing substances from your home, but there are a few simple precautions you can take that may help cut down the amount of time you spend wheezing and sneezing.

Firstly, let's talk dust. After all, it's at the top of our minds this week. And it's probably covered every surface in sight.

No matter how well you clean your home there is always dust around.
This may be especially true for people living in hot dry areas. To help collect the maximum amount of dust off furniture, benches and other surfaces, try wiping them with a damp cloth instead of a dry one. Or use a specially-designed microfibre cloth which doesn't leave residue behind.

Don't forget to clean areas that might be hidden from view but can still be major dust collecting areas. These include vertical blinds, doorframes, top of window frames, chair and table legs, behind wall units, or even under your bed.

Curtains and rugs are also big dust collectors, so make sure you wash them on a regular basis, or at least take them outside for a good shake.

Although you use your vacuum cleaner to get rid of dust it could actually be spreading more dust around than collecting. To help prevent that, make sure you empty or change the vacuum bag regularly and clean the hose and vacuum filters from time to time.

Speaking of filters, don't forget to keep an eye on your air conditioner filter, air vents and range hood. Just because these filters are out of sight, it shouldn't mean out of mind, so include them as part of your regular cleaning routine.

Pets in the house can be a major source of allergy problems, so try to keep them outside in the garden. If this isn't possible, you might think about restricting them to a section of the house with tiles or timber on the floor as this will make is easier to collect hair or any dirt they might bring in from outside. Remember to vacuum pet prone areas regularly to prevent a build up of allergy causing irritants.

Mould and mildew can also cause serious allergy problems. Mould can be found in any dark or moist environment but is most commonly a problem in bathrooms and bedroom cupboards. A good quality mould and mildew remover will work wonders in the bathroom, just don't forget to reapply on a regular basis.

Keeping your home free of chemicals and other artificial pollutants can also help protect your family from allergies. Where possible, opt for cleaning products, foods or kitchenware made of natural products. These days there are a wide variety of organic and chemical free cleaners on the market. If you can't find these in the supermarket, try looking in your local health food store.

While Spring may still mean allergies for many people, by following these simple guidelines you might at least be able to reduce the discomfort of allergies in your home.

Problem pup ordered out of town

> A quick-tempered pup's bite has incurred a bark much worse from its hometown in the US. An Aspen municipal judge recently ruled that a Pomeranian named Gizmo with a history of biting people is to leave town forever.

The Aspen Times reports the dog's owner admits making mistakes and not taking proper precautions, leaving the little dog unattended in a public space on numerous occasions, even after receiving a court order citing vicious tendencies.

It may be all doghouse blues for the moment, but Gizmo reportedly has a new family lined up in a nearby town, so here's hoping a change of scenery brings a sunnier disposition.