Thursday, December 16, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 17 December 2010
Happy Holidays!

Southern Estates management and staff would like to wish all clients and friends a very Merry Christmas, and safe holiday break!

Our office will be closed from 12pm Thursday, 23rd December 2010 and re-opening on Tuesday, 4th January 2011.

For any sales enquiries during this time, please contact Jason Capelo on 0424 372 722. For property management enquiries, contact Karen Simpson on 0419 611 926.

Best Wishes for the festive season!

The Southern Estates Team.

Home loans bloom in Spring
The year has ended on a high note for housing loans, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Housing Finance figures show an increase in October 2010 in both the number and value of housing finance commitments for owner-occupied and investment housing finance. There was also a considerable rise in the number of new dwelling purchases.

The total value of dwelling commitments rose by 2.2 per cent from September to October 2010.
The number of loans for owner-occupied housing increased 1.9 per cent, while the value increased 2.8 per cent.

The number of first-home buyer commitments as a percentage of total owner-occupied commitments dropped slightly from to 15.4 per cent in October from 15.9 per cent in September.

The number of loans for the purchase of new dwellings increased 9.4 per cent, which is a significant gain on the 3.2 per cent and 2 per cent drop experienced during September and August respectively.

The number of loans for the purchase of established dwellings rose by 1.8 per cent and the number of loans for the construction of dwellings rose 0.1 per cent. At the same time, the value of investment housing/fixed loans increased 1.1 per cent.

Mortgage Choice CEO Michael Russell remarked that it is a relief to see that mid-Spring brought about a second consecutive monthly rise in the value of housing finance commitments.

"This was perhaps due to a rise in consumer confidence alongside a greater willingness from lenders to lend, particularly for new dwelling purchases", Mr Russell suggested, adding that it is "great news for many in the residential building industry".

The heavy weight of Christmas lights

There's just over a week to go till Christmas and the signs are all around us. Some just stand out more than others. If you're concerned your Yuletide display may be a bit over the top, find comfort in knowing there are others who share the passion for decorating, and they blow the budget by a lot more than you do.

Giving Clark Griswold a run for most extravagant Christmas displays, one American family has decked their home for the past quarter century with a million festive lights.

HouseLogic, a free source website of housing-related information and tools, has done some number-crunching on the Faucher family's pride and joy, estimating the cost of powering the display is around AU$688 an hour.

With an average showing of 4 hours a night for a month, the family would face a bill of $82,560.

When an estimate of how much the family would save if they converted to LED lighting was worked out, the spending came up as $89 an hour or $10,680 a month - an astounding saving of $599 an hour, or $71,880 a month.

We're in it for the luxury
Australians could spend a record $12.3 billion next year on more luxurious kitchens and bathrooms, according to a report released this week by the Housing Industry Association (HIA).

The HIA Kitchens and Bathrooms Report shows that the past financial year was a positive one for the industry. There were more than 1.2 million kitchen and bathroom installations (new and renovated) in 2009/10 and roughly the same number is predicted for the 2011/12 financial year.

In value terms, the kitchen industry was worth $6.9 billion in 2009/10, a strong lift of 9.2 per cent on the previous year.

There were 509,400 kitchens (new and renovated) installed by Australians in 2009/10 - that's an increase of 7.5 per cent on the previous year.

HIA Chief Economist Dr Harley Dale predicts that the value of kitchen installations will rise to $7.6 billion in 2011/12.

"We are forecasting growth of nearly 11 per cent in the total value of kitchen installations over the 2010/11 - 2011/12 period," Harley Dale said.

"That is a healthy outlook."

The bathroom industry also grew strongly last year. The report found it was worth $4.2 billion in 2009/10, which represents a healthy 10.9 per cent increase on the previous year. This figure is predicted to increase to $4.7 billion in 2011/12

The number of bathrooms installed (new and renovated) was 711,200 - an increase of 9.2 per cent on the previous year.

So what are we spending all this money on? The report also looked into the types of materials and appliances consumers are demanding in their kitchens and bathrooms and notes the following trends.

Benchtops: engineered and stone benchtops were most popular followed by solid-surface and granite. There was a decline in use of stainless steel, concrete and timber benchtops.

Door types: Polyurethane doors, followed by low-pressure laminate doors, were more popular in 2010. Glass doors and vinyl wrap/vacuum-formed doors also increased in usage. On the way out were roller shutter doors, natural timber doors and timber veneer doors.

Splashbacks: Glass and engineered-stone splashbacks are in. Granite and tiles are out. Perspex coloured splashbacks and acrylic splashbacks also declined in use.

Appliances: New appliances that are hot in our kitchens include LCD/plasma TVs, two-door fridges with icemakers, wine cooler/fridges and European freestanding stoves.

Tap ware: Budget tap ware and insinkerators are no longer in vogue. Over the past year, the fastest growth was in lever tap ware followed by premium tap ware and multiple sinks and taps in bathrooms.

Sinks: Under-mount sinks continue to be the fastest growing sink, but there was also an increase in use for double-bowl and square-form sinks. Water filtration systems are becoming much more popular. On the way out are solid surface, round bowl and single bowl sinks.

Drawers: Soft closing drawers and deep and wide drawers for pots and plates are now hot. Concealed garbage bin/disposal units are also popular.

Housing starts drop

National dwelling commencements fell sharply in the September 2010 quarter, particularly for the volatile investment housing sector.

Figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the seasonally adjusted estimate for the total number of dwelling units commenced fell 13.2 per cent in the September quarter, following a rise of 2.1 per cent in the June quarter.

The number of commencements on new private sector houses fell 4.3 per cent in the September quarter, but the seasonally adjusted estimate for new private sector `other residential building' fell by a huge 13.5 per cent in the September quarter following a rise of 16.8 per cent in the June quarter.

The number of housing starts (including conversions) in the September 2010 quarter fell by 14.5 per cent in New South Wales, 25.2 per cent in Queensland, 5.7 per cent in South Australia, 19.9 per cent in Western Australia and 30.5 per cent in the ACT.

Housing starts rose by 1.5 per cent in Victoria, 22.0 per cent in Tasmania, and 27.6 per cent in NT.

World's most expensive Christmas tree

Carollers would have you believe that the prettiest sight to see this season is the holly that will be on your own front door.

While that may be the case, you should keep an open mind until you've seen Ginza Tanaka's 24K gold Christmas tree. Weighing over 21 kgs, the tree is adorned with over 240 jewels including diamond baubles and strings of pearls, and has definitely pulled its weight with the World Records Academy as the AU$1.8M price tag has earned it the title of World's most expensive Christmas tree.

Last minute tips to give your home a festive feel

This is such a busy time of the year and with work, play and Christmas shopping, it's easy to let things slip under the radar. If you love to get into the spirit of the season by decorating your house but just haven't found the time this year, here are some simple tips for creating the mood at the last minute - without breaking the budget.

  • Drape strings of lights around the mirror in bathrooms, over doorways and along railings around the house. When purchasing lights, look for ones that burn cool instead of hot and work through battery power - even solar, if you're going to use them outside.
  • Dress up dolls and teddy bears with ribbons and holiday fabrics to bring a festive feel to your home. Group them under the tree, on mantels and on windowsills.
  • Start wrapping presents now and put them out in full view to create that Christmas morning excitement every time you enter a room.
  • Place a few glass balls, some Christmas baubles and a candle or two in a bowl and embellish with a few sprigs of greenery or some leftover ribbon.
  • Give furniture some seasonal style with red and green slipcovers and throw pillows in gold silk fabrics or fabric with Christmas designs.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 10 December 2010
Matilda's Farmyard Nursery Animals

Meet your favourite baby animals including lambs, chicks, piglets, goats, ducks, guinea pigs & bunnies! Entry is free!

Kids can enter the pen to touch, pat and feed the baby animals. They can even brush the fur of a guinea pig using a toothbrush.

Happy Christmas, borrowers

The Reserve Bank has lent its own little brand of cheer to the festive season this week, deciding to leave the Official Cash Rate (OCR) on hold at 4.75 per cent.

Even better, in a statement announcing the decision Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens hinted that there are not likely to be any further interest rate hikes in the near future.

"Over the next few quarters, inflation is expected to be little changed, though it is likely to increase somewhat over the medium term if the economy grows as expected", Governor Stevens said.

"Following the Board's decision last month to lift the cash rate, and the subsequent increases by financial institutions, lending rates in the economy are now a little above average.

"The Board views this setting of monetary policy as appropriate for the economic outlook", he concluded.

Slow but steady for 2011
Home values continue to fluctuate slightly, with October figures leading industry analysts to predict a sedate performance for residential property in 2011.

RP Data-Rismark's Hedonic Home Value Index shows that Australian capital city dwelling values rose 0.3 per cent, seasonally adjusted, in the month of October 2010.

The report shows that market conditions remain diverse across the key cities, with Perth and Brisbane the only capital city markets where home values have declined over the twelve months to October (down 1.8 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively).

Over the three months to end of October, home values were down 3.8 per cent in Perth and 1.6 per cent in Brisbane.

In contrast, the other major cities recorded improvements in dwelling values over the three months to the end of October. Home values rose in Canberra (up by 2.4 per cent), Darwin (up 1.7 per cent), Sydney (0.8 per cent) and Melbourne (0.5 per cent).

In the first 10 months of the year, Australian capital city dwelling values have risen by a modest 4.3 per cent (seasonally adjusted). This is broadly in line with disposable income growth, according to Rismark International joint managing director, Ben Skilbeck, who pointed out that the national Dwelling Price-to-Disposable Household Income Ratio Index was sitting at around 4.6 times in the second quarter of 2010.

This is consistent with the ratio of home-price-to-income for the preceding seven years.

"The good news is that the current flat-lining in home values should result in a moderation in the national price-to-income ratio and present patient buyers with interesting opportunities in the year ahead."

RP Data's research director, Tim Lawless believes the outlook for residential property is likely to be fairly sedate over the coming 12 months.

"If we use market conditions after the 2000 to 2003 property boom as a guide, month to month value changes saw a mixture of small upwards and downward movements over the following two years with total value growth just 4.7 per cent between December 2003 and December 2005."

Mr Lawless added that unemployment at that time was 5.9 per cent and trending downwards, while the resources sector was heating up.

"In the years ahead the RBA is forecasting very strong household income and employment growth.

"These two factors should help mitigate the impact of higher rate rises and prevent any material decline in prices", he concluded.

Switch and save - your choice

The average Australian family can give themselves an early Christmas present with the hundreds of dollars saved by switching home loans, savings accounts and credit cards to cheaper options, according to consumer advocacy group Choice.

In figures released this week, Choice says that by switching accounts from the big four banks to other providers, mortgage holders can save up to $2,500 a year, credit card holders up to $440 and those with standard savings accounts up to $330*.

The Compare, Ditch and Switch initiative, part of the group's Better Banking campaign, encourages Australians to size up their banking options with the help of an independent online tool.

"You don't have to wait for banking reform to get a better deal. People who are proactive and can spare a few minutes might be surprised at how much they can save," says Better Banking campaign director, Richard Lloyd.

"Too many people are staying in cards, loans and accounts which are costing them too much - switching makes real sense," says Richard Lloyd.

"More mobile and discriminating bank customers help make a more competitive banking system for everyone."

The Compare, Ditch and Switch price comparison tool can be found on the Choice website. It enables consumers to objectively compare credit cards, home loans, savings products and transaction accounts from 89 banks, credit unions, building societies and non-bank lenders.

* The potential savings from switching have been calculated by comparing the yearly cost of the worst `big four' products for savings accounts and credit cards, as well as the yearly cost of the average standard variable rate `big four' home loans, with the best cost alternative on the market today. Costs include interest rates and fees.

The potential annual savings from switching from the mid point big four products to the best rate alternative in the market are $190 for savings accounts and $270 for credit cards.

Industry responds to shortages

The increase in apprenticeship commencements announced this week by the Federal Government is a positive sign that industry is responding to skill shortages by investing in the training of young people, according to the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group).

Commenting on the announcement, Ai Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout said that she would like to see the Kickstart Bonus scheme made permanent.

"The traditional trades are a key area to focus on in addressing skill shortages and the growth in apprenticeships needs to be sustained", Ms Ridout remarked.

"The results show that the Kickstart Bonus appears to have been a success in supporting apprenticeships and Ai Group is strongly of the view that there should be some redesign of the incentive to make it permanent.

"Ai Group itself employs well over 500 apprentices yet there remains strong demand from employers to host apprentices and there are plenty of vacancies in the scheme for young people.

"Another promising aspect of today's training data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research is that the number of higher level qualifications (diplomas and advanced diplomas) commenced in 2010 is more than double the number of these qualifications which were commenced in 2009 (8,200 compared to 3,700).

"While this increase is off a low base, we have consistently stressed the need for industry to have access to higher level skills and these statistics show an increased commitment to the building of those higher level skills," Ms Ridout said.

For the butterfly in us all

Christmas in Australia may be far from white, but with many parts of the country experiencing erratic weather, evenings usually spent at the beach or at a BBQ are better spent rugged up on the couch.

One way of making sure the blanket never strays too far from the couch would be to blend the two, and that's just what design studio Les M has done in Cocon.

A cross between sun-lounger and sleeping bag, the armchair provides a snug, comfy pocket to slip into while you read, watch TV or just relax and hibernate.

As if life weren't magical enough

The Harry Potter series has inspired many wishes for a life less-muggle and more magical. While there may not be a real Hogwarts school to attend (at least not publicly recognised), the UK Telegraph reports that a gothic chateau looking remarkably similar has come onto the British market.

Dating back to 1849, the property offers the perfect backdrop for any imagination to run wild, with a 42ft wood-panelled banqueting hall (floating candles not included), circular turrets, mullioned windows, carved fireplaces and balconies (shifting staircases not included) and huge grounds perfect for outdoor activities (Quidditch accessories not included).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 03 December 2010
Lucky Bear's Christmas Party 2010

If you go down to Crown St Mall on Saturday 4th December you're in for a big surprise!

The Leukaemia Foundation will be holding Lucky Bear's Christmas Party at the Amphitheatre Stage on Saturday the 4th December at 10am in support of patients affected by blood cancers.

A bounce in the step

Approvals to build new homes bounced back last month after a six-month slump, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The total number of dwellings approved, seasonally adjusted, rose 9.3 per cent in October 2010, due largely to a surge (14.0 per cent) in New South Wales.

Victoria (4.6 per cent), South Australia (6.1 per cent) and Western Australia (2.3 per cent) recorded an increase in dwelling approvals in October, while Queensland reported fewer dwelling approvals (-0.7 per cent) in seasonally adjusted terms.

Private sector houses approved rose 1.5 per cent with rises in New South Wales (3.5 per cent), Victoria (3.1 per cent) and Western Australia (2.4 per cent). The number of approvals for private sector houses fell in Queensland (down by 8.1 per cent) and South Australia (down 2.1 per cent).

The value of total building approved rose 4.1 per cent in October in seasonally adjusted terms. The value of total residential building rose by 8.2 per cent while non-residential building fell by -3.8 per cent.

The housing industry welcomed the news with reservations.

Master Builders Australia Chief Economist Peter Jones said that a sustained recovery in approvals is needed over the next few months to ensure the upswing in residential building activity gathers momentum.

"A long and strong residential building upturn is desperately needed given that we have been underbuilding in Australia over the past six or seven years", Mr Jones said.

"Even if approvals were to bounce back to an annualised rate of 170,000, the level of building would still be well below what is required to make inroads into the supply shortage."

Mr Jones commented that government policy, together with lenders' reluctance to offer credit, is constraining the ability of housing supply to meet demand and that without reform, the problem of housing affordability will only get worse.

"With the credit squeeze still operative banks should do more to help investor-driven activity thereby ensuring a recovery in approvals of units and apartments.

"Reputable commentators, including the Reserve Bank Governor have stated that unless there is urgent reform to address bottlenecks, the strong supply response needed to meet demand will not eventuate", he said.

"Master Builders supports many of the findings of the Henry Tax Review on housing affordability and will continue to push for the need to address inefficient developer charges, land release regulations and the approvals process as part of reforms to remove impediments affecting the supply of housing."

New home sales warm upSales of new homes lifted slightly in October, according to a survey of Australia's major residential builders.

The latest HIA/Jeld-Wen New Home Sales Report shows that the number of new homes sold increased by 2.4 per cent in October 2010 following a downwardly revised 1.7 per cent decline in the month of September.

Detached house sales increased by 3 per cent in October while multi-unit sales fell by 2.6 per cent.

Over the three months to October new home sales fell by 9 per cent to be 17 per cent lower when compared to the same three-month period in 2009. Sales of detached houses were down 10 per cent while sales of multi-units rose by 1 per cent.

In the month of October 2010, detached new house sales increased by 5.9 per cent in Victoria, 7.4 per cent in Queensland and 0.9 per cent in Western Australia, although sales volumes fell in all three of these markets over the three month period to October.

Sales fell by 6.1 per cent in New South Wales and by 1.3 per cent in South Australia in October.

At home on the range

Developers have long understood the value of building a residential community around a particular lifestyle, such as golf estates, marinas or even sustainable living. Now, a group in the Florida, US county of Palm Beach has found a niche market by offering luxury `farm' houses to horse lovers.

According to the promotional material, the `lavish estate homes' in the Equus development are `complimented by a 7,000 square-foot clubhouse and 34-acre Equestrian Centre offering private lessons for riders of all skill levels, boarding facilities, turnout paddocks and miles of meandering riding trails.'

For those less inclined to work with horses, there is `a fully-equipped state-of-the-art fitness centre, two tennis courts, an incredible resort-style swimming pool and five miles of well-lit paths throughout the community lined with lush loggias perfect for walking or jogging'.

Playing with the big boys
Building societies and credit unions have shown strength, resilience and competitiveness over the past year, according to research released this week by advisory services firm KPMG.

KPMG's Building Societies and Credit Unions 2010 survey shows that building societies' underlying profitability increased by 34.1 per cent while that of the credit unions (`the mutuals') grew 37.3 per cent.

The growth reflects asset growth, increases in capital and slightly improved interest margins, continued low bad debts and the absence of significant one-off costs associated with the GFC.

Building societies' assets grew 6.0 per cent (2009:1.8 per cent) to $29.1 billion and credit unions' assets 6.1 per cent to $47.0 billion, reflecting a resilient housing market in Australia and the strong bond these organisations have with their members. Capital levels also increased with capital adequacy ratio for building societies increasing to 15.0 per cent and credit unions to 17.7 per cent.

KPMG banking partner Martin McGrath remarked that this highlights the strength of their balance sheets and provides a basis for ongoing growth and profitability.

"The mutuals have a special bond with their members and this has served them well throughout the GFC and beyond", McGrath said.

"They offer healthy competition against other lenders in the highly competitive home mortgage and retail deposit markets.

"They go into the next year well-positioned for further growth", he concluded.

Operating costs for building societies increased slightly (1.8 per cent) and for credit unions total operating costs increased 8.1 per cent.

`Til death do we part

As time goes by, some carpets thin out, and some hairlines recede. In both cases, a popular choice is to freshen up the look with an imported cover.

Playfully celebrating one aspect of aging often left unmentioned, Israeli designer Meirav Barzilay's Comb Over allows you to cover your floor, head and body.

The rug is made of varied lengths of grey felt strips, sprawling out from one end. The piece can be styled to cover the length of the rug, wrapped up around you as a makeshift blanket, or bunched up to be used as a headrest.

Eight little mansions all in a row

They may not have the big front and back yards of their suburban counterparts, yet most terrace houses offer a unique, cosy lifestyle that is particularly attractive.

If you landed a place in Cornwall Terrace in London's Regent's Park, however, you'd barely notice the wall-to-wall neighbours - and if you did, you could just complain to your on-hand staff in their on-site 2-bedroom living quarters.

The row of eight double-fronted terraced mansions has just hit the market for a collective AU$650M, making it the world's most expensive row of terrace houses, the UK Telegraph reported recently. Belonging to British nobility for 150 years prior to their makeover, each of the mansions ranges from 8,000 to 14,000 square feet, with five to seven bedrooms in each.

The master bedrooms are the size of an average apartment, while each property features its own spa, gym, hydraulic elevator, audio/visual and lighting systems that are controlled by an iPad. The largest offers a ballroom and swimming pool complex - perhaps that's where they'll hold the neighbourhood Christmas gathering?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 19 November 2010
The sound and the fury

Few things divide neighbours like noise. So what can we do about it?

Chances are you entered this world screaming your head off, and your poor mum was likely doing the same: birth is seldom a quiet event.

From that rowdy start, life requires us to navigate a complex love-hate relationship with noise -- to strike a balance between the sounds we hear, and those we make.

Read the full article

Consumer sentiment surprisingly resilient

Consumer sentiment remained reasonably buoyant in the first week of November, surprising analysts after the hike in interest rates by both the Reserve Bank and subsequently the Commonwealth Bank.

The Westpac Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment fell by just 5.3 per cent to 110.7 in November.

Westpac's Chief Economist, Bill Evans, commented that it is a surprisingly resilient result, as the average monthly fall in the Index in response to previous rate hikes above the average variable mortgage rate was 9.3 per cent.

"As we saw in the 2005 - 2008 period, increases moving rates above that "normal" level (7.4 per cent) are usually deeply disturbing for consumers", Mr Evans said.

Prior to January 2008, these rate increases were not accompanied by banks increasing their variable mortgage rates by more than the RBA cash rate rise.

At the time of the November survey only one bank had announced its new variable mortgage rate in response to the RBA's rate hike. It is expected that the response could be quite different
once the other major banks clarified their policies.

The report shows that the rate hikes resulted in a 6.8 per cent fall in the confidence of those respondents holding a mortgage compared to a 3.1 per cent fall from those who are tenants.

Other factors will have partially offset the negative impact of the rate hike, including the strength of the Australian dollar, the labour market and the share market.

"Somewhat surprisingly, respondents remain constructive on their finances over the next 12 months (up 0.5 per cent)", Mr Evans said.

"Even more surprising, but certainly welcome, is the very modest fall in opinions on "whether it is a good time to buy a major household item" which after surging by 9.9 per cent last month only fell by 1.9 per cent.

"Along with October, this component is printing its highest levels since the consumer boom periods of 2005 and 2007."

Mr Evans concluded the report by predicting that it is unlikely that there will be any further rate hikes by the Reserve Bank until the June quarter 2011.

Housing finance lifts

Home loans rose slightly in September, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In seasonally adjusted terms, the total value of dwelling finance commitments excluding alterations and additions rose 1.0 per cent in the month of September 2010.

The value of loans for owner-occupied housing rose 0.6 per cent, while loans for investment housing rose 1.7 per cent.

The number of loans for the purchase of established dwellings rose 1.6 per cent to 41,369 in September.

The number of loans (seasonally adjusted) for construction rose by 0.5 per cent in September 2010, however loans for the purchase of new dwellings fell by 3.2 per cent, to be down by 33.5 per cent on September 2009.

Over the three months to September 2010 total housing loans dropped by 24.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2009.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the total number of owner-occupier loans increased by 0.4 per cent in New South Wales, 1.1 per cent in South Australia, 4.9 per cent in Western Australia, 1.7 per cent in Tasmania, 2.2 per cent in the Northern Territory and 1.1 per cent in the ACT

Total owner-occupier loans fell by 1.4 per cent in Victoria and by 0.5 per cent in Queensland.

The number of first home buyers, as a percentage of total owner occupied housing commitments, increased slightly from 15.5 per cent in August to 15.9 per cent in September - a modest increase but still well below the long-run national average of 20.1 per cent and dramatically down from the 27.1 per cent level a little more than a year ago.

Buying money still costly - or is it?

The debate over the true cost of offshore wholesale money continues to rage, as borrowers backed by both sides of government lob shots at the big banks for daring to even consider raising interest rates above the Reserve Bank's 0.25 per cent increase, let alone making enormous profits for share holders.

The banks claim their cost of funding has increased sharply and insist they have to pass that cost on to customers while the Reserve Bank and the government counter by saying there is no justification for rate rises above the official cash rate increase.

Who is telling the truth?

According to financial services research company Canstar Cannex, the real cost of funds to the banks is a very complicated and convoluted thing to unravel.

"It's all very well to speculate but very few outsiders are privy to the real figures of each monetary deal done by the individual banks, however, our research does show one very interesting piece of the bank funding puzzle," Cannex research manager Chris Groth said.

"Our interest rate tracking over the last four years has identified a trend which might just support some of what the banks are saying.

"Prior to the GFC online savings accounts were tracking well below the official cash rate. However, since early 2009 the rates paid to online savings accounts start to track above the official cash rate and they have remained consistently ahead.

"The banks are scrambling over themselves to attract retail deposits to fund their loan books," Mr Groth said.

"While the banks, the government and the Reserve Bank argue over the real cost of funding, Canstar Cannex can confirm that retail deposits are now a more expensive source of funding than they were prior to the GFC.

"This is good news for cashed-up savers but not so good for home loan borrowers."

Adding to the consumer confusion is the current debate about early exit fees, exception fees and the cost to consumers of switching loans. It is little wonder home loan borrowers are nervous about what the future holds.

"In a rate cycle trending upwards there is always the temptation to lock in an interest rate through a fixed-rate product to eliminate the sting of any future rate rises," Mr Groth said.

"We've seen some very attractive fixed rate offers in the market over the past quarter but, by and large, most people prefer to take their chances with variable, as fixed loans account for only 3.4 per cent of borrowers."

Timing is crucial when taking out a fixed rate loan, said Canstar Cannex. Their research shows that in only 9 of the past 36 months (Nov '07 - Oct '10), borrowers would be ahead on their monthly repayments by locking in an interest rate rather than taking a variable rate loan. The greatest return received would have been in April last year where, on a $300,000 loan, almost $3,000 in repayments would have been saved.

"Borrowers should not be discouraged from looking to fix at least part of their loan, as fixing delivers repayment certainty, the potential to save money on repayments and an interest rate buffer should rates increase further," Mr Groth said.

On the flipside, borrowers should remember that they run the risk of losing money if rates decrease and that exiting early from a fixed loan may attract high fees.

"Your best bet is to shop around for the best fixed rates which currently show a 3.29 per cent range between the lowest and highest," Mr Groth said.

"Don't forget that refinancing or switching may attract fees which should be considered when doing the maths on whether fixing or maintaining your current loan is the best way to go."

Canstar Cannex this week released its home loan star ratings report which compared 1,600 home loans from 110 lenders. The report compares fixed and variable home loans for residential as well as investment purposes, awarding five stars to those loans offering outstanding value through a combination of rates and features.

Councils admit fees hit housing costs

A government body has finally acknowledged what the property industry has been saying for years - that infrastructure charges are destroying housing affordability, the Property Council of Australia announced this week.

The Property Council's Acting Executive Director Ken Morrison said comments made in the Courier Mail by Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) President Paul Bell represented a major shift in attitude.

"It is pleasing to see the local government sector recognise that high infrastructure charges cripple housing affordability, and commit to work with industry to find a solution," Mr Morrison said.

"However, more radical changes will need to be made to the current regime -the situation has become so dire that tinkering around the edges is simply not enough", he added.

The Property Council anticipates that a soon-to-be-released draft report by the Queensland Government's Infrastructure Charges Taskforce will result in a fairer infrastructure charging regime for that state.

Unreal estate

Would you invest in a property you couldn't physically visit? How about one that no one else could, either?

In a society where so many things can be done online, it's no surprise that virtual properties are selling - what may surprise is the price tag. One cyber-mogul recently sold off his properties in Entropia Universe (a global online gaming platform with a real cash economy) for nearly AU$345K.

According to numerous Forbes bloggers, the man known in the game as Neverdie mortgaged his real home to purchase land a few years ago for $100K and proceeded to build up his online property portfolio on an exclusive asteroid around the game's first planet. One of his creations - Club Neverdie - became a must-see for users of the game, featuring over a dozen bio-domes, a nightclub, a mall, and other venues in which players could spend real money on virtual goods and services. He is said to have sold off all of his properties over the past year, amounting to around $645K. It may have been a risky move, but it did see a reasonable return on a $100K investment.

Sleep takes flight

We may be flightless mammals, but that has never stopped us from dreaming of flying. Now Dutch design group Tjep has created a space for us to sleep like birds while our dreams take flight.

Tak is essentially a large sofa made of fifty soft rubber branches entangled in the shape of a nest, which can be expanded depending on the size of the flock.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 12 November 2010
Illawarra Business Awards

The 2010 Integral Energy Illawarra Business Awards will again turn the spolight on the Illawarra business community and celebrate the achievements and diverstiy of the region's business community.

The awards congratulate and recognise the many success stories that make up our local business community. They acknowledge and promote the importance of local business to the future growth and development of the Illawarra, articulate the key drivers of growth for the region and give vital recognition to the region's most successful and innovative businesses.

Dwelling approvals continue to fall
Building approvals continue to drop Australia-wide, despite a surprise lift in private house approvals in New South Wales, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The total number of dwellings approved fell 6.6 per cent to 12,143 dwellings in September 2010; the ABS reports that this figure has been showing falls for six months, in seasonally adjusted terms.

The largest falls were recorded in Victoria (down 10.0 per cent) and South Australia (down 24.9 per cent).

Tasmania recorded a rise in dwelling approvals (1.0 per cent) this month, while New South Wales (down 1.5 per cent), Queensland (-2.3 per cent) and Western Australia (-2.0 per cent) all fell, in seasonally adjusted terms.

The number of private sector houses approved dropped 2.2 per cent with falls in Victoria (down 3.6 per cent) and Western Australia (down 10.7 per cent), while New South Wales (8.1 per cent), Queensland (0.5 per cent) and South Australia (0.4 per cent) rose.

The value of total building approved fell 3.2 per cent in September in seasonally adjusted terms. The value of total residential building fell by 4.5 per cent while non-residential building fell by 0.7 per cent following a rise last month.

Construction improves

The national construction industry remained soft in October largely due to ongoing weakness in activity and new orders, although the rate of contraction was less than the previous month.

The latest Australian Industry Group Australian Performance of Construction Index (Australian PCI®) in conjunction with the Housing Industry Association lifted 3.2 points to 44.0 in October (readings below 50 indicate a contraction in activity).

While the four major sectors again spent the month in negative territory, there was a distinct slowing in the pace of decline in the house building and commercial construction sectors.

House building lifted 15.5 points to 47.9, the sector's highest reading in five months.

AIG Director Public Policy, Dr Peter Burn, said that project delays and intense competition to secure existing contracts is continuing to have an adverse impact on activity, especially in the engineering construction and apartment building sectors.

New home sales drop

The number of new homes sold rose in September, but not enough to reverse the general trend over recent months, a new report has revealed.

The latest HIA/Jeld-Wen New Home Sales Report, a survey of Australia's major residential builders, showed that the number of new homes sold increased by just 0.6 per cent in September 2010.

However, sales were down by 14 per cent for the September 2010 quarter and 15 per cent below the level of new home sales for the September quarter of the previous year.

HIA Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale, said that leading indicators signal a contraction in new home building in the post stimulus environment of 2011.

"Warnings from the banks of pending increases in mortgage rates outside of changes in monetary policy have been unhelpful to buyer confidence and are causing potential buyers to stay on the side-lines", Harley Dale said.

"As it stands the lack of available credit from Australian banks to small and medium sized residential developers is contributing to the renewed weakness in new home building conditions that has become evident over the course of 2010," Harley Dale added.

Detached house sales increased by 1 per cent in the month of September 2010 but were down by 15 per cent over the quarter. Sales in the multi-unit sector fell by 2.4 per cent in the month and were down by 1.5 per cent over the quarter.

In the month of September 2010 detached new house sales increased by 5.9 per cent in New South Wales and by 3.6 per cent in Queensland, although both these markets suffered double digit declines in sales volumes in the September quarter.

Sales fell by 3.1 per cent in Victoria in the month of September and were down by 4.6 per cent in South Australia and 1.8 per cent in Western Australia.

Stop ants in their tracks

With all the rain we've been having lately, you may have noticed an increase in the number of ants in your home. Ants marching in lines through the house have long been welcomed as a sign of rain, so long as it is just an occasional visit.

However, an infestation of ants can be a sign of potential structural damage to your house, as well as being a constant nuisance. Whatever the reason they are coming in the house, you'll no doubt want to deter the critters.

If you are averse to using chemical sprays and poisons, let's try some age-old remedies. Old Wives' Tale #714 says that ants will not cross a line of chalk, so you could try laying down some guidelines using a stick of chalk from the local newsagent.

If that doesn't have the desired effect, Old Wives' Tale #715 suggests wiping surfaces with oil from the Pennyroyal plant. Pennyroyal is a mint, which can be grown in a shady spot by the back door so that there are always leaves to crush when needed.

Bottom dollar tree change

Another tiny Australian town is offering annual rents at a smaller figure than its population size, in a bid to strengthen the community and save local schools.

Similar to the effort to pump new life into the drought-stricken NSW town of Cumnock (population 295), a few farming properties around Trundle, NSW, have become the nation's most affordable real estate.

According to the incentives website there are currently 7 farmhouses available with a rental price of $1 a week. Anyone who is looking for bottom dollar rentals and handy with a paint brush and hammer is welcome to apply.

Applicants should also be keen to experience rural living and (preferably) have a family who would love to be part of a vibrant and welcoming community.

Sofa gets a grip

They may seem benign, yet couches are well known to be diabolical thieves of the contents of our pockets. Anyone who's cleaned one out will have been astounded at the veritable treasure trove of coins, pens, keys, notes and anything else that could possibly slip between the cushions.

The key is to beat them at their own game, and that's just what Lost In Sofa does.

Japanese architect Daisuke Motogi's design is in the shape of an armchair but covered with padded cubes that will encourage you to actually store things between them, from books, pens and papers, to cups of coffee, phones and remotes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 05 November 2010
Viva La Gong Festival 2010

Wollongong's festival of culture and creativity will bring the heart of Wollongong alive with a spectacular street parade, followed by an artistic extravaganza.

Listen to fabulous music, experience exciting performances by local and visiting acts, and enjoy delicious food from around the world in a carnival atmosphere unique to Wollongong.


Interest rates on the move

THE Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) moved this week to head off inflation, deciding to lift the official cash rate by 25 basis points to 4.75 per cent, the first rate rise since May this year.

In a statement announcing the decision, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens made a point that the demand for labour has continued to strengthen and that some further increase is likely over the coming year.

"Given these conditions, the moderation in inflation that has been under way for the past two years is probably now close to ending", Governor Stevens said, adding that inflation is likely to rise over the next few years.

"This outlook, which is largely unchanged from the Bank's earlier forecasts, assumes some tightening in monetary policy", he concluded.

The rate rise means that borrowers with an average mortgage of $300,000 will have to pay an extra $49 a month.

Community spirit is the winner
Public architecture projects demonstrating a winning mix of `community spirit, intensity, humility, beauty and hope for the future' have dominated the nation's top architecture awards for 2010.

From urban design to public, commercial, heritage, interior and sustainable architecture, projects skilfully blending these elements took top honours presented at the 30th Australian Institute of Architects' National Architecture Awards.

A total 33 awards and commendations across 12 categories were awarded to projects in Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and offshore in Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Tanzania, Indonesia and India.

Presenting the awards, Jury Chair Melinda Dodson remarked that it has been a contradictory time for architecture, with economic buoyancy followed by economic downturn.

"As architects we're part of a carbon emitting industry, so it's natural that the jury reflected on the future, applied the 'enduring architecture' test, and the essential test of sustainability", Ms Dodson said.

"We were heartened by the many instances of architects demonstrating leadership, advocacy and innovation.

"Projects where a positive transformative act had occurred, resulting in new ideas for the profession and for the community about architecture; architects doing ordinary things in extraordinary ways.

Ms Dodson said that while the 2009 jury worried about a lack of expenditure on public urban design projects, in 2010 the opposite was true.

As a result, the City of Sydney and Australian public emerged as this year's big winners, with five projects commissioned by the council picking up major awards. Surry Hills Library and Community Centre in Sydney by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp (fjmt) received a National Award for Public Architecture and a National Award for Sustainable Architecture.

The much used and enjoyed Pirrama Park at Pyrmont Hill by Thalis Architecture + Urban Projects/Aspect Studios/CAB received the Walter Burley Griffin Award for Urban Design, while the equally well-frequented Paddington Reservoir Gardens by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer with JMD Design and the City of Sydney received a National Award for Urban Design and National Award for Heritage.

Australia's top award for international architecture, the Jørn Utzøn Award for International Architecture, was awarded to a revolutionary, naturally ventilated 66-storey apartment building in Bangkok, The Met, by Singapore-based practice WOHA.

In total six international projects received Awards and Commendations, including an orphanage in Tanzania, and "extraordinary" house for one of the world's top designers in Japan.

For the first time in the history of the national awards, Australia's most prestigious residential award - the Robin Boyd Award for Residential Architecture - Houses, was presented to a Tasmanian practice and house - the Trial Bay House by Hobart practice HBV Architects. The jury commented that this "exceptional house may be one with such calmness and serenity that it is hard to leave. The remodelling and additions to the Trial Bay House have created such a house."

The Frederick Romberg Award for Residential Architecture - Multiple Housing was presented to Brisbane-based practice Donovan Hill for the Seaspray Resort and Spa at Zilzie in Queensland. The practice also picked up a National Award for Residential Architecture - Houses for their Z House in Brisbane.

In another win for Tasmania, a National Award for Small Project Architecture was presented to the Strangio House by Maria Gigney Architects, with the jury saying "the creative and sensitive conversion of a 170 year old stone barn into a compact but exciting contemporary residence is a superb example of how to reuse old building stock".

House prices plateau

After a run of increases, house prices in Australia's capital cities remained flat through the September quarter, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Preliminary estimates show the price index for established houses rose 0.1 per cent in the September quarter 2010. This result follows five consecutive quarters of quarterly increases in the eight capital cities index.

Through the year to September quarter 2010, the index has increased 11.5 per cent.

Prices rose in Melbourne (up by 2.7 per cent), Perth (up 0.4 per cent) and Darwin (up 0.3 per cent) and decreased in Sydney (down 0.9 per cent), Brisbane (down 2.1 per cent), Adelaide (-1.4 per cent), Hobart (-1.4 per cent) and Canberra (-0.4 per cent).

Through the year to September quarter 2010, the index increased 11.5 per cent.

Time to go, e-waste

How many old mobile phones, printer cartridges and dead batteries do you have lying around your home or office? Next week could be the perfect time to finally get rid of them, as National Recycling Week (November 8 - 14) has e-waste in its sights.

About 6,000 tonnes of household batteries end up in landfill each year making them one of the most common forms of hazardous waste disposed of by Australian households, according to environment group Planet Ark.

Together with local councils across Australia, Planet Ark are encouraging residents to round up their used and unwanted batteries, printer cartridges and mobile phones and take them to local collection points for recycling.

"As well as eliminating the risk of landfill environmental contamination, recycling electronic products saves resources as many of the heavy metals contained within these items can be recovered and used to make new products."

Residents can find local battery recycling options on their local Council's page of Planet Ark's website - a service which provides reuse, recycling and safe disposal information for more than 32 different materials ranging from aluminium cans to x-ray film.

"Of the 1,400 e-waste recycling enquiries which Planet Ark receives each day, over 800 relate to household batteries, printer cartridges and mobile phones," says Planet Ark's Manager of Recycling Programs, Janet Sparrow.

"We're really pleased to see so many Australians actively searching for e-waste recycling solutions and we encourage residents who are unsure how to recycle their electronic products to visit Recycling Near You."

"Australia Post offers free recycling of printer cartridges and mobile phones through the `Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' and MobileMuster programs," says Sparrow.

"To recycle your used printer cartridges, place them in the `Cartridges 4 Planet Ark' recycling bins located in store. Mobile phones and accessories can be placed in a MobileMuster Reply Paid satchel which residents can collect at the counter and post in any street posting box."

For further information about any of Planet Ark's National Recycling Week initiatives, visit the PlanetArk website or call the National Recycling Hotline on 1300 733 712.

Surfing the net on top of the world

You think it's hard getting customer service to connect your home phone? Try lodging a complaint from Mount Everest.

Once a gruelling trek requiring courage, strength, and a strong resistance to the adverse effects of total isolation, it is now possible to surf the internet and make video calls through a 3G network set up by a Nepalese telecommunications network around Everest base camp.

Even though less than one third of Nepal's population has access to telecommunications services, Ncell, a subset of Swedish owned company TeliaSonera, will provide coverage for climbers and trekkers all the way to the summit of the world's highest mountain, the UK's BBC reported recently.

The company has also reportedly announced that over the next year it would invest more than AU$100m to boost mobile coverage across the country.

Prose by any other name would sell as sweet

It seems bright colours and nonsensical catchphrases are no longer the selling trump cards they once were.

In a throwback to a more elegant and interesting time, an estate agency in the UK has banned "meaningless jargon and clichés", and had its staff undertake a poetry course to bring more inspiration to their sales material, the UK Telegraph reported recently.

The agency has since featured poems, writing and haikus (a Japanese form of poetry) in listings and on their website.

The Telegraph reports that an oceanfront apartment, originally described as "spacious, high quality, and within short walking distance of local shops", re-emerged as:

"The first thing you see is the sea meeting the sky; like old comrades they share a warm embrace. Coats of armour; the cornice lines up. Without feeling lonely, the room has an echo. Ornate surroundings, the fire begs a match."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 29 October 2010
2010 Sydney to Gong Ride

A Challenge within a Challenge

The Gong Ride is a one of a kind fundraising event. You can pedal 90km from Sydney to Wollongong on any day of the year but it's only on the first Sunday of November that you'll experience the camaraderie, fellowship, unity, safety, scenery and sense of achievement for pedalling in support of people living with MS. But be quick because numbers have been capped so places are limited! To maintain the safety and enjoyment of participants, local residents and other road users and in consultation with the NSW Police and the RTA, the event will be capped at 10,000.

More Information

Planning key to the city

Urban density and long-term strategic planning are essential if Australian cities are to meet the challenges of increased population, traffic congestion, water shortages and climate change, a report has found.

The ADC Cities Report, which is the outcome of the ADC Cities Summit that was produced by ADC Forum earlier this year, urges governments to rethink their approach to urban planning to address these challenges and maintain the liveability of our cities.

"We need to focus on better cities, not necessarily bigger cities," said one of the authors of the report, John Stanley, Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney.

"Increasing density in the middle suburbs, around public transport corridors, will drastically improve the efficiency of our cities while maintaining their liveability."

A key recommendation is the establishment of a National Centre for Cities, which would provide policy and planning advice to all levels of government and promote community involvement in policy and planning for our cities.

"Australian cities are facing myriad and complex challenges that require a long-term strategic approach with strong community engagement," Professor Stanley said.

"The establishment of a National Centre for Cities would allow these issues to be considered in a way that looks beyond election cycles."

Dr Ian Winter, Executive Director Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute agreed.
"It is critical that Australia invests nationally in the high quality research that is needed to underpin high quality urban policy development", Dr Winter said.

The Report addresses interconnected issues such as transportation, housing, productivity, infrastructure, environment, population, urban design, social inclusion and governance.

Along with increased urban density, there is a need to focus on enhancing the existing villages within our cities, embrace water sensitive development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, better utilise existing infrastructure and consider the development of new cities.

"We need to look beyond our existing cities and consider the expansion of our regional centres, as well as the development of whole new cities," Professor Stanley said.

"There is a case for resourced-based cities in the north west, which could be closely linked to our regional neighbours, while a high-speed train in the east coast corridor could turn regional centres into major cities."

Sunny future for solar industry

The sun will shine out of Newcastle, when an ambitious new solar project goes online, the CSIRO announced this week.

CSIRO has this week begun installing 450 large mirrors, called heliostats, for Australia's largest solar-thermal tower system at the CSIRO National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales.

The tower is designed to demonstrate that, after the cost of carbon is taken into account, electricity can be generated by sun-power at the same or less cost than fossil fuel-generated electricity.

Creating 2.4 x 1.8m panels of glass mirrors for a solar field is no easy feat. The glass needs to be a specific concave shape to achieve a highly accurate reflection point and strong enough to withstand extreme weather events.

Once installed, the heliostats will concentrate the sun's rays to create temperatures of up to 1000°C.

The heliostats have a lightweight steel frame with a unique, simple design, specially created for mass production for the commercial market. The units are smaller than many heliostats currently being used around the world, but just as efficient, more cost effective and much easier to install.

CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship Director, Dr Alex Wonhas, said the economical design of the heliostats will also make solar fields more cost effective to build and operate.

"It's a local idea generated by CSIRO and manufactured by a local company, which will have global impact," Dr Wonhas said.

"We hope that one day we will see these economical heliostats used in solar fields all over Australia and the world."

The heliostat field is part of CSIRO's new solar Brayton Cycle project - a solar tower and field that generates electricity from just the air and sun. The heliostats are part of an advanced new solar technology developed by CSIRO and manufactured by Central Coast company, Performance Engineering Group.

The project has been supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) as part of the Clean Energy Initiative.

Loans for renovations
Personal loans are normally associated with cars, holidays and debt consolidation, but people are now using them to fund renovations as well, according to Aussie Home Loans.

In June, almost one in five people (18 per cent) who settled a personal loan with Aussie were using it for that purpose, up from 12 per cent in the previous month.

The numbers have been steadily growing over the past year, according to Aussie founder and Executive Chairman John Symond, who remarked that personal loans are an effective way of managing larger credit.

"A personal loan is a simple easy way to finance larger cost items such as a new kitchen, or other renovations which improve the value of the home," Mr Symond said.

"But most importantly, they provide a controlled means of repaying the debt so it is paid off as quickly as possible in order to minimise interest costs."

Mr Symond cautioned that homeowners thinking about going down the personal loan path for their home improvements need to ensure they are not over-capitalising on their home.

"As long as you do your sums to ensure you are not over investing in the cost of improvements you can actually end up paying less total interest by using a personal loan because you are set to repay the debt over a shorter loan term," he said.

"The rule of thumb is 'time beats rate', meaning a loan paid off faster over less time, even if it is a higher interest rate is often better than the reverse."

For example borrowing $20K for renovations could cost (in interest paid):

* Personal Loan (at 14.49% over 5 years) $8,227.68
* Credit Card (at 16.16% minimum repayments) $22,775.17
* Home Loan (at 6.50% over 30 years) $25,508.90

Mr Symond suggested that using your home loan to fund purchases is not necessarily the smartest move.

"Unless you pay it off quickly you could end up paying around three times more than on a personal loan", he warned.

"Sometimes a redraw on your home loan can be cheaper than a personal loan but only if you pay it off quickly which clearly not everyone does.

"Leaving it for the normal term is actually a very expensive form of credit because you may be paying a great deal more interest than with a personal loan", he concluded.

Lighten up - naturally

Do you let the sun brighten up your home, or simply rely on electricity to take care of it?

Apart from causing your skin to produce vitamin D (which has a vast array of medical benefits), natural sunlight will improve your health, vision and mood as well as saving you money on lighting and air conditioning bills.

Allowing natural sunlight into homes has been shown to provide a number of benefits, including -

Improvement in moods and attitude, including a decrease in the severity of clinical depression

Better actual colour rendering (colours are "true to the eye")

Reduced eyestrain

Reduced energy waste from electric lighting or air conditioning

Bringing natural light indoors can be easy - try adding more windows, or replacing walls and doors with glass. Alternatively, skylights are ideal for turning dark and gloomy areas into bright places to enjoy.

Fixed skylights will provide you with the full benefit of the light, but no ventilation, so are ideal for hallways and stairs. On the other hand, opening or ventilated skylights are better for installing in a bathroom, bedroom or kitchen. Some manufacturers even offer skylights with exhaust fans to remove smoke or steam directly into the atmosphere rather than into the roof cavity.

Most suppliers these days offer different glazings which provide radiant heat block, UV ray protection and noise reduction. For those days when the heat is too much, or the light too bright, there is a range of blinds that can be operated either electrically or manually.

The main types of skylights are:

Traditional, fixed skylights with either an acrylic dome or polycarbonate cover on the roof.

Ventilated skylights, which allow ventilation through the roof to the outside and provide living areas with fresh air. These can be operated using either handle, rod or remote control.

Tubular skylights, also known as sun-tubes, which feed light directly into small locations (such as hallways, cupboards or lavatories) where you otherwise may need to use an electric light during the day.

Fire-rated skylights, which are made with fire retardant materials.

Whatever your need or situation, it seems that innovation and technology are being applied to make it possible to have natural lighting anywhere in your house, together with ease of installation, weatherproofing and security.

Not a half-baked idea
There is definitely an art to baking a good loaf of bread. Perhaps that is what inspired designer Andere Monjo to cook up a dinner set you can eat once you've finished your meal. Consisting of plates, bowls, cutlery and napkins, the Baked Table collection is made of a basic flour and water bread mix, then decorated with seeds to create the appearance of embroidery patterns.
Three beds, two baths, one ghost

With Halloween this Sunday night, our streets are bound to be filled with little horrors roaming from door to door in search of the great candy haul. While many of us are happy to have spooks roaming the streets for one night a year, most don't take as kindly to the idea of sharing a house with ghosts and ghouls all year round.

But for those craving a slice of the macabre pie at home and looking for a good study source on the topic, a few websites have materialised in front of our eyes listing a vast array of haunted houses. is one example, while the British Tourist Board cheerfully calculates that there are at least 10,000 haunted places in the country, and the Haunted Britain website lists a top 101 ranging from the limping butler of the BBC's broadcasting house to the spectral ape of Athelhampton Hall in Dorset.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 22 October 2010
A Taste of Viva La Gong

Enjoy a taste of the Viva La Gong Festival with a special preview on Saturday 30 October at the Crown St Mall Amphitheatre from 12 noon-2pm.

Riogh is a six-piece ensemble specialising in Irish and Celtic music, combining classic ballads and upbeat favourites with a fresh take and contemporary sound. Featuring some of the country's finest musicians, Riogh is fast becoming a `must see' in the Australian Folk scene - from classic Irish ballads to Celtic jigs and modern pop tunes, there's something for everyone! Their soaring harmonies and infectious melodies will transport you to another time and place.

Pipeline bursts with building work
Building orders that have been `in the pipeline' for the last twelve months have now resulted in a solid stream of work, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The figures show that the seasonally adjusted value of total building work done in the June 2010 quarter rose 5.7 per cent, to $21,571.8m, following a rise of 7.3 per cent in the March quarter.

New residential building work done rose by 9.4 per cent to $10,181.7m in the June 2010 quarter.

Work done on new houses increased 7.7 per cent to $6,898.4m, while new `other residential' building rose 13.1 per cent to $3,283.3m. Alterations and additions rose 1.8 per cent to $1,660.4m.

Excluding alterations and additions, new residential building lifted 8.7 per cent in the June quarter, which is the fastest rate of growth since the September quarter 2001.

The volume of work done on major alterations and additions rose for a fourth consecutive quarter in June, up by 1.8 percent, although the rate of growth has slowed relative to earlier quarters.

In the June 2010 quarter, seasonally adjusted new residential work done increased by 7.5 per cent in NSW, 8.9 per cent in Victoria, 4.6 per cent in South Australia, 0.2 per cent in Tasmania, 11.5 per cent in Queensland, 5.3 per cent in Western Australia and 7.2 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory.

In original terms new residential work done was 12 per cent higher in the Northern Territory compared to the June quarter of last year.

Aussies working fewer hours

The long-held notion that Australians are spending longer hours at work has been challenged by new research showing the country's 11.3 million workers spend less time in the office than they did ten years ago.

While millions of Australians feel they are working longer than ever before, the Bankwest "Working Times" report shows full time workers put in an average 41.4 hours a week over the past year to August 2010, compared with 42.7 hours a week a decade ago - representing a 1.3 hour decrease in hours worked over the decade.

This has handed Australians back an equivalent of more than eight working days over the course of the year compared to 2000.

The research also showed that small business owners worked the longest hours in Australia (50.7 hours), while government employees in the public sector worked fewer hours than other Australians (36.8 hours).

Once again Gen-Y bucked the trend, working fewer hours than any other age group in Australia, at an age when traditionally Australians worked longer hours in a bid to try and establish their careers.

Bankwest Business Chief Executive Ian Corfield said the Bankwest analysis of the latest quarterly labour force data openly challenges what many Australians have long taken for granted - that we are all working longer and harder than ever before.

"I'm sure many of us would be astounded to learn that as a nation we each are actually working fewer hours than we were back in 2000," Mr Corfield said.

"Some of this appears due to Gen-Ys who have opted for work-life balance at an age when people traditionally worked long hours to try and get ahead and establish in their careers.

"I think there's little doubt that many of us are working harder than ever before, but our research shows this doesn't mean we are necessarily working longer.

"The thing to remember of course is that for many of us the day doesn't end when we switch off the computer and go home, many Australians are still working with blackberries and laptop computers at home at night and over the weekend.

"Even so, our research shows we are actually spending 68 hours less in the office every year, which equates to more than eight working days off compared to 2000.

The major employment trend over the past decade has been a shift into part-time from full-time work. Now, 30 per cent of workers are employed part-time, compared to 27 per cent a decade ago. The average hours worked by part-timers has increased by 0.9 hours per week over the past decade from 16.1 to 17.0 hours per week.

The average hours of all workers - both full-time and part-time - has fallen by 1.5 hours per week over the past decade from 35.6 hours in August 2000 to 34.1 hours currently.

Land sales ease

Land sales eased in most Australian capital cities over the June 2010 quarter, according to the latest residential land report from the Housing Building Association (HIA) and property information and analytics provider

The weighted median residential land value for Australia eased by 3.6 per cent over the quarter, but was up 2 per cent over the year to June.

Sydney remains the most expensive residential land market in the nation with a median value of $280,000. The Sunshine Coast in Queensland is the second most expensive land market with a median value of $261,750, followed by the Gold Coast ($235,000), Richmond Tweed ($228,700) in New South Wales, and Perth ($227,000).

There are twelve markets across Australia with median land values of $100,000 or less. The most affordable land market in Australia is the Mallee region of Victoria ($72,250), followed by the Murray Lands ($75,000) and South East ($78,850) regions in South Australia, and the Mersey-Lyell ($80,000) and Southern ($87,000) regions in Tasmania. senior research analyst Cameron Kusher said falling land volumes and values are mirroring the experience of the established housing market.

"Values of established residential dwellings have been easing in recent months, as have volumes, and the market for vacant land is experiencing a similar slowdown", Mr Kusher said.

"Despite the fact that sales volumes have fallen, it does not necessarily indicate falling demand and has more to do with affordability factors and the high price of serviceable land.

"Australia's growing population is providing plenty of demand for vacant land, the issue is the price and location of the available land."

Mr Kusher anticipates that the weakness in sales activity for vacant land will persist over the September quarter.

"Although economic indicators such as employment and consumer confidence are positive, the key housing market data including: building approvals, housing finance and values of houses and units are all flat or falling.

"Overall, this data suggests that sales activity for vacant land will continue to soften over the coming months," Cameron Kusher said.

LG to compensate for energy efficiency

Consumers have just a few weeks left to take advantage of an offer of compensation from whitegoods manufacturer LG on certain models of refrigerators, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warned this week.

LG Australia was found to have breached the Trade Practices Act 1974 by misrepresenting the Comparative Energy Consumption (CEC) of various refrigerator models.

Over the course of 2007 and 2009, LG applied for energy label registrations for three refrigerator models, all of which included an energy saving feature which switches the refrigerator to a more energy efficient mode of operation, storage mode, when it is left for a sustained period without opening the refrigerator door.

LG did not remove or disable the storage mode during testing prior to applying for the energy label registrations. These initial tests indicated a CEC of 738kWh/year. Subsequent tests conducted by LG showed a CEC of 820kWh/year when storage mode is disabled.

ACCC conducted an investigation as to whether LG Australia's marketing of the various models with a CEC of 738kWh/year gave rise to concerns under the Act. In particular, the Commission was concerned that:

LG may have represented that the CEC of the various models was 738kWh/year when it was not
LG may have represented that the CEC of the various models was significantly lower that it was
LG may have misled the public as to the energy efficient characteristics of the various models, and

LG's compliance program did not pick up and/or prevent the conduct from occurring.

"The cost of electricity is paramount to all consumers in Australia such that energy efficiency claims can significantly influence consumer purchasing decisions," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said this week.

"Companies need to have in place measures to ensure their claims are accurate."

In March 2010, LG Australia announced that it would offer all consumers who bought one of the refrigerator models compensation. As part of the undertaking, LG will keep this compensation offer open until at least November 2010.

In addition, LG has undertaken to establish and implement an upgraded trade practices law compliance program, and conduct additional testing on a selection of refrigerators, televisions, clothes washers, clothes dryers and dishwashers prior to release into the Australian market.

True colours

Like taxes, damage to crockery is a part of life and we always seem to end up a few plates or cups short. Not any more, however, since CMYK tableware - based on the color model cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black) - transforms the inevitable into the imaginative, by turning broken crockery into a work of art.

Made with coloured ceramic (styled in CMYK) and coated with a white glaze, the tableware shows its true colours when the plate is cracked, chipped or worn down over time.

Not a bad move

The richest man in the country that brought Bollywood to the World has now brought us perhaps one of the most extravagant houses in the world.

Fifty-three-year-old oil tycoon Mukesh Ambani isn't just the richest man in India, he is also the fourth richest man in the world, which is possibly why the UK Telegraph reported recently he has spared no expense on his new home in Mumbai.

Standing 27 storeys high and worth over AU$1.07B, the building contains a health club, gym, ballroom, guestrooms, a range of lounges, 50-seat cinema and requires 600 staff to keep things in order.

For a breath of fresh air, there is the elevated garden with ceiling space to accommodate small trees; and for guests there are three helipads on the roof and enough underground parking for 160 cars.