Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Latest Property News for Ted Hanson

Friday 26 February 2010
Quote of the week

"Procrastination is attitude's natural assassin. There is nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task."

Getting out of hot water

The Government this week announced a series of changes to the administration of its environmental programs, following some disastrous recent incidents involving shonky operators and materials.

The changes include:

  • The establishment of a new household Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme to replace the Home Insulation Program and the Solar Hot Water Rebate.
  • Significant changes to the Green Loans scheme to boost the effectiveness and sustainability of the scheme.

It is hoped that the amendments will put householders back in charge of the environmental products installed in their home and make it impossible for shonky operators to continue exploiting this market.

Here is what the Government says about the changes:

Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme

A new household Renewable Energy Bonus Scheme will replace the Home Insulation Program and the Solar Hot Water Rebate Program, both of which have been discontinued as of close of business on February 19 2010.

Under the household Renewable Energy Bonus scheme households will be able to receive a rebate for the installation of ceiling insulation or a solar hot water system or a heat pump.

$1000 rebates will be available for ceiling installation and solar hot water systems and $600 rebates for heat pumps systems.

The new rebate for solar hot water systems and heat pumps will be available for systems installed after February 19 2010.

This scheme will institute several key changes to the delivery of ceiling insulation including:

  • Householders - rather than installers - will claim the $1000 rebate directly through the Medicare system.
  • Introducing a new registration scheme requiring all installers to reregister, pay a cash bond, show evidence of meeting the training and skills requirements and provide certified quality assurance and occupational health and safety plans.
  • Introducing a strengthened compliance regime in concert with State and Territory occupational health and safety and fair trading authorities.

It is intended that the insulation component of the Renewable Energy Bonus scheme will come into operation by 1 June.

In relation to the discontinuation of the Home Insulation Program, installers will have seven days to claim outstanding rebates for work completed prior to close of business 19 February 2010.

The Government will carry out checks on any homes that have had insulation (foil or otherwise) installed under the Program.

Changes to Green Loans Program

The Government will help over an additional 600,000 Australian households tackle climate change through a re-designed and extended Green Loans program.

That is on top of the 360,000 assessments already available under the program, of which more than 270,000 have already been booked nationwide.

The re-design of the program will include:

  • the discontinuation of the less popular loans component next month to provide for the significant boost to assessment availability;
  • a new cap of 5000 assessors, allowing up to an extra 1200 trained assessors to contract with the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts;
  • a weekly cap of 15,000 assessment bookings and a daily and weekly cap per assessor of three and five respectively to ensure greater quality and a more even distribution of work for assessors right around the nation;
  • changed booking arrangements allowing only individual assessors to make bookings.

These new arrangements will apply to the end of 2010.

Green Start program

The Green Start program will now commence from 1 January 2011.

This Program will remain directed at helping low-income households and those most at need improve their energy and water efficiency and help tackle climate change.

The Program will also include a web-based assessment tool for all households as well as in-home sustainability assessments, providing an ongoing pipeline of work for home sustainability assessors following the Green Loans program.

Details of the program will be finalised in the coming months.

Home not always safe as houses: ABS

Australian households experienced approximately 1.6 million incidents of malicious property damage in one year, according to recent figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The ABS Crime Victimisation Survey found that 912,500 households (11 per cent) were victims of at least one incident of property damage in the 12 months prior to interview.

The Crime Victimisation Survey, conducted in 2008-09, asked people aged 15 and over whether they experienced a crime in the preceding 12 months for a selected range of personal and household offences (physical assault, threatened assault, robbery, break-in, attempted break-in, motor vehicle theft, theft from a motor vehicle, malicious property damage and other theft).

More than half a million Australians (527,400 or 3 per cent) aged 15 years and over were a victim of at least one physical assault in the 12 months preceding the survey. Of those, an estimated 321,300 were men, compared to 206,100 women.

The ABS found that, for the most recent incident of physical assault, just over three-quarters (77 per cent) of female victims knew the offender and nearly half (49 per cent) occurred in the home.

In contrast, just over half (53 per cent) of male victims knew the offender and less than one in five males (17 per cent) indicated they were physically assaulted in the home.

The survey also showed that 718,600 (4.2 per cent) people aged 15 years and over had experienced a threatened assault.

Make a turn for the better

Leaving home, having a baby or retiring from work have been found to be among the most significant turning points in our lives, so it helps to be prepared.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has identified these three common turning points in the lives of many consumers and is offering information and interactive tools to help people make informed financial decisions.

Creating a budget or spending plan is the first step to planning for any financial turning point. A budget identifies spending patterns and can free up money to be spent on priorities.

If you have no idea where to start, have a look at the budget planner on ASIC's consumer website FIDO.

ASIC offers the following recommendations for consumers facing these turning points.

Leaving home

Before cutting family ties make sure you realise all the costs involved with leaving home. Here are some tips to help make the move less costly:

  • Always keep extra savings for an emergency - imagine if you get sick and you can't work; you might not get paid but your landlord still needs to be.
  • Make sure you get home contents insurance that's right for you - replacing uninsured goods such as laptops, cameras or TVs is an unnecessary and annoying expense.
  • If you can't afford to buy new furniture straight away, check out local garage sales.

Having a baby

Having a baby can be very expensive. Have you thought about how you are going to cover the extra costs on a reduced income? Use the FIDO Budget Planner to see where you're spending money and what you could cut back on.

  • Ask your friends or family if they have any baby furniture or clothes that they aren't using anymore.
  • Make sure you're getting the appropriate assistance from the government and your employer. Go to www.familyassist.gov.au to find out more.
  • If you are planning on taking a long period of time off work, talk to your spouse about them contributing to your super during this time. This can have tax benefits.

Reducing income in retirement

Whether you've just retired or you've been retired for a long time, you can always benefit from cutting costs, especially if your retirement income has recently fallen. Here are a few practical ways to make your dollars last longer:

  • Consider downsizing to a smaller home. It may free up some of your money.
  • Call Centrelink on 132 300 to see if you qualify for any Commonwealth benefits. It can't hurt to ask.
  • Spend your money wisely. For example, wait for the sales to buy clothes and other items.

Doing a comprehensive budget is the first step in planning for any financial turning point. This will enable you to spend your money on what you really want and will prepare you for these important milestones.

Your number's up

Most of us have been frustrated at some time with driving along a street looking for a house but unable to read the numbers on the mailboxes, fences or houses.

Homes that aren't clearly marked or numbered cause inconvenience to visitors, can mean your pizza is cold by the time it arrives, or, in the event of an emergency, could be the difference between life and death.

Clearly numbering the outside of your home is important, and so easy to do -

  • Place house numbers on the letterbox, the front of the house or on the garage - wherever they are most visible from the street.
  • The numbers should be large enough to be easily seen from the street, and should be in a colour that contrasts with the surface they are attached to (if your home has a light exterior, white numbers won't easily be seen, so it would be best to use black or dark numbers).
  • Positioning numbers below a verandah or garage light can help make them visible at night.
  • Solar-powered plates make so much sense, and are now available from most hardware stores. Luminous numbers are good, but only if there is already light shining on them.
  • Make sure nearby foliage doesn't obstruct the view of the numbers from the street.

House numbers can be found at home centres, hardware stores, lumber yards, department and discount stores, and a variety of other retailers, and come in a wide variety of sizes, colours and styles.

Nice to gnome you

Ever moved something out of sight before visitors arrived? A small town in Russia recently gave itself a makeover in anticipation of a visit from the country's President Dmitry Medvedev, including the removal of a poster promoting a local theatre play that cited the words "we await you, merry gnome", The Moscow Times reports.

It is unclear exactly why the posters were removed, however there is speculation that the move was to avoid offending the President, whose height is estimated to be 162cms.

Other housecleaning tasks, it was reported, included removing piles of dirty snow and ice and covering some areas with fresh, clean snow brought in from outside the city.

Getting the point

Over the years, it has become increasingly uncomfortable to be less than environmentally friendly, in and out of our homes. We've seen soaring utility bills, supermarket-supplied plastic bags outlawed in some places and our waste disposal methods turned completely upside down. Now there's a shower that makes it almost impossible to linger.

The Eco Drop Shower is a self-contained environmental-watchdog - the base has little circles that are comfortable to stand on when you start showering, then increase in size and decrease in comfort the longer the water's running. While it encourages much shorter showers, you may have to find somewhere else to practice your singing.

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