New home sales hit five-year high

NewHomesalesno2 thumb New home sales hit five year high

NEW home sales in Australia posted their first annual increase in five years in 2013, according to the Housing Industry of Australia.

"New home sales hit a low ebb during 2012," HIA economist Diwa Hopkins said.

"However, a strong recovery took place in 2013 with sales recording their first annual increase in five years.

"The key now will be for these improved sales levels to expand further in the year ahead."

During the final quarter of 2013 aggregate new home sales increased 6.3 per cent to hit a level not reached since mid-2011.

In the month of December alone, the HIA new home sales report showed that total seasonally adjusted new home sales eased by 0.4 per cent.

The aggregate decline was driven by a 6.6 per cent decrease in multi-unit sales while detached house sales increased by 0.9 per cent.

"During 2013 as a whole, new home sales rose by 14.4 per cent, representing the first year of growth since 2008," Ms Hopkins said.

"Total new home sales were largely unchanged in the month of December, however, the broader trend shows a healthy profile of recovery throughout 2013 and the underlying details are also fairly encouraging."

Ms Hopkins said the aggregate monthly decline was due to an unsurprising pull-back in multi-unit sales, following the previous month’s very strong result.

"Looking at detached house sales, the growth in this segment has broadened in its reach, with four out of the five surveyed states showing monthly and quarterly increases in December 2013," she said.

In December, private detached house sales increased by 22.5 per cent in South Australia, 7.3 per cent in Western Australia, 5.8 per cent in NSW and 1.5 per cent in Queensland. Detached house sales fell by 13.4 per cent in Victoria.

In the final quarter of 2013, detached house sales increased by 50.9 per cent in South Australia. They also rose by 12.3 per cent in Queensland, 3.5 per cent in NSW and 2.3 per cent in Western Australia. In Victoria, detached house sales fell by 9.5 per cent in the quarter.

Story:   Mitchell Neems      Source:

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Are we really ready for Generation Y to leave the nest?

GenerationY thumb Are we really ready for Generation Y to leave the nest?

I HAVE a theory about business, market opportunity and demographic change.

My theory is that business is so finely tuned to shifts in market demand that it supplies not only to baseload, but it also supplies to anticipated ongoing demand. Let me explain.

The demand for housing is largely driven by population growth. Sure there’s an upgrader market as well as a market for housing resulting from separation and divorce or indeed from shifts in market preference from say suburbia to seachange to apartments. But mostly it is net population growth from one year to the next that drives demand for household formation and for housing.

In the year to June 2013, this nation expanded by 407,000 residents, including 244,000 from net overseas migration. Just two years earlier in the year to June 2011 the net growth figure was 308,000, with net overseas migration then sitting at 180,000. Over the two years to June 2013 migration ramped up as did births, from 301,000 to 311,000.

The building industry builds housing to accommodate demand from the baseload population of 23 million, but it also builds to meet demand from the expected rate of growth. And since 2011 this growth figure has pushed up largely as a consequence of an easing in immigration controls.

Net overseas migration peaked at 300,000 in the year to June 2009 when prime minister Kevin Rudd said he believed in a big Australia. The policy response was panic. Immigration plummeted the following year to 196,000 and to 180,000 the year after that.

Once the big Australia issue had subsided the immigration levers were reopened and as a consequence we are now in an era of rising population growth with a consequential rising demand for housing.

But there is more to tactical demographics than rationalising whether the market is rising or falling at an aggregate level.

That aggregate demand for housing in the coming year is likely to be "a bit more" than the previous year based on population trends is a reassuring insight, but it doesn’t represent a business opportunity. Tactical advantage in business comes from acting on a directional shift in the market.

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5 ways to make your home more efficient

homeenergyefficiency thumb 5 ways to make your home more efficient

One of the big benefits of building a new home is that they are more energy efficient, which means you can enjoy big ongoing savings on your running costs.

While all new homes must meet a minimum level of energy efficiency under the Building Code of Australia, some builders are now offering 7-star and 8-star energy efficient homes – and it doesn’t mean you have to add unnecessary expense, or sacrifice the look and feel of a traditional family home.

Constructing an 8-star home will generally only add around 3.6% to the total cost of your build, but it could potentially save you more than 40% in heating and cooling costs. You will also have a more comfortable lifestyle, with a home that is warmer in winter and cooler in summer.

If you’re renovating an older home, it’s also possible to retro-fit many energy efficient features, such as ceiling insulation, water-efficient shower heads, and LED or compact fluorescent lights.

Whether you’re building new or wanting to make your existing home a little greener, here are five simple ways to make your place more efficient:

1. Make sure your home is well insulated

Insulating the ceiling will help reduce the amount of heat entering your home when it’s hot, and trap the warmth inside when it’s cold.

There are many insulation options to choose from depending on your circumstances or preferences. Some of the most popular choices are wool, loose fill, reflective foil and batts.

Glass fibre batts are an environmentally friendly option because they’re made from 80% recycled material. You can further reduce heat build-up in the ceiling cavity by installing a whirly bird on the roof.

2. Ensure you have cross ventilation

Don’t just open one window or door. A house will cool down more quickly if the airflow can enter at one point and exit at another.

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Borrowers could see rate hikes in 2014

interestrateriseno2 thumb Borrowers could see rate hikes in 2014

The interest rate tide has turned, and homeowners are being told to prepare for possible rate hikes by year-end.

Australia’s cash rate currently sits at a record low of 2.5 per cent.

Some economists were expecting another cut in 2014, but higher than expected inflation figures on Wednesday have sent that door "slamming shut", says TD Securities head of Asia-Pacific research Annette Beacher.

"I think you need to enter into a mortgage contract with eyes wide open that interest rates are going to be rising from here," she said.

TD Securities expects the cash rate will be 3.0 per cent by year end.

Mortgage Choice’s Jessica Darnbrough said homeowners have been flocking to fixed rate mortgages since late last year in a bid to lock in low rates.

Some fixed rates had reached historical lows thanks to aggressive competition among lenders, she said.

"Our December figures show 33 per cent of all loans written through Mortgage Choice were fixed loans – wholly or partly fixed – it’s definitely the highest we’ve seen in six years, since March 2008," she said.

"That doubled since the beginning of the year – in January, 16.35 per cent of all loans written were fixed rate and by the end of the year, it was 33 per cent.

"We expect that trend to continue as people are looking for that security and that stability and that piece of mind."

Michelle Hutchison, from comparison website, said it was important to work out whether the interest paid on a fixed rate was worth the security and stability.

If you can find a fixed rate loan lower than the variable rate you’re currently paying, you’re onto a good deal, she said.

Those looking to buy a property may need to consider lowering their budget or saving a bigger deposit, she said.

Bigger deposits help lessen the effect of rate hikes but homebuyers also need to consider lenders mortgage insurance, a significant additional expense if you have less than a 20 per cent deposit, she said.

"If you think you will have trouble making your loan repayments if there is a rate hike then you might want to consider waiting until you have a bigger deposit saved or lowering your borrowing budget," Ms Hutchison said.

Story:   Reported by AAP     Source:

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First-home grants keep young off property ladder

Firsthomebuyersno3 thumb First home grants keep young off property ladder

FIRST-HOME owner grants are one of the biggest failures of government policy in the past 50 years, with the extra cash encouraging owners to bump up the selling price, making it harder for the young and those on lower incomes to get a foot on the housing ladder.

Leading economist Saul Eslake has attacked the policy of providing grants for first-home buyers, saying they have cost taxpayers more than $22.5 billion since 1964 and fuelled the fall in first-home owner levels to record lows of 12.3 per cent in November.

The grants had also stoked property ownership by the wealthy, with the top 20 per cent of income earners owning 36 per cent of Australian homes, Mr Eslake said.

In a personal submission to the Senate economics references committee, Mr Eslake, who is the chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, wrote a scathing criticism of the lack of affordable housing in Australia, caused by a fall in the number of homes built compared to the population increase.

Mr Eslake put the onus on Australia’s political leaders, saying there was more political capital in overseeing the increase in housing prices for the country’s eight million home owners. He was most critical of cash grants to first-home buyers, along with negative gearing, which he said had served to inflate the demand for existing housing while doing little to increase the overall supply.

The highest level of Australian home ownership appeared in the 1961 census, three years before the Menzies government initiated a first-home owners grant, Mr Eslake said.

"It’s hard to think of any government policy that has been pursued for so long, in the face of such incontrovertible evidence that it doesn’t work, than the policy of giving cash to first-home buyers in the belief that doing so will promote home ownership," Mr Eslake wrote in the submission.

"Cash grants and other forms of assistance to first-time home buyers have served simply to exacerbate the already substantial imbalance between the underlying demand for housing and the supply of it,"

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It pays to know if a home is ‘normal’

SteepBackyard thumb It pays to know if a home is normal

What is normal? By definition it is conforming to the standard, the common type, and the regular, or just plain usual.

Understanding the normal elements of an area can really help you either as a seller, or as a buyer. Knowing this means less wasted time seeking features that homes in that area just don’t have, or worrying unnecessarily about a negative with your home that in fact is so common it isn’t really an issue.

Imagine you are a buyer, you see a home you really like, it suits you perfectly but the backyard is really steep. It would be prohibitively expensive to change this. You don’t mind, but you are worried if you came to sell in the future buyers would be deterred.

Firstly note in your property search how many other homes have steep gardens. Let’s say more than a third. If that’s the case you really have very little to worry about providing you pay the right price. How much is that? Well it is slightly less than a similar home with the perfect level yard.

If few properties have steep yards and this home is unusual, you want pay a figure that reflects this substantial negative.

This rule can apply to anything from main road positions to power lines, railway tracks and even flight paths. It can even by an architectural style, or typical size of a home, block, or aspect.

These ‘normals’ can be good or bad. That great view of the bush, in some areas, may be seen from half the housing stock or more, so its impact is less important in terms of value and desirability. In an area where open bush views are rare, this could be a real positive and you, as a buyer, would be expected to pay a premium.

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Baby boomers continue to squeeze out first-timers

Firsthomebuyerssqueezed thumb Baby boomers continue to squeeze out first timers

First-home buyers continue to be squeezed out of the property market, with their share of home-loan approvals falling to a record low, despite growth in investor activity slowing.

While the home loan market strengthened amid low interest rates in November, as a proportion of total borrowers, first-home buyer activity fell to 12.3 per cent nationally, new figures from the Bureau of Statistics show. The previous low was 12.5 per cent in October.

Sydney auctioneer Will Hampson said the data reflected what he saw at auctions every week: ”We were consistently seeing first-home buyers being outbid with competition from cashed-up baby boomers and overseas buyers.”

Mr Hampson said in Sydney’s inner suburbs many successful first-timers were quite clearly being helped by their parents.

He was expecting the ”Kippers” – kids in parents’ pockets eroding their savings – trend to continue this year. ”This could be the year to help [their kids] out, through using some of the equity in their own homes or going 50-50 on a reasonable deposit.”

The latest figures came as an ANZ survey found job advertisements declined by 0.7 per cent in December, but were stabilising in some states, after an annual drop of 9 per cent.

In NSW, first-home buyer activity remained at 7.4 per cent, just above the record low of 6.8 per cent in September.

Investor finance was up 45 per cent compared to last year, according to October numbers.

Home buyers with a budget of up to $400,000 are being advised to look for apartments in Dee Why or Manly Vale, and for houses at half a million dollars or less, to try western suburbs such as Fairfield, Blacktown, Kings Langley or Quakers Hill.

Yet Starr Partners chief executive Douglas Driscoll, who has 10 offices across Sydney’s west, said even there, first-home buyers were struggling against investors.

”There is an argument to suggest that it is too easy for investors to buy at the moment,” Mr Driscoll said. ”I think 2014 is going to get even worse for first-home buyers, sadly.”

Mr Driscoll advocates the state government bringing back stamp duty concessions to help first-time buyers compete with investors.

”There has even been talk of allowing first-home buyers to use part of their super for a deposit, which should be considered as well,” he said.

Separate figures released by mortgage broker AFG on Monday showed that the number of mortgages it processed in the second-half of last year soared by 18.9 per cent on the back of demand from Sydney investors.

NSW recorded the country’s highest increase at 33 per cent.

”The dearth of first-home buyers in NSW continues to be a long-term concern,” AFG’s sales and operations general manager, Mark Hewitt, said.

The strength of the housing market, coupled with rising prices and the continued boom in residential building approvals meant the Reserve Bank was likely to keep the cash rate on hold this year, economists said.

Story:   Glenda Kwek, Stephen Nicholls, Toby Johnstone     Source:

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Seven tips for a more organised home in 2014

organisedhome thumb Seven tips for a more organised home in 2014

You don’t have to be a hoarder to feel overwhelmed by the prospect of an organised home. For most of us, an environment where every paper is in its place is nothing more than an elusive fantasy.

How to get organised? "Start somewhere," said Los Angeles organising consultant Kim Anker-Paddon. "It doesn’t matter where. I usually start with something that is bothering the client but is not so big that it’s overwhelming."

Acknowledging that organised living takes commitment, time and loads of effort (and in some cases, finances), Anker-Paddon shared some simple tips on how to get organised in 2014:

1. Bring less into your house. I encourage people to raise the bar on what they buy and what they keep. Most of the people I work with have a lot of stuff. Instead of just liking something, keep the things you love that add to your life in some way. Once things are in the house, it’s harder to get rid of stuff. Donate things to the best charity possible rather than sell them, unless you are really good at it. A lot of times you just don’t get much money for your things. And if your goal is to get organised, it’s best to get the stuff out of the house.

2. Know exactly where you will put what you’re bringing into the house. Think about it before you acquire the object. Many clients can’t find what they are looking for so they go out and buy it again.

3. Find a convenient home for items. Putting things away should be just as easy as putting them down. Think about where you use objects. Create zones or areas where you do certain activities. Keep supplies for those activities together. Make it convenient so you can put supplies down and come back to it later.

4. Know exactly why you keep each piece of paper. Paper is the biggest problem that I encounter. We all keep too much of it. Set up systems to streamline the paper flow. Keep important papers near your desk. Right now you should be keeping tax-related papers as they arrive. I encourage people not to spend too much time on filing. If you have an overly detailed filing system, you’ll have a harder time finding things. It should be really simple. Assign big categories: credit cards, taxes. The same is true with your desktop.

5. Have fun organising. When inspiration hits, run with it. Trade with a friend: Have someone help you with a closet or a pantry and help them in return. You will have some company and it’s more enjoyable. If organisation doesn’t come easily to you, get some help. You can have someone help you set up a system and then you can maintain it.

6. Watch out for perfectionism. This really impedes getting organised. People think they have to be perfect. It’s not always a neat and tidy process.

7. Delegate. All of my clients work really hard and have a lot going on in their lives. Getting some help makes all the difference for them. Hire a housekeeper. It doesn’t have to be every week. An excellent housekeeper can help you stay on track. Or a bookkeeper. I encourage my clients to work in the areas of their strength and delegate what they can’t do or really dislike.

Story:  Lisa Boone     Source:

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Canny homebuyers on top of the world

CannyBuyers thumb Canny homebuyers on top of the world

Local economic circumstances will drive the best and worst property growth across the country this year, with improved prospects for gas pushing up prices in Queeensland’s Toowoomba and car industry job losses sending prices sliding in the Adelaide suburb of Kilburn.

Forecasts by property consultancy firms MacroPlan Dimasi and Australian Property Monitors show that Queensland will host four of the six best performing suburbs for home value growth this year, with the low Australian dollar boosting key industries in the state.

Suburbs in South Australia, Canberra and some iron-ore producing towns in Western Australia will stall, as the industries that employ large numbers of people in these areas face a tougher year.

Brisbane’s Dutton Park on the fringe of the city and the outer western Redbank Plains will be two of the country’s top performers, growing by a forecast 10 per cent, with the whole city expected to reap the rewards of renewed confidence.

MacroPlan Dimasi chief economist Jason Anderson said that rising inner city rents in Brisbane this year would see more demand for city fringe apartments, while the affordability of Redbank Plains would stoke the interest of a more confident first-home buyer cohort, returning to the market after low levels last year.

Brisbane local David Cowling plans to take advantage of the prospect of more demand from renters in Dutton Park, buying an apartment off-the-plan last year for $525,000. The 65-apartment complex, developed by Silverstone, will be finished in May, with all apartments sold, most within the first two weeks of marketing.

Mr Cowling said that Dutton Park had all the amenities that the close by but more expensive West End did, but was better value for money as it did not have the "hip" reputation.

"It’s just outside that city ring and I think it could be the next place to move," he said.

"If this happens then the rents will rise and the value of the place will rise, which is a great opportunity," Mr Cowling said.

A couple of areas in the still hot, but cooling Sydney will be the only ones to match Brisbane, with the inner west set to grow by 10 per cent, and outer western Penrith by 8 per cent.

The worst performers will fall in value by about 5 per cent, with Adelaide’s Kilburn to suffer from Holden’s manufacturing exodus, Canberra’s Tuggeranong to feel the pain from the expected public service cuts, and apartments in the Melbourne central business district and Docklands to feel the pinch from an oversupply of residential buildings.

The iron ore and coal producing resource towns of the Pilbara in Western Australia and Gladstone in northern Queensland are likely to feel the headwinds from a drop in mining construction – especially Gladstone, with home values expected to drop by about 3 per cent.

Back in Queensland, tourism-reliant Cairns will fare well from a falling dollar, with property prices rising by about 7 per cent.

And Toowoomba will surge by 8 per cent, being close to the Surat Basin gas industry, which is in the early stages of a growth cycle.

Story:   Greg Brown   Source:

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Brush up on colours before painting

colourchart thumb Brush up on colours before painting

THERE is no doubt repainting your home will refresh and rejuvenate it, making it look like a brand-new building.

But with thousands of paint colours to choose from how do you know where to start?

Firstly you need to think about how you want your house to look. Do you want a modern look or are you trying to play on some of its character features?

A good idea is to take a drive and do a bit of house spotting, taking pictures of some of the colour schemes and styles that you like.

Once you have an idea of the overall vision it’s time to get some sample pots and put some colour on your walls.

Selecting colours from tiny pieces of cardboard under the fluorescent lights of a hardware store is incredibly difficult. Getting the right one is more pot luck than anything. So it’s vital you get a minimum of three different colours to try.

When painting samples onto your walls, paint a patch at least 500mm x 500mm and apply two to three coats so that you get a true indication of the colour.

Also, it’s a good idea to paint a few different spots on the house to see how the colour reacts in different light conditions.

Grey colours are very modern at the moment. Light or blue greys give a subtle, less dramatic look, whereas dark greys add drama and impact to a house.

If you want a fresh and bright scheme, then whites and light creams are the way to go.

If you want a more sophisticated look, go for a colour such as a duck egg blue or deep beige. When it comes to the trim – doorframes, windowsills and other architectural details – you can go wrong with a crisp white.

Black is also a good option for the trims of your house, but make sure you paint a large sample area of your house before you make your final decision as it ‘s quite a dramatic look.

Your front door can really be an expression of your personality and a way to add a splash of colour to the property.

I like to use a high gloss paint here to contrast the low sheens used on the body of the house. High gloss paint also draws the eye directly to the front door and heightens its impact.

- Charlie Albone is co-host of Selling Houses Australia on Lifestyle channel and runs a business.


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