Monday, 12 January 2009


“The advanced price correction and rapidly falling interest rates in recent months have combined to make property much more affordable and attractive to those who need a home now.”

“If you are buying a home and you can get it at a 20 or 30% reduction and the cost of financing it is similar to the rent you are paying, then it makes sense to purchase.”

“Many positive factors include much lower prices, the cheaper cost of money, and the considerable choice in the market place.”

“With further falls expected in interest rates in the first quarter of 2009, soon it will be cheaper to be paying a mortgage on a home rather than to rent it.”

Positive Factors in an Uncertain Property Environment

No-one can deny that 2008 was a year of change for the global and local economy and the property market. Although the environment is still uncertain, there are some positive factors to consider if you are thinking of buying a property. Although it is not yet clear what the current market value of properties is, it is clear that the prices were over inflated in the summer of 2006. This was in part due to easy access to money from the banks which pushed prices up. Now the market is correcting itself and there are plenty of properties out there at significantly lower prices. Local developers are finishing new homes to a very high standard with some even including costs of kitchen appliances and furnishings and selling them at bargain prices.
Smaller, lower value properties prices have fallen by 15 to 25% and the prices of larger homes have fallen even more up to 25 to 30% depending on location, style and quality of house.

More Affordable
The advanced price correction and rapidly falling interest rates in recent months have combined to make property much more affordable and attractive to those who need a home now. Indeed with further falls expected in interest rates in the first quarter of 2009, soon it will be cheaper to be paying a mortgage on a home rather than to rent it as rental values are higher than the monthly cost of the mortgage. Financial institutions seem to be happy to lend to home owners/owner occupiers in particular and it makes good sense for all of us that they ensure customers are credit worthy.

For those who wish to buy a home this year, there are many positive factors including much lower prices, the cheaper cost of money, and the considerable choice in the market place. For most their home is a mid to long term purchase/investment and people are likely to reside there for 5 to 30 years. Property values will go up and down during this time. If you are buying a home and you can get it at a 20 or 30% reduction and the cost of financing it is similar to the rent you are paying, then it makes sense to purchase. It is likely that after this period of uncertainty and change, property values will improve. Construction activity of new homes has nearly ground to a halt and this will lead to lack of supply in a few years, which in turn will increase the likelihood of capital growth.

Active Viewing
If you are considering purchasing a home, new or second-hand, you should be actively viewing the properties available as value is better than many realise. In addition cost of credit is relatively cheap and likely to get cheaper. The New Year will bring opportunities and a new optimism.

Building Energy Rating (BER) Certificate in Ireland
From the 1st of January 2009, all residential properties for sale or for rent will require a Building Energy Rating (BER) Certificate and all existing buildings (residential and other buildings) when offered for sale or rent have to be assessed to receive an energy rating..

What is a Building Energy Rating?
The Building Energy Rating Certificate (BER) makes the energy performance of a building transparent and available to potential purchasers or tenants. It is simply a check to see how good your house is at using energy and will measure how much energy and carbon your house will use or produce over a given year. You will be given a label that looks like a sticker from your new fridge with a rating from A-G, where ‘A' is the most energy efficient and 'G' is the least.

Who needs a BER?
You are only required to have an energy rating carried out if you are selling or renting your house. Exemptions apply to listed buildings of outstanding architectural or historical importance.

How do you get a BER?
BERs will be carried out by specially trained BER assessors who will issue the BER by using various calculation methods and software.

How will energy rating of NEW HOMES be carried out?
New homes will most likely be rated from the plans during the design stage by a certified assessor. The person or organisation building the new dwelling will engage a BER assessor to carry out the BER.

How will energy rating of EXISTING HOMES be carried out?
Homeowners who are selling or renting an existing home will be required to have a building energy rating (BER) carried out by a trained and certified assessor and must provide the BER certificate to prospective buyers/tenants.

How long is a BER valid for?
The BER is valid for up to 10 years provided that there is no material change to the dwelling that could effect its energy performance.

How could the BER be improved?
National Energy Assessors (NEA) recommendations may include:
Increasing the insulation in the walls/attic/floors
Installing advanced energy efficient windows/doors
Measures to achieve controlled, healthy ventilation
Replacing an old or inefficient boiler with a more efficient boiler
Installing modern heating controls
Installing certain types of renewable energy heating systems
Insulating the hot water cylinder and pipe work

How much does it cost?
It will vary, depending on competition. Here is a rough calculation to give you an idea.
A BER for a house may cost about €370
A BER for a one bedroom apartment may cost about €269
A Customised Improvement Report (which is a costed step by step guide on how to improve the energy efficiency may cost about €120
A Thermal Imaging Report (which is a diagnostic to identify heat loss invisible to the naked eye) costs about €60
An air tightness test (which tackles draughts and heat loss in your home) would cost between €180 to €400
A follow on BER would be between €200 and €360

How to improve your Building Energy Rating
Use low Energy light BulbsEnergy efficient light bulbs (CFLs), not only last up to 15 times longer than ordinary bulbs, they also use 80% less electricity. Remember to turn off lights when they are not required.
Increase insulation in walls, attic & floors
Ensure you have lagging jacket on your cylinder,
Insulate Your cavity wall
Make your windows and doors energy efficientWhat kind of windows do you have. If you have single pane glass windows consider glazing. Double glazing reduces heat loss by 1/3rd and low emissivity triple glazing reduces heat loss by over 2/3rds.
Controlled Ventilation SystemWhilst ventilation is necessary, excessive ventilation can result in energy wastage. Controlled vents should be installed in every room.
Heating SystemsA 93% efficient boiler will save about €600 a year in fuel. If you have a boiler with an efficiency of 80% or under it is worth considering replacing it with one of the modern condensing boilers which have efficiencies of up to 97%. This will improve the BER considerably.
Modern Heating ControlsImproving the heating control system can reduce the BER quite significantly. There are a variety of possibilities depending on the type of heating system present, e.g. for boiler systems the ideal is to have time & temperature control.

The main difference between a traditional building and timber frame is that the inner shell is built using a timber structure. The exterior walls are still built in the conventional way. In this way, your home doesn’t compromise on strength but you enjoy the benefits of a timber frame. A timber frame home costs less to heat. Cosy, warm and draught free, the low running costs are matched by structural quality that is not just reliable but is environmentally friendly. In a timber frame house, the basic structure consists of wooden wall panels, timber flooring and roofing materials built onto a timber framework. These timber components are nailed to the framework to provide a sturdy skeleton around which the external walls of a conventional house are built
Compared to traditional masonry methods of construction, timber frame homes:
· Are engineered to the highest level of accuracy and quality
· Significantly simplify on-site construction
· Promote greater efficiency and supply chain integration
· Deliver greater control to the construction process
· Meet and often exceed current building regulations
· Timber frame construction meets and exceeds all current building regulations with regard to fire
· Improves construction health and safety
· Have considerably less impact on the environment

Home Improvements
You like your home, you like the location, but you could do with a bit more space to accommodate the family. How can you make the most of what you have got.

10 Ways to Create More Space

1. Declutter your home: Do a room at a time, a cupboard at a time and pass on the things you really don’t need. Have a car boot sale or donate stuff to a charity shop.
2. Don’t bring things into the house in the first place: Ask yourself, “Do I/we really need it?” before you buy it.
3. Install shelves: Shelves are handy and inexpensive. Every room can benefit from shelving and it gets things off the floor. Corner shelves are great for picture frames, knick-knacks and other small treasures.
4. Design your space to suit your needs: Every-one has different needs for their home. Re-arrange your furniture to suit your needs. Get rid of furniture if you don’t use it or add units for extra storage.
5. Rotate: You may have many items you love in your home, but not enough space. Rotate them. Keep some things in storage for a month or two and display some of your things. Then, once that time is up, make the switch. An example could be summer and winter clothing.
6. One Year Box: If you struggle with the “I might use it one day” issue then pop the items into a box and put them away for a year. If you haven’t gone looking for the item in the year, the decision has made itself. The same is true for clothes you haven’t worn.
7. Get help: If the mess monster has escaped and ravaged your home, then perhaps it would be good to get a friend in or get the family involved. A new perspective will help even if it is just to help make decisions and it gives a bit of structure in getting started.
8. Put frequently used items within arms reach. Whenever possible, store regularly used items where you use them most. You shouldn't have to walk from one room to another to retrieve items you use every day. If possible, store linens in the bedroom, DVD’s near the television and if you use the scissors in the office area and in the kitchen have a pair in each room.
9. Consider refurbishement:If you love cooking and your kitchen is the heart of the home it is worthwhile investing in a new kitchen with plenty of storage presses and work surfaces as well as having seating for friends. If you work from home get a room set up as an office complete with desk, cabinets and filing space.
10. Consider an extension: An extension is a great way to create more space to meet the needs of family life. Getting a good builder on board who listens to your needs, works to high standards and who uses a good team of trades people can really help to make your house a home without having to leave your friends and neighbours.

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