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

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