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.

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