Mortgage rates of 4.99 per cent aren't low enough: banks can do better
The price of capital for banks is so low that borrowers should actually have more pricing power than they're exhibiting, said former Reserve Bank governor and current ME Bank chairman Bernie Fraser. The largest banks in Australia can borrow on the international market at far below the 4.99 per cent now on offer for five-year fixed rate loans, he said. Buyers are in position to negotiate for prices below list. Other market observers note that the lowest mortgage rates are dominated by credit unions, mortgage originators and online-only lenders. After the Big Four began a price war last month, ME Bank undercut their own rate to 4.95 per cent. Meanwhile, online-only lender offers a variable-rate mortgage of 4.54 per cent. Read the full story here.

Brisbane residents fighting city hall over proposed super suburb
Brisbane's LNP administration rejected a motion proposed by Labor on behalf of residents hoping to slow down the proposed Cedar Woods development, a $900 million “super suburb” slated for an area near The Gap and Upper Kedron. Residents want a comprehensive review by outside assessors instead of council officers, but City Hall believes it can examine the development on 227 hectares next to the D'Aguilar National Park, an area bigger than South Brisbane and West End combined. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane made favourable comments about working with the project which have since been attributed to him in part of a three-page Australian Stock Exchange announcement issued by the developer. Read the full story here.

Property tax rates set at total Victoria value of $1.5 trillion
In 2006, the total value of all property in Victoria was worth less than $1 trillion. Now the government's 2014 Municipal Revaluation posts a figure of $1.5 trillion, driven by strong growth and volume in high-value properties in Melbourne. Local councils will set rates in the future based on January 1 home prices. An average property owed $1350 per annum in council fees and other assessments last year, which generated $3.8 billion for local councils. Read the full story here.

New website predicts auction prices for real estate
Sellers might underquote your agent, but can they underquote an algorithm? The realAS app and site hope to find out. Launched today, the site's developers hope to derive estimates for final selling prices within 5 per cent of the result, using historical prices and crowdsourced estimates from buyers and agents to make predictions. The algorithm itself is a trade secret akin to Google's method for ranking search results, and it isn't clear if the ad-supported free site will attract the real estate equivalent of black hat search engine optimization squads hoping to game the program. But realAS covers 80 per cent of properties listed for sale in Australia. Read the full story here.

South Australia considers sharp cuts to council planning powers
The Expert Panel on Planning Reform proposed stripping elected members local councils of planning powers to hand authority to regional “boards” as a way of levelling the playing field for development, according to a major review released Wednesday. The suggestion raised alarms among councils and campaigners crying “socialism!” and demanding that the proposal be scrapped. The Local Government Association warned of “significant risks in watering down the system” while Lord Mayoral candidate Mark Hamilton demands the council “mount a full scale campaign in opposition.” Property organisations unsurprisingly welcomed the proposal, Read the full story here.

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