Tuesday, February 22, 2011

World's Most Expensive Dog Kennel

One of the reasons why Balmain is popular with European ex-pats is that the peninsula feels like a European town. When I was in Paris, I couldn't help but notice that welcoming acceptance of dogs into places such as bars and cafes. Balmain in this sense is a little bit like Paris and the friendly pooches we see on Darling Street all look well groomed and well fed. But despite our love affair with our four legged friends, I doubt that any of us would spend one quarter of our homes value on a dog house!

This is exactly what has been done by a home owner in Gloucester shire, England. Built to house two Great Danes, the kennel has some luxury features that most people don't have in their homes. To gain access, the dogs must enter via a retinal scanner that prevents nosey canine neighbours from enjoying the facilities! Once inside, the pampered pooches can relax in their own 18 inch saline spa while listening to Baha Mens - Who Let The Dogs Out on a $230,000 stereo system. Their beds are lined with sheepskin and are temperature controlled for comfort, while the two "bedrooms" offer views across the countryside. The "kitchen" contains automated food dispensers that self clean, while the water is purified and chilled. If this is not enough to make Rover happy, there is also a 52-inch Plasma television for the dogs to unwind after a hard day's bone burying. The dog's favourite films? Air Bud and Beethoven!

At a cost of nearly $400,000, you can put me in dog house anytime!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sustainability & Space: Future trends in Australian Housing

With the GFC nearly over, tighter bank lending, climate change and an ever increasing population constantly on the minds of Australians, the question can be asked - Where is the future of housing headed? This is more difficult to answer than first thought. For many people, especially those of a younger generation, achieving the Australian dream of owning your own home with a Hills Hoist in the backyard is quickly becoming a product of fantasy. It seems prevalent now, more than ever, that the notion of the Australian dream is just that - a dream. The reality is an accumulation of a life long debt for a minimal dwelling that is often 5 storeys off the ground and no outdoor space. Not wanting to loose that sense of home ownership embedded in our culture, the younger generation are turning to architects to combat the lack of affordability and rising utility bills.

Sustainability and Space seem to be the new focus on housing. How can we make an eco-friendly dwelling that draws in light, originality and comfort? "I think the drift to big McMansions has come to an end," says Melbourne architect Norman Day. "We're coming to the realisation that we don't need a castle. I think the public is a little more ahead of politicians on this. There's a real interest in harvesting water, solar power and trying to get off the electricity grid." Sydney Architect James Stockwell agrees on the utilities "... given the way energy bills are just going up, I reckon a fair bit of thought needs to be given by home buyers so they don't end up spending a fortune running their place." Yet while having a home that can convert your pets bodily functions into running the kettle is a nice thought, the problem boils down to space.

Australia is a large country, but our infrastructure is relatively minuscule and relies too heavily on our coast to sustain our population. Sometimes there just isn't enough affordable land to allow population growth and sometimes that land must be preserved for environmental sustainability or to combat urban sprawl. Sydney's issue with urban sprawl puts large amounts of strain on our infrastructure - the further west we go, the further west our pipes, cables and roads must go. A solution has been touted quite publicly by our former Prime Minister Paul Keating: Build large tenement blocks in the city. People must embrace unit living. The problem with this is that it goes against our national psych of landownership. People want a home with a backyard, not to live in communal cages. However, reality tells us that a compromise has to be achieved and this responsibility falls on the architects and builders - Peter Cotton, National Practice Director of Mirvac Design says the trick is to make "smaller feel bigger, ensuring every space is utilised". A big focus for Mirvac is promoting social interaction through its design of major estates -- apartments that engage the street scape rather than looking inward, and building community areas where people can mingle with plenty of easily accessed open spaces.

However, units have not been all that popular in Balmain. The latest figures from Ashton & Rowe have recorded that while unit capital growth is up 17% in 3 years, the demand for them has recorded lower yeilds than those in other parts of Sydney. On par with this, the same report shows a 61% increase in 3 bedroom homes coming on for sale (and not yet sold) while 4 bedroom homes are estimated to decline in demand over 2011. These stats point to a popularity spike in smaller 2 bedroom homes - semis and terraces. People seem content to live with less space as long as it is on land.

So one can speculate an extreme attitude for the future; in order for affordability and sustainability to be achieved, the average Australian must let go of their dream and be content to build their home within the confined walls of a unit.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The World's Most Expensive Floor Tiles

Home renovations have long been a popular pastime on the Balmain peninsula. Through my time in real estate I have seen some amazing renovations that have wow'd me from the moment I've stepped into the door. Quite often the purpose of renovating a home is to achieve a visual and lifestyle improvement that will increase the re-sale value of your home. However, the cost of just one of these tiles would probably blow the entire renovation budget for the average DIY investor!

Pietra Firma’s LuxTouch is considered to be the most expensive tile in the world. Built from black marble, each tile is inlaid with 95 brilliant cut diamonds in a flower petal arrangement surrounding a rich, black agate circle. Abalone shell and pearl inlay are handcrafted to perfectly fit into each corner.

The diamonds in the tiles are raised so as to create a sensation in your feet as you walk over them. For roughly $1 million per square foot, you'd want to be reassured that you are literally walking on diamonds!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pubs of Balmain - part 1

Today Balmain has become a peninsula of contrasting identity - we think of the suburb as a hip, cafe and art gallery loving place where expression of thought and creativity are unionised with a new found wealth in property. However, the heritage of the area as a working class, pub loving town still holds tight in defining the identity of its residents. The pennisula has always had a deep love affair with the working class and the public house and there are currently 24 trading pubs on the penninsula, some of them being of the oldest ilke in Australia.

The Captain Cook Inn: Nicholson St, Balmain East. The very first hotel on the pennisula, built in 1842. It was only trading for 3 years before it became a private residence for Captain Nicholson (of whom Nicholson Street is named after). It later became Durham House but the building no longer stands.

Rob Roy Hotel: 25 Adolphus St, Balmain - was a pub for 101 years until 1958. It has a reputation for harbouring unsavory characters and was known to the locals as the "Bloodhouse". Its location serviced the men working on the schooners docked in White Bay and a story goes that when these men, intoxicated, spilled out onto the street and found themselves on Shannon Grove, a private residence (now Ewenton St), a father and son team known as "The Ward Boys" would eject them using a revolver. The Rob Roy also had a reputation for selling liquor on Sundays, which at the time was prohibited. The building is now a boarding house.

Dry Dock Hotel : Cnr College & Cameron Sts Balmain - Is the oldest hotel still trading today. It opened in 1867 and has been servicing partons for the past 142 years. Its success has been due to its close proximity to Mort's Dock. It was the first pub have a beer garden and host live entertainment in Balmain.