Authors Posts by Les Calvert

Les Calvert

Les Calvert is the owner and CEO of many internet property and travel related websites including this overseaspropertymall.comand he regularly writes news and articles for his websites, trade magazines and newspapers.

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Sydney Property

Australia has some of the highest house prices in the world, and some of the highest relative to income. They’re rising, too: while even booming Germany’s house prices are still undervalued, Australian house prices are about 30% above historical norms and 20% up in terms of price-to-income ratio over their long-term norms.

Comparisons with other places put that in perspective. House prices in Sydney are about 50% higher than in notoriously expensive New York, where the ‘micro-home’ trend began out of necessity, a consequence of property prices rising on the back of the largest pile of accumulated wealth anywhere in the world. The median price in Mildura, a small country town sitting on the border between New South Wales and Victoria, is about the same as Chicago – America’s third largest city. For comparison, that’s as if prices in Whitstable were higher than those in London. And wages are rising in Australia, but it’s not incomes powering this boom: wages in Australia rose by about 2.6% from 2013-2014, while house prices jumped over 10% in the same period, with Sydney seeing a rise of 15.4% to the end of the financial year and Melbourne seeing 9.4%.

If incomes aren’t rising to keep pace with house price rises, the extra money to inflate the housing market must be coming from somewhere, right?
Partly it’s coming from domestic demand rising and a lag in supply. Wages aren’t rising as fast as property prices are but the Australian economy is healthy enough that many natives want to buy  a house. But it’s the high, and rising, proportion of overseas investors that are geting all the attention.

In the first nine months of the current financial year, overseas purchasers put AU$24.9 billion into the Australian property market – including AU$5.5 billion into established homes, and represented 13% of the total value of property sold. Sales to foreigners have almost doubled from the previous financial year. And while about 78% of sales to foreigners were of new property, that AU$5.5bn of established home purchases rankles in a country where foreign money is typically directed to new builds, where it can stimulate the real economy by providing jobs instead of merely inflating the housing market.

The majority of overseas buyers are Asians; a Credit Suisse report indicated that about 18% of new homes in Sydney and 14% in Melbourne are being bought by Chinese buyers. The report also found Chinnese more and more in the role of ‘marginal purchasers’ – ie, those responsible for the price rises by being willing to pay the most.

As a result of all this foreign purchasing, the Australian parliament is conducting an inquiry into foreign buying of domestic real estate, and there are calls to limit overseas buying. Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer told a radio interviewer that occupancy will be a key issue for the inquiry: ‘I think what there’s concern about is whether or not apartments are being occupied,’ Ms. O’Dwyer said. ‘So whether or not it’s fulfilling the original mandate to provide additional; dwellings that can be purchased, in the end, by other Australian investors and home owners.’

Australia already has laws dealing with purchases by individuals overseas. Offshore buyers must purchase only new properties and penalties exist to enforce this policy. Meanwhile, if you have temporary residence and you’re living in Australia, you can buy property in Australia – but you’ll need approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board and must sell when you leave the country.

For some, of course, no laws against overseas purchase could ever be tight enough, but Opposition leader Bill Shorten was probably speaking for most of Australia when he welcomed the inquiry, saying, ‘I’m never concerned by people buying houses in Australia to live in them. We need to make sure that housing prices aren’t the phenomena of purely tax policy or other economic priorities.’

What this attitudes probably means for buyers of holiday homes is unclear, but expatriates are unlikely to be strongly affected by more stringent enforcement or new laws aimed at preventing absentee landlords keeping homes empty for tax purposes.

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The California Association of Realtors (CAR) has released data showing that the majority of sales in California are by voluntary, rather than distressed, vendors. The organisation said higher home values had continued to fuel more equity sales, which have stayed above 80% of closings for the past 11 months. However, pending home sales fell in May as investors pulled out of a market characterised by rising prices.

While the market in California has been getting healthier for a long time, the rise in May to 89% of closings saw equity sales up 12% on May 2013 after 22 straight months of increase.

At the same time, though, home sales as a whole actually fell slightly, according to the CAR. It’s probable that the reduction in results from investors reducing exposure to a market with rising prices. The median house price was up in May 2014 both month-on-month and year-on-year for the third consecutive month, and is higher now than it was in 2007. The picture is complicated by the fact that while sales as a whole fell, sales of already-existing homes rose, by 4.9% month-on-month. That’s a jump to 4.89 million sales, beating out experts’ predictions of a rise to 4.75 million and hitting the highest number since August 2011.

The figures seem to be revealing a market rich in vendors but relatively poor in developers, where housing building has slowed and a supply squeeze has begun to nip sales growth. As a result, there are buyers, but few investors. Steve Brown, of the National Association of Realtors, said, ‘the temporary pause in rising interest rates and more homes for sale is good news, especially for first-time buyers.’

This rising price trend has put pressure on sales. The statewide price has risen year-on-year for the last 27 months and there have been 23 straight months of double-digit annual gains; ‘prices are still nearly 12% higher than a year ago, which is presenting affordability challenges to homebuyers,’ explains Lesley Appleton-Young, CAR Vice President and Chief Economist.

The other squeeze on California’s housing sales is undersupply. Great news for vendors and a sweet sound to the ears of owners who have struggled with negative equity prior to being pushed back above water by a contracting market, it’s not great news for the market as a whole. As Ms. Appleton-Young says, ‘though housing inventory is up from last year, it’s still half of what is considered normal, with some of it being overprices. A tempering in home prices and the recent drop in mortgage rates, however, should help spark the market in the upcoming months.’

The LA times reported that economists predicted that the slowdown in price growth, coupled with cooling sales in some areas, ‘doesn’t foreshadow a decline in values, but signals more sustainable growth.’

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Australian Housing

April saw the third consecutive month of falling residential building approvals in Australia, according to the latest round of research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.  Their data shows that totals, seasonally adjusted, fell by 5.6%. Detached house sales were essentially flat in the month, with a barely-noticeable 0.1% fall. Approvals for other types opt dwelling fell by 13.5% month-on-month and were down 17% from a year earlier.

However, it’s important to note that other indicators were substantially higher than this time last year – detached house sales are still 16.1% higher than a year ago, for instance, and sales as a whole may be lower, but they’re falling from their January maximum when they were higher than they have been for  a decade.

Looked at by region, seasonally adjusted building approvals actually increased in Victoria by 14.8%, in South Australia by 12.2%, and in Western Australia by 4.4%. By contrast New South Wales saw a fall of 22.8%, Queensland prices fell 20.2% and Tasmania saw a 10.4% decline.

Australia’s Housing Industry Association (HIA) insists there’s no reason to worry, though.

‘The monthly volume of building approvals in April 2014, continued to recede from the decade high achieved back in January, although with close to 15, 000 dwellings approved in the month it is still a very positive result,’ said HIA economist Gordon Murray.

‘The pace of building approvals late in 2013 and early 2014 moved well ahead of the pace of home building commencements. So while we have seen building approval activity moderate over recent months, the pipeline of residential building work already approved should sustain a historically high level of activity throughout the middle part of 2014,’ Mr. Murray went on to say.

The evidence is there to back up Mr. Murray’s claims – that the Australian housing market may be correcting, but that’s not a euphemism for ‘crumbling.’ Lending for new home building continues high, and actually rose in April to reach the highest level since 2010, bearing out Mr. Murray’s expectations that the backlog of approved homes still in the pipeline should assure adequate supply.

It’s also beginning to look as if many habitual renters in Australia might be in a position to buy. Vacancy rates in rented accommodation are lower than usual when seasonally adjusted, according to data from SQM research, meaning that while more homes should come on the market in 2014, 2015 and 2016 this won’t necessarily help landlords. Instead many people will make the switch to purchasing property.

There’s one factor adding buoyancy to the Australian market that we haven’t touched on yet: the Australian population is rising. Data provider Timetric said in a statement, ‘a growing population and improving economic and social conditions have led to a rising demand for new homes. The market is set to grow at an annual rate of around 7% in nominal terms up to 2018.’

What will happen to the Australian property market as residents head to the cities – from Australia and overseas – is hard to predict. But a slow-down in the homebuilding rate isn’t the first crack in Australia’s new walls. It;’s the sign of a healthy market adjusting.

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Auction by Candle

In Paris, the new way to pick up a property is at a vente a la bougie, or sale by candle. While the tradition dates back to Medieval auction rooms, when business was conducted at a more leisurely pace and the darkness was both more ubiquitous and more convivial, it’s been revived in the age of internet banking, when a languid approach to bidding might see you outbid by a telephone from another continent.

The spectacle of a vente is such that they’re widely attended by people who don’t have any intention of buying anything. The charm of the event is what they come for. But others come with a clear idea of walking away with deeds, and at the Chambre des Notaires near the Place du Chatelet in Paris, properties worth hundreds of thousands of Euros change hands – by candlelight, in broad daylight.

At its heart the vente is run like a normal auction. But there’s no gavel  – the candles are used as a  timing system instead.

Enter a vente as a buyer and you can start bidding when a candle is lit for the property. When no more bids are entered, a second candle is lit. Only when this is extinguished, and the auctioneer has announced the fact – le dernier fou etiente! – is the sale complete.

A vente offers a unique bidding environment. It’s much less hurried than the typical British auction, yet far faster than the standard French housing sale, a long-winded process which is binding without being final for several months. When you buy a house in France you pay a deposit as soon as your offer is accepted. Officials including a notary public are involved and the business of buying can take six months or even more. During that time you’re committed to the sale and financially involved, but the house isn’t yours: you can’t move in or walk away. Contrast that with a vente and you can see that is isn’t just pageantry that makes them popular.

After you win the bidding at a vente, you have to pay the vendor within 45 days. As soon as your money is in their bank you’re entitled to take possession of the property. There’s no room for wriggling or gazumping: the market, represented by the people in the room at the time, decides the price in the open and the results are published on the website of the Chambre des Notaires.

Despite their advantages, there’s one party involved who doesn’t usually get a very good deal at ventes –the vendor. Search the ventes site and you can find the dates of forthcoming auctions and of the properties available (if your French is up to it). You can also find starting prices that make you realize another good reason ventres are well attended, like an Aquitaine chateau starting at £733, 000.

That’s great if you’re looking to snap up a bargain, but not so great if you’re the vendor, so many ventre sales are by the government dispensing of the properties of the intestate, or bank seizures.

So even if the idea of a ventre doesn’t tempt you, is this a good time to  buy a house in France? Knight Frank argue yes, pointing out that their French sales team has received 144% more enquiries than this time last year, and that foreign money is beginning to inflate the French commercial market. Many Chinese investors, for instance, are in France looking for vinyards. Meanwhile residential sales are healthy and three distinct regions –  the French Riviera, Provence and Paris, which Caterine Ryall, of Paris-based agents Sextant France, calls ‘one of the most structured and transparent in the world’ – are performing particularly well. The trend away from ‘fixer’ properties toward turnkey houses, often new builds, is as pronounced here as in Italy, meaning if you’re happy to do some renovation you could step into a bargain – maybe even by candlelight!

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Toronto has something to offer everyone. It is home to several diverse, luxurious, and historical neighborhoods that leave home buyers with a plethora of options. Home buyers looking for that ideal piece of Toronto need look no further than 5 luxurious communities; Bridle Path, Lawrence Manor, Chaplin Estates, Davisville and Willowdale East.  All 5 offer enticing combinations of value, prestige and access to the city.  There is something here for even the most discerning homebuyer.

Bridle Path: Average Home Price $2,234,881 CAD (April 2014)

Bridle Path is also known as “Millionaires Row” because many of the homes sell well in excess of a million dollars.  It is host to some of the wealthiest home owners in Canada as a result. Bridle Path contains an exclusive collection of homes nestled within the lush Don River Valley and surrounding parklands. This provides an ideal backdrop for these stately homes, many of which are situated on two-acre lots. There are few roads running through the community which gives the region a quiet and secluded feel while still being located close to shopping, schools and entertainment along Bayview Avenue.

Lawrence Manor: Average Home Price $1,388,570 CAD (May 2014)

Lawrence Manor was mostly farmland in the early 1900’s. The land was purchased by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation for residential development. At the time the Lawrence Plaza was the largest shopping center in Toronto, drawing attention to the newly developed area. The neighborhood is family oriented and is easily accessible by public transit and major highways.  It has a large Jewish community and it is home to Jewish schools and cultural centres, synagogues, restaurants and retail shops.

Chaplin Estates: Average Home Price $1,058,073 CAD (March 2014)

Right from the beginning Chaplin Estate was known and marketed as a high class residential district. There was a long list of building restrictions and by-laws such as those that excluded semi-detached homes. The area was first called Eglinton and was settled by the Chaplin family in 1860. The area hosts desirable examples of Tudor, Georgian and English Cottage Style architecture.  The majority of homes were built in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The neighborhood hosts few if any rental opportunities although occasionally a homeowner does choose to rent their home. Chaplin Estate has a wealth of shopping and entertainment options close by.  The luxury shopping center known as The Eglinton Way is located a short walk from Chaplin Estates. The Young Street shopping district is also close by.  Residentscan also enjoy the convenient amenities such as the North Toronto Community Centre. The main road is Eglinton Avenue which means that there are a number of transportation options available to residents such as the 2 subway stations and it is a 15 minute drive to the city center. Due to all these factors this neighborhood has become desirable with young families.

Davisville:  Average Home Price $704,659 CAD (March 2014)

Davisville brings a small town feel to the heart of the city.  This is a “planned neighborhood” in Toronto’s evolving urban sprawl and will remain untouched by the rapidly rising condo developments.  The homes in the area were mostly built in the 1920’s and retain the Edwardian and English Cottage style charm of that period.  Homes are situated on narrow lots that allow each home to have a small yard. The area is predominately made up of two demographic niches, young families and aging couples.  Seniors make up approximately 20% of the population, with some staying in the same home for over 30 years.  Young families benefit from the close proximity of several public and private schools.

Willowdale East: Average Home Price $687,902 CAD (February 2014)

According to an infographic by Real Estate Brokers, Slavens & Associates the average price of a detached home in this area is $1,330,637 and the average condo price is $552,356. Willowdale East has seen the older bungalows being slowly replaced by newer homes as the area experiences a rebirth. The majority of the residents are first generation Canadians. Newcomers to the area have been attracted to the well regarded schools which have specialized arts programs. Restaurants and retail shops reflect the increasing levels of diversity in the area.

Bridle Path, Lawrence Manor, Chaplin Estates, Davisville and Willowdale East all offer unique levels of luxury and convenience.  Toronto is a proven world class city with many options for anyone to choose from. Each neighborhood has features and amenities that any buyer could fall in love with.  Regardless of needs, buyers should be able to find an ideal home in one of these luxurious neighborhoods.

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Istanbul Skyline

Property professionals have said that Istanbul is doing for Turkey what London is doing in the United Kingdom, acting as an engine for growth in the housing sector across the country.

That’s based on Istanbul’s price growth – more that twice the rate of growth in April compared to a year ago, and continuing to go up fast. In the first two months of this year, the market appeared to be slowing in Istanbul – ‘traditionally times when the market takes a breather,’ in the words of Adil Yaman, investment director at real estate agency Universal 21.

In the first few months of 2014, there were fears that the contsruction and real estate industries – worth 30% of Turkey’s GDP since 2002, according to the Turkish union of construction industry companies, Intes – may be in danger. A sharp decline in the value of the Turkish lira and rising interest rates threaten the real estate industry, and political turmoil beginning last year make progress precarious. A few short months ago, Fulya Kenber, a Century 21 broker in Besiktas, a central Istanbul neighbourhood, warned the Wall Street Journal, ‘higher rates and a weakening currency are negatively impacting property sales because people… have no trust.’

However, in April, prices rose by more than 1% month on month, according to data from Gyoder

As opposed to the early part of the year, when ‘we would normally expect fluctuations in growth,’ says Mr. Yaman, the buying season usually reaches a peak in August. In August of 2013, Istanbul saw price growth over 2% in a single month, adding £1, 000 to the price of a £50, 000 apartment. Istanbul saw highest annual increase in property prices in Turkey, at 15.59%, compared with 5.85% for Antalya in the same period.

Monica Anca, director of Universal 21, expains the role Istanbul plays in Turkey’s market. ‘The city has seen huge investment in its infrastructure, which hasn’t always been popular with locals, but the pace of change in the city is rapid and the population is rising with it.  So it comes as no surprise that this puts pressure on existing housing stock.’

As Ms Anca went on to observe, ‘the health of the housing market is important to Turkey’s economy as it is in other countries because it provides jobs ion construction and helps provide a platform for growth in other areas of the national economy.’ She also pointed out that growth was unlikely to slow significantly in the city, after ‘the announcement of a third airport in the city which will provide a boost to suburban areas like Beylikduzu.’

‘I think the signs are positive for another year of strong growth,’ Ms Anca concluded.

Across Turkey, rising prices in Istanbul aren’t necessarily going to produce a similar rise across the country – but they will stimulate the economy, provide an additional incentive to reform and stability and boost the jobs market, as well as improving access. As Turkey increases its presence on the map for overseas buyers, it makes itself a promising country to look for investment properties in areas like Kusadasi, Didim or Bodrum, a traditionally luxurious coastal resort where property prices run from £40, 000 for a 2-bedroom flat to over a million for villas overlooking the Turkbuku bay area.

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The American market is showing strong growth right now: sales climbed at the beginning of the year and began to level off in the last couple of months, with 2013 showing the best sales growth since 2006 and the upward trend in prices predicted to slow over the next two years. That’s a good thing, according to Mark Goldman, a real estate expert at San Diego State University, California. ‘It should be measured,’ Mr Goldman told Reuters. ‘We don’t want to go back to stupid money.’

At first glance, the swelling prices we’ve seen over the past few years – 12.4% on prices year-on-year to March 2014 – have inflated more than the housing market.

It looks like they’ve also pumped up the size of the American home, which is now an average of 2, 598 feet – 873 square feet larger than in 1983, and 200 square feet larger than at the peak of the housing bubble.

The Census Bureau’s figures, released earlier this month, show a story that, when you look closer, looks absolutely disconnected from the market. Homes got bigger in good years and bad. They got bigger across the country. They got bigger, whatever else happened, so that in the 10 years from 1983 to 1993 they grew by almost 400 feet on average.

So are Americans just gripped by an urge to build huge houses, or is something else going on? And how does this square with the stories we’re used to hearing about the unreachable prices in New York and other cities, or the people cannily learning to adapt to their 120-square-foot apartments by parking their bikes on the wall and storing their books in custom shelving under the furniture?

One reason is simply that the rich have got richer since the financial crash. ‘If you had a lot of money in the stock market,’ explains Stephen Melman, director of Economic Services for the National Association of Home Builders, ‘it has doubled since 2009.’ At the same time, the housing market has grown – but the rest of the economy hasn’t. There’s been significant income stagnation and in some cases incomes have actually fallen in real terms.

The result of all this is that first-time buyers, a major source of demand for smaller homes, make up less of the housing market than before. Sales of 1, 400 square feet and under homes accounted for 9% of homes built in 2005 and just 4% in 2013-14. The reduction in smaller homes has skewed the average.

At the opposite end of the market, those who did have a lot of money invested have been looking around for places to spend it, and homes have always been a major soak for spare capital. Extremely large homes, of 4, 000 feet and up, accounted for over 9% of new homes in 2013-14; in 2009, they represented just 6.6% of builds.

Homes which are merely large, defined as between 3, 000 and 4, 000 feet, made up 21.7% of builds in 2013, up from 15.6% in 2005.

Between these two trends, the jump in average size is easily explained. Throw in the fact that the American average is further influenced by the ‘McMansion’ developments that went up during the easy-money pre-2008 years and you have the whole story.

If you’re looking for a home to buy in America, then, this isn’t necessarily good news. It doesn’t show that your dollar buys you more house now – if anything, the opposite. Smaller homes are still available, and the less-buoyant market might leave you with routes in, but with demand contracting to meet falling supply there might not be many bargains left amongst the villas.

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Australia Harbour Bridge

Residential building activity in Australia has shown a sharp uptick in the first quarter of 2014, and preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing strong growth. Over AUS$13bn of residential building work was completed in the March 2014 quarter, which represents a quarter-on-quarter increase of 6.8% and a year-on-year jump of 8.4%.

In detail, the figures show that the value of work done on multi-unit dwellings showed the highest rise, consistent with the indications from housing approvals data. The jump in the value of work done on multi-unit dwellings was the strongest driver of the growth in activity sector wide, accounting for around two thirds of the quarter’s growth, according to Housing Industry Association economist Geodan Murray.

‘It is encouraging to see work done on detached homes posting strong gains,’ Mr. Murray said. ‘Also, a second consecutive quarterly improvement in the amount of work done on home renovations is a positive sign for this part of the industry after activity dropped to decade lows in 2013.’

The value of work done on new detached homes increased by 4.7% to a level 2.4% higher than a year earlier, while the value of multi-unit work rose by 12.7% to a level 19.6% above the March quarter of 2013. The value of renovations work increased by 0.7% to a level that was 5.8% higher than last year.

Mr. Murray pointed to data from the building industry, which predicted the current rise, saying, ‘Dwelling approvals activity was particularly strong in the final quarter of 2013, so it is natural that we now see an improvement in the level of building work being done.’

The trend for home commitments was slightly higher overall – 0.2% up month-on-month to March – than for the owner-occupier group, at 0.1%. Rising faster than both was the investor group, growing at 0.4%. While we might see a market driven by investors and featuring a lot of single-unit sales, especially detached homes, as being a luxury market like Paris or London, the picture in Australia is of a growth at all levels, with important implications for the Australian economy as a whole.

Mr. Murray explains, ‘this bodes well for aggregate economic growth. The result suggests that residential building should make a stronger contribution to GDP growth in the [March] quarter.’

While house building activity has risen, housing prices have suffered their sharpest fall for over five years, according to RP Data’s monthly house index.  CommSec’s chief economist, Craig James, said the change may be the result of the federal budget. ‘House prices couldn’t lift forever,’ Mr. James said. ‘At some point there had to be a correction and it seems the federal budget caused people to pause and take stock.’

RP Data’s research director, Tim Lawless, said seasonal factors also played a role. ‘Historically,’ Mr. lawless pointed out, ‘housing market conditions have softened in April and May as the market rebalances from what it typically a seasonally strong first quarter.’

The picture is of a seasonal alteration in market growth, with some additional downward pressure from the budget, but on a sector that’s basically buoyant and likely to expand, built on a sustainable economic base.

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Up till now, the big news for 3D printing has been about small things. 3D printers can make multipart assemblies as one piece, meaning manufacture is quicker and cheaper and there’s less to go wrong. You can 3D print new organs, or 3D print parts of a home, stick them together and then build the whole thing from prefabricated pieces. So far, in housing, 3D printing has changed things – but it’s never been a game-changer.

That Was Until Now

The latest development in 3D printing is the construction of enormous 3D printers that can print large structures as one single piece. The technology, called ‘Contour Crafting,’ is already here: test models can build 2, 500 square foot homes in about 20 hours.

The huge robot printer responsible for this feat was invented by the University of Southern California’s Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, who says that technology is more or less infinitely versatile. We can build suburbs, clear slums – and if we can get it to mars, we can build habitats there with the same equipment.

Professor Khoshnevis says extraterrestrial applications of his invention have received interest and supportive noises from NASA, which foresees using the tech to build homes, labs and roads on Mars or the Moon.

While it might be a stretch to imagine a whole house simply printed off – and in some ways it seems to devalue the idea of a home – Professor Khoshnevis says he expects that the technology will make houses more, not less, individual: your house doesn’t ‘have to look like tract houses because all you have to do is change the computer program. The walls do not have to be linear. They can use any kind of curve. Therefore, you can really execute very exotic beautiful architectural features without incurring extra cost.’

The giant robot printer can also tile the floors, install plumbing, install electrical wiring and can even apply paint or wallpaper.

All of which sounds idyllic, and it certainly is one way the technology could be used. Over in China, meanwhile, another approach is being showcased.

In Shanghai, WingSun Decoration Engineering Design built 10 homes in Shanghai using equipment similar to the Contour Crafting gear designed by Professor Khoshnevis.

After buying parts for the machinery overseas, the company assembled them in China and used them to build 10 small, one-story houses in Shanghai in just 24 hours, a huge improvement on existing construction techniques in terms of time and money. However, there weren’t any great strides forward in architecture.

So where is 3D printing as a building technology really heading?

‘It is an interesting technology,’ opines Derrick Morris, director of construction technologies for Habitat for Humanity in an interview with online tech magazine Mashable. ‘We’ve been watching this with some interest over the past couple of years. A lot of the time, it’s more about changing the mind of the consumer.’

Rather than being rush-and-hurry cookie-cutter buildings or endlessly variable hand-Contour-Crafted creations, 3D printed houses are likely to simply become another part of the urban landscape, not totally replacing existing building technologies but getting a foothold in building skyscrapers and apartment blocks as well as suburban homes. How much control consumers will have is open to debate too: Professor Khoshnevis invites you to ‘imagine a Contour Crafting machine for lease at your local Home Depot.’

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Irish Property Prices Rise – Look Closer, and That’s a Dublin Problem

The Irish property market shows signs of resurgence, with the latest data form the Central Statistics Office showing a price rise of 8.5% in the year to April 2014.

By comparison, 12 months previously, there was a 1.2% fall in prices to April 2013. While there are still hurdles to overcome, including the beginnings of a serious housing shortage in Dublin, there’s little doubt that the country as a whole is seeing the longed-for recovery at last.

On a monthly basis, residential property prices rose by 1.4% from March to April – again, inviting favourable comparisons with last years March and April figures, of -0.7% and 0.8% respectively.

Compared to its heyday, though, the Irish market remains severely depressed. It’s down by about half from its peak prices: in Dublin, house prices are 46.7% lower, and apartment prices are 54.2% lower than their February 2007 peak.

In the Rest of Ireland (the designation the CSO uses for Ireland excluding Dublin), it’s a similar story: residential prices are down by 47.4% down from their September 2007 peak, and nationally prices are 46.3% lower than their 2007 peak.

As we’d expect, the hottest Irish market is capital city Dublin, where residential prices rose by 17.7% year-on-year and 3.1% month-on month to April. There was little difference between the house price rise, of 17.8%, and the apartment price rate, of 17.5%.

In a twist we’re familiar with from other countries, if Dublin is excluded from the figures, there’s actually a slight fall in prices, with a 0.3% fall month-on-month and only a 1.2% rise year-on-year to April.  Again, there’s a very small difference between the house and apartment rate.

The pattern of a general depression followed by a recovery that’s restricted to the capital city is a familiar one throughout Europe.

The Construction Industry Federation commented on the situation, with Director Tom Parlon saying, ‘these latest statistics should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the property market. A shortage of supply means the level of demand is not being catered for and this is leading to an increase in prices in Dublin and certain other urban areas.’

It’s also leading to a rethink of what it means to be an Irish homeowner, as An Bord Pleanala, Ireland’s planning authority, told the Irish press. Instead Dublin will have to deal with what’s likely to be a mounting housing shortage by building duplex homes along major transport routes, without gardens and with families sharing parks and amenities.
While that’s unlikely to sit well with aspiring Irish homeowners, Pleanala chairwoman Dr. Mary Kelly warned that the board’s decision would be based on housing needs and the best use of infrastructure.

If you’re planning a move to Ireland, or looking at investment property, it’s worth remembering that some areas in and around Dublin will see big changes over the next decade or so as the Irish government builds to cope with its housing supply problems; in the meantime, Dublin prices are likely to see sharp rises. Outside the capital, though, Ireland still has bargains, fixers and holiday homes on offer, and while the recovery right now is slow, it’s likely to improve; now is the time to get in on the ground floor.