Viewing by month: February 2011

Preparing to buy and sell Real Estate in Autumn

An RP Data study conducted in the middle of last year showed that autumn, followed by spring, is the busiest season for real estate, attracting the largest number of sales.  As we are now heading into autumn, this means that there are is a large amount of people who are currently preparing to either buy or sell real estate, or both. 

For those selling, it is important to make sure that your property stands out amongst all the other listings on the market.  Chris Gray, in an article on Real entitled ‘Preparing your property for sale this autumn’ suggests that simple cosmetic alterations can vastly increase a property’s appeal to buyers, and gives sellers the following tips:

  • Declutter – remove all excess furniture, photos and other unnecessary items.  Buyers want to imagine how a property will look when they add their own touch. 
  • Perform a quick cosmetic renovation – simply replacing the carpet and repainting is affordable and can instantly refresh any property.  Stay away from do-it-yourself jobs, as the results rarely compare to a professional job. 
  • Style your property – Stick with simple furniture and a neutral colour palette so that potential buyers can imagine how they would add their own touch. 

It is amazing how even the most minor improvements can increase a property’s appeal and thus drive up its value.  And with the large volume of listings that autumn will see, it is important to highlight the value of your property to potential buyers. 

For those people preparing to buy property going into autumn, I think it is a highly worthwhile exercise to have everything necessary in order so that the decision to buy can be made quickly if need be.  This includes having mortgage pre-approval (if obtaining financing), appropriate legal representation and lining up a company to conduct the necessary inspections. 

Having said this, I don’t mean for people to rush into purchasing a property.  For those who think they will be in a position to buy over the next three months, definitely start looking at real estate now.  In order to get a sense of what you like, need and want (in terms of both properties and locations), it is important to have seen a large number of properties.  It can also be helpful to attend several auctions to get a feel for how they are conducted, as there is a possibility that you may end up buying through this method.

There is no doubt that autumn is a very exciting time for real estate and I wish all the buyers and sellers out there the very best of luck.  For any individual real estate enquiries you may have please feel free to pop into your closest CENTURY 21 office.

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 28/02/2011 at 1:18 PM | Categories: Selling - Buying -

Readying your garden for the cooler months

If you’re like me, it can be hard to find the motivation to go outside and work on your garden when the weather turns cold.  But by the time spring rolls around, this winter neglect often means that I have a badly damaged garden and must start work from scratch, sometimes even replanting large sections of outside areas. 

But this could be totally unnecessary by taking some simple steps to prepare your garden for the cooler months.  Not only will this allow you to have a minimal-maintenance garden that looks good all year around, it also means that, should you decide to put your property on the market during the year, a reduced amount of time will be required to prepare your garden for the sale. 

Another advantage of maintaining your garden during winter is that you ensure its continued health throughout the year.  This will help your plants to thrive in all conditions and live for longer.  

I have found that a good way to start preparations is often to do some general cleaning and clearing.  Pulling out weeds and raking up fallen leaves will rid your garden of any harmful insects and diseases that these sometimes carry. 

In my search for the best ways to ready my garden for winter, I came across what I thought to be quite an informative article on the Yates Australia website, entitled ‘Preparing the garden for winter’.  The piece contained a checklist of tips, some of which I’ve included as follows:

  • Move potted tropical plants and others that like warmth to more protected spots – such as a verandah or porch.  For those that are planted, or just too heavy to move, consider spraying them with products that are designed to provide a layer of protection.
  • Reduce your watering of potted plants as they require much less water when the weather is cooler.
  • Before winter, feed plants with a product that is high in potash so as to build up their strength.

If you like to have a bit of colour in your garden during winter, now is also a good time to start looking into the various varieties that are suited to cooler temperatures.  According to Yates Australia there are plenty of suitable varieties that will live through winter, such as polyanthus which bloom in a wide range of colours – blues, pinks, yellows, cream and white.  If cared for these flowers will re-bloom next winter as well. 

Preparing your garden for winter doesn’t have to be a hugely involved process.  And by taking a few simple measures you will be able to enjoy an attractive garden all year round. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 28/02/2011 at 1:17 PM | Categories: Around the house - CENTURY 21 Solutions -

Are your pets suffering in the heat?

The past couple of weeks have seen soaring temperatures in different areas right around Australia.  If you’re like me, you’ve been doing whatever you can to stay cool – operating fans and airconditioning units around the home and office, wearing lightweight clothing, staying in the shade when it becomes necessary to venture outside, and so on and so forth.

But what do you do when it comes to your pets? How can you ensure that you have taken all measures to keep your animals in comfort while you are away from your home? Given that so many people are currently facing this dilemma, I thought I would use this blog to explore the ways that you can keep your pets at ease during the hotter parts of the year. 

Firstly, similar to humans, it is important to keep animals hydrated when it is hot.  Dogs, and even cats to an extent, can sometimes nudge their water bowls, disrupting their water supply and putting themselves at risk of dehydration. 

According to an article that appeared in the West Australian, ‘Keeping pets cool in summer’, there are a variety of options that can be purchased from your local pet store to circumvent this dilemma.  These include non-slip bowls and chew tows that can be filled with water and frozen (thus having the added advantage of keeping your pets cooler for longer). 

You may also like to consider having more than one water bowl filled up to the top when you leave home in the morning. 

Both dogs and cats tend to become excited and playful and like to run around.  With the hot weather, this will often tire them out.  When you do see them after arriving home, try to discourage large bursts of activity and calm them down quickly – this will lead to greater comfort for your animal.   

Try not to forget about the pets that reside in cages around your home such as birds, rabbits and guinea pigs.  Ensure that these cages are in shaded areas, again with supplies of water and food regularly checked in the morning and night. 

For external fish ponds, remember to monitor water levels when you are at home.  With heat comes the evaporation of water, putting your fish at risk if levels become too low. 

Remember, if you’re feeling the heat, then the chances are that your pets are probably suffering as well.  Try to be mindful of this and keep water supplies up and activity at a minimum, especially in the middle of the day.  This will help your pet to endure the heat in a much more comfortable way.

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 21/02/2011 at 2:27 PM | Categories: Around the house -

The benefits of knowing your neighbours

These days, I think it is fair to say that there is less of a neighbourhood culture than there has been in the past.  I suppose this isn’t a surprising progression – people tend to lead busier lives, there are not as many people at home during the day and with the increase in apartment living there is less of that familiarity you get between people seeing each other out on the street on a daily basis. 

While not unexpected I still think it is a bit of a shame that people aren’t as ‘neighbourly’ anymore, as there can be great benefit to knowing and getting along with the people who live around you. 

In the first instance, simply knowing and being able to say a simple hello to neighbours when you see them can often help to make your general lifestyle more pleasant.  You don’t have to have lengthy conversations – even a quick wave and acknowledgement can be a nice way to start your day. 

In more practical terms, having a reasonably good relationship with your neighbours could be advantageous when you go away on holiday.  Your neighbours will usually be happy to keep an eye on your home for you, watching out for any suspicious behaviour.   This presence may help you to feel more comfortable and better able to enjoy yourself while away.

A neighbourly relationship can also be beneficial when it comes to your children, especially if they like to play outside your home or even on the street.  If there are other children who are also playing outside, it can help to have a good relationship with their parents (your neighbours), whereby the responsibility of watching out for any dangers can be shared amongst a group rather than borne by a few different individuals.  

Another area where having established relationships can be of help is when it comes to the dissemination of community news.  Often things will happen in your local area that are not necessarily reported publicly, however still relate to you.  Your neighbours may have knowledge of these events that they will pass on to you in the conversations that you may have as you pass each other by, whether it is when parking your cars, or in a proper catch-up over a cup of coffee.   

When it comes down to it, unless you are living in an area where the rental turnover is very high and people are continuously coming and going, you could be living near the same people for an extended period of time.  Simply taking the time to introduce yourself and establishing a rapport with them could make your home life much easier and enjoyable. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 21/02/2011 at 2:25 PM | Categories: Property Management - Around the house - CENTURY 21 Solutions -

Housing supply remains an issue

The issue of housing supply is contentious at the best of times.  It is not unusual for seemingly conflicting data and reports to be released almost concurrently – sometimes we are told that there is too much stock on the market and people aren’t buying, at other times it is that there are not enough homes and prices are skyrocketing. 

It is important to understand that the residential property market has both a short term and long term outlook, both of which can be affected by different factors.  Interest rate rises, for example, often act to cool the market a little bit, as prospective buyers absorb the prospect of an increased mortgage rate and wait to see the general impact of the news on the market.  Hence, we often see periods of reduced auction clearance rates, even when supply is thought to be a larger issue. 

The concept of Australia’s supply issue therefore, is something which must be considered both in today’s terms, as well as in the context of Australia’s future population and accommodation needs.  

An article appeared in the Australian Financial Review on January 28, entitled ‘Housing supply plans suffer’.  I found that the article highlighted some very interesting points regarding Australia’s housing supply and affordability issues and so I thought I would draw your attention to it. 

The most concerning aspect raised by the article was its discussion of the Australian Government – questioning Labor’s commitment to tackle worsening home affordability.  As shelter is one of the most important needs of individuals and families, it is problematic to be facing a housing supply shortage while having a government who are not instigating the necessary reforms so that a reversal in the situation can be achieved. 

The article refers to concerns regarding the future of the National Housing Supply Council, created after the Labor party came into power in 2007.  The Council has produced two annual State of Supply reports, which so far forecast that Australia’s national housing shortfall will exceed 300,000 by 2014 – quite an alarming figure. 

With the appointments of its nine committee members having lapsed midway through last year (except for its Chair), combined with a restructure of governmental responsibilities, the Council’s work has been understandably affected.  The article quotes Population Minister Tony Bourke as saying that the Gillard Government is committed to continuing the council’s work, however it is of concern that new members have not yet been appointed. 

It remains to be seen what the fate of the Council will be.  Having said that, I think that it is imperative for such an organisation to exist, if only to shed light on a situation that will continue to of concern.  It has once again become seen that the Government may need some policy emphasis with regards to housing – or the shortage numbers that are already evident will continue to grow. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 14/02/2011 at 12:27 PM | Categories: First Home Buyers - State of the Market -

What to renovate - Kitchens and Bathrooms

It is not uncommon for people to renovate, or ‘spruce up’, a property before selling it.  However, the dilemma that many sellers come across when doing so is determining which areas of the home to invest in so as to add enough value and come out ahead in the increased sales price that you achieve. 
Over the years that I have worked in the real estate industry, I have seen a number of methods used to determine the best areas of the home to work on before selling.  One of the most intuitive, I find, is to watch the growth of different industries within the home sector; when a certain industry shows substantial growth and is predicted to continue in such a fashion, you know this area is one people value and are spending their money on. 

Recent figures from the Housing Industry Association point to such growth in the Australian kitchen and bathroom industries, leading us to believe that these parts of the home should be the areas that homeowners focus on when looking to add value to a property. 

The HIA’s 2010 Kitchens and Bathrooms Report looks at the amount of money Australians spend each year on new and renovated kitchens and bathrooms and the state of industry activity.  The report found that both the kitchen and bathroom industries grew strongly in value over the 2009-10 financial year, showing increases of 9.2 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively over the previous year. 

Such figures could suggest that homebuyers are placing increasing value on these areas and as such, it would be prudent of savvy renovators and investors to ensure that these rooms are the focus of pre-sale renovations and are finished properly, incorporating aspects that are popular.  

The report considered the different trends that are currently popular in both industries.  These included:

• Engineered and stone benchtops, followed by solid-surface benchtops and granite benchtops.  The use of stainless steel declined along with concrete and timber. 
• Two-pac polyurethane or colour painted doors were popular, followed by low-pressure laminate doors.  Roller shutter doors, natural timber doors and timber veneer doors were less popular.
• Glass and engineered stone splashbacks were popular; granite and tiled splashbacks are out.
• Trendy kitchen appliances included LCD/plasma TV’s, two-door fridges with icemakers, wine cooler/fridges and European freestanding stoves. 
• In bathrooms, lever tap ware experienced strong growth, followed by multiple sinks and taps and premium tap ware.
• Under-mount sinks were the fastest growing sink, but there was also an increase in use for double-bowl sinks and square-form sinks. 
• Soft closing, and deep and wide drawers are popular. 

The report predicts the continued increase in the value of both industries over the 2010-11 and 2011-12 financial years, which could mean that these areas of the home should persist as being of significant importance to buyers for the next couple of years at least.  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 14/02/2011 at 12:24 PM | Categories: Renovating - Around the house - Building -

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 -

The RBA leaves interest rates on hold

At its meeting last week, the Reserve Bank of Australia decided to leave the official cash rate unchanged at 4.75 per cent.  This choice is good news for the residential property market and will definitely help to ease the pressures felt by many Australian home owners and prospective buyers. 

From where we sit at CENTURY 21 Australia, this decision was the appropriate one for the RBA to make.  Parts of our nation have recently been devastated by flooding, the full impact of which we are yet to understand.  Additionally, recent figures suggest that underlying inflation is currently falling within the RBA’s medium-term target range. 

In his statement that followed the meeting, the Governor of the RBA, Glenn Stevens, referred to several aspects of economic activity, including the impact of the Queensland and Victoria floods and current inflation,  that were influencers of the bank’s decision to leave rates unchanged and give some idea as to how the bank will move in future months.   

According to the bank, inflation is consistent with the medium-term objective of monetary policy, with recent data showing underlying inflation at around 2 ¼ per cent in 2010.  The RBA expects that inflation over the year ahead will continue to be consistent with the 2 – 3 per cent target. 

The flooding that has occurred in Queensland and Victoria is currently having a temporary adverse effect on economic activity and prices, according to Governor.  However he also stated that the bank’s preliminary assessment is that the net additional demand from the required rebuilding that will take place is unlikely to have a major impact on the medium-term outlook for inflation. 

Essentially the RBA looks to remain cautious about interest rates.   However with some generally positive comments about the Australian economy, as well as a prediction that inflation will continue to remain consistent with the bank’s target over the year, it seems that for the next little while at least, borrowers can take comfort that rates shouldn’t drastically change. 

Having said that, I would still encourage mortgage holders to take advantage of this rate reprieve and use it as a time to prepare for the increased mortgage payments that will come with rising interest rates in the future, which is a very real possibility. 

And for those of you who are preparing to enter or re-enter the property market, this period of steady interest rates may be a good time for you to act, if of course you are in a ready financial position to do so.

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 07/02/2011 at 12:22 PM | Categories: Finance -