Thursday, March 31, 2011

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 01 April 2011
Investor's need is the seed

Before buying, decide what you hope to achieve, writes Kate Robertson. With a lazy $500,000 to spend, what is the best investment choice? Established property, off-the-plan, newly built or a property with potential to grow in value immediately with renovation? Read the article

Builder's son makes top architect

A builder's son credited with `changing the landscape of suburban housing in Australia' and mentoring decades of leading architects has won the nation's top annual architecture award - the 2011 Gold Medal for Architecture.

Architect Graeme Gunn was awarded the honour at the second Australian Achievement in Architecture Awards (AAAA) ceremony last Thursday by the Australian Institute of Architects National President, Karl Fender.

The Melbourne-based architect is known as `being a fighter for better housing for all Australians' and for working consistently to enhance our quality of life by `improving our housing and urban environments' throughout his 50-year career to date.

He is best known for his current role as principal architect for VicUrban, as foundation dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Building at RMIT and for his early innovative housing work, particularly for Merchant Builders in Melbourne.

Gunn has also established a body of work across rural and regional Victoria, the south coast of NSW, Sydney and Dilli in East Timor. His most recognisable projects are the iconic Plumbers and Gasfitters Union Building in Victoria Street, Melbourne and the Melbourne City Baths; his project housing with Merchant Builders and the Bower House; urban design projects including Melbourne's Prahran Market; cluster housing projects Winter Park in Melbourne's Doncaster and VicUrban at Heathmont.

Well-known single residences include the Shoebridge House in Doncaster East, the Yencken House in Tathra on the NSW south coast, and the Scroggie/Claire House in South Yarra.

Other industry leaders recognised at the ceremony included:

- Paul Pholeros, of Sydney-based Healthabitat, recipient of the Leadership in Sustainability Prize - Janet Holmes a Court, recipient of the Institute's President's Prize - Dr Marcus White of Melbourne, recipient of the Emerging Architects Prize - Sam Bresnehan, of the University of Tasmania, recipient of the BlueScope Steel Glenn Murcutt Student Prize; - Associate Professor Anna Rubbo, of the University of Sydney, recipient of the Neville Quarry Architectural Education Prize; - Daniel Brookes, of the University of Adelaide, winner of the Student Prize for the Advancement of Architecture; and - Carly Barrett, Christina Cho, Yuri Dillon, Jefa Greenaway and Brendan Murray, winners of the Dulux Study Tour prize.

Population growth slows

The rate at which our population grew last year was the lowest in four years, according to preliminary figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The figures show that, with an increase of 345,500, Australia's annual population growth rate slowed to 1.6 per cent for the year ending September 2010.

This is down from its peak growth rate of 2.2 per cent in the year ending December 2008 and is the lowest since the year ending September 2006 (319,100).

Net overseas migration continued to decline to the end of September 2010. The preliminary net overseas migration estimate for the September quarter 2010 (42,500 people) was 41.2 per cent lower than that for the September quarter 2009 (72,300 people).

Australia's population reached 22,407,700 by the end of September 2010, growing by 345,500 people over the year. Net overseas migration accounted for 54 per cent of this growth, with the remaining 46 per cent due to natural increase (births minus deaths).

For the year ending September 2009, net overseas migration accounted for 65 per cent of the year's total growth, with the remaining 35 per cent due to natural increase.

Western Australia continued to record the fastest population growth rate at 2.1 per cent, followed by Queensland (1.8 per cent), Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory (both 1.7 per cent), New South Wales and the Northern Territory (both 1.3 per cent), South Australia (1.1 per cent) and Tasmania (0.8 per cent).

Based on preliminary figures, there were 301,500 births registered in the year ending September 2010, 1.1 per cent more than the previous year. The number of deaths registered over the same period was 141,700, 0.1 per cent fewer than the previous year.

Living with possums

Even for those who don't spook easily, the guttural hiss and heavy thump of a possum scurrying across the roof is not an appealing sound in the middle of the night. Worse still, possums often take up residence inside roofs, which in most cases means the new noisy neighbour isn't just passing through.

Possums can gain access to the roof space through loose tiles, loose roofing iron, broken eaves and holes in timber or brickwork. Regular maintenance checks of your roof should ensure that this access is restricted; however you may need to take decisive action to deter the visitor permanently.

As they are a protected species (it is illegal in NSW to relocate the possum more than 50m away from its habitat), you can either call your local wildlife rescue group, check the yellow pages for a possum remover, or take steps yourself to remove the possum and possum-proof your roof.

W.I.R.E.S. (Wildlife Information and Rescue Service) offers the following tips -

* provide an alternative home (a possum box attached to a tree at least 4m above the ground to keep it safe from dogs and cats) * climb into your roof, remove the possum's nest and place it in the possum box (best done at night when the possum is not there) * place a small piece of fruit in the possum box to encourage the animal to investigate * trim away any branches near the house that might give the possum access to the roof * place a light in the roof cavity and leave it on for a few days - the light should keep the possum away * block off any holes in the roof to ensure the possum doesn't return (make absolutely sure there are no possums in the roof before you do this!).

Concrete answers to climate change effects

We often take the stable ground beneath our feet for granted, but a new report has highlighted the effect that changes in our environment could pose on those steady foundations.

Understanding how climate change could impact on the deterioration of the basic building block of much of Australia's infrastructure - concrete - is crucial to ensuring major assets such as roads, ports and buildings continue to perform to expectations, according to a CSIRO report.

The report's lead author, CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship's Dr Xiaoming Wang, commented that in order to better understand such potential changes, we need to establish an accurate national database on the rate, and factors involved in, the deterioration of concrete infrastructure.

"Failure to consider the effects of climate change may compromise the safety of concrete structures, but overcompensating in our efforts to adapt for climate change may unnecessarily increase costs," Dr Wang said.

Concrete deterioration is caused by a range of physical, mechanical and/or chemical factors.

One of the major threats to the longevity of concrete structures is carbonation, which occurs when atmospheric CO2 penetrates into the structure to expose steel reinforcements to corrosion.

"We need to establish an accurate information base on future concrete deterioration for Australian infrastructure," said Dr Wang.

Corrosion caused by chloride penetration is another serious threat to concrete durability causing cracking, delamination or spalling, especially in marine and coastal areas.

"Both corrosion mechanisms are influenced by climate change but, the time it will take for climate change to exacerbate carbonation and chloride-induced corrosion of concrete structures will depend on their location and level of exposure to the elements," Dr Wang said.

He noted that the durability of concrete structures depends on the method of construction and types of materials used, and the environmental conditions they are exposed to.

"Currently, the primary assumption in construction designs is that environmental conditions will be similar to those of the past," he said.

"However, scientists and engineers from CSIRO, in collaboration with a colleague from the University of Newcastle, have shown that increased atmospheric CO2, in addition to a changing climate - including 'chronic' factors like increasing CO2 concentrations, temperatures and humidity and `acute' factors like extreme weather events - will alter environmental exposure of most concrete infrastructure over their relatively long lifetime.

"This means that concrete structures will generally deteriorate faster with major implications for the safety, serviceability and durability of infrastructure, particularly in warmer inland and coastal areas," Dr Wang said.

Funded by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the report makes a number of recommendations on the design of new and maintenance of existing concrete infrastructure.

Bearly full of beans

The saying `let sleeping dogs lie' definitely applies also to grizzly bears. In fact, there are very few situations in which you or any family member should come close to a bear in any state of consciousness.

One of the exceptions is the Big Sleeping Grizzly Bear Bean Bag. Stylised and printed graphics give the large, knitted beanbag the appearance of a sleeping bear, which can be adored from across the room, or used as a chair or sofa.

Murder mystery house for sale

Would you live in a house someone had been murdered in? What if the entire country had seen the events on television?

A six-bedroom family home on the market in England has seen more than its fair share of excitement, murder and mystery, and according to the UK Daily Mail, all of it has been for the screen.

The 400-year-old house has had corpses in almost every room - for years the owners have sublet to production companies for the filming of shows such as Midsomer Murders, Dr Who, Spooks, Waking The Dead, Harry Potter, James Bond, and Torchwood. Fittingly named Black Park Cottage, it is the only home on Black Park, with 530 acres of pine woods, heathland and a lake.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 25 March 2011
Tips for a happier home life

A little bit of organising can get your household running more smoothly. Here are some quick hints to make life easier now.

ENTRIES: Lots of family members and activities make for a busy entryway to the home. If you don't already have it, install a sturdy coat rack at child height. Add a bench with a cubby for shoes. Keep winter shoes in the cubbies, ready so you can grab and go when needed. Slippers kept by the door cut down on cleaning because all of that outside dirt isn't tracked in. Add a board for permission slips and homework, and mornings can run a lot smoother.

Read the full article

A quiet holiday

January is typically the quietest month of the year for the housing market, with many Australians on holidays and a natural drop in both listings and sales activity.

So it comes as little surprise, then, given the spate of natural disasters in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria over the same period, that figures show a slowdown in housing activity throughout the country.

RP Data-Rismark's Hedonic Home Value Index shows that the sedate conditions in January were in evidence across the board, with all cities registering declines.

In the capital city markets, dwelling values were down by 1.6 per cent in seasonally-adjusted terms over January, with a similar pattern recorded in the 'rest of state' areas, where house values fell by 1.2 per cent.

The median dwelling price in the capital cities is also down to $465,000 over the three months to end January, while the median in the `rest of state' markets is $325,000.

The national, all-regions median dwelling price is $412,000.

Rismark's joint Managing Director Ben Skilbeck commented that there are growing signs of a soft recovery in the housing market after six months of flat dwelling values since May 2010.

"Housing credit growth looks to be rising a little, and the early auction clearance rate data in February has been a demonstrable improvement over the sub-50 per cent clearance rates at the end of last year", Mr Skilbeck said.

"Our forecasting model implies low single digit capital gains in 2011 based on the assumption that the RBA tightens monetary policy further.

"However it is noteworthy that the futures market is not pricing in the first full interest rate increase until February 2012", he added.

Over the twelve months to the end of January, Perth (-3.8 per cent), Brisbane (-3.7 per cent) and Canberra (-0.6 per cent) recorded a decline in home values.

At the other end of the spectrum Darwin has regained the title of the best performing city, recording a capital gain of 4.7 per cent over the year to end January. This was followed by Melbourne (3.6 per cent), Sydney (2.5 per cent), Hobart (2.2 per cent) and Adelaide (2.0 per cent).

According to RP Data's research director Tim Lawless, the key leading indicators imply relatively balanced market conditions.

"We have had no value growth at all since May 2010 across the combined capitals and since January 2010 in the regions outside the capital cities", he said.

"The headline variable mortgage rate is only slightly above average at 7.8 per cent.

"While they are starting to improve, clearance rates, at just over 50 per cent, remain below average.

Mr Lawless noted that the number of homes being advertised for sale is also above-average while the level of vendor discounting and average selling times have risen.

"This must be balanced against the fact that the unemployment rate is very low at 5.0 per cent and wages have recorded strong growth of more than 4 per cent annualised over the last six months", he said.

Overall disposable household incomes have been growing at a 6-7 per cent annualised rate, and the interest rate outlook appears to be stable over the short term," Mr Lawless concluded.

Houses bring down commencements
Dwelling starts fell in the December 2010 quarter despite a lift in apartment building, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The seasonally adjusted estimate for the total number of dwelling units commenced fell 5.3% in the December quarter, following a fall of 13.0% in the September quarter.

The figures show that the result was driven largely by a drop in new home starts. New private sector house commencements fell 8.0% in the December quarter following a fall of 5.4% in the September quarter.

The seasonally adjusted estimate for new private sector `other residential building' rose 4.2% in the December quarter following a fall of 8.1% in the September quarter.

On a state-by-state basis, housing starts fell by 15.9 per cent in Victoria in the December 2010 quarter. The number of housing starts also fell in New South Wales (down by 2.1 per cent), Queensland (down by 5.9 per cent), South Australia (down by 14.1 per cent), Western Australia (down by 0.6 per cent), Tasmania (down by 14.4 per cent) and the Northern Territory (down by 37.3 per cent).

Housing starts rose by 75.0 per cent in the ACT.

Get planning for your neighbours' sake!

The 9th annual Neighbour Day is rapidly approaching, and residents across the country are advised not to let late planning spoil a good party.

Each year, more and more Australians are choosing to celebrate Neighbour Day with other local residents by having a street party, 2011 Australia Day Ambassador and Neighbour Day founder Andrew Heslop said recently.

As the event falls on Sunday 27th March this year, anyone looking to close off their street for a party should talk to their local council as soon as possible.

"Closing off the street to create a mini-festival and to safely allow games of street cricket is a very good idea," Mr Heslop said.

"However the application process and timeframes required varies between councils and shires.

"Neighbours who want to hold a street party or major community event in a public space should apply to their local government authority now," he said.

Over the past nine years Neighbour Day has grown from a simple idea in a Letter to the Editor to become Australia's annual celebration of community.

"No matter where you live - in the city or the bush, in a house, an apartment or on a farm - knowing who your neighbours are creates a community," Mr Heslop said.

"When you are connected with the people who live nearby you care about what happens locally and are directly helping to ensure your suburb or town is safe, friendly and sustainable," he added.

Founded in Melbourne in 2003 - following the discovery of the death of an elderly woman who had passed away two years earlier - Australians have embraced the day by organising street parties, morning teas, community BBQs and by attending council-run fairs, events and open days in parks and other public spaces.

Neighbour Day has five principal aims -

1. Strengthen communities and build better relationships with the people who live around us.
2. Create safer, healthier and more vibrant suburbs and towns.
3. Promote tolerance, respect and understanding.
4. Break down community barriers.
5. Protect the elderly, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.

Talking up the danger

If it is time to change not only the batteries on your smoke alarms but the alarms themselves, there is a new one on the market which will actually tell you where and what the problem is.

The ONELink Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector with Voice comes equipped with a `voice' that speaks the type and location of danger in your home. This will help you make the best decision possible in an emergency situation - such as opening a garage door from the outside to release a buildup of carbon monoxide rather than running blindly into the room.

Once installed throughout the house, the (up to) 16 smoke and/or carbon monoxide detectors will immediately begin communicating with each other. If one alarm is triggered, they will all sound the alarm. The unit is powered by two AA batteries.

Aussies anticipating stable times

Only one in three Australians expects property prices to rise in the near future, according to the latest Bankwest/Mortgage and Finance Association (MFAA) Home Finance Index.

This is a considerable drop from more than three quarters of respondents in the March 2010 survey.

The research also revealed Victorians are the most optimistic about property prices with 46 per cent anticipating higher prices, followed by South Australia (45 per cent).

Queenslanders are the least optimistic with just 22 per cent anticipating prices to rise.

Bankwest Head of Specialist Banking Ian Rakhit said that households generally found their current financial situation steady compared to a year ago.

This was the first time in more than three years that households have not reported a deterioration in their financial situation.

"The fact that households no longer see their financial situation going backwards is an important development for the housing and mortgage market", Mr Rakhit said.

Phil Naylor, CEO, MFAA added that this should provide a solid base for activity in the next 12 months.

"At the same time, a large number of investors agree that now is a good time to buy, citing steadier house prices, higher rental incomes and rental demands as a key driver for their decision.

The majority (77 per cent) of investors see it is a good time to purchase an investment property.

"Despite a few cash rate rises throughout 2010, there are encouraging signs for investors in the property market", Mr Naylor said.

"Rents have increased and vacancy rates are low.

"These are the type of signals investors look for in their property decisions," added Mr Naylor.

"We are seeing savvy investors come back into the market as a long term investment strategy that's underpinned by expectations of income growth," he concluded.

Of all states and territories, Western Australian residents are the best performing when it comes to loan repayments (up 87.3 per cent from 81.1 per cent in July 2010).

The survey polled more than 1,100 people across Australia and is the eighth Index taken since 2004.

Slim pickings

Anyone looking for a little slice of the housing market may set their sights across the pond, at one of the smallest homes in the UK now on the market.

Originally part of a steam mill, the 2m wide "bijou" home is a short walk from a picturesque market town centre, the UK Daily Mail reports. With a single serve kitchen, bedroom, shower room (with toilet) and living room, the property is still expected to fetch nearly AU$154,000.

A Daily Mail reader humorously commented on the listing that it is one of those houses where you have to go outside just to change your mind.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 18 March 2011
Give your study an air of distinction

You can imagine the scenes: Darwin in his study writing his theory of evolution, Winston Churchill preparing his wartime radio speeches in his office, Franklin D. Roosevelt planning his recovery measures to free the US from the Great Depression. Deep thinkers in their own deep, dark rooms filled with rich timber panelling and softly worn leather furnishings.

Read the full article

Commitments found lacking

The building industry was less-than-impressed with Dwelling Commitments data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The number of loans for construction fell by 9.4 per cent in January 2011, while loans for the purchase of new dwellings dropped by 13.5 per cent.

In seasonally adjusted terms, in January 2011 the number of owner occupier loans for new housing fell by 8.4 per cent in New South Wales, 14.5 per cent in Victoria, 20.9 per cent in Queensland, 14.5 per cent in Tasmania, 8.1 per cent in the Northern Territory and 30 per cent in the Australian Capital Territory.

Loans for new housing increased by 3.1 per cent in Western Australia and 1.7 per cent in South Australia in January 2011.

The figures show that, in seasonally adjusted terms, the total value of dwelling finance commitments excluding alterations and additions fell 5.3 per cent.

Awarding sustainability
Do you know a builder, plumber, architect or related firm whom you believe should be recognised for the work they are doing in promoting sustainable housing? BPN (Building Products News) magazine wants to hear from you.

BPN is once again calling for nominations for its Sustainability Awards, in recognition of building professionals who are leading the way to a more sustainable future.

Categories include single dwellings (new or renovations), low, medium or high-density residential buildings, commercial, public, urban design and landscape design.

Submissions will be judged on several criteria, including energy, water and resource efficiency, recycled content and materials and areas of innovation.

To be eligible to apply, projects need to have been completed in the period January 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. Products or services being entered in the Innovation of the Year category must have been launched in the same period.

Finalists will be announced in the September issue of the magazine. The winners will be announced in October and featured in the December issue.

Entries close July 12.

ACCC throws good money at bad paint

A pilot scheme to reduce the environmental impact of waste paint was given a boost this week, with the decision by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to allow a levy to fund it.

The Australian Paint Manufacturers Federation (APMF) has proposed to conduct a 12-month waste paint collection trial in Victoria. This will now be funded by a 2 cents per litre levy on the wholesale supply of Architectural & Decorative (A&D) paint in Australia.

The APMF is an industry association representing the majority suppliers of A&D paint in Australia.

Data collected through the trial is likely to facilitate the development of a national waste paint collection scheme. The APMF has indicated that, following the conclusion of the trial, it plans to introduce this national scheme on a progressive basis.

Collection of domestic waste paint in Victoria is currently conducted through the Victorian government's Detox Your Home program. Under the waste paint collection scheme, the APMF will take financial responsibility for the waste paint portion of this program and will establish a new service to collect waste paint from trade painters, free of charge.

"This trial has the potential to reduce the environmental harm caused by the improper disposal of paint, as well as making the collection of waste paint in Victoria more efficient," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

The ACCC proposes to grant authorisation for the 12-month duration of the trial, until 1 June 2012.

A foot in my own door

`Getting a foot in the door' continues to be the biggest motivation to buy a home for the first time, new research shows.

More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of the 1,013 respondents in the annual Future First Homebuyer Survey* commissioned by mortgage broker Mortgage Choice said that the key reason behind their upcoming purchase is `to set myself up financially for the future by getting my foot in the property market door'.

This was followed by:

* Rising rents are making owning a property more attractive - 51 per cent.
* I see more benefit in investments such as property than I do in the share market - 30 per cent.
* Advice received from family, friends or a financial advisor - 18 per cent.
* Capital gain - 15 per cent.

Mortgage Choice spokesperson, Kristy Sheppard, said that bricks and mortar is still an attractive investment option for a diverse range of Australians, pushed along by a growing sense of necessity thanks to rental costs continuing to rise and, presumably, the ongoing `squeeze' in rental vacancy rates.

"For many, the notion of continuing to pay someone else for a roof over their head - and paying more for that every year - is an increasingly unappealing option when measured against the commitment of repaying a mortgage for the privilege of living in their own home", she added.

As for the type of home first timers are looking to buy, more than half (52 per cent) will buy an established one and 13 per cent will buy new. A handful (5 per cent) plan to purchase land and build on it and 29 per cent were not yet sure what they will buy.

A well-lit plan

How many of us can say no lights get left on unnecessarily at home? Between the kids, housemates and our own busy lives, moving from one room to another without flicking the off-switch is easy to do.

If enough light weren't shed on the subject by the radiant globes themselves, designer Taewon Hwang has developed a way to change our lighting usage by showing us the whole picture. The Floor Light switch uses a custom panel in the floor plan of your home to show you which rooms are lit up, and allow you to turn them on and off with a single touch.

All quiet on the home front

Most landlords would agree it's better to have their house well looked-after than have to withhold bond for repairs when tenants move out. But what do you do if there's no house left to repair?

An unfortunate series of events has left a Malaysian man without tenants, nor house.

According to local Malaysian news The Star, the owner of a double-storey wooden house came to collect the rent, only to find his home had vanished, along with furniture and appliances inside. Twenty-four concrete pillar holders, scattered pieces of wood and a damaged TV set were the only remnants left to show the home had been there previously.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 11 March 2011
Unleash your inner genius

Science is finding new ways to get the creative juices flowing.

Tony Park was not always the prolific author he is today. Before his name adorned a string of best-selling novels, he often struggled to write anything at all.

Read the full article

Bright start for new home sales
New home sales posted a modest rise in the first month of 2011, the Housing Industry Association (HIA) announced this week.

The latest HIA/JELD-WEN New Home Sales Report, a survey of Australia's major residential builders, shows that the number of new homes sold increased by 2.5 per cent in January 2011.

Detached house sales increased by 2.2 per cent while the sale of multi-units rose by 5 per cent.

HIA Chief Economist, Dr Harley Dale, said the modest increase in new home sales in January was encouraging, especially since the level of sales tends to be thin during the Christmas-New year break.

"New dwelling starts are expected to be lower in 2011", Dr Dale said.

"However, the prospect of official interest rates holding for some time, signalled yesterday by the Reserve Bank, could help to mitigate the decline in new dwelling starts and slow further widening in Australia's new housing shortage.

"Following a protracted period of depressed building activity in New South Wales, there are early indications that the industry could be lifting itself off the canvass", he added.

In January 2011 the New Home Sales Report found that detached new house sales increased by 10.3 per cent in New South Wales, 9.6 per cent in Victoria, and 6.3 per cent in Western Australia.

Sales fell by 2.6 per cent in Queensland, a result likely to have been influenced by the floods. Sales in South Australia continued their under-performance, falling by 6.3 per cent in January.

Total detached house sales increased by 3.7 per cent over the three months to January 2011, but remained down by 9.8 per cent when compared to the three-month period to January 2010.

Dwelling approvals fall in January 2011

January was not a good month across the country for building approvals, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The figures show that the total number of dwellings approved fell 15.9 per cent in January 2011, in seasonally adjusted terms, after rising 10.0 per cent in December.

Understandably, Queensland recorded one of the biggest drops, with almost a third (29.9 per cent) fewer approvals, however all states and territories recorded fewer dwelling approvals this month.

New South Wales (down by 12.1 per cent), Victoria (down 9.5 per cent), South Australia (down 20.9 per cent), Western Australia (down 4.6 per cent) and Tasmania (34.9 per cent) all recorded falls in seasonally adjusted terms.

Private sector houses approved fell 2.4 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms for January with falls in Queensland (down 20.0 per cent) and South Australia (down 3.6 per cent), while New South Wales (1.8 per cent), Victoria (2.5 per cent) and Western Australia (0.2 per cent) all increased.

The value of total building approved fell 26.5 per cent in January in seasonally adjusted terms. The value of total residential building fell by 13.3 per cent while non-residential building fell by 48.7 per cent.

The ABS warns that widespread flooding in the eastern states and other recent natural disasters have not adversely affected participation by providers in the Building Approvals collection or the quality of estimates in this release.

"However, these events have had an impact on the number of approved dwellings and the value of approved work in January 2011. As revisions may occur to these data in future releases, care should be taken when interpreting month to month movements", the ABS wrote in a release.

Dinner will now be served in the command centre

Most of us put a high price on privacy, especially when it comes to our own homes - and what better way to stay out of the public eye than by living 20-feet below ground.

Safety may have also been a consideration for Charlene and Don Zwonitzer, who have made their home in a converted Atlas E missile site in western Nebraska. The couple converted the 26,000 square-foot former military facility into a residential estate.

Besides boasting escape hatches and 120-foot-long tunnels, the Zwonitzer's living room used to be the command centre and former crew quarters are now guest rooms. They've even converted the flame pit (a room made to contain the flame from a rocket launch) into a conservatory.

Youngsters save for home

More than one third of young homebuyers are putting aside at least 20 per cent of their pay packet, according to research released this week by Bankwest.

The latest Bankwest/Mortgage and Finance Association (MFAA) Home Finance Index shows that most of these first time buyers appear slightly more optimistic about their chances of climbing the property ladder soon, with 37 per cent of Gen Y homebuyers feel their financial situation has improved in the last 12 months.

The survey also revealed:

* Only 32 per cent of first-time buyers are worried about job security (down from 41 per cent in July 2010)
* Fewer first-time buyers (39 per cent) are putting their home ownership dreams on hold due to the current economic situation than the survey in July 2009 (43 per cent)
* Nearly three out of every five first-time buyers (59 per cent) are changing their behaviour and trying to save more money.

"For those with job security, a flattening in house prices and competitive mortgage deals are increasingly spurring first time buyer intention in the real estate market," said MFAA CEO Phil Naylor.

Bankwest Head of Specialist Banking Ian Rakhit remarked that the national savings rate has pushed through 10 per cent and it seems that young buyers putting money aside for a home deposit are part of this trend.

"Given that prices are higher and government grants lower, it may be a while yet before these extra savings match the level of first time buyer activity seen in 2009", Rakhit said.

"However, the signs are more positive for this segment of the market", he added.

The survey polled more than 1,100 people across Australia and is the eighth Index taken since 2004.

Green investment growing

Clear evidence that buildings with an environmental rating outperform non-rated buildings is now available, the Property Council of Australia announced this week.

Launched at the recent Green Cities conference, the new Property Council of Australia/IPD Green Property Investment Index shows the importance in the marketplace of green investment.

Outperformance was seen across each star rating, with the strongest returns observed in 4-star rated assets, according to the report.

The index tracks investment performance of commercial buildings that have been awarded an environmental performance rating from Green Star, NABERS Energy and NABERS Water, with the current results covering the last two years to December 2010.

Dr Anthony De Francesco, Managing Director of IPD in Australia and New Zealand said the results demonstrate a clear win for green investment.

"The return spread between rated and non rated buildings is around 400 basis points.

"In addition, rated office buildings have a lower capitalisation rate than non-rated buildings, in the order of 40 basis points. The outperformance in returns is consistent across various market segmentations.

"As a whole the pool of rated NABERS Energy assets outperformed the unrated assets.

Interestingly, the 4-5 star rated properties outperformed the non-rated assets while the 0.5-3.5 star rated properties underperformed the non-rated assets.

"Also, these NABERS rated properties delivered lower capitalisation rates than the non-rated properties, although only marginally," he said.

Shades of wet

Everyone knows fresh fruit is part of a balanced diet, but it is not always easy to have around. If you're not quick to eat it, chances are the heat will dry it out, or those pesky flies will get to it. If only you had your own lush, hidden waterfall to keep your fruit safely behind until you were ready to devour it.

It's not exactly a hidden waterfall, however designer Yitu Wang is expanding on the concept to achieve similar ends. The Water Shade provides a constant, cyclic shield of water feature around a bowl. Acting as a fly net would, the water keeps the moisture in while keeping flies and dust out, and built in censors stop the water from flowing in any area your hand approaches so you can get to the fruit without being soaked.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 04 March 2011
Gen-Y make push to save for a home

YOUNG people are making a big push to save for a home loan deposit, a decision that will potentially enliven a much depleted first home buyer market, a new survey suggests.
Mortgage broker Loan Market says first home buyers have "dropped like flies" since the federal government dumped its more generous first home owners grant at the end of 2009.

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Interest rates on hold

There was good news again this week for borrowers, with the Reserve Bank's announcement that it has again left the official cash rate unchanged at 4.75 per cent.

In a statement announcing the decision, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens said that inflation is currently consistent with the medium-term objective of monetary policy, having declined significantly from its peak in 2008.

Governor Stevens added that the Bank expects that over the year ahead inflation will continue to be consistent with the 2-3 per cent target.

Economists are interpreting this to mean that interest rates are unlikely to rise in the next few months.

Planning holes for the bunnies

Inconsistencies in the way all levels of government plan and zone land use then assess development proposals, has been identified in a draft report released this week by the Productivity Commission.

In Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Planning, Zoning and Development Assessments -- a report commissioned by COAG (Council of Australian Governments)-- the Commission examines the regulatory frameworks of each jurisdiction, the processes for supply of land, the bases for assessing developer contributions, compliance costs for business and competition issues arising from planning decision-making. Governance of the various planning systems and matters of transparency and accountability are also explored.

Commissioner Louise Sylvan remarked that by its very nature, the task of planning and zoning land to enable those uses that will optimise the welfare of communities and the nation is complicated.

"However, this complexity can be managed better and deliver better outcomes", she said.

The report identifies numerous leading practices that can contribute to smoother processes and improved outcomes, such as:

- putting the focus of effort into the strategic planning level, including a strong engagement of the community and resolving conflicting objectives at this level of city planning
- ensuring that local plans are more quickly brought up to date with the strategic city plans
- applying consistent and efficient criteria to determine the level of contributions of developers to infrastructure costs
- ensuring that certain practices, such as considering a new entrant's effects on existing businesses, are being eliminated as an appropriate planning consideration
- creating disincentives for appealing against developments by those seeking to delay or prevent potential competitors entering
- completing structure planning of rezoned greenfield/brownfield areas before development commences
- implementing electronic development assessments and impact-based assessment tracks.

Although each jurisdiction is home to at least one leading practice, the report concludes there are opportunities for all jurisdictions to improve the way they conduct planning, zoning and development assessment in order to reduce burdens on business, costs to the community, increase competition and improve the liveability of cities.

The Property Council of Australia and the Residential Development Council welcomed the report, saying it shines the light on much-needed reform.

Peter Verwer, Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia commented that it provides `incontrovertible proof that Australia's current planning systems are muddled, complex and inefficient'.

"Modernising these systems will lift economic growth and improve people's lives", Mr Verwer said.

"The report also highlights the breakdown in governance that results from overlapping planning fiefdoms and guilds", he noted.

The Commission seeks comment on the draft report before finalising its report at the end of April.

Where are the kids?

Driveways are one of the most dangerous areas around the home, Kidsafe warned this week following the death of another toddler in Melbourne.

On average, one child is killed on a driveway every month in Australia, according to Dr Mark Stokes, President of Kidsafe Victoria.

"Tragically these deaths usually involve a parent or friend of the family", Dr Stokes said.

"Most of the driveway cases involved young toddlers who have positioned themselves close by a stationary vehicle.

"These children were old enough to be mobile, but too small to be easily visible from the driving position when close to the vehicle."

Dr Stokes said that research has shown most of the accidents occurred at or near the child's home, where both the parent and the child may have felt that the child was safe.

"Importantly, in almost all driveway run-over incidents, there was no clear separation between the driveway and the rest of the yard or play area," he added.

Kidsafe offers these simple precautions which can be taken to avoid driveway tragedies:

* Always supervise your children whenever a car is being moved - hold their hands or keep them close;
* If you are the only adult at home, safely restrain children in the vehicle while you move it;
* Discourage children from using the driveway as a play area and make access to the driveway from the house difficult for a child by using doors, gates and fences with childproof locks.
* Install a reversing camera or sensor to assist with detection of children or objects behind the car.

New homes down

Residential building activity continued to slow in the December quarter of 2010, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Construction work done on new homes fell by 1.1 per cent in the December 2010 quarter, although with robust figures for the March 2010 and June 2010 quarters the total residential work done in 2010 is up by 7.9 per cent on the preceding calendar year.

New residential building work done fell by 1.7 per cent in the December 2010 quarter, following the 5.2 per cent decline in the September 2010 quarter. On a more positive note, work done on major alterations and additions is growing, turning in a 2.5 per cent increase for the December 2010 quarter to be up by 6.3 per cent over 2010.

In the December 2010 quarter, seasonally adjusted new residential work done rose by 3.3 per cent in Victoria, 0.9 per cent in South Australia and 0.2 per cent in Western Australia but fell by 3.5 per cent in NSW, 6.7 per cent in Queensland, 5.1 per cent in Tasmania and 10.3 per cent in the ACT.

In original terms new residential work done in the Northern Territory in the December 2010 quarter fell by 5.2 per cent when compared to the December quarter of 2009.

Get a grip

Without diligence and a regular tidy-up, any table can quickly become an elephant graveyard. With papers, plates and other everyday items in place of elephant bones, of course.

In homage to the things that stick around, and perhaps poking a little fun at how we could all afford to be a little more flexible and accommodating with the way we handle things, design group Anima Causa has released the Inflow Table.

Made of approximately 1,000 metres of elastic string wrapped tightly around a metal frame, the table offers a surface that separates and holds onto anything you place within its grip. At least it skips the pretence that the table isn't a place to leave junk.

Such a flirt

It seems that Athens is the "most flirtatious city" of the modern world, according to a new study released this week by an online social networking website.

Athens topped a "World Flirtation League," which ranked cities by the number of online flirtations initiated per month by the average user in each city on the Badoo website.

The average Badoo user in Athens initiated 25.7 online flirtations per month - over twice as many as in Rio (12.4) Warsaw (12.1) or Prague (12.6) and far more than in Paris (20.7), London (19.0), Berlin (17.7) or New York (16.1) in the study of nearly 200 cities across the world.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Are House Prices Overvalued?

Australians love to watch property prices and have become a little alarmed at recent reports that Australian property prices are the most overpriced in the world, next to Hong Kong, according to the Demographia consultancy’s report discussed in last month’s issue.
ANZ recently came out with a report detailing current price movements. It confirmed that median house prices have slowed in most capital cities in 2010 with Sydney prices up around 5pc, Melbourne, around 9pc and Adelaide, 4pc, while Brisbane and Perth fell around 1pc each.In an attempt to analyse the question “Are house prices overvalued?”, the bank broke down the factors that most contribute to rising prices.
One of the most important is rising incomes i.e. what is the link between rising incomes and rising house prices? Similarly, how much do interest rates contribute to price growth.
The chart above (from 1985 on)shows how, if rising incomes alone are factored in (the grey line), then median prices should have grown from a base of $100k in 1985 to $289k in 2010, up 189pc or 4.3pc pa compound. If both rising incomes and interest rates are factored in (the red line), then prices would have climbed to $483k, up 383pc or 9.3pc pa.
In fact, the actual median price of $559k (the blue line) represents an excess of $76,000 or 13pc above the theoretical price. My suspicion is that ease of getting loans from banks is a prime factor in house price growth. Thus, in times of low supply and high demand, as have existed in Australia, the ease of getting a
100pc loan (sometimes more) is a major factor in pushing prices up and could easily account for the unidentified 13pc found by the ANZ, a factor that the bank would be loathe to admit! The ANZ concluded that, notwithstanding the pent up demand for housing and falling population growth, the economic backdrop will remain supportive with ongoing wages growth and falling unemployment while the existing housing shortage worsens with vacancies continuing to climb and rents and yields rising. Which is good news for home owners, but not so good for those looking to buy a home!

George Cochrane