Viewing by month: December 2010

Buying & Selling Property over the Christmas Holiday Period

As it seems to do every year, Christmas has once again snuck up on me.  The years do not appear to be slowing down and it seems that everybody in CENTURY 21 offices around Australia are busier than ever. 

An enquiry I get from many people around this time of year surrounds buying and/or selling property in the lead-up to, during and directly after Christmas and whether or not they should do it.  In my experience, Christmas can make things tricky, simply because you may not have as much time to be looking or preparing for sale as you would at other times of the year; however this doesn’t mean that now is not as good a time as any to be taking on the property market. 

For sellers, an issue that often arises is how your home should be presented.  Can you keep your Christmas tree and other decorations up? The jury is often split on this one – many people will tell you that everything Christmassy should be removed and your home should be presented as it would at any other time of year, while others will encourage you to embrace the festive atmosphere and decorate accordingly. 

My advice to you around this time is exactly the same as it would be in any other month – when presenting your home try to ensure that it is uncluttered and tasteful.  People should be able to envisage themselves living in your property and feel at home. 

For buyers, purchasing a property at Christmas time can have distinct advantages.  Competition is often reduced at this time of year, as many people are busy preparing for Christmas or have gone away on holidays.  Additionally, the properties on the market may be remnants from the spring selling season, which means they may have been up for sale for quite some time.  If this is the case, sellers are often keen to have their sale wrapped up before the New Year brings a new set of property offerings to tempt buyers away from their own.   

One thing to note when buying at this time is that many of the companies you will use to conduct your property inspections, strata reports etc, may have closed up shop for Christmas.  If buying at auction, be sure to understand that the price achieved is final – you cannot go back to the seller if a later inspection reveals flaws in the property.  If buying privately, with legal advice, try to reach a deal where your accepted offer is contingent on the results of an inspection which will take place in the New Year. 

In any case, good luck if you are planning on selling or buying over Christmas.  And for everybody else, I hope you have a fun and relaxing time over the holiday season.  I will be taking a little bit of time off writing these blogs to enjoy a nice break but never fear, I will be back in 2011 to keep you all abreast of happenings in the property market. 

I hope each and every one of my readers has a happy, safe and memorable Christmas and New Year.  See you in 2011!

1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 20/12/2010 at 2:56 PM | Categories: Selling - Buying -

Banking reforms see Home Loan exit fees abolished

In a package announced last week which included a variety of different banking reforms, the Treasurer Wayne Swan revealed the Government’s proposal to abolish home loan exit fees.  This package in its entirety was put together to afford Australian consumers greater flexibility and choice when it comes to their banking. 

Under the reforms proposed by the Treasurer, home loan exit fees will be abolished on all mortgages taken out from July 1, 2011. 

In many ways, the package will be a win for consumers.  I have found it to be quite unfair that after working so hard and for so long (many people pay off their mortgages over a period of more than twenty years), consumers should be hit with often significant administration charges for ending their mortgage contract. 

In other cases, the existence of exit fees also means that people cannot take advantage of better deals that are released onto the market.  When you enter a contract that lasts for such an extended period as is the case with a mortgage, it is not surprising that improved offers become available.  

Essentially, the abolition of home loan exit fees should give consumers more freedom to move between mortgage options as lending conditions change over the life of a loan.  In turn, this could go some way in forcing greater competition in the banking sector. 

And while consumers should benefit from this increased competition, I would say that it will also be prudent for borrowers to remain vigilant when comparing mortgage products after July 1 next year.  Unless extra legislation is introduced to prevent banks from bringing in different charges, the reality may be that consumers are faced with a variety of new costs when it comes to searching for the best mortgage deal. 

I’m not saying that these costs will outweigh the benefits of the abolished exit fees, but it may be the case that the basis for the comparison of different mortgage options will change.  Consumers need to understand that banks could decide to implement other charges in order to make up for the lost exit fee income. 

In any case, increased competition within the banking sector is a good thing as it should help to make it somewhat easier for people to obtain better financing for home purchases.  And the cutting of exit fees does have the potential to save Australian borrowers substantially.  I would just encourage consumers to remain abreast of the issues and take advantage of the opportunities to save on costs that the reforms will provide.

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 20/12/2010 at 2:55 PM | Categories: Finance - Investors -

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 -

Interest rates on hold over Christmas

I think we all breathed a sigh of relief last Tuesday when the Reserve Bank of Australia decided to leave interest rates unchanged for the month of December after raising them to 4.75 per cent from 4.5 per cent last month. 

In his statement after the announcement, RBA governor Glenn Stevens commented that the board saw the current monetary policy setting as appropriate for the economic outlook.  He also noted inflation is expected to see little change over the next few quarters, which suggests that the RBA may just leave rates on hold for a little while yet. 

In any case, the RBA does not meet in January unless under exceptional circumstances, so it seems borrowers and prospective buyers are safe until February at least. 

For mortgage holders the decision is a welcome one and means we don’t have to worry about finding the extra money needed to meet increased mortgage repayments for the time being; instead we can relax and focus on enjoying Christmas and the upcoming holiday period. 

For those who are looking to take on a mortgage to buy a property, hopefully this hold on rates will afford a little bit more certainty about making a purchase and committing to a loan.  

Good news aside, as I have said in other blogs regarding interest rate holds, this RBA decision provides an excellent opportunity for current and soon-to-be mortgage holders to prepare for future rate increases.  Economists are already predicting that the RBA may see a need to tighten monetary policy by the second quarter of next year. 

Try to use this time to plan for interest rate increases.  Consider your budget and look at where you can afford to put little bits away here and there so that if your monthly repayments get larger, your household resources will not be strained too much. 

For example, if one month a bill is less than expected, instead of spending, save the extra amount that you had allocated to the expense.  It is definitely true that a little can go a long way, and you will appreciate having a pool of savings to help lessen the impact of larger mortgage repayments if they arise. 

But for the meantime, you’ve now got at least another month where you don’t have to worry about interest rate rises, so enjoy! 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 13/12/2010 at 9:37 AM | Categories: Finance - State of the Market -

CENTURY 21 sponsors The Australian Open

Apologies in advance for taking a sidestep from the topic of real estate in this blog, however we had an exciting internal development last week as Century 21 committed to be the presenting sponsor of this year’s Australian Open, which was played at The Lakes in Sydney from December 2 to 5. 

With prize money of US$1.3 million, The Australian Open lived up to all expectations and was an exciting week of golf despite the rain.  Defending champion Adam Scott competed against Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Fred Couples, John Daly and five-time winner Greg Norman, with Geoff Ogilvy taking out the coveted Stonehaven Cup. 

An avid golfer himself, Century 21’s Owner and Chairman, Charles Tarbey, was delighted by the sponsorship opportunity. 

“Century 21 has been a supporter of Australian golf at different levels for over 15 years and believes sponsorship of the Open will deliver strong value for our company and brand,” Charles said when announcing Century 21’s involvement. 

“When we recently became aware an opportunity existed to sponsor the Australian Open we quickly moved to forge a partnership with what is one of Australia’s most renowned golf tournaments.”

The tournament was first played in 1904 and has been won by the biggest names in the game.  South African Gary Player has lifted the Stonehaven Cup a record seven times while Jack Nicklaus from the United States triumphed on six occasions. 

The Australian Open was showcased on OneAsia’s television platform with live coverage for four hours a day across all four tournament days, and broadcast to over 260 million homes in more than 40 countries, ensuring fantastic domestic and international coverage for the Century 21 brand.   

Domestically, full coverage of the event was available on Network Ten and internationally on ESPN Star Sports, Jupiter Golf Network, SBS Golf Channel, Fox International, Sky Sports NZ, ESPN3 and America One in the USA, and ViaSat and Bloomberg Television among others in Europe. 

Here at Century 21 we are proud of our ongoing support of Australian golf and found the Open to be quite an exciting opportunity to create brand awareness for our franchisees around the country. 

Century 21 is a prestigious international brand, just like the Australian Open.  These strong brand synergies, coupled with the enormous exposure the Century 21 brand received across Australia and the world made sponsoring the event an incredibly attractive proposition.  We were very proud to be associated with the event. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 06/12/2010 at 12:16 PM | Categories: CENTURY 21 News -

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 -