Category: Around the house

More Australians are going solar

Over the years that I have been involved in the real estate industry, I have seen a great number of property trends and changes evolve before me.  These have involved the colours people are using to decorate with, the popularity of certain rooms over others and many more. 

But one movement that has caught my attention and pleases me greatly is that of the increasing residential use of solar power.  And according to the Clean Energy Australia 2010 Report, released in December 2010 by the Clean Energy Council, there was more solar power installed on rooftops between January and October last year than there was over the entire previous decade. 

The report stated that more than 100,000 solar power systems were installed during 2010, compared with a total of 81,232 from 2000 – 2009.

This increase is incredibly substantial and reflects a changing attitude within residential Australia.  It seems that homeowners are taking proactive action to not only combat rising electricity prices, but to also join the fight against climate change – doing so through quite a sizeable personal investment. 

The report also provided some insights into the state of the renewable energy industry over 2010, all of which points to the continued growth of clean energy in 2011.  8.67 per cent of Australia’s electricity was generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind in 2010, the equivalent of three million houses.  Additionally, the sector received just under $1.8 billion in new financial investment over the 2009-10 financial year. 

The report has also modelled the changes that are expected in the renewable energy sector by 2020, and predicts that the area will see more than 55,000 jobs by the end of the decade, with many to be in regional areas. 

I especially liked the thinking of the chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, Matthew Warren, who said that solar technology was fast becoming “the Hills Hoist of the 21st Century”.  Given the cult following that such a clothes line received and its status as an essential household tool, to even be able to start to draw the comparison is a huge, exciting step forward for solar power. 

1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 07/02/2011 at 12:23 PM | Categories: Around the house -

Smart new painting technology

As opposed to going away on holiday, people often take some time off over summer simply to stay at home, perhaps enjoying local attractions or just relaxing.  This extended time in the house over daytime hours sometimes sees people consider their homes in a different light – perhaps noticing an overgrown garden or an ageing interior theme. 

It is therefore common during this time for new renovating projects or decorating ideas to spring to life.  Many of these are started immediately and completed over summer, while others are placed on a to-do list and revisited every year. 

It is with this summer decorating mood in mind that I thought I would share with you an article that I came across the other week from the Paint Quality Institute that considers new painting technology and how it can benefit your home. 

Cool down
For starters, many readily purchasable exterior paints are now formulated to reflect the heat of the sun and reduce the surface temperature by up to 5?C.  Not only will this help to keep your home cool, it will help you to reduce the energy you consume through air conditioning, fans and other temperature reducing equipment. 

Environmentally friendly
You are now able to paint your home with the reassurance that you are not having a negative impact on the environment.  According to the PQI, over ninety per cent of paint sold in Australia and New Zealand is water-based acrylic paint, which has less of a detrimental impact on the environment than solvent-based paints. 

New technology is allowing paint to improve and maintain the way your home looks over time.  PQI says that as well as being a UV blockout and a mould and mildew inhibitor, some new technology exterior paints are formulated to resist the dirt and pollution that works its way into the paint surface, breaking it down over time. 

Additionally, paints are performing well and for longer, which means that while painting your home may seem like a large task and an investment now, you can be assured that if you choose paint with a long-term performance guarantee, it will most likely be a worthwhile exercise. 

So if you find yourself embarking on a painting project this summer, I suggest you spent a bit of time in your local paint store discovering the new technologies that may be available to you and how these can benefit your home. 

4 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 31/01/2011 at 9:55 AM | Categories: Renovating - Around the house - Building -

Ways to cool your home without spending a fortune

For most parts of our country, the Australian summer is usually a hot one.  And while many of us spend our days (if we’re lucky enough to have some time off work) enjoying the warmer weather at the beach or in the pool, remaining cool at home can often be a challenge. 

With the price of electricity on the rise, using air conditioning to combat the heat can often result in significant expense.  So what can you do to lower your costs while staying cool at the same time? 

For those of you who have an air conditioning unit installed, be sure to perform regular maintenance on it.  This includes having a professional service conducted at the beginning of the summer months (before you start to use it) and remembering to change the filter monthly throughout regular use.  Keeping your unit in good condition should help to reduce your wear and tear costs in the long run. 

If you are considering the purchase of a system, make sure you obtain expert advice about what product would be best suited to your room/property.  Factors such as the location of windows, the direction your property faces and the size of the intended room of installation can have an impact on your decision and without consideration could see you purchase a system that costs more to run than is necessary. 

Try to install your air conditioning system in a location that is clear from obstructing material that could disrupt the flow of air.  Curtains and furniture, for instance, have the potential to absorb the air pumped out from the unit, which will reduce the cooling impact on the room. 

In houses where air conditioners are not present, there are still some excellent tactics that can be used to cool a home down without requiring a big spend (these tactics can be employed even where air conditioners are present, reducing your need for them and thus expense).

On the outside of a property, trees and bushes can be planted to reduce the strength of the sun’s impact on your home.  When painting, choice of colour should be a consideration, with lighter colours absorbing less heat than darker ones.

Internally, closing curtains can help to cool a room, as can the reduced use of heat-producing household items such as stoves and ovens.

Additionally, people can reduce their own body temperature, effectively cooling from the inside out, by wearing clothes that are light in colour and weight.   

There really is no reason why your cooling attempts should cost you a fortune over summer.  As we’ve seen above, simple actions around the house can help to reduce your air conditioning bills and lessen the impact of the heat where air conditioning units are not present.  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 13/12/2010 at 9:38 AM | Categories: Around the house -

Ensuring your home is safe for Children

As parents and responsible home owners, we do everything we can to make sure our homes are safe for our children.  Even if you do not have kids, it remains important to ensure that your property will not pose a threat to any young visitors. After all, there is nothing worse than having an accident occur in your home (whether life threatening or not) that could have been easily prevented.

The Australian Institute of Architects and Kidsafe have a safety checklist that is quite comprehensive in listing the various dangers that can exist in your home and how to address them.  I thought I would use this blog to go through some of the less obvious issues that may be present in your home and how they can be avoided. 

Poor air quality in homes can be quite problematic, with various pollutants such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide building up to unacceptable levels if air flow rates are not above a certain point.  This can lead to stuffiness and sneezing for all occupants of the home, not just children.  Opening windows (with stay locks to avoid break-ins) is one way to achieve the appropriate air flow level in your home. 

Be wary of the cords around your home, such as those hanging from blinds or electrical cords.  In the past, there have been cases of cords strangling children.

Allergens and Asthma
There are a variety of things in your home that can contain asthma-triggering allergens.  Surfaces such as carpets can harbour dust and dust mites, as can bedding.  Pets with fur (especially long hair) can also cause asthma problems. Reducing reaction-causing exposures is a wise move to avoid asthma attacks from occurring in your home.  Frequent vacuuming, dusting, washing and airing of bedding can be good first steps to take.  It may also be a good idea to restrict pets from entering bedrooms.  

Play Equipment
One loose bolt on a set of play equipment has the potential to cause some serious damage to a child.  Consider the materials you use to construct the set, with an aim to avoid sharp edges and the possibility of splinters.  Also take care to choose a soft landing material for around your play equipment set, such as a rubber floor (indoors) or pinebark or sand (outside). 

There are some very easy steps that can be taken to make sure dangerous and completely avoidable situations do not occur in your home.  I would advise all home owners, especially the owners of older homes, to consider their property implementing any changes required to make it a safer environment for inhabitants of all ages. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 06/12/2010 at 11:28 AM | Categories: Around the house - CENTURY 21 Solutions -

House Trends - How the great aussie dream is changing

The housing market, like any market, sees trends and preferences which change over time.  Obviously these trends can have quite an impact on the types of properties that people buy, as well as on how we as real estate agents market and sell our listings. 

I read quite an interesting article by Martin Kelly in The Australian newspaper last week entitled ‘How big is my castle?’.  The piece considered residential property across Australia and the preferences of home owners when it comes to buying, building and renovating property. 

Housing size
The most significant change is the size of housing.  Residential blocks of land appear to be shrinking across the board as does the size of houses themselves.  Interestingly however, the view of some is that lot sizes are decreasing more quickly than houses, resulting in larger block coverage and smaller backyards. 

The article also addressed the misconception that a greater number of apartments than homes are being built in Australia; according to the Housing Institute of Australia the ratio of new apartments and townhouses compared to detached houses has remained steady over the past ten years. 

Modern conveniences
Despite houses and blocks of land decreasing in size, it would appear that Australians still expect their homes to contain a variety of standard features which were once considered to be luxuries.  Such comforts may include en suite bathrooms in every bedroom, double garages, entertainment/media rooms and so on. 

Australians appear also to be paying a great deal of attention to their kitchens, with people choosing to install a variety of optional features and investing in expensive bench tops and finishes. 

The garden
According to the article, Australians are increasingly opting for outdoor living, choosing home designs that seamlessly integrate backyards with indoor living areas. 

This doesn’t however mean that gardens need to be large in size – the reduced amount of work that comes with having a smaller outdoor space is actually preferred.  The space must only be big enough to facilitate outdoor entertaining and should be nicely landscaped ensuring aesthetic appeal.  

There’s no doubt about it, homes have definitely seen tremendous change since when I first started out in the real estate business.  It will be very interesting to see how different trends grow and change over the next few years. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 29/11/2010 at 2:25 PM | Categories: Around the house -

Getting the most out of your garage space

An interesting irony exists in Australia’s residential property sector.  Many home buyers are hesitant to purchase a property without a garage or some form of parking space, however it is not unusual for those who already own a residence with a garage to have crammed in so many possessions in need of storage that it no longer functions effectively as a space to park a car. 

For those in this predicament, what can be done? Over the years I have come to realise that with some clever storage techniques, a garage can work pretty well as a space to both park a car and to store household goods.

The first step to getting the most out of your garage space is to conduct a large-scale cleanout.  This will help you to identify what things can be tossed and will set you up to store certain items more effectively.  I blogged last week about how to conduct a successful garage sale; put these skills to use and sell off the items long buried in the depths of your garage that are no longer needed.   

Before you simply return the remaining items back to their original positions, stand back and take a good long look at your garage space.  I always find it quite amazing how much bigger areas turn out to be once everything is removed.  Considering your empty garage should give you some perspective around how you can best use the space.

Remember, storage does not have to be at ground level only.  In fact, if you are using your garage to store your car and it only just fits in, an effective means of storage could be to utilise the wall space and even ceiling space above your vehicle.

Equipment such as bikes and kayaks can be attached to the ceiling of your garage simply by installing ceiling hooks or other appropriate storage implements.  Your local hardware store should have all the necessary tools.

The walls of your garage are also prime space for attaching storage solutions such as shelving, cabinets or even heavy duty netting (in which you can store sporting goods etc, shoes etc).   

It goes without saying that care should be taken when fitting storage implements onto the walls and ceiling of your garage.  It not done properly, either the storage implement or the item being stored (or both), could become dislodged, causing damage to the stored item, your car, or even a person standing nearby. 

It is amazing how much can be kept in a garage when it is cleaned and organised efficiently.  A few innovative solutions will improve the ease with which you can drive into your garage, locate stored items and ensure the safety of your possessions.  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 15/11/2010 at 11:39 AM | Categories: Around the house -

Home security in the summer months

The summer months are almost upon us – can you believe how quickly this year has passed? I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely looking forward to relaxing a bit before CENTURY 21 hits the ground running in 2011. 

It’s been my experience that the long, hot days of summer generally see people doing a couple of things.  Firstly, people take advantage of the weather and spend much more time outdoors when at home, whether it be entertaining, gardening or playing in the backyard with their children.  It is also common for doors and windows to be left open at all times of the day a lot more frequently.   Secondly, people often go on holidays, spending up to several weeks at a time away from home. 

It is for these reasons that summer tends to be a particularly attractive time for house break-ins.  Burglars are faced with many unoccupied homes, along with a fair amount of properties which are easily accessible. 

Having said this, there are definitely steps you can take to protect your property.

For the times when you are at home, remember to lock all of your windows and doors before leaving for the day and at night time when sleeping.  If you prefer to sleep with an open window to improve airflow, ensure that your window has a locking mechanism that allows it to be fixed at a certain height when open. 

It may be worthwhile to have all your locks checked – their effectiveness may be impeded if too old or faulty.  

Outdoor lighting is worth considering as a means for home protection.  Burglars are usually drawn to darker areas because this reduces their chances of being seen and caught.  Lighting in your outside areas will help to illuminate the access points to your property, reducing its attractiveness to a burglar. 

If going on holidays, take the time to advise a trusted neighbour of your absence.  They may be able to keep an eye on your property and take action if there is any unlawful activity.  It is also a good idea to have a neighbour collect your mail, avoiding a build-up in your letterbox. 

Timers on lights can be helpful in protecting your property.  The turning on of lights will help to create the illusion that you are at home, potentially deterring any burglars. 

Home security during summer does not have to be a difficult exercise.  In the end, vigilance and common sense will help to ensure that a burglar does not target your home.    

2 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 09/11/2010 at 12:27 PM | Categories: Around the house -

Conducting a successful garage sale

Garage sales can be helpful in the property sale and moving process as preparing a property for sale inevitably requires a large clear out and tidy-up.  You may be looking to dispose of your tired, disused possessions before starting afresh at your new residence, or you could be downsizing and just can’t fit everything in - your possessions aren’t ready to be thrown away, they just need a new home. 

And garage sales don’t just have to be for those selling a property; they can also come in useful after a good old-fashioned spring clean.  

Whatever the situation, it is often the case that trash to one person is treasure to another.  Hence the beauty of a garage sale – you can pass along your no-longer needed possessions to a new home and potentially turn a small profit in the process. 

So what are some steps you can take to ensure the success of your garage sale?

The first task is to select what items you will be selling on the day and then prepare them for sale.  Some pieces may look a little worn at first glance; however with a bit of a polish, mend or touch-up, they could be revitalised and catch the eye of a buyer.  Remember that clean items, including clothes, will usually be more appealing to buyers than dirty ones. 

When advertising your garage sale, try to spread the word far and wide amongst your family and friends.  You may even like to join forces with another person who also wishes to sell some things.  This should increase the number of people who attend and get a good result for both parties.  

The next step is to determine how to present your wares.  The aim of this exercise is to make it easy for people to see what you have for sale.  Arranging similar items together is often a good approach – e.g. keep all your books in the one distinct area and your clothing items in another.   

When it comes to the pricing of your goods, try to ensure that you leave some room for bargaining; it is inevitable that some of your visitors may attempt to haggle you down on price.  A good practice could be to price each good ever so slightly higher than what you would like to receive for it.  This way, when you receive a lower offer you may be able to negotiate to your preferred price. 

Towards the end of the day, you could consider reducing the price of items that have not yet sold to increase your chances of moving stock. 

Remember, a ‘garage sale’ doesn’t necessarily have to be held in your garage or driveway.  You could present your goods at a local market or fete and achieve similar results.  This method may even be advantageous as it doesn’t require you to invite potential strangers along to your home and it removes much of the need for advertising. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 09/11/2010 at 12:25 PM | Categories: Around the house -

Protecting your home when going on holiday

With the weather getting warmer as we approach summer, I am surrounded in the CENTURY 21 office with talk of holidays.  I must admit, I too am getting excited at the prospect of enjoying Sydney’s outdoors over summer with some time away from my desk. 

Whatever you have planned, whether it be an extended overseas holiday or simply a few long weekends away, it is important to make a few easy preparations to your home to ensure that you return to find it in the same state in which you left it. 

Robberies are rife in summer, especially around school holiday time.  As many people go away at the same time, most thiefs are aware that there are a reduced number of watchful eyes to put a dampener on their plans to break into properties.  

Thieves will be on the lookout for any sign that the occupants of a dwelling have not been present for a number of days.  By taking some precautions, you can reduce the telltale indications that a thief looks for to determine whether or not you are away. 

Firstly, be sure to cancel or have a friend or neighbour collect all regular delivery services that fall within the period of your absence.  After all, nothing signals ‘not home’ like a build up on your front doorstep.  Such deliveries may include your mail, newspapers and milk. 

It is often wise, if possible, to keep a car parked in the driveway of a house.  An empty carport or driveway over a couple of days can serve as an instant signal to a thief that nobody is at home.  At least if a car is in the driveway, your property may not be so immediately obvious to anybody with undesirable intentions. 

Keep the curtains in your home at varying stages of openness.  While you don’t want to leave curtains wide open so that people can see right in, closed curtains for extended periods can also indicate that the occupants of a house are away.  Having some curtains open, some closed and others halfway often creates the impression of activity in a home, as though people are coming and going. 

Finally to ensure that you return to a welcoming home after a relaxing trip, make sure you take care of certain things before you leave.  Ensure that any pets are being minded, remove any products from your fridge or pantry that are soon to go off, and make sure that any bills which will fall during your holiday period are paid before you leave. 

Then, all you have to do is relax and enjoy your much deserved break. 

1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 15/10/2010 at 1:38 PM | Categories: Around the house -

The advantages of cooking outdoors

Who can believe how quickly this year is flying by? With the official arrival of spring, I am looking forward to the next few months of warm weather and all the activities that go along with the heat. 

One of the things that characterises spring and summer for me is cooking outside.  With so many hours spent inside the office or the car, it is often enjoyable to spend evenings outdoors, surrounded by natural air instead of air conditioning. And with so many external cooking options available, you seem to be able to vary your cooking style and ingredients just as much as if you were preparing meals in the kitchen.

The most traditional means of cooking outside would have to be the humble barbecue.  However, in saying that, it would seem that barbecues have become anything but humble! This simple implement has evolved with a great deal of styles now available to fit any budget.  Whether you want a smaller, portable unit that can be carted around with you or a larger built-in system, it seems that there is a barbecue to suit almost anyone. 

If pizzas are more your thing, you could consider investing in an outdoor wood fire pizza oven.  As an alternative to the barbecue, pizza ovens often require less cleaning and maintenance, and are usually a very attractive structural feature in your backyard.  As quite a novel backyard addition I daresay that news of your oven will spread quickly and you could become renowned for your pizza creations. 

If you prefer cooking outside all-year round, and the size of your outdoor area permits, you may like to go to the extreme and install a full outdoor kitchen, complete with weather proof bench tops and appliances.  These can be quite expensive and must be carefully planned (after all, once built they cannot be moved around), however could make sense if your passion is the outdoors. 

Cooking outside can also have some social benefits over using the ordinary kitchen.  Being outdoors often allows the cook to enjoy the company of family and friends as they prepare the meal, as opposed to being in a separate kitchen environment. 
Whichever method you prefer, the act of preparing food outside can be a great way to enjoy the warmer months of the year to the full extent.  Just remember to be take fire-precautions and try to be as environmentally friendly as possible. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 13/09/2010 at 12:23 PM | Categories: Around the house -