Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Cracking Easter: To of all you with cracked houses... read on, you're not alone.

How many of you have house cracks opening up all over the place? Gen has been worrying about the place in Parkside she and Tom have just bought, and our offices have cracks bigger than I've seen in years.

If you're worried about paving cracks, wall cracks and gaps opening up all over the place, you’re not alone.

You fill them up and when it rains, the cracks close up and spew out all that filler you just put in.

Large areas of South Australian soils are reactive to moisture, including some of our most prestige suburbs. Classic areas like Maylands, Goodwood, and the North East. With the big dry, the reactive clays that many homes sit on are shrinking and putting solid structures under immense pressure, resulting in cracks and wall movement at levels not seen in years.

Wet clay soil expands, dry clay soil contracts. This process of wetting up, and then drying out is what causes all the building issues. The game plan is to keep moisture content as even as possible over the entire area of the house structure. 

Old houses were built without all the modern engineering. They have survived in no small part due to the bulk of those old building materials, especially true of the grand old stone Villas.

So what should you do?

Some builders would suggest stabilising the moisture content by use of impervious perimeter paving. This approach evens out, and slows the drying out/wetting up of the soil around the home and assists in creating soil stability. Other techniques include the installation of a drip watering system around the house. Once again, this is an attempt to control and regulate the moisture content of the soil, which results in soil stability.

In the old days where cracking and movement was severe, builders installed bracing, and in later years utilised underpinning.

Wall braces can be found on endless old Villas, and usually are seen in the form of railway tracks (railway irons) running vertically up the external walls and connected through the roof or walls with a solid steel rod, bolted each side. Look around at Villas in suburbs like Goodwood, Parkside, Unley and the like... these railway iron braces are everywhere.

In more recent times, underpinning became popular. This is a process where soil beneath a footing (the base of the house) is dug out and concrete is pumped in under the house footing. Although underpinning is not usually visible (it's all underground), if it were it would look a little like the root of a tooth as a block of concrete.

However, underpinning has not enjoyed the popularity of when it was first introduced as the entire "balance" of the house footing can be thrown out. Making one side or corner more stable without underpinning the entire house can do more harm than good and needs expert advice.

In regards to the railways irons, I have known of buyers who have cut these rods, only to discover that they were doing an amazing job holding the entire building together... whoops, bad idea to cut these, best to just leave them alone!

Modern buildings enjoy completely different footing designs and will rarely have the cracks and issues of the old character homes. 

How do you fix it?

Modern fillers are amazing. Cosmetically, the latest paints and fillers can withstand a lot of movement. Often badly cracked walls are cosmetically sorted utilising Gyprock walls placed on battens, which are glued or stapled to the walls. The battens allow the wall to move behind, the Gyprock remains stable.

Structurally fixing these issues is a different story. Engineers qualified in this speciality area are needed. Expect a combination of some form of soil moisture stabilisation, some form of underpinning, and some recommendations on cosmetic treatments. Call Archicentre for advice or your engineer.

Modern structures utilise control joints extensively, and these too can be recommended by engineers even with old structures. Retro fitting is common and as their name suggest, is merely "controlling" where the movement occurs, rather than stopping it. More often than not the solution to your cracking is one of management; it is not an easy task to actually fix the problem completely with an existing structure.

So enjoy a cracking Easter, the rain will come, the walls will close.

Don't forget if you have a SmartTV with 3D, check out our world first property videos in 3D, log onto YouTube, search Toop3D. And if you're down at the Fleurieu over the Easter break, make sure you visit our open inspections - we have 28 over the long weekend! There's some very, very good buying to be done along the South Coast.

Remember, when it's time to get serious, it's time to get Team Toop. 

Anthony Toop

Find us on Facebook: Toop & Toop Real Estate

   Follow me on Twitter: @Anthony_Toop

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Agency of the does it look?

So much has changed, yet nothing has changed. You could be forgiven for thinking all of the rhetoric about traditional real estate agents becoming extinct as mere sensationalism; after all, this has been talked about for decades.

When the insurance industry restructured 25 years ago I remember we were talking about all this back then. Finance Advisors were fat cats and suddenly everything changed. I remember selling a lot of the houses owned by AMP when they restructured their business in the late ‘80s. Then there was the travel industry, the stock brokers, more recently finance brokers and today it is the retail industry’s turn.

Nothing has structurally changed in real estate for the 36 years I have been in it.

Why?  Some say “because it never will!” After all, houses ARE such a big ticket item... such rare transaction events involving so much money and emotion. Real estate is the ultimate “people business”. Real estate will forever continue to require skilled negotiators, marketers, and professional advisers; selling a property is such a big deal.
Are you kidding me? With the advent of iPads, Smart Phones, Smart TVs and information literally on tap, PLUS...add in the roll out of broadband across the nation, making all communication including video equivalent to real time…if this doesn’t change the rules, I will eat my hat.

I am confident we are experiencing the calm before the storm.

Last Thursday Gen Toop, Debbie Copley and I represented Toop&Toop at the national real estate awards in Canberra. YES...we won a massive gong, the National Communication Award (Best Marketing)… but the point is that new real estate technologies are springing up everywhere.

For example, while we launched Toop3D WORLD FIRST marketing to our industry’s “bestof the best” in Canberra, another group won the Innovation Award (we are a Hall of Famed out of that category).  It was industry software similar to our Toop&Toop VirtualAgent2 (Va2)- a smart selling system utilised in the field on iPads.

Another development was with REIV and REISA - where agency agreements and forms (within a month or so) will be signed direct on iPads! Client management is becoming incredibly easy with communication being a tap of the finger and fully automated. But these industry innovations are nothing compared to what the big guys are up to.

Organisations like RP Data, REA (, Google, Facebook, Domain, Macquarie Bank and Commonwealth Bank to name just a few, are changing real estate agents’ lives right now in 2013, whether we like it or not. If we don’t adapt, they will simply run straight over the top of us like Coles, Woolies and service stations have done to the corner store.

Seriously, the time is so near where the scales will tip and an entirely new real estate landscape will wipe out traditional operators who refuse to evolve, adapt and embrace these new amazing capabilities.

Your demands as consumers will become so unrealistic for traditional agents to deliver.

How long? Wholesale change five years. Radical operational changes by the end of 2013 - they are occurring right now. Thankfully Toop&Toop’s latest innovations are rolling out at full steam after years of development. Va(2) is just cranking up in the field...but we have had to turbo charge the pace of development since it’s all moving so fast. We have three developers and four digital image staff full time in this space, that’s seven full-time staff...that’s how serious we are. We are about two years ahead of the rest of the nation, but we will need to incorporate a number of features from these other developers to stay well ahead of the pack on every front. Very exciting.

Fully networked sales (and soon rental) teams all interconnected in real time; high traffic video content online, and now 3D; ownership of online and traditional marketing “real estate”; massive business and social networks. Toop&Toop are currently in great shape.

So the time is near. Traditional operators are either in complete denial, or complete panic.

The consumer is king...they always win!

Anthony Toop

Find us on Facebook: Toop & Toop Real Estate

   Follow me on Twitter: @Anthony_Toop

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

“Second time around...can I stand the pain?”

Selling your property the second time around is so much tougher, without the excitement and optimism that comes with a first sale attempt. When you sell for the first time (or when you’ve been in the property for many years) the entire process is exciting and full of optimism; and most sellers soon develop grand expectations as the process rolls out.

Not so after months of trying to sell, endless open inspections, hope, despair, hope, emotional roller coaster ride like nothing you could ever have imagined. Often too, humiliating as friends and family see no one wants your house.

Suddenly, the real estate agent's promises are treated with suspicion. Optimism is treated as sales spin. By now, most sellers crave honesty and a discussion around cold hard facts. No cotton wool, bare to the bone conversations that will enable you to make decisions with confidence. Decisions based on experience and backed up by facts.

The irony is that if these same criteria had formed the basis of the first attempt to sell (and agent selection) you could have had a great sale experience. You probably would have sold for a whole lot more money in the first two or three weeks, saving you a fortune in marketing expenses, not to mention the countless and thankless hours of household disruption.

So why do people put themselves through all this pain?

Greed? Greed and fear are two of the greatest motivators of people. Fear…hardly, given most virgin home sellers are generally excited and extremely optimistic. Greed...well hardly surprising given there is an entire real estate industry out there who’ve fed your greed. Recent changes to the Law have been necessary in an attempt to stop these age old practices.

It’s no mistake or coincidence that agents are overly optimistic when they appraise a property. Sellers see the agent as NEGATIVE and disinterested if they are not playing the greed game. These practices have been so bad at times, that sellers even know they are supporting a less competent agent.  They believe that at least the agent with the highest price (and generally lowest fee) will have a go. What is less understood is that "having a go" can backfire on the seller, costing them tens of thousands of dollars, sometime hundreds of thousands in the higher price range properties, as properties become stale and "damaged goods".

With out any doubt, the easiest time to get the best price for a seller is the first time around, generally in the first six weeks of the sale campaign.

So if you have a failed sale campaign, can you recover?

The good news is that the answer is: SOMETIMES.

A poorly marketed property, well marketed the second time can work. An agent who has a different clientele may deliver an excellent outcome second time around. A change of sales person can deliver a good result with a change of approach.

Do you need to change real estate agencies to achieve a better chance second time around? depends. There is a vast difference in the resources and capabilities of various agencies. If you move to a better equipped, more connected agency that’s one thing.  But if you have started with a well equipped agency, chances are a change of sales person - rather than agency - will be your best option.

Toop&Toop's DNA is selling homes others agencies couldn’t. Since 1985, when we started in a REALLY TOUGH market, we have always introduced innovation into selling. These innovations have won many awards; they have sold many properties where no one else could.

Nothing has changed - we remain leaders in sales innovation, and in results. Just this week we have launched several properties that have been marketed before, and we will sell them. They are great properties, we have the tools to access the right buyers, and we expect to optimise our clients’ results.

The market has improved; our team understand how to reposition properties and to optimise a sale, no matter how long they have been on the market, and no matter with whom. We also understand what is important to a seller, and rest assured, we will be direct, we are informed, and we won’t wrap you in cotton wool, unless you ask to be. We have a number of amazing deals for saving marketing costs too.

When it's time to get serious, it really is time to get Team in 3D.

Want a no obligation chat about your best selling strategy, call me or any of our team. It's what we do...hopefully without the pain!

Anthony Toop

Find us on Facebook: Toop & Toop Real Estate

   Follow me on Twitter: @Anthony_Toop

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

They say the stats don't lie...

RP Data released their Property Market Summary on the 3rd  March and here is the bottom line for Adelaide…

Home value change:  year to date -0.3%
Annual change:   -0.7%
Median Price:  Houses $390,000, Units $310,000
Average Time on Market and Vendor Discount:
Houses 84 days -7.5%, Units 95 days -7.2% discount
Auction Clearance:  40.4%
Properties on the market:  2,518 new listings -4.6% on last year and total listings 11,168 -0.2% over 12 months.

The picture painted by these statistics for Adelaide isn't exactly glowing. However personally, Toop&Toop have seen a continued strengthening of the market, and we think that right now, the wheel is turning.

We have anecdotal evidence that proposed sales have firmed and demand has certainly increased significantly. Properties which were taken off the market this time last year and have been relaunched are being offered with increased numbers at inspections and sales, with demand from multiple buyers again.

We could say that it is all thanks to our world first 3D videos, our online real estate channel, or our new marketing initiatives for clients...but the market has turned, at least for now!

If you had your property on the market last year, don't worry about the stats, we believe the time is right to go again.

Anthony Toop

Find us on Facebook: Toop & Toop Real Estate

   Follow me on Twitter: @Anthony_Toop