Astrophotography: Capturing the Sky…

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The right angle. The best light. When it comes to property marketing, our photographers know exactly how to present every home at it’s best. But for many, the passion for photography doesn’t just end with real estate.

As well well as producing stunning property images for his agents, Open2view photographer Matthew Lowe also has a keen interest in Astrophotography.

We asked Matt to tell us a bit about the region he covers and what Astrophotography is all about.

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Q. How long have you been a photographer with Open2view?

I started with Open2view in December 2010, so it’s almost my 4th Birthday! Do I get a cake, or is that next year?

Q. What area in New Zealand do you cover? What do you like most about it?

I cover the Eastern Bay of Plenty – the sunshine capital of NZ and home to NZ’s beach best – Ohope Beach.  It is a large area to cover, from Matata / Kawerau down to Whakatane / Ohope and right up the coast to the East Cape. I like the diversity in the area – you can go from photographing a little 1 bedroom converted garage to a bare block of land with 100km views all the way to Mt Maunganui, then to a million dollar beach front home or a farm all within 30 minutes drive.

A lot of my photo shoots consist of rural or coastal properties, which isn’t a bad thing given the stunning locations we have right on our doorstep.

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Q. How did you get started in real estate photography?

Photography has always been a hobby of mine since I was about 10 years old, when I got into astrophotography.  Career-wise I started out as a graphic designer for a newspaper in 2004 and progressed from there over the next 8 years.  Sitting in front of a computer in an office where you couldn’t see outside for 40 hours a week was starting to do my head in, and the opportunity to purchase the Open2view franchise in my area came up.  After a few enquiries and discussions I decided to make the jump into real estate photography.  Even though I still spend half of my time at a desk processing photos, emails, invoicing etc, being able to combine my hobby with work is far more satisfying.  I can’t imagine there are many jobs where you can spend 40 hours a week working, and then on your days off go and take photos just for fun!

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Q. Tell us about Astrophotography…

I think every photographer needs a ‘personal project’ that they work on for no reason other than to provide a creative outlet and a bit of fun, so I try to focus on astrophotography in my spare time.

Astrophotography basically covers anything in the sky – the stars, moon, milky way, satellites, the sun, planets etc etc.  There are many different styles of astrophotography such as shooting star trails, where you leave the shutter open for a period of time (anything from 10 minutes to 8 hours) so the camera captures the movement of the stars; or you can shoot through a telescope to capture deep-sky objects such as distant galaxies and gas clouds which aren’t visible to the naked eye.

An interesting thing is some cameras can pick up parts of the spectrum which are invisible to the naked eye (ie UV light), so you can often pick up detail which you could never see with the naked eye or through a telescope.

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I have recently had the opportunity to use some of the equipment at the Whakatane Astronomical Society where they have a solar telescope which allows you to safely view the sun without burning your eyeballs out (literally, don’t try this at home!)  It is fitted with special filters to separate certain light wavelengths so you can actually see the detail and explosions happening on the surface of the sun, and when you attach a camera you can get some pretty cool shots.

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When I started out with astrophotography I was using a film camera, before I went away from it for a few years while I focused on my graphic design.  Now everything is digital I have to re-learn all the techniques as they are slightly different.  For example digital camera sensors are more prone to image noise or batteries running out on really long exposures, but the advantage is you can immediately see the result and whether you’re on the right track or not.

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You can view Matthew’s real estate photography portfolio on the Open2view website here

Or follow his Facebook page here

The Block NZ – It’s Business Time

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The time has come. Tonight, the four properties on The Block NZ will go under the hammer and honestly, I don’t think I can watch.

The producers must be doing something right. The Block NZ has to be one of the most successful reality shows NZ has seen. Whether it be our fascination with DIY, the kiwi dream of owing your own home or they just luck out with great casting, it’s easy to emotionally invest in the journey of the Block couples.

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And that’s where I come unstuck. Some might call it great TV, but after enduring the agonising live auctions of the past two years, I just can’t bring myself to watch tonight!

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It would be great to see all the couples do well at auction, but as pointed out in a recent post over at Properazzi, even in the middle of what seems to be a rampant Auckland property market, is there really enough demand to get all of these properties sold?

Each year, there’s been, by far, one big winner and you could say for all the rest, it’s been close to a waste of time (remember last year’s post-auction meltdown from Loz?). Yes, all the contestants know what they are getting themselves into, but it doesn’t make the awkwardness any easier to watch.

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Which is why I’m content just to take a look back at all of the hard work the couples have put in during their time at The Block (as captured by our Open2view photographers by the way….)

We wish all the couples the best of luck tonight!

Tips for an energy efficient home.

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“Sustainable living” and “energy efficiency” are phrases we hear a lot these days and how energy efficient and ‘green’ a property is can make a big difference when it comes to buying or selling. Whether your motivation is saving the environment, saving your wallet or a bit of both, read on for a few simple tips for meeting your goal.

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Staying cool in summer and warm in winter are basic comforts of life; efficient heating and cooling systems are therefore high on the priority list for prospective buyers.

When it comes to making your house more energy efficient, insulation is the key, and not just for keeping warm. Insulation acts as a barrier to heat gain as well as heat loss. It is particularly important in roofs and ceilings, walls and floors.

Effective insulation is a plus on many levels: increasing comfort levels, reducing reliance on powered heating and cooling systems therefore making your home more ‘green’ while saving you money at the same time. Some types of insulation can even act as soundproofing.The simple solution of adding blinds on windows can also reduce heat gain by up to 50%.

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Ensure any appliances you have in your home are as energy efficient as possible. Studies have shown that residential properties commonly have air conditioners that are 50% bigger than needed, thus costing you more for no extra benefit.
Installing the air conditioner in a shady place can increase its efficiency by up to 10%.

Complement air conditioner use with ceiling fans. They are an efficient way to circulate air in the house and far cheaper to run than an air conditioner.

Water Works

Water efficiency is another important area to consider and can be as simple as fixing a leaky tap. A dripping hot water tap can waste a massive 12,000 litres of hot water over a year!

Your bathroom fittings and fixtures will all make a difference to water efficiency, measured using the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme. Ideally showerheads, mixers, even the loo, should have a high WELS rating. For example, a 3-star rated showerhead will use approximately 6-7 litres of water per minute, compared to regular showerheads which can use up to 25 litres per minute.

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These simple energy efficiency fixes will not only add comfort to your home but a valuable point of difference when it comes to marketing your home for sale.

 

 

Real estate photography and content thanks to the team at Open2view Sydney

Trick or Treat?

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When it comes to Halloween, if find that people fall into two categories. ‘Love It’ or Hate it’. I myself, fall into the latter. Partly because Halloween has never been a huge deal where I live and partly because as a child, I was never allowed to go trick-or-treating, so I tend to harbor a bit of resentment against anyone who gets to have fun around this time…

The reality is, I usually cower in my living room, pretending not to be home when trick-or-treaters come knocking on the door. (I have a very long, steep driveway, so trick’s on them!)

This year however, I feel like I shouldn’t be a total grinch and that I should make some sort of neighborly effort, for some reason.

So I’ve been trying to decide how I can decorate my house, with very little effort, because a) Carving pumpkins is dangerous. b) I’m lazy.

Here are some goodies i found:

Giant Spider Invasion

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Okay, a little bit of effort to make them, but a completely terrifying result!

Spooky Glowing Eyes

spookyeyeThis is probably more within my capabilities. All I need are some toilet rolls & glow sticks
Sorted.


Hanging Bats

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Martha Stewart can show me how to turn my porch into a bat-cave!

Bloody Hand Print

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This bloody hand print technique will give a lovely effect on any window of your house. (Hopefully without traumatising the local kiddies too much)

Window Silhouettes
Hello-Halloween-Silhouette-Windows possibilities are endless…

Monster Doors…

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& MONSTER HOUSES!

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Here is how this one was created!

And now for my favourite DIY decoration….

Giant eyeballs in a tree 

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Pure genius. It should be mandatory to have these in every tree, all the time!

Whether, you love or hate halloween, there’s certainly no harm in having a little bit of fun!

If you’re decorating your house, or heading off to trick-or-treat tomorrow night, share a pic with us on our facebook page.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

Property Report – Spring pace slow…

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Navigating through the various property market statistics released each month can be interesting….especially when they’re all reporting different things. However, for September, they all seem to be agreeing that the NZ Property market has moved on from it’s stall during the elections, with property listings and prices picking up to follow the usual spring trend, albeit at a much slower pace than in the previous year…

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Asking Prices

Unconditional.co.nz figures show the increase in national asking prices has slowed considerably: 3.9%, compared to an 8.7% rise in 2013.

Although the rate of increase in asking prices for properties has slowed, the prices are still moving upwards and remain at a high level with September’s National average asking price of $484,791 very close to the record of $490,550 set in June of this year.

Get the full NZ Property report here

Image: unconditional.co.nz

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Sales Volumes

REINZ data shows that while there was a noticeable increase in activity towards the end of September, sales volumes were well down on the same time last year. There were 5,911 unconditional residential sales in September, a 7.8% decrease on sales recorded for August, and a 12.0% fall from September 2013.

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Auckland Property Market

Comparing year on year, Auckland sale volumes where down: 1105 properties in Sept 2013, to 959 properties in Sept 2014.

However, September’s average house sales price of $738,876 has been the highest on record, due to the relatively low volume, but also, of the 959 homes sold, just over 17% were in excess of $1 million, including this little Grey Lynn gem, which went for $1.075 million. Only in Auckland right?….

One man’s trash: unique ‘recycled’ homes…

‘One man’s trash, another man’s treasure’. That saying couldn’t be more true when it comes to these houses. All are made (or decorated) using salvaged or recycled materials. Would it inspire you to build something as interesting and unique as these?…..

1. The Beer Can House

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Photo credit: “Beer Can House” by Andrew Wiseman

What started out in 1968 as a project for John Milkovisch, a retired upholsterer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, The Beer Can House is now a folk art house in Rice Military, Houston, Texas,covered with beer cans, bottles, and other beer paraphernalia. www.beercanhouse.org 

2. Horace Burgess’s Treehouse

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In 1993, after a visionary commandment from god, Horace Burgess, using tons of reclaimed wood, began construction of his 10 story treehouse. Unofficially the worlds largest treehouse, the structure was closed to the public in 2012, as it had become a public attraction, but did not follow fire safety codes.

3. The Paper House

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You guessed it. An actual house made from newspapers. Built by Mr. Elis F. Stenman, a mechanical engineer who designed the machines that make paper clips, began building his Rockport summer home out of paper as a hobby in 1922. Not only is the house made of paper, but much of the furniture as well. paperhouserockport.com

4. The Tombstone House

Constructed from the tombstones of Union soldiers, if you’re the superstitious type, this home in Petersburg Virginia USA probably wouldn’t be for you, because it would be haunted for sure! In an apparent cost-cutting exercise by the Poplar Grove Cemetery,almost 2000 marble headstones were removed and sold to Mr. O.E. Young who built the 2 storey house.

5. The Scrap House

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Photo by Cesar Rubio Photography via Scrap House.

Although only temporary, The Scrap House was a rather stunning building. Constructed on Civic Center Plaza in front of San Francisco City Hall for World Environment Day in 2005, using only scrap and salvaged materials. srcaphouse.org

6.The Junk Castle
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The Junk Castle is a magical little building, built by former art teacher Victor Moore and his wife Bobbie in a defunct rock quarry in Washington State. It is constructed from many salvaged materials found at a local junkyard and around the site itself, all for just $500!

7. Villa Welpeloo

Villa WelpelooConstructed in 2005 by Superuse Studios, Villa Welpeloo is a house and art studio in the Netherlands. 60% house is made up of from materials salvaged from the local area. The main structure is made out of steel profiles that previously made up a machine for textile production, an industry once very important in the region. One of these machines gave us enough steel to construct the whole villa. SuperuseStudios.com

8. The Glass Window House

Quit your job, move to the country and build the home of your dreams. Sound like bit of a fantasy? Well, young artists Nick Olson and Lilah Horwitz did exactly that. And their dream home is built out of salvaged window frames! Quite beautiful don’t you think?….

Property Report…’Wait and See’ approach from the market.

handshouseIt’s been a funny few months in the NZ property market. The National average asking price (as reported by realestate.co.nz) has remained high since June, when Auckland reached a record high asking price of $732,240, driving the national asking price up to an all-time record high of $490,550 which was a significant increase from the previous record of $685,426 set in April this year.

realestate.co.nz figures for August are still to be released, however July’s National average of $488,711 was only 0.4% down on the previous month’s record high.

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Graphic via uncondtional.co.nz

But while sellers (particularly in Auckland) are wanting more for their homes than ever before, the most recent reports show that the real estate market is having somewhat of a lull in what typically should be a time where it picks up in Spring, with many attributing the upcoming General Election as a key factor.

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) Chief Executive Helen O’Sullivan says, “The real estate market appears to be ‘idling’ as buyers and perhaps even more so, sellers, await the outcome of the September 20 election”.

With many a carrot being dangled, it’s no wonder sellers & buyers are taking a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach. Here’s a good summary from Stuff.co.nz of what each political party want’s to do, to help Kiwis buy or rent a house…

NATIONAL: Free up land for new sections. Rein in council development charges. Keep interest rates low. Replace the KiwiSaver First Home Deposit Subsidy with a KiwiSaver HomeStart Grant, doubling the support for buying a new home, and expand eligibility for Welcome Home Loans. Reformed the social housing sector, facilitating a shift from state housing to a range of new social housing providers.

LABOUR: Under the KiwiBuild policy, 100,000 starter homes would be built over 10 years.The ability of non-residents to buy houses would be restricted, cutting down on speculation. Landlords would have to ensure rental homes were warm and dry. Introduce a capital gains tax, and ensure councils are more likely to approve projects involving affordable housing.

GREEN: Key housing policy is to improve the quality of rental accommodation and the rights of tenants. A warrant of fitness for all rented houses would be introduced, families would be given greater security of tenure, and another 200,000 homes would be insulated at a cost of $327 million.

NEW ZEALAND FIRST: Develop a housing plan which would deal with a range of issues including availability and affordability, rental supply, finance and insurance. Provide government help to first home buyers. Set up an agency to buy land where special housing areas have been designated. Sell sections to first home buyers on a cost recovery basis. Encourage smaller houses on smaller sections.

MAORI: Continue to devolve state housing to Maori and Pasifika community groups for whanau to buy their own homes. Look at better use of Maori land to support whanau housing initiatives.

MANA: Make it a government duty to ensure everyone has secure, safe and affordable accommodation. Stop the sale of state houses and build 10,000 new ones a year. Introduce a rental housing warrant of fitness. At least half the houses in new developments of 10 or more homes must be affordable.

ACT: Support moves to abolish the municipal urban limit in Auckland and similar boundaries which restrict the supply of land. Reduce requirements on local government for complex planning and consenting processes. Support moves to get local government to speed up consenting.

UNITEDFUTURE: Allow families to capitalise Working For Families entitlements for a year as a lump sum to help buy a first home, extend a home, or increase equity. Look at abolishing domestic and commercial rates. Review Housing NZ tenancies each year to ensure housing stock is fairly allocated. Make it easier for Housing NZ to evict problematic tenants.

INTERNET: Adopted Mana’s support for a capital gains tax on property investors.

CONSERVATIVE: Leader Colin Craig has said he would write to developers who had locked up land in Auckland and tell them they had five years to build houses, otherwise the land would be bought under the Public Works Act. Artificial boundaries would be moved.

If the crazy lead up has left you feeling a little disillusioned and undecided as to where your vote is going, then this Election Interactive from Stuff.co.nz might help you find out a little bit more about your electoral candidates and Party Policies.

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Election 2014 – Interactive from Stuff.co.nz

With only two days to go before the country goes to the polls, Real estate agents should be able to breathe a sigh of relief soon, with the market tipped to bounce back after the election.

Happy voting everyone!