The 10 worst postcodes for mortgage loan stress in Queensland

The number of households in mortgage stress increased in August, according to Digital Finance Analytics.

MORE Queensland households are in mortgage stress than they were just a month ago, with rising power prices, higher council rates and childcare costs putting pressure on family finances.

One in five households in the 4350 postcode, which takes in the Toowoomba region, are under mortgage stress — the highest number in the state and the fourth highest in Australia, according to Digital Finance Analytics, which crunched the numbers for The Courier-Mail.

Even more alarming is that nearly 200 of those households are at risk of defaulting on their home loans in the next 12 months.

Ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s September board meeting, the latest figures for August reveal nearly 146,500 homeowners across Queensland are now under stress — up from 144,000 only a month ago.

“You can put that down to power prices, higher council rates and childcare costs going up predominantly,” Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North said.

“Many households have very little free cash so it doesn’t take much to tip them over.”

Digital Finance Analytics principal Martin North.

Nearly 8500 households across Queensland are at risk of default and that number would jump to more than 10,000 if interest rates were to rise by only half a per cent.

But Mr North said fewer households were at risk of default than the previous month, as expectations of future mortgage rate rises were dialled back.

He said mortgagees in the 4350 postcode would be severely affected if interest rates were to rise.

Experts: No rate rise until late 2018

One bedroom unit sells for $1.48m

Brisbane’s prestige market on fire

According to the modelling, the average home price in the Toowoomba region has increased to $490,000 from $382,000 in 2010 and the average monthly household income is now $5300.

About 30 per cent of households have a mortgage and the average monthly mortgage repayment is $1510.

“Unemployment in this area is high and house prices have risen in recent years on top of the rising cost of living,” Mr North said.

Mortgage stress continued to rise during August, according to new figures.

The Mackay region was the second most at risk, with property damage from Cyclone Debbie likely to have had an impact.

Across the nation, more than a quarter (860,000) of all households are estimated to be now in mortgage stress — up from 820,000 last month — with more than 20,000 of these in severe stress.

Digital Finance Analytics defines mortgage stress as not having enough income to cover home loan repayments and living expenses.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to leave the official cash rate on hold at its September board meeting. Photo: AAP/Dean Lewins.

The RBA is expected to leave interest rates on hold when it meets Tuesday, with all 33 economists and experts interviewed by comparison website predicting the official cash rate will remain on hold at 1.5 per cent.

Eighty per cent are forecasting the next cash rate move to be up, with nearly two thirds not expecting a rise until the second half of 2018. insights manager Graham Cooke said rate rises were expected to happen later than first thought.

“There’s been no cash rate movement over the last 12 months, however we have seen the estimated date of the next rise push further into 2018, potentially giving some Aussie borrowers breathing space for longer,” he said.


1. 4350 (includes Toowoomba region)

2. 4740 (includes Mackay region)

3. 4670 (includes Bundaberg region)

4. 4680 (includes Gladstone, Calliope region)

5. 4870 (includes Cairns region)

6. 4211 (includes Carrara, Nerang, Pacific Pines)

7. 4655 (includes Hervey Bay region)

8. 4701 (includes Rockhampton region)

9. 4551 (includes Caloundra region)

10. 4570 (includes Gympie region)

Source: Digital Finance Analytics

Henry Sapiecha

Is there a ghost in the house? Things real estate agents must tell you

The presence of ghosts is something real estate agents should reveal to potential buyers or tenants. Photo: Jamie Brown
haunted-house-signage image

Think a house you’re interested in could be haunted? Just ask the agent: they have to tell you.

When selling a property, agents are required to disclose more than just its physical attributes and location strong points.  They must also reveal any relevant information that may impact a buyer or renter’s perception of the property that might not be immediately visible.

As a consequence, agents are often faced with situations where they are aware of a property’s feature or attribute that may detract from its appeal to prospective buyers or renters. These types of issues can result in a property being “stigmatised”, which means that an undesirable event has taken place there.

Across Australia, state and territory legislation, as well as codes and standards of conduct of the real estate institutes, require agents to act honestly, fairly and reasonably in their dealings with clients. The Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) also prohibits parties from engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct.

Stigmas can be wide ranging and include an untimely death (such as a murder or suicide) at the property; the scene of a violent crime; undesirable or troublesome neighbours; environmental issues such as pollution or contamination; and/or the presence of ghosts.

Yes, that’s right, the presence of ghosts.

Carter Newell Lawyers partner, Michael Gapes, said agents don’t need to confirm whether the “ghost” is real or not, but rather accept that its potential “presence” may stigmatise the property.

“However, if there is some cogent evidence to suggest that a house that he or she is marketing for sale or rent may be haunted, then this is likely to constitute a material fact which the agent is obliged to disclose to prospective buyers or tenants,” Gapes said.

“It may well be that the majority of prospective buyers or tenants would not be worried about a possible paranormal presence at a property, however, there will be a percentage of the population for whom this issue will be a deal-breaker because of their personal or religious beliefs.

“It is not the agent’s job to speculate as to who may have these particular sensibilities and proper disclosure, even of a mere suggestion of a ghost at the property, should be made to prospective buyers and tenants.”

Real Estate Institute of New South Wales deputy president Brett Hunter said agents are often at the mercy of their vendors, who can choose to withhold material facts about a property.

But agents must attempt to find out any relevant information about the property – even if their vendor is being obstructive.

“In my opinion, it’s usually the vendor, not the agent, that’s trying to hide a fact,” Hunter said.

“The vendor can withhold that information and if they do, the agent is still required to ask the reasonable questions and do reasonable due diligence.”

Hunter saidagents should always ask more questions – not less – of their vendors, not assume anything, and try to validate information with another source.

Another strategy to employ if vendors are  withholding information is for agents to formally document their discussions.

“I would also confirm anything you get from the vendor in writing … to state quite clearly this is what we discussed, this is what you told me, and there is nothing more that you wish to disclose or something like that,” he says. “But once you’ve done it, you’ve got a paper trail that protects you, your licence, your professional indemnity insurance and all these sorts of things.”


Henry Sapiecha


packers home at 40 Wentworth Road, Vaucluse sold for about $70 million image

Chinese billionaire Chau Chak Wing has revealed he bought James and Erica Packer’s Vaucluse mega mansion for $70 million without even seeing it.

Chau Chak Wing, right, with his son Eric.

Chau Chak Wing, right, with his son Eric. Photo: James Brickwood

In an exclusive interview, the property developer said he had lived at the Hunters Hill home his family bought for $3 million for more than 20 years, and wanted to upgrade to something “a little bigger”.

“I’ve lived in my home in Sydney for a long time now, there are more children at home, grandchildren, so I wanted to move into something a little bigger,” the media-shy Dr Chau said.

The family has owned their waterfront home in Hunters Hill since 1995.

“I never saw the [Packer] house, I don’t know who the former owners were.”

The chairman of Kingold Group said he had delegated responsibility for the purchase to his daughter Winky, who runs the family’s Chinese-language newspaper Australian New Express Daily.

Like the Packers, Dr Chou has impressive business and political connections.

In July last year, he sat in on a meeting with former prime minister John Howard and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, while more recently he accompanied rising Communist Party star Hu Chunhua – who some have tipped as Xi’s successor – as part of a travelling delegation to NSW in May.

Former prime ministers John Howard, Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd have all been hosted by Dr Chau at his leafy Imperial Springs estate, which boasts a 27-hole golf course and an expansive museum with 20,000 Chinese antiquities. (6)

Henry Sapiecha

House made of 31 shipping containers

This jaw-dropping Brisbane property, made out of 31 shipping containers, is a one-off bespoke design by experienced builder Todd Miller of Zeigler Build. The only other similar house in Australia has been built from five containers.

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Situated on 706 square metres in Graceville, the spectacular home stands out in a quiet neighbourhood of more traditional Queensland properties. Only 8 kms away from the Brisbane CBD, it feels like another world.

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Sprawling over three levels it features clean lines, open spaces and quality finishes.

container built home 31 image (3)

Glass maximises natural light and a mix of materials, including the signature containers, cleverly used to industrial chic effect.

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container built home image

There are four bedrooms positioned over two levels. The master encompasses the entire upper level, with extensive walk-in robes and a private ensuite with tiled mural.

container built home pool image

Outdoor spaces are spread throughout, maximising the tropical climate

container home interior image

Other features include a mezzanine reading room, a pull out queen wall bed in the rumpus room, an art study, workshop, gym space, water tank and saltwater pool.

container built home kitchen image

It’s solar ready and has been constructed to flood code.

container built home hall image

Hear this interview with the builder of this huge container built home Todd Miller

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Henry Sapiecha




Bondi shipping container house wins award

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What is it about shipping containers? From innovative downsizers, to grand designers, the humble shipping container has become a popular, unique choice of material to fashion remarkable properties.

Last year we saw this stunning Brisbane property made of 31 shipping containers wide eyes and make headlines. Now a design competition has invited architects to create a vacation home created entirely from shipping containers – and the winner is another stunner.

Czech architect Ales Javurek won the AC-CA (Architectural Competition – Concours d’Architecture) with his plans for a stunning and sustainable holiday home overlooking Sydney’s Bondi Beach made out of steel shipping containers and wood panels.

container built homes images (1)

The two-storey home draws on and complements the natural surrounds of Bondi. It features an open concept living space on the entrance level, bedrooms on the upper floor and a roof garden (which also acts as insulation). Wooden slabs are used to define spaces and create zoning throughout the home, while wooden pergolas protect from solar exposure. The design makes use of natural ventilation and light to regulate internal temperature, while glazing adds an additional layer of sustainable support.

“I believe that internal connection between spaces and users’ circulation is absolutely essential. That is why I provided clear, straight connections between platforms with barrier-free entrance and corridors which are orthogonal to the main axis,” explained Javurek.

 Shipping containers are appealing not just because of their distinctive design aesthetic, but their stackability, which can mean quick and efficient construction.


Henry Sapiecha

How to create the ultimate ‘she shed’

Cindy Goode Milman's she shed image

Every woman needs her own space where she can get away from it all. The latest trend in female hideaways is the she shed. The long-awaited antidote to the man cave, she sheds are captivating women who long for an at-home retreat of their own.

Some women are making the most of installing a she shed in their backyard where they can relax, pursue hobbies and entertain friends, while others have found a neglected corner in the house can be transformed into the perfect home sanctuary.

Interior designer Vicki Poulter from Designing Women in Sydney says she loves the idea of the she shed. “I’ve always been a shed girl.” she says. Her own shed is a large American barn in the western Blue Mountains where she likes to entertain friends. She also has an outdoor space in the back garden of her home in Sydney which she uses as a home office and studio. She says she is often called on professionally to create “little spaces and nooks where you can go and read or potter”.

Cindy Goode Milman's she shed also acts as a space for entertaining.

 Cindy Goode Milman’s she shed also acts as a space for entertaining. Photo: Supplied

Poulter says it is easy to create your own bespoke she shed. “It doesn’t matter really how small it is just as long as it has got room for a comfy chair or a daybed and some light, some power points so you can have lamps, and a book shelf or shelving, and a gorgeous rug so that it is warm.”

It doesn’t have to be expensive and it shouldn’t be, says Poulter.  “You should do it shabby chic. You can pick up odd bits and pieces from Vinnies or go to second-hand shops, picking up bargains, painting and staining them.”

An outdoor setting means that what you put in your shed has to survive tough shed conditions. Also what might look old and shabby in your house can get a second life in your shed, she says.

“In the end your she shed has to be somewhere you are really comfortable,” she adds.

Cindy Goode Milman, an artist from Sydney’s northern beaches, recently had a shed purpose-built in her backyard; her own place to paint, entertain her friends and be alone.

“In the end your she shed has to be somewhere you are really comfortable,” she adds.

Cindy Goode Milman, an artist from Sydney’s northern beaches, recently had a shed purpose-built in her backyard; her own place to paint, entertain her friends and be alone.

Vicki Poulter's she shed.Vicki Poulter’s she shed. Photo: Supplied

“I simply love my shed and it has transformed my life,” she says. “As an early riser I will sit in the garden then sneak into the shed and start working on a painting watching the possums. My favourite time. As an artist it is pure bliss to have fresh air and peace.

“It ended up being the same price as buying a shed kit but is far more quirky and personal,” she says. Inside, as well as her easel and painting materials, a dining room table with a Perspex top doubles as her workbench. The ceiling of the shed is a garden with dirt on the clear Perspex bonded roof, complete with a pattern of green roots sprouting its own art display on the underside, says Milman. She also holds painting workshops and hosts lunches and dinners in the shed. “All up it is a busy shed,” she says.

Business owner and mother of three Trish Radge, from Noosa Heads, longed for her own haven away from the family and decided to create a she den in her own home.

“I work with my husband from a home office so we spend a lot of time together in the house. It is important that we both have our own special place to get away from the office, from each other, as much as we enjoy being together, and away from the kids. It allows me to think and not be disturbed.”

Trish Radge’s reading nook image

Trish Radge’s reading nook. Photo: Supplied

Radge says she goes to her she den and reads for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon and in winter it is her “go to” spot in the sun where she can read or listen to podcasts. “In the evening I will often sit in my nook reading if there is nothing good on TV. The family are very respectful of my time out probably because they enjoy a bit of time to themselves too.”

Michelle Sperinck, marketing manager at Cheap Sheds, which supplies DIY sheds online, says there is a growing trend where women are creating their own spaces in sheds as well as in other areas of the home. “It’s common to see sheds turned into art studios, dressmaking workshops or even a home office,” she says.

“We also often have our female customers tell us they need two sheds so they don’t have to share it with their husband’s trash. They want a safe and cosy potting shed to tinker away in while their men have their sheds for their toys.”

For a shed large enough to set up as a hobby room or studio, expect to pay $500- $200, depending on the size and material, says Sperinck.


Henry Sapiecha



For the last eight months I have lived in a granny flat out the back of my aunt and uncle’s house, forking out just $100 per week.

I’m not the only Aussie embracing these daggy dwellings. The Department of Planning and Environment reports there were 4818 granny flats and dual occupancies approved in 2013/14; an increase of 68 per cent in a year.

People use them for home offices and art studios, extra storage and for housing their teenage children or elderly parents (close enough to keep an eye on them, enough distance to keep the peace).

Indeed, if family folklore is correct my own granny flat once served as an office to sell the display homes on our street.

In a world of million-dollar medians I’m likely to be calling my little pad home for quite some time to come, which is perfectly fine by me – a granny flat is a bit like all the other types of dwellings, only better. And here’s why.

While similar to apartment living, there’s the bonus of not having to share a building with other pesky residents. Not once have I had to deal with noise coming from the apartment above or below me.

A granny flat is a bit like a Tiny House but it has a more humble reputation; people don’t make Pinterest accounts and write blogs about the #journey of their granny flat and how it has transformed them.

My granny flat is minimalist, but not in a cool Scandinavian way. I’m not even one of those people who is passionate about downsizing; it’s just that I haven’t had much time to accumulate a lot of things.

Then there’s the name. Saying you live in a granny flat definitely does not sound cool, but it does kinda sounds hip in an ironic way.

It looks like a miniature house. The reason people like babies so much is that they’re tiny humans and they like cats so much because they look like tiny lions. This principle can also be applied to granny flats.

There are two types of granny-flat residents; those who spend time with their landlords up in the normal-sized house, and those who don’t. I’m grateful to belong to the former category.

For me, renting a granny flat from my super cool (assuming they’re reading this) family members in the house adjacent means I benefit from the good parts of living with other people. I get to eat dinner with them (and not cook), and watch ‘quality’ shows with them at night. Sometimes, they even pick me up from the bus stop when it’s raining. It is also brilliant because we don’t have to have social interactions before midday – my peak time for brooding, caused by my hatred of mornings.

It’s also mostly like living by myself. I can stay up as late as I want because no one tells me not to watch Netflix.

Sure, life in a granny flat isn’t perfect. I don’t do a lot of cooking but if I did I would probably feel disappointed by my “kitchen” (a bench top with a little camp oven, sink, toaster and kettle). There’s also the issue of the smell of brewed coffee hanging around for two days, which feels inappropriate when I’m trying to sleep.

My granny flat is the right size for me. I’ve grown so much over the last year but it’s still just the right size. All the words from all the stories I’ve read, all the songs I’ve listened to, all the hopeless meals I’ve eaten, all the long-winded phone calls I’ve made, they all fit perfectly inside my little flat. All the things that belong to me – tangible and intangible – are there.

Granny flats definitely aren’t suited to everyone, but they are perfect for grandparents, young couples, or for a sentimental individual like myself. (5)

Henry Sapiecha

How ‘boring old farts’ use proxy farming to take over trendy new buildings

man thinking image

Sydney’s smartest buildings are being run by a tiny minority of owners determined to hang on to power at all costs. “They are often retirees with too much time on their hands who treat their buildings like a hobby farm ” Photo: Mags King

 At best it has been described as “boring old farts running trendy new buildings”, but at worst it allows illegal short-term lets and overcrowding landlords to ride roughshod over council zoning and strata by-laws.

Now, as peak strata AGM season gets into full swing in NSW, Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has lashed out at delays to strata law reform that allow one or two owners to continue to control large buildings through proxy farming.

Proxy farming is when individuals or minority groups collect votes from fellow owners who can’t or won’t attend their buildings’ annual general meetings, giving them a majority over those who actually turn up at the meetings.

“I’ve been calling for reforms to proxy votes since I was elected,” says Mr Greenwich whose constituency contains the highest number of strata schemes in the state. “Current practices that allow one person or a small group of people to control management of a building, sometimes at the expense of most owners, are unfair and undemocratic.

“Concern about proxy harvesting is one of the most common strata issues raised with me, not far behind short term letting and overcrowding. In fact some owners say one of the barriers to stamping out these problems is when perpetrators hold majority proxies.”

One Sydney city apartment resident and multi-block investor, who preferred not to be named, told Domain that failure to curb proxy farming means even some of Sydney’s smartest buildings are being run by a tiny minority of owners determined to hang on to power at all costs.

“They are often retirees with too much time on their hands who treat their buildings like a hobby farm. Even in our trendier buildings, half the other owners are landlords and the rest are time-poor professionals, so the boring old farts take over.

“They aren’t necessarily bad people and they may not do bad things – but they do as they and their mates please and it often gets to the point where hanging on to power becomes more important than what they do with it.”

One tactic frequently used by proxy harvesters is to warn owners that failure to get a quorum for a general meeting means it will need to be held again a week later, a waste of time and money (although the second meeting doesn’t need a quorum).

“To be fair, as the laws stand, some buildings would never get anything done if someone didn’t collect a few proxies, just to make a quorum at their AGMs,” says Karen Stiles, executive officer of the Owners Corporation Network, the peak body for apartment owners.

“But, having said that, there is no excuse for one or two owners holding the balance of power or, even worse, holding owners to ransom, demanding their votes in exchange for favourable treatment in the running of the building.

“The strata reforms slated for next year can’t come soon enough. Then every owner, wherever they are, can vote electronically and take part in the future of their home or investment.”

Strata law changes that were supposed to come into effect in July last year and are now hoped to be in place early next year, will limit proxy votes to 5 per cent per individual owner, in line with legislation already in place in Queensland.

“The government promised improvements as part of its strata law reforms but we’ve seen changes delayed by over a year and I am not aware of the opposition’s position,” says Mr Greenwich. “If I’m re-elected I will push whoever is in government to make reforms on proxies and other vital strata issues.”

As numerous posts on the Flat Chat website confirm, proxy harvesters can become highly effective in gaining and then maintaining power, using their privileged access to owners’ email addresses as well as the normal communications through their strata managers.

With highly massaged meeting minutes, dedicated proxy harvesters can easily convince other owners that all is well in their building and suggest that any challenge to their status is a threat to the whole community and, especially, its finances.

“They present themselves as having the building’s best interests at heart and some even agree to vote however the proxy giver wants on specific issues,” says the unnamed strata owner. “But that means they can vote however they want on everything else – including the size of the executive committee and who gets to be on it. The committee then, of course, elects them as chairman or whatever.

“It will be interesting when the new legislation comes in. But you can bet your bottom dollar these guys have already worked out a way to spread the proxy votes among their mates so they can still stay in power.”


Henry Sapiecha