Thursday, August 18, 2011

Latest Property News from Ted Hanson

Friday 19 August 2011
Chalices a signal of spring

WHILE a magnolia tree in full bloom is a joyful sight, the highlight for me is the emergence of the first pink bud on my deciduous M. x soulangeana. And the first one emerged last week. It was a magical and symbolic moment. Hopefully, it's a sign that the cold, grey days of winter are coming to an end and spring is around the corner.

Read the article

Taking advantage

Lower fixed rates have been enticing Australian borrowers to review their home loans recently, as lenders continue to bring out special product offers.

The average three-year fixed term interest rate (the most popular type) has not been this low since October 2009 and new home loan deals are constantly being released, according to independent mortgage broker Mortgage Choice.

Company spokesperson Kristy Sheppard said this week that more than one third of the broker's lender panel has reduced interest rates on some or all of their fixed-term home loans in the past week, some more than once.

"They are reacting to changes to their funding costs, subdued home loan demand and uncertain economic conditions by re-pricing fixed rate loans and continuing to bring out attractive loan offers in the hope of boosting the flow of customers walking through their doors", Ms Sheppard said.

"Borrowers are the overall winners in a landscape that provides more affordable home loan choices."
She warned, however, that mortgage holders considering switching loans and/or lenders should not be influenced solely by the interest rate.

Exit fees for the current mortgage should be considered, as well as other aspects of the new loan such as initial and recurring costs, ability to make extra repayments and redraw, flexibility, lender service and how long it will take to be approved.

"If choosing a fixed rate, investigate rate lock fees for securing today's offers and be aware of possible break costs if you decide to switch again during the fixed period", Ms Sheppard warned.

"Also consider how you will feel if you lock in and then watch interest rates fall down the track", she added.

An increasing number of borrowers are weighing up their home loan options via online comparison calculators. In the first fortnight of August, comparison website HelpMeChoose saw a 32% increase in refinancing enquiries when compared to the average for July.

"Online comparison sites are a great starting point for exploring loans, but nothing beats a thorough home loan health check", MS Sheppard advised, adding that working one-on-one with a mortgage broker who has a large lender panel allows the opportunity to compare your product against hundreds of others.

Does my garden look big in this?

Just as the clothes we wear can make us look slim or large, so too can the plants in your garden have an effect on its appearance, making it look tall, spacious, unkempt or squashed.

A few clever placements in a flower border along the line of the fence can make your property seem larger. Likewise, the shape of the garden beds and the paths and spaces between them will add to the illusion of distance.

If your back yard is short, try running a garden bed along each side, tapering away slightly towards the farthest end from the house. This will have the effect of making the landscape appear more distant.

When choosing plants to create the illusion of space, follow these general rules:

Group coarse-textured landscape plants near the house, medium-textured plants next and fine-textured plants farthest away.

Place plants with `warm' flower colours, such as yellows, oranges and reds, nearest the house.

Place plants with blue colours in the distant part of the landscape. Along with the blues, include some pinks and mauves.

Plants with silver or gray foliage provide a unifying base colour throughout the border.

Shifting the focus

The current carbon tax debate has drawn a strong focus onto housing design and energy saving products since pricing will impact both on materials used and the running costs of the home, a leading architectural body noted recently.

Archicentre State Manager David Hallett said considering the carbon tax is planned to be introduced in July 2012, it is prudent for people to consider its impact when planning a building project which can take up to twelve months to commence.

"Ultimately the cost saving starts with the design and siting of the home including making provision for natural light in the main living areas and the orientation of the home to gain the maximum benefit for passive solar heating and provision for water harvesting," Mr Hallett said.

"This is the stage where all of the ideas are assembled and thought through to ensure the best design for the budget is worked out.

"This stage can also be the most expensive time for new home builders or renovators, if they make a mistake on the original design and have to undertake costly variations, (which are) the greatest reason for cost blow outs on projects," he said.

The proposed carbon tax is a catalyst for people to look differently at housing design, materials and size, Mr Hallett said.

The first step is orientation to maximise the home's northern aspect, where exposure to the sun is easiest to control. Eaves and pergolas can be precisely designed to block the summer sun, yet still allow desirable winter sunshine to penetrate.

"It is important to prioritise rooms based on access to views and solar orientation," Mr Hallett said.

"An open-plan kitchen and living area, for example, should have top position, while bedrooms or bathrooms require less daylight, as they are largely used for short periods of time, or at night," he added.

By zoning the home, unused areas can be closed off, and cooling and heating appliances can be designed for maximum efficiency and minimum use.

Archicentre have compiled a checklist of improvements to the home to accommodate the coming changes:

· Insulate the ceiling
· Weather seal windows and doors
· Fit blinds, curtains or drapes
· Buy high star-rated appliances
· Install solar panels
· Replace single flush toilet cisterns with dual flush cisterns
· Upgrade the heating system to a more efficient design
· Install a rainwater tank
· Upgrade your hot water service
· Fit a grey-water diversion system
· Upgrade windows using double glazing or other high tech-glass
· Build a pergola or verandah to provide shade when needed

Renovating with pets

Renovating can be stressful, with timelines, budgets, noise, dust, living out of half the house at a time. If it's tough on us, imagine the effect it has on our pets, who just don't understand that knocking down that wall, ripping up the floors and putting new surfaces in the kitchen is going to improve their lives.

In fact, their whole world is likely to be turned upside down and they may react in unexpected ways. Placid dogs may become aggressive in the face of perceived threat, or may run away just because the gates are left open. Cats will invariably leave and not be seen again until it's all over. They may also feel the need to "mark their territory" where you least want it.

Here are some tips for making sure that your furry (feathered, fishy) friends are as comfortable with the chaos and change as possible:

Prepare your pet beforehand by changing some of its patterns - such as where it sleeps and eats.

Make sure your pet is micro chipped or wearing a collar with identity tags in case it `leaves home'.

Try to always have an area of the house where the pet(s) can stay out of the way of the tradesmen, noise, etc. If possible, keep that space familiar to the animal so that it knows where it is and can still feel like it is part of the family.

If all else fails, have a "foster family" or boarding kennel lined up. Remember that if you do this, the animal may be confused when it comes home and will need to be reassured with familiar items such as furniture, eating bowls or bedding.

Consider traffic
Before you buy a home, consider the traffic effects of surrounding roads and facilities. Visit the property at different times of the day to get an idea of traffic patterns, congestion, parking availability and noise. Allow for seasonal differences. For example, if the home is near a school, traffic patterns are likely to be very different during school holidays than at other times of the year.

Have your island and sail it too

At some stage we've all thought about sailing a yacht to a private island. Now it's possible to own both in one.

The people at Yacht Island Design like to do things differently. Using a twin-hull ship design (known as SWATH), they have built a large, flat surface area on deck to incorporate conceptual designs such as an island complete with guest cabanas, bar and mountainous volcano with a waterfall feeding into the on-deck swimming pool. Spread over two decks within the volcano, the owner's suite affords views to the front of the yacht and from behind the waterfall.

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