Thursday, February 18, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 19 February 2010
Random Acts of Kindness Week 15 - 21 February

Random Acts of Kindness Week ends Sunday and it focuses on the spirit of hope and goodness. It is a springboard for action. A time to be open, to act upon thoughts of generosity that arise spontaneously from your heart. Just notice what happens as kindness ripples out!

The week is an invitation for individuals, schools, community groups, service clubs, businesses, health institutions, schools and churches to join hearts and hands to create a better world.

A kind act is "random" when it is unexpected-done simply out of the will to extend goodness, person to person, without expecting anything in return.

Join in the "kindness revolution" today and make a positive difference on this planet that we all call "home."

Lending still high despite falter
Lending for both new and existing dwellings fell by 2.8 per cent in December 2009, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The number of loans for the purchase of established dwellings fell by 5.7 in December, to be down 5.1 per cent on the same time last year.

The number of loans for the construction of dwellings fell by 6.4 per cent in December, to be up 58.4 per cent on the same month last year.

The number of loans for the purchase of new dwellings rose by 3.0 per cent in December, to be up 7.5 per cent up on the same time last year.

The building industry is philosophical about the data.

Peter Jones, Master Builders' Chief Economist, observed that finance for first home buyers has fallen back down to levels seen before the First Home Owner `boost' scheme was introduced.

"Although the recent correction in demand for housing finance comes after a strong growth phase, the housing market will now need upgraders and investors to fill the gap left following reversal of the bring-forward of first home buyer demand associated with the `boost'", he said.

The number of first homebuyer commitments fell by 7.8 per cent to 12,054 in December 2009.

HIA Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale, noted that the level of new home lending is still
historically high, as expected given the monetary and fiscal policy stimulus that was in play through much of last year.

"On a positive note, the combination of federal and state government grants for new housing saw the share of lending for new housing increase significantly, particularly in Victoria", Dale said.

"By making new homes more attractive for first home purchasers, the additional incentives have provided a significant boost for new dwelling starts.

"The tilting of first home grants to new dwellings has lifted both the demand for new homes and the level of new home construction."

In seasonally adjusted terms the total number of owner-occupier loans fell in every state and territory in December 2009 with the exception of the Australian Capital Territory.

The number of loans fell in New South Wales (-6.7 per cent), Victoria (-4.9 per cent), Queensland (-5.6 per cent), South Australia (-6.4 per cent), Western Australia (-2.7 per cent), Tasmania (-4.3 per cent), and the Northern Territory (-6 per cent). The number of loans increased by 0.5 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory.

Set sail safely

It is no wonder shade sails have become popular with Australians wanting to lengthen the amount of time spent outdoors in summer - they are effective, less expensive than most other fixed forms of shading, and look amazing.

Care should be taken, however, to ensure that your new shade sail is an improvement and not an impediment, warns the Building Commission.

While it may seem a quick and easy way to create an outdoor room, careful planning before installation is necessary to avert possible damage from rain and wind.

The Commission cites the example of a consumer who recently had his entire home contents damaged by flood as a direct result of outdoor sailcloth. The shade-sail was properly anchored in place, however the positioning of its brackets meant rainwater run-off to the gutters on the garage roof could not cope with a heavy downpour.

So how to avoid such a calamity?

Like any project, it is important to have a plan. Depending on the size of the shade-sail, its location and purpose, it may require a building permit or a planning permit. It's worth checking with your local council.

For standalone shade sails, the size of the sail, the type of soil into which the posts are being concreted and the height of the posts will determine the depth of concrete footings and the size posts required. As it is a fixed location, be aware of the proximity of overhead powerlines and trees.

For shade-sails that require anchorage, the structure to which the sailcloth is fixed should be considered to ensure it is secure and safe. A shade-sail in windy conditions can generate a lift with enough force to rip away a post or damage a structurally inadequate building to which it is anchored.

The sailcloth can also tear in high winds if not properly erected. While damage to the shade-sail is expensive and inconvenient - even more so is the damage it may do to the structure it's attached to - which is often a home's balcony.

Six per cent of Australian homes have a timber balcony and around two per cent of these are unsafe. Most at-risk are houses built between 1970 and 1990, when balcony development increased and there was some use of inappropriate timber and construction without building approval. So it is often the case that the balcony to which the shade-sail is attached may not be structurally sound.

While do-it-yourself home improvements can be a success, sometimes the adage "safe as houses" is put to the test. However, there are some risk factors that you can check before attaching or anchoring a shade-sail to a balcony, pergola, building or garage:

  • Look for pooling of water on the building's surface
  • Check timber boards, posts and beams for rot
  • Inspect brackets and bolts for signs of rust
  • Ensure materials are not rotted, corroded, loose or unstable.

If you are in doubt about the soundness of the structure to which a shade-sail is attached, always seek the advice of an expert, such as a building surveyor, registered building practitioner or a licensed or registered plumbing practitioner the water shedding capacity for a roof.

Make Grant real, says REIA

The First Home Owner's Grant needs another boost to "make it real" in today's marketplace, the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) said this week.

The REIA is urging the Federal Government to review the amount of the First Home Buyer's Grant (FHOG) in the lead up to this year's Budget, so that it maintains its relativity to when it was introduced in 2000.

REIA President, David Airey said the Institute is calling on the Government to increase the FHOG to $15,000, for both new and established homes, then to index the grant to median house price movements annually.

When the FHOG was introduced in July 2000, the Australian quarterly weighted average median house price was $220,443. The Australian weighted average median house prices in the most recent quarter for which data is available, September 2009, was $481,310.

"The FHOG is one of the most important housing policy instruments in assisting first home buyers with housing affordability but it needs to be relative to the current market", Mr Airey said.

"The median house price has increased by more than $250,000 in less than 10 years and the grant has not maintained relativity."

The contribution of the grant towards the purchase price has more than halved from 3.2 per cent to 1.5 per cent over the period.

As part of a package of measures to address the affordability problem, REIA has proposed that the Commonwealth Government establish a scheme which would encourage young Australians to contribute to voluntary superannuation by allowing access to these resources for the purposes of raising a deposit for a first home.

The scheme would be an adjunct to the First Home Savers Account but would allow flexibility for the saver to decide whether all or part of the voluntary superannuation payments was needed to augment the home purchase.

"Although the Boost has helped the participation of first home buyers in the market, it was a short term measure and we need to be looking at long-term solutions", concluded Mr Airey.

Fixed rate loans hit all-time low

Demand for fixed rate home loans across the country has dropped to a record low, according to loan approval data for Australia's largest independently-owned mortgage broker, Mortgage Choice.

In December 2009, fixed loans accounted for just over 1 per cent of the company's new home loan approvals - a level not seen since it began recording such data in January 2003.

Mortgage Choice senior corporate affairs manager, Kristy Sheppard noted that Australians taking out home loans are looking at the added expense of fixing the interest rate and deciding that at the moment it's just not worth the extra dollars.

"When you look at the comparative cost between fixed and floating rates, it's not at all surprising that almost 99 per cent of our new residential borrowers are choosing variable home loans", Ms Sheppard said.

"Our lender panel's average basic variable interest rate is around one and a half percentage points lower than for the average three-year fixed rate loan, the most popular fixed loan. This equates to $286 per month extra in repayments for a 25-year, $300,000 loan at 7.7 per cent versus 6.2 per cent."

"It appears most new borrowers are looking at the difference between the two loan types and thinking they feel more comfortable paying less and riding the variable rate rollercoaster, despite the almost-certain rate rises coming up this year."

Live where you train

Golfers have long been able to live where they play, now it's the triathletes' turn to live in a setting that meets the needs of their athletic lifestyle.

Residents at the luxury Laurel condominium building in New York have exclusive use of its Triathlon Training Center with its 50-foot infinity edge lap pool with a glass mosaic tile interior and Botticino marble deck. The running, swimming and biking circuit has a custom-designed resistance pool with adjustable current levels and treadmills with magnetic brakes to provide road-like resistance.

Crime doesn't pay the mortgage

Owning a home may be the great American dream, but the lengths to which some will go to achieve it can seem rather more nightmarish.

According to the Tampa Bay Tribune, a 73-year-old local man opted recently to take matters into his own hands to avoid forfeiting on his mortgage repayments. Police have charged the man with robbing three banks, taking around AU$680 each time in order to make the payments. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 15 years in prison for each charge - longer than the length of the average mortgage!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 12 February 2010
The True Meaning of Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is almost upon us! The women are excited to proclaim their love, the men complain about overpriced gifts and single people are getting depressed. Everyone has an opinion about Valentine's Day, but who actually knows how, when and why this holiday originated?

It's great that most people know it has something to do with Valentine, and a thumbs up for those who knew he was a saint, but isn't that somewhat vague? Wouldn't you want to know more about the name you use to refer to your significant other every Feb. 14? Here's one of the theories about the origin of this special day.

"A Renegade Priest "

Valentine was a third-century priest who served under the rule of Roman Emperor Claudius II, who prohibited young men from getting married. The emperor believed that would make them better soldiers, but Valentine continued to secretly marry young couples. He was discovered and sentenced to death. Legend has it that while in prison, Valentine fell in love with a young girl, presumably the jailor's daughter. A day before the persecution, Valentine wrote her a letter and signed it, "From your Valentine."

Written by Bella Yashayev

Land sales and prices surge

The cost of residential land continues to rise nationally, according to a new report showing the median price of raw land jumped 5.7 per cent to $181,158 in the September 2009 quarter.

The report, from building association HIA and property analytics provider, shows a 33 per cent rise in the volume of residential land sales when compared to the same period in 2008.

The Residential Land Report results confirm that there will be a lift in new home starts in 2010, according to HIA Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale.

"The million dollar question is whether a new home building recovery can be sustained beyond this year", Dale says.

"If land is not released in a timely manner in sufficient quantity, then land prices will continue surging and the answer will be a resounding no", he suggests.

Sydney remains the most expensive residential land market in the nation with a median price of $290,000.

Outside the capital cities, the Richmond Tweed region in NSW is the most expensive land market (median price of $255,000), followed by the Sunshine Coast ($241,500), the Gold Coast ($241,500) and the Illawarra region in NSW ($192,500)."

Conversely, there are still thirteen markets across Australia where median land prices sit below the $100,000 mark. The least expensive market is the Murray Lands region in South Australia (median price $69,500), followed by Mallee in Victoria ($70,000), Mersey Lyell in Tasmania ($78,000), and the South East and Northern regions of South Australia ($85,000).

More houses approved in December

Australia's builders are soon going to be even busier, with figures released this week showing more approvals for new homes in December 2009.

Investment housing approvals rose by almost ten per cent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' data.

The total number of dwellings approved in Australia rose 2.2 per cent with Tasmania (up by 21.7 per cent) and Victoria (up 11.1 per cent) recording the largest increases.

Private sector houses rose 3.1 per cent in December 2009 following a fall in November.

Improved figures were recorded in Victoria (a rise of 4.6 per cent), Queensland (up 2.2 per cent), South Australia (0.5 per cent) and Western Australia (3.3 per cent).

The number of approvals for private sector dwellings other than houses rose by 9.1 per cent in December.

The value of approved new residential buildings increased by 3.0 per cent.

3. In love - with two homes

Valentine's Day is traditionally a time for lovers to declare their intentions and (hopefully) make a choice between available suitors. But what happens if you're house-hunting and the object of your desire is not one house but two?

If you do find yourself in this awkward situation, take out a pen and a blank piece of paper for each house then compare the following...

* The houses. If you haven't already done so, make a list of all the things you want in your new home and compare how each house stacks up against your wish list.

* Drawbacks. Likewise, make a list of the things you don't want and compare this list with each house to determine how much of a negative impact each will have.

* How do the houses compare with others in the suburb? While you might like to have the biggest house in the neighbourhood, when it comes time to sell you may find that the lower value of neighbouring homes will shrink your home's value, so be careful.

* The suburbs. If the two final contenders are in different suburbs look carefully at the facilities each has to offer your family. If you have kids and being close to a park is important, you'll want to consider that. How close is each home to shops, restaurants, church or other services that you use on a regular basis? Do homeowners in the area landscape and maintain their homes nicely? How long will your commute to work be?

* Access to schools. If you have school aged children, you'll either want to consider the reputation of the local schools or be located in an area where it's easy for your children to travel to their existing school. Visit local schools and talk to teachers and parents.

* Crime. Visit the local police and enquire about crime in each suburb. You might find crime to be more prevalent in one area than another.

* The vendors' situations. If you don't know already find out how long each home has been on the market and the reasons why the vendor is selling. Typically the longer a house has been on the market, the keener the seller will be to listen to an offer. Conversely, if the house has been on the market for just a couple days, the sellers may not accept lower offers.

As you consider all these factors, it could become clear that one house is more enticing than the other. Or, you may find the houses are still equally appealing. If that is the case, be sure you look at the homes more than once and preferably at different times of the day. This way you'll get a better idea of how each home looks and feels in the morning versus late afternoon or evening. You may even notice something you didn't the first time around - something that could sway you one way or the other.

4. Brighter year for building activity

A national survey of the construction and development industry shows that there has been a significant increase in respondents predicting renewed activity in the multi-unit residential sector for 2010.

The 10th Construction Sentiment Index, produced by global construction consultants Davis Langdon, shows 56 per cent of respondents expect the multi-unit residential sector to make a major contribution to overall construction activity nationally in the next 12 months. This is up from only 39 per cent expecting this sector to contribute to growth 12 months ago.

The index has tracked improving industry sentiment since it reached its lowest point of 51 in February this year, but at the current level of 66, it is still well off its peak of 142 recorded in late 2007.

"The key findings of the 10th survey show that costs have emerged as one of the top three problems cited, planning pressures seem to be easing, finance is still hard to secure and overall sentiment continues to improve," says Rachel Kelloway, Davis Langdon's national research manager.

Other key findings of the survey include:-

  • 54 per cent of respondents now feel that the industry is experiencing a skills shortage, a 10 per cent increase on the last survey.
  • Shortages worsened or remained steady across most trades with the three worst affected areas being plumbers (up 6 per cent to reach 11 per cent); tilers and carpenters (both up five per cent to reach 10 per cent and 13 per cent respectively).
  • Poor succession planning and an insufficient number of apprenticeships were named as long-term key explanations for industry shortages.
  • The length of time it takes to obtain planning approvals remains an issue, with 64 per cent of respondents citing excessive or protracted timeframes.
  • However, there has been an improvement in this area with 71 per cent expressing concerns in the last survey three months ago.
  • For those impacted by planning problems the delays appear to be increasing. In September, 88 per cent said timeframes were protracted by 30 per cent or more, whereas in this survey that figure has jumped to 91 per cent.
  • Access to finance remains the number one obstacle in the development process, but respondents expect this situation will begin to ease in the year ahead.
  • Twenty per cent of respondents said they were attempting to secure finance currently and of those 59 per cent were seeking $100 million or more.
Bridging the gap with education

One of the four winners of the 2009 Architectural Review's Emerging Architecture Awards has managed to enliven an old community, bridging the gap between past, future and two castles.

Located in a remote Chinese village, architect Li Xiaodong has created a school that forms a bridge over a creek between two historic castles. The school contains two classrooms where children can learn about traditional and contemporary culture, but which can also be used as a theatre and play area by villagers.

A narrow walkway has been suspended underneath the school as a secondary means of crossing the creek - perhaps for those wishing to skip class.

More than just a facelift

Have you ever slept at the office and wished there were better amenities? Seven office buildings that make up London's 50,000 square foot Regency Terrace are getting more than just a facelift - they're soon to be converted into a 10-bedroom mansion.

According to the UK Telegraph, the renovations will make the home the largest in London, and if it is sold for over the AU$179M they're asking, it will also claim the title of London's most expensive home.

The plans include ten huge bedroom suites, several vast reception rooms, a basement leisure complex including a cinema, gym and swimming pool, a 40-ft roof garden complete with a sliding ceiling and view over Regent's Park, plus two additional staff houses.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 05 February 2010

Giving when it counts....

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a
hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who
was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only
chance of recovery appeared to be a blood
transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had
miraculously survived the same disease and had
developed the antibodies needed to combat the
illness. The doctor explained the situation to her
little brother, and asked the little boy if he would
be willing to give his blood to his sister.

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a
deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save
her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed
next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing
the color returning to her cheek. Then his face
grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a
trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away".

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the
doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his
sister all of his blood in order to save her.

- Writer unknown -


House prices soar

House prices around Australia are continuing to increase, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The median house price across the eight capital cities jumped 5.2 per cent in the December quarter last year and 13.6 per cent over the year.

Melbourne recorded the biggest increase of 6.8 per cent for the quarter, and 19.7 per cent for the year.

Prices rose in all other capital cities in the December 2009 quarter, particularly in Sydney (a rise of 5.0 per cent) and Perth (up by 5.7 per cent). There were also positive contributions from Brisbane (up 3.8 per cent), Adelaide (up 2.1 per cent), Canberra (3.6 per cent), Hobart (4.3 per cent) and Darwin (up 4.9 per cent).

Annually, house prices increased by more than one-tenth in most other capital cities. In Darwin, prices were up by 13.6 per cent, Sydney 12.8 per cent, Canberra by 12.4 per cent, Perth 11.5 per cent, Hobart 11.0 per cent and Brisbane 10.9 per cent. Adelaide prices rose by 5.1 per cent.


Global financial what?

A survey has found the Global Financial Crisis is a distant memory for most Australians, who now believe the housing market is set to take off - again.

"A surprising 73 per cent of respondents expect house prices to rise, which is the highest proportion for more than three years," said Phil Naylor, CEO, Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia (MFAA).

The MFAA/Bankwest Home Finance Index canvassed the opinion of 850 people on a range of issues relating to the economy and housing market.

"Confidence in the housing market is not only pre-GFC - it's back where it was during the height of the housing boom," Mr Naylor said.

"But there are still some clouds on the horizon, with recent interest rate increases negatively impacting households."

Mr Naylor said that 15.9 per cent of respondents are struggling to meet repayments - which is up from only 11.7 per cent in May 2009.

The survey found it was in the former boom state of Western Australia that most respondents claimed to be struggling in their repayments (25 per cent). The least number of people struggling to meet repayments were in NSW (20.6 per cent).

Head of Mortgages at Bankwest, Dean Gillespie, said the survey revealed a reversal of fortunes in WA and NSW.

"The survey suggests that Australia's two-speed housing market is alive and well," Mr Gillespie said.

"It would appear that when it comes to the housing market and perceptions of economic conditions, NSW is leading the charge for the first time in years."

Mr Gillespie said that respondents were divided about whether it is a good time to buy a new home, with 49.7 per cent thinking it is a good time.

"Respondents from Queensland (41.4 per cent) were the least likely to think now was a good time to buy, but South Australians were more optimistic with 63.6 per cent saying it was a good time to buy", Gillespie said.

He added that when it comes to other cost of living pressures, borrowers said the cost of food was of greatest concern.

"Over the last year there has been a reversal in burden of food versus fuel costs. People are saying that food prices are now taking a bigger bite out of the family budget", Gillespie concluded.


Rates unchanged

There was an audible sigh of relief this week when the Reserve Bank opted to leave the Official Cash Rate unchanged at 3.75 per cent.

In a statement announcing the decision, Governor Glenn Stevens commented that while the Reserve Bank has chosen to raise rates slightly over the past three consecutive months, lenders have not been so conservative in their increases, hence the need for a `wait-and-see' approach.

"Lenders have generally raised rates a little more than the cash rate over recent months and most loan rates have risen by close to a percentage point", Governor Stevens said. "Since information about the early impact of those changes is still limited, the Board judged it appropriate to hold a steady setting of monetary policy for the time being."

Interest rates to most borrowers nonetheless remain almost half what they were a year ago.
Governor Stevens concluded that if economic conditions evolve broadly as expected, the Board considers it likely that monetary policy will, over time, need to be adjusted further in order to ensure that inflation remains consistent with the target over the medium term.


The world's strangest places to live

The town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in Wales has the longest village or suburb name of anywhere in the world. But a quick diversion into the world of toponymy (the study of place names) reveals that strange place names are not restricted to Wales.

New Zealand has its fair share of strange place names...try Bulls in South Taranaki; Gore in Southland and the town of Twizel in the MacKenzie Basin.

Australia has Arid and Bigge in Western Australia, Avoid in South Australia, Bland and Disaster in New South Wales and Many Peaks in Queensland.

Along the southern coast of England lie the Cinque Ports ("cinque" being French for five). Or you may choose to visit Redcar near the Yorkshire Moors, or perhaps Wigtown and Leek are more your style?

But, probably not surprisingly, some of the strangest place names in the world are in the United States. Towns such as Cool, Frying Pan and Rough & Ready in California; Burnt Corn, Alabama; Nothing, Arizona; No Name, Colorado; Hopeulikit, Georgia; Do Stop, Kentucky; Boring in Maryland; Truth or Consequences, New Mexico; Hoop an Holler, Texas and Ware (I'm from Ware?) in Massachusetts.


Unwilling to ride the rising tide

A British man is suing the previous owners of his home on the Thames River, with claims that the property floods up to 80 times a year.

Adrian Howd told England's High Court that he and his wife were `deeply shocked' to see flood-waters creeping up the 140-foot garden of their AU$3.5M home within weeks of moving in, the UK Telegraph reports.

Prior to the sale, the previous owners had confirmed the house had never suffered from flooding, although took the question to mean the bricks and mortar, not the garden.

Living in the house since 2006, the Howd family has had enough of the tidal conditions that can see the garden submerged beneath 4.5 metres of water, and are seeking to have the sale rescinded, or damages to cover the loss in property value.

Perhaps they should have talked to the neighbours before buying, as an elderly man next door commented he was used to the tides by now, having lived there since 1946, adding that one year his family had to use a dinghy to get to the front gate.


How eggciting! But is it eggspensive?

It seems Murphy's Law rules when it comes to carpets, and stains are almost inevitable. So why not beat your floor to the punch and cover it up with something weird and wonderful like the Sunny Side Up shag rug.

Part of a line from designer Valentina Audrito called "Le Uova di Leon" entirely inspired by the egg, the rug looks like part of a giant's breakfast - the main part is shaped like the whites of two huge fried eggs and the large yellow leather yolks (still in tact) serve as head cushions.