Ten gorgeous swimming pools to spend your summer in

Our friends at realestate.com.au recently had a look at what search terms were most popular on their site. Lo and behold – even though it’s winter (and will be for another agonising 48 hours), the most popular keyword with house hunters was “pool”.

Could it be that Aussies have fallen head over heels for 8 balls and cue tips? Not really, it’s more about our love for cold water on scorching hot days.

Queenslanders, according to Catherine Cashmore of National Property Buyers, would never consider buying a house without a swimming pool. While Melbournians are less fussed, with summer months getting longer and warmer pools are fast becoming more popular.

And why not? They’re not only the perfect remedy for a heatwave (I originally wrote ‘tonic’ but don’t drink the water, for goodness sakes), but they also look fantastic. At least, the ones on Open2view do. We thought we’d see what came up when typing “pool” into our search engine. Below are ten of the best pools for sale in Australia right now.

Unless you’re reading this in a few months, in which case they’re probably all been sold. Click on any image to start the slideshow.

Real estate video is the future – and the future is here

Sony video ad 1967

After 99 blog posts, one tends to forget a few things. For instance, it recently occurred to me that it’s been a while since we’ve discussed real estate video. Last time was in May 2012, in fact:

Here is something we know for sure: high definition video, as Open2view provides, has a bright future. As Larry said last month, “I just noticed that in the last 7 days there have been roughly 32,800 YouTube videos that have the search string “real estate video”. I’m slowly coming to the realization that YouTube video may very well be the most significant development in real estate marketing since the invention of the big news print MLS book of the 1980′s.”

Larry, for those who don’t know, is the mastermind behind Photography for Real Estate – a website every real estate photographer (heck, agent too) oughta be familiar with.

Fifteen years ago professional real estate photos were a novelty. Today it’s a necessity – and it’s HD professional videos that find themselves the new(ish) kid on the block. It will be far fewer than 15 years before real estate videos are the norm.

Good photos will always be crucial, but video adds that extra dimension that no listing, soon enough, will want to be without.

Since I quoted Larry 15 months ago, a lot has happened with video at Open2view:

We now have video on the New Zealand homepage. More and more of us are making HD videos for our agents. We’ve now got videographers in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Wellington, Nelson, and Canterbury. And they’re good, very good. Scroll about halfway down our homepage for a gallery of our most recent videos.

We have a YouTube page. Earlier this year, YouTube passed one billion unique monthly users. Between them, these users watch more than six billion hours of video every month – and with 100 hours of video uploaded each minute, they’ll run out of breaths long before they’re out of stuff to watch.

It’d be foolish to ignore all these stats so we’ve joined in – and you can subscribe to our channel here. We have also created special playlists organised by region; if you’re house hunting in Waikato, for instance, you can select the appropriate playlist to see what’s available. And we’ve linked our YouTube channel to Facebook so you can check us out while you’re there too.

Open2view on YouTube

For the Aussies in the audience, we have channels in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland among many others – search ‘Open2view’ to catch ‘em all.

We are making agent profile videos. The principles that make property videos so important apply just as much to the agents themselves. Agents need to sell themselves to vendors before they can sell their houses to buyers. This is where we can help.

Check out two examples of what we can do for agents below. As you’ll see they’re quite different – what suits one agent doesn’t always work for another. Agents are unique, just like the rest of us. Let our team share your personality with the house-selling public today.

 

For more info on our video service check out our Services website.

Open2view turns 100! Sorta. (Not really.)

This here marks the Open2view blog’s 100th post. Being as well-behaved a boy as I am a prolific author, I’ve eaten no cake and I’ve resisted the 200 or so canisters of M&Ms in the office (nominate a mate to win some today!). No sir, writing this blog is reward enough.

While it’s centred around real estate photography, regular readers will know that I’ve gone on some mighty big tangents along the way. We’re a diverse team, with many interests, and if all we talked about every single week was REP, this blog would soon RIP.

Photography is more than a job for us – it’s a passion. Take Matthew Lowe, for instance. If he didn’t love what he did he would never have made time to take 2700 photos, over four hours, and create this stunning timelapse of last week’s White Island eruption:

Having said that – if you never read any other post of ours, this one explains why what Open2view does is so important to agents, home sellers and buyers, and for the real estate industry as a whole.

To those who have made it this far, a big thank you. Here’s to another 100 posts about us, about you, and goodness knows what else…

New mortgage lending restrictions: how they work, who wins and who loses

gw-the-introduction-of-macro-prudential-policy-speech-august-201301

This Reserve Bank graph suggests our housing market is overvalued by 25%. Are their new loan to value ratio restrictions going to help here? Let’s find out.

 

Finally. After a couple of official false alarms, and plenty of tough lectures from officials, it’s finally, officially happening. Yesterday, Reserve Bank officials finally announced their official plan, to impose limits on high loan to value ratios, is finally official.

Think that paragraph was tough going? You now have some idea of what the long wait for this announcement felt like.

So what does this officially mean for you? If you’re a first home buyer, as we’ve warned in the past, it’s not especially good news.

From 1 October, “banks will be required to restrict new residential mortgage lending at LVRs of over 80 percent to no more than 10 percent of the dollar value of their new housing lending flows.”

So if a bank lent out, say, $100 million in the next three months in mortgages, just $10 million of that could be used for high-LVR loans. This is stricter than the 12% the Reserve Bank had hinted at previously.

Exemptions are being made for refinanced loans, those already preapproved, loans where people are moving house but not increasing their loan amount, and Welcome Home Loans.

 

Who’s most affected by this?

The new limits will affect some banks more than others. In the last three months ASB lent out $852 million in home loans; 73% of that lending was on loans where the LVR was above 80%.

On the other hand, 99% of Westpac’s new mortgage lending went on low-LVR loans. Just three percent of new lending from ANZ went on high-LVR loans. You can guess which bank will find the new rules harder to adjust to.

But back to you, dear home buyer. If you’re a first timer with less than 20% saved for a home, you’re going to find it much harder to get a loan. Not impossible, but harder. It doesn’t matter if you can meet the mortgage repayments easily; if you haven’t got the initial deposit then there is less money available for you to borrow.

Investors, and others with at least 20% saved, will find it easier. It’s likely too that investors will fill the gap left by first home buyers, meaning the hoped-for slowdown in prices will be, at best, temporary.

 

What are the experts saying?

In this morning’s Herald, Harcourts boss Hayden Duncan says, again, that the issue is supply, and the rules unfairly “penalise first home buyers who are already struggling to enter the market… Those who can afford to pay more will continue to do so.”

HSBC’s economists reckon it will have little effect, as “a combination of low interest rates, rising inward migration and supply-side constraints are likely to see house price inflation remain elevated for some time.”

Kiwibank has said when it comes to high LVR loans, first home buyers will get priority ahead of investors and other candidates.

At interest.co.nz, David Hargreaves fears the limits will mean first home buyers will borrow from other, less reliable institutions – and reminds us what happened to all those finance companies when the last housing bubble popped.

Westpac’s Michael Gordon predicts an initial ‘sticker shock’ effect (when someone sees the price of something and spits out their coffee), but little long term effect on prices. He foresees higher borrowing costs for high LVR loans and lower borrowing costs for low-LVR loans. Ultimately, he says, “LVR limits will affect who gets the houses, but they do not affect what a given individual is willing to pay for a house.”

We had a good talk about this issue in May, where we explained why LVR restrictions not only unfairly hurt first home buyers, but all the reasons why they are destined to fail. Worth a read.

 

Looking on the bright side

We’ve criticised the idea of restrictions in the past enough times – now let’s try and see the bright side.

The Reserve Bank’s overriding goal is achieving price stability. Avoiding a property bubble would help. By targeting high LVR loans they leave the Official Cash Rate untouched, meaning interest rates stay low. Good news for most home buyers – and certainly for those with floating mortgages. It’s good for first home buyers who have to wait a while too – anything that slows down interest rate rises will make buyers of all stripes happy.

There is no doubt some who borrow over 80% are probably much safer saving a minimum of 20% instead. If these measures stop those folk from borrowing, that is good news for them – and the economy.

It’s not, though, good enough news to get first home buyers dancing in the streets, especially streets outside of Auckland that haven’t seen the same kind of price rises.

Anyway, what’s your view? Are these LVR limits long overdue, or will they do nothing except punish the wrong people? Leave your official views in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Private Viewing: a brand new service from Open2view

505 Rosebank private setting

Have I ever told you guys about our tech team?

Open2view has its own team of IT experts who keep our worldwide network of websites running smoothly. When they’re not doing that, they’re coming up with new and exciting innovations that give our clients the extra edge when selling real estate.

Last week saw their latest invention come to fruition.

For those house sellers who want to keep some confidentiality around the process, we proudly present Private Viewing.

Who’s it for?

Private Viewing is for those real estate agents with sensitive clients who wish to maintain control over who can, and who cannot, see their listing.

Not everybody wants their house sale opened up to the wider public. Others may want just select people to initially see the listing before the public gets a look.

For these cases, we’ve built a number of functions that restricts who can see the property, while allowing the agent and vendor full access to our wide range of services – professional photography, virtual tours, videos, floorplans, the works.

There are others who will find it useful too:

  • Agents with internationally based clients or buyers,
  • Those who wish to run exclusive viewings before the listing goes to the wider market,
  • And any other scenario you can think of. You could use it as somewhere to host content that can’t just be emailed; our hi res photos are pretty huge after all.

The private setting can be switched off at any time – or you could set a specific time for it to expire – giving agents and sellers more flexibility in their marketing.

Invitation required appearance

What are the settings?

Speaking of flexibility, agents and sellers have three options:

  • Password required – where the property is viewable only by those in possession of the password. Self-explanatory really.
  • Valid email required – where buyers need to supply a valid email address in order to view the property. Weeds out any naughty spammers or those not serious about buying.
  • Agent permission required – where the agent sends out an email link to potential buyers to view the listing.

How does it work?

Good question! I’ve tried looking at what it is the tech team does but it’s all a completely different language to me. So let’s just say ‘magic’. End result is, the agent and vendor get to decide who sees the listing and it never shows up in any search results – not on Open2view, not Google, not anywhere.

Are you an agent who’s interesting in Private Viewing? Get in touch with your local Open2view photographer and they’ll be able to help you use it. If you’re a home seller who might be interested in this feature for your property, make sure you mention it to your agent. If they don’t use Open2view, you’re missing out.

For more information check out this newsletter we sent out to agents last week. We also included another feature in there that agents will find most useful in marketing themselves.

Government’s first home buyers package: how it could affect you

485,000 house on Open2view

New rules proposed by the Government would increase the price cap in Auckland for a KiwiSaver first home subsidy, or a Welcome Home Loan, to $485,000 – enough to help you buy this Papakura property.

We like to keep up with what politicians are promising around housing. Whether they’re in government or opposition these schemes are all worth looking at, because you never know who will be in a position to push their policies after the next election.

The National Party, like the others, is determined to be the pick of the litter come 2014. At last weekend’s conference Prime Minister John Key announced a number of tweaks to the KiwiSaver first home deposit subsidy and Welcome Home Loan. His goal: to make things easier for first home buyers.

These changes are:

  • Couples can earn up to $120,000 combined before tax to qualify – up from $100,000.
  • Singles can earn up to $80,000 before tax to qualify – down from $100,000 for KiwiSaver, $85,000 for the WHL.
  • Buyers will need to save at least ten percent before qualifying under either scheme. This is an increase if you’re applying for the KiwiSaver subsidy or borrowing less than $200,000 under the WHL. It’s a decrease from 15% for anyone borrowing more than $200,000 via the WHL.
  • The price cap for both schemes, if buying in Auckland, is rising to $485,000. The caps are also rising in Wellington and Queenstown to $425,000, $400,000 for Christchurch and Selwyn, and $350,000 for a whole lot of other areas. Go here to see the cap in your region.

National predicts all this will double the number of subsidies given out – from 5000 to 10,000 annually – and triple the number of Welcome Home Loans to 2500 a year.

We blogged last month on KiwiSaver and how to utilise it for first home buying. These changes address our concerns about the price caps being much too low, particularly in Auckland.

They are also good news for couples – a group that comprises 64% of subsidy recipients. It is, however, pretty rotten for singles earning $80-100,000. They at least remain eligible for the KiwiSaver First Home Withdrawal, which is untouched by these changes.

It’s also rough on those who don’t have the deposit, yet earn enough to service the mortgage. That’s the group targeted by the new, looming Reserve Bank rules, and they won’t find a lot to cheer about here either. John Key wants the 10% deposit in place to protect people from borrowing more than they can afford. Those who favour the Reserve Bank’s new rules for that reason will support this too.

A policy package like this, that increases demand while ignoring supply, will only push house prices up. National will be hoping their Auckland Housing Accord, alongside their also newly-announced Resource Management Act changes, will sort the supply issue out.

Reaction from others is predictably mixed. The opposition parties say the new rules will make little difference. Labour remain certain their plan to have 100,000 houses built in ten years is the circuit breaker Auckland needs.

Harcourts, meanwhile, has given qualified support. Anything that helps first home buyers is fine by them, says Chief Executive Hayden Duncan, but the issue as they (and we) see it is, first and foremost, a lack of supply:

… low housing stock must be fundamentally addressed by reducing development fees and building costs and speeding up the consents process.

“It’s simple. We don’t have enough houses, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch, to keep up with the demand. We need to make it easier for developers. The change to KiwiSaver and Welcome Home Loans criteria is good news for some, but it is not going to alter the source of the problem.”

So what do you think of the new rules? Are they going to help you or make buying harder? Share your stories in the comments or on our Facebook page.

July Property Report: big stats, curious theories and Auckland refugees

the_thinker

A new month means new data and a bunch of new questions to ponder. Onwards:

 

So, how’s it going?

The July edition of the NZ Property Report from realestate.co.nz broke a couple of records.

The national asking price of $465,191, up 8.4% from July 2012, has never been higher. Nor have the asking prices in Auckland ($639,685), Canterbury ($422,043) and the West Coast ($318,816).

New listings are coming thick and fast for this time of year. Numbering 9857 last month, this is up 9% on June’s rather low figure and 5% higher than this time last year. This influx is good news, but with buyers not taking the winter off it wasn’t quite enough to keep the asking price from rising.

 

What are the banks saying?

The BNZ’s Tony Alexander sees prices continuing to rise for a while yet. He puts this down to a number of factors that include first home buyers and investors making up for four years of inactivity, a looming builder shortage, and sellers still being nervous nellies. As for agents, “each listing gained is a guaranteed pay check. [sic; it’s spelled “cheque” round these parts.]”

ASB keeps tabs on the Canterbury economy via something they like to call the ‘Cantometer Index’. We’ll take a closer look at it one of these days; in the meantime it ticked upwards in July to 0.9 thanks to plenty of housing and construction activity.

The Christchurch real estate market is behaving much as you’d expect: supply is tight, demand is firm, thus prices climb. As long as building consents continue to flow in, and out again, this pressure should eventually ease.

And Westpac has come out and agreed with pretty much everything we’ve said about the Reserve Bank’s forever-looming Loan to Value Ratio restrictions. Namely, it’s awful for first home buyers and a boon for their rivals in the market – property investors.

Restrictions on low equity mortgages mean less competition for investors from first timers who, perversely, will wind up renting houses they wanted to buy from the investors they can no longer compete with. Good times.

 

Wait, aren’t you forgetting something?

In last Saturday’s Weekend Herald, Simon Collins spelled out his ‘five steps to restoring an affordable housing market.’ They are, in short:

  1. Government to provide low-interest lending for first home buyers, plus buying more land for development.
  2. More equality through compulsory union membership and progressive taxation.
  3. Tax rebates for first home owners, fewer tax advantages for investors.
  4. More lending limits and controls.
  5. Restricting, or banning, foreign investment in housing.

There are some problems with each of these:

  1. First home buyers are very active in the market, and as we’ve said when others suggested similar policies, it’ll only further fuel demand and push house prices up. Demand isn’t the issue.
  2. A “culture of high pay” isn’t the issue either; it’s more about the ratio of incomes to house prices, which is being pushed ever further apart. Higher incomes for everyone is ideal – but it won’t really impact house prices if another important factor isn’t addressed.
  3. Bernard Hickey once said that the economy is essentially a “housing market with a few other things tacked on”. A Capital Gains Tax may diversify investments. It still isn’t the issue that needs to be tackled.
  4. The LVR controls planned by the Reserve Bank is part of this. Don’t expect any exchange controls though; we haven’t had anything like that since 1984 and in this free market economy we never will.
  5. Won’t change anything.

The biggest problem with Collins’ prescription is something we hinted at above; the complete absence of anything around supply. It’s a lack of supply – specifically land scarcity, too few listings and a lack of construction – that is pushing prices up and up.

Until the causes are addressed, fighting the symptoms won’t cure anything.

 

Will the last person to leave Auckland please turn off the lights?

Appearing in our inbox earlier last month were a series of articles on a similar theme:

“Auckland’s rampant house market is creating a nationwide group of middle-class refugees – sick of the overheated prices and willing to trade the big city for a better quality of life in the regions.”

One transplanted Aucklander is looking to sell her Nelson home for $372,000 – a place that would likely have costed $1 million in Herne Bay. And if she can’t sell?  Another summer in Nelson isn’t the worst thing to go through.

Meanwhile, another sold her Mt Albert home for $1 million, bought a house in Kerikeri for $400,000 and banked the difference.

Is this the start of a massive reverse migration out of Auckland? No. It’s still the place to be for young professionals and new migrants. A number of people, however, are fed up and looking elsewhere, which might cause some higher prices in the regions. Be nice to your new neighbours.

 

What do you reckon?

Are you an Auckland refugee wannabe? Did Simon Collins deliberately forget about supply? Are the banks making sense? Is the market? Is anyone? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.

How will Sydney look by 2050?

Jetsons

Hmm, maybe not.

We recently stumbled upon this Sydney Morning Herald article written last last year. Seeing as it’s looking at what Sydney could look like in 2050, it’s still relevant enough to discuss.

According to Alec Tzannes, dean of the Faculty of Built Environment at the University of New South Wales, a lot in Sydney is going to change between now and 2050. Families will be smaller, public transport more expansive, and the city will lead the world “in finance and education and core values, as reflected in our laws and our equitable society.” It will be, in short, “a place where global leaders want to be.”

Exciting stuff; no wonder the population is projected to grow by 3.2 million to 7.5 million people in the next four decades. But where are all these new people going to go?

We’re going to be living closer to each other, for starters. Terrace houses were built in Sydney’s inner suburbs during the 19th century, and have proven popular with Sydneysiders who like living close to the CBD.

Many, including the Committee for Sydney and McKell Institute, have suggested building modern day versions throughout the city. The latter group argues that terrace houses are ideal to “infill middle-ring Sydney suburbs – those that are still dominated by the freestanding home on a quarter acre block.” Said Tim Williams, “it [the terrace] is the most attractive useful form of city housing ever invented yet we’ve made it almost impossible to build.”

Our city cannot live in terraces alone, however, as the Herald article goes on to explain:

A mix of densities and housing types with a range of affordability will support diverse populations, so, for example, health and aged-care workers, teachers and tradespeople can live closer to those who buy their services.

The stock of housing will be “far more distinctive to accommodate many different ways of living”, Tzannes says. Apartment buildings will be mixed-use, accommodating schools, services and other work environments as well as individual dwellings, perhaps topped by rooftop gardens.

Does this suggest further urban sprawl? It seems the vision is for a greater number of community hubs, rather than the CBD being the only heart of the city:

The “values of separation and individuality are still there” but there is “much greater social behaviour to do with communal living”, supported by larger areas of communal open space, he says. “We can all get a higher standard of living by not miniaturising life. Instead of a backyard you have a park. Instead of a [backyard] pool you have a community pool.”

So picture this for Sydney: a CBD still where it is but with five smaller centres in Wollongong, Newcastle, Penrith, Parramatta and Liverpool, all serving as hubs for their surrounding suburbs, which will likely have more small and terraced housing.

How does that sound to you? Is it achievable, or will we end up with something nightmarishly close to Los Angeles instead?

Which reminds us: Time has put together something – aptly – called Timelapse, an interactive look at how the world’s cities have grown between 1984 and 2012.

Here’s how Sydney looked then:

Sydney timelapse 1984

And how it looks now:

Sydney timelapse 2012

It’s worth having a play with; sometimes the past is the best predictor of the future.