2015-EAC-REIA-Awards-For-Excellence

2015 NSW Awards for Excellence Date Announced

Estate Agents Co-operative Ltd (EAC) and the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) is pleased to announce the New South Wales Awards for Excellence recognising the real estate industry’s top performers from the NSW Affiliate Council Members of the REIA.

The 2015 awards will be held on 27th of October 2015 in Sydney.

The awards are a brilliant way to recognise the professional efforts of agents and property managers.  The awards allow award winners from NSW to also be recognised and compete at the National Awards.

Details on entry to the awards will be released in the coming weeks.

NSW Fair Trading to release data on consumer complaints

Last year NSW Fair Trading received over 40,000 complaints about traders across various industries including retail, motor vehicles, telecommunications, travel and real estate.

Consumers in NSW will soon be able to make more informed choices with Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello today outlining plans to establish a consumer complaints register using data held by NSW Fair Trading.

“This data is currently under lock and key within the bureaucracy and we want to change that by amending the Fair Trading Act 1987 to give the agency the power to publish its complaints data for the first time,” Mr Dominello said.

“Consumers should have the right to know which traders have high numbers of complaints against them so they can take this into account when purchasing goods and services. We want to create a fairer and more competitive marketplace through open data.”

The proposed register would provide information regarding the number of complaints received about individual traders and is expected to act as an incentive for businesses to improve the way they deal with consumer issues and I believe that this is a good idea.

Open data is a key feature of the NSW Government’s ICT Strategy which encourages public sector agencies, where appropriate, to make high-value datasets available to industry and the community. Later this year this will include the Property Sales Information provide to many third parties including Estate Agents Co-operative.

The proposed register would provide information regarding the number of complaints received about individual traders and is expected to act as an incentive for businesses to improve the way they deal with consumer issues.

The Minister will establish a stakeholder roundtable to consider what form the complaints register will take, how regularly it will be published and how the information can be best utilised by consumers, traders and the media.

CHOICE, the Australian Retailers Association and the Business Council of Australia are among the industry groups which will be invited to participate in the roundtable.

Mr Dominello said a Bill would be introduced in the new Parliament which would create a statutory power for NSW Fair Trading to publish its complaints information.

 

asbestos

Loose-fill asbestos insulation in residential properties guide released for NSW

In January EAC met with NSW Fair Trading and Workcover to discuss the ongoing issue of Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos.

At this meeting a discussion took place regarding the need to clearly outline to agents, property managers and consumers the steps that they need to take regarding Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos in properties.  EAC has worked in conjunction with WorkCover in the development of a factsheet regarding Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos.

“Agents and Property Managers cannot be expected to make a qualified assessment of whether asbestos is present in a property,” said Geoff Hunter, EAC Industry Liaison Officer.  “That is why this factsheet is so important, to give them clear steps and guidelines on how to deal with Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos, and to make clear their obligation to properly inform property owners of their associated obligations.”

There are a number of obligations imposed on real estate agents by law in relation to Asbestos located in the properties agents are engaged to sell, lease or manage.

These obligations include:

  • a duty of care to the client and workers engaged to carry out work on the property.
  • a commitment to act honestly, fairly and professionally.
  • a responsibility to disclose certain matters to prospective buyers and tenants.

It is reasonable to assume that properties constructed before 1980 may contain Loose-Fill Asbestos Insulation.

The problem confronting all agents and property managers is that the presence of Loose-Fill Insulation containing Asbestos is a “Material Fact.”  Therefore, the factsheet outlines the steps that principles, agents and property managers should take in relation to properties they lease and/or manage, or are engaged to sell.

“The protection and representation of NSW agents and property managers is of the utmost importance to EAC, That is why it is so important that we have worked with NSW Government departments on this issue and will continue to do so at every turn.

This factsheet is now complete and ready to be viewed here.

house-keys

Should First Home Buyers be able to access their Superannuation to assist in the purchase of a home?

Joe Hockey recently announced that the Government is considering providing first home buyers access to their superannuation to assist them in the purchase of their first home.

When considering whether it would be advantageous to provide these buyers with access to their superannuation, along with what the government is attempting to achieve, you need to take into account several considerations.

The first of these is the current market conditions. The market conditions that we are currently experiencing in Sydney (and in parts of Melbourne) are not indicative of what the property market is like in other parts of New South Wales or other capital cities for that fact.

You need to consider what percentage of the population will be assisted by this policy if implemented? When it comes to first home buyers it is still not known what actual percentage of home purchasers in recent times have been first home buyers. I have read figures that state as low as 14% of purchasers in the market are first home buyers  I wrote about this issue in First Home Buyer Figures Understated.

Then there is the superannuation, it is estimated that an average person at 30 years of age has about $15,000 in their superannuation.

Interest rates also need to be mentioned as well. While the low interest rates are good for those first home buyers that are coming into the market they are not necessarily helping those that are saving for a deposit as the rates being offered by the banks on deposits is at an all-time low.

In addition to the above there is already a First Home Owner Grant scheme in New South Wales which currently provides a grant of $15,000 but only applies to eligible first home owners who purchase a new home or build their home.

Last week I was interviewed by Australian Broker TV on the topic and I have to say that in the process of trying to form an opinion, I discovered what an absolute mine field this topic is.

So what are some of the disadvantages and advantages of the proposal?

Advantages

  • The main advantage is that first home buyers would have access to funds that they would not otherwise have access to for a deposit. In the Sydney housing market where prices are significantly higher than other areas of the state this could assist greatly.
  • Owning your own home is an asset and many believe that it should form part of a retirement plan in any case. The advantage of home ownership come retirement is that you do not have to worry about having to find the money to pay rent along with having enough income to fund your day to day living expenses.

Disadvantages

  • Once the funds have been withdrawn from their superannuation they won’t be available come retirement adding pressure to retirement savings.
  • There is an argument by some that it will bring more buyers into an already heated market and that this will drive up property prices even further.
  • If the superannuation is used to buy a house in the wrong area they could in fact go backwards financially.
  • The proposal somewhat goes against the goal of assisting people saving and funding their own retirement through initiatives such as the Superannuation Guarantee contributions

Having considered the advantages and disadvantages I have to say that there are counter arguments for each and while the government has announced they are thinking about the initiative there is not much detail available at this stage.

Here is some more food for thought

  • Similar schemes are available in Canada, New Zealand and Singapore. In Canada for example the amount withdrawn from superannuation has to be paid back in a certain time period. This obviously minimises the effect on the available superannuation come retirement.
  • What happens with the funds that are withdrawn from superannuation when they sell the home and purchase another, or what about the case when they don’t purchase another home?
  • What will happen when they actually retire how will the funds they withdrew be treated?
  • What happens should interest rates go up and they cannot meet their mortgage repayments, or they lose their job and they subsequently default on the mortgage. In this case they have lost their home and the superannuation that went into the purchase of that home.
  • Just like house prices and capital growth, the performance of your superannuation is not guaranteed and who is to say what amount you are going to end up with come retirement. If the market goes down you could in fact lose more that the amount that was pulled out to purchase the home.
  • What impact would there be on pension costs and the pension available to those that took advantage of the scheme if it was introduced.  (if in fact there is still a pension scheme available for those younger first home buyers by the time they retire)
  • There are sceptics that believe that the Government is trying to be seen to address an issue in an attempt to gain votes, in this case from the younger generation who are not indicative of the normal Liberal voter.

The proposal somewhat fails to address the underlying issue of the current market conditions that have made it harder for first home buyers to enter the market. That issue takes you off into a whole other minefield where you would need to look at the issue of housing affordability, negative gearing and supply and initiatives such as new land releases, higher density housing.

So in summary while I think the idea has merit, I think significant thought needs to go into the detail on how the proposal would operate and what protections are put in place.

OFT-logo

NSW Government vows to crackdown on under quoting – Politics at it’s best!

I am sure that many of you like myself saw the reports in the media on the weekend with the NSW Premier Mike Baird and the Minister for Fair Trading Matthew Mason Cox vowing to crack down on agents that under quote if re-elected at the NSW election being held on 28 March 2015. This was also confirmed in this article on the Liberal Party website.

If we look at the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 (the Act) in this regard:
Section 72 of the Act prohibits an agent from making false representations with respect to the agent’s true estimate of the selling price of a property to either a seller or prospective seller of residential property.

Section 73 of the Act prohibits an agent, by any statement made in the course of marketing a property pursuant to an agency agreement for the sale of a residential property, falsely understating the estimated selling price of the property.

Section 75 of the Act extends the provisions of sections 72 and 73 to ‘estimated price range’ in the same way as it applies to ‘estimated price’.

The maximum penalty for a breach of the provisions is $22,000. It is interesting to note that there have been no fines issued or prosecution of agents for this practice in recent years.

EAC has been in discussions with Fair Trading Officers with regard to, what appears to be, an increase in the incidence of “under quoting” by some agents and the impact of significant price escalation driven by unprecedented consumer demand. This market activity and selling price increases has made the task of estimating future selling prices extremely difficult.

The comments made by both the Premier and the Minister fail to recognise the existing legislative requirements and the impact on consumer expectations of the agents if properly enforced. The greater majority of agents understand their responsibilities. For the few that don’t the law is already in place.

With the election looming I believe that the attack on estate agents was a “knee jerk” reaction and was purely for political gain (read votes) and not in the best interests of consumers or agents. The reality is that many well researched and well prepared estimates of selling prices by agents are often overtaken by buyer competition and market forces, factors outside the agents control and not readily predicted.

EAC enjoys a healthy working relationship with NSW Fair Trading and will continue to work with them to ensure that the interests of the industry and consumers are protected.

EAC Chairman Dale Whittaker is also disappointed with the approach that the government took on the weekend and he believes that the approach that NSW Fair Trading should be taking is to raise the entry level standards for the industry and through quality ongoing training.

ios8.2 update - crombie.com.au

Apple releases the long awaited iOS 8.2

Apple iOS 8.2 (build number 12D508) has now been released. This is a major release, the largest since iOS 8 was released and contains many bug fixes and is available for iPhones, iPads and iPod touches. To download this update you will need to use iTunes or WiFi. The update on my iPhone 6  that was on version 8.1.3 was 476MB.

Before running the update I recommend that you backup your device including any purchases and then once the update has run I always perform a hard reset and check for any updates to applications in the App Store.

Below is the iOS Official 8.2 change log that was released by Apple.

Apple Watch support
New Apple Watch app to pair and sync with iPhone, and to customize Watch settings
New Activity App for viewing fitness data and achievements from Apple Watch; appears when Apple Watch is paired
Available on iPhone 5 and later

Health App improvements
Adds the ability to select the unit of measurement for body temperature, weight, height, distance, and blood glucose
Improves stability when dealing with large amounts of data
Includes the ability to add and visualise workout sessions from 3rd-party apps
Addresses an issue that may have prevented users from adding a photo in Medical ID
Fixes units for vitamins and minerals
Fixes an issue where Health data wouldn’t refresh after changes data source order
Fixes an issue where some graphics showed no data values
Adds a privacy setting that enables turning off tracking of steps, distance, and flights climbed
Stability Enhancements
Increases stability of Mail
Improves stability of Flyover in Maps
Improves stability of Music
Improves VoiceOver reliability
Improves connectivity with Made for iPhone Hearing Aids

Bug Fixes
Fixes an issue in Maps that prevented navigating to some favorite locations
Addresses an issue where the last word in a quick reply message wasn’t autocorrected
Fixes an issue where duplicate iTunes purchased content could prevent iCloud restore from completing
Resolves an issue where some music or playlists didn’t sync from iTunes to the Music app
Fixes an issue where deleted audiobooks sometimes remained on the device
Resolves an issue that could prevent call audio from routing to car speakers while using Siri Eyes Free
Fixes a Bluetooth calling issue where no audio is heard until the call is answered
Fixes a timezone issue where Calendar events appear in GMT
Addresses an issue that caused certain events in a custom reoccurring meeting to drop from Exchange calendar
Fixes an certificate error that prevented configuring an Exchange account behind a third-party gateway
Fixes an issue that could cause an organizer’s Exchange meeting notes to be overwritten
Resolves an issue that prevented some Calendar events from automatically showing as “busy” after accepting an invite.

Requirement for Pool Owners to obtain a Compliance Certificate extended until 29th April 2016.

In NSW, the owners of properties with a swimming pool and/or a spa pool are required to register their pools and spas on the NSW Swimming Pool Register. The Provisions of the Swimming Pools Act 1992 requiring pool owners to obtain a Certificate of Compliance before selling or leasing their property will now commence on 29 April 2016.

In a media release sent out by Paul Toole, Minister for Local Government last Thursday 26 February 2015 it was advised that “pool owners will be granted a 12-month extension to make sure they have a valid compliance certificate before the property can be sold or leased.” This means that if you are selling or leasing your property you do not need to attach a Swimming Pool Compliance Certificate to the Contract for Sale of Land until 29 April 2016.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole stated that “The evidence showed there was a high failure rate for initial inspections and a heavy demand to make pools compliant”

We have received several calls from Members in regards to the change and it is interesting to note that despite the announcement the NSW Government Swimming Pool Register website still states the 29th April 2015 as can be seen below.

NSW Government Swimming Pool Register

Further to this when you go into the Register your pool section on the NSW Office of Local Government it mentions nothing of the change nor does the downloadable Swimming Pool Register – FAQ document which still references 29 April 2015. It is not until you navigate to the section on Selling or leasing a property with a pool or spa that you will find the change.

There was no communication of this change to EAC despite being involved in discussions in the past. I would have thought that the supporting websites and documentation would have been updated at the same time as the announcement had been made but obviously this has not been the case and I have expressed this view and requested that the sites be updated in calls to the Office of Local Government and the contact for Minister Toole.

The Media release can be viewed here.

Change to NSW Sales Agency Agreements from 1 March 2015

In late 2014 the Property, Stock and Business Agents Regulation 2014 came into effect. There were several changes introduced as part of the update to the regulations and one of the changes introduced was in regards to agency agreements.

Under clause 8, section 3 of the regulations it is stated that on and from 1 March 2015, if the agency agreement includes a term that a commission is payable even if the sale of the property is not completed, the agency agreement must include a warning notice.

The notice must be in the form of:

“WARNING: The term immediately above provides that a commission is payable under this agreement even if the sale of the property is not completed.”

This notice must be included in the agency agreement immediately following the commission term and must be no less prominent than the commission term.

EAC Agency Agreements Warning Clause.Sample clause from the updated EAC Sales Inspection and Exclusive Selling Agency Agreement.

The change applies to agency agreements for the sale of residential (including land) and rural property and Businesses. We have updated our printed and electronic forms to include this change and they are now available for purchase and use on-line.

To ensure compliance I recommend that you check if the agency agreements being used for the sale of the property types outlined above include a term that a commission is payable even if the sale of the property is not completed and if so that the warning notice is also included.

Federal Government proposes charging of fees for foreign investment in residential property

The Federal Government has released a consultation paper called Strengthening Australia’s Foreign Investment Framework and is seeking views on proposed reforms to our foreign investment framework in relation to residential property and agriculture.

The proposed reforms include the introduction of an application fee where foreign persons will require prior approval to purchase residential real estate. The Government believe that the introduction of the policy will increase the amount of available housing stock. Given recent information in the media I am not sure that there are any real concrete figures on the amount of foreign investment in residential property in Australia.

While most people would think of foreign investors as people who live overseas the paper covers foreign persons who may be temporary residents or non residents.

Foreign persons can apply to purchase vacant residential land for development and newly constructed dwellings in Australia.

Non resident foreign persons are generally prohibited from purchasing established dwellings in Australia. However, reflecting the fact that foreign persons who are temporary residents need a place to live during their time in Australia, temporary residents can apply to purchase one established dwelling to use as a residence while they live in Australia. The purchase of an established dwelling is conditional on the foreign person selling the property when they leave Australia. Temporary residents cannot acquire established dwellings for investment (rental) or holiday purposes.

The proposed fees for foreign investors for residential property are:

  • $5,000 for properties valued under $1 million;
  • $10,000 for properties equal to or greater than $1 million
  • Beyond this the fee would then increase in increments of up to $10,000 for each additional $1 million in property value.

Compliance and enforcement would be managed by the creation of a new area within the Australian Taxation Office and the paper outlines a raft of civil and criminal penalties for both individuals and companies who those breach, or are found to have assisted (read real estate agents) in the breach the foreign investment rules.

The paper will be be reviewed in greater depth by the Practice Support team at Estate Agents Co-operative and a submission made if deemed necessary.

At only 33 pages the paper is an easy read and be viewed at the Australian Government Treasury website.