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.

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