Viewing by month: September 2010

Things may be looking up for the Australian property market

September has seen the release of various data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that could be suggestive of improving conditions in the Australian residential property market. 

In a report regarding approvals for the construction of new dwellings, most important given the large shortage of homes Australia is currently faced with, the ABS released data at the beginning of this month showing that after falls in April, May and June, there was an increase in the total number of dwellings approved in July.   

These approval figures saw increases in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, while Queensland and Tasmania were down. 

With similar timing the ABS also released its Australian housing finance data for July at the beginning of the month.  These figures showed an increase of 1.7 per cent (seasonally adjusted) in the amount of owner-occupied housing commitments over June 2010. 

While these increases in dwelling approvals and housing finance may seem slight, increases they are none the less.  2010 has been an interesting year for residential property in Australia, with some uncertainty regarding the direction of the market. 

These findings therefore come as positive news and could suggest that the market is starting to pick up somewhat. 

Interestingly, the housing finance data also showed an increase in the number of commitments for the refinancing of established dwellings (up 1.3 per cent).  I think it is promising that we may be beginning to see more Australians taking charge of their mortgage options and engaging in the refinancing process. 

It has been a topic that I’ve talked about in this blog before – the value that can often lie in the refinancing of a home loan.  For many Australians, although their current mortgage was the best product available at the time of commitment, there may now be other options on the market that could be considered as viable alternatives. 

I hope to see this refinancing data continue to increase over the coming months as Australians realise that mortgages do not have to be static contracts for the 20 to 25 years that many people hold them for.  There is often a better outcome available and I would encourage all mortgage holders to continually seek information. 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 30/09/2010 at 11:41 AM | Categories: State of the Market -

Tips to sell your home this spring

As the sun comes out and the weather heats up an opportunity arises in real estate to show a property to its fullest potential. 

Although your physical property will remain the same regardless of the time of year, there are certain features that people seem to be drawn to depending on the weather.  With knowledge of what buyers will paying attention to, vendors can highlight or improve these aspects of their home. 

For properties in areas where the temperature can soar, try to ensure that your property gives prospective buyers some relief from the heat.  There can often be nothing worse than going to inspect a house on a 30 degree day only to be greeted by a stuffy, sauna-like property. 

Take the time to make your home an inviting refuge from the outside heat.  You’re already ahead if your home has air-conditioning, just be sure to test the unit before the day of the inspection to ensure that it is working properly.  If you don’t have air conditioning, perhaps position some fans in various spots so as to generate the flow of air through main areas.  At the very least, be sure to open a few windows and doors to help increase ventilation. 

The extra light that accompanies summer can also be used to your home’s advantage.  Ensure that your windows are clean, allowing light to stream through unobstructed to illuminate your interiors.  If there is any painting required on the inside of the property, aim to choose lighter tones which will help to increase the feeling of spaciousness. 

It is natural in summer for people’s thoughts to turn to the outdoors.   Many buyers will thus be more excited than usual about the outside areas of your home, for example the entertaining area, pool and spa and general backyard. 

Try to focus the attention of potential buyers outwards by making these areas as attractive as possible.    Tasks like removing all leaves from the pool and spa, and keeping lawns mowed and hedges trimmed will illuminate how attractive your outdoor spaces are. 

As well as keeping things clean and tidy, you may also find it helps to show prospective purchasers how functional your property can be.  The simple act of placing an outdoor family setting in your backyard could highlight to people how their lives may be enhanced through the buying of your property. 

Spring is a time for freshness and rejuvenation and is a fabulous opportunity to show your property to its full advantage.  Flowers are in bloom, the weather is usually agreeable and everything in the garden that perished during winter is often coming back to life.  Try to make sure that your home is clean and tidy so that it matches the freshness of feeling given off by the surrounding environment.     


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 30/09/2010 at 11:27 AM | Categories: Selling -

CENTURY 21 Celebrates 15 Years of Australian Ownership!

Fifteen years ago this month, our Chairman Charles Tarbey purchased CENTURY 21 Australia, which has grown into one of the largest real estate networks in the country. As such, I thought I'd publish our latest  media release on this, with some guest blog comments from Charles himself!

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“I bought CENTURY 21 Australia in 1995 because I saw huge potential for this iconic global brand in the Australian market,” said CENTURY 21 Australia Owner and Chairman, Charles Tarbey. 

 

“CENTURY 21 has now grown into one of Australia’s largest and most recognised real estate franchise networks, with hundreds of offices and thousands of agents spread widely across Australia.”

 

CENTURY 21 Australia is the only national real estate company that is 100 per cent web based, which allows the company and its network of agencies to access real-time data on the property market, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 

This unique software system (developed in Australia) allows CENTURY 21 agents to be constantly abreast of movements in the property market that may affect the sale or purchase of a dwelling.

 

“A lot has changed in fifteen years – technology, the state of the residential property market and property prices themselves,” continued Charles Tarbey. 

 

“What hasn’t changed is CENTURY 21 Australia’s commitment to real estate expertise.  Our aim has been, and always will be, to provide Australians with the expert, clear and accessible advice needed to make wise property decisions,” concluded Charles Tarbey.

 

The period also witnessed CENTURY 21 Australia’s expansion into the mortgage sector with CENTURY 21 Home Loans, a move aimed at giving buyers a much smoother property purchasing experience.


1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 30/09/2010 at 9:50 AM | Categories: CENTURY 21 News -

Plan to beat worsening housing affordability

At the risk of beginning to sound like a broken record, I will again turn to the topic of housing affordability this week.  Since my last blog regarding the subject another report has been released which further highlights that housing affordability in Australia continues to worsen. 

The Real Estate Institute of Australia’s Deposit Power Housing Affordability Report recorded the sixth consecutive quarterly decline in housing affordability in Australia over the June quarter.  Decreases were seen across all states and territories, with the exception of the Northern Territory and Tasmania. 

Of particular concern in the report is that a national increase was seen in the percentage of income required to meet loan repayments.  In the June quarter it rose by two per cent, with the proportion heading towards 35 per cent – a level not seen since 1990 when interest rates were as high as 16.4 per cent. 

For many Australian home owners, this rising percentage of monthly income needed to service a mortgage could place greater strain on the household, reducing the amount that can be spent on general day to day expenses. 

And with the ongoing concern that the Reserve Bank of Australia could lift interest rates over the coming months, this proportion of monthly income required make loan repayments may be at risk of increasing further. 

So what steps can Australian households take to safeguard themselves against the current conditions in the housing market? I would start by reinforcing the importance of having a good, working budget in place. 

Having a budget that considers both incoming revenues and expenditures for at least three months into the future should help households to plan and allocate funds effectively.  Taking into account these extra months, as opposed to simply the current month, will enable the sharing of income across time periods if needed. 

For example, you may find that your expenses for October are lighter than usual however November will see several larger one-off payments due, such as car registration.  Instead of using the extra money in October for unnecessary spending, this forward planning will allow you to deal with November’s payments efficiently, thus reducing the stress on your budget. 

Budgeting and planning could be the key for Australian households to stay well positioned during periods of uncertainty in the housing market.  The steps are also important even when conditions are good.  As you never know when unexpected expenditures may arise, planning will enable you to deal with unforeseen but necessary costs in an effective way.   

 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 20/09/2010 at 9:57 AM | Categories: State of the Market -

Points to consider when hiring a builder

Constructing your own home, or renovating your current property or one recently purchased, could end up being the largest and most time consuming project you take on over the course of your lifetime.  And while your dream property may be quite clearly defined in your head, it takes the expertise and skill of a good deal of people, including architects, builders and various other subcontractors, to make your vision a reality. 

As the physical layer of the bricks and mortar that will be the basis of your new home, it will be important for you to approach the hiring of your builder quite carefully.  Ideally, the person or company you choose should be one with a solid reputation, excellent credentials and a good team, who you are convinced will construct your project in a high-quality, timely fashion. 

So how do you go about determining which builder is best for your project?

Once you have formed your shortlist of potential candidates an excellent place to start in establishing their suitability for your project is to talk to their previous clients. 

Questions to ask should look at the finished product, covering levels of happiness with the way the property turned out upon completion of the project, how it has stood the test of time, the quality of materials used in its construction and whether or not the deadline was satisfied.    

It can also be helpful to ask previous clients about the behaviour of the builder personally and his or her work style, as well as how the construction team behaved on the site during the course of the project.  It is important to remember that while you want the best builder possible, you may also have to live with a construction team being in your home on a daily basis for an extended period of time – you should try to choose someone with whom you will feel comfortable.

Try to find a builder who has prior experience with a property similar to yours.  This will become particularly important when working with a specific style of home or an individual property restoration. 

The financial stability of the builder is also a significant consideration.  Not only do you want to be assured that construction of your project will be completed, it is also important that if any problems arise after building has finished, your builder will be around and financially able to satisfy their warranty obligations. 

Identifying and working with the right builder for you should help to make the construction of an entirely new home or renovations a much smoother process.  Try to take the time necessary to determine the best builder for your project and in doing so avoid the problems that could have otherwise occurred. 

 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 20/09/2010 at 9:52 AM | Categories: Renovating - Building -

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 -

How to choose a block of land to build on

It’s an extension of the great Australian dream; as well as owning your own home, why not build it as well? After all, it is unlikely that any home will be more perfectly suited to yours and your family’s own tastes than if you had designed it yourselves, carefully planning the layout and selecting all the finishing touches.   

With some of Australia’s state governments offering various incentives for people to buy land packages (such as zero stamp duty on purchases of vacant land in New South Wales over the next couple of years), it may be a financially viable option for many Australians to consider the purchase of land and build on it. 

For those who choose this path, there are a few factors worth thinking about before you settle on a particular block of land.  Various site characteristics can have a significant impact on how you build your dream home, what features you will be able to include in its design, as well as the cost of your project. 

As with any new property purchase, be it a house, apartment or land, it is important to consider the area within which you are looking to buy.  Does it have the necessary transport, health and schooling facilities and other infrastructure for you and your family? In many new areas, where land has only recently been released, it is natural that some services will not yet have been established.  It is usually worth talking to your local council to determine when various facilities are expected to be available. 

When it comes to the site itself, take note of characteristics such as its slope and the presence of trees.  Both can be expensive to rectify if they fall within the area where you wish to build.  The distances that any buildings must be set back from the boundaries of the property are also worth noting – your design may be unsuitable if it means your new home will impinge on boundary restrictions. 

The accessibility of the site can also affect your choice.  If it is not an easy task for construction vehicles to get to the land, your construction costs could increase by quite a bit, reducing the financial viability of your project. 
 
Finally, it could be helpful to enquire about the intentions of other property builders and developers in the area – one way to do this is to ask your local council about any development applications that have been lodged.  You may finish building your perfect home, complete with beautiful views, when suddenly the construction of a high-rise apartment building begins next door, replacing your outlook with somebody else’s window. 

Take the time to find a block of land that is suitable for you and your family’s needs.  As you are constructing your dream home, it would be a shame to have to leave it if the area or the site ends up being unsuitable. 

 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 10/09/2010 at 12:02 PM | Categories: Building -

It's time for a spring cleanout!

Every so often (ok, quite frequently!) when my desk at work becomes unbearably messy I have a complete cleanup.  This includes throwing away all the stray post-it notes that are floating around, removing the papers from my in-tray that had once been relevant but are now long forgotten and filing everything else.  On completion I usually feel a, very proud of how tidy I am, and quite relaxed because there is (literally) no more clutter that I must think through. 

It shouldn’t be surprising then that the same principle can be applied on a much larger scale in a home.  And we just so happen to be on the brink of spring, the period of time where it is common to see households engaged in cleaning their homes.
 
I like to think of spring cleaning as more of a spring ‘decluttering’.  To be fair, I’m probably not the most tidy person in the world, however I like to think that any house I live in during winter is kept to an acceptable level of hygiene.  Every room is presentable and tidy.  The bathrooms are clean, as is the kitchen.  The floors are vacuumed and swept. 

It’s when you look under the surface however, that the clutter appears.   Think of those household items that naturally build up over a period of time, similar to those overflowing papers in your in-tray, or a growing number of emails in your Inbox.  It could be the junk mail that you have delegated to a drawer in the kitchen, or the cupboard under the stairs where all manner of sport equipment seems to enjoy residence. 

I think that these areas are the best ones to target in a spring clean, as opposed to general household cleaning tasks, such as vacuuming, that you have been conducting regularly throughout winter.   In my household, there are usually a few standout areas that deserve particular attention.

The medicine cabinet can be a silent killer.  This little nook is usually the final destination for all the medications and treatments purchased to tackle the ailments that winter can be known to throw at us.  While helpful at the time, these products are doing no good to anyone and could even be dangerous if they have passed their expiry date.  Perhaps use spring as an opportunity to clean-out your old medications and restock your cabinet with products that will become useful as summer approaches, such as sunscreen and insect repellant. 

The ‘shoe basket’ that I have seen present in many homes could also be a cleaning target.  This basket usually sits at the front or back door and is used to store shoes that are not brought inside.  Although helpful if the shoes are worn regularly, there is a tendency for people to forget about them, leaving them to collect mildew and sometimes even mould.  I often find that the best policy is usually to give the shoes the toss if no longer used. 

Every residence has their trouble areas and the home’s inhabitants tend to know exactly where/what these are.  I would recommend using spring as an opportunity to declutter these areas and enjoy the stress-free relaxation that often follows a cleanout.             


1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 07/09/2010 at 2:16 PM | Categories: Around the house -

Decreasing housing affordability - will the new government act?

There are two things that I love about the buying and selling of residential real estate.  One is the feeling of personal achievement as a real estate agent when a house is sold and a good price has been achieved for your client - it is quite satisfying to know that you have done a good job. 

The second thing that I enjoy is watching the excitement that many people experience when they buy a property (be it their first or their tenth).  For a large number of Australians, the purchase of a property represents life-change – be it that they are making the move out of the family home, upsizing to accommodate a growing family or even just taking steps to move out of the rental market. 

It is therefore increasingly worrying to hear that home ownership is becoming more and more difficult for many Australians.  We have seen this trend occurring for a little while now, and the recently released HIA-Commonwealth Bank Housing Affordability Report found that housing affordability levels around Australia have reached record lows. 

The report’s Housing Affordability Index is formed based on a combination of interest rates, household incomes and home prices to determine affordability conditions.  The latest report showed worsening affordability in most regional areas and capital cities across Australia in the three months to June. 

From my perspective in real estate, a key contributing factor to this situation is the critical supply situation that is occurring nationwide.  This large undersupply of residential real estate, which many have estimated to be over 200,000 dwellings and growing, may largely be due to the lack of strategic urban planning by governments at levels.  

The Federal Election, as the most recent example, saw little attention paid by either party to the state of housing in our nation.  It is understandable that there were other issues also of great importance which needed to be covered.  But from where I sit it appears that the residential property market is an issue that is causing Australians much concern, and it is thus important that the situation is addressed by government bodies.  

They say that it often takes a crisis to occur before anybody takes action to rectify an issue.  Well, with Australia’s growing population and housing shortage, we could be in a situation where it won’t be long before affordability levels mean that the great Aussie dream of home ownership will for many remain simply a dream.  This, in my humble opinion, would be a tragedy. 

How can we avoid such a situation? Perhaps the answer is for local, state and federal governments to direct their focus to co-operative and competent strategic urban planning to ensure that land is released and housing construction levels increase.   Whatever action is taken, it is certain that it needs to occur. It will be interesting to see what actions the new government (which hopefully will be decided upon today!) will take to improve the housing situation in Australia.


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 07/09/2010 at 2:13 PM | Categories: State of the Market -