Tuesday, 29 December 2009

[Progress.159] Water Tank Filter Replacement

Hope everyone had a happy and safe long Christmas/News Years holiday break!

Recently, we noticed after every toilet flush, the refill from water tank seems to be getting slower and slower, and the noise seems to be getting louder as well. Called the maintenance guy and was told the water tank filter needs to be replaced every 12 months or so, and it's probably time to replace our filter.

Got the supplier contact details, gave them a call, and what? Have to pay almost $70 for 2 filters? Ouch.... A few days later, here's what we received, 2 new filters wrapped in nice bubble wraps.

Removed the wrapping for one of them, the only noticeable sign on it is the word "MEXICO" on one side. Tried to search for the product on the Internet but strangely couldn't find any.... If any of you know where to get the same filter with much cheaper price, please let me know....

Next, I was supposed to open the filter with the little plastic blue handle after turned off the taps. It's a bit tricky as the handle doesn't quite fit (a bit loose)and it took me a while to work out the correct direction to open it - which is clock-wise when viewed from top.

After some hard work, finally got it opened, as below, the dirty old filter in the middle.

With the clean and old filters right next to each other for comparison, you can see how much dirts the filter filtered out after about 12 months of usage.

After the new filter inserted, put the cover back, turned on the tap, and we got the water tank system back again!

Saturday, 28 November 2009

[Progress.158] Daikin Air Con "E0" error

It was so hot the other day, we decided to turn on the Air Con. Surprisingly, it showed this "E0" error and the machine refused to start.

Tried a few times but still couldn't get it to work.

Wife mention she received this notice from the Air Con servicing company last month (or earlier?) saying it's time for our annual service and also mentioned something about needs service to maintain the warranty.

Wasn't happy about this and as it's after hours, got no choice but to bring out all the the old fans from the storage area to cool everyone down -- have to wait until next morning.

Next day had a nice chat with the servicing company, who said they wouldn't do such thing as programming the machine to stop functioning if any service schedule was missed. That "E0" error was simply the Air Con couldn't get enough electrical power to start up the motor. It can be easily fixed by restarting the Air Con circuit switch in the meter box with a 5 min delay between the shutdown and restart.

Sounds quite reasonable to me, as wouldn't surprise if most houses in Sydney all had their Air Con turned on that day, causing the power shortage problem.

Tried the restart when back home and it worked as expected! Another lesson learned, and we happily booked our Air Con service. Wouldn't want to have any more problem with the Air Con...

Remember someone asked me what are the other maintenance cost after the house completed? Well, I mentioned the TermGuard in previous post, Air Con maintenance would be the other one you have to pay every year to keep the warranty. Will let everyone know if I can think of anything else.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

[Others.046] Where on earth is "Toowoon Bay"?

I read an article talking about property investors using real estate web sites to look for cheap houses.

Just for fun, I did a quick search for "Town Houses" under $300,000 in NSW on realestate.com.au, and it returned quite a lot of hits. I switched to "Map" view and moved around, the first one I checked was as below, this 2 bedroom townhouse in Toowoon Bay (The others were all too far away...)

I've been to The Entrance a few times, but have absolutely no idea about the rental market over there. So I switched to the "Rent" view, entered "Toowoon Bay" as suburb and as below, it returned 3 houses, all with 2 bedrooms and within $210-$245 range.

Next is the fun part. I switched to "Map" view again to see whese these 3 houses were located, and as below, strangely I got a blank screen. The bottom of the map says "Map data 2009 Europa Technologies", ok, but where is this?

I zoomed out a bit and as below, noticed some arabic writings all over the places. What the??

Walla! I zoomed out a few times and as below, found that it's actually pointing to Algeria in Africa, with Barcelona/Madrid of Spain just above. And the top of the page still says "Displaying 3 homes for rent in Toowoon Bay"!!

Must be my first time lucky, as I tried a few others and none of them seems to have this problem...
Any way, will report to realestate.com.au and hopefully they can quickly fix it...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

[Others.045] Nice features of new houses in California

During my short stay in California, I found quite a few nice features which I like to share with everyone.

The most impressive feature is the high ceiling, which I think is about 10 feet/ 305 cm high. The dark brown door in photo below is the main entrance, the plain white door at the far right is the garage door which is about the same height as the normal door we have here. Compare the gap between the doors and the ceiling and you can see the difference.

The next feature I like is the smooth/round edges for all the walls. This would certainly be more child friendly than the sharp ones we have here.

I also found they all have a big tray under the washing machine in the laundry, similar to this one. This would protect the floor from been damaged.

There's also wallpapers been applied in some of the rooms. And as below, the light switches were beautifully covered with the wallpaper.

The switch at the far right has some sort of built-in sensor, which probably would turn on the light when it detects any movement. This certainly looks better than a separate sensor been installed on the ceiling corner and less wiring required.

Monday, 12 October 2009

[BlogSite.028] Home Sweet Home

I was away for a while, stayed in the sunny Los Angeles California for weeks, enjoying the beautiful sun shine and inexpensive food/shopping thanks to strong Aussie dollars.

Also visited some new display homes and found lots of interesting ideas which is quite different from what we have here in Australia. Will post some information to share with everyone later. It's really great to be back home again...

By the way, I decided to change my blog template back to the previous one, as the new template isn't wide enough.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

[Others.044] Call the police! Someone stole two lanes from Epping Road!

This is quite funny, but unfortunately it's the NSW government who stole the two lanes from Epping Road, trying to force everyone to use the expensive Lane Cove Tunnel...

Monday, 17 August 2009

[PropertyInfo.038] RBA's warning certainly has huge impact!

We have a busy day last Saturday (15/8), all spent on open houses and auctions.

We noticed in the morning that there was this big news on all papers about interest rate going to go up 2%, warning from RBA, ...etc. And that surely has a huge impact!

Some of the owners were safe, for example this house in Angus Ave which we missed previous Saturday's first open house. When we were there last Saturday it's already SOLD! We did expect it to be sold quite quickly as it's very close to school, a wide 22m frontage, still looks like in excellent condition from photos on Internet, and the price is within reasonable range based on recent sales record in the area. The agent Better Homes Realty is quite well known in local area and they certainly did an excellent job in the marketing of this property.

While this other house in Chelmsford Rd is not that lucky - been auctioned in the same afternoon when the RBA warning was reported by all papers.

From the photo below the house looks huge, but when you went on site, it's not! The house in the middle of the photo actually belongs to the neighbour at the back. The brick color is almost the same as the fence and that causes the confusion. The front yard looks huge, but with a 612m2 land, that's all you have. The North and West side of the house is only about less than a metre from the fences, so there's basically no backyard at all.

The agent even hired this Cafe2U van to provide free coffee/hot chocolate for everyone. Not sure how's that going to help the bidding price other than attracting more people. I wonder if this is included in the marketing package with the agent or is that extra?

Or may be they should try the "luxury car" option as I mentioned in this post almost 2 years ago to add extra 10-20% to the property value...

Talking about the bidding, the whole auction process was a bit strange too. When the auction started, a guy standing right at the front, very close to the auctioneer, and about 2-3 steps ahead of the crowd quickly raised his hand and offered 1.1 million. Lots of people made a "Wah!" sound as rarely would any one made such a high opening bid. Specially been so close to the "owner's acceptable range of 1.1m - 1.2m" according to the agent. Quite naturally, no one follows, the agent then approached about 5 to 6 registered buyers within the crowd and no one responded.

After a few embarrassing minutes, he then went inside to discuss with the owner. Later the auctioneer announced a "1.175 million" vendor bid, and basically that's the end of the auction.

Spoke to a few people and everyone agreed either that guy is dumb, has too much money to spend, or must be a dummy/fake bidder trying to push up the price. He probably got too excited and revealed his intention too early, and in a very inexperienced way. If he started at the low 900K range, it would be a totally different result. Sometimes people are just too impatient...

There's also this house in Kent Street, which looks quite nice and solid with the new paint - personally I don't quite like it as it would cover up lots of problems. And from the second photo below, you can see the owner smartly followed the "luxury car" option and parked a nice new sports car at the front...

But once we entered the house and checked all the closed doors/cabinets, it's a totally different story. The house was so heavily renovated that the hot water system and electrical/fuse meter box are now both located inside the house, hidden inside a few cabinets. There's even a bedroom with a downlight dangerously fell out of socket, dangling down from the ceiling.

And look at what I found hidden inside a furniture in the upstairs living area: 2 water tap knobs popped out from nowhere! Walk into the room behind the wall and you will see a small ensuite toilet, and a little basin where the tap was connected to.

The good part about the house is, there's a totally separated lower level floor with it's own kitchen, bathroom and currently rented out.

Looks like the owner did spend a lot of money in improving the house for the past years. But from those small areas mentioned above, even if the price is right, I would be quite worried about the quality...

Sunday, 16 August 2009

[City2Surf.005] My 3rd City2Surf run

I finished my 3rd City2Surf run last Sunday. This year there were a lot more runners than before: 75,000+ !

This time, I wasn't as well prepared as last year, plus a 2-7am work related activity on the day before, and my time was about 108 min. Certainly a lot more room for improvement next year!

I tried to convince wife and kid to join me again, but unfortunately the race is still not as attractive as the warm and cosy bed in the cold weather, probably next year then...

There were these 2 policemen riding on the horses in the Hyde Park before the race starts, looks pretty cool when you are so high above from the others. Just wonder, do they also have to get off the horses to clean up like those who walk their dogs in the park if the horses have to "release" themselves? They would certainly need a much bigger plastic bag!

Friday, 14 August 2009

[Others.043] Flaws in the construction work for new buildings

I saw this article "A litany of defects and still no resolution" from Sydney Morning Herald the other day about nightmare of a brand new building in 25 Kelly Street Ultimo for all the residents. Have a read and tell me how you fell about it.

While you might think it's just another tragic story similar to the one I mentioned this post (Charlie's Sad Story) mid last year, but there's one very important point been mentioned in the article by Dominic Ogburn, who is a licensed building consultant and author:
"When a plumber does some work on a new building they are the ones who fill out the compliance certificate to say whether their work has been done properly."
"Often the certification provided is completely at odds with what has actually been built because the contractor is the only person who has to sign off on it."

I certainly agree that this is a major flaw for all the construction work of new buildings in Australia.

While you might say that all building companies have a site supervisor who checks every construction site weekly. Yes, that's true. But based on what we seen in ours, and a few other sites in the past few years, it's never enough.

Each site supervisor normally has to look after at least 20 sites, and you would be lucky if your supervisor can spend more than an hour or two in your site every week. Although we have inspectors from council or private ones (hired by builder), it's almost impossible to pick up every problems in a short hour or two's inspection.

So from purchaser/owner's point of view, it will certainly be safer if you can get your own inspector, and check everything you can think of, again, again and again before the hand over. Once you accepted the property or signed the dotted line and paid all the money, you lost control of everything!

Friday, 31 July 2009

[NextHouseToDo.001] Starting a To Do List for Future House

I have heard lots of not-so-nice stories about owners having all sorts of argument or dispute with builders. Luckily our experience with our builder has been quite positive so far. Yes, we did have some problems in the past (who didn't?), if you have been following my blog, they have all been settled in the end. And if there's a chance for us to build another house, God knows when..., we are quite happy to use the same builder again.

So, after moved in to our hour for about 14 months, I think it's time to start looking at how to think, and "dream" about how can we improve the process/design for our future, hopefully possible, but don't know when,... second house. I would like to cover all the things I can think of, not necessary only limited to builder/construction related stuffs.

Hopefully all my readers can also kindly share your experience with me, and with your permission, I would certainly like to post it in my blog to share with everyone. Let's all learn together to make the extremely complicate house construction process easier and better for everyone!

The first thing I can think of is to understand more about the area, neighbours and council.

If you are going to build the first 2 story house of the street, you will surely get more resistance than the 2nd or 3rd one.

I also heard that if you just bought the house and decided to knock down and rebuild straight away without living there for a while and know the neighbours, the chance of getting complaints/objections for your application from neighbour would be much much higher. Which is quite true.

I was looking at one of the streets where there's currently a few new houses been built from our council web site last week. I was quite surprised to know that one of the application took almost 3 years due to lots of neighbour complaints, change of design, council requirement not been met, ...etc. One of the neighbour even hire a professional architect to write a 3 pages report detailing lots of problems of the application, which is quite amazing.

I guess in the end, you probably can get your application approved some way some how, after lots and lots of paper work, changes and phone calls, since it's your land/house any way. But just imagine the impact to your life, the stress, extra cost/time, and lots of others if your application get delayed for a long time.

So my first thing on the list will be to do a lot of homework to know the area well, and make sure you visit the council web site and study some of the current development applications to get a bit more understanding of the process and the council's requirement.

Monday, 20 July 2009

[Progress.157] 3rd update on the leaf guard problem

Another update on the leaf guard problem, we did have a quick on-site meeting with Ben from Allcoast GutterGuard and when he was here, surprisingly, the first thing he asked was if we have any flooding issue after the leaf guard been installed? I also specifically ask him if the edges of the valley area (highlighted in red below) be sealed and he confirmed normally it won't be unless there's special requirement from the client --- which we did ask for it but it wasn't done.

After some checks on the roof, he concluded that the quality of the work was really bad and the only way to fix it properly would be to rip the whole thing out and re-do it again. Which he will have to talk to ABC Seamless first...

Our leaf guard was installed on 21/1 and 22/1. If you have been following my blog, you might remember in >this post I mentioned about an unusual minor flooding at our alfresco during a heavy hail storm on 21/2.

After he left, we checked their brouchure and as highlighted below in green, it did mention about heavy rain water. Ben must have noticed some problem with the installation to ask the question.

We also noticed there's a cracked tile at the front, on top of the bay window area after the leaf guard installation. Confirmed with our builder's maintenance area, the most likely reason for roof tile in that location to crack would be some inexperienced person accidentally stepped on it, definitely not hail storm or some sort of extreme weather....

Another piece of interesting information: one of the letters we received from them was dated 15/5 (highlighted in blue below) but it was posted on 28/5 (see envelop far below, highlighted in red), and it's about Gutter work (highlighted in green), asking for payment within 7 days otherwise there will be legal action...

We surely don't want to have the whole thing removed and reinstalled again, as it would definitely cause even more damage to our brand new gutter and roof tiles. If you look at that brochure above again, the area highlighted in yellow says "We guarantee it or your money back", this is what we are working on now, let's see how it goes...

Sunday, 28 June 2009

[Progress.156] Hot Water System Minor Leaking - Fixed!

Recently, we noticed our hot water system seems to be have water dripping down from the pipe somewhere constantly.

Our hot water system is a Rheem Stella Gas Outdoor Water Heater.

Searched through the manual and it says: "it's normal and desirable this valve allows a small quality of water to escape during the heating cycle".

But the "valve" is on the other side of the system, the leaking is from the side where the hot/cold water pipes are connected, as shown below.

Not sure if this is normal, we contacted our builder's maintenance guy and 2 tradies arrived a few days later in the early morning. They have a quick look, use a big spanner to tighten the nuts above that blue thing and that stops the leak straight away. Too easy!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

[PropertyInfo.037] Quality concern for some newly built houses

Not sure how's the property market is going, some says up some says down. But for Epping area, quite surprise to see so many new properties been rushed to market.

Unfortunately when there's rushing, there's always quality issue. We went to this brand new, technically not 100% finished duplex the other day. Upstairs carpet still not finished, kitchen cabinate handle still not installed, big pile of sand and concrete still left at the drive way...etc, can't understand what's the rush to push it to the market in this condition.

On the bright side, we can clearly see the builder/owner spent quite a lot on the robes and cabinets. Even the garage have a full cabinet filling the whole wall, quite impressive.

But then I noticed this small problem in the garage as shown below, can you see what's wrong?

Hope you already pick up the problem, if not, have a look below. When the door been opened, it's blocked by the stairs! I guess technically you can say it's still accessible with the other door opened, but without any sort of protection I can expect that door to be scratched very badly quite soon...

If the quality is in this kind of condition in visible area, wonder what would it be like for other non-visible areas....

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

[Others.042] Thanks for the execellent service Freedom Furniture

We bought a set of "Lila" bedroom furniture from Freedom Furniture last year.

We noticed started from early this year, for some unknown reason the colour changed from white to irregular yellow spots in different places. We visited one of their shops a few weeks ago and surprisingly their friendly staff said they were aware of this issue and can arrange for a replacement.

After a quick phone call, a replacement was arranged, and we got all of them waiting in the garage to be picked up next day morning. Just look at the awful colours...

It was raining the next morning, a big truck arrived around 7am. 2 guys quickly checked the goods, stick a big yellow note on each of them, and replaced all of them.

After some hard work with assembling everything and rubbish clean up, we leave it overnight to get rid of the smell.

Unfortunately we found a small problem, as below one of the roller wheels for one of the drawers was broken. Since it still sort of works so there's no rush to get it fixed. And with their excellent service I believe this can be easily resolved.

Oh, one other thing I forgot to mention. When we bought the furniture last year it comes with 2 years warranty. The best part is, after the replacement (which is about one year later), they still give us another 2 years of warranty, not bad isn't it!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

[PropertyInfo.036] Property Market booming after FHOB extended?

Before the announcement of the budget, there were lots of rumor about property market crashing after the "First Home Owner Boost (FHOB)" finished in end of June. Now that the FHOB been extended (see reports here and here, everything seems to change!

Not sure about your area, in Epping the best example would be this old unrenovated cottage, with 695 sqr meter of land --- perfect candidate for a knock down and rebuild. As it's quite wide it might be qualified for a duplex too (subject to council approval).

In the past 2 open houses it was always packed with interested buyers, most of them intended to knock it down as it's been vacant for almost 2 years and not in a very good condition.

When I was there last Saturday, I saw this old Apple II from 197? (same as the one in the photo below from Internet, with 2 huge floppy drives) sitting on the floor in the corner of a bedroom. I probably spent more time on this little cutie than the old house and if there weren't so many people around, I would be seriously thinking of ..... Sorry, back to the house...

The asking price was $620K, we think it should be somewhere in the high $600K area. Last Saturday we heard that there were already a few offers around $680K, which is pretty good. Wife called the agent this afternoon and was told the highest offer is in the $710K range and might even go higher, wow!

As it's not for Auction, there's really no deadline and would be interested to see how much it would be sold for in the end...

Is your area going well after the FHOB extended as well? Share your story with us!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

[Others.041] Execellent tool to control kid's TV/Computer/Game time

If you are like us, having problem controlling kid's TV/game time after school, there's a solution!

According to this report on "Oh Gizmo!", there's this little "tamper-proof" timer device which you can set the timer and completely lock the power point of the TV/Computer/Game Console, not bad isn't it?

Further details can be found in Digital Innovation, it's currently US$29.99 each and comes with 1 year warranty.

It's a very simple 3 step setup as below:

It can be programmed to repeat every 24 hours, and 4-digit pass code to prevent unauthorized timer changes.

Would be good to know when this becomes available in Australia!