Canberra real estate fraud prompts agents to scrutinise sales
As more information emerges about a Canberra property sold without the owner's knowledge, the Office of Regulatory Services (ORS) advised real estate agents to conduct 100 point identification checks and pre-establish security questions with property owners in a bid to thwart future property scams. The scam – an apparent first for the region – went through with no face-to-face contact between buyer and seller. ORS warns agents to watch for a recent change of address and requests for future correspondence to be done through a new email address – particularly addresses from free public services like Hotmail or Gmail – or a new phone number. Authorities want agents to focus on matching identification with buyers and sellers using original documents. The minimum 100-point identity check should be done face-to-face where possible or at an Australian embassy for sales involving overseas owners, as happened with the Canberra scam. Read the full story here.
 
Ray White joins real estate rebels
Ray White Group has joined the alliance of real estate agents rebelling against the dominant online property advertising site, REA Group-owned realestate.com.au. Agents rose in protest after REA changed their pricing structure and raised rates, forming a collective called Real Estate Digital Marketing Services (REDMS) and appointing a media buyer to negotiate digital advertising rates for them. The agents' group now numbers more than 400 agency members, confined to Victoria up until the addition of Ray White. The new agency has about 635 franchises across Australia and more than 400 in NSW and Queensland. Most of the members of REDMS are shareholders in Fairfax Media, which owns number-two portal Domain.com.au, leading REA Group to suspend negotiation with the rebels. Ray White may be above accusations that this is merely a competitor's play. Read the full story here.
 
Drones raise concerns for luxury property owners
It's one thing to shoot a video of a million-dollar home for prospective buyers. It's another when that video is a whoosh! and a zoom! obtainable through the use of a camera-mounted drone. Footage of luxury waterfront properties can showcase a property's position and size, said Michael Coombs from McGrath Mosman. International buyers benefit from the drone approach, since they're often less available to tour a property ahead of time. But the use of drones raises significant privacy concerns – more significant, perhaps, for the kind of home owners who buy multi-million dollar estates with high walls and long driveways expecting to be immune to probing eyes. Some Mosman residents have called police after seeing drones in the sky. Read the full story here.

Mortgage fees are rising, even as rates fall
Three of the big four banks cut mortgage interest rates below 5 per cent yesterday. But a trend in falling mortgage fees in lenders' revenue has ended. An analysis of revenue shows that lenders took in 0.4 per cent more in fees last year than the year before, after several years of falling fee revenue. This rise comes despite a ban on mortgage exit fees in 2011. Homeowner's costs in mortage fees have fallen by 11 per cent since 2009, but the recent rise may be a sign that banks will seek to recover lost margin from the low interest rate environment in ways that are less visible to the public. Read the full story here.
 
Port Hedland – where you rent if you simply don't care about cost
The median rental price in Port Hedland in Western Australia is a $1,775 a week, making it the most expensive suburb to rent a house in Australia. It's even more expensive to rent there than in Mosman, number two on the list of the 10 most expensive suburbs for renters. The average Mosman rent is $1500 a week. Investors in Port Hedland enjoy a gross rental yield of 9.3 per cent. Mosman … only 3.2 per cent. Most of the most expensive suburbs for renting are in the hinterlands outside of Perth, with St Ives in NSW at the bottom of the top-ten list at $1000 a week. Read the full story here.

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