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.

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