Viewing by month: June 2011

Queensland Government moves to deregulate real estate commissions

Queensland’s Deputy Premier and Attorney-General, Paul Lucas, recently announced that Queensland will move to deregulate real estate commissions, a decision that will bring the state into line with other Australian states and territories. 

Mr Lucas said that over the years numerous national and state reviews had been conducted which recommended the deregulation of real estate commissions, a move he says is also supported by the real estate industry. 

From our perspective at CENTURY 21, we feel that this decision should lead to a fairer commission negotiation system for both vendors and agents. 

CENTURY 21 Chairman and Owner, Charles Tarbey, recently said that the selling process and amount of work involved differs from property to property.  He feels that the deregulation of commissions should allow Queensland real estate agents and their clients to jointly arrive at a reasonable fee that is directly related to the property being sold. 

Mr Tarbey has also said that giving both vendor and agent the power of negotiation has the potential to allow agents to become more competitive and could give them the opportunity to provide clients with services that are better tailored to their particular property.

I can certainly understand the concern of Queensland residents that the deregulation of real estate commissions may lead to the charging of higher fees.  Under the current system, real estate commissions are capped by the Government at a maximum of five per cent of the first $18,000 of the sale price, with an additional 2.5 per cent on the balance above that. 

However, according to Mr Lucas, the deregulation process will see consumer groups consulted to ensure the resulting outcome is fair and transparent.  He has also stressed that “any changes will have strong consumer protections including strong disclosure, and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal will be given the jurisdiction to deal with situations where it is alleged by a seller that a commission is harsh and unconscionable.” 

I must also stress to Queensland property sellers that real estate commissions are very much related to demand.  Agents understand that they are in competition for business, often with many other agents in their area.  Such competition ensures that they are not easily able to charge high, unfair commissions as they recognise that potential clients can simply choose another agent to award their business to.

All in all, this move to deregulate commissions should be advantageous for many stakeholders in the Queensland real estate market and looks to be a good outcome for the industry.  

2 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 27/06/2011 at 8:56 AM | Categories:

CENTURY 21 launches revolutionary property ‘App’ in Australia

Here at CENTURY 21 Australia, we pride ourselves on being at the forefront of innovation when it comes to real estate. 

It therefore gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of the CENTURY 21 iPhone App which is set to change the way Australians buy and sell real estate and will ensure you never miss out on your dream property again. 

The free App is capable of providing users with unique, advanced and instantaneous information on listed CENTURY 21 properties through a series of functions never before seen in Australia.  Users simply stand in front of a property for sale or rent and by using the App can receive a description of the property, price guide, numerous photos, information on the local real estate market and through the use of advanced GPS technology – information on the property’s proximity to local schools, shopping centres, public transport and other areas of interest. 

“The CENTURY 21 iPhone App aims to give users enough on the spot information to facilitate a quick decision as to whether a property is worthy of further investigation or not,” said CENTURY 21 Chairman, Charles Tarbey. 

In an Australian first for a real estate group, the CENTURY 21 App enables users to receive live information on property inspections and auction times – helping to ensure you never miss the chance to view or buy a property.  In another first, the integration of GPS technology allows the App to pinpoint exactly where a user is and accurately identify how close the relevant property is located to schools, shops, parks, hospitals, public transport and many other places worth considering when assessing a property. 

Incorporating a live feed from RP Data, the App can be used to learn about the relevant suburb, including growth rates and median house prices – important information to consider when conducting research in the property purchase process.  According to the CEO of RP Data, Graham Mirabito, by teaming up with RP Data the App helps anyone looking to stay on top of the property market make smarter decisions, with ‘augmented reality’ insights into almost any Australian home, anytime, anywhere. 

“Once of the most exciting benefits of the App is that it allows buyers and sellers to view the sales history of individual properties as well as recent sales in the local area,” said Graham Mirabito. 

“The CENTURY 21 iPhone App is an excellent tool that enables home buyers and sellers to make informed and researched property decisions when it comes to making their biggest financial commitment,” concluded Graham Mirabito. 

While we expect the new technology to be extremely useful for savvy property investors, renters and homebuyers – the App will also be an added weapon for sellers as it will deliver instant and detailed information on a listed CENTURY 21 property 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

“While the App can’t replace the expert advice and knowledge of the property’s agent, it does provide users with enough information at their fingertips to make a fairly quick judgement as to whether they are serious about a property,” said Charles Tarbey. 

“The free CENTURY 21 App delivers ultimate convenience to buyers and gives CENTURY 21 listings a competitive advantage in the market through the opening of a powerful new marketing channel,” concluded Charles Tarbey. 

Charles and I both hope that the free App makes the buying and researching process easier and more simple for Australians – saving people time and resulting in more informed property purchases.

The App also includes contact details for the property agent and even a local mortgage broker.  It allows users to grade properties and save them into a favourites section. 

So what are you waiting for? Download the freeap App by following this link or by searching for the ‘CENTURY 21 Australia App’ on iTunes. 

1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 27/06/2011 at 8:56 AM | Categories:

Buyer activity stimulated

In some positive news for the property market, recent reports are suggesting that buyers may be responding to the fact that interest rates have now been kept on hold for seven consecutive months, with a lack of immediate indication that rates will rise – for the next month at least. 

A recent article by Ruth Liew in the Weekend Australian Financial Review entitled ‘Rate freeze gets cheaper houses moving’ (June 11 – 12), quoted CENTURY 21 Chairman and Owner, Charles Tarbey, who commented that the prolonged hold on rates had helped stimulate buying activity, with more affordable suburbs showing particular movement. 

Charles named suburbs such as Fairfield (in Sydney’s west) and pockets in the lower Blue Mountains of NSW as areas that first-home buyers and second-time purchasers were targeting. 

He also noted that Salisbury in the north of Adelaide, and Williamstown and Craigieburn in Victoria were also experiencing healthy buying activity as interest rates continued to be left on hold.  Coastal areas, however, were not faring so well, especially areas with a high proportion of holiday homes.  Nor were sales improving in prestigious suburbs. 

Charles mused that anybody buying today would have factored a rate rise or two into their buying decision.  He feels that people are prepared for the possibility of rates going up. 

I think it will be most interesting to see how buyers respond to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s next rate rise – whether it occurs over the next couple of months or more toward the end of the year.  It seems very much that people understand that an increase is on the cards; the uncertainty appears more to surround the issue of when. 

If you have any real estate questions or are interested in understanding how a rate rise will impact your purchase, please don’t hesitate to stop in at one of the hundreds of CENTURY 21 offices around Australia and talk to an agent about your situation.   

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 21/06/2011 at 8:54 AM | Categories:

Keep heating costs down this winter

With various parts of Australia experiencing exceptionally low temperatures, it is not surprising that there are many people who are concerned about their heating costs as we head into winter.  Such apprehension is certainly not unfounded - the expense of running even just small artificial heating devices can definitely add up. 

There are numerous ways to reduce your reliance on artificial heating this winter, which can go some way to help financially as the cost of energy rises. 

Seal up gaps
Essentially any gaps under doors and open windows will both let heat escape and see cold air enter your home, reducing the impact of your heating system.  Simple adhesive strips that can be purchased at a hardware store can seal off such gaps nicely and are easy to install. 

It can also help to keep the doors to typically cooler rooms that are not heated, such as the laundry, closed when they are not in use.  When these rooms are open it simply creates a larger area to be heated, which both costs more and sucks heat away from other living areas. 

Work with the sun
Even in winter the sun is a powerful source of heat for your home.  Take full advantage of this free resource by keeping curtains/blinds open during the day, allowing the sun to work its wonders on your home, heating up surfaces such as your floors.  Seal this heat in at nighttime by closing your blinds when the sun goes down. 

Keep blankets handy
It can be ever so tempting to turn up the heat when you are in a sedentary position, such as when sitting on the lounge reading or watching television.  By keeping a blanket or throw rug handy, you can warm up pretty quickly and cut out your need for a heater. 

Set your thermostat to reduce overnight
If you must sleep with a heater on, set the temperature so that it automatically decreases during times when you are asleep, warm under blankets, where you will barely notice a change in temperature.   Every degree that you can reduce your heating will save you money on your energy bill.

When it comes to reducing your energy bill I usually find that it’s the little things that can make a big difference to the bottom line figure you must pay.  By resisting the urge to turn up the heat, instead making small changes around your home, you should be able to save yourself some precious funds. 

1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 21/06/2011 at 8:53 AM | Categories:

The RBA moves to keep interest rates steady

Australian mortgage holders had a win on Tuesday, with the Reserve Bank of Australia leaving interest rates on hold at 4.75 per cent – where they have been since the RBA last increased rates on Melbourne Cup Day in November 2010.   

The decision was not unsurprising given the substantial contraction seen in the economy over the March quarter – according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia’s gross domestic product dropped 1.2 per cent over the quarter to March 2011, largely due to the destruction of Australia’s commodity exports by the widespread natural disasters at the beginning of the year.

The statement by Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens, clearly noted this economic suffering. “The floods and cyclones over summer have reduced output in some key sectors,” he said.  “As a result there was a sharp fall in real GDP in the March quarter.”

In terms of inflation, which is a key consideration for the Reserve Bank in its deliberations, the Governor’s statement ended with the expectation that CPI inflation will be close to target over the next 12 months.  Given that the next set of quarterly inflation figures is due out at the end of July, it is possible that a rate rise may not be on the agenda until August or September, when the RBA has had a chance to digest the implications of the data.   

This forecast has been supported by the release of April’s jobs figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics last Thursday, which showed that the Australian labour market had a fall in the number full-time jobs for the second month in a row, with full-time unemployment flat for the year. 

However, from our perspective and that of many analysts, there is a strong possibility that the RBA will be on track to raise rates before the year is out, given the relatively strong position of the Australian economy overall.  Glenn Stevens said in his statement that “over the medium term, overall growth is likely to be at trend or higher.”

Such a hold on rates for this month and potentially July as well is excellent news for home owners and prospective buyers.  Mortgage holders now have some more time to prepare for a rate increase, building the possibility into the household budget.  Prospective buyers have also been granted some more time to carefully consider purchase options, and to lock in attractive interest rates on new mortgages. 

I encourage all mortgage holders and prospective buyers to use this window of opportunity wisely and to make prudent decisions when it comes to budgeting and researching alternative financing options. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 14/06/2011 at 9:17 AM | Categories:

Awards recognise the outstanding performance of CENTURY 21 individuals and offices

It always gives me great pleasure to recognise the outstanding work and achievements of real estate professionals in the CENTURY 21 network across Australia.  And with so many highly talented individuals working under the CENTURY 21 banner, it often seems as though there just aren’t enough awards to give. 

The CENTURY 21 2011 National Convention was held in Hobart over the 2nd and 3rd of June and gave me the chance to catch up with many CENTURY 21 principals and agents, as well as the opportunity for myself and the company to present three special awards.

Hall of Fame

The CENTURY 21 Hall of Fame inducts one individual each year.  This person is someone who has shown overall dedication to the real estate profession and has achieved superior results in real estate sales practice.  The Inductee is an individual who has demonstrated leadership, customer service and professionalism, embracing all facets of the CENTURY 21 system and contributing willingly to support individuals within the network.  The winner of this award also shows a high level of involvement within the local community. 

I am proud to announce that this year’s Hall of Fame Inductee was Terry Kirk, Director of CENTURY 21 Stals and Kirk in Valentine, NSW.  A prolific award winner, Terry has shown continued support for the CENTURY 21 system and all that it stands for.  He is well respected by his peers and gives an immense amount back to both his local community and the real estate profession.  I congratulate Terry on his induction into the CENTURY 21 Hall of Fame.

The ‘Sam Raiti’ Award for E-Sales Excellence

CENTURY 21 bestows this award upon a member of the CENTURY 21 team who wholly supports the company brand on all levels.  It gives me great pleasure to announce that the winner of this award for 2011 is Christian Smith, Principal of CENTURY 21 Active Realty in Ellenbrook, WA. 

In receiving this award, Christian was recognised by CENTURY 21 for giving and assisting others without expectation, embracing the CENTURY 21 culture, promoting the brand and enthusiastically participating in events and programs, as well as his contribution to the improvement of CENTURY 21 systems, particularly in the area of e-Sales and internet technology. 

2100 Cup

The 2100 Cup is awarded to one individual office each year which has a strong local area reputation for excellence in the delivery of real estate agency services, a superior local area profile in terms of its internal and external office appearance, online presence, and print and other marketing mediums, and a high level of involvement with the local community.   The winning office must have demonstrated sales success, have a stable and committed sales and support team, and be a strong supporter of CENTURY 21 training and events. 

A very deserving office, the winner of the 2100 Cup was CENTURY 21 Combined Wentworth Falls, NSW.  This office has shown a consistent belief in the CENTURY 21 system and all that it stands for and embraces and implements CENTURY 21 tools and systems.  Importantly, this office plays a significant role in community leadership and continues to evolve and change, showing an openness to new ideas and ways of doing business. 

Overall the 2011 National Convention was a great success and allowed CENTURY 21 to recognise the outstanding work of our offices and agents around the country.  I congratulate both the winners I have spoken about here, as well as others honoured throughout the event.  

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 14/06/2011 at 9:12 AM | Categories:

Take care when choosing a retailer to install your solar

There is no doubt that installing solar panels to generate electricity at home can be a great way to reduce your electricity bill as well as the impact of your home on the environment. 

However, according to a recent article by consumer watchdog Choice entitled ‘Unsafe solar installation’, many of the government rebates and feed-in tariffs to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are now being restricted.  As a result, the solar market is seeing the emergence of unsafe operators who are taking advantage of the rush of customers looking to install solar systems before the incentives run out. 

The article references a presentation given by the Clean Energy Council, an industry association representing Australia’s clean energy sector, which has conducted audits on solar energy systems.  The CEC found that the quality of solar installations has recently declined – with only seven per cent of systems rated as high quality in 2010, compared to 58 per cent in 2009.  

Additionally, the CEC found that in 2009, 12 per cent of systems required further attention or were substandard – as compared to a much higher 29 per cent just one year later.

This decline in quality is concerning for home owners and raises some serious questions about the safety of residential solar systems that have been installed, as well as the validity and experience of the operators who installed them.  According to Choice, some of the issues that have come to light through the various audits conducted include:
• Incorrectly installed panels falling off roofs
• Incorrect wiring
• Incorrect switches or circuit breakers
• Water ingress (water getting into the system)
• Incorrect and missing labels
Such safety concerns have the potential to cause fires and could pose a risk to any future contractors working on the affected site. 

So, how do you take advantage of the disappearing government rebates, while ensuring you have a solar system that has been installed according to the highest safety standards? While the larger solar companies can usually be trusted, it is still very important to check the accreditations, license and insurance of a solar provider and to make sure their quote is submitted after a thorough inspection of your property.

Installing a solar system is a wonderful initiative that can have significant benefits for your home.  However, be wary of the existence of unsafe operators and double check the credentials of your chosen installer to ensure that your system is installed safely, preventing future injury and property damage. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 06/06/2011 at 9:38 AM | Categories:

Stay ahead of the rate game

We have covered the issue of interest rates fairly extensively in this blog.  The last time the RBA lifted the official cash rate was in November 2010 and since then it almost feels as though we have been playing a waiting game, anticipating the next rate rise. 

While relief for mortgage holders has come month after month as the RBA moved to keep rates on hold at least up to now, it must be said that nobody likes to sit on their hands doing nothing.  Although we enjoy the rate reprieve for the time being, it is a near certainty that rates will go up – the uncertainty is regarding when this will occur. 

Even if you are comfortably meeting the repayments of your current home loan, have you considered how much extra you will be required to pay each month should the Reserve Bank move to put rates up? The current market is experiencing a significant number of borrowers falling behind on their loan repayments, which is both a financially and emotionally stressful experience.  The most sensible borrowers should try their best to avoid this situation.    

So – what can you as a prudent mortgage holder do to prepare for a rate rise? A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Money section entitled ‘Four ways to beat any rate rises’ (25 May, 2011) provides, if you hadn’t already surmised from the title, four options for borrowers to consider to ready themselves for the impact that a rate rise will have on their budget and ability to meet their mortgage repayments. 

The article, written by Lesley Parker, suggests that now may be a good time for borrowers to switch to a fixed interest rate loan before both fixed and variable rates increase.  It also points out that now may be a good time to look around for alternative rates that are cheaper than what you are currently paying.  I must say though, if you do find a more attractive mortgage rate, be wary of the refinancing costs you will be required to pay, and make sure that the savings achieved outweigh the costs of transferring the loan to an alternative provider.

The next tip provided by the article is to speed up the timing of your mortgage repayments.  This doesn’t necessarily mean paying more; rather it could mean halving your monthly repayment and paying it fortnightly, as opposed to once monthly.  This method will see you make more repayments in a year, thus getting ahead on your mortgage and somewhat protecting yourself against rate gains. 

Another viable option, suggests the article, may be to consolidate your higher-interest debt (from credit cards for example) into your home loan on which you may likely be paying a lower rate.

Falling behind on your mortgage repayments can be stressful and there is a now a window of opportunity that allows you to protect yourself, and your mortgage, from this strain.  Take advantage of the options discussed and others available to you, and prepare yourself for the stress that may accompany the next interest rate rise. 

0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 06/06/2011 at 9:37 AM | Categories: