Home Inspection News – Issue 37

The Property Market Post-Covid19

There was almost an 80% fall in the number of property sales across New Zealand in April as Covid19 level 4 lockdown made it very difficult for property sales. Given these facts the usual sales data is pretty well meaningless. More important will be the results following lockdown level 4 and level 3.

Prices were strongly on the rise across New Zealand including Auckland (which had lagged behind) prior to lockdown. Open homes and real estate sales activity (with restrictions) are back in action during May but market results will not be available until mid June. One month ago there were 165,000 deaths including 12 in New Zealand.

Today the number sits at 350,000 deaths including 21 in New Zealand. World-wide the pandemic is far from over. Some European countries, China and USA are cautiously moving towards more normal conditions. Other countries such as Brazil, Mexico and Africa are yet to see the full effects of Covid19.  Talk of “opening boarders” to stimulate ailing economies will gradually mean more people can travel.

Most people will be cautious and not travel internationally for some time except to Australia. New Zealand and Australia have managed the pandemic far better than most. Our businesses can therefore get back to near normal and so recover more quickly. Real estate sales are happening again! All our A Buyer’s Choice Home Inspection inspectors are back working again.

What Else?

It will take some time but recovery is on the way. House prices are likely to fall by very little – despite many economists predicting large falls, bursting real estate bubbles and the like. The reserve bank has removed the LRV restrictions (minimum deposit restrictions) and interest rates are below 3% (for 1 year fixed). There is still a shortage of houses and the price to build will continue to rise due to Covid19 safety requirements, so why would prices fall?

They will because there will be a lot of unemployed who can’t buy but this will be offset to some extent by investors buying rentals. Investing in term deposits at the bank gives almost no returns and investing in shares may be risky as many businesses are suffering financially.

Home Heating Systems

Despite the unseasonably warm and dry weather we can expect the true winter to arrive soon. Heating the home to keep it warm in winter can be a major cost. Money spent on good insulation is a great investment. Around 50% of heat in a home is lost through the roof of an uninsulated home and another 15% through the floor.

Insulating the ceiling and under the floor (if there is a crawl space) before spending on heating is the best way to go. In New Zealand the open fireplace of the 1960’s and earlier have pretty well gone. They were very inefficient and produced a lot of pollution from improper combustion of wood or coal.

Heating Types

Wood Burners

Initially the move was to wood burners (glass front) and pot belly stoves. These burnt the wood much more completely (less pollution) and gave out much more heat into the home. Often such wood burners had a “wet back” system where the electric hot water cylinder had the water connected to the wood burner which heated the water saving electricity. A lot of work was involved in stacking, storing and bringing the firewood inside to feed into the burner. Removing ash was another chore.

Electric – Resistance Heaters, Fan, Panel or Bar Heaters

These are clean to use and quickly provide heat. The problem is that they are very expensive to run especially if used to heat a whole house and can be a fire risk if not used correctly.

Gas Fires

The portable gas heater with the bottle of gas ( caravan type bottle) are no longer legal to use indoors. This is because without sufficient ventilation
odourless carbon monoxide gas can be produced and has lead to the death of people by carbon monoxide poisoning. Fixed gas fires either from street mains supplied or bottle gas (stored outside) have grown in popularity. The gas combustion products go up a flue to the outside. This gas fires produce a flame which looks like a “real” fire. They are efficient at heating and relative to electricity much cheaper to use. 

More Heating Options

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are used for space heating and space cooling. Electric heat pumps are electrically operated, refrigerant-type air-conditioning systems that can be reversed to extract heat from the outside air and transfer it indoors. In the heating mode, the heat pump is generally 3-4 times more efficient in their use of power than simple electric heaters. Check and clean internal vents of the unit inside the house, which may be wall or floor mounted. The outside compressor unit needs to be checked each year to ensure it is kept free from vegetation. There is a gas refrigerant in this unit, if the efficiency of the unit is noticed to drop off, it is worth having an HVAC engineer check for a refrigerant leak.

Solar Heating

Solar heating can help heat water which could be used to heat a home (eg underfloor water pipes) but are only useful as an aid to other primary heating methods. Heating is most needed in the winter when there is less sunshine, so solar heating is not so useful then.

Whatever form of heating you use stay warm this winter.