Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Christmas Decorating Part 1

A few weeks ago, I saw this post on Effortless Style and was inspired to make a wreath for my back door. At our house, very few people use the front door so I wanted something for decoration. I bought all my supplies from Joann's and using online coupons, I only paid $5 for everything. I followed these directions and voila...the finished product....


You have to hand it to the HIA, they really know how to rally the troops and get houses built. Sorry if you don't know what I'm talking about, but it was mid-March in WA, when the HIA offered the sobering news that a cardboard box (hopefully freezer sized) would be the home to many a Perth family by 2020. 

Western Australia would be 72,500 (glad they got it down to a round number) houses short by 2020 and as it stood, they were already 17,400 short back in March.  

It was clear something had to be done, and the HIA, in a benevolent act of kindness, rallied its WA members and they started putting up houses faster than a bunch of Jehovah Witnesses putting up a Kingdom Hall.

Eight months later, problem solved.

The Perth housing market was already oversupplied by 30 per cent, with prices sluggish.

Unfortunately we also found out, courtesy of REIWA head, David Airey, this was bad news for buyers. Because in the Bizarro world of real estate, when interest rates cool things off, the market becomes clustered, the seller drops their price and the buyer actually pays more.  

Yes, when prices fall in real estate everyone is a loser!

Back to building, same phenomenon in Brisbane:

The Housing to 2020 report shows the Brisbane local government area (LGA) had a shortfall of 6474 dwellings in 2009... HIA Queensland executive director Warwick Temby warned that Queensland could find itself more than 150,000 homes short by 2020.

Waz Temby knew you couldn't rely on government to solve the problem, so what happened? He got the HIA members building. After hours, weekends, public holidays, the result? 

Well, I appreciate enthusiasm, but maybe the HIA and its members took things a little too far:

The number of properties for sale last month in Queensland increased 22 per cent to 71,500, compared to last year. About 25,000 of those dwellings were in Brisbane. Yet there were 44,900 properties in Brisbane that remained unoccupied.

Now I'm being a smart arse, but don't these recent reports, and the HIA's lack of any comment on the issue say something - yeah, there was no shortage in either of these markets to begin with! So what the hell are they playing at?

Selling houses by any means possible. The shortage meme and its beginnings might never be known, but it was quickly picked up by real estate desperadoes, who saw its value in scaring the crap out of buyers, "if they didn't get in now, they never would." 

"If you're not building enough houses, people have to buy into the established market or keep renting and that just pushes up prices," he said. Mr Dastlik 

And if you keep telling people there's a shortage, they soil their Y-fronts and rush out to buy. Pushing prices up until you've scared every loose set of bowels out there.

And what happens when everyone else left doesn't wear Depends?

Perth and Brisbane are experiencing it. 

Dare I suggest the HIA have provided absolutely useless guidance to their members, and out of embarrassment they've now zippered their pie hole shut on shortage talk. It's hard to keep talking up a shortage when listings are exploding around you, buyers are yawning and sellers are shaking in their boots watching 'for sale' signs crowd them out.

The Tasmanian HIA spouted we were building 200 fewer houses a year than needed. I went on a counting spree, "One, one empty house. Two, two empty houses. Three, three empty houses.... four hundred and twenty three, four hundred and twenty three empty houses, for sale across the north of the state. AH AH AH AH AH!"

A good number happened to be empty specs, which is worrying if a builder put those up based on some shortage fallacy pushed by their own industry group. 

Who do you fancy in a punch up between a tradie and an economist calling himself 'doctor'?

Monday, 29 November 2010

Price Reduction on West Grace Street

Come take a look at this great home. Reduced to $252,500, this house is move-in ready. Updated kitchen and bathrooms, gas cooking, gas fireplace, security system, new heating and air conditioning system, new hot water heater, new washer/dryer, updated and modern lighting, fully fenced in backyard with fire pit...the list goes on!

Menu Planner

Michael and I had a great weekend in Blacksburg for the VA Tech vs UVA game. Despite a huge loss for the Wahoos...sigh....it was a nice getaway without the kids. Thanks to Gammy and Neena and Moe for watching Camille & Clyde.

Monday - Leftovers
Tuesday - Kate's Italian Sausage Pasta
Wednesday - Double Delicious Teriyaki Chicken with Rice & Broccoli
Thursday - Out to Dinner with a Friend
Friday - Birthday & Christmas Party

Thursday, 25 November 2010

By a thread

Another 150 jobs gone, the state's finances in the toilet, a Jurassic Western Australian MP calls us leeches while two uninspiring boneheads dribble out a mealy mouthed response - Sid Sidebottom  even offered up that Don Randall was a 'friend'. Thanks for the spirited defence, anyone with a modicum of backbone might have opened up a nuclear bomb on Randall, but maybe Sid really knows we're screwed and can't be bothered with the charade.

Makes you proud to be Tasmanian.

But we've got the most affordable capital city in the country - first home buyers can rejoice!

And feel even prouder to be Tasmanian.

Unless you bothered to check the figures... which reporter, Matt Smith, at The Mercury, didn't. Frankly, I don't know why Matt doesn't shut down his laptop, head north, and go and eat poo with the monkeys in the enclosure at the Launceston Park.

"Oh look the HIA has sent us a press release, must breathlessly regurgitate figures for public consumption."

The HIA index compares average household income to mortgage costs, with a rating of 100 meaning an average income earner can service a mortgage for a median-priced house in their city.

The lower the rating, the less affordable the housing.

Hobart is the country's most affordable city on 71.9, with a median house price of $325,000 and an average income of $60,500.

Average income earner? $60k? Tasmania? Hobart even?

Apparently the HIA is spouting the average income in Hobart is $60,500. Back in 2007-08 the ABS recorded inner Hobart (translation: high earning yuppieville) as having an average income of $46k a year. Now either the HIA is applying an Australian average income to Hobart and then calling it affordable, or Hobart incomes are growing at over 15% a year.

Too much for Matt to figure out, or should I give him a break - maybe he's just a typist?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Gammy's Birthday Dinner

Last night, my sisters and I made dinner for our mom for her birthday. It was fun. Here are some pictures of my table settings.

I cut tags out of grocery bags and then used a stencil to write relevant words and numbers...my mom's age, birthday, her grandmother name, Gammy. Then I tied them around the napkin and silverware with brown ribbon. I had the placemat and usually think of them for spring and summer but I thought they had a rustic fall look in this case. The leaves are from my yard and the pumpkins are leftover from Halloween.

Don't forget to look in your yard for FREE greenery when decorating & entertaining. Save money on flowers.

The kids table....I found these cute placemats at TJMaxx for $2.99 each. I used our leftover Dollar Tree toy label supplies and let Camille and Clyde make these signs for Gammy. It is sorta like a word scramble!

Here we go

As terrible figures and anecdotal evidence mount on one side, on the other the excuse play book is being furiously scanned for any argument to calm the nerves. As auction figures continue to stink it up during the traditional kick arse spring selling season, we're now told this is actually a bad time for house sales - it's too close to Christmas, or maybe not, because someone sold a boat. Such is the dire state of the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Like I've previously said, the spruikers aren't going to give up that easy, no matter how retarded they look. In fact, there's probably not a copy of Glengarry Glen Ross available in a video store across the country right now. Sales meetings are in full swing as every two-bit ex-shoe-salesman tries to perfect his best Alec Baldwin, if only to keep the lease on the BMW X5 through Christmas and maintain that shiny veneer of success to the relatives, reminding them what arseholes they are for renting.

All this is a backdrop to the smart investors dumping properties like 1773 Boston tea. While the naive investors look to the wise-heads (boneheads) on property investment forums, or economists calling themselves Dr, for reassurance on the state of play.

Of course it's 'temporary' or it's going to be 'flat' for sometime. Ask yourself - with a flat market, what is the incentive to hold a loss making investment? Those are the kind of investments you need like a hole in the head. And it seems the investors in Launceston clearly hate holes in the head - at the start of the month 37.7% of listings in Launceston were empty or rentals. Since that time, 23 days ago, Launceston listings have increased 6.2%.

Sounds like a bad time to sell a house, eh? Or what if you were forced to sell a house?

Look what washed into the Launceston market over the past week...

Sold April 2009 for $305,000 - Now asking $319,000.

Sold June 2009 for $282,000 - First asked $295,000. How long did they hold their nerve at that price? Eight days - Now asking $285,000.

Sold March 2009 for $235,000 - Now asking $259,900.

Sold April 2009 for $335,000 - Now asking $349,000.

Sold March 2009 for $206,000 - after a brief flirtation with renting in early November - Now asking for offers over $259,000.

Sold March 2009 for $270,000 - Now asking $327,500.

Sold April 2009 for $398,000 - No price listed, but asking for offers. For what it's worth, the home disappears off search results at $401,000.

Derive what you will from each of these stories, but for some of them it's pretty damn clear the first home buying chickens are coming home too roost. A list price 14k over the previous sale, which was during the first home buyer frenzy of 2009 - what a coincidence. Who gave these people free money and who lent to these people at the bottom of an interest rate cycle? So you don't forget, make sure you write their names on the handle of your pitchfork.

As I finish typing this I'm suffering through another Pinched Face Switzer interview where he hunts down anyone he can find to say the words 'shortage', 'government RMBS' and 'what does Grantham know'. This time Joye is subbed out and onto the field waddles the overfed head of Aussie Home Loans. The last thing I hear before hitting mute, "if only Aussie mums and dads had access to the system Canadians have."


Sunday, 21 November 2010

Menu Planner

Sunday - Gammy's Birthday Dinner at our house. Menu is Flank Steak (Marinated in 1 Real Coke and about 1 cup of Soy Sauce), Asparagus, Mashed Potatoes, Deceptively Delicious Cholocate Chip Cupcakes
Monday - Italian Sausage Pasta
Tuesday - Ginger Pork Rolls, French Fries
Wednesday - White Chicken and Corn Chili

White Chicken and Corn Chili2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, minced
1 14 oz can yellow corn, drained
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

1. Mash 1/2 cup of cannellini beans with fork.
2. Please all ingredients (except cheese) including mashed beans in slow cooker and stir to combine.
3. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW for 6 hours.
4. Top with shredded cheese before serving.

Serves 16-20 so I plan on halfing.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Seeya II

Last night, as I watched my new favourite sitcom, "Selling Houses Australia," it really dawned on me how bad things can potentially get. It seems it's repeat week on the Lifestyle Channel at the moment, so it's a perfect time for a catch up marathon in the zany financial predicaments of Trev Beerslab (kudos to whoever thought of that name) and his long suffering wife, Sharon.

Each episode has Trev completely befuddled on why his house has languished on the market for months without anything but an insulting, but highly realistic, low ball offer. Last night found Trev scratching his arse for a year with only one offer. Sure you're probably thinking, "Ol' Trev didn't need to sell so there was no rush."

Au contraire, Trev had a mega mortgage on the current house, a business loan and another loan on a block he was intending to build on - with a ticking time-bomb contract. He frankly admitted business had been tough and if it wasn't for an earlier good run, they'd be broke - perfect time to build a bigger house eh?

Sharon Beerslab, in one of her more nuanced moments, said the price and presentation wasn't the problem - they just needed the right people to come along. Kind of like that shiny thing on the back of my head not being a bald spot - it's the part in my hair.

Mortgage stress, a faltering business and a ticking time-bomb, in the form of an impending building contract. There was the sense these fools would actually go broke on principle, rather than accept less for their house - or maybe that thing behind them was the corner - which is even worse. The more you witness people clinging to yesterday's price, or being super glued to it through their stupid financial decisions, the more you realise how bad this carnage can be.

Trev and Sharon will be slouched in front of the plasma, fingers in their ears, as the market crumbles around them. Yet the market won't apply to them, their house is special, they're immune because the right buyer is still out there. Then, as the clock nears midnight, in a Jim Beam and Coke fuelled haze, Trev will have a revelation that they are well and truly screwed. He'll ring the agent at 12.05 am, screaming at him to drop the price before it's too late.

And yeah, by that stage, it's way too late.

And speaking of late, it's time for me to furnish you with another of my woeful graphs. These figures are unfortunately twenty days old as I found myself blowharding over issues I shouldn't really be talking about, but if the stats aren't relevant, feel free to point it out.

So here's Launceston in the same vein as this post, me embarking on the thankless lunacy of hunting down empty and rental listings currently for sale.

Same deal as last time, only across one city. As you can see, the unoccupied dwellings for sale in Launceston stood at 21.4% on November 1. The rental properties for sale in Launceston stood at 16.3% on the same date. If you don't want to add up, that's a grand total 37.7% of properties listed for sale in Launceston, either being empty or rentals.

The most fascinating thing to note? How many of the unoccupied properties had the selling point of, "previously tenanted at X dollars a week." In the rental area, it wasn't uncommon to see the end date of the lease being quoted and quite often that date was soon.

Somebody, or many bodies, want out. Like I've previously mentioned, the smart investors are quietly trying to sneak away and the dumb ones, who entered late, have suddenly smartened up and are cutting their losses. 

There's an avalanche headed directly for Mr and Mrs Beerslab, but they won't move, they'll be buried and then we'll listen to the torturous calls for the government to strap on a barrel of brandy and play St.Bernard.

Better make that a barrel of Jim Beam and don't forget the coke.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Elle Decor at Kohls

While reading a recent issue of Elle Decor, I discovered that they now have a line at Kohl's. And the best part is all the stuff is on sale now. Great items...here are my favorites.

Check out the entire line here.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Tiny Prints Christmas Cards

I have already been thinking of this year Christmas Cards. Tiny Prints is running a few specials right now for early birds.

Click here to save $10 off orders $75 or more. Or here to save 15% off of orders of $99+ or 20% off order of $199+.

And if you are a new customer, click here to save $10 off $49+.

They have some cute things and all the cards above are as low as $.54 each!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Menu Planner

Monday - Double Delicious Baked Ziti
Tuesday - Soft Taco's
Wednesday - Frozen Chicken Cordon Bleu's, Cous Cous, Green Beans
Thursday - Turkey Burger's and French Fries

An easy week and nothing too exciting! Happy Monday!

It's all good

If there's a piece of advice worth remembering, "don't declare victory early," is the one not to forget. I say this knowing the housing market is in decline, but the real estate spruiker has a hide thicker than ten inch beef jerky and they don't give up easily, especially not when their highly leveraged hide is on the line.

If you're looking for the most accurate indication of what real estate industry arrogance is about, then look no further. Back on November 4, the Real Estate Industry of Australia issued a press release offering Wayne Swan and Joe Hockey some friendly advice on the banking sector:

The decision to initiate a Senate Inquiry into aspects of the Australian banking sector is positive as the banks need to be examined regarding products offered, fees and charges and the current level of competition between bank and non-bank providers. 

In addition to the Senate Inquiry, REIA notes the Opposition’s Nine Point Plan and agrees the following proposals need further investigation:

• Giving the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) power to investigate collusive price signalling;

• Mandating RBA to formally and regularly report on bank net interest margins, returns on equity and profitability; 

For anyone who hasn't got the joke yet, Tony Soprano has just lobbied the government to make sure Don Vito Corleone doesn't step out of line. Given the dummy bidding, under quoting, unregulated hooliganism that is real estate industry across Australia, why are they prepared to stick their head above the trench and offer advice on how another industry should be regulated? That's one massive set of testicles right there.

If this isn't bad enough, jump forward to today. The REIA issues another press release on the subject of Westpac offering real estate statistics to customers.

An advertisement published by Westpac in today’s capital city newspapers displays the headline, ‘How much is too much for that property?’ The advertisement suggests that property buyers make contact with their Westpac Bank Manager who, according to the advertisement, ‘has the expertise to guide you through your property decisions’.

“This offering should be of great concern to property buyers, sellers and investors,” said Mr Airey.

Apparently Westpac has partnered with Australian Property Monitors and can now provide sales statistics in the bank if you're taking out a loan. I sense a collective shiver going down the spine of every real estate confidence artist in the country. No longer are you guided their emotional rhetoric, you can actually see sales history and recent sales results as you're applying for a loan.

Wow that could be a wet blanket couldn't it?

"That guy only paid that much and I'm taking out a loan for what?"

You might actually know if the arsehole is falling out of the suburb you're about to buy in. That's if you and your bank manager were smart enough to understand these statistics, which you clearly aren't.

“Remote valuations with no physical inspection, nor local knowledge will lead to generalised and unreliable reports, possibly leading buyers into making unrealistic offers...

Don't you dare use this information to low ball!

– it is important that consumers realise the importance of having a property appraised by a qualified real estate professional,” said Mr Airey.

Yes, we continually need our real estate data filtered to us because we have no understanding of the complex nature of the real estate market. Such interpretations should be left to some guy, who twelve months ago, was selling flat screen TV's at Harvey Norman.

“This excursion by banks into real estate should send warning signals to real estate regulators in all states and territories across Australia,” Mr Airey concluded.

Translation: All agents should be on notice, the consumer may now be informed and for Christ sake, will someone regulate these banks, they're upsetting our unregulated spruiktopia!

Which brings me back to Tasmania, where the public is starting to get it, but inexperienced journalists are walking around blind without a cane. Last week, Devonport was bucking the trend according to The Advocate's Jemima Stagg. The evidence couldn't have been more clear - someone bought a $900,000 house.

Yep, that's it.

Jemima feathered us with quotes from the agent, all completely worthless. In fact, it would have been more time effective had the agent took the five minutes to learn a 'pyramid lead,' wrote the story, emailed it to a sub-editor and forgone wasting time with the journalist. As more than one of the respondents to the story virtually said.

Or she could have visited this blog, where I would have told her Devonport isn't bucking anything, that horse has a broken back. Using the baseline I established writing this entry, I found between October 1 and November 14, listings in Devonport increased 10.9%. Furthermore I sampled 253 Devonport dwellings that had been listed for sale longer than two weeks. Their average sit time? 117 days. That's nearly four months without a bid.

The doldrums are here, but the industry doesn't want these doldrums in the media. Remember, we're coming into the silly season, where the media will get even sillier. The experienced members of the media will be sitting on a beach somewhere while the greenhorns man the decks. Perfect timing for the real estate industry to use any piece of nonsense to proclaim the worst is over and the market has returned to normal.

More exciting than Christmas morning will be watching how many times this downturn is conquered over summer.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Mortgage Rates Keep Falling

Cute West End Cape Cod For Sale! Rates are low...make an offer!

Published: November 11, 2010

NEW YORK — Rates on fixed mortgages dropped to their lowest levels in decades this week after the Federal Reserve unveiled a massive bond-buying program to help spur economic growth.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate for 30-year fixed loans fell to 4.17 percent from 4.24 percent last week. That's the lowest on records dating back to 1971.

The average rate on 15-year fixed loans fell to 3.57 percent from 3.63 percent. That's the lowest since the survey began in 1991.

The Fed detailed plans last week to buy $600 billion in Treasury bonds. The extra demand means Treasurys will produce lower yields for investors. Mortgage rates tend to track those yields.

Read more here.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Bedroom Update

Wow! What a blank slate...

There is still work to be done but this is better. The best part about this update is that is was free! I moved the bird pictures from Clyde's room. The Claude Monet copy and the mother of pearl frames are from my grandmother. The tray came from my mom.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

There's the door

The further I stray from my intended mission with this blog, the closer I come to totally embarrassing myself. Lately, as you may have noticed, I've blabbed about areas that some agricultural economics subjects at UQ wouldn't qualify me to talk about.

So before I... meh, what mission statement? I'm more than happy to make a buffoon of myself, if that wasn't already clear. Time to draw some more long bows and continue joining ten tonne objects together with gossamer.

A couple of hours ago, ANZ announced they were lifting their variable mortgage rates. Cue those guys on news.com.au who announced they were shifting their CBA mortgage last week, to announce they're shifting their ANZ mortgage today.

ANZ offered one important concession to those outraged dual mortgage holders - no exit fees. Is it just me or is someone opening up the holding pen and letting the bovines loose so they can run mortgage free, or be slaughtered somewhere else? In fact, I wonder if someone knows their bovines have mad cow disease?

"But, but, but..."

Yeah, yeah I know, all those carrots ANZ are dangling to keep and attract customers with fixed rates. Cause we all know fixed rates are chocolate and variable rates are boiled lollies in this country. Just ask Mortgage Choice, they'll tell you:

Looks like I just mixed up that metaphor. This country must really hate fixed rates, I wonder if ANZ knows this? Nah I'm sure they're expecting big sign ups. Surely they wouldn't want to lose their most indebted, risky and militant customers, especially at a time when, "Canberra plans sweeping reforms to open up the mortgage market more widely to smaller lenders, by creating a bigger government-backstop to residential mortgage-backed securities."

Not only will those bovines get out of the holding pen, looks like they might just find another slaughterhouse - the tax payer funded slaughterhouse.

While we're on crazy arse analogies, why stop? If you're an investor in this circus, it's kind of like buying a cow and turning it into a racehorse. Stupid idea you wouldn't participate in to begin with, but then the government incentiveses the stupidity. So you run the thing, it breaks a leg, but you don't have to pay for the vet, the government has that, plus they'll pay you like the cow won the race anyway. AAA bitches!

Sure I could go further, take the cow to the Magic Millions with Singo and Gerry Harvey, but you get the drift. Does this really encourage sensible behaviour? You'd hope that the government getting involved would have some significant standards on what they'd stick their neck out for, but who could these lenders attract if they demanded something sensible, like 20% down?

Here's indication of what the AOFM has been prepared to swallow, will the standards get worse when they only have to vouch?

95% of $750,000? 10 years interest only? The government will cover that kind of nonsense? To once again quote Garth Turner, from Canada, but entirely applicable to this situation:

In short, the entire tilt of public policy in both countries has been towards home ownership – resulting in a stunning 70% or so of the population having one, with the overwhelming bulk of their net worth now in a single asset.

And maybe that’s exactly the problem. Maybe seven in ten people didn’t deserve to have houses in the first place. Couldn’t afford them. Should never scored mortgages. Were strung along, lured by house porn, cheap money and a bar that was far too low.

Why does anyone have a right to buy a $400,000 home when all they have is $20,000? Why should the government stand behind an idiot lender willing to finance a deal like that? Don’t pro-housing policies just drive prices higher and responsibility lower? So why should taxpayers move in and save a derelict homeowner’s ass when the inevitable happens?

Back to Tasmania soon.

Still Not Clyde Proof

Camille and I were so excited when we found these cute foam flowers and letter at the Dollar Tree. We decided to make new toy labels for her room and what a steal...the supplies only cost $3! Click here to read what happened to the first labels we made.

I spent at least an hour making all the labels and then just hole punched each flower and attached with ribbon I already owned. They looked really cute! Clyde strikes again...I barely got a picture before he tore them off. Back to the drawing board!