Viewing by month: August 2011

We love our castles - Australian homes remain the biggest globally

The great Australian dream of home ownership is constantly evolving.  In previous posts on this blog we have explored the notions that both our houses and lot sizes are decreasing in size, with kitchens growing in importance and outdoor living becoming more prominent. 

We’ve also seen that many Australians are moving to downsize their property dreams with a large number choosing to purchase smaller dwellings such as apartments and townhouses to combat affordability issues. 

Despite these continuing changes, according to an article by Simon Johansen in The Age recently, ‘Australian homes still the world’s biggest’ (22 August), as the title suggests, dwellings in Australia remain the largest globally in terms of size. 

The article cites figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and other data compiled for Commonwealth Securities which show that the average new home built in Australia is around 10 per cent and nine per cent bigger than equivalent properties in the United States and New Zealand respectively, with the average floor size of a new freestanding house in Australia being approximately 243 square metres. 

The article notes that NSW has the biggest houses in the country, followed by the Northern Territory, Queensland and Victoria. 

I suppose these findings should not be altogether too surprising – it is no secret that as Australians we generally value our personal space, as well as having areas to congregate in both family and friendship groups. 

Having said this, the article notes that the increase in house sizes may have reached a peak, citing research from CommSec suggesting that various factors, such as an ageing population wishing to live in smaller properties and changing consumer behaviours, have contributed to Australian home sizes “going sideways” over the past five years. 

Population demographics will always be changing and this can have an impact on what buyers look for in homes.  Ultimately in constructing a new property, owners will usually design in accordance with their own preferences.  However it could definitely be a worthwhile exercise to keep general demographic trends in mind when building your new home. 

For real estate advice, including about what buyers are looking for when seeking out property purchase options, please don’t hesitate to talk to a CENTURY 21 property professional at one of our offices around Australia. 


1 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 29/08/2011 at 9:08 AM | Categories:

National Workforce Development Fund good news for property industry

The Federal Government recently announced its National Workforce Development Fund – a $558 million package that aims to develop the sectors of the Australian workforce that are deemed to have a  shortage of skilled labour.

And it looks as though the residential property market is set to benefit from the funding, with $25 million of the funds committed to support training in the construction industry.  This should be a good step for the construction industry and in preparing the property sector for Australia’s expected future housing demand. 

According to CENTURY 21 Australia’s Chairman and Owner, Charles Tarbey, Australia has a well documented shortage of both housing and tradespeople in many areas.  In his view, dedicating funds to address the skills shortage in the housing industry will help Australia to rise to meet the considerable anticipated demand for housing. 

The Fund has identified construction as a priority sector that is experiencing strong growth, due in part to the continued demand for housing associated with population growth.  2011-12 will see the Fund allocate $73 million, of which $25 million will go to the Construction industry sector. 

The Government has also allocated funding to projects that develop clean energy skills in the construction sector, among other sectors.  In Charles’ opinion this is a good move, as with both rising energy costs and sustainability being front of mind for many people, he expects that energy efficient construction will likely become more of a concern and priority for Australian home builders and buyers. 

“Funds to develop these skills now should help to prepare our construction industry to cater to this growing requirement,” said Charles Tarbey. 

Hopefully the effects of these funds will be seen in the property industry soon, particularly in those locations that would benefit most from the construction of housing, such as areas rich in resources that are expecting strong population growth. 
 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 29/08/2011 at 9:08 AM | Categories:

CENTURY 21 Property App hits over 10,000 downloads

If the download rate of CENTURY 21 Australia’s iPhone Property App is anything to go by, it is fairly clear that Australians are embracing technology to gather information in a timely fashion when buying real estate. 

Since the App was launched in June, it has been downloaded over 10,000 times.  These users are not restricted to Australia – it has also been downloaded in the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand, China, Ireland, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and France. 

So, how can users get the most from the App? A few handy tips that we have seen to be most useful are as follows:

1. Save properties to your ‘Favourites’ section

In saving properties you will be alerted to any updates from the agent, such as open for inspection times, change in listing status, etc.  This means that you can very quickly and easily remain aware about a property, without having to search for it again. 

2. Take notes about properties of interest

The days of misplacing loose leaf sheets of paper with important information are over.  The App allows you to store your thoughts regarding appealing properties in one easily accessible location.  

3. Access RPData regarding comparable sales in the area

Comparable sales information can provide a very useful reference point as to the selling price a property may likely command.  The App’s feed to RPData gives users incredibly valuable information regarding all properties in an area, not just those listed with CENTURY 21. 

For those who are yet to experience the benefits of the CENTURY 21 iPhone App, why not download it today and see how it can improve your buying experience.  The App is available free from the iTunes store or by visiting http://www.century21.com.au/iphone-app/


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 22/08/2011 at 2:14 PM | Categories:

Ensure you use a qualified property inspector when investigating a property

Carrying out a pre-purchase property inspection is one of the most important tasks in the real estate buying process.  These investigations have the potential to save you from needing to make significant further outlays by ensuring you are aware of major faults in properties of interest that could prove expensive to fix.   

It is therefore also important for buyers to be able to have complete confidence in the inspection company hired to investigate a property, which has become increasingly difficult in New South Wales since the Labor government ended regulatory oversight of inspectors in 2009. 

This is an issue that has recently been in the media, with an article in the Sun Herald (‘Calls for building inspectors to be licensed’ August 13, 2011) reporting that the new Liberal government has decided against the reintroduction of a licensing system, much to the chagrin of many real estate experts. 

Essentially without a regulated licensing system in place, there is an onus on buyers to ensure they employ a properly qualified and experienced professional to carry out pre-purchase inspections on properties of interest.  When in doubt about who to hire, a good place to start can often be to ask your real estate agent to recommend a company they (or other clients) have previously worked with successfully. 

Buyers should also look for prior client references and adequate report pricing.  As Howard Ryan, of H&K Ryan and Associates, who is quoted in the Sun Herald article, says – “If you’ve got a $2 million property over, say, three levels, you can’t do a proper inspection for $80”. 

For further advice about hiring a property inspector, or regarding any other aspect of the property buying/selling process, please don’t hesitate to drop into any CENTURY 21 office around the country to talk to a real estate professional.   


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 22/08/2011 at 2:13 PM | Categories:

CSIRO to conduct study into home energy use

Given the price rises we have seen in electricity of late, many Australians will understandably be looking for ways to best reduce energy consumption at home.  Although there are the obvious solutions that we are all aware of such as lessening the use of heaters/air conditioners and clothes dryers, it would certainly be of interest to find out more regarding other less obvious but equally as practical measures that can be applied to decrease energy use.

To this end, the CSIRO recently announced that it will be conducting a study across 500 homes in Australia that looks at how much energy is used to keep homes warm or cool throughout seasons.  According to Dr Peter Osman, a senior scientist with CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship, by understanding energy use over the year, throughout different seasons, the CSIRO can gain an accurate picture of how the energy efficiency of houses could be improved.

The organisation is calling on the owners of homes that are less than ten years old and located in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne to take part in the study.  The CSIRO says that participants will have a unique opportunity to better understand how their homes use energy with each receiving a detailed report at the end of the study. 

Taking part in the 12 month study involves allowing an Energy Makeovers auditor to take measurements in your home and the installation of a couple of thermometers to monitor the inside temperature and potentially an online energy monitoring device (for eligible households).  You will also be asked to complete a short questionnaire and provide your last two years of energy bills and your house plans and energy ratings. 

According to the CSIRO’s website, the benefits of taking part in the study include:
• Learning how to reduce energy bills;
• A report on your home’s heating and cooling energy performance;
• A set of infrared photographs that show if you are losing heating and cooling and where it is going; and
• $100 cash for looking after and returning a pair of thermometers.
 
The study has been funded by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. 

For more information about what is involved in the study and to register, please visit www.csiro.au/science/home-energy-evaluation.html

Registrations for the study close on 5 September 2011. 


4 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 15/08/2011 at 10:01 AM | Categories:

Kitchen more important to home sale than ever

It is not surprising that with the recent popularity of lifestyle and reality television cooking programs such as Master Chef, many Australians have been inspired to brush up on their culinary skills.  It logically follows then that the gourmet centre of the home, the kitchen, has risen in significance as an important property feature, especially when it comes to selling. 

According to Archicentre, the building advisory service of the Australian Institute of Architects, thanks to Australians’ love of cooking and entertainment, the kitchen has become the show piece of the Australian dream home and is a major selling tool as well as a fashion statement.  

There is no doubt that a lot of money can be spent on creating a fantastic kitchen – on its design, fixtures and fittings, and appliances.  When renovating a kitchen, it is therefore important for home owners to consider their purpose so as to ensure funds are spent wisely.  Archicentre State Manager Queensland, Ian Agnew, notes the significant difference between redesigning a kitchen for your family’s purposes as opposed to when preparing for sale.   

“If you are renovating to sell the property it is often better to not over capitalise and leave the kitchen un-renovated allowing the new owner to renovate to their own style,” said Ian Agnew. 

According to Ian, Archicentre is seeing some of the following trends in kitchen design:

• The use of drawers for the storage of crockery, cooking utensils and saucepans, as well as in the cupboard;
• Open-plan layouts;
• Clean, featureless appearances;
• Concealed appliances;
• Large island benches;
• Computer in the kitchen (used by approximately one in four renovators);
• Walk in pantries;
• The incorporation of natural light; and
• Ensuring the kitchen has a pleasant outlook through feature windows. 

Given that such large sums of money can be invested into renovating kitchens, it may be a worthwhile exercise to seek professional advice about how this capital can be best spent in achieving your kitchen goals. 

For information regarding any aspect of the sale of your home, including how a kitchen can be incorporated into your selling plans, please do not hesitate to drop into any CENTURY 21 office around the country to talk to one of our real estate professionals.   


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 15/08/2011 at 10:01 AM | Categories:

Smartbook now available on iPhone and iPad

It’s hard to go anywhere these days without seeing somebody engrossed with the content on their Smartphone or tablet.  I am thus very pleased to report that CENTURY 21’s exclusive property search technology, Smartbook, is now compatible for use with the iPhone and iPad. 

Launched last November, Smartbook is an online system that allows users to create an eBook, accessed by an individual URL, containing all available CENTURY 21 property listings that match their certain requirements. 

Since we launched Smartbook we have seen some fantastic usage figures – just over 1,800 individual Smartbooks have been created with more than 85,000 unique visitors viewing over 1.4 million individual pages. 

And with Smartbook now available on iPads and iPhones, I am certain that it will be even easier for people to utilise the technology when buying or renting a property.  

Where this concept differs from other real estate searching tools is in its incorporation of live CENTURY 21 data into each Smartbook.  This means that when you are going through the buying/renting process and searching for appropriate properties on a regular basis, you no longer have to constantly repeat a property search to obtain new information.  Each Smartbook is automatically updated with property changes, such as viewing times and sold status, and additional listings as they are entered into the national CENTURY 21 system. 

Essentially, every time you open your unique Smartbook URL you will have a complete and accurate listing of every CENTURY 21 property matching your original search requirements.

As with all of the technologies CENTURY 21 looks to develop, Smartbook is about making the property purchase and renting process simpler and less time consuming for busy Australians.  In being able to view Smartbooks on iPhones and iPads, users now have the capability to effortlessly access accurate information about CENTURY 21 properties wherever they go, essentially allowing them to focus on properties of interest far more quickly and easily. 

The Smartbook search function enables users to create real estate eBooks by state, region, suburb, property type, price range and number of bedrooms, bathrooms and car spaces, from every single CENTURY 21 listing nationally.  Users can also differentiate between rental properties and those for sale. 

The properties are presented in a viewer-friendly book format, complete with digital images, video, audio sound and agent contact information. 

Smartbook can be accessed at www.century21.com.au every time a property search is conducted.  Simply select the option to view properties in Smartbook mode and your personalised eBook will be created. 

For any questions regarding Smartbook or to sell, rent or buy a property, please feel free to pop into any CENTURY 21 office around the country and have a chat with one of our real estate professionals. 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 08/08/2011 at 9:13 AM | Categories:

Rate rest continues for borrowers in August

Last week saw the Reserve Bank of Australia elect to keep the official cash rate on hold at 4.75 per cent for the eight consecutive meeting, a move which no doubt had home owners and prospective buyers sighing in relief.  I am hopeful that the move will help to provide some stability for home buyers and investors in what is otherwise a time of economic uncertainty.   

While rates have been steady for some time now, it was quite possibly this decision that attracted the most speculation.   The RBA had a number of conflicting factors to consider which required juggling, and ultimately that balancing act led to the consensus that rates were best left on hold. 

In his statement, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens cited the “acute sense of uncertainty in global financial markets over recent weeks” as a reason behind the Bank’s view that it was “prudent” to leave rates on hold. 

He also referred to the national economy, noting that “a full recovery of flood-affected production now looks unlikely before early next year.  Precautionary behaviour by households also looks likely to keep some areas of demand weaker in the near term than earlier expected.”  The RBA’s August monetary policy statement which came out last Friday (5 August), confirmed the Governor’s allusion to less-than expected growth, as it revised growth over 2011 downwards. 

Despite such global financial uncertainty and a reduced national economic growth outlook, growing levels of inflation continue to remain an issue.  To this end, the Governor noted that “year-ended CPI has been high... the Board remains concerned about the medium-term outlook for inflation.”  With inflation being such an important element in the interest rate decision making process, it is likely that should it continue to grow it will be a driving factor in the Bank’s future decisions to lift rates.

Interest rates are very powerful in Australian society.  For many Australian home buyers and investors, interest rates are worrying and, if they rise, affect the capacity to pay mortgages and the ability to purchase property.  This rate hold in August should go some way to keep these concerns at bay, however based on the implications of the Governor’s statement, I would suggest that home owners and investors should also be looking at ways that a potential lift in rates can be accommodated practically. 

Having said this, I remain of the belief that the residential real estate market continues to present some good quality, affordable opportunities for both home buyers and investors who are in a position to buy.  I would encourage them to sit down with real estate and mortgage professionals to best understand how they can plan and prepare to take advantage of such opportunities, including in this analysis the possibility of a rise in interest rates down the track. 

If you wish to speak to a real estate professional regarding your property purchase options, please don’t hesitate to drop into any one of the CENTURY 21 Australia real estate offices around the country.


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 08/08/2011 at 9:12 AM | Categories:

ABS releases inflation data for the June quarter

Last week saw the Australian Bureau of Statistics release its official inflation figures for the June quarter.  And in the words of Tim Lawless in his RPData Research Blog, “I can’t recall a time when the quarterly CPI figure had been so eagerly anticipated.”  

As I’ve discussed in this blog before, the consumer price index is a key indicator that the Reserve Bank of Australia considers at its monthly meeting where interest rates are decided.  And with interest rates having been on hold at 4.75 per cent since November last year, each month people watch closely to see whether the Bank will move to either increase or cut the official cash rate.  The RBA has indicated in its statements over the past couple of months that the release of these inflation figures will be central to its August decision. 

The release of the CPI did not, unfortunately, sustain hopes for a rate cut, rising 0.9 per cent in the June quarter, which was a larger than expected increase.  This brings the annual inflation rate to 3.6 per cent, as compared with the 3.3 per cent seen in the March quarter. 

According to the ABS, the most significant price increases were for fruit, automotive fuel, hospital and medical services, deposit and loan facilities, and rents. 

The opinions of economists seen in the media surrounding the release of the figures largely support an expectation that there is quite a strong chance the RBA will need to lift rates to curb inflation, with some anticipating that a rise will occur before the end of the year. 

Will such a rate increase occur this week, when the RBA meets to set monetary policy for August? The opinions of the major economists are currently split as to how the RBA will act, given that the inflation figures have proven to be higher than what the Bank was predicting earlier in the year. 

In any case, the rise in inflation figures and a largely unified view that rates will likely rise before the end of the year (whether it be this month or later down the track), strengthens the need for mortgage holders to protect themselves from the increased interest payments that such a rise would bring.  A prudent move could be to start studying the household budget and analyse where savings can be made starting now – any extra funds put aside could certainly prove to be very convenient if rates do go up. 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 01/08/2011 at 9:17 AM | Categories:

CENTURY 21 launches Australian first real estate game ‘Property Mogul’

CENTURY 21 views technology as an integral part of the real estate industry.  We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of developing innovations that allow us to give our agents and clients easier ways of achieving their property goals.

On that note, following on from the successes of Smartbook and our property iPhone app, we are excited to announce the launch of Property Mogul – a free online game that we believe is set to change the way Australians think about real estate. 

 According to CENTURY 21 Australia Chairman and Owner Charles Tarbey, the game is an entertaining and interactive game where players buy, sell and manage real estate, allowing them to apply real life principles to achieve virtual property tycoon status.  Property Mogul aims to give Australians a fun way to learn about the fundamentals of buying and selling real estate in a fictional world against competitors. 

Built around a fictional city, Centropolis, the game is made up of 16 different neighbourhoods including a central business district, wealthy beachside and middle class suburbs along with outer rural suburbs.  Each has its own unique landscape, properties and services. 

Players are given one property and $1 million in virtual cash to start playing with and through the buying, selling and management of properties, both residential and commercial, progress through a number of levels and achieve awards based on game success. 

As would occur in real life, users are faced with different scenarios and events that require them to make choices – the consequences of which could either improve or reduce the value of their property portfolio and affect their journey to become a property mogul. 

In an Australian real estate first, the unique game has been developed to fuse the real world with the online arena.  Players can choose to enter their postcode upon registration and through the use of advanced location-matching technology are then accompanied through the game by a CENTURY 21 agent (‘Guardian Angel’) avatar, which is a virtual representation of an existing real life agent from the player’s local office (please note that the virtual real estate agents featured provide pre-scripted advice and do not represent the views of the actual real estate agents named in the game). 

Players can also gain extra currency with which to play the game by visiting real life CENTURY 21 agencies and physical properties that are open for inspection. 

Not to forget social media, Property Mogul allows users to compete with their friends and other players, featuring both an overall leaderboard as well as a user specific leaderboard showing the ranking of fellow gamers who are Facebook friends.  Users can also post their Property Mogul awards and achievements on Facebook and Twitter. 

I think Charles Tarbey sums the value of the game up pretty well when he says that “while nothing can replace building a real life property empire, Property Mogul represents a fun online game that may just help people get there.”

Property Mogul can be played for free by visiting www.c21propertymogul.com.au
 


0 comments | Posted by Charles Tarbey on 01/08/2011 at 9:15 AM | Categories: