SOARING electricity prices have changed the way property seekers look at homes.
New research showed properties with sustainable features such as solar panels, battery packs and rainwater tanks have been selling faster and at higher prices than homes without the eco-friendly features.
The typical difference in sales price was 10 per cent higher, while the sustainable homes also took about 13 days quicker to sell, according to the study by property group PRDnationwide.
PRD nationwide national research manager Diaswati Mardiasmo said sustainable buildings were outperforming more traditional housing in a number of categories.
“When people are aware of the savings sustainable homes have, it is easier for them to decide if they want a house, particularly when they know the benefits they bring or not having to worry about the cost of installing them later,” Dr Mardiasmo said.
Part of the appeal of a home with sustainable features was the potential utility bill savings and the promise of lower maintenance costs over time, Dr Mardiasmo added.
“Things like solar panels add value to a home,” she said.
“People realise that they can save money on energy bills or electricity, which is alluring when bills keep going up, so people think ‘if I have to pay more now I will come out on top in the long run’.”
Additional research from comparison site Finder.com.au reported that 33 per cent of buyers would pay more for a property with solar panels.
Solar panels were the fourth most sought after feature, according to the research, with only airconditioning, a garage and a backyard more desired.
Development company Metricon has also reported an uptake in customers trying to beat the rising costs of running a home.
Metricon Homes NSW general manager Luke Fryer said the majority of buyers who were building their homes wanted to install sustainable features that would help them manage their living costs down the line.
“Since October last year over 70 per cent of our Designer and Signature by Metricon customers have chosen to build smart technology into their homes,” Mr Fryer said.
Metricon has partnered with a number of smart energy suppliers.
Products it has introduced into new builds have included the Bradford ChargePack, which comes with solar panels. The Tesla Powerwall has also proved popular with its clients as it allows homeowners to store power for later use.
Bradford Energy business manager Ashleigh O’Brien said part of the increased uptake in sustainable technologies was due to the costs going down. Solar panels and batteries, in particular, were now more affordable than they were the past, she said.
“It used to take eight or nine years before you would see any return on your investment. Nowadays it is only three to four years,” Ms O’Brien said.
By combining solar panels and a battery such as the Tesla Powerwall, Ms O’Brien said bills became almost non-existent.
“We find that people have (more) peace of mind with a battery and solar panels, particularly as 80 to 90 per cent of their energy bills are offset by the sun, meaning they pay very little on power,” she said.
Ms O’Brien said the technologies were allowing families to be eco savvy while not worrying about their quarterly power bill.
“Families can look at their smart app and it shows them how much energy they’re using and how much they have left on their battery,” Ms O’Brien said. “This allows them to use the airconditioner or dryer without bill shock or worrying about the cost down the track.”
With the cost of batteries coming down, Ms O’Brien said it made sense for families to have them installed alongside solar panels.
“When families aren’t at home during the day, the battery allows them to store (energy) and use it when they (return),” she said.
Experts warn of ‘debt bomb’ as housing downturn worsens
That’s according to the sobering 60 Minutes segment Bricks and Slaughter which aired last night, revealing the country’s property downturn was just the tip of the iceberg.
According to reporter Tom Steinfort, the current slump is actually “more like falling off a cliff”, with a number of real estate and finance experts claiming houses could plummet in value by up to 40 per cent in the next 12 months.
If that happens, it would also cause an economic “catastrophe”.
Mr Steinfort spoke with data scientist Martin North from Digital Finance Analytics, who said Australia was uniquely vulnerable when it came to an economic crash tied to a property downturn.
“At the worst end of the spectrum, if everything turns against us we could see property prices 40-45 per cent down from their peaks, which is a huge deal,” he said.
“That’s higher than any other country in the Western world by a long way.
“There’s probably no country in the world more susceptible to the ramifications of a housing crash than Australia. We are uniquely exposed at the moment.”
Mr North said Australia was now in the same position as the US was back in 2006 and 2007 — a position which triggered an economic collapse.
“As a society, and as a government, and as a regulatory system, we’re all banking on the home price engine that just goes on giving and giving and giving. It’s not going to,” he said.
“We’ve got a debt bomb, we’ve got a debt crisis and at some point it’s going to explode in our face.”
He said foreclosures had also risen by 600 per cent in the region.
“The mortgage stress is definitely being felt especially in this area,” he said.
60 Minutes also spoke with several Aussie homeowners who gave harrowing details of the stress they faced trying to pay off their mortgages, including having their power turned off and being “hounded’ by their banks.
What does a million dollars buy in Aussie capital cities?
Market analyst Louis Christopher of SQM Research said the market had been “clearly overvalued”, labelling the downturn as the “correction we had to have” — at least in Sydney and Melbourne.
“On our numbers, Sydney was effectively over 40 per cent overvalued. And Melbourne was overvalued by about the same amount,” he said.
But property investor Bushy Martin said the blame lay squarely at the feet of buyers who “mortgaged themselves up to their eyeballs” in a bid to snap up dream homes before being able to afford them.
However, the segment has also sparked backlash online, with some claiming the situation had been exaggerated.
One Reddit user branded the report as an example of “alarmist journalism and scare tactics”, while another said it was “dramatic and cringe-worthy”.
Others also criticised the segment for making it seem like all homeowners would be affected, when the downturn was actually mainly focused in the NSW and Victorian capitals.
And some said it was unfair to blame the banks for the situation, and that homeowners needed to take responsibility for their own decisions.
That was in response to comments made by one homeowner on the program, who said the bank had “suddenly switched the mortgage to interest and principal”, raising his repayments by 57 per cent.
“The interest only part annoyed me the most. The bank didn’t ‘suddenly change’ your repayment from (interest only) to (Principal and interest) your IO term expired. You a) knew this would happen and b) assumed the bank would renew it when it expired. I hope this speculator gets burnt first,” one Reddit user said.
Related article: Experts warn of ‘debt bomb’ as housing downturn worsens
Australia’s best place to invest is here in Queensland
EXPERTS are hailing Queensland’s Sunshine Coast as the hottest place in the nation to invest in property right now.
A lack of housing, a tight rental market and a rapidly growing population mean supply is failing to keep up with demand in the region – creating perfect conditions for investors.
Leading real estate industry figure John McGrath said the Sunshine Coast presented one of the best opportunities for capital growth because of its liveability, affordability and future economic prospects.
“From an investment point of view, where in Australia right now can you invest your dollar and get better returns than the Sunshine Coast or southeast Queensland?” Mr McGrath said.
” I don’t think there is a location that’s going to offer better investment growth in the future.”
His views are echoed by prestige property agent Tom Offermann of Tom Offermann Real Estate, who claims the Sunshine Coast “is on the cusp of the highest growth period in its history”.
“This is being driven by a raft of infrastructure projects that are delivering exceptional lifestyles, which in the past required some compromises for people coming from big cities,” Mr Offermann said.
The region is in the midst of an infrastructure boom, with billions of dollars being invested in upgrading and creating new facilities.
Work is underway on a new runway at the local airport, which is set to become international by 2020, and a new hospital and health precinct has recently been established.
“These are game changers,” Mr Offermann said.
“Astute property investors who recognise what is happening, and take action to secure the best located property they can afford, will reap the rewards of their foresight.”
Local agents say the region is crying out for more investment properties to cater to the needs of the increasing population.
According to demographer Bernard Salt, the Sunshine Coast’s population of around 298,000 residents is set to rise to 550,000 in 23 years, which will require more than 100,000 new homes to be built.
The latest Real Estate Institute of Queensland figures show the rental vacancy rate on the Sunshine Coast is just 1 per cent, with Caloundra having the tightest vacancy rate in the state at just 0.5 per cent.
It’s good news for investors, who are currently achieving healthy rental returns of around 5 per cent.
In its recent report, Herron Todd White noted an increase in investor activity in the Sunshine Coast market, with the sub $350,000 unit and townhouse sector particularly popular.
“It’s not uncommon to see townhouses selling for $220,000 attracting a rental of $280 per week – over 6.5 per cent gross return,” the report said.
For investors looking to capitalise on the growth in the region, McGrath Real Estate founder John McGrath said now was the time to get into the market.
“I think there is a great opportunity, in particular right now, because we’ve seen Sydney and Melbourne have shown unprecedented growth over the last five or six years,” he said.
“Now those markets have come to a plateau and a lot of people are going to be saying; ‘Do we take our profits and reinvest them, or, in fact, do we move up north and get better value for money?’
“So, I think right now there’s a terrific window of opportunity where people can capitalise on the immense growth we’ve seen in the southern states.”
Reed & Co director Adrian Reed the increased international access the new airport would provide would likely change the profile of buyers in the Noosa region.
“We’re currently seeing an increase in Australian expats buying back into the market, but if accessibility becomes easier, we’re expecting a more aggressive upward trend in high-end premium property,” Mr Reed said.
He said that lending restrictions and the impact of the banking royal commission had had little impact on the region’s prestige market.
“The vast majority of deals I’m doing at the top end of the market are cash,” he said.
“They’re self funded retirees who’ve already sold their principal place of residence.”
Owner/builder Paul Saunderson, who is selling his home in Noosa Heads through Peter TeWhata of Tom Offermann Real Estate, said the local market was “out of control at the moment”.
“There are houses getting knocked down and new dwellings being built everywhere,” Mr Saunderson said.
He said the contemporary, four-bedroom, three-bathroom property at 20 Sanctuary Ave, Noosa Heads, which he lived in with his wife and two children, was attracting strong interest from interstate and overseas investors.
“It’s a good investment opportunity because it’s been valued as holiday letting, which is anywhere from $6000 to $10,000 a week during peak season,” Mr Saunderson said.
Jamie Smith of Century 21 On Duporth in Maroochydore said he’d never seen so much activity in the Sunshine Coast property market, with strong interest from both local and interstate investors.
Mr Smith said many investors were looking to buy in the less expensive suburbs, where new housing developments were popping up, such as Caloundra, Sippy Downs, Birtinya and Mountain Creek.
“It’s definitely unprecedented in terms of what we’re seeing on the Coast,” he said.
But Mr Smith said investors who were not already in the market needed to act fast.
“If you were here three years ago, you could have bought between $400,000 and $500,000,” he said.
“Now you’re looking at anywhere from $600,000 plus, so it’s definitely changed a little bit.”
SUNSHINE COAST SUBURBS FOR BEST CAPITAL GROWTH
Suburb Property type Median price 12 month change in price
Minyama House $1.31m 45.8%
Kenilworth House $399,000 40%
Yandina Creek House $820,000 32.3%
Beerwah Unit $375,000 25%
Mount Coolum House $676,200 23.2%
Mapleton House $543,250 21.3%
Mudjimba House $739,500 20.7%
Peregian Springs Unit $475,200 18.8%
Battery Hill House $579,500 18.4%
Montville House $707,500 17.9%
Queensland is the next property hotspot, experts say
As New South Wales and Victoria continue to experience weakness. Queensland is expected to take the lead, a National Australia Bank (NAB) poll of property professionals revealed.
According to the survey, industry experts project house prices in Queensland to increase by 0.7% next year and 1.3% in two years.
Some areas seen to perform strongly over the next year include Brisbane, Cairns, the Gold Coast, and the Sunshine Coast. Out of the suburbs, Coomera and New Farm are expected to realize robust gains.
Meanwhile, Queensland’s rental market is also poised to enjoy an upward boost, growing by 1.3% next year and 1.9% in two years. This is despite the stricter rules on housing investment.
The respondents of the survey also expect Queensland to retain foreign buyer interest. In fact, the share of foreign sales hit a four-year high of 22.8% over the previous quarter.
The results of the survey go against NAB’s own projection of the market. For instance, the bank expects house prices to remain flat in Brisbane over the next three years. Unit prices, on the other hand, is seen to fall by 4.5% over the next year.
NAB chief economist Alan Oster said Brisbane’s housing market seemed to be going sideways and its unit market still creates concern.
“It hasn’t peaked yet, so that’s good. We’re seeing quite strong economic activity in Queensland, so that always helps,” Oster said, as quoted by The Courier-Mail.
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