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!

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