Thursday, January 24, 2008

Colour Tips For The New Season

Colours can affect moods and emotions. We look at what colours are suitable for different room types. Colour can be created through both paint and furnishings.

The science of colour is nothing new. About 2000 years ago ancient Egyptian and Chinese civilisations used colour in healing, and looked to nature for cues on how to use it in their daily lives. Your preference for certain colours is very personal, and there is a lot of psychological research into why certain colours appeal to certain character types. Studies show colours have different effects on our moods and emotions.

Consider the nature and function of a room before you choose interior colours. Also, Marquette Turner suggest that if you are painting simply to sell the property, don't get too personal. Make sure that colours are neutral.

Mitchell Hartmann

"Give your room a makeover" using online service Design My Room

"Give your room a makeover" is the proclaimed purpose of Design My Room, which launched into beta in August. The site lets users test out interior designs either on sample rooms provided by the site, or by uploading a photo of the real room they have in mind.

They can paint, furnish and decorate the room by selecting from thousands of products—from sponsoring brands Armstrong, Benjamin Moore, Kohler, Smith & Noble, Whirlpool and others—and then dragging and dropping them wherever they want. Rooms created by professional designers are also available for inspiration and copying. Users can save multiple versions of their room and offer them up for rating and comments to friends or the site's audience at large.

Then, once they've settled upon the look they like, shopping for the items they've chosen is made easy via an automatically linked shopping list, which keeps track of their selections all along.

Basic members of Design My Room are given one free project, which they can save and redesign as often as they like. A "plus" membership enables 5 projects for USD 4.95 a month, while premium members get 25 projects for USD 9.95 per month. Uploading a room photo costs an extra USD 25.

"When my wife and I renovated three years ago, we had to sign out samples from retailers and lug them around—a heavy piece of granite, a cabinet door, ceramic tiles, carpet swatches, paint chips. They must have weighed 50 pounds," explains Jesse Engle, vice president of business and product development at Massachusetts-based Swatchbox Technologies, which created "Next time, we do it all on the site."

In addition to the obvious benefits for users, category-specific sites like Design My Room give brands a clear line of communication with the consumers most likely to listen. Style-forward consumers are eager to create and share content, acting as curators for peers who are looking for inspiration. Time to apply this concept to the niche of your choice!

IKEA Organises Furniture Swap

Over the past few years, swapping clothing, books, music and movies has taken off around the world, with groups meeting for swaps offline and online. Now, Marquette Turner has learnt from it's sources that flat-pack behemoth IKEA is organizing a furniture swap at its Amsterdam store: a husselmarkt. The swap, which will take place on February 9th, will let up to 250 people bring in furniture—which doesn't have to be made by IKEA—and swap it for items brought in by others. IKEA will also add 12.000 euros worth of furniture to the mix.

The event is part of a marketing campaign that encourages customers to think like designers, which includes experimenting by rearranging furniture they already have (roughly translated, husselen means to shuffle, or move around). To help people redesign their living spaces, IKEA offers a tool on that lets users draw a room as it's currently arranged, and then move around pieces on-screen. Any furniture that no longer fits their rearranged room can be brought to the husselmarkt.

It might seem contradictory from a business point of view: if people swap, they'll buy less. But IKEA knows that once a consumer rearranges a room, or gets a new couch (even if it isn't strictly new), they're likely to want a new rug, lamp or table to complete the makeover.
Will Australia's IKEA follow suit?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Cost of Being Heritage Listed

Their owners think that they're just ordinary chimneys, letterboxes and driveways but to council bureaucrats, they are irreplaceable state treasures.

Such is their historic and social significance they have been nominated to be preserved forever on the NSW Heritage List alongside buildings such as Sydney Town Hall and the Queen Victoria Building.

Nineteen otherwise ordinary suburban homes in Toongabbie, Epping and Wentworthville have been singled out by Parramatta City Council. Most were built about 40 years ago. The nomination documentation cites special heritage-worthy features including a "metal letterbox stand", "massive brick chimney", "mature palm trees" or "traditional symmetrical form and appearance".

In one case, inspectors praised the way a house "integrates the carport".

The proposal is part of the council's draft local environment plan, a document prepared by all local government areas to guide land use and planning decisions.

Owners of the properties are furious. They have been told the value of their properties will fall by as much as $60,000 if the heritage-listing goes ahead.

Buildings entered on a heritage database cannot be knocked down and a development application must be lodged with council for any changes to the house that could affect its heritage significance.

Pensioner Sylvia DeMeur, who owns one of the houses in Toongabbie, said she was horrified to discover her unpretentious bungalow was being considered for heritage status.

Although her massive brick chimney is said to introduce "verticality into an otherwise horizontal architectural composition", Ms DeMeur believes her Lamonerie Rd property has no historic value.

"If it was built by convicts or 100 years old, that's fair enough, but this is just an ordinary fibro house that the next-door neighbour could have built," she said.

She said her chimney hadn't even been used in the two-and-a-half years she had lived there.
She also said if the listing were successful she would be financially worse off in the future.

Her frustration is shared by Darrell Hooper, whose Wentworthville property was included in the list because of its "original metal letterbox stand and the pebble-impregnated driveway".
Mr Hooper said the idea that his fibro property was deemed worthy of preserving for future generations was crazy. "Why would they want to heritage-list a place that's all asbestos?" he asked. "The beams running through the house are rotting, the windows are rotting but they don't know that because they didn't even come into the house."

Mr Hooper, who has been living at the Doig St address for nine years, said while he realised the importance of protecting significant landmarks such as sandstone buildings and churches, he was afraid of the consequences.

"My plan in the future was to demolish the house but, if they heritage-list it, I won't be able to do anything, not to mention how hard it will be to sell," he said.

It is up to each council whether or not to nominate buildings for heritage listing.

According to the NSW Heritage Office, more than 25,000 heritage items have been identified as having local significance.

Among the more renowned landmarks already listed are Hyde Park, the NSW Art Gallery, Sydney University and St Mary's Cathedral.

While it is common for residences to be listed, the bizarre reasons for these latest inclusions have left property valuers scratching their heads.

Kristian Nguyen, of John Virtue Valuers in Parramatta, said there was a market for heritage-listed properties but the 19 residences flagged were very ordinary.

"The homes don't really have any significance. They were mainly built in the 1960s and '70s and are your typical cottages," he said.

As a result, Mr Nguyen estimated the value of these properties would severely diminish.
But Parramatta City Council is determined to press ahead.

Mayor Paul Barber said the decision to update the area's heritage listing, which was about a decade old, was necessary to provide others in the future with a link to our current way of life.

"It is council's view that, if we fail to preserve our local heritage, our reference to the past will be lost for future generations," he said.

The final version of the local environment plan will be on public exhibition from early next year.

Sunday Telegraph

Detonate or Renovate? Japan's Tradition

Homes in Japan last for only 30 years. The government wants to change that!

Even though Japanese houses are supposed to be built to withstand earthquakes, few of them defy demolition for more than a few decades. The housing stock is amazingly young: more than 60% of all Japanese homes were built after 1980 (see chart). That is because there is almost no market for old homes in Japan. New legislation to be put forward this month will try to remedy that.

The roots of Japan's unusual housing market go back centuries. Buildings were often razed by earthquakes or fire, so durable houses were rare. Earthquake insurance largely did not exist until the 1990s (and even today is little used).

In post-war Japan land has value but buildings do not. The law separates the ownership of the land and the structure, so the two are distinct in Japanese minds. After the war, the government sought to foster private home-ownership by offering tax incentives for new buildings. The policy was a great success. Arguably too great: by 1968 there were more homes than households to occupy them.

At the same time, tax burdens abound for selling land with old buildings. After around 30 years homes are demolished for new ones to spring up. Because the lifetime of houses is short, cheap construction materials are used and the buildings are not maintained. There is no tradition of do-it-yourself home upkeep. Just as there is little interest in secondhand furniture or clothes among the sanitation-obsessed Japanese, so too home-owners prefer to build anew rather than refurbish the old.

There is also a dearth of institutions and expertise that might oil the gears of a market in old houses, from surveyors to judge the quality of a property to banks that assess its value and provide a mortgage. As a result, where 89% of British homes have had more than one owner, and 78% of homes in America and 66% in France, only 13% of Japanese homes have ever been resold.

But attitudes today are changing. The constant rebuilding places an unnecessary drain on people's financial resources, says Koichi Teramoto of the Ministry of Land. A couple easing into retirement may demolish their house to sell the land in order to move into a smaller abode that they must then build from scratch. Although better-built homes cost more up front, they cost far less over time—as much as one-third less after a few generations, according to Mr Teramoto.

The ministry also worries that the constant demolition is terrible for the environment. The costs to the wider economy are also great. A home is more than a man's castle: it is typically his most important financial asset. Not in Japan. For most of the post-war period land prices soared, so the lack of a housing resale market was not a problem. But since the bursting of the property bubble in the early 1990s, most land prices have fallen: some are as much as 80% off their peak. That houses also depreciate in value constrains consumption and adds to deflationary pressures; which in turn pushes people to be particularly cautious savers (more than 50% of Japan's household wealth is kept as cash in bank accounts) and helps to keep interest rates barely above zero.

To remedy the problem, the prime minister, Yasuo Fukuda, this month plans to introduce new tax rules to encourage the construction of more durable buildings. Under a draft of the “200-year homes” policy, national, regional and municipal property taxes may be reduced by between 25% and 75% for up to seven years for houses that adhere to robust building standards. Mortgages for such homes can be longer (50 years as opposed to the traditional maximum of 35 years) and building approvals will be simpler.

Property experts think these measures are too timid, however. They argue that a true market for used homes needs standardised methods of construction, as well as more transparency about the quality and value of houses. Far more generous tax incentives are vital too. Until then, homes in Japan will continue to fare like the country's ubiquitous electronic gadgets: be treated as disposable.

Jan 3rd 2008 from The Economist print edition

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Buy Your Own Island

For centuries, the rich and famous have owned private islands, but while the picture of palm trees, white beaches and turquoise waters sounds alluring, there is an even greater allure.. PROFIT!

A private island is one of the best investments money can buy. Buying the right island in the right time and place can be one of the most profitable investments you could ever make. You have not only an affordable retreat for family and friends, but a strategic investment that increases exponentially in value over time.

In the 1950’s many of those haunted by the evils of war, or who had traveled through the South Pacific dreamed of escaping the world to their own private island. The strong increase in sales quickly drove prices up and in 1973 Donald McCormick the author of “How To Buy an Island” wrote…

“Many islands have risen in value over the past forty years by more than 500%”.

During the past 20 years demand for private islands has grown steadily, while the supply remains the same. Increasing demand and diminishing supply is a time-honored formula for a good investment.

Islands are a limited commodity, and offer an incredible investment as they appreciate rapidly. Demand is a so an important factor. Indeed, the supply-demand balance is perhaps much more significant than for other real estate as one cannot just create another island.

Right now, there are less than a thousand islands for sale around the world, some have houses, electricity and water, some have nothing but sand and a few palm trees. Prices range from as low as US$20-30,000 up to $56 million. Over the last 10 years the price of islands in some areas of the Caribbean has increased by up to 300%, that’s over 30% per year, a great investment in any terms.

The trick with purchasing an island as an investment is to buy in the right area at the right time. How? Well you must find an area with all the necessary requirements such as beauty, accessibility, stable government etc but where the market is just beginning.

It’s not too late, there still are places left where you can live out the dream of owning your own tropical island.

Michael Marquette of Marquette Turner points out: "The value of an island depends on various factors such as location, size, proximity to the mainland, accessibility, climate, topography, existing infrastructure, other developments, local communities, redevelopment potential, political stability of the mainland country and the legal and taxation implications of owning an island".

Whilst buying your own island may seem a little unlikely, it's worth remembering that you'll only ever reach as high as the goals you set!

Also read: Islands of the Rich and Famous

Simon Turner.

Islands of the Rich & Famous

Owning your own island is perhaps the ultimate demonstration of success. Here's a short list of just some of the islands in the world owned by such people.

Johnny Depp - Little Halls Pond Cay, Nassau, Bahamas
Nicholas Cage - Leaf Cay, Bahamas
Ian Fleming (James Bond Author) - Goat Island, Tobago
Gene Hackman - island in British Columbia, Canada
John Wayne - Taborcillo Island, Panama
Paloma Picasso, daughter of Pablo - Petalous Island, Western Greece
Steven Spielberg (film director) - Madeira, Portugal
Richard Branson (Virgin entrepreneur) - Necker Island -British Virgin Islands and Makepeace Island, Australia
Rod Stewart - The island of Great Britain, Nakheel’s “The World” Dubai, UAE
Diana Ross (Pop Diva) - Taino, French Polynesia
Ted Turner (Founder of CNN) - St Phyllis Island, South Carolina
Bill Gates (Microsoft) - Forsythe Island, New Zealand
Malcolm Forbes - Laucala Island, Fiji
Aristotle Onassis - Skorpios island, Greece
Forbes Family - Naushon Island, Massachusetts
Bacardi Family - Island near Granada
Disney family - Echo Island, San Juan islands, Washington
Du Pont family - Cherry Island, Chesapeake Bay Maryland
Heidseck Family (Champagne) - Illiec Island off the coast of Brittany
Bjorn Borg - Kattilo island, Sweden
Baron Rothschild - Bell Island, the Bahamas
Marlon Brando- Te’tiarao, French Polynesia
Wouldn't it be great to add your name to this list!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

When To Carpet, When to Tile & When To Use Wooden Flooring

As a sweeping statement Europeans, especially Scandinavians and Germans prefer wood flooring as do most Amercians.

However, one can never guarantee who is going to view your home and given the multi-cultural nature of Australia, and particularly the Sydney market, when it comes to renovating with the ultimate aim of selling your property I would suggest catering for the middle ground and aim for wood flooring on the ground floor, carpeting in the bedrooms and tiled flooring in the kitchen and bathrooms.

When it comes to laying wooden flooring, please ensure that it is actually wood that is used rather than laminate – at a pinch one could use wood veneer but makes sure it’s at least 7mm thick.

Quality does count and so the thicker and wider the wood the better, just make sure it’s not at risk from warping due to overheated or damp conditions and that it is fitted correctly.

It would be a bonus if the floorboards underneath the carpeted areas in the bedrooms were in good condition then it would give the incoming owner the flexibility to strip the carpeting away and restore the floorboards if they so desired.

How To Do Up a Property That's Run Down

One of the most popular kinds of home show on TV at the moment are the ones that focus on buying run down houses, doing them up and selling them for a profit. This is known as "flipping".

The only reason for the person buying the house is to do some work and then sell it on again quickly for a profit. The idea is to make a quick profit and then move onto another property.

The profits from flipping houses can be quite large, especially if you know what you're doing. Depending on how much work you need to do on the property you should be able to turn them round pretty quickly.

Deciding whether the house is suitable for flipping usually requires looking at why the house is being sold. It's not really desirable to flip houses that are in reasonable condition, remember the worse the standard of the house the cheaper it should be. Most companies that specialize in doing this will look for a property requiring a fair amount of work. Flipping houses make them much more desirable to people.

The idea is to buy a house at much less than its market value due to its poor condition. People want to buy perfect houses and so will be put off even if only tiny things need doing. If there are only small repairs to do you should be able to get the house back on the market within one month. The price when selling the property should cover the mortgage, renovation, costs associated with selling, and provide quite a nice profit.

Fix it properly
Many companies that renovate houses do so properly. When flipping houses they do not just make cosmetic fixes, they will also go beyond this. Thus, you should do a pre-purchase pest and building inspection so that you can work out exactly what needs doing. You may find out that you need to spend more on renovation than you expect. This will ultimately reduce your profit, or even wipe it out completely.

A frequent type of home that is targeted by flipping home companies are foreclosed homes. This is because they do not attract as many people and so are often cheaper, they can be as low as 60% of the actual market value and only nee a little work to get them in order. These kinds of homes allow the company to do up a house very quickly and make a good profit.

Most people will try to get profits on the first couple of houses with the intention of buying houses with the profits without having to borrow money. In time this can become a very successful business and you'll be able to pay less on each house. If you are able to find houses in your local area to flip then you will already know more about the market which could be beneficial. Good Luck!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Give Your Home a Facelift

The inside of your home may look spectacular, but is the exterior looking a little tired? Maybe it's time to give it a facelift.

The first decision lies with the type of finish you are after. There are many options – you can render with oxides to obtain a coloured finish, use paint-like products for a smooth finish or apply a textured render.

Whether you will be rendering yourself or have decided to get in a tradesperson, you will need to contact the manufacturer first. They will be able to give you specific advice on the rendering process, how to get the best from their render and what to expect of the finished product.

Once you have decided which product you are going to use you can get started. There are generally two main ways of rendering your fibro home. Option one is to remove all the cover strips of the fibro, place an adhesive base or bonding agent over the fibro and then render it.

The only drawback for this method is there will be no improvement in the thermal insulation for your home.
Your second option is as you suggest, covering the existing fibro with “blueboard” and rendering on top of that. In this case, the blueboard will help to increase your insulation.

As I have mentioned the type of render you go with will determine the process so my advice is to contact the manufacturer and a tradesperson and then go from there.

Simple Ways to Improve Your Life

Most fundamentally, recognise that happiness is a state of mind and not something which can be defined objectively. You can change your state of mind in many ways including the following suggestions.

More importantly than anything else, live with a partner whom you love and respect and who feels the same about you.

Kiss and cuddle and compliment often and regularly buy unexpected little gifts.

If you have a son or a daughter. Tell them often how much you love and admire him/her and do anything to help him/her.

Have a cat or a dog and stroke them often.
Keep in close touch with relatives and a small circle of friends. You can't beat their love and support.
Conversely, if there is a person in your life who is a negative influence and who is dragging you down in some way, don't be afraid to get remove such a person from your life.
Smile a lot. Smiles make you miles better - and you smiling will make others smile. As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) put it: “Always wear a smile. The gift of life will then be yours to give.”
Laugh a lot. If you need some help.

Say what you mean and mean what you say. Honesty really is the best policy.

Be politely assertive. Say how you feel and explain what you want. Friends and colleagues can't be mind readers.

Give lots of compliments. You will make others feel good about themselves and find that this gives you pleasure too.

Give small gifts to your friends. To give is even more pleasurable than to receive.

When your birthday or Christmas is coming, prepare a list of the presents you'd like and give it to a partner, relative or friend to 'manage'. That way people won't struggle to choose a gift for you and you'll receive what you want and like.

Use your credit card as a convenient way to pay for your major expenditures on a monthly basis - not to obtain credit at an outrageous level of interest.

Don't gamble. There's enough uncertainty in your life without you adding more - and anyway, in the long run, you can't win. (A little flutter on the lottery is allowed.)

Give regularly to the charities of your choice. Make at least one of those charities an organisation addressing world poverty. Regularly increase your contributions as your income rises.

Wear the most expensive after-shave (usually men!) or perfume (usually women!!) you can afford. It will make you feel good.

Whether male or female, get your hair done. This will always make you feel better about yourself.

Surround yourself with pleasant smells. Have flowers, pot-pourri or scented candles in most rooms of the house and in your office.
Every so often, spend a little time observing the night sky. As you contemplate the distances and time involved, it will put your life and your concerns into more perspective.