What’s a ‘Be Prepared Month’?

July now has another title other than ‘Coldest Month Ever’ and ‘Blogger’s Birthday Awareness’.

For the next four-and-a-bit weeks, Open2view will be running something we like to call ‘Be Prepared Month’. This is our humble attempt to get more people aware of the need to have, at the very least, the basics put away in case of emergency.

Your first instinct might be “but surely after the last couple of years most people have got themselves prepared”.  That was mine too – but, looking at the numbers it seems while thousands of Kiwis are indeed more prepared, we still have a way to go.

Statistics New Zealand conducted a survey of 8500 people between April 2010 and March 2011, to see how prepared we are for a disaster. That survey showed:

  • Just 18 percent of New Zealanders were ‘basically prepared’, while 13 percent had enough supplies to qualify as ‘better prepared’.
  • 88 percent of homes had three days worth of food, but only 45% had put away three days of water, and just 29% had an emergency plan.
  • Auckland is by far the least prepared with just 12% having the basic supplies. Canterbury was ranked highest with 28%.
  • One-parent households have a way to go (12%) while 20% of couples without children had packed the basics.

‘Basic preparation’ was defined as having three days worth of food and water along with a household emergency plan. ‘Better preparation’ includes all this plus a torch, portable radio, spare batteries, a first-aid kit and essential medication.

If you’re really good, you’re also in ‘damage mitigation’ mode, which means you have heavy and tall furniture, along with the hot water cylinder, safely secured. 31 percent of homes had their furniture taken care of and 79% their hot water cylinder.

It’s likely these stats have gone up since the survey was completed last year – but we can always do better.

So how does Open2view plan to help? Throughout July we are giving away a bunch of these:

These 84-serve Grab and Go Emergency Food Supply buckets, made by Wise Company, contain enough meals to feed one adult for a month or a family with four kids for a week. All you need is to add boiling water (you did pack water, right?) and wait 12-15 minutes. It’s not exactly Logan Brown/Martin Bosley standard, but it’s filling and nutritional enough to get you through those critical first few days of a disaster.

So how can you win one? We’ll be giving away 26 of them on Facebook – one per weekday except for Friday, when you get an extra chance – and whatever’s left over on Twitter. Just enter the draw on our Facebook page or retweet us when we give the word.

During Be Prepared Month we will also be giving tips on what you can do to ensure you, and your family, have your bases covered. We will be drawing on local and international experiences to illustrate how important it is to have, at the minimum, the basics needed to get through.

It’ll be informative, and hopefully some fun. And if we can just get a few of you thinking about storing away some essential supplies, then we’ll be pretty happy.

One more note: sadly, New Zealand has had far too many experiences with disaster lately. One week after Nelson’s crazy floods last Christmas I was astonished by the view from the plane as I flew home. This weekend I’m heading down to Christchurch. Although I’ve seen thousands of photos since September 2010, I have yet to see for myself how you look close up. Hopefully, over the next month, we can do at least some justice to the amazing efforts your people have put in, and continue to put in, as you rebuild.

For sale: a 127-year-old slice of Auckland history

Historic house Auckland

Here at Open2view we love all our houses equally. There are some houses, however, that especially stand out – be it for their looks, their fantastic views, or – as in this particular case – the house’s history.

Early settler James Young built Breveg Villa, named for his Norwegian-born wife Anna Breveg, in 1885. This Western Springs home has been owned, and more or less occupied, by the same family for the following 127 years. Now, it can be yours.

Current owner Sue Andersen wrote a great account of the house and family history to accompany the listing. I’ve put an abridged version below, and you can read the full story (and see more photos, of course) on our website.

(Ok, I did do some work for this blog; Sue’s story inspired me to find this list of early Auckland settlers. Check it out, and see if any of your family had a hand in building our biggest city.)

The house was built in 1885 by James Young, son of Joseph and Jane Young who came to Auckland aboard the ‘Jane Gifford’, arriving here on 9 October 1842. James was 10 – 11 years old at the time of the journey to New Zealand.

The family first lived in Shortland Street. Joseph worked on the erection of St Paul’s church in lower Symonds Street, the wages being 2/- 6d per day. The family later acquired some 80 acres of land in what were then the back-blocks. They named their farm ‘Arch Hill’, after the farm Joseph had been raised on near Strabane, Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Joseph died in 1880 on his ‘Arch Hill’ property at the age of 78. The district still retains that name today. The farm stretched from what is now Great North Road, down the gulley where now the North Western Motorway cuts through, and up the other side to the Morningside area.

Historic house NZ living room

James Young married Anna Breveg (born 1832), a young lady who had travelled to New Zealand from Norway. James built the house in Western Springs Road, at the far end of what had been the ‘Arch Hill’ farm. The house was the second to be built on the road, after ‘Hastings Hall’, which also still stands today.

The house was known as ‘Breveg Villa’, and had a brass nameplate bearing that name for many years. At some point it was removed and has since been lost, but recently replaced with a new version.

Historic house NZ name plate

James and Anna lived in the house for the rest of their lives, having two sons to carry on the ‘Young’ family name; Joseph Breveg Young was the first born, followed by William John Young.

James was blinded by a kick to the face from a horse when the boys were still young, and died at the age of 66 in 1901. Anna continued living on her own with her sons, until William (Bill) married and built his own house at the top of Tuarangi Road. Joseph (Joe) married Janet Fleming, and they lived with Anna until he built his own house next door, at 45 Western Springs Road. They had two daughters and a son (deceased as a baby) by the time they moved into their new home in 1912/13. Another daughter was born in 1915.

Anna continued living in the house until her death in November 1921 at the age of 89. After Anna’s death, the house was rented out to several families, until Joe’s middle daughter (Muriel) married (Paul Andersen) and they moved into 47 to make this their own home. They had two children – Timothy and Susan. They lived here together until Paul’s death in 1996, and Muriel (Billie) continued on her own until failing health necessitated hospital care in 2009. She passed away in 2010 at the age of 99!

The house is now 127 years old, and much is still original. The living room, with the pantry off to the side, was the kitchen / scullery – with the range where the fireplace now is. A ‘long drop’ used to be at the bottom of the garden where ladder ferns now grow. A gas heater used to heat the water in the bathroom for the original claw foot bath, which is still there today.

The wooden lacework and brackets, which used to adorn the front and side verandas, were removed in the early 1960’s – and burnt as firewood! A photograph showing the style is still available. The wooden front steps and sides were replaced when too fragile in the 1960’s as well. The original roof lasted (just!) until it was replaced in 2007, along with most of the spouting in 2008.

An era has come to an end for the Young family, and it is now time for a new family to stamp their mark on this amazing property, which has such a long history stretching back to the Colonial times of Early Auckland.

Historic house NZ garden backyard

Pole position: how elevated photos take your home to new heights

Height can be an issue when it comes to photography. For instance, I’m a fairly short fellow, so pictures where I’m surrounded by lanky supermodels is an occupational hazard in the glamorous world of real estate photography blogging.

Houses, on the other hand, are tall. The standard ceiling height in New Zealand is 2.4 metres; slap a roof on top (you’ll be glad you did) and you’ve got a structure far taller than any human.

Of course houses are usually much wider than they are high. Last year QV looked at average house sizes through New Zealand. Auckland’s Shamrock Park, with an average area of 306m2, was at the top of the list. Nationally the average area is 149m2, which will still require a fair bit of vacuuming.

Long story short – your normal frontal shot, good as they are, isn’t always going to tell the full story.

How on earth, then, can you capture and list your home in all its glory? One of Open2view’s strengths is a little something called elevated pole photography. If you’ve seen our brightly coloured vehicles out and about you might have noticed those twenty metre poles we keep handy.

So how good are they? Check out this recent example from Open2viewer Mike Taylor.

Greenlane house front

From the front you see an old, dilapidated husk of a house. But from above?

Well it’s still an old, dilapidated husk of a house. But an elevated shot unveils the property’s potential. From here you get a clear look at the size of the property. You can grab a glimpse of what the neighbourhood’s like (while fully respecting your neighbours’ privacy). Above all – pun unintended, for once – you can lean back, rub your hands together and cackle with glee, as plans for what to do with the land form in your head.

On auction day, this overly-humble abode attracted 150 attendees, six serious bidders, and a price just under one million dollars. Yes, that can be also attributed to the warming Auckland property market, but it was the elevated shot that got the bidders there in the first place. In other words, Mike done good.

An earlier pole shoot of his helped another house sell for $100,000 above expectations. According to Mike, “the buyer had said she kept going back to the “potential” view shot – and that was a key part of her decision making.”

Let’s take a look at one more before/after comparison. Which do you think is a more accurate reflection of the property?

Frankly, I’d much rather buy the house with the tennis court and swimming pool.

Our website has a handy section on elevated photography featuring some cool shots and more reasons to use the pole. All you really need to know is this: as good as frontal shots are, elevated photos show more, get noticed quicker, and can help earn you more at sale time. As we said last week, images really are everything when selling your home.

Check out our listings for more examples, and the gossip mags for my latest exploits. Such is the heady life of a C-lister.

A first-timer’s account of Fieldays

When the boss suggested that this new Hamiltonian ought to check out Fieldays, no nasty looking frost nor lack of gumboots was going to make me say no.

Fieldays is an iconic Waikato event. Strike that – it’s an iconic Kiwi event. At the minimum it gives city slickers like me a chance to take an x-ray of our economic backbone. As a bonus, they have miniature horses.

For four days Mystery Creek is transformed into a bustling city – as you can see from their photo below. Don’t worry about getting lost; there are maps, and the Creek is divvied up into roads based on the alphabet. (Gotta say, K Road wasn’t at all like I expected.)

Mystery Creek Fieldays

It may have been a school day but I saw plenty of kids there – often with their families, many others in school trips, and, well, there were bound to be some truants there too. Regardless of age, everyone had one thing in common – they seemed to be having a fun time.

And how could we not. There is plenty for farmers there – the latest machinery, specials on essential farm stuff, sheep that poop without needing to be dagged. For the record: ‘marbles’ and ‘hand grenades’ good; ‘plops’, ‘slops’ and ‘scours’ bad. Very bad. Where was I? Oh yes – Fieldays is not just for farmers. It has a little something for everyone.

On a learning mission? Most of the universities have come to boast about their latest achievements. I had a great talk with Dr Kim Pickering from the University of Waikato about their project turning chicken feathers into a strong, biodegradable fibre. Possible uses include insulation and, perhaps in time, boat hulls. I suggested they could make some nifty kitchen utensils from them too. She was very polite.

If you’re there to get a pulse on the rural property market, many of the big real estate companies are in attendance. The ones I visited had plenty of farms and lifestyle properties listed, and if I would have been drooling over them if I hadn’t just learned about dagging. A timely report by REINZ shows the rural market to be ‘solid’ with sales, prices and morale largely on the up.

Looking for a dream home? I came across Cabbage Tree Cottages, a business that builds beautiful timber houses across New Zealand. Their show home at Fieldays was a more hollowed-out version but had the essentials, including a kitchen sink and wine cupboard. Garry from Cabbage Tree told me most of their creations are used as holiday houses – and if I could stick one up in Golden Bay tomorrow, I would.

After some action? The dog show and wood chopping were fun of course, but I found the tractor pulling strangely hypnotic. This ‘sport’ consists of a tractor dragging another tractor as far as it could while yet another tractor drove in front, raking the ground. It was kind of like curling, but with tractors.

I sadly missed out on seeing Hoof Ball – soccer for horses – but it’s safe to say they would have put up a better showing against New Caledonia. I did, however, manage to ride the mechanical bull. For three seconds. Over two attempts.

The rodeo might not be suitable for restless kids – but I know what is. Cute animals! From the overly happy goat, to the always entertaining alpacas and, yes, to the irresistible miniature horsies, there was no shortage of smiles on faces young and old.

Miniature horse Fieldays

In fact there was no shortage of faces full stop. 117,000 people attended in 2011, and numbers are expected to exceed that this time. Here’s another figure to whistle at: last year’s event gave the economy a $450 million boost.

The vibe I got from people this year is one of positivity grounded in realism. Like the rest of the country the rural sector has its share of challenges and opportunities. Being a farmer is a lot like being a rodeo cowboy: you have to be resilient and adaptable to the constantly changing conditions. Otherwise, you’re bound to face-plant in spectacularly embarrassing fashion.

If you have never been to Fieldays, I highly recommend changing that. You can head down before 5pm today and/or 8am-5pm Saturday. Buy your tickets online or at the gate.

Images are everything: why you should hire a professional to photograph your house

Mandy is a recent divorcee who has decided to explore the world of internet dating. A little while ago she asked herself the question: exactly how important are looks?

Ultimately she concluded that, to her, looks matter. They don’t have to be the best looking guy on the market – but they had to be well-presented and attractive to her. Photos that present the person with “their best foot forward” stand out from the pack. “If need be,” says Mandy, “hire a photographer”.

Just like in dating, first impressions in real estate can mean the difference between closing the deal and rejection. The importance of great photos to this process cannot be overstated.

A New York Times article from 2007 summed it up: “the pictures buyers see of houses and apartments for sale are often the first – and sometimes the only – chance for sellers to make a good impression. Less-than-flattering pictures can turn buyers off and lead to lonely open houses.” And no one likes to be stood up.

People are increasingly looking online not just for someone to love, but somewhere to live.  According to the 2009 Neilsen Annual Real Estate Market Survey, 78% of respondents used a specialist real estate website when searching for properties. Just 46% read a property magazine and 31% browsed the newspaper. Significantly, a whopping 95% want comprehensive data on listings, including price, address and – yes indeed – a large selection of images.

Poor images can obscure what might just be the perfect house. Sorry – but inner beauty goes ignored if there’s been no effort put into presentation. You might have a lovely personality, but it sure pays to at least have a shower and fix your hair before a date. A great house, poorly presented, will languish in anonymity. It’s important, therefore, to ensure it stands out from the crowd from the start.

As a vendor or agent, that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself. Fortunately you don’t have to worry: Open2view has plenty of professional photographers who can help you showcase your house in all its glory!

The reasons to go pro are numerous. A professional photographer already has the expensive equipment required to do the job. They know what angles to take the photos from and which is the house’s best side. They know the importance of good lighting and how to get it just right. No one does a beautiful twilight shot better than our guys.

And perhaps most importantly, they know their job doesn’t end right after the shoot. A little post-production work goes a long way to ensuring your portfolio exudes style and confidence – very attractive traits in a house.

Of course your feelings toward your house may be less about love than money. Spending a couple of hundred on quality professional photos can increase the house’s value by that amount many times over. A 2010 analysis, by Seattle-based Redfin Corp, showed houses with professional-standard photos could gain thousands above the asking price when compared to houses with photos of the ‘point and click’ variety.

And hey, if none of that convinced you – perhaps these will:

bad real estate front

bad real estate photo - guy

bad real estate bbq

We would love to read your opinion. Do you judge solely on first impressions? Would you take Mandy’s advice and hire a professional photographer? Please keep your comments related to real estate – we make lousy agony aunts!

How to view the Transit of Venus

Transit of Venus

The Sun does its best Cindy Crawford impression.

Today marks the Transit of Venus, which is a fancy way of saying “Venus goes and gets in the sun’s way”.

In New Zealand we should be able to see it between 10.15am and 4.43pm. I say “should” because, for many, the weather hasn’t quite come to the party today. This is a shame, as the next transit won’t happen until 2117. It is, literally, a once in a lifetime opportunity. (If you are expecting to make it to the next viewing, send your secret to socialmedia@open2view.com.)

One News reckons the best viewing spot will be the south of the South Island – specifically Southland, Fiordland and central Otago. That doesn’t mean the rest of you shouldn’t try though. And if you’re going to, make sure you do it safely. For starters, looking straight at the sun will blind you.

Stevie Wonder - John Cena

What happened to the last guy who looked straight at the sun.

NASA, the experts in such matters, suggests using “some type of projection technique or a solar filter. A #14 welder’s glass is a good choice.” ABC News elaborates further: they recommend “projecting an image onto a flat surface, through a small telescope or a pair of binoculars”. Properly filtered telescopes and cardboard eclipse glasses will do the trick too. Sunglasses are a no-no; they just aren’t dark enough to protect you properly.

For those of us obscured by clouds or blizzards I suggest you stay indoors, crank up the heater, make a hot cup of cocoa, and watch NASA’s live stream of the event. The only way to have a warmer seat would be to watch it from the sun itself.

May’s New Zealand Property Report in short

Last Friday was 1 June and we all know what that means – the release of Realestate.co.nz’s New Zealand Property Report for the month of May.*

If you haven’t read it already I highly recommend doing so. In the meantime here are some highlights in a hurry:

  • The asking price has gone up, way up in fact. At $435,887 it is six thousand dollars higher than the former record in March, 2.8 percent higher than last month, and 4.5% above this time last year.
  • People normally hold off listing over winter – but not this year. The number of new listings last month was 11,544 – up 16% (seasonally-adjusted) on April and 17% on May 2011.
  • Now why would that be? Well as I’ve said several times in the past, there are a lot of buyers wanting houses, and the sellers have finally read this blog and thought they’d better get in on the action. Or something. Anyway, they’re clearly encouraged by the level of demand, and thus they’re not afraid to ask for a few thousand dollars more.
  • Nationwide the market is tracking back toward the national long term average of 41 weeks. Right now it sits at 36, which means there were no new listings it would take this long for the market to run out of listings.
  • This increase has had some impact on inventory levels – but it’s really a tale of two countries at present. In the regions the extra listings have balanced things in areas where it was more of a sellers market.
  • In Auckland and Canterbury, however, sales are still outstripping listings. Despite a 21% increase in listings from April, Auckland’s inventory level has dropped from 21.7 weeks to 20.6, while Canterbury has dropped to 20.8.

For more trends, and to check out what’s going on in your neck of the woods, check out the full property report. Be sure to watch the video with Alistair Helm and Bernard Hickey too. Yes, I’m in a bossy mood today. Blame the fact there’s no more public holidays FOR FIVE MONTHS.

*Also on this day, General Motors applied for bankruptcy in 2009, New Zealand watched its first TV broadcast in 1960, and in 1815 Napoleon swore fidelity to the Constitution of France. Needless to say, he didn’t really mean it.