Thursday, February 10, 2011

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 11 February 2011
15 minutes to clean and serene

From the kitchen to the garage, sometimes it takes just minutes to finally rid a room of clutter.

- Try a 15-minute de-clutter exercise. Pick a room and walk through with a garbage bag, looking at what's visible, like the teacup collecting dust on your mantel for five years. Ask yourself: Do I love it, do I use it, does it bring me joy? If not, it goes into the donate bag. Involve your kids. They'll let go of stuff more easily if they help decide.

Read the article

Apartments get a big tick

Building approvals for new apartments finished on a strong note at the end of last year, almost forty per cent higher than at December 2009, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The figures show that the total number of dwellings approved rose 8.7 per cent in December 2010, in seasonally adjusted terms, after falling 3.9 per cent in November.

New South Wales (up 16.7 per cent), Victoria (up 11.4 per cent), South Australia (1.1 per cent) and Tasmania (9.9 per cent) recorded more dwelling approvals this month while Queensland (down by 5.7 per cent) and Western Australia (down 4.2 per cent) recorded fewer dwelling approvals in seasonally adjusted terms.

The number of private sector houses approved remained flat in December with falls in South Australia (down 11.2 per cent) and Queensland (down 0.2 per cent) and increases in New South Wales (up 0.4 per cent), Victoria (2.1 per cent) and Western Australia (0.8 per cent).

The rise was due mainly to an increase in apartments, with the seasonally adjusted estimate for `private sector other dwellings' approved rising 21.3 per cent following a fall of 6.4 per cent in November.

This figure represents a hefty rise of 37.9 per cent on the number of approvals recorded for that sector in December 2009.

The value of total building approved rose 8.3 per cent in December in seasonally adjusted terms. The value of total residential building rose by 5.7 per cent while non-residential building rose by 13.1 per cent.

Builder sentiment stabilises
Builders expect their industry to recover in the months ahead, a recent Master Builders Australia survey has found.

Master Builders Chief Economist, Peter Jones, said that the latest results show builders cautiously optimistic about their own business circumstances and the health of the Australian building and construction industry in 2011.

"Builders expect activity to improve even though their own business conditions remained essentially unchanged during the December quarter and most of the survey's business expectations indicators remain well below their recent peaks", Mr Jones said.

The survey shows that display centre traffic/enquiries fell in the December quarter, albeit at a slower rate than in the previous quarter, and sales followed a similar pattern. Builders' backlog of work on the books remained `remarkably resilient' but can be expected to suffer as government stimulus work dries up.

"Encouragingly, the results of this survey indicate that builders are now less likely to reduce their workforce in the period ahead", Mr Jones said.

"Both residential and non-residential sectors remained below par in the December quarter, although builders may be becoming slightly more ambivalent than first thought about the prospect of losing schools and social housing projects over the next six months."

"Financial constraints continue to be a concern for commercial and residential builders alike, with no evidence of any easing in the latest survey", he concluded.

Termites on the move

Termites are an ever-present risk to homes across Australia, but homeowners are being cautioned to be especially aware of an increase in activity after the crazy weather of the past few months.

The Victorian Building Commission issued the warning this week, saying that since termites favour damp conditions, the above-average rainfall, flooding and increased humidity experienced over the past year have added to that risk.

Even if your home is protected from termite damage, the Commission says that where flooding has occurred or water has pooled under a home, existing termite barriers may have been breached, so owners should have their installations checked by experts.

Termite damage is not covered by insurance, so regardless of weather conditions it is important that homeowners actively consider the precautions they need to take against termites.
Whether your home is new or old, the following tips will help reduce the risk of termite attack:

- Contact your local council to see if you live in a termite prone area.
- Have an expert inspect your home for termite activity.
- Speak to an expert if you uncover what you think are termites. Do not disturb the site.
- Invest in physical or chemical termite barriers when building or extending your home.
- Chemical treatments last around five years, so have an expert inspect and re-apply the treatment regularly.
- Remove tree stumps and the roots of old trees from around your home.
- Don't store timber or firewood against your house.
- Ensure your home is inspected (at the least) every five years by an expert.
- Before buying a home, have a pre-purchase inspection - including for termites.
- Maintain existing termite barriers. If you renovate, landscape the garden or experience flooding, your barrier may be compromised, so check with an expert.

Protection from termites in the long-term can be gained by the application of chemical or physical barriers (or both) to prevent termites from penetrating your home's structure. An Australian Standard has been written on termite management.

Both physical and chemical termite barriers are designed to prevent concealed access and to force termites into the open where their mud tunnels can be visible. Physical barriers range from small graded stone particles to fine termite-resistant, tough mesh and chemically impregnated composite products.

For more information on the management of termites, contact your local council or visit: where a list of declared municipalities is posted.

Floods dampen construction industry

The recent floods in Queensland and Victoria have not helped the national construction industry, which declined at a steeper rate in January 2011, the Australian Industry Group (AIG) said this week.

The AIG Australian Performance of Construction Index (Australian PCI®) in conjunction with the Housing Industry Association fell 3.6 points to 40.2. This is the eighth consecutive month the index has been below the 50-point level that indicates a contraction in activity.

All four sub-sectors declined in the month, with significant falls across the apartment building (down 15.2 points) and engineering construction (down 19.6 points) sub-sectors.

Australian Industry Group Director Public Policy, Dr Peter Burn, said that while flooding and bad weather conditions have caused project delays and stoppages, interest rates, caution on the part of home buyers and businesses and tight credit conditions continue to hamper growth.

"As the post-flood rebuilding task takes hold over coming months, the sector is likely to see a pick-up in activity in some regions", Dr Burn said.

"However, the nation-wide pick-up in construction will be moderated by the recent announced deferral of some major infrastructure projects", he added.

The Australian PCI® shows that the sub-indices for all four of the major sub-sectors declined; house building (down to 39.5), apartment building (38.6), commercial (44.2) and engineering construction (38.7). Employment also continued to decline in January due to on-going subdued demand, project stoppages and the need for businesses to reduce costs.

Gone walkabout

Do you know anyone who resisted buying a house because they didn't want to be tied to one place? Perhaps the Walking House could be enough to shift their fear of geographical commitment.

The lovechild of UK art/design groups N55 and Wysing Arts Centre, Walking House does just as the name suggests - walk. The modular dwelling system enables people to live a peaceful nomadic life, moving slowly through the landscape or cityscape with minimal impact on the environment.

Energy is collected from the surroundings using solar cells and small windmills, and there is a system for collecting rainwater and a system for solar heated hot water. A small greenhouse unit can be added to the basic living module, to provide a substantial part of the food needed by the inhabitants. A composting toilet system allows sewage produced by the inhabitants to be disposed of. A small wood-burning stove could also be added to provide CO2 neutral heating.

For those who like the idea of community living, more units can fit around the hexagonal shaped structures, building vertically or horizontally, and because Walking House moves on all sorts of terrain it isn't dependent on existing infrastructure. The prototype can be seen in action on YouTube.

Seeing the bigger picture

Televisions seem to be getting larger. While the home cinema experience is more impressive than ever, entertainment systems occupy a good deal of visual real estate in our homes.

In an attempt to reduce visual pollution, designer Michael Friebe has come up with Loewe Invisio, a flat-screen TV that is transparent whilst not in use.

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