Category archive: Finance News

Australia’s Housing Crisis to Continue for Another 40 Years, Report Finds

Australia’s housing crisis could last for another 40 years unless changes are made to the market, a report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) found.

CEDA said housing affordability is unlikely to improve for the foreseeable future, especially in capital cities. “Barring any major economic jolts, demand pressures are likely to continue over the next 40 years and supply constraints will continue,” said CEDA.

The report said the current structure of land release discourages house developers from getting more supply in the market, leading to increasing numbers of Australians retiring without owning a property.

The committee said changes are needed now at all government levels to avoid longer-term consequences. It made eight recommendations to ease the demand, including providing stronger legal protection for tenants, replacing stamp duty with land-based taxation, increasing capital gains tax and relaxing house planning restrictions.

CEDA research and policy committee chairman Rodney Maddock emphasised the latter, saying the government needs to allow more and bigger residential buildings to be built.

“We’ve got a free market on the demand side but all sorts of restrictions on the supply side,” said Maddock.

“Overall, the conclusion must be that our housing system has been designed – inadvertently, of course – to supply new additions at a lesser rate than needed to keep housing prices and affordability within acceptable limits,” said CEDA.

Australians Increasingly Under Financial Stress, Report Finds

Concerns over rising costs of necessities, stagnant income growth and prospects of increased loan rates are stressing Australian households, a survey has found.

The latest ME Household Financial Comfort Report, which surveyed 1,500 Australian households, revealed that concerns over budget balancing are increasing, as 51 per cent are found to have no spare cash at the end of each month. Rising costs of groceries, fuel and utilities have been blamed, along with weak salary growth and rising underemployment.

“Australian households are under financial stress,” said ME Bank consulting economist Jeff Oughton to ABC’s AM. “They’re concerned about the rising cost of bills but also there are income woes, interest rates are starting to rise and there’s mortgage and rental stress.”

While the unemployment rate has gone down, underemployment is still strong, with 27 per cent of casual and part-time workers saying they were eager to increase their hours.

Furthermore, 68 per cent of the respondents reported wage fall or stagnation in the past 12 months, and 40 per cent of households in debt are becoming less confident about their ability to repay their mortgage.

RBA’s eventual plan to lift the cash rate is also expected to worsen this burden on Australians “as it will impact monthly cash flows, ability to pay off debts, save and spend”, Oughton said. “It will bite into those young couples with children, single parents and also generation X-ers who are concerned about the impact on their monthly cash flows from rising rates.”

News: Reserve Bank Puts Interest Rates On Hold at 1.5 Per Cent

The Reserve Bank has left the official interest rates on hold at a record low of 1.5 per cent.

The bank board last changed the rates in August, cutting them by 25 basis points.

While business investment and employment numbers have improved, the bank board still maintained its conservative approach to rate setting.

“The various forward-looking indicators point to continued growth in employment over the period ahead,” said Philip Lowe, the bank’s governor.

“Wage growth remains low, however, and this is likely to continue for a while yet. Inflation is expected to increase gradually as the economy strengthens.”

Housing debt remains a major concern for the RBA. “Growth in housing debt has outpaced the slow growth in household incomes,” the bank stated. “The recent supervisory measures should help address the risks associated with high and rising levels of household indebtedness.”

However, there are some positive outlooks. “In some other markets, prices are declining. In the eastern capital cities, a considerable additional supply of apartments is scheduled to come on stream over the next couple of years. Rent increases are the slowest for two decades.”

Australian Housing Market Has ‘Peaked’, According to UBS

The Australian housing prices boom has reached its peak, investment bank UBS said.

“After housing activity rose consecutively for over four years, its longest ever boom, we are now calling the top and think that housing activity has already peaked,” UBS economists Scott Haslem, George Tharenou and Jim Xu wrote in a note.

“Mortgage rates are rising, and sentiment of home buying collapsed to a [near] record low… Hence, we are ‘calling the top’, but stick to our forecasts for [dwelling construction] commencements to ‘correct but not collapse’ to 200,000 in 2017 and 180,000 in 2018.”

National house price growth is currently at 13 per cent, the highest in seven years, but UBS expected the growth to fall to 7 per cent this year, and 0-3 per cent next year. “We see a moderation ahead amid record supply and poor affordability, with the new buyer mortgage repayment share of income spiking to a decade high,” UBS said.

While house prices will still be out of reach from first home buyers, the bank said more rental options will be available following completion of units this year, allowing rents to rise more slowly than incomes.

The bank also warned that while the risks for housing slump are low, considering strong population growth and stable employment, the country’s record household debt and high housing prices could still cause trouble.

Bank Regulators Hint Further Loan Curbs

Bank regulators may take further actions to limit home lending in an effort to mitigate risks from the booming housing market.

The statement came less than a week after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) introduced restrictions on interest-only loans to 30 per cent of all mortgage lendings.

In a speech in Sydney on Wednesday, APRA Chairman Warne Byres described the restriction as a “tactical response” to the growth in lending property investors, especially in the south-east Australian property market.

Byres said the rules were to ensure that banks hold bigger reserves in case of housing-related crises. The regulator would also review the lenders’ capital requirement for mortgages.

“The capital adequacy framework needs to address the concentration in housing lending that has built up in the banking system over time,” said Byres. “If we are going to put an increasing number of eggs into a single basket, we’d better make sure that basket is an unquestionably strong one.”

News: Tesla Shares Slump after Goldman Sachs Downgrade

Tesla’s shares slumped more than 4 per cent on Monday after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock, citing concerns over the company’s cash needs and ability to deliver the launch of new Model 3 vehicle on time.

Goldman Sachs analyst David Tamberrino said worries over Model 3’s delayed production, along with the carmaker’s acquisition of SolarCity and expected stock sales to raise $1.7billion, led him to downgrade Tesla’s shares from “sell” to “neutral”.

“While we believe Tesla currently has a lead relative to OEM (original equipment manufacturer) peers with respect to vehicle technology adoption, electric vehicle architecture, and (potentially) battery scale, our concerns are more near-term oriented with respect to operational execution on the Model 3 launch, an unproven solar business, and cash needs,” Tamberrino wrote in a statement.

This pushed Tesla’s shares down 4.83 per cent to $244.52, cutting the company’s year-to-date gains to 15.2 per cent. Despite this, Tesla’s stock has jumped 30 per cent in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 has gained only 22 per cent. Tesla’s shares have also gained more than 30 per cent since early December.

Ways to Cut Spending on Monthly Expenses

Personal finance might seem to cover only the big stuff – student loans, house mortgage, income taxes. However, in this case, small daily expenses matter, as they add up to significant amount of your spending. By cutting seemingly negligible costs, you can earn tremendous cumulated savings and avoid unnoticeable drain on your bank account.

Here are a few ways to cut spending on your monthly expenses:

Buy Refills and Refillables

By purchasing refillable products, you can save up on a lot of consumer goods. For example, using refillable bottles would encourage you to get free tap water instead of getting ready-to-buy packaged water. Other goods such as handwash, laundry liquid, and cleaner also come cheaper in refill than in regular packages.

Set Up Limits

Want to curb the urge to shop? Set up a credit card limit and a spending cap to ensure you don’t go past a certain amount. You can go even further by setting up limit per transaction and daily card withdrawal limit.

Pay Your Debts in Full, Right Away

When it comes to credit cards, always strive to pay the bills in time, in full amount to avoid extra surcharges. You can do this by opting for automatic bill payment with your bank.

Re-evaluate Your Current Utilities and Services

You indeed need electricity, phone and entertainment plan, but are you sure your current plan brings the most value for money? Contact the customer service to see if there is any way to reduce the bills without losing the essential features that you need. Chances are you might not actually need that second Netflix screen!

Go for Home Brands

If you don’t have any preferred brand for a household product, you might be better off purchasing the more affordable home brands – they can do the same job for less dollar per gram.

Walk or Ride a Bike

Bus ticket fees might seem inconsequential, but you’ll be surprised by how much it costs when you walk or bike for a change. This might not be applicable for long commutes, but this would still be great for going places locally. Bonus point: walking and biking are great exercises. Who says you need gym membership to stay fit?

Shop Smart

In buying groceries and other household goods, opt for discount retailers and thrift shops – the competitive price will lift the burden off your wallet.

22 Ways to Cut Your Energy Bills (Before Spending on Solar Panels)

Tim Forcey, University of Melbourne

Despite many Australians opting not to heat their homes to the point of complete comfort, many of us nevertheless will soon receive a nasty surprise when the energy bills arrive.

With Australia’s historically cheap energy, old housing stock in many areas, mild climate and frequent emphasis on low building costs, many homes are little more than “glorified tents” when it comes to thermal performance.

Besides wanting smaller bills, many residents also want to improve comfort, lessen their environmental impact and boost their home’s value.

So here is a list of 22 things you can do to improve your home’s energy performance – some cheap, some free, and some that can even make you some money up-front as well as cutting your bills. Of course, to reach the ultimate goal of a home heated and powered by 100% renewable electricity you may still wish to put some solar panels on your roof, but why not consider the following actions first?

1. Make sure you get the maximum discount on your energy bills. Although not available everywhere, in Victoria discounts of up to 38% are available on gas or electricity. Ring up your retailer and just ask, or threaten to switch, or better yet seek out a retailer that doesn’t treat their discounts like state secrets.

2. Monitor your power usage with the help of a “smart” electricity meter or in-home electricity display. This real-time (or near-real-time) information is more useful than the coarse monthly data commonly printed on energy bills. It can help identify appliances that have inadvertently been left on or those that draw excessive power when not in use.

3. Heat your water off-peak. If you have a resistive-electric hot water storage tank, make sure it heats up at night, when off-peak power rates apply. In some areas, “time of use” rates are available.

4. Get rid of your ‘garage fridge’. It can cost hundreds of dollars a year to run an inefficient 20-year-old fridge, especially if it’s in a garage that hits 50℃ in summer.

5. Ditch your super-hot plasma. If you have a 10-year-old television that gets so hot you can fry an egg on the screen, check out the newer models that can use one-tenth of the electricity.

6. Install a modern showerhead, such as those designed with double-impinging jet technology that use only 5 litres of water per minute. Old showerheads can pass up to 35 litres per minute. Why not grab a bucket and stopwatch and test yours?

7. Insulate any exposed hot water pipes, including the pressure-relief valve on your hot water tank. Make sure hot water pipes do not run uninsulated straight into the soil in your garden. Insulate electrically heated storage tanks where it is safe to do so.

8. Check your heaters and air conditioning. Gas heating systems should be checked at least every two years by a qualified person, not least to keep poisonous carbon monoxide gas at bay. All heating or cooling system filters should be cleaned regularly to improve energy efficiency and air quality.

9. Inspect your ducts. Poorly installed or degraded ductwork can lead to big energy losses, which can go unnoticed for decades. Ensure that small children or animals have not gone under your house and damaged your gas heating ducts. Check also that air returns are properly “boxed-in” and do not draw air in from the wall cavity instead of from the living space. However, cleaning the inside of your ducts is not critical for energy saving, and risks damaging them in the process.

10. Banish drafts, for instance by plastering over those ubiquitous wall vents – relics from the days when homes relied on unflued heaters or gas lights. Seal off unused chimneys and fill any other cracks, gaps or holes around doors, windows, skirting boards, floorboards and architraves. Remember to close air-conditioning ceiling vents in winter. Ventilation should be controlled by opening windows, not by having permanent holes in the walls.

Older houses can be full of drafts, including from wall vents which are a throwback to times when homes were full of indoor pollution.
Bidgee/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

11. Eliminate ceiling-mounted downlights wherever possible. A small number of modern wide-beam LEDs can adequately replace a larger quantity of narrow-beam halogen downlights. Aim to have as few holes cut into your ceiling as possible, because these holes let heat escape in winter and let it in during summer.

12. Install downlight covers over all downlights that protrude into accessible attic spaces. Not only does this reduce fire hazards and keep out insects, but it will also reduce air flow through the roof.

13. Replace all regularly used lights with LEDs. LEDs use a tenth of the energy of halogen or incandescent bulbs, so will pay for themselves in just a few months (even less in places where free replacement is on offer). Replace less regularly used bulbs with LEDs as and when they burn out, and vow never to buy a non-LED bulb again.

14. Insulate your attic…. If you don’t have roof insulation, buy some. If you do, check it meets the recommended “R value” for your climate. Ensure all vertical attic surfaces (walls, skylight tunnels) are also insulated, and include a layer of aluminium in your attic space. Thermal imaging can be used to identify existing flaws, such as gaps or sections of insulation inadvertently moved by tradespeople working in the attic.

15. …and your floors and walls too. In cooler Australian climate zones, floor and wall insulation can help keep heat in, making your home warmer and cheaper to operate.

16. Cover your windows from the inside… with drapes, curtains or blinds. This will keep in heat at night and on cold winter days, and keep out the sun in summer. Cheaper or do-it-yourself thermal window treatments such as plastic films or even bubble wrap can be applied in some situations (just don’t expect to win any design awards).

17. …and the outside. Trees, plants, external awnings, blinds or shade sails can all keep out the summer sun and stop windows getting hot. Remember that significant heat will reflect onto windows from sizzling decks, paved areas and walls (but not lawns). It’s better to keep out the sun in the first place rather than try to cool your house down.

18. Double glazing for windows cuts out noise, improves security and saves energy too. For many Australian climate zones, I recommend that homeowners never buy a window in future that isn’t double-glazed. Retrofit options options such as “secondary glazing” are also available.

19. Fit a pool cover if you have a swimming pool. Not only will this stop the water cooling down overnight in summer, but a cover can also minimise cleaning, chemical use and the running time for your filter pump. Consider upgrading to a more efficient pump if yours is more than a decade old, and ensure it does not run for more hours each day than required.

Remember to cover up when not sunbathing.
Kgbo/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

20. Use reverse-cycle to heat your home…. If your home has reverse-cycle air conditioning (also known as a heat pump), this may be the cheapest way to heat, especially as gas prices rise. On heat mode, reverse-cycle units harvest free renewable ambient heat from the air outside your home and pump it up to the toasty temperature you need inside. Having installed high-efficiency reverse-cycle units, I can heat my own home for one-third of the cost of ducted gas heating.

21. …and your water. If your hot water system is nearing its use-by date, consider replacing it with a heat pump. This is an especially good option for homes that already have solar panels and low feed-in tariffs.

22. If you can eliminate all gas use in your home (for space heating, water heating and cooking), you can eliminate your gas bill with its nearly A$1 per day fixed supply charges.

And then there is solar…

In Australia these days, you won’t be paid much money for selling your electricity back to the grid. However, it might still pay to install solar if you can consume most of the energy yourself, by running your pool pumps, appliances, space heating and cooling devices, hot water system and even an electric car with solar electricity harvested during the day.

In future, as electricity storage batteries get cheaper, there may be even more economic reasons to have solar panels on your roof.

This article doesn’t list every possible behavioural trick or home improvement. Sadly, some homes will never be fantastic energy performers without significant modification. But hopefully there are a few things on this list that will work for you – even if it’s only a case of finally covering that drafty doorstep, or giving your creaking “beer fridge” a dignified retirement.

The Conversation

Tim Forcey, Energy Advisor, Melbourne Energy Institute, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

News: NSW Housing Investment Sets Record High

Housing investment in New South Wales continues to grow as current levels are getting close to record highs, new Australian Bureau Statistics reports revealed.

Latest ABS data found that the value of residential lending in the state reached $7.19 billion in November 2016, the highest on record for the year and a significant 25.5 per cent increase from the previous month’s $5.7 billion.

The November value was also the second highest on record for NSW, with the highest being $7.36 billion in June 2015.

Investor loans constituted 56.7 per cent of all approved residential lending in NSW over the month, making it the highest market share nationally, followed by Victoria’s 45 per cent.

NSW’s residential investor lending represented 56.1 per cent of all approved lending in Australia in November. “This is clearly a record result, eclipsing the previous high of 48.8 per cent reported over March 2016,” said Andrew Wilson, chief economist at Domain Group.

“The strong Sydney market remains a magnet for investors with demand set to continue to rise attracted by continuing solid price growth and a tight rental market with rising rents consolidating gross yields.”

Wilson expected the NSW market to continue its growth, prompted by the possibility of better investment property taxes and rate cuts after 2015’s hike in mortgage rates.

“Residential investors have stormed back into the market since May 2016 driven by the prospect of possible changes to the tax treatment of investment property and interest rate cuts,” said Wilson.

“NSW generally and Sydney specifically remain the epicentre for what has re-emerged as unprecedented activity from this group.”

Cameron Kusher, head of research at CoreLogic said while NSW and Victoria might seem promising, investors should be mindful of the long-term risks.

“It’s clear that demand for mortgages from the investor segment is picking up, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, which are proxies for Sydney and Melbourne respectively,” said Kusher. However, he added that investors should also think about the risks from long-term value growth phase as well as the historically low rental earnings.

News: Sydney’s Housing Market Second Most Unaffordable in the World, New Survey Found

Sydney’s housing market has been rated as the second most expensive in the world, according to the 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2017.

Sydney, which is only topped by Hong Kong, beats other cities including San Jose (fifth most expensive) and Los Angeles (eighth).

The survey rates housing markets based on the World Bank-recommended “median multiple” principle, which divides median house price with median household income. A score of 5.1 and above is categorised as “severely unaffordable”.

10 Least Affordable Housing Markets

1            Hong Kong                       18.1

2            Sydney, NSW, Australia 12.2

3            Vancouver, Canada        11.8

4            Santa Cruz, CA, USA        11.6

5            Santa Barbara, CA, USA  11.3

6            Auckland, NZ                   10

7            Wingcaribbee, NSW, Australia    9.8

8            Tweed Heads, NSW, Australia    9.7

9            San Jose, CA, USA            9.6

10          Melbourne, VIC, Australia           9.5

The report found that 47 of Australia’s 54 markets are categorised as “seriously unaffordable” or “severely unaffordable”. The report’s co-author, Hugh Pavletich said the contrast between Australia’s land size and its housing prices indicates a “decentralisation” issue.

“State and local governments have lost the control of their costs and their capacity to finance infrastructure properly,” said Pavletich.

“Sydney house prices are about 12.2 times annual household incomes which is grossly excessive… What housing should be in normal markets is at or below three times household earnings, so Sydney is four times what it should be.”

The newly-sworn in NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian said in her first press conference that housing affordability would be one of her policy priorities.

“I want to make sure that every average hard-working person in this state can aspire to own their own home,” said Berejiklian.