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AU All change: China’s reform agenda shuns growth at any cost

Property Here - Saturday, January 04, 2014

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Last month Chinese leader Xi Jinping set out his top reform agendas for China’s next decade, setting out important policies, ranging from political reforms, social policy and market reform, to a commitment to encourage innovation.

One important change is China’s intention to move away from a GDP-oriented, at-the-cost-of-everything development model, in favour of a move towards pollution control, energy efficiency and debt reduction.

In the midst of rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, China needs a strong political will and commitment to move away from its current growth model to a green/low carbon development model.

Given the scale of the environmental challenge and the complexity of China’s decentralised governance system, China needs to find a new path for growth, navigating between the Western lifestyle of over-consumption, and China’s “business as usual” model (high-resource utilisation, high emission and low energy efficiency).

As with every developing country, there will be resistance to a transition that will potentially slow the Chinese GDP growth rate, and as such, if China can implement a more green-focused model, it could make a significant contribution to the world community.

The achievement of a green/low-carbon China (or the Chinese term of “Ecological Civilisation”) is a part of Xi’s “Chinese dream” and will benefit both China and the rest of the world by contributing significantly towards global emissions reduction. The immediate benefit to China will be an overall increase in the quality of life for Chinese citizens: being able to see blue skies more often, breathe and drink cleaner air and water, as well as create greater demand for research and technologies from developed countries. If implemented, its focus on local officials’ performance will also change the mentality of Chinese leaders.

Furthermore, “Made-in-China” products would be produced with lower emissions and under more standardised working conditions and fairer income levels.

For Australia economically, this is a double-edged sword: China’s demands for Australia’s natural resources (such as coal and minerals) will inevitably diminish, but at the same time, Australia has the chance to invest in China’s green development, and maintain strong trade relations despite the decrease in demand for our natural resources.

As China is linked closely to us, rapid urbanisation in China means an increase in demand which could also benefit Australia’s economy. We should take advantage of the potential gains flowing from the reforms to Australia’s resource, retail, education and business sectors.

How is change to be implemented? By two interrelated processes: the first involving centralisation of political power, to provide leadership in strategic issues and continuation of market reform; and the second by reducing rich-poor gaps and creating a fair society.

The first process embodies the “top-down reform design” approach, where strategic agendas will be initiated, carried out and managed by the central government.

Xi does not believe the market can effectively implement change and accordingly, China’s next stage reform requires a top-down push. As part of this process, China will establish two new powerful government bodies: the Central Leading Team for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms, and the State Security Committee.

Interestingly, this top-down approach is not intended to inhibit the decentralisation or development of China’s private economy. Xi will abolish the government’s control over the price of utilities, and will also allow private capital to invest in state-owned firms and government projects, giving the market a more decisive role to play.

Reducing the rich-poor gap

The second process is designed to address polarisation and unfairness issues and to promote good governance. China’s rich-poor gap has reached an alarming level and social unrest threatens the Party’s power. Unfortunately, China has not provided specific policies to reduce the rich-poor gap, but the reform agenda includes a few issues which are of general concern:

  • Giving the rural population more rights to move to small-medium cities and access the same entitlements as urban citizens.

  • Giving farmers better land rights. Currently land acquisition in China’s suburban areas has generated conflict due to local governments and developers combining in their efforts to reduce farmers’ land compensation benefits.

  • Education reform: primary and secondary school students will not be segregated as accelerated or normal, no preferential treatment will be given to certain public schools and headmasters and teachers will be rotated among public schools.

  • Abolishing the controversial re-education labour camps.

  • Various measures to enhance good government including strengthening anti-corruption measures and reducing the local government’s power over the court system.

These agendas are ambitious, however the key lies in their implementation. The worst scenario is that power is centralised, but Xi fails to implement the reforms outlined above. If this occurs, he risks leaving China polarised and increasing the domination of the central government, at the cost of the environment and health of its citizens.

AU Tasmania's public housing waiting list falls to lowest figure in a decade

Property Here - Saturday, January 04, 2014

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Tasmania’s public housing waiting list has fallen to its lowest level in a decade as a result of strong investment and reform, according to the Minister for Human Services Cassy O’Connor. 

The waiting list fell by 5.4% in the three months to September 30 2013, with almost 300 Tasmanians moving into public housing. These figures come from the latest Health and Human Services progress chart.

Since 2009, the Tasmanian Government has invested about $220 million to build around 1,500 new affordable housing properties, in partnership with the former Federal Government.

Another $17 million is being invested this financial year, with another 1,360 homes that will be completed in 2016.

“A comfortable and affordable place to live is a fundamental human right,” Ms O’Connor said.

“As a progressive Government, we’re determined to help low-income Tasmanians put a roof over their head - with the security, opportunity and dignity that brings.

“The Government has an active role to play in sharing wealth and levelling the economic playing field. That’s why we’re increasing the supply of affordable housing, and reforming the sector to prioritise Tasmanians most in need,” she said.

There are some 2,000 Tasmanians still on the waiting list for public housing.

Ms O’Connor also noted that low-income families in private rental properties are also benefitting, with 1,125 Tasmanians receiving rental assistance in the September quarter, up slightly on the previous year.

At the same time, one of Tasmania’s largest affordable housing projects – named Queens Walk Apartments – officially opened last month. The first tenant, Phillip Turnbull has signed a lease, and was welcomed by Ms O’Connor.

The Queens Walk redevelopment is part of the State Government’s broader affordable and social housing strategy to support for Tasmanians on low incomes.

Stage One of the $8.5 million redevelopment is complete, which includes 16 one-bedroom units, 26 two-bedroom units, and a community room.

Formerly known as Stainforth Court, the site will ultimately provide 84 high-quality units and aims to create a welcome community for a diverse range of Tasmanians.

“It’s fantastic to be welcoming people to their impressive new homes – just in time for Christmas,” Ms O’Connor said.

“Queens Walk apartments is a powerful symbol of what we can achieve if we’re brave enough to look beyond the past reputation and stigma of a place, and work towards a bright, dynamic and sustainable future.

“This formerly troubled site has been completely reinvented into a fantastic home and strong community for Tasmanians who need affordable housing.

“As a progressive Government devoted to supporting Tasmanians in need, projects like this are what government all about.

“It should also be a great source of pride for our whole community,” she said.

Stage one, which involved two housing towers, was completed on time and on budget. Stage two, involving another two towers, is on track to be completed in April.

All units are energy-efficient and four one-bedroom units in Stage One are Platinum-standard disability units.

The project has supported 125 construction jobs for Tasmanians so far, including apprentices.

AU Make the most of low interest rates while they stay low

Property Here - Saturday, January 04, 2014

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There are some predictions that rates are set to increase over 2014, so it's crucial to make the most of the record lows that we're in at the moment, according to RateCity.

With the official cash rate at a record low 2.5%, and borrowers 1.42% better off than January 2012, or typically $262 savings each month, it might be the time to get started on that New Year's resolution of hacking through the mortgage.

The Reserve Bank of Australia, in passing the August rate cut, gave borrowers an extra $540 a year (on a typical $300,000 mortgage).

With five cuts since January 2012, it's the time of year to put extra money back into your mortgage, notes Alex Parsons, CEO of RateCity.

“If you are paying an average rate of 6 percent interest on your mortgage over time and you’re an average tax payer, you would have to find a financial investment with a greater than 10 percent rate of return elsewhere to better off – that’s a tough gig in the current market,” said Parsons.

“If you leave the extra money on the mortgage, it comes straight off the principal and it pays off your mortgage faster," he said.

Top tips to get more from low rates:

- Pay more than your minimum repayments: This will cut the amount you owe, shortern your loan's life and save you interest. (On a $300,000 25-year loan term, paying the current average standard variable - 5.41% - with monthly repayments, it could cost $547,850 principal and interest, with steady rates. Putting the savings back in will take six years off the mortgage and save $63,545).

- Refinancing the same loan to a lower rate variable home loan, such as at 4.49%, could free up $160 per month ($1,920 per year). If put back into the loan, that's $33,000 over 25 years saved without any lifestyle impact.

- Paying down non-tax-deductible debt first, such as credit cards, is a good first approach, with average interest rates on credit cards at 17%.

Source: RateCity

AU 房价上涨不是错 首置业难主要怪政策

Property Here - Saturday, January 04, 2014

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BIS Shrapnel指出,是州政府改变住房优惠政策,而非房价上涨,导致了新州、昆州和北领地的首置业者在住房市场上失去立足之地。




        在新州,BIS Shrapnel计算出,按照85%的贷款与估值比率,一名首置业者现在得多存2万零490元,才能够买下一套40万元的现房。BIS Shrapnel的齐格马尼斯(Angie Zigomanis)说:"在补助减少以后,这些购买力上的损失即刻削减了首置业者进入市场的能力。"


AU New Queensland councils after residents’ requests to de-amalgamate

Property Here - Thursday, January 02, 2014

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Queensland is now home to four new councils in Noosa, Livingstone, Douglas and Mareeba, with Acting Local Government Minister Jarrod Bleijie announcing the changes to the 2008 amalgamations.

Bleijie noted that residents had been fighting for these changes for a number of years, with a 2013 petition seeing the majority of residents asking to de-amalgamate. As of January 1 their fight is won.

“It’s now up to the new Mayors and Councillors to work together with each other and their neighbouring councils to get the best results for their communities,” he said.

How this may affect and shape the areas is yet unclear, however the first order of business was noted to be the new councils’ consideration of the interim budgets.

“While there’s no doubt the new councils have some big decisions to make in the coming months, I’m confident we have the right mix of fresh ideas and experience to set the new councils on the right course,” he said.

In March 2013, 80% of Noosa's ratepayers reportedly voted for the de-amalgamation. Similar numbers were seen from the other areas.

Noosa was amalgamated previously into the Sunshine Coast Region. Livingstone had become part of the Rockhampton Region. Douglas had been part of Cairns Regional Council. Mareeba had been made part of the Tablelands Region. All four councils have now been re-established.

Councils can be contacted for specific information. Property owners who applied previously for building permits and are awaiting assessment will find that it is now covered by the new Council, however those previously granted will remain in effect.

AU Brisbane market’s strength to muscle up further in 2014: Place Estate Agents

Property Here - Wednesday, January 01, 2014

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With the Brisbane market being a clear investor favourite in 2013, and heading out with a bang, Place Estate Agents note that the strong surge will continue on this year.

CEO of Place, Damian Hackett, said that there has been strength in the Brisbane market for the past few months with the sub $1 million market leading, and a top-end recovery emerging.

“From a volumes perspective the top end is performing better than expected as we near the end of the year, and evidence of that is the sale of four properties for more than $4 million each – including one for $7.5 million - changing hands in just one week in December,” said Hackett.   
While the market’s strength and sales activity has been encouraging, he noted that the market may be more tempered in 2024.  

“The current level of activity is so strong that it may not be sustainable in the long term,” he said.  

“But that’s not to say the Brisbane market won’t perform well in 2014 – it is certainly in the upturn phase at the moment and while activity may not be quite as strong, the momentum will continue into next year, and along with that will come price growth.” 

He said that the first green shoots could be seen in 2011/2012 when the market was unstable.  

“Undoubtedly, those who took the plunge and invested through 2011 and 2012 will have already created equity in their portfolios,” he said, explaining that while there have been a number of years where buyers had the upperhand, this momentum has shifted.  

“Buyers are feeling an urgency to get into the market before they essentially ‘miss out’, so there are plenty of them around, and vendors are primed to take advantage of this,” he said.  

“In addition to strength in buyer numbers, in some cases homes have sold for prices above vendor expectations, particularly in the lower end of the market.”  

"The big question now is whether we’ll see an increase in activity amongst these buyers in the top end of Brisbane’s market, as has been the case in Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.  

Lachlan Walker, Place Advisory Director, predicted that while residential price growth in Brisbane had lagged behind some of the other capitals in 2013, it would begin a recovery in the city in 2014, establishing equity in property assets.  

“Certainly 2013 has excelled all expectations and prior forecasts for the Brisbane residential market,” he said. 

AU Haunted house for sale in US fails to scare off home buyers

Property Here - Saturday, December 28, 2013

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Since uploading the listing for the home, Mr Leeson has received multiple offers. Picture: Google.

Since uploading the listing for the home, Mr Leeson has received multiple offers. Picture: Google. Source: Supplied

FOR sale: Beautiful turn-of-the-century home, sought-after suburb, four bedrooms, hardwood floors, oh and ghosts.

But only just a few. If nothing else, Gregory Leeson's listing for his "slightly haunted house" at a not-so-scary price on the real estate website has been a traffic grabber.

Since uploading the listing for the 1901 home in Pennsylvania last week, Mr Leeson has received multiple offers and interest from buyers as well as hundreds of emails from ghost hunters across the United States.

The home has also ignited a growing discussion on Twitter, with many sharing their own haunted home stories.

Picture: Zillow.

Picture: Zillow. Source: Supplied

Mr Leeson's somewhat tongue-in-cheek description of his home, which is listed for $144,000, begins by pointing out typical features - four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms - before delving into the property's more unusual characteristics:

"Slightly haunted. Nothing serious though," he writes in the listing.

"The sounds of phantom footsteps. A strange knocking sound followed by a very quiet (hardly noticeable, even) scream."

Picture: Zillow.

Picture: Zillow. Source: Supplied

"And the occasional ghastly visage lurking behind you in the bathroom mirror. Even still, this occurs very rarely and only in the second floor bathroom."

And it gets creepier. Mr Leeson describes occasionally hearing voices in his daughter's room when she was an infant.

"It sounded like there was a person in the room with her talking. We'd go in and she was just sitting there. But she normally cried constantly," he said.

Even though Philadelphia law doesn't require that Mr Leeson disclose a haunting, he decided it would be fair to be upfront.

Picture: Zillow.

Picture: Zillow. Source: Supplied

According to Forbes , Mr Leeson, "readily admits that he doesn't believe in ghosts or hauntings." He described the house as haunted "to be funny." Although he says he genuinely has heard "voices, footsteps or doors slamming from time to time."

"When I was writing it, I had been thinking about it and I went back and forth," he told Zillow. "The way I worded it, I was trying to keep it light. I have been reading online and people saying you are supposed to disclose it. I don't know the laws here, but thought better safe than sorry.

"Doors slam shut, but it's an old house. It's not that often. I used to have roommates and my wife's friend swears the house is possessed. I have other friends that come over and say it's the most calming house they've been in," he said.

Although the spooky property is not for the faint-hearted, lovers of the paranormal may consider the home a steal. According to the listing, the spacious home boasts stain-glass windows, a study/library with a secret door behind a moving bookcase, which leads into a small office, a large crawl space behind a concealed door hidden in a bedroom closet and a basement with a wet bar.

Real estate agent and former lawyer Frank DeFazio told Forbes that it's not uncommon to disclose "defects" when selling a home. While some states require disclosing psychological stigmas such as deaths or hauntings, Pennsylvania law only requires disclosing material defects that would have a significant adverse impact on the value of the property or an unreasonable risk to the people living in the home.

But Mr DeFazio says it's a vague area.

"Even if the court says yes [a haunting] is a material defect, you have to prove it actually exists," he said.

"And how are you going to prove it? Call Ghostbusters?"

Picture: Zillow.

Picture: Zillow. Source: Supplied

Haunted house for a not-so-spooky price

Picture: Zillow. Source: Supplied

AU 2014 property forecast: your guide to picking the next boom suburbs across Sydney

Property Here - Saturday, December 28, 2013

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Kensington ... the next real estate boom suburbs are closer than you think.

Kensington ... the next real estate boom suburbs are closer than you think. Source: News Limited

SYDNEY property had a stellar 2013, with the market recovering to the previous heights of 2010 and then surging forward in the second half of the year.

Some experts believe 2014 will bring similar success, as the city settles into the growth phase of a new property cycle.

The Daily Telegraph asked some of real estate's leading experts for their 2014 predictions:

John McGrath

McGrath Estate Agents CEO

Predicts 5-10% growth

Sydney will benefit across the board in 2014, with likely growth between 5 and 10 per cent. The best performing markets are likely to be beachside and inner city suburbs.

The inner west area south of Parramatta Rd will benefit, with Petersham, Stanmore, Dulwich Hill and Summer Hill performing well. Ironically, the best bargains will be in areas like Palm Beach and Whale Beach.

They have been oversold in recent years and there is a 12-month window to get value there.

A number of suburbs will also benefit from improving infrastructure. The new rail link to the northwest will boost the Hills district and suit suburbs like Rouse Hill, Castle Hill and Bella Vista.

The new inner east light rail will benefit Kensington and Kingsford, as will the influx in Chinese buyers looking to purchase­ close to major educational­ institutions.

Scroll down for NEW HOMES IN SYDNEYS' FIELD OF DREAMS Exclusive Alicia Wood

Bella Vista in northwestern Sydney.

Bella Vista in northwestern Sydney. Source: Supplied

Chris Mourd

LJ Hooker head of network

Interest in Sydney's west

The 2013 success was driven by a shortage of quality stock, post-election job confidence and record low interest rates.

None of these will change during 2014 and a large pool of buyers will be hungry after missing out in 2013.

People will look for inner city living opportunities and Paddington and Woollahra have opportunity for growth after being subdued.

The pressure on the inner west is likely to continue.

People will look for value in places like North Ryde, which offers a convenient location and more land.

There has also been strong interest further out in areas like Guildford, Granville and Merrylands, which offer larger family homes.


Guildford. Source: News Limited


Granville. Source: News Limited

Chris Gray

Empire Property Portfolios CEO Beaches the big winners

What has happened in 2013 may just be the tip of the iceberg for the next cycle.

Properties under $1 million will still be in short supply and high demand and growth will spread to more properties in blue chip suburbs and affordable regional areas. Bondi Beach will perform as there are thousands who will pay any price to live near the beach. Coogee attracts a different demographic of city workers and beach lovers who like more of a village life.

Kirribilli has always been a favourite of city workers and a unit that ticks all the boxes will always be in demand.

Cremorne offers peace and quiet with easy access to the city, cafes and shops. Balmain is one of the best for the inner west lifestyle, still with access to harbour ferries and the city.


Balmain. Source: News Limited


Kirribilli. Source: News Limited

Adrian Wilson

Wilson Property Agents director

Prestige to rise

Lower and mid-level markets will continue to be popular due to positive economic factors.

The top end above $2 million will gain momentum throughout the year. Suburbs within 5km of the Sydney CBD will do well due to high demand but the beaches and coastal suburbs will also have a high performance rate in 2014.

A number of prestige properties that have been on the market for several months are now trading and achieving good results, showing renewed confidence at the top end of the scale. It is only a matter of time before momentum builds and the prestige section starts to pick up.

Bondi Beach.

Bondi Beach. Source: News Limited

Tim Lawless

RP Data national research director

Low rates continue

Growth rates in Sydney are likely to slow from the highs recorded over the second half of 2013. This does not mean there will be another price correction but that growth will slow to more sustainable levels, in line with income growth.

Population growth remains strong, which implies demand for housing and is a positive for the economy.

Mortgage rates are likely to remain low in 2014, meaning investment in housing should remain strong.

On the other hand, rental yields have fallen as values rose faster than rental rates.

The typical yield for a Sydney house is now just 3.9 per cent, which will send investors looking for better value in other high-yielding cities such as Brisbane.

Another factor is affordability, as the Sydney median price is now about $700,000.

Key market segments such as first homebuyers and low to average income families have struggled to find funds for a deposit as values have grown.


MORE than 3000 homes will be built in Sydney's southwest next year, after the state government rezoned a swathe of land in the Catherine Field precinct near Campbelltown.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell will today announce the rezoning, which will see 3200 homes constructed in the new suburb next year.

Figures from the state government show there has been an 80 per cent increase in the take-up of first-home owners grants on last year - with 6000 people receiving the $15,000 grant for buying new properties.

Mr O'Farrell said releasing land for new developments was important to drive down the cost of home ownership.

"We are making homes more affordable and in the process western Sydney is being transformed into a tradies' paradise, with the creation of thousands of jobs in construction," Mr O'Farrell said.

"The rezoning of land at Catherine Field being announced today tops off a bumper year in NSW, with a massive number of home approvals and a huge increase in the take-up of the NSW government's First Home Owner Grants.

"The latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show 44,628 new homes were approved in the 12 months to October 2013, the highest level since 2005."

Developers for the Catherine Hill project will pump $30 million of infrastructure funding into the region, including an upgrade for Oran Park Drive, land for a new primary school, and the construction of a main sewerage line.

Planning Minister Brad Hazzard said land will go on sale in 2014, and the houses will be complete by 2015.

It is a win for the government, which last year,the government failed to pass landmark planning reforms, after a stalemate in negotiations with the Labor Party and crossbenchers in the upper house.

The government has gone back to the drawing board on the legislation, and has until February to find a solution


Coogee. Source: News Limited

AU Pros and cons of buying a holiday home

Property Here - Friday, December 27, 2013

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Understand how much stamp duty, land tax and other holding costs you are likely to add up on a holiday home.

Understand how much stamp duty, land tax and other holding costs you are likely to add up on a holiday home. Source:Supplied

HOLIDAYS are a time of rest and relaxation and, for some with a real estate brain, a chance to think about making some money.

You may consider buying a holiday home near your favourite spot, an apartment in a resort complex, or turning an existing holiday home into a rental money-spinner.

It's tempting while having fun in the sun, but it's wise to rip off those rose-coloured holiday glasses and look at the property from a financial perspective, because there are some traps and issues that can come back and bite you.

Any property is going to cost you money, so understand how much stamp duty, land tax and other holding costs you are likely to pay.

And will you want to keep visiting the same place every holiday, or does the variety of Australia's and the world's destinations appeal more?

Apartments in resort complexes can come with high management costs that erode your income, not to mention a bigger chance of boom and bust periods that are not for the faint-hearted.

A growing trend is for people to buy property in their self-managed superannuation fund, but this is a no-no for holiday homes.

Strict rules around self-managed super prevent property owners from gaining any personal benefit from their fund assets until retirement, and there are nasty tax penalties for breaking the rules.

If turning an existing holiday home into a rental earner, you will have to pay tax on the income and deal with risks of damage, theft and injury.

Landlord insurer Terri Scheer Insurance says even the most careful holidaymakers can take a more casual approach to caring for a rental property when in holiday mode.

"Risks may include malicious and accidental damage, theft and legal liability issues if a holidaymaker injures themselves at the property. Such events could also lead to a loss of rental income while damages are under repair,'' says Terri Scheer Insurance executive manager Carolyn Majda.

She says landlords should inspect holiday homes regularly to check lights, appliances and smoke detectors are in good working order, and a detailed condition report - with photos and videos of the property and its contents - can help with potential insurance claims later.

Anthony Keane is editor of Your Money.

AU Bath's most exclusive address revealed to contain cannabis factory

Property Here - Friday, December 27, 2013

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Police carried out a drug bust at an exclusive Bath address on Christmas Eve. Picture: Thinkstock.

Police carried out a drug bust at an exclusive Bath address on Christmas Eve. Picture: Thinkstock. Source: ThinkStock

IT IS a preserve of the well-heeled and considered one of Britain's most exclusive addresses.

But police yesterday revealed that behind the elegant Georgian facade of The Circus in Bath lay a cannabis factory.

Officers found marijuana, growing equipment, lights and compost hidden behind a wardrobe in a basement apartment in the famous address which is near another Bath landmark, the Royal Crescent.

They carried out a Misuse of Drugs warrant on Christmas Eve and a 68-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of cannabis possession and cultivation. She has been bailed.

The Circus, a sweeping vista of three curved terraces, was designed by the architect John Wood the elder, who started to build it in 1754. It was completed by his son, John Wood the younger, in 1768.

The 18th century artist Thomas Gainsborough lived at No 17, and Hollywood star Nicholas Cage is another former resident of one of the Grade 1 listed townhouses which curve around a central circular space. The name comes from the Latin 'circus', which means a ring, oval or circle.

A resident who wished to remain anonymous said: 'I saw the police cars pull up at about 9.30 in the morning. It was quite a shock. You don't really see it happen around here - we're lucky enough to live in a nice area.' PC Adrian Secker, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: 'We are determined, whatever the time of year, to take action on drugs.'