Thursday, February 17, 2011

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 18 February 2011
She's done it again!

Our wonderfully gifted Marie Kay has been awarded NSW Sports Federation's Masters Athlete of the year in a HUGE award celebration last night at Homebush. This combines with her two international Masters Athlete of the Year awards from last year. We are VERY proud of our Marie!

Home lending improves

Home lending continues to improve, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The ABS figures show that, seasonally adjusted, the total value of dwelling finance commitments excluding alterations and additions rose 2.5 per cent in December 2010. This is the fourth month in a row that the value of loans for housing has lifted.

Both the number and value of commitments rose in December in all major categories except for the purchase of new dwellings, which dropped 10.1 per cent.

Loans for owner-occupied housing rose 2.3 per cent, while investment housing - fixed loans rose 3 per cent. Loans for the construction of dwellings increased by 1 per cent.

The number of first home buyer loans rose to 8,586 in December; the highest figure for that sector in nine months. First homebuyers accounted for 15.8 per cent of owner occupied housing finance commitments for December 2010, up from 15.6 per cent in November and 15.4 per cent in October (in original terms).

In seasonally adjusted terms, in December 2010 the total number of owner occupier loans increased by 4.8 per cent in New South Wales, 3.3 per cent in Victoria, 2 per cent in Queensland, 0.3 per cent in South Australia, 0.9 per cent in Western Australia, 4.8 per cent in Tasmania, 1 per cent in the Northern Territory and 2.1 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory.

Let's go dutch

A new scheme modelled on the service used in the Netherlands could potentially see 100,000 consumers change banks each year, consumer advocacy group Choice said this week.

Giving evidence to the Senate Inquiry into banking competition, which this week held public hearings in Canberra, Choice said that only 2,541 borrowers currently use the bank-run switching scheme in Australia.

Not because we don't want to, though. Choice also revealed that its 'Compare, Ditch and Switch' website helped 50,000 people find a better bank deal in December 2010 alone - its first month of operation.

But the people's watchdog says despite more people actively seeking to change, it continues to be much too tough for them to do so.

"More than ever before Australians are seeking to switch banks but time and time again they tell us the task is simply too time consuming and too frustrating to complete the process," Choice's Better Banking campaign director Richard Lloyd remarked this week.

The campaign's research* has shown 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 $425 a year and those with standard savings accounts up to $330 a year.

"Switching is the key to driving competition in banking but right now all the costs of changing banks are carried by consumers and businesses", Mr Lloyd said.

"The amount of traffic to our site shows people want to switch now - not in five years time."

Choice and the Council of Small Businesses of Australia (COSBOA) have written to the banking industry asking them to stop blocking portable account numbers, and whilst the Senate Inquiry into banking continues, help their customers to switch by implementing the Dutch-style system now.

The Dutch switching system is a single-form, one-step process that requires the customer's new bank and old bank to transfer direct debits automatically.

Choice says portable account numbers would cut the cost of switching and improve consumer confidence in moving between providers.

"In a week when banks are once again reporting record breaking profits, it's time for them to put some money back into providing their customers with better service - a Dutch-style switching system would be a big step towards that," says Richard.

* The potential savings from switching have been calculated by Mozo by comparing the yearly cost of the worst big four products for savings accounts and credit cards, and 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 (correct as at 25 January 2011).

Clean up, Australia

Cleaning up Australia has perhaps never been more important, after the devastating storms and floods of the past few months, Ian Kiernan AO announced this month.

As the annual Clean Up Day approaches, the Chairman and founder of Clean Up Australia was recently in Ballarat, calling on communities to come together on 6 March by focusing on flood-affected areas.

"The first priority after a flood is your own backyard", Mr Kiernan noted, applauding the aid provided by local government and state authorities.

"But as the waters recede, the cameras disappear and the focus of those of us not directly affected wanes, it will be left to the locals to work on the parks, bushland, rivers and creeks where flood debris has accumulated."

Mr Kiernan acknowledged that Clean Up Australia Day would not be possible without the amazing volunteers working to clean up their own local areas.

Kiernan noted that last year's Rubbish Report surveys showed us that disposable items increased by 6 per cent in 2010.

"This is unacceptable, and we need to take action to protect the areas that are being degraded the most - our parks and waterways."

The 2010 Rubbish Report revealed that while cigarette butts were the single item most commonly found, plastic remained the predominant form of rubbish across Australia for the 16th year in a row. Its long-lasting persistence (plastic bags can last up to 450 years in salt water) makes plastic one of the most destructive forms of waste in Australia.
Other findings included:

- Small paper pieces jumped up to second place in 2010 - up from seventh in 2009.
- In 2010 aluminium cans fell from third to ninth place.
- Six of the top ten items were related to beverage containers including plastic and metal bottle caps and glass pieces.
- Beverage container related items made up 23.6 per cent of all waste items.
- Seven out of the top ten items were recyclable, while nine of the top ten items related to packaging in some way.

In 2010 an estimated 588,000 volunteers removed around 15,560 tonnes of rubbish from 7,073 registered Clean Up sites, making the 20th Clean Up Australia Day the largest community participation event in the country.

Borrowers prepared

This week's housing finance statistics appear to back up a recent survey that shows borrowers to be confident they can weather interest rates in 2011.

QBE LMI's December 2010 Mortgage Opinion Survey of over 1000 professionals in the mortgage industry including banks, non banks, brokers and mortgage managers found that over 80 per cent of survey respondents believe mortgage holders are prepared for future interest rate rises.

A large proportion of these respondents, over 34 per cent, feel that mortgage holders could accommodate rate rises ranging from 0.5 to 1 per cent and over 11 per cent feel a rate rise from 1.0 to 1.5 per cent is manageable.

Ian Graham, CEO of QBE LMI said that the results indicate that mortgage holders have become more cautious about borrowing and are being fairly careful with their finances to prepare for expected future interest rate rises.

"The survey results indicate a stable outlook for consumer confidence, with 41 per cent of respondents suggesting a slight improvement in 2011 and 2 per cent expecting a significant increase. 23 per cent expect no change and 31 per cent expect consumer confidence to decrease slightly", said Mr Graham.

He added that while the recent natural disasters across the nation including the Queensland, Victorian and Northern New South Wales Floods are likely to have some impact on consumer confidence in the short term, that will turn around with the economic activity flowing from the recovery effort.

The survey feedback suggests variable rate home loans will continue to be preferred in 2011, with the majority of respondents agreeing that this product will be the top choice amongst borrowers, followed by Professional Packages and Fixed Rate Home Loans.

"Variable rate home loans usually provide options and flexibility, but they can ride the swings and roundabouts of interest rate movements", Mr Graham said.

"The choice of loan will often be determined by the borrower's situation and financial priorities.

"It is difficult for borrowers to make decisions about the long term direction for interest rates - so a borrower's choice needs to be made with their own financial goals in mind", he concluded.

* The survey was completed in late December 2010 by over 1000 professionals in the mortgage industry including banks, non banks, brokers and mortgage managers. QBE LMI was interested in the views of these professionals to gain insights and expected forecasts for the mortgage market over the next 12 months. The survey covered new residential loan applications, anticipated interest rate movements and perceived consumer confidence.

Take a note, table

Bright ideas happen randomly. Whether it's an inspirational thought, a `must-have' for the shopping list, an extra `to-do' or an innovative new invention, it truly is a shame how many things slip by when they are not written down.

Looking like a prop from "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids", Note Table assures that you will always have a note pad around and you'll never need to look hard to find it. Made from 5000 sheets of coloured paper bound down one side with PCQ glue, the table itself is one giant post-it notepad. It doesn't, however, come with giant pen, or a giant fridge to stick them to.

Living in a bubble

There's nothing like spending a night outdoors, sleeping under the stars. Except for insects, animals and our currently bi-polar weather conditions, in which case you'll no doubt be seeking shelter.

An innovative twist on camping out, CrystalBubbles are a new approach to temporary leisure accommodation, providing the comforts of a hotel room with a crystal clear view of the outer surroundings. Each of the huts features a bubble-like structure that allows occupants to see out from every angle without being seen from the outside, making it easy to sleep under the stars regardless of the weather, mosquitoes or neighbours.

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