Thursday, January 28, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 29 January 2010
Life is short....

"Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn't stop to enjoy it."

~William Feather~

Why do we move?

Whether they own or rent their home, most Australians find that both moving house and the condition of their housing impact significantly on their quality of life, according to a recent study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The research, entitled Housing Mobility and Conditions, 2007-08, found that Australians often choose to change their housing at particular points in their life cycle, such as when they get married or have children, because of employment, or due to lifestyle preferences.

They may also move because of the expiry of rental leases or because particular forms of housing become less affordable.

The study found that a major factor in the drive to move is that what is suitable housing at one stage of people's lives may not meet their needs at another.

In 2007-08, 43 per cent of respondents had moved in the 5 years prior to being interviewed. Of these, 8 per cent had moved from interstate or overseas, 45 per cent had moved from a different suburb / locality, and 47 per cent relocated within the same suburb/locality.

Private renter households were most likely to have moved in the last 5 years (85 per cent of reference persons), and owners without a mortgage the least likely (15 per cent). Renters from state and territory housing authorities were less than half as likely to have moved in the last 5 years as private renters (37 per cent of reference persons).

For recent movers, the most common reasons for moving to their current dwelling were: purchased own dwelling (17 per cent); wanted a bigger or better home (16 per cent); and lifestyle / other reasons (14 per cent).

Other reasons included neighbourhood reasons, migration to Australia and returning from living overseas.

Residential building recovers

Residential building activity picked up in the September 2009 quarter, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Seasonally adjusted work done on new residential dwellings increased by 2.8 per cent in the September 2009 quarter, to an annualised worth of $36.3 billion.

This was 3.9 per cent down on the September 2008 quarter and over 9 per cent lower than the previous cyclical peak seen back in early 2004.

Work done on detached houses increased by 6.5 per cent over the September 2009 quarter but work done on `other residential building' dropped by 5.5 per cent.

Seasonally adjusted new residential work commenced in the September 2009 quarter increased by 5.8 per cent, the first rise since mid 2008.

Housing Industry Association Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale said that 2009/10 is looking like it will be a healthier year for new residential construction.

"First home buyer-related activity, the Social Housing Initiative, and the lagged impact of very low mortgage rates will combine to generate growth in new residential work done in 2009/10", Dale said.

There was also brighter news on the renovations front in the September 2009 quarter with the volume of work done on major alterations and additions increasing by 3.9 per cent following four consecutive quarters of decline.

"The renovations sector should continue to recover after a soft 2008/09 as labour market conditions improve further and gains in home prices bolster confidence" he concluded.

In the September 2009 quarter seasonally adjusted new residential work done increased in every state and territory with the exception of Western Australia.

New residential work done increased by 6 per cent in Queensland, 4.5 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory, 3 per cent in Victoria, 2.9 per cent in the Northern Territory, 2.8 per cent in New South Wales, 0.3 per cent in South Australia, and 0.2 per cent in Tasmania. Work done fell by 1.2 per cent in Western Australia.

Top 10 tips for avoiding strata strife

Living in close proximity with others can be difficult, especially if you live in an apartment block with thin walls, annoying neighbours, or frequently find your car space being used by someone else.

NSW Minister for Fair Trading Virginia Judge said this week that requests for mediation in strata disputes in NSW alone had risen from 1,273 in 2008 to 1,405 in 2009 - an increase of almost 10 per cent.

"Complaints last year ranged from the ordinary to the off-the-wall," Ms Judge said.

"You can understand differences of opinion over processes - but some behaviour is just peculiar."

Some of the more unusual complaints received by Fair Trading last year included:

  • A long-running and personal feud between neighbours peaking with one positioning what the adjoining owner described as an "evil-looking effigy" in his courtyard so that it stared directly into his bedroom
  • A complaint made against an owner whose large dogs and particularly noisy pet geese were disturbing other owners, resulting in threats that the geese would help save his weekly dog food bill, and
  • High-rise residential tower residents dropping tables, chairs, lit cigarettes and dirty nappies onto the pavement outside the ground level cafĂ© and shops.

Ms Judge said the good news was that while there was an increase in mediation requests last year, they represent a tiny fraction of the State's 65,000 strata schemes.

"People want to get along. Whether you live in a unit, a duplex or a house, being happy in your home and having a sense of community is so important," she said.

"Exercising commonsense and your responsibilities as well as your rights will help avoid frayed nerves."

Ms Judge said the most common bugbears were associated with alterations to common property, breaches of by-laws, relationships with managing agents and meeting procedures.

Ms Judge said NSW Fair Trading's Top 10 Tips for Strata Living are:

  1. Get involved - Decisions are made at meetings so get involved. Make your vote count. Use your proxy if you can't attend.
  2. Know the rules - find out the strata management requirements for your state.
  3. Looks are deceiving - get approvals before altering common property. It doesn't matter that it's your courtyard, if it's common property, it's owned by everyone.
  4. What will the neighbours think? - be mindful of others. Noise can be annoying - as is taking up visitor parking with your vehicles.
  5. Protect your investment - maintain common property. If it's getting run down, put up a motion at a meeting for specific works to be done.
  6. Talk first - talk to your neighbours if there is a problem. They may not realise their actions are causing a nuisance.
  7. It's your strata scheme - your strata managing agent works for you. If you're not happy with their performance, have a meeting and vote to instruct them on how you want them to manage your scheme.
  8. If you don't like it, change it - by-laws are there to guide the behaviour of owners and tenants. If the by-laws aren't working, change them. You do this by putting a motion with the new by-law to a general meeting, getting over 75 per cent to vote for it, then registering the by-law at the Land and Property Management Authority.
  9. Don't let it fester - pursue by-law breaches. If talking has not resolved a by-law breach, contact your executive committee or strata managing agent to issue a Notice to Comply with a By-law. This can lead to a fine of up to $550. You may also want to apply for mediation.
  10. Be flexible - there may be times you need to give a little more leeway to accommodate different personalities.
D+ for `DA's

Development assessment processes in Australia aren't making the grade, according to new research from the Residential Development Council (RDC) and the Property Council of Australia (PCA).

The RDC/PCA's Development Assessment Forum (DAF) Reform Implementation Report Card reveals that Australia underperforms in the delivery of efficient, fair and consistent planning and development assessment systems.

The `Report Card' identifies progress on development assessment reform across the states and the necessary steps that must be taken to fully implement the 10 Leading Practice Principles developed by the DAF to improve development assessment processes.

Peter Verwer, chief executive of the Property Council of Australia, said, that over the last 30 years, users of the planning system have experienced growing complexity and delays in development assessment processes have increased dramatically.

"It is imperative that planning systems can effectively underpin the strategies of major cities across the country", Mr Verwer said.

"If cities are to be the powerhouses of the economy, then the frameworks they operate within must operate efficiently."

RDC executive director Caryn Kakas said the `report card' shows which states are successfully advancing development assessment reform as identified by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), and which states are lagging.

"The announcement of planning reform through COAG has provided us with a path to improving systems nationally," Ms Kakas said.

"However, we need to ensure these announcements are carried through and the next steps are already being considered if we are to achieve the necessary reform.

"Australia's planning system has long struggled to pass the test, but there is still hope for it to top the class."

Who's been sleeping in my bed?

There's nothing quite like jumping into a heated bed on a freezing cold night.

While we're in the middle of a scorching summer, one hotel chain in chillier-than-ever Britain is trialing a more humanistic approach to beating the winter chills than the electric blanket or hot water bottle.

This month, if requested, a willing staff member in 3 participating Holiday Inn hotels will dress in an all-in-one fleece sleeper suit before slipping between the sheets to get the bed nice and toasty before guests arrive, local press reported recently.

The bed warmer will have a thermometer on hand to measure the required 20 degrees Celsius, be fully dressed and have their hair covered, although there is no confirmation as yet if they will have showered before climbing between the sheets.

Switch your furniture

Outer space may be the final frontier, but inner space is a quest we face frequently in our homes.

Belgian designer Ellen Ectors has created SwiTCH to take on the problem that bulky desks, chairs and tables so often bring with them.

An outer cube made from massif oak has an arc carved from the inside which is lined with padded leather for comfort, and a large leather ball filled with polyether foam rolls easily away into the gap. The cube can be used as a table with the ball rolling out to function as a seat, or can be tipped on its side with the ball inside being used as a recliner or a shallow desk.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 22 January 2010
Come and Celebrate Australia Day in Wollongong!

A day long celebration starting from 8am with aquathon, surf rescue water displays, sand sculpture and thong throwing competitions, stalls, amusement rides to hands-on activities and action in every direction for both children and adults alike. The main stage will come alive with talented musicians and dancers whilst costumed characters will roam the event area bringing colour and fun to the atmosphere.

There will be something for everyone including mock Surf Life Saving helicopter rescues in Wollongong harbour and more stalls and more challenging amusement rides for the young at heart in Lang Park.

The evening culminates with a spectacular fireworks display proudly presented by Integral Energy off the southern breakwater of Wollongong harbour.

Come and enjoy the fun!

Although road closures are in place from 5am to 10.15pm, a free park n ride bus service is provided from JJ Kelly Park and Vikings Oval to the venue to make parking easy and convenient.

Event Begins at: 8:00 AM Event Ends at: 9:00 PM
The Event is on: Tuesday, 26 January 2010
The Event will be Held at: Wollongong Harbour
Event Type: Competitive Sports Events, Family Fun Day, Fireworks, Food & BBQ's, Music & Entertainment, Novelty Events, Official Ceremonies
This Event is Suitable for: Family

Double-digit growth in 2009

Home prices rose by more than ten per cent in 2009, according to the latest figures released by RP Data.

The RP Data-Rismark Home Value Index shows that Australian home prices rose by 1.1 per cent in November with 11.3 per cent cumulative growth in first 11 months of 2009.

The results were driven by robust gains in Sydney (up 11.6 per cent for the year) and Melbourne (up 17.0 per cent). Most of the other capital cities have performed strongly with Darwin (up 17.9 per cent) leading the way, followed by Canberra (10.9 per cent), Brisbane (6.9 per cent), Perth (6.5 per cent) and Adelaide (5.7 per cent).

In the three months to end November, home values in Melbourne and Sydney outperformed most other capitals rising by 4.5 per cent and 3.2 per cent, respectively.

Over the year-to-date, Melbourne has been Australia's best performing capital city outside of Darwin, generating exceptional capital gains of 17.0 per cent. Sydney home values have increased by more than 1 per cent per month with cumulative growth of 11.6 per cent.

Managing Director of Rismark International, Christopher Joye, remarked that Australia's housing market has surprised on the upside with impressive double-digit capital gains in the year-to-date.

"At the end of 2008 most forecasters were predicting substantial house price falls in the following 12 months - almost all of them were proven wrong." Research Director Tim Lawless suggested that the November results highlight that the Australian market may be less sensitive to interest rate rises and the removal of Government stimulus than many would have thought.

"The strong November results were achieved despite the 25 basis point lifts in the official cash rate in October and November as well as the wind back of the boost to the First Home Owners Grant which was halved on the first of October", Lawless said.

"First home buyers have been trending down since peaking in May '09 and the gap is being filled by upgraders and investors who are much less sensitive to rate rises and the level of stimulus."

Christopher Joye agreed.

"First time buyers have been fading from the market and the withdrawal of the boost has yet to have any discernible impact on price growth", Joye said.

"The key driver of Australian housing demand in the latter half of the year appears to have been up-graders and investors.

"We expect this trend to continue in 2010."

He said that as mortgage rates normalise to around 7-8 per cent, house price growth is likely to taper back to more modest single-digit levels in 2010.

"Since many borrowers did not reduce their mortgage repayments in 2008-09 when the RBA cut rates by circa 40 per cent, household balance-sheets should be well positioned to absorb higher costs", he predicted.

The median Australian home price in all capital cities over the three months to end November was $439,800 (including houses and units).

The national median dwelling price for all regions across Australia was $395,000*.

The median Australian house price in capital cities is $470,000 while the median unit price is $390,000.

The most expensive houses, based on median price, are in Sydney ($550,000), followed by Canberra ($535,000), Darwin ($501,000), Melbourne ($486,400), Perth ($485,000), Brisbane ($449,850), Adelaide ($372,000) and Hobart ($330,000).

Sydney also has the most expensive unit market with a median price of ($417,000). Melbourne follows at $402,500, then Canberra ($390,000), Perth ($385,000), Brisbane ($375,000), Darwin ($357,000), Adelaide ($310,000) and Hobart ($270,750).

In the year-to-date, units (+12.5 per cent) outperformed houses (+10.9 per cent) presumably due to the influence of the first time buyers' boost.

National rental yields tapered slightly in November with the gross annualised rental yield for units being 4.9 per cent while house yields are lower at 4.1 per cent.

*Note: these are the `middle value' or 50th percentile median prices based on the pooled sales over the last three months.

Focus on sustainable cities

Property industry leaders will gather in Melbourne next month to determine how productive, healthy, profitable green buildings will become the cornerstone of a renewed push for sustainable cities.

More than 1000 leading Australian and international property industry experts are expected to attend the annual Green Cities 2010 conference, to be held in Melbourne from February 21-24.

A joint initiative of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and the Property Council of Australia, Green Cities 2010 is the largest and most influential green building conference in the Asia Pacific region.

Now in its fourth year, Green Cities 2010 will feature panel discussions, case studies and debates on how green buildings will deliver greater productivity and occupant health while using less resources and providing higher returns on investment.

GBCA Chief Executive, Romilly Madew, said that with 11 per cent of all CBD office space now Green Star rated and a further 25 per cent (400 buildings) undergoing certification, clear evidence is now available about the positive impact sustainable buildings have on people, places and performance.

"We know that Green Star rated office buildings are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 60 percent. These buildings are commanding higher rents and higher selling prices, they have lower vacancy rates and the occupants of green buildings report higher productivity and lower absenteeism," Ms Madew said.

"With buildings and their users responsible for 23 percent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions, the potential benefits to be gained from developing green cities are enormous."

Property Council Chief Executive, Peter Verwer, remarked that the property industry has taken important steps in sustainable development over the past five years and this is an opportunity to take green building to the next level.

"Sustainable development will only become more important as the pace of urbanisation in Australia continues to accelerate."

Green Cities 2010, sponsored by world-leading property investment managers The Grosvenor Group, will feature international and Australian experts including:

* leading urban designer Malcolm Smith, who will share his experiences in the creation of green precincts such as Stratford City (UK) and Dongtan Ecocity (China)
* US green building specialist Jerry Yudelson
* Elsa Monteiro, head of sustainability at Sonae-Sierra (a Grosvenor Group company)

More detail, including a full program for the conference, is available at

The `Australian dream' could be yours!

If you dream of an Australia Day barbecue in a home that is all your own, right now is a good time to start looking for ways to save the time and money.

It's a new year and a new decade, the perfect reason to take a look at your home loan and repayment strategy to see if any improvements could be made in order to pay it off as soon as possible.

"Offering a fresh start, the New Year is a better time than most, psychologically, for Australians to get off the deck chair and come to the table with a better idea of their goals and how to achieve them", Mortgage Choice senior corporate affairs manager, Kristy Sheppard said recently.

"Summer sunshine puts people in a positive frame of mind and this should be directed into a new year mortgage strategy that both novice and experienced borrowers can take advantage of!"

To help ensure borrowers begin 2010 by taking a few steps closer to being mortgage-free, Mortgage Choice suggests going over the following checklist:

Step 1: Is your current mortgage still the most suitable for you?

Circumstances change, as do your needs. Consider how competitive your lender's interest rate is, what features you are paying for and aren't using, the fees you're forking out for and what kind of costs are associated with switching loans and/or lender. A reputable mortgage broker can offer a no-cost home loan health check to compare your loan to others currently available.

Step 2: Are there ways to pay off your mortgage quicker?

Have you been throwing money into the loan account wherever possible e.g. your yearly tax return or bonus or leftover monthly wage? Every cent counts. Is it possible for you to repay at a faster rate via other methods e.g. paying fortnightly instead of monthly or making the loan a partial offset?

Step 3: Are you interest rate savvy?

Have you been repaying your mortgage as though its interest rate was at least two percentage points higher, preparing yourself for rate rises and in the meantime reducing your loan term and the amount owed? This will encourage a good savings habit and make adjusting to rate rises less burdensome.

Step 4: Is refinancing an option?

If you are struggling with your repayments, consider refinancing the loan over a longer term than you have left. Or, if you've been making extra repayments to reduce your loan amount, you could always refinance the loan so your repayments reflect what you owe on the loan, not the original loan amount.

Step 5: Have you looked at your spending habits?

Are you spending more money than you need to e.g. transport, entertainment, fast food?

Continually list your expenses to see where you can save money and contribute more into your mortgage. Once you have revisited all of the above steps, re-do your budget so you really are beginning the year ahead.

The great wall of chocolate
In a recent campaign to convince residents to eat more sweets, a team of Chinese confectioners has built a 10 metre long replica of the Great Wall of China entirely out of chocolate.

According to local news sources, the miniature wonder consists of solid dark chocolate bricks held in place with white chocolate and is part of an attraction at the World Chocolate Wonderland exhibition and trade show later this month in Beijing.

Up to 80,000kg of chocolate was used to make the display, which also features 560 chocolate Terracotta Warriors - an army that's unlikely to last as long as the original.

An alarmingly devious tyrant

No one wants to get a phone call first thing in the morning, having to be coherent through foggy layers of dream state.

With that as incentive for the recalcitrant `sleeper in', designer Alice Wang has created the Tyrant alarm clock. If you don't wake up when the alarm goes off, it steals your mobile phone, randomly shuffles through your contact list and calls someone every three minutes after the desired wake up time.

Sleepyheads will not only have to brave early morning conversations, they'll have to explain why they're the one making the call.

This could be right up your alley

In a country where bigger is often better, the smaller things still pull some hefty weight.

New York's skinniest home, offering two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a list of previous owners including a famous poet and an anthropologist, has sold for nearly AU$2.3M, local news hub NY1 reports. The 3 x 12 metre building in Greenwich Village was built in 1873, in a space that was once an alley between two larger homes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Welcome back

"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~

Where will you be living in 2050?

Can you imagine living in a vertical city where the top levels generate solar and wind power to the levels below? This was one of the many intriguing ideas that came to light in a recent competition on how our metropolitan centres could look in the near future.

The national Ideas for Australia's cities 2050+ competition was run by the Australian Institute of Architects' 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale Creative Directors, John Gollings and Ivan Rijavec, to source material for the 2010 exhibition in the Australian Pavilion in Venice.

The team's two-part 'NOW + WHEN Australian Urbanism' exhibition will highlight three of Australia's most interesting urban regions as they are 'NOW', before dramatically representing around seven futuristic urban environments from the competition as they may be 'WHEN' we reach 2050 and beyond.

The competition fired the imagination of Australia's architects and designers, resulting in inspired, possible solutions and imaginative proposals addressing the critical issue of Australian urbanism - examining possibilities across the terrestrial, underwater and airborne realms.

Shortlisted ideas range from proposals for:

* New cities housing between 50,000-100,000 people in current desert areas to address our expected population growth;

* Cities in which urban development is concentrated in 'peripheral' areas, such as large landholdings on university campuses, 'big box' shopping centres, business parks, industrial estates, recreational reserves, and market gardens to establish a series of interlinked, self-sustaining districts dispersed along a transport ring.

* Cities which feature a 'tartan-like texture of pure urban areas (or cells), pure rural cells, and cells which are a hybrid of rural and urban', providing a 'vital flexibility for a sustainable future'.

* Cities designed for 'urban life without fear', based on the belief that 'any design for a good, sustainable city for the 21st century will demand a theory of hope and the desirable'.

* Cities in which 'within tightly controlled boundaries exist Multiple Cities'. Cities which address issues such as: what if a city grows not out, but up or down? What if a city's growth boundary is not on its periphery but at its heart? What if new planning initiatives were introduced governing the use of air space? 'A Green City, where the top plane provides wind and solar energy to power (and cool) the multiple cities below', as well as all food production.

* Cities 'woven into the landscape' - balancing dense human settlement with flora and fauna biodiversity, with major roadways converted into natural landscape corridors.

* Cities hugging the coast from Noosa to Geelong to accommodate population growth and the preferred coastal climate; connected by a 'very fast train running from North Qld to Victoria; pockets of vertical sprawl; new cities in pristine locations such as Botany Bay and the Royal National Park.

The Creative Directors said those shortlisted were far more than hypotheticals. Each uniquely responded to future challenges including population growth, environmental degradation, dwindling resources and climate change. Each entry reflected a highly creative diversity of possibilities fused with a diversity of design that mapped out possible cities of the future.

Co-director Ivan Rijavec, Principal of innovative Australian architectural practice Rijavec Architects, said that the exhibition has spotlighted our most pressing national concern - how we best manage our cities and their future growth.

"We currently have 93 per cent of Australians living in urban environments being affected every living minute by the way in which our cities function", Mr Rijavec said.

"The number of responses received for this competition confirms that in Australia and internationally, urbanism - more than at any other period in history - has become fundamental to our prosperity and critical to our survival."

What's cooking in your kitchen?

LCD/plasma TVs, freestanding stoves and dishwasher drawers were among the most popular additions in many kitchen makeovers in 2009, according to a new report from the Housing Industry Association (HIA).

The HIA Kitchens and Bathrooms Report for 2009/10 reviews the amount of money Australians spend each year on kitchen and bathroom renovations.

It predicts the value of `K&B' installations and renovations will hit a record $12 billion by 2012.

The report surveyed hundreds of small to large businesses in the K&B industry, detailing the average cost of new installations and the types of materials and appliances consumers are demanding in their kitchens and bathrooms.

In 2008/09 there were 130,650 new dwellings started in Australia, valued at an average value of around $260,489. The average value for both a kitchen or bathroom installation was around $14,000.

"One of the strongest growth categories within the kitchen and bathroom sector in recent years has been the use of high-end hardware and storage solutions," Dr Dale said.

"The growth in the use of storage solutions held steady for lazy susans in the 2009 survey, but increased for every other category."

The fastest growth was for soft closing drawers.

"Lift-up door operating systems and touch opening door and drawer systems also grew in popularity", he added.

In terms of kitchen appliances, the greatest increase was for wine cooler/fridges, LCD/plasma TVs, and European freestanding stoves and dishwasher drawers.

The survey found the most popular components replaced in a bathroom makeover were basins, vanity units, tap ware, and tiling. There was also a large increase in semi-frameless shower screens, multiple basins, and multiple showerheads compared to previous surveys.

Under-mount sinks continue to be the fastest growing sink.

The 2009 survey also asked respondents about various materials types and their usage.

"Engineered stone, solid surface and granite bench tops were all in high demand. But there was a decline in usage rates for stainless steel, concrete, and timber bench tops," Harley Dale said.

"Glass and engineered stone splashbacks are on the rise, but there's a decline for granite and tiled splashbacks."

Corner drawer systems and water filtration systems were also a hit, the survey found.

First time homebuyers shun McMansions

First time homebuyers are searching for cheaper and smaller homes located further from city centres in their attempt to break into the housing market, according to a recent survey.

The latest Bankwest/Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia (MFAA) research report also uncovered an unprecedented shift in behaviour among renters, with an increasing number saying they are prepared to forego the lifestyle advantages of renting for the perceived security of buying.

Interestingly, buyers are also increasingly turning their back on super-sized McMansions.

"The financial crisis has changed the aspirations of home buyers, effectively downsizing the great Australian dream," said Phil Naylor, CEO, MFAA.

Mr Naylor said that 47.9 per cent of first time buyers are now looking to purchase a cheaper property than otherwise intended.

The MFAA/Bankwest Home Finance Index canvassed the opinion of 850 people on a range of issues relating to first home buyers.

Mr Naylor said first time buyers have resorted to a number of measures to enable them to enter the property market, such as looking for a smaller property (32.3 per cent) and seeking out an older property rather than moving into a new home (24 per cent).

"While Australia has the largest new home sizes, it seems first time buyers are turning their back on the McMansion dream and are looking at buying a home instead of a super-sized property that makes a statement about their lifestyle or prestige," Mr Naylor said.

Another 31.3 per cent said they are looking for properties further from city centres.

Head of Mortgages at Bankwest, Dean Gillespie, said the survey found 43.8 per cent of first time buyers are toning down their lifestyle and putting money aside in case the economy deteriorates.

"In contrast to claims that first time buyers are likely to default on their loans as interest rates increase, these figures suggest that first time buyers are saving to prevent that from occurring," Mr Gillespie said.

"First time buyers are actively saving to protect themselves from an economic downturn, which suggests people are more strategic than they are given credit for."

Mr Gillespie said about one in five renters were happy to keep renting so they could maintain their current lifestyle and avoid sacrificing home size, location and proximity.

"Some renters seem perfectly happy to continue renting, but they are clearly still in the minority," Mr Gillespie concluded.

A house to fly for?

The Butterfly House is an amazing refurbished home belonging to a family of four in Surrey, England. Inspired by the life cycle of a butterfly, different parts of the house represent each phase from the larval stage (the hallway), through the chrysalis (the staircase and conservatory) to the winged canopies outside that depict the emerged butterfly.

The surreal home is built of timber, Kevlar sails and steel, copper and plastic ducts, as well as about two kilometres of bungee rope, one hundred metres of fibre optic cables and fifty interwoven carbon fibre fishing rods.

Actual butterflies are attracted by plants including lavender and hebe, in a garden that meanders throughout the house.

How much is that garden in the window?

More and more, we're seeing that you don't need a property in the country to grow your own food and in fact, you don't even need a back yard. Many Australians are recognising the benefits of having at least some tomatoes, lettuce and herbs growing on a balcony or in pots.

Window Farms make it even easier. In essence, they are vertical, hydroponic, modular, low-energy, high-yield edible window gardens that you can easily build at home using low-impact recycled materials from your local area.

A Windowfarms project has recently been established, dedicated to helping people all over the world get their vertical gardens growing, as well as providing an online forum for domestic green-thumbs to share ideas, tips and stories. For more information visit