Thursday, October 28, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 29 October 2010
2010 Sydney to Gong Ride

A Challenge within a Challenge

The Gong Ride is a one of a kind fundraising event. You can pedal 90km from Sydney to Wollongong on any day of the year but it's only on the first Sunday of November that you'll experience the camaraderie, fellowship, unity, safety, scenery and sense of achievement for pedalling in support of people living with MS. But be quick because numbers have been capped so places are limited! To maintain the safety and enjoyment of participants, local residents and other road users and in consultation with the NSW Police and the RTA, the event will be capped at 10,000.

More Information

Planning key to the city

Urban density and long-term strategic planning are essential if Australian cities are to meet the challenges of increased population, traffic congestion, water shortages and climate change, a report has found.

The ADC Cities Report, which is the outcome of the ADC Cities Summit that was produced by ADC Forum earlier this year, urges governments to rethink their approach to urban planning to address these challenges and maintain the liveability of our cities.

"We need to focus on better cities, not necessarily bigger cities," said one of the authors of the report, John Stanley, Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney.

"Increasing density in the middle suburbs, around public transport corridors, will drastically improve the efficiency of our cities while maintaining their liveability."

A key recommendation is the establishment of a National Centre for Cities, which would provide policy and planning advice to all levels of government and promote community involvement in policy and planning for our cities.

"Australian cities are facing myriad and complex challenges that require a long-term strategic approach with strong community engagement," Professor Stanley said.

"The establishment of a National Centre for Cities would allow these issues to be considered in a way that looks beyond election cycles."

Dr Ian Winter, Executive Director Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute agreed.
"It is critical that Australia invests nationally in the high quality research that is needed to underpin high quality urban policy development", Dr Winter said.

The Report addresses interconnected issues such as transportation, housing, productivity, infrastructure, environment, population, urban design, social inclusion and governance.

Along with increased urban density, there is a need to focus on enhancing the existing villages within our cities, embrace water sensitive development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, better utilise existing infrastructure and consider the development of new cities.

"We need to look beyond our existing cities and consider the expansion of our regional centres, as well as the development of whole new cities," Professor Stanley said.

"There is a case for resourced-based cities in the north west, which could be closely linked to our regional neighbours, while a high-speed train in the east coast corridor could turn regional centres into major cities."

Sunny future for solar industry

The sun will shine out of Newcastle, when an ambitious new solar project goes online, the CSIRO announced this week.

CSIRO has this week begun installing 450 large mirrors, called heliostats, for Australia's largest solar-thermal tower system at the CSIRO National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales.

The tower is designed to demonstrate that, after the cost of carbon is taken into account, electricity can be generated by sun-power at the same or less cost than fossil fuel-generated electricity.

Creating 2.4 x 1.8m panels of glass mirrors for a solar field is no easy feat. The glass needs to be a specific concave shape to achieve a highly accurate reflection point and strong enough to withstand extreme weather events.

Once installed, the heliostats will concentrate the sun's rays to create temperatures of up to 1000°C.

The heliostats have a lightweight steel frame with a unique, simple design, specially created for mass production for the commercial market. The units are smaller than many heliostats currently being used around the world, but just as efficient, more cost effective and much easier to install.

CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship Director, Dr Alex Wonhas, said the economical design of the heliostats will also make solar fields more cost effective to build and operate.

"It's a local idea generated by CSIRO and manufactured by a local company, which will have global impact," Dr Wonhas said.

"We hope that one day we will see these economical heliostats used in solar fields all over Australia and the world."

The heliostat field is part of CSIRO's new solar Brayton Cycle project - a solar tower and field that generates electricity from just the air and sun. The heliostats are part of an advanced new solar technology developed by CSIRO and manufactured by Central Coast company, Performance Engineering Group.

The project has been supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Solar Institute (ASI) as part of the Clean Energy Initiative.

Loans for renovations
Personal loans are normally associated with cars, holidays and debt consolidation, but people are now using them to fund renovations as well, according to Aussie Home Loans.

In June, almost one in five people (18 per cent) who settled a personal loan with Aussie were using it for that purpose, up from 12 per cent in the previous month.

The numbers have been steadily growing over the past year, according to Aussie founder and Executive Chairman John Symond, who remarked that personal loans are an effective way of managing larger credit.

"A personal loan is a simple easy way to finance larger cost items such as a new kitchen, or other renovations which improve the value of the home," Mr Symond said.

"But most importantly, they provide a controlled means of repaying the debt so it is paid off as quickly as possible in order to minimise interest costs."

Mr Symond cautioned that homeowners thinking about going down the personal loan path for their home improvements need to ensure they are not over-capitalising on their home.

"As long as you do your sums to ensure you are not over investing in the cost of improvements you can actually end up paying less total interest by using a personal loan because you are set to repay the debt over a shorter loan term," he said.

"The rule of thumb is 'time beats rate', meaning a loan paid off faster over less time, even if it is a higher interest rate is often better than the reverse."

For example borrowing $20K for renovations could cost (in interest paid):

* Personal Loan (at 14.49% over 5 years) $8,227.68
* Credit Card (at 16.16% minimum repayments) $22,775.17
* Home Loan (at 6.50% over 30 years) $25,508.90

Mr Symond suggested that using your home loan to fund purchases is not necessarily the smartest move.

"Unless you pay it off quickly you could end up paying around three times more than on a personal loan", he warned.

"Sometimes a redraw on your home loan can be cheaper than a personal loan but only if you pay it off quickly which clearly not everyone does.

"Leaving it for the normal term is actually a very expensive form of credit because you may be paying a great deal more interest than with a personal loan", he concluded.

Lighten up - naturally

Do you let the sun brighten up your home, or simply rely on electricity to take care of it?

Apart from causing your skin to produce vitamin D (which has a vast array of medical benefits), natural sunlight will improve your health, vision and mood as well as saving you money on lighting and air conditioning bills.

Allowing natural sunlight into homes has been shown to provide a number of benefits, including -

Improvement in moods and attitude, including a decrease in the severity of clinical depression

Better actual colour rendering (colours are "true to the eye")

Reduced eyestrain

Reduced energy waste from electric lighting or air conditioning

Bringing natural light indoors can be easy - try adding more windows, or replacing walls and doors with glass. Alternatively, skylights are ideal for turning dark and gloomy areas into bright places to enjoy.

Fixed skylights will provide you with the full benefit of the light, but no ventilation, so are ideal for hallways and stairs. On the other hand, opening or ventilated skylights are better for installing in a bathroom, bedroom or kitchen. Some manufacturers even offer skylights with exhaust fans to remove smoke or steam directly into the atmosphere rather than into the roof cavity.

Most suppliers these days offer different glazings which provide radiant heat block, UV ray protection and noise reduction. For those days when the heat is too much, or the light too bright, there is a range of blinds that can be operated either electrically or manually.

The main types of skylights are:

Traditional, fixed skylights with either an acrylic dome or polycarbonate cover on the roof.

Ventilated skylights, which allow ventilation through the roof to the outside and provide living areas with fresh air. These can be operated using either handle, rod or remote control.

Tubular skylights, also known as sun-tubes, which feed light directly into small locations (such as hallways, cupboards or lavatories) where you otherwise may need to use an electric light during the day.

Fire-rated skylights, which are made with fire retardant materials.

Whatever your need or situation, it seems that innovation and technology are being applied to make it possible to have natural lighting anywhere in your house, together with ease of installation, weatherproofing and security.

Not a half-baked idea
There is definitely an art to baking a good loaf of bread. Perhaps that is what inspired designer Andere Monjo to cook up a dinner set you can eat once you've finished your meal. Consisting of plates, bowls, cutlery and napkins, the Baked Table collection is made of a basic flour and water bread mix, then decorated with seeds to create the appearance of embroidery patterns.
Three beds, two baths, one ghost

With Halloween this Sunday night, our streets are bound to be filled with little horrors roaming from door to door in search of the great candy haul. While many of us are happy to have spooks roaming the streets for one night a year, most don't take as kindly to the idea of sharing a house with ghosts and ghouls all year round.

But for those craving a slice of the macabre pie at home and looking for a good study source on the topic, a few websites have materialised in front of our eyes listing a vast array of haunted houses. is one example, while the British Tourist Board cheerfully calculates that there are at least 10,000 haunted places in the country, and the Haunted Britain website lists a top 101 ranging from the limping butler of the BBC's broadcasting house to the spectral ape of Athelhampton Hall in Dorset.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 22 October 2010
A Taste of Viva La Gong

Enjoy a taste of the Viva La Gong Festival with a special preview on Saturday 30 October at the Crown St Mall Amphitheatre from 12 noon-2pm.

Riogh is a six-piece ensemble specialising in Irish and Celtic music, combining classic ballads and upbeat favourites with a fresh take and contemporary sound. Featuring some of the country's finest musicians, Riogh is fast becoming a `must see' in the Australian Folk scene - from classic Irish ballads to Celtic jigs and modern pop tunes, there's something for everyone! Their soaring harmonies and infectious melodies will transport you to another time and place.

Pipeline bursts with building work
Building orders that have been `in the pipeline' for the last twelve months have now resulted in a solid stream of work, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The figures show that the seasonally adjusted value of total building work done in the June 2010 quarter rose 5.7 per cent, to $21,571.8m, following a rise of 7.3 per cent in the March quarter.

New residential building work done rose by 9.4 per cent to $10,181.7m in the June 2010 quarter.

Work done on new houses increased 7.7 per cent to $6,898.4m, while new `other residential' building rose 13.1 per cent to $3,283.3m. Alterations and additions rose 1.8 per cent to $1,660.4m.

Excluding alterations and additions, new residential building lifted 8.7 per cent in the June quarter, which is the fastest rate of growth since the September quarter 2001.

The volume of work done on major alterations and additions rose for a fourth consecutive quarter in June, up by 1.8 percent, although the rate of growth has slowed relative to earlier quarters.

In the June 2010 quarter, seasonally adjusted new residential work done increased by 7.5 per cent in NSW, 8.9 per cent in Victoria, 4.6 per cent in South Australia, 0.2 per cent in Tasmania, 11.5 per cent in Queensland, 5.3 per cent in Western Australia and 7.2 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory.

In original terms new residential work done was 12 per cent higher in the Northern Territory compared to the June quarter of last year.

Aussies working fewer hours

The long-held notion that Australians are spending longer hours at work has been challenged by new research showing the country's 11.3 million workers spend less time in the office than they did ten years ago.

While millions of Australians feel they are working longer than ever before, the Bankwest "Working Times" report shows full time workers put in an average 41.4 hours a week over the past year to August 2010, compared with 42.7 hours a week a decade ago - representing a 1.3 hour decrease in hours worked over the decade.

This has handed Australians back an equivalent of more than eight working days over the course of the year compared to 2000.

The research also showed that small business owners worked the longest hours in Australia (50.7 hours), while government employees in the public sector worked fewer hours than other Australians (36.8 hours).

Once again Gen-Y bucked the trend, working fewer hours than any other age group in Australia, at an age when traditionally Australians worked longer hours in a bid to try and establish their careers.

Bankwest Business Chief Executive Ian Corfield said the Bankwest analysis of the latest quarterly labour force data openly challenges what many Australians have long taken for granted - that we are all working longer and harder than ever before.

"I'm sure many of us would be astounded to learn that as a nation we each are actually working fewer hours than we were back in 2000," Mr Corfield said.

"Some of this appears due to Gen-Ys who have opted for work-life balance at an age when people traditionally worked long hours to try and get ahead and establish in their careers.

"I think there's little doubt that many of us are working harder than ever before, but our research shows this doesn't mean we are necessarily working longer.

"The thing to remember of course is that for many of us the day doesn't end when we switch off the computer and go home, many Australians are still working with blackberries and laptop computers at home at night and over the weekend.

"Even so, our research shows we are actually spending 68 hours less in the office every year, which equates to more than eight working days off compared to 2000.

The major employment trend over the past decade has been a shift into part-time from full-time work. Now, 30 per cent of workers are employed part-time, compared to 27 per cent a decade ago. The average hours worked by part-timers has increased by 0.9 hours per week over the past decade from 16.1 to 17.0 hours per week.

The average hours of all workers - both full-time and part-time - has fallen by 1.5 hours per week over the past decade from 35.6 hours in August 2000 to 34.1 hours currently.

Land sales ease

Land sales eased in most Australian capital cities over the June 2010 quarter, according to the latest residential land report from the Housing Building Association (HIA) and property information and analytics provider

The weighted median residential land value for Australia eased by 3.6 per cent over the quarter, but was up 2 per cent over the year to June.

Sydney remains the most expensive residential land market in the nation with a median value of $280,000. The Sunshine Coast in Queensland is the second most expensive land market with a median value of $261,750, followed by the Gold Coast ($235,000), Richmond Tweed ($228,700) in New South Wales, and Perth ($227,000).

There are twelve markets across Australia with median land values of $100,000 or less. The most affordable land market in Australia is the Mallee region of Victoria ($72,250), followed by the Murray Lands ($75,000) and South East ($78,850) regions in South Australia, and the Mersey-Lyell ($80,000) and Southern ($87,000) regions in Tasmania. senior research analyst Cameron Kusher said falling land volumes and values are mirroring the experience of the established housing market.

"Values of established residential dwellings have been easing in recent months, as have volumes, and the market for vacant land is experiencing a similar slowdown", Mr Kusher said.

"Despite the fact that sales volumes have fallen, it does not necessarily indicate falling demand and has more to do with affordability factors and the high price of serviceable land.

"Australia's growing population is providing plenty of demand for vacant land, the issue is the price and location of the available land."

Mr Kusher anticipates that the weakness in sales activity for vacant land will persist over the September quarter.

"Although economic indicators such as employment and consumer confidence are positive, the key housing market data including: building approvals, housing finance and values of houses and units are all flat or falling.

"Overall, this data suggests that sales activity for vacant land will continue to soften over the coming months," Cameron Kusher said.

LG to compensate for energy efficiency

Consumers have just a few weeks left to take advantage of an offer of compensation from whitegoods manufacturer LG on certain models of refrigerators, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) warned this week.

LG Australia was found to have breached the Trade Practices Act 1974 by misrepresenting the Comparative Energy Consumption (CEC) of various refrigerator models.

Over the course of 2007 and 2009, LG applied for energy label registrations for three refrigerator models, all of which included an energy saving feature which switches the refrigerator to a more energy efficient mode of operation, storage mode, when it is left for a sustained period without opening the refrigerator door.

LG did not remove or disable the storage mode during testing prior to applying for the energy label registrations. These initial tests indicated a CEC of 738kWh/year. Subsequent tests conducted by LG showed a CEC of 820kWh/year when storage mode is disabled.

ACCC conducted an investigation as to whether LG Australia's marketing of the various models with a CEC of 738kWh/year gave rise to concerns under the Act. In particular, the Commission was concerned that:

LG may have represented that the CEC of the various models was 738kWh/year when it was not
LG may have represented that the CEC of the various models was significantly lower that it was
LG may have misled the public as to the energy efficient characteristics of the various models, and

LG's compliance program did not pick up and/or prevent the conduct from occurring.

"The cost of electricity is paramount to all consumers in Australia such that energy efficiency claims can significantly influence consumer purchasing decisions," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said this week.

"Companies need to have in place measures to ensure their claims are accurate."

In March 2010, LG Australia announced that it would offer all consumers who bought one of the refrigerator models compensation. As part of the undertaking, LG will keep this compensation offer open until at least November 2010.

In addition, LG has undertaken to establish and implement an upgraded trade practices law compliance program, and conduct additional testing on a selection of refrigerators, televisions, clothes washers, clothes dryers and dishwashers prior to release into the Australian market.

True colours

Like taxes, damage to crockery is a part of life and we always seem to end up a few plates or cups short. Not any more, however, since CMYK tableware - based on the color model cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black) - transforms the inevitable into the imaginative, by turning broken crockery into a work of art.

Made with coloured ceramic (styled in CMYK) and coated with a white glaze, the tableware shows its true colours when the plate is cracked, chipped or worn down over time.

Not a bad move

The richest man in the country that brought Bollywood to the World has now brought us perhaps one of the most extravagant houses in the world.

Fifty-three-year-old oil tycoon Mukesh Ambani isn't just the richest man in India, he is also the fourth richest man in the world, which is possibly why the UK Telegraph reported recently he has spared no expense on his new home in Mumbai.

Standing 27 storeys high and worth over AU$1.07B, the building contains a health club, gym, ballroom, guestrooms, a range of lounges, 50-seat cinema and requires 600 staff to keep things in order.

For a breath of fresh air, there is the elevated garden with ceiling space to accommodate small trees; and for guests there are three helipads on the roof and enough underground parking for 160 cars.

Friday, October 15, 2010

First there was QE2, now La Niña
Economic trends
• Investors are always looking out for “the next big thing”. Currently investors are fretting whether the US economy will experience a double-dip recession, in turn debating whether the Federal Reserve needs to apply more stimulus – more quantitative easing, or QE2.

• But closer to home there is a weather trend to watch – La Niña – an event associated with cooler, wetter weather. There hasn’t been a major La Niña event since the late 1990s and it has implications for a raft of businesses.
• Overnight, the World Meteorological Organisation released its latest El Niño/La Niña Update and warns of moderate to strong La Niña conditions over the coming 4 to 6 months.

El Niño, La Niña – what is it all about?
• Over time, Australians have heard a lot about El Niño. This is the weather event that most people associate with drought. And given that most of the noughties were characterised by drought, there has been plenty of discussion about El Niño in recent years.
• But now the discussion has shifted to La Niña. This is essentially the opposite of El Niño, associated with cooler, wetter weather in eastern and northern Australia. The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) also notes that there tends to be more tropical cyclones in northern Australia when La Niña events occur.
• In late September, BOM indicated that La Niña was well established in the Pacific and indicated that it will last until at least early 2011. The Climate Prediction Centre in the US has projected that La Niña will persist until at least the Northern Hemisphere Spring of 2011 – that is to around March 2011. The CPC says “many models forecast La Niña to strengthen through the November 2010 – January 2011 season before beginning to weaken.” In the US, La Niña autumn/winters tend to be warmer and drier for the Southwest but increasing the possibility of rain and snow in the Pacific Northwest.
• The CPC says that the last El Niño event extended from May 2009 to May 2010. Effectively there have been rolling El Niño events from April 2002 through to 2010, with only a brief La Niña from August 2007 to Jun 2008. The last major La Niña was a two year period from June 1998 to June 2000.
• In contrast to the dry noughties, the 1990s tended to be wetter than normal with a La Niña event occurring from 1995 to 1996 and then another event covering 1998 to 2000.
• The World Meteorological Organisation has just released its latest El Niño/La Niña Update, warning of moderate to strong La Niña conditions over the coming 4 to 6 months. And like the CPC and BOM, the WMO expects the La Niña event which began in June and July 2010 to extend until at least the first quarter of 2011. The WMO said the current La Niña became “moderate to strong” in August and continues at the same strength.

Wet weather on the way?

• The climate models say that cold, wet weather is on the way. Most people in the eastern states would say that it is already here. Queensland had its wettest September on record and Brisbane yesterday had its wettest October day on record. In addition, temperatures have been below-average in eastern and southern states. It was the coldest and wettest September in South Australia in 18 years. Melbourne had its coldest September in 16 years while Sydney had the coldest September in five years.
• The last major La Niña was in the late 1990s, and it is clear from the charts that this was the last time that rainfall across the capital cities was well above normal. For most of the noughties the rolling total of capital city rainfall was below average. But it’s worth noting that over the year to September 2010 that capital city rainfall was in line with the long-term average.

Implications of a La Niña weather event

• A raft of businesses and industries will be affected if a major La Niña event occurs across the summer months in Australia. Amongst those potentially affected are:
• Retailers of seasonal goods – clothing, electrical goods, outdoor equipment, swimming pool operators & equipment
• Utilities – reduced demand for power (air-conditioners, fans etc)
• Insurance companies – potential for floods, more traffic accidents
• Rural producers – effects will vary depending on where and when the rain falls, and in what quantities
• Builders/construction – potential for weather delays with more frequent rain days
• Good rains in recent months through Queensland, NSW and central Australia have served to lift dam levels, fill lakes and boost water flows in key river systems. But somewhat perversely the ending of the drought may reduce the urgency for reform of water allocations in the Murray Darling basin and delay moves to get more appropriate pricing of water to better reflect its scarcity value.
• While the ending of the drought will reduce demands on the Federal Budget for special assistance grants, the occurrence of major floods could result in different demands on government spending.
• The CPC has also noted that a deepening of the La Niña event could lead to more hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, disrupting oil production. So far the hurricane season has been relatively uneventful, but it does extend for another month or so until late November, so it bears watching.

What are the implications for investors?

• Retailers are already under pressure given that conservative consumers are reluctant to spend, so a mild, wet summer would represent an additional challenge. Myer currently is in the middle of a Mid Season Sale (ends October 17) with the catalogue dominated by Men’s and Women’s clothing items.
• It is hard enough for investors to account for the vagaries of the economy, let alone the vagaries of the weather. And while La Niña events have predictable effects, climate models aren’t able to accurately determine whether a mild La Niña event is in prospect or something more severe. Still, for investors it is a case of forewarned is forearmed.

Source Craig James, Chief Economist, CommSec

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 15 October 2010
Jazz in the Mall

Experience all that Jazz at Crown St Mall when the Wollongong Conservatorium Jazz Ensemble performs live featuring top jazz musicians!

Venue: Crown St Mall, Address: Crown Street Mall Amphitheatre, Wollongong, Next Date: Saturday, 16 October 2010

Time: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Tickets: Free Event

Contact No: (02) 4226 1188

Housing finance up

Home loans rose again in August, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Total number of dwellings financed for owner occupiers, seasonally adjusted, rose by 1 per cent in August, to be down 22.8 per cent on July last year.

This was boosted mainly by the number of loans for the purchase of established dwellings, which rose by 1.4 per cent in August.

Number of loans for `new' dwellings (construction/purchase of new dwellings combined) fell by 1.3 per cent in August, to be down 25.2 per cent on the same month last year:

Of this figure, the number of loans for the construction of dwellings fell by 1 per cent in August, while the number of loans for the purchase of new dwellings fell by 2 per cent in August.

The value of lending to finance the purchase of investment housing fell by 3.9 per cent in August, to be down 4 per cent on a year ago; however, the value of lending to finance construction of dwellings for rent or resale rose by 25.6 per cent, to be up 47.1 per cent on a year ago.

Peter Jones, Master Builders Australia's Chief Economist, said that a further period of interest rate stability will be critical to engender confidence and encourage upgraders, investors and first home buyers alike.

"A solid pipeline of new building work lies ahead, but Australia requires a major phase of residential building to make up for previous weak activity and to cater for the housing needs of the population", Mr Jones said.

"Although finance commitments for the building or purchase of new dwellings remain up on the low point in late 2008, loans now need to kick up again following 10 months of correction."

"Despite some improvement in recent times, the investment-driven side of the new housing market is still struggling to overcome the credit crunch and is constraining the upswing."

Master Builders believes that housing supply side issues and affordability need to be seriously addressed in the new Parliament.

What annoys Aussies most?

Australians appreciate honesty and good service, according to consumer advocacy group Choice, which surveyed more than 1,000 of its members to find out what really gets under their skin.

The most prevalent annoyances are all consumer or product-related, it was found. The top three ultimate irritations include hidden fees, having problems returning a faulty product under warranty and being put on hold or not being able to speak with someone on the phone.

Largely, the most prevalent gripes suggested that Aussies loathe being ignored or disregarded by customer service or sales staff. In fact, the older people are, the more annoyed they are with being put on hold and getting no response to their complaints.

Interestingly, those who live in rural and regional areas are annoyed by the same things that bug city-dwellers. Residents in NSW, QLD, WA, ACT and TAS get most annoyed about hidden fees, while people in VIC, SA and NT get most infuriated about long queues at checkouts.

While the majority of males get most annoyed about hidden costs and fees, women are most infuriated about no-refund policies or lack of replacement for faulty products despite having a warranty. One of the biggest grievances shared by both men and women was being left on hold.

However, on the whole, women generally get more irritated than men by most annoyances (outlined below).

"It's the simple things that companies often get so wrong", CHOICE spokesperson, Brad Schmitt observed.

"Australians appreciate honesty and good service and our Choice report suggests that this is simply not happening.

"Australians feel cheated and deceived when companies are not up front about all of the costs involved in the service or product consumers are purchasing" he said.

The top 32 things that annoy Australians include:

Hidden fees and costs
No refund/replacement for faulty products, despite being under warranty
Being on hold/not getting someone on the phone
No response to written or verbal complaints
People talking loudly on mobiles in an inappropriate area
Door-to-door salespeople/telemarketers
People coughing in an enclosed area without covering their mouth
Confusing broadband/phone price plans
Nonchalant customer service
Erroneous bills
Cigarette butts littering public areas
Unreliable internet
Poor advice from financial planners
Spam email
Late repair people
Noisy neighbours
Long queues/checkout lines
Companies only letting you pay by automatic deduction
Poor service from airlines
Shrunken products
Traffic jams
Very slow drivers
Purchase thwarted by "sorry, out of stock"
Not getting a parking space
Supermarket grocery prices
Forgetting passwords/PINs
Parking fines
Crying babies on planes
Programming new electronic products
Loyalty cards
Inaccurate weather forecasts

Could do better...
The housing supply report's in and showing there is a definite need for improvement, the Housing Industry Association announced this week.

The Association's National Outlook report shows that federal stimulus measures ensured the number of new homes built nationally increased by 26 per cent in 2009/10 to 165,209.

However, as the measures wind down, housing starts are forecast to decline by 4 per cent in 2010/11 to a level of 159,393.

"The fact remains we are not building enough homes to match demand, and going forward our national housing shortage is expected to worsen," said HIA Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale.

"Renewed weakness in new home starts in 2011 would mean there were only two years in ten when starts have risen", Dale said.

"That is an appalling result, which highlights the challenge Australia faces in addressing a large and growing housing shortage that will place considerable further pressure on rental markets."

By calendar year, housing starts are forecast to increase by 24 per cent in 2010 to a level of 171,442, before dropping by 9.5 per cent in 2011 to a level of 155,155.

"Stimulus measures drove a short-lived recovery in new home building and helped Australia avoid a recession" Dale remarked.

"However, if we want to address Australia's housing shortage then the Federal Government needs to lead from the front on a range of policy areas including further investment in skills and training, reform of the tax system, an end to excessive regulation, increased land supply, reduced planning delays, and ensuring greater competition in the banking sector so there's adequate finance for development", he added.

On the renovations front, low interest rates and renewed growth in home values drove a 5 per cent increase in total activity to a record $32.8 billion in 2009/10.

"Total investment in renovations is forecast to tick up by less than 1 per cent in 2010/11 to a worth of $33.1 billion", Dale said.

Budgeting for holidays

School holidays are over again, but Christmas is so close. Many Australian families find holidays taxing on the household budget, with additional childcare expenses or unpaid time off work, plus the wide-ranging costs for entertaining children during a peak period.

With home loan repayments lingering, what's the best way to avoid a blow out and stay ahead?

Mortgage broker Mortgage Choice recommends a return to budgeting basics, particularly planning ahead.

Company spokesperson, Kristy Sheppard says that adjusting the budget earlier in the school term to save for upcoming holiday expenses should make maintaining repayments easier and see the whole family having a more relaxed time.

"When saving for any financial goal you need to set a target, work out how much you need to put away weekly or monthly and ensure the piggy bank still has enough to meet other commitments", Ms Sheppard suggests.

Here are some top tips to reduce debt, spend wisely and still enjoy the holidays:
Savvy shoppers save online

Discounts are often available if you book things in advance and/or purchase online. Prepare early for the break and shop online for accommodation discounts, cheap flights and bargain tickets to concerts, sports events and attractions. Saving money here means more money to spend elsewhere.

Make the most of savings

An offset account attached to your home loan or a home loan with a redraw facility can put to good use those new savings or dollars being accumulated for holidays. Rather than making deposits into a savings account, adding extra funds regularly or lump sums into a home loan in these ways can increase your savings while acting as contributions to the loan. This helps reduce the interest owing and your loan term. Plus, paying the mortgage is not taxable whereas money in a savings account is.

Do some lump sums

After the holidays, any money saved (big or small) from your budgeting efforts can be put back into your offset account or deposited into the loan account as a lump sum. Take a 30-year loan of $300K at 7.36 per cent: $500 added at the three-year mark would reduce the term by one month and save over $3K in interest. Imagine the difference made by doing this at the end of every school holiday!

Budget for a feast

Holidays often lead to lazy snacking. Stay healthy and limit spending on takeaway and junk food by challenging kids to a junior master chef competition - an enjoyable way to eat well, spend quality time together, learn new skills and save money.

Redraw only if you need to

If you have been working hard to create a financial buffer in preparation for trying times, keep in mind that, as mentioned, some loans allow you the flexibility to withdraw extra payments made. However, some lenders have a minimum redraw amount and may charge you a fee each time.

You could be Big Brother

Ignoring the fact that it could be another step towards an Orwellian society, a British firm has found a way to fight back against crime using millions of eyes.

Internet Eyes, an online event notification system, is offering cash prizes for UK neighbourhood watchers who monitor live CCTV feed from business customers and notify them if a crime is observed. With shoplifting reaching its highest recorded levels, the motive is to detect the crimes as they happen, catching more offenders and steadily decreasing the occurrences.

It does make you wonder how long it will be before we have eyes watching our homes in the same effort.

The king of crop

Anyone with a vegetable garden will know that birds aren't always the best friends to have around, and who better to scare them off than Mr Thriller himself.

A Taiwanese farmer has found a Bad way to keep the birds off his rice fields, by setting up two wooden figures adorned with the signature attire of the King of Pop, the UK Dailymail reported recently.

One of the scarecrows sports a sequined white glove and black fedora hat, while the other boasts a Thriller-esque jacket. The farmer apparently told news sources that they've been such a great success, he is making a third for his father's farm.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 08 October 2010
Aprons in the Gong

Bring all your family and frineds & help raise funds for the National Breast Cancer Event in Wollongong!

Celebrate the lighting of the Wollongong lighthouse go "PINK" as part of the National Breast Cancer Foundation celebrations for Pink Ribbon month in Wollongong!

More Information - National Breast Cancer Foundation

Choice survey reveals what annoys Australians most

AUSTRALIANS might live in the Lucky Country but a new survey shows they find plenty to moan about. Consumer group Choice has compiled a list of gripes in a survey of more than 1000 of its members. Read More...

RBA leaves rates on hold

Homeowners and buyers again breathed a collective sigh of relief this week when the Reserve Bank (RBA) announced its decision to leave interest rates on hold for the fourth consecutive month.

The central bank last raised the official cash rate 0.25 per cent in May to 4.50 per cent.

In a statement announcing the decision, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens hinted that the unsteady state of the global economy played a role in the decision.

"Financial markets are still characterised by a degree of uncertainty, and are responding both to differences in growth outlooks between regions and evident strains on public finances and banking systems in several smaller countries in Europe", Governor Stevens said.

Australia, on the other hand, is growing "around trend", with CPI inflation running at around 2¾ per cent over the past year.

With that situation looking likely to continue in the near term, the Bank decided that its current stance is "appropriate for the time being".

No spring in mortgage sales

The traditional spring increase in mortgage sales has so far failed to materialise this year, according to mortgage broker AFG's monthly Mortgage Index.

The Index shows that instead of the usual 10 per cent increase in mortgage sales over August, this year's September's data was almost identical (down 0.3 per cent) to the month before.

September sales figures were 20 per cent lower than for September 2009 with the two resource states showing the largest drop in comparative statistics.

Queensland recorded a 31.8 per cent fall and Western Australia a 25.8 per cent fall compared to figures for September 2009, as uncertainties about the future of a possible mining super tax continue to affect property-buying behaviour in both states.

The caution of consumers is further underlined by a jump in the take-up of fixed rate mortgages from 3.9 per cent of all mortgages sold in August, to 5.4 per cent - the highest level for fixed mortgages since June 2009. This suggests that more buyers expect further rate
rises in the near term.

AFG Mortgage Index also shows that Loan to Value Ratios (LVRs), loans expressed as a proportion of the value of a property, remain at a low level of 63.0 per cent. Low LVRs also tend to reflect consumer caution.

First home buying levels continued to normalise to trend, with mortgage sales to this sector comprising 12.6 per cent of all mortgages - the largest percentage since January 2010.

How much is the doggie in the household?

A dog's life isn't cheap anymore, according to the latest in an on-going Social Indicator Series, which shows that Australian families spend more than $25,000 on their pet over its life-time.

The Bankwest Social Indicator Survey, the 'Family Pooch Index', revealed the average Australian family outlays $2,452 per year for the care of their canine, on top of their initial purchase of the pup of $585.

Over the average life span of a dog (ten years), this equates to more than $25,000.

Not surprisingly, pet food and other gourmet doggy treats gobble up the bulk of the annual cost - $1200. This was followed by veterinary costs, at $450 per year, and additional dog care, such as grooming, dog walking, dog dietician and a dog trainer at $405 each per year.

The research also revealed what many of us have suspected for a long time, namely that half of Aussie pet owners consider their pet to be equally important as their kids. An overwhelming 96 per cent of respondents consider their pet as a member of their family.

"The old saying that a dog's life is cheap certainly doesn't ring true for most Australians," Bankwest Retail CEO Vittoria Shortt said.

"This research shows that the average Australian family is prepared to pay in excess of $25,000 over the average life time of their family dog.

"This is for just one dog, many people have more than one dog so they are paying out even more.

"Given this is such a large amount of money, it's not surprising that 96 per cent of respondents said they consider their pet as a member of their family."

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative for a family pet, it seems a fish and or pet bird are the way to go. Respondents who own a pet fish said yearly costs run at $610 to care for the pet. Birds however, are slightly more expensive in their upkeep - costing an Aussie family $810 each year.

Cats cost, on average, $1,772 per year.

Approvals down

Number of dwelling units approved fell in August, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS Building Approvals show that the total number of dwellings approved dropped 4.7 per cent in August 2010, seasonally adjusted, following a rise in the previous month.

Queensland (0.9 per cent), South Australia (11.2 per cent) and Western Australia (0.9 per cent) recorded more dwelling approvals this month, while New South Wales (-16.0 per cent), Victoria (-1.4 per cent) and Tasmania (-10.5 per cent) recorded fewer dwelling approvals in seasonally adjusted terms.

Private sector houses approved fell by 4.3 per cent due to falls in New South Wales (-7.5 per cent), Victoria (-7.7 per cent), Queensland (-7.0 per cent) while South Australia (3.6 per cent) and Western Australia (12.3 per cent) rose.

The value of total building approved fell by 4.2 per cent in August in seasonally adjusted terms. The value of total residential building fell by 7.8 per cent while non-residential building rose by 3.1 per cent.

The strange relationship of order and chaos

At times the world can seem like a mess, especially when we think time is getting away from us. Though that could be an illusion of personal perception. If so, the best thing might be to take a few deep breaths while finding your centre again, and not to have an "Order in Chaos" clock on your wall.

On the other hand, if you like a bit of fun, the clock shows a strange relationship between order and chaos. Each number appears whole every hour, then as the minute hand rotates in the centre, the numbers split off into tiny fragments that twist, turn and shuffle themselves into foreign shapes before reuniting on the next hour.

A hotel with plenty of space

The country that put the first man in space now has plans to open the first cosmic hotel for wealthy space tourists.

Russian company Orbital Technologies have announced their aspirations to have a four-room guesthouse in orbit by 2016, the BBC reported recently. A spokesman from the company stated that the hotel would be comfortable, with space for up to seven passengers in the 20-cubic metre vessel. Passengers can also look forward to special meals prepared (before takeoff) by celebrity chefs and large portholes for viewing Earth from afar.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tears of a Turtle

Zooming through the Amazon in Peru on the way to our eco lodge our amazing guide Luis stopped the boat every now and then to point out some of the fascinating wildlife.

A cayman (a sort of a small crocodile) basking on the bank, a family of capybaras (squat wombat sized rodents) nestled nibbling away at food, birds galore and what would soon become my hands down favourites – small turtles stacked unmoving on logs.

When handed Luis’ binoculars we all noticed the most beautiful thing. Surrounding each of the turtles were beautifully coloured butterflies. This on it’s own was stunning enough, but then we were told that the butterflies and turtles have a symbiotic relationship.

The butterflies drink the turtle’s tears and get vital nutrients from doing so all the while cleaning the turtle’s eyes.

It was an amazing and unexpected synergy and a partnership you’d never predict unless you saw it happening.

If you’re the turtle – who in the business world out there could be your unexpected butterfly?

Courtesy of Kirsty Dunphey