Thursday, December 16, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 17 December 2010
Happy Holidays!

Southern Estates management and staff would like to wish all clients and friends a very Merry Christmas, and safe holiday break!

Our office will be closed from 12pm Thursday, 23rd December 2010 and re-opening on Tuesday, 4th January 2011.

For any sales enquiries during this time, please contact Jason Capelo on 0424 372 722. For property management enquiries, contact Karen Simpson on 0419 611 926.

Best Wishes for the festive season!

The Southern Estates Team.

Home loans bloom in Spring
The year has ended on a high note for housing loans, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Housing Finance figures show an increase in October 2010 in both the number and value of housing finance commitments for owner-occupied and investment housing finance. There was also a considerable rise in the number of new dwelling purchases.

The total value of dwelling commitments rose by 2.2 per cent from September to October 2010.
The number of loans for owner-occupied housing increased 1.9 per cent, while the value increased 2.8 per cent.

The number of first-home buyer commitments as a percentage of total owner-occupied commitments dropped slightly from to 15.4 per cent in October from 15.9 per cent in September.

The number of loans for the purchase of new dwellings increased 9.4 per cent, which is a significant gain on the 3.2 per cent and 2 per cent drop experienced during September and August respectively.

The number of loans for the purchase of established dwellings rose by 1.8 per cent and the number of loans for the construction of dwellings rose 0.1 per cent. At the same time, the value of investment housing/fixed loans increased 1.1 per cent.

Mortgage Choice CEO Michael Russell remarked that it is a relief to see that mid-Spring brought about a second consecutive monthly rise in the value of housing finance commitments.

"This was perhaps due to a rise in consumer confidence alongside a greater willingness from lenders to lend, particularly for new dwelling purchases", Mr Russell suggested, adding that it is "great news for many in the residential building industry".

The heavy weight of Christmas lights

There's just over a week to go till Christmas and the signs are all around us. Some just stand out more than others. If you're concerned your Yuletide display may be a bit over the top, find comfort in knowing there are others who share the passion for decorating, and they blow the budget by a lot more than you do.

Giving Clark Griswold a run for most extravagant Christmas displays, one American family has decked their home for the past quarter century with a million festive lights.

HouseLogic, a free source website of housing-related information and tools, has done some number-crunching on the Faucher family's pride and joy, estimating the cost of powering the display is around AU$688 an hour.

With an average showing of 4 hours a night for a month, the family would face a bill of $82,560.

When an estimate of how much the family would save if they converted to LED lighting was worked out, the spending came up as $89 an hour or $10,680 a month - an astounding saving of $599 an hour, or $71,880 a month.

We're in it for the luxury
Australians could spend a record $12.3 billion next year on more luxurious kitchens and bathrooms, according to a report released this week by the Housing Industry Association (HIA).

The HIA Kitchens and Bathrooms Report shows that the past financial year was a positive one for the industry. There were more than 1.2 million kitchen and bathroom installations (new and renovated) in 2009/10 and roughly the same number is predicted for the 2011/12 financial year.

In value terms, the kitchen industry was worth $6.9 billion in 2009/10, a strong lift of 9.2 per cent on the previous year.

There were 509,400 kitchens (new and renovated) installed by Australians in 2009/10 - that's an increase of 7.5 per cent on the previous year.

HIA Chief Economist Dr Harley Dale predicts that the value of kitchen installations will rise to $7.6 billion in 2011/12.

"We are forecasting growth of nearly 11 per cent in the total value of kitchen installations over the 2010/11 - 2011/12 period," Harley Dale said.

"That is a healthy outlook."

The bathroom industry also grew strongly last year. The report found it was worth $4.2 billion in 2009/10, which represents a healthy 10.9 per cent increase on the previous year. This figure is predicted to increase to $4.7 billion in 2011/12

The number of bathrooms installed (new and renovated) was 711,200 - an increase of 9.2 per cent on the previous year.

So what are we spending all this money on? The report also looked into the types of materials and appliances consumers are demanding in their kitchens and bathrooms and notes the following trends.

Benchtops: engineered and stone benchtops were most popular followed by solid-surface and granite. There was a decline in use of stainless steel, concrete and timber benchtops.

Door types: Polyurethane doors, followed by low-pressure laminate doors, were more popular in 2010. Glass doors and vinyl wrap/vacuum-formed doors also increased in usage. On the way out were roller shutter doors, natural timber doors and timber veneer doors.

Splashbacks: Glass and engineered-stone splashbacks are in. Granite and tiles are out. Perspex coloured splashbacks and acrylic splashbacks also declined in use.

Appliances: New appliances that are hot in our kitchens include LCD/plasma TVs, two-door fridges with icemakers, wine cooler/fridges and European freestanding stoves.

Tap ware: Budget tap ware and insinkerators are no longer in vogue. Over the past year, the fastest growth was in lever tap ware followed by premium tap ware and multiple sinks and taps in bathrooms.

Sinks: Under-mount sinks continue to be the fastest growing sink, but there was also an increase in use for double-bowl and square-form sinks. Water filtration systems are becoming much more popular. On the way out are solid surface, round bowl and single bowl sinks.

Drawers: Soft closing drawers and deep and wide drawers for pots and plates are now hot. Concealed garbage bin/disposal units are also popular.

Housing starts drop

National dwelling commencements fell sharply in the September 2010 quarter, particularly for the volatile investment housing sector.

Figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the seasonally adjusted estimate for the total number of dwelling units commenced fell 13.2 per cent in the September quarter, following a rise of 2.1 per cent in the June quarter.

The number of commencements on new private sector houses fell 4.3 per cent in the September quarter, but the seasonally adjusted estimate for new private sector `other residential building' fell by a huge 13.5 per cent in the September quarter following a rise of 16.8 per cent in the June quarter.

The number of housing starts (including conversions) in the September 2010 quarter fell by 14.5 per cent in New South Wales, 25.2 per cent in Queensland, 5.7 per cent in South Australia, 19.9 per cent in Western Australia and 30.5 per cent in the ACT.

Housing starts rose by 1.5 per cent in Victoria, 22.0 per cent in Tasmania, and 27.6 per cent in NT.

World's most expensive Christmas tree

Carollers would have you believe that the prettiest sight to see this season is the holly that will be on your own front door.

While that may be the case, you should keep an open mind until you've seen Ginza Tanaka's 24K gold Christmas tree. Weighing over 21 kgs, the tree is adorned with over 240 jewels including diamond baubles and strings of pearls, and has definitely pulled its weight with the World Records Academy as the AU$1.8M price tag has earned it the title of World's most expensive Christmas tree.

Last minute tips to give your home a festive feel

This is such a busy time of the year and with work, play and Christmas shopping, it's easy to let things slip under the radar. If you love to get into the spirit of the season by decorating your house but just haven't found the time this year, here are some simple tips for creating the mood at the last minute - without breaking the budget.

  • Drape strings of lights around the mirror in bathrooms, over doorways and along railings around the house. When purchasing lights, look for ones that burn cool instead of hot and work through battery power - even solar, if you're going to use them outside.
  • Dress up dolls and teddy bears with ribbons and holiday fabrics to bring a festive feel to your home. Group them under the tree, on mantels and on windowsills.
  • Start wrapping presents now and put them out in full view to create that Christmas morning excitement every time you enter a room.
  • Place a few glass balls, some Christmas baubles and a candle or two in a bowl and embellish with a few sprigs of greenery or some leftover ribbon.
  • Give furniture some seasonal style with red and green slipcovers and throw pillows in gold silk fabrics or fabric with Christmas designs.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 10 December 2010
Matilda's Farmyard Nursery Animals

Meet your favourite baby animals including lambs, chicks, piglets, goats, ducks, guinea pigs & bunnies! Entry is free!

Kids can enter the pen to touch, pat and feed the baby animals. They can even brush the fur of a guinea pig using a toothbrush.

Happy Christmas, borrowers

The Reserve Bank has lent its own little brand of cheer to the festive season this week, deciding to leave the Official Cash Rate (OCR) on hold at 4.75 per cent.

Even better, in a statement announcing the decision Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens hinted that there are not likely to be any further interest rate hikes in the near future.

"Over the next few quarters, inflation is expected to be little changed, though it is likely to increase somewhat over the medium term if the economy grows as expected", Governor Stevens said.

"Following the Board's decision last month to lift the cash rate, and the subsequent increases by financial institutions, lending rates in the economy are now a little above average.

"The Board views this setting of monetary policy as appropriate for the economic outlook", he concluded.

Slow but steady for 2011
Home values continue to fluctuate slightly, with October figures leading industry analysts to predict a sedate performance for residential property in 2011.

RP Data-Rismark's Hedonic Home Value Index shows that Australian capital city dwelling values rose 0.3 per cent, seasonally adjusted, in the month of October 2010.

The report shows that market conditions remain diverse across the key cities, with Perth and Brisbane the only capital city markets where home values have declined over the twelve months to October (down 1.8 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively).

Over the three months to end of October, home values were down 3.8 per cent in Perth and 1.6 per cent in Brisbane.

In contrast, the other major cities recorded improvements in dwelling values over the three months to the end of October. Home values rose in Canberra (up by 2.4 per cent), Darwin (up 1.7 per cent), Sydney (0.8 per cent) and Melbourne (0.5 per cent).

In the first 10 months of the year, Australian capital city dwelling values have risen by a modest 4.3 per cent (seasonally adjusted). This is broadly in line with disposable income growth, according to Rismark International joint managing director, Ben Skilbeck, who pointed out that the national Dwelling Price-to-Disposable Household Income Ratio Index was sitting at around 4.6 times in the second quarter of 2010.

This is consistent with the ratio of home-price-to-income for the preceding seven years.

"The good news is that the current flat-lining in home values should result in a moderation in the national price-to-income ratio and present patient buyers with interesting opportunities in the year ahead."

RP Data's research director, Tim Lawless believes the outlook for residential property is likely to be fairly sedate over the coming 12 months.

"If we use market conditions after the 2000 to 2003 property boom as a guide, month to month value changes saw a mixture of small upwards and downward movements over the following two years with total value growth just 4.7 per cent between December 2003 and December 2005."

Mr Lawless added that unemployment at that time was 5.9 per cent and trending downwards, while the resources sector was heating up.

"In the years ahead the RBA is forecasting very strong household income and employment growth.

"These two factors should help mitigate the impact of higher rate rises and prevent any material decline in prices", he concluded.

Switch and save - your choice

The average Australian family can give themselves an early Christmas present with the hundreds of dollars saved by switching home loans, savings accounts and credit cards to cheaper options, according to consumer advocacy group Choice.

In figures released this week, Choice says that by switching accounts from the big four banks to other providers, mortgage holders can save up to $2,500 a year, credit card holders up to $440 and those with standard savings accounts up to $330*.

The Compare, Ditch and Switch initiative, part of the group's Better Banking campaign, encourages Australians to size up their banking options with the help of an independent online tool.

"You don't have to wait for banking reform to get a better deal. People who are proactive and can spare a few minutes might be surprised at how much they can save," says Better Banking campaign director, Richard Lloyd.

"Too many people are staying in cards, loans and accounts which are costing them too much - switching makes real sense," says Richard Lloyd.

"More mobile and discriminating bank customers help make a more competitive banking system for everyone."

The Compare, Ditch and Switch price comparison tool can be found on the Choice website. It enables consumers to objectively compare credit cards, home loans, savings products and transaction accounts from 89 banks, credit unions, building societies and non-bank lenders.

* The potential savings from switching have been calculated by comparing the yearly cost of the worst `big four' products for savings accounts and credit cards, as well as the yearly cost of the average standard variable rate `big four' home loans, with the best cost alternative on the market today. Costs include interest rates and fees.

The potential annual savings from switching from the mid point big four products to the best rate alternative in the market are $190 for savings accounts and $270 for credit cards.

Industry responds to shortages

The increase in apprenticeship commencements announced this week by the Federal Government is a positive sign that industry is responding to skill shortages by investing in the training of young people, according to the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group).

Commenting on the announcement, Ai Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout said that she would like to see the Kickstart Bonus scheme made permanent.

"The traditional trades are a key area to focus on in addressing skill shortages and the growth in apprenticeships needs to be sustained", Ms Ridout remarked.

"The results show that the Kickstart Bonus appears to have been a success in supporting apprenticeships and Ai Group is strongly of the view that there should be some redesign of the incentive to make it permanent.

"Ai Group itself employs well over 500 apprentices yet there remains strong demand from employers to host apprentices and there are plenty of vacancies in the scheme for young people.

"Another promising aspect of today's training data from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research is that the number of higher level qualifications (diplomas and advanced diplomas) commenced in 2010 is more than double the number of these qualifications which were commenced in 2009 (8,200 compared to 3,700).

"While this increase is off a low base, we have consistently stressed the need for industry to have access to higher level skills and these statistics show an increased commitment to the building of those higher level skills," Ms Ridout said.

For the butterfly in us all

Christmas in Australia may be far from white, but with many parts of the country experiencing erratic weather, evenings usually spent at the beach or at a BBQ are better spent rugged up on the couch.

One way of making sure the blanket never strays too far from the couch would be to blend the two, and that's just what design studio Les M has done in Cocon.

A cross between sun-lounger and sleeping bag, the armchair provides a snug, comfy pocket to slip into while you read, watch TV or just relax and hibernate.

As if life weren't magical enough

The Harry Potter series has inspired many wishes for a life less-muggle and more magical. While there may not be a real Hogwarts school to attend (at least not publicly recognised), the UK Telegraph reports that a gothic chateau looking remarkably similar has come onto the British market.

Dating back to 1849, the property offers the perfect backdrop for any imagination to run wild, with a 42ft wood-panelled banqueting hall (floating candles not included), circular turrets, mullioned windows, carved fireplaces and balconies (shifting staircases not included) and huge grounds perfect for outdoor activities (Quidditch accessories not included).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 03 December 2010
Lucky Bear's Christmas Party 2010

If you go down to Crown St Mall on Saturday 4th December you're in for a big surprise!

The Leukaemia Foundation will be holding Lucky Bear's Christmas Party at the Amphitheatre Stage on Saturday the 4th December at 10am in support of patients affected by blood cancers.

A bounce in the step

Approvals to build new homes bounced back last month after a six-month slump, according to figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The total number of dwellings approved, seasonally adjusted, rose 9.3 per cent in October 2010, due largely to a surge (14.0 per cent) in New South Wales.

Victoria (4.6 per cent), South Australia (6.1 per cent) and Western Australia (2.3 per cent) recorded an increase in dwelling approvals in October, while Queensland reported fewer dwelling approvals (-0.7 per cent) in seasonally adjusted terms.

Private sector houses approved rose 1.5 per cent with rises in New South Wales (3.5 per cent), Victoria (3.1 per cent) and Western Australia (2.4 per cent). The number of approvals for private sector houses fell in Queensland (down by 8.1 per cent) and South Australia (down 2.1 per cent).

The value of total building approved rose 4.1 per cent in October in seasonally adjusted terms. The value of total residential building rose by 8.2 per cent while non-residential building fell by -3.8 per cent.

The housing industry welcomed the news with reservations.

Master Builders Australia Chief Economist Peter Jones said that a sustained recovery in approvals is needed over the next few months to ensure the upswing in residential building activity gathers momentum.

"A long and strong residential building upturn is desperately needed given that we have been underbuilding in Australia over the past six or seven years", Mr Jones said.

"Even if approvals were to bounce back to an annualised rate of 170,000, the level of building would still be well below what is required to make inroads into the supply shortage."

Mr Jones commented that government policy, together with lenders' reluctance to offer credit, is constraining the ability of housing supply to meet demand and that without reform, the problem of housing affordability will only get worse.

"With the credit squeeze still operative banks should do more to help investor-driven activity thereby ensuring a recovery in approvals of units and apartments.

"Reputable commentators, including the Reserve Bank Governor have stated that unless there is urgent reform to address bottlenecks, the strong supply response needed to meet demand will not eventuate", he said.

"Master Builders supports many of the findings of the Henry Tax Review on housing affordability and will continue to push for the need to address inefficient developer charges, land release regulations and the approvals process as part of reforms to remove impediments affecting the supply of housing."

New home sales warm upSales of new homes lifted slightly in October, according to a survey of Australia's major residential builders.

The latest HIA/Jeld-Wen New Home Sales Report shows that the number of new homes sold increased by 2.4 per cent in October 2010 following a downwardly revised 1.7 per cent decline in the month of September.

Detached house sales increased by 3 per cent in October while multi-unit sales fell by 2.6 per cent.

Over the three months to October new home sales fell by 9 per cent to be 17 per cent lower when compared to the same three-month period in 2009. Sales of detached houses were down 10 per cent while sales of multi-units rose by 1 per cent.

In the month of October 2010, detached new house sales increased by 5.9 per cent in Victoria, 7.4 per cent in Queensland and 0.9 per cent in Western Australia, although sales volumes fell in all three of these markets over the three month period to October.

Sales fell by 6.1 per cent in New South Wales and by 1.3 per cent in South Australia in October.

At home on the range

Developers have long understood the value of building a residential community around a particular lifestyle, such as golf estates, marinas or even sustainable living. Now, a group in the Florida, US county of Palm Beach has found a niche market by offering luxury `farm' houses to horse lovers.

According to the promotional material, the `lavish estate homes' in the Equus development are `complimented by a 7,000 square-foot clubhouse and 34-acre Equestrian Centre offering private lessons for riders of all skill levels, boarding facilities, turnout paddocks and miles of meandering riding trails.'

For those less inclined to work with horses, there is `a fully-equipped state-of-the-art fitness centre, two tennis courts, an incredible resort-style swimming pool and five miles of well-lit paths throughout the community lined with lush loggias perfect for walking or jogging'.

Playing with the big boys
Building societies and credit unions have shown strength, resilience and competitiveness over the past year, according to research released this week by advisory services firm KPMG.

KPMG's Building Societies and Credit Unions 2010 survey shows that building societies' underlying profitability increased by 34.1 per cent while that of the credit unions (`the mutuals') grew 37.3 per cent.

The growth reflects asset growth, increases in capital and slightly improved interest margins, continued low bad debts and the absence of significant one-off costs associated with the GFC.

Building societies' assets grew 6.0 per cent (2009:1.8 per cent) to $29.1 billion and credit unions' assets 6.1 per cent to $47.0 billion, reflecting a resilient housing market in Australia and the strong bond these organisations have with their members. Capital levels also increased with capital adequacy ratio for building societies increasing to 15.0 per cent and credit unions to 17.7 per cent.

KPMG banking partner Martin McGrath remarked that this highlights the strength of their balance sheets and provides a basis for ongoing growth and profitability.

"The mutuals have a special bond with their members and this has served them well throughout the GFC and beyond", McGrath said.

"They offer healthy competition against other lenders in the highly competitive home mortgage and retail deposit markets.

"They go into the next year well-positioned for further growth", he concluded.

Operating costs for building societies increased slightly (1.8 per cent) and for credit unions total operating costs increased 8.1 per cent.

`Til death do we part

As time goes by, some carpets thin out, and some hairlines recede. In both cases, a popular choice is to freshen up the look with an imported cover.

Playfully celebrating one aspect of aging often left unmentioned, Israeli designer Meirav Barzilay's Comb Over allows you to cover your floor, head and body.

The rug is made of varied lengths of grey felt strips, sprawling out from one end. The piece can be styled to cover the length of the rug, wrapped up around you as a makeshift blanket, or bunched up to be used as a headrest.

Eight little mansions all in a row

They may not have the big front and back yards of their suburban counterparts, yet most terrace houses offer a unique, cosy lifestyle that is particularly attractive.

If you landed a place in Cornwall Terrace in London's Regent's Park, however, you'd barely notice the wall-to-wall neighbours - and if you did, you could just complain to your on-hand staff in their on-site 2-bedroom living quarters.

The row of eight double-fronted terraced mansions has just hit the market for a collective AU$650M, making it the world's most expensive row of terrace houses, the UK Telegraph reported recently. Belonging to British nobility for 150 years prior to their makeover, each of the mansions ranges from 8,000 to 14,000 square feet, with five to seven bedrooms in each.

The master bedrooms are the size of an average apartment, while each property features its own spa, gym, hydraulic elevator, audio/visual and lighting systems that are controlled by an iPad. The largest offers a ballroom and swimming pool complex - perhaps that's where they'll hold the neighbourhood Christmas gathering?