Thursday, August 4, 2011

Housing affordability and development sustainability in Brisbane

It’s a common theme discussed and reported throughout the community and it is a very important one, but there seems to be little being suggested that could help manage this issue.
Queensland residents living in our cities and towns have traditionally been used to living on big blocks in leafy suburbs close to where work is available and with necessary amenities nearby. This traditional way of life is changing; particularly in Brisbane.

As our population grows; more and more people are forced to live further out on our urban fringes where the more affordable housing is being produced. There is very little affordable housing being produced close to the city centre simply because the land value in and around the city centre rises as this property becomes more scarce and more sought after (a symptom of a growing city).
This urban sprawl has become a major planning problem for our state and local Governments and addressing it, it seems, is very complicated.

One answer to the problem is to allow higher density development within the city. Smart planners are allowing higher density development alongside rail corridors for example making good use of this existing transport infrastructure.  The problem of affordability still remains however and developers are finding it increasingly difficult to make projects viable with the ever increasing cost of land and building construction making redevelopment economically prohibitive in many of these areas.
Adding to this problem is the fact that many potential redevelopment sites are off limits because of demolition controls designed to protect older homes in so called character areas. These controls are actually contributing to the loss of our character homes because when these houses deteriorate to a point where it’s not viable to restore them they can then be demolished under the laws designed to protect them. There is little wonder then that in some demolition control areas where redevelopment is popular that lovely old character houses are being left to deteriorate to a stage where a permit can be issued to demolish them, thus freeing up those sites for redevelopment.
When a house has deteriorated to a stage where it’s no longer viable to live in or restore, the only option left is demolition. A better solution would involve allowing those same houses to be removed and reused somewhere more appropriate before they deteriorate to a stage when the only option left is for them to be demolished and lost forever. When a house is removed and resited elsewhere nearly all of its original materials are recycled and used again, plus the house retains its character and a significant portion of its historical value too. A demolished house largely ends up in landfill, with a small amount of material reused or incorporated into other houses during renovation etc. Demolition does nothing to retain the character or historical significance of the houses it occurs to. Changes to the Demolition Controls would need to be made to turn this around because house relocation is treated the same as demolition, despite the fact that the end results are vastly different.
Why not allow our lovely old character homes a chance of a new life at another location for future generations to appreciate and enjoy? Too many are being lost to demolition because of a poorly thought out system designed to protect them, but which is failing them badly.
With so much property locked up and essentially off limits to redevelopment due to the demolition controls, there is little left for developers to choose from making the remaining development sites scarce and more expensive to obtain, adding to the housing affordability problem.

If we want to limit urban sprawl, make better use of existing infrastructure and make our cities more liveable and more affordable in a growing population environment; we need to embrace responsible higher density development and make it easier, not harder to do that. We need to re-look at the laws controlling demolition and house recycling to find better ways to make use of our existing housing stock.
The modern lifestyles and living requirements for those living close to the centre of the city have largely outgrown the modest 2 or 3 bedroom Queenslander home and trying to keep them as and where they were 60 to 100 years ago is short sighted. Trying to keep the city as it once was might just prove too costly in terms of housing affordability, and the social, economical and environmental costs created by urban sprawl.

We have an opportunity to protect our older homes by allowing them to be moved to locations more suited to their use into the future. Many people living on the fringes of pre 1946 areas would love to replace their less desirable existing post war home with a lovely old Queenslander from one of their neighbouring suburbs; and many are doing just that. The problem is that because of the shortage of old Queenslanders available for removal they have become more expensive and harder to obtain, forcing many to abandon the idea and build a new home instead.
The ideal scenario would go like this. An old pre 1946 Queenslander in say Norman Park is bought from a developer and allowed to be moved to a new owner’s site in say Camp Hill which currently has a post war home on it. The post war home is bought by a third person and removed to another site further out. The original site in Norman Park is developed responsibly into a number of dwelling units that are affordable and more in keeping with the use of the area. Camp Hill benefits from the addition of an original old Queenslander and its new owner renovates and improves it to suit his lifestyle whilst retaining its character. Brisbane has retained the historical significance of the character home albeit in another location and two buildings have been recycled and used again.
As the city grows this process could be repeated indefinitely with that same old Queenslander perhaps being moved again at some time in the future when higher density development moves further out into the post war areas.
Multiple story high-rise developments are not the answer to our cities growing pains. It’s time for State and Local Governments to get together and solve problems like this one and promote responsible recycling efforts including house relocation that can help save our planet and save our older homes for future generations.

Friday, February 25, 2011

House Storage Yards, the Good the Bad and the Ugly

Looking for a house to buy for removal can be a time consuming exercise. One of the ways to see a number of homes in the one place is to visit a House Removal Storage Yard. However, before you jump in the car and head off to your local "Used House Lot" to kick the stumps and tap on the walls, here are a few tips which might help you in your search for your dream home. Lets start with how it all began.

Storing houses became necessary when councils and local authorities began regulating and requiring approval prior to allowing houses to be moved onto residential sites. This meant in many cases houses had to be removed from existing sites before approvals could be obtained for the site they were being moved to, and so they needed somewhere they could be stored until the approvals were granted at the final destination.

Some House Removers realised that instead of just moving houses for their clients, they could buy up old houses, put them in a yard and start selling them like used cars on a dealers lot. Once the word got out and house yards started springing up around the place, particularly in South East Queensland where there was plenty of redevelopment going on in the 1980's and 1990's, House Removal started to become a better known alternative to new construction.

So nowadays there a quite a few house storage yards you can visit with houses just sitting there waiting for a new owner or the required approvals before being moved to their new home site. Is this a good place to start? Here are some things you should consider before you race out the door.

Today we have the wonderful invention of the Internet. This tool is incredibly useful and can save you enormous amounts of time when researching and looking for houses to buy. You will find that nearly every house for sale for removal will be listed on the internet somewhere. Start by searching for homes online, you can find them in all sorts of places and doing a Google search using terms such as Homes for Removal, Removable Homes, Relocatable Homes for example, will give you lots of links to follow. It also helps to refine your search to a specific area, such as trying "Removal Homes Brisbane".

The best sites will give you photos, floor plans and other detail so you can get a very good idea of what is on offer and how the homes compare to each other, so you can narrow down your search to just the ones that interest you, saving you a lot of leg work on the ground. On some websites you can even subscribe to an email notification service that will automatically email you new listings as they are published.

Due to effective marketing through websites these days, many homes are sold before being moved, and most are delivered direct to final site without ever being stored, so to limit your search to homes in yards will limit your choice of available homes.

You will also find that house yards are mostly full of houses already sold that are just transitioning to final site, and that the remaining ones in the yards for sale are the least desirable ones that take a lot longer to sell.

It is not surprising then that the feedback we get from people who have visited house yards almost always includes comments like "none of the houses we inspected are any good" or "the ones for sale are pretty rough and need lots of work".

The best deals and the best homes are to be found not in yards, but still on their original site. Developers are better educated about house removal these days and are allowing more time to have houses removed making it possible to obtain the approvals at the new site before moving the home. This saves everyone involved in the process time and money. The seller gets a better price because the House Remover does not have to factor in a double shift. Some of the savings are usually passed onto the buyer as well to encourage a quicker sale which is in the interests of the seller. Everybody wins, even the House Removal Company because they can sell and move more houses and make more money by not having to move each one twice. Double handling and storage only add to cost and time which ends up being distributed to everyone in the selling chain.

House stock is expensive to hold so most House Removal companies don't like to keep much unsold stock in a yard. They tend not to buy the nicer more expensive homes to put in a yard as they are more costly to buy and then hold. You will find therefore that the better presented, and significantly renovated homes for removal will be found for sale from original sites.

Something else to consider is that most houses were never designed to be moved, and therefore the less a house is moved the better. There is much less chance of damage or other work required when a house is moved just once. Houses due to their size have to be stored out in the open, and anything stored in the open for long periods of time can deteriorate. Its best to move a home straight from its point of origin then place it back on solid and level foundations as soon as possible with completion work started as soon as possible thereafter.

So, the best way to search for and buy a home for removal is to start with a search on the internet, narrow down the ones you want to see, then make appointments with the seller to view them. Remember that many will still be occupied by the original owner or a tenant, so adequate notice prior to inspections may be necessary.

Happy House Hunting.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

House Removal and Investing

The financial benefits to investors buying houses for removal can be significant and investors could benefit in a number of different ways. For example an investor who deals in redevelopment could sell an existing house they no longer need and save the costs of demolition (which can be between $10000 and $20000) plus they might also receive money for the sale of the house as well. Another investor might have a property with an existing house on it that is not ideal for return on investment and by removing the existing one and replacing it with another more suitable house could improve the value of the property potentially increasing capital gain and rental income.

Many investors over the years, particularly in Brisbane, have bought and redeveloped what are referred to as splitter blocks where a house straddles two subdivided lots on a potential development site. The idea is that you either sell the house for removal and put two smaller houses on the two sites or you move the existing house over onto one site and move another house onto the adjacent one.

An investor wishing to obtain a return on investment from a vacant block of land has a choice. Build new or install a used home. When comparing the cost of building a new home to the cost of installing a used Removal Home, the savings can be considerable. Because a removal home is derived mostly of used materials, and used materials sell for significantly less than new (rule of thumb about two thirds of new cost) then it follows that removal home buyers will usually be prepared to pay about two thirds the cost of a similar house built from scratch. Although the removal home buyer has paid only two thirds of the cost of a new replacement, does not mean that his property is now worth any less than a similar property next door with a similar house on it, albeit new. The investor using the used removal home pockets the profit from the project rather than the builder who was employed by the investor next door. Its either that or the investor building a new home is paying a premium for a new house which he is unlikely to ever recover.

It’s true that the investor who used the removal home may have had to project manage the installment and perhaps renovation of the house, but the investor next door had no choice but to employ a builder to build the new house, unless he was a builder himself.

Companies who find houses for investors/buyers and assist them with the removal and installation process provide valuable resources, help and advise to would be investors. Most have a good range of houses available that have been pre priced and pre assessed for removal viability removing uncertainty and saving valuable time in researching suitable houses. They have the contractors available for relocation of the house and installation of the new foundations or stumps required. They usually have access to specialised approval consultants who are helpful in navigating the often complicated council approvals process required at each end of the house relocation project. Others have house storage facilities that are sometimes needed to bridge time periods between approvals.

In any event it pays to have the right advise and be pointed in the right direction by someone in the know, particularly in something as specialised as house removal. Always choose a house removal company that is properly licensed to deal in removal homes. The minimum requirement these days (in Queensland at least) is a company with a builders license, or a builders license restricted to house removal. Operators should be adequately insured for public liability, have transit insurance and contractors all risk insurance. Reputation and length of service in the industry are important too.

Insurance can be difficult to obtain privately for house relocation projects, so it’s important to use companies and contractors who have the necessary types of insurance already arranged. It’s rare for consumers to be charged extra for insurance taken out by operators as its usually included in the overall cost.

The cost of a house removal project can vary considerably between jobs. Factors including the size and condition of the house, how many sections it needs to be transported in, which particular local councils are involved, the materials the house is made from, along with many others factors affect the overall cost and ultimately the viability of a house relocation project. Most houses are priced by removal home companies to include the house as it is, relocation within a specified distance and installation onto foundations to a basic standard and based on delivery to a standard building site with reasonable access. Most houses priced to include these factors cost between $500 and $800 per square meter of floor area. Costs in addition to that will include things like council approval (which could cost several thousand dollars), renovations if required (which can vary), re-connections to services such as water, gas, electricity and phones; and site works. The average house sale would be somewhere in the vicinity of $70,000 delivered and re-stumped within 100klms for a house of about 100 square meters in size.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Dont Demolish! Sell for Removal and Save Instead

Demolition can be a tremendous waste of resources. Typically when a house is demolished very little is actually recycled and most of it ends up as waste in land fill sites. Not only is it wasteful and potentially harmful to the environment, it can cost a lot of hard earned money to demolish a house. An average house will cost between $10,000 and $20,000 to demolish.

It makes much more sense to recycle a house in a way that maximises the reuse of existing material as well as saving money. When a house is removed from a development site and installed elsewhere to be used as a home again, nearly all the materials are recycled because the whole house is picked up and carried to its new location. If the house is in reasonably good condition to start with then extensive renovations and replacement of fixtures and fittings will not be necessary meaning most of the existing house can be reinstalled as is. Not only is the cost of demolition saved, in most cases a house relocation project will generate a profit if it is approached with some care, attention and with proper research carried out first.

Many hundreds of houses are sold and removed in Australia every year. Some house relocation companies are moving 100 houses or more each year on their own. Experienced developers have been taking advantage of this for a long time and many choose to use professional removal house resellers to find buyers for houses they need removed from their development sites. These resellers either move the houses themselves for their clients (or buyers) or arrange other house relocation contractors to do the removal work for their clients. The developers benefit by receiving money from the sale of the house, or at least by saving demolition costs. Some houses are taken from sites without a buyer having been found first and are stored at house removal depots to be sold and moved to a final destination later.

In any event it simply makes economical and environmental sense to consider house removal as an alternative to demolition.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Trade in Old for New or New for Old

Most people upon hearing the term "Trade In" would associate that with trading in an old car for a new one or perhaps a better used one. Who would think it could apply to houses also? Well it can and it does.

The continual Gentrification of the inner suburbs of our major cities is driving redevelopment which means old homes are being replaced with newer ones and sometimes even older ones better suited to the changing needs trends and uses in the area. The ability for houses to be relocated allows for the option of selling an existing house for removal from site and buying another one to replace it.

Imagine living in a slightly run down 1950's style house in an area where all the houses around you are being renovated or replaced with much more modern and expensive homes. You could go to a used house reseller or house remover and find a new or used modern home to replace it with and they also might just give you something back for your old home i.e. offer you a trade in.

The reverse is also happening. You might for example live in a 1960's or 70's style home that is in an area dominated by older period style homes. In this case you might trade in your relatively newer home for a much older and more desirable one that is in keeping with the other homes in the area and greatly improve the value of your property by doing so.

In Brisbane its common for homes straddling a subdivision of two blocks to be replaced with two older homes in keeping with the types of homes in the area. Thrifty builders, investors and developers have made good money doing this time and time again.

It helps to change the way you think about your house. Think of it as a portable item that can be moved and replaced rather than as a permanent fixture on your land. Not all homes will be suitable to trade in, but it is certainly worth finding out.