Interest rates left untouched by RBA; First-time homebuyer rates drop

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RBA leaves interest rates alone
The Reserve Bank of Australia made no change to the nation's historically-low interest rate of 2.5 per cent and signalled that the rate will remain so through the rest of the year. Key economic data provided no rationale to raise rates, while the central bank remains focused on maintaining inflation of 2 to 3 per cent. The interest rate has not budged since August 2013. No economists surveyed predict rate changes before year-end, while only four of 15 economists surveyed by AAP this week forecast a hike in the first half of 2015 – the first increase in four years. Historically low interest rates have spurred tremendous growth in real estate prices and housing construction, but appear, perversely, to be contributing to the lock-out of first time homebuyers due to the rising cost of housing.

First-time homebuyer rates fall to lowest level in four years
It's been four years since the RBA last raised interest rates. And, perhaps coincidentally, first-time homebuyer numbers are lower now than have been at any time since. Australia’s biggest mortgage broker, Australian Finance Group, processed $3.9 billion in new home mortgages last month. Around 9.5 per cent of those were for first timers. In NSW, only 3.5 per cent of loans went to first-time buyers. An AFG manager attributed some of the barriers to the winding back of first-home owner grants. But it's worth noting that the portion of loans obtained by investors is very near all-time high levels.

Liveable design making waves in construction industry
Leading construction firm Grocon will build all of its future residential developments to Liveable Housing Design Guidelines – the first company to claim such a commitment. Liveable Housing Australia has also signed a partnership with Australia's largest property developer, Meriton Group. Together, these two developers may set an industry standard for unit design centered on safety and accessibility for people with limited mobility. Meanwhile, young professionals in the property industry will be competing for a new honor, the Future Green Leader award, by the Green Building Council of Australia. Apartment design has come under increasing scrutiny in Sydney and Melbourne, which have attracted less-than-stellar proposals focussed on maximizing density and sale to investors at the cost of amenities – assuming a window might be considered an amenity. Read the full story here.

Prosecutors claim star real estate agent drug-addicted meth dealer
The double-life alleged to Patrick “Ryan” McCann by prosecutors portrays the star LJ Hooker agent as taking in fists full of commission money with one hand and fists full of drug money with the other. McCann has been earning as much as $100,000 a month as a real estate agent, Prosecutor Angela Tetley told the Wynnum Magistrates Court on Tuesday. Police arrested McCann, 36, after a two-year investigation, discovering silver bags of methamphetamine hidden in the walls of his posh home while simultaneously raiding other connected businesses and homes. McCann allegedly threatened to kill anyone who informed police about his drug dealing. LJ Hooker sacked him Monday.

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