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asknov13Fresh food… the joy in true freshness. We are so fortunate in this day and age to be able to experience the amazingly superior taste of truly fresh produce. Once you find it, you realise how inferior any other option is – how bland and fl avourless, how entirely lackluster and disappointing in comparison.

Our consciousness of our environment – the awareness of food miles, emphasis placed on sustainable farming practices and desire for foods free from chemicals and hormones has the added advantage of bringing us back to a place where freshness is implicit.

We tend to wait for seasonal produce to become available – avoiding imported items and waiting for local, suspiciously eyeing off and rejecting apples in January and mangoes in July … The same is true of meat and fish -“Is it fresh?” we ask our fishmongers and butchers. Or, “What’s good today?” As consumers, we demand the best and reject the even slightly inferior.

We are high maintenance and knowledgeable customers. The providores of fresh foods fight to stay current with food issues and trends, which range from ethical food production methods to individual dietary considerations – grass fed, grain fed, free-range, biodynamic, line caught, Fair Trade, wild… all the way to gluten free, paleo, non-dairy, wholefood …

The list goes on and on – food is no longer fuel, but a complex web of intricacies, affecting our every sensibility from global consciousness to overall health and wellbeing – we are far more aware of what we are actually putting in our bodies – demanding purity, clarity on ingredients lists and even educating ourselves and learning to make things from scratch after casting a stern and suspicious eye on the evils of major supermarket chains and the like.
We carry this super-awareness and passionate philosophy with us from our greengrocers and fishmongers to our local restaurants when we dine out.

Menu offerings need to meet and then exceed regular and daily expectations in terms of quality and freshness. The sourcing of produce needs to be undertaken with the utmost dedication and passion.

Customers often demand to know the history of ingredients used – the when, where and how, the questions of ethics and sustainability … It is no longer a question of looking at a nice piece of fish on a plate, admiring the aroma, colours, textures and flavours; it is indeed about a complex intellectual interplay embodying a range of philosophical, ethical and scientific elements.

It is undeniable that there are huge benefits to be gained from the global food conscience that has been developed over the past few years. The message spoken out loudly and clearly by consumers has played a massive role in at least reducing shonky food production practices the world over.

The knowledgeable consumer also treats their body as a temple, and this awareness leads to fewer health problems and hesitancy by food service providers to sneak in inferior ingredients in the hope of keeping costs down. There is an overall sense of there being nothing to hide behind anymore – freshness itself cannot be faked, additives and impurities need to be declared.

A stern and suspicious eye is cast over the contents of many a plate being put on a table near you, right now. All this has to keep us providers of food firmly on our toes. And the push from consumers exists all the way from the budget to the top end of the market. Whilst it is essential that anyone who considers opening a modern and successful food service establishment is aware of this demand from consumers, it is sometimes somewhat of a challenge to rise to the occasion … As always, homage needs to be paid to the bottom line, in that yes you still get what you pay for – in budget eateries a $15-20 main course is most likely not going to be line-caught and biodynamic. And the carb fillers on the plate aren’t going to be hand picked micro-greens; they are most likely being tumbled out of a big packet straight into the deep fryer. And the staff might not know if the salmon is from a sustainable source – although gluten free or nut free may very well be marked on the menu, such is the prevalence of dietary requirements nowadays.

So clearly, it is all very awesome that as consumers we have educated ourselves to the point of absolutely wielding power over many of our smaller food providers (the two supermarket chains – we are still working on). And we restaurants are doing our best to keep up with the cool kids. Just bear in mind though, we are still learning ourselves and in a fast moving, fickle and cynical marketplace who still demands value for money, it’s not always easy.

asknov13Q. The trees are telling us what we already knew- our long spell of dry weather is causing stress.

Even native plants feel it, and have to find ways of coping. Lilly pilly trees are usually covered with pink or mauve fleshy fruits at this time of year, providing a feast for pigeons, parrots and people. But almost no lilly pillies (Acmena smithii) have fruit; say Landcarers hunting seeds for the Community Nursery. Note that rainfall was about 420 mm in Port Maquarie from January to June 2014: about half the average for the fi rst six months, which is 820 mm. Normally each of those six months sees more than 100 mm, but this year only February and March did. Below average rain and above average temperatures have made life difficult for plants. Native plant species may respond by putting off reproduction and saving their resources for a better time. Now is not a good time to be producing seeds, as they may not grow in soil that’s very dry. The weather bureau confirms soil moisture here is below average, while rainfall has been severely deficient. Moisture is important for lillypillies; they are rainforest trees that like shelter (while being salt tolerant). Seed collectors found just a few with fruit, growing in protected places where the soil is always wet. So there will be few lilly pilly seedlings in our pots this year, just as there will be few to germinate in the bush. The Community Nursery collects only from wild plants, not garden specimens, as we have to make sure we have local genes. By the way, the botanical name for lilly pilly comes from the Greek “Acmene”, a beautiful wood nymph. Lilly pilly is beautiful, with pretty pink new leaves turning glossy green, fragrant white flowers in spring, and edible bird-attracting fruit. This plant is perfect for local gardens, as it is evergreen and fire-retardant. Living for at least 100 years, it grows to about 8 m in cultivation, with a dense oval canopy. It can also be pruned. It likes some sun, not full shade, and moist loam or clay soil. Young lilly pillies may need to be watered if rain is lacking. Speaking of rain, our annual average is 1,417 mm. The Bureau of Meteorology, at www.bom.gov.au tells us that warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean over recent months has primed the climate system for an El Niño to develop during spring 2014. El Niño is often associated with below-average rainfall over southern and eastern inland Australia, and above-average daytime temperatures over southern Australia However the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) index has been below the negative threshold since mid-June. A negative IOD typically brings wetter winter and spring conditions to inland and southern Australia. It’s possible that the effects of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean are competing, and cancelling each other out. We will have to wait and see, but we need lots of rain just to catch up, and the lilly pillies are not taking any chances.

Contributed by Julie Ho.

I’m a baby boomer without a lot of money in superannuation but enough cash for a sizeable deposit on an investment property. I am considering buying an apartment for some extra retirement income. Friends have shared horror stories of properties getting trashed by tenants and being owed heaps of rent. What is your advice to avoid any bad experience; should I become a landlord? Peter, Sancrox
A. My advice is to treat property investing as a business – and as every successful business owner knows, this requires diligence, discipline and a healthy investment of both time and money from time to time. Quality property attracts quality tenants, so make sure you select the right property in the first place and keep on top of any maintenance or refurbishments needed. Property in poor condition requiring ongoing maintenance not only affects your bottom line, but rarely attracts good tenants. Who would want to live in a place where things constantly go wrong? If you are considering trying to self-manage the property, watch out; this can be full of pitfalls. A professional property manager will find and qualify suitable tenants, look after your asset and help you avoid the horror stories you mentioned. Try to engage an experienced property manager, with as much diligence as yourself. Make sure regular inspections are undertaken and include yourself on the inspection team if possible. This allows you to see the property for yourself and stay completely informed about its condition. Be prepared for fair wear and tear, but don’t defer maintenance. By fi xing problems immediately, you’ll set a good example for the tenants and show the property manager you expect high standards to be maintained. I also recommend landlord insurance as money well spent. For a relatively small outlay, you can be covered for accidental or malicious damage, as well as loss of rental income. Peter, don’t let fear hold you back from benefiting from the type of solid monthly income only bricks and mortar can provide. Give me a call if you need more guidance when the time comes. Answers are general comment, and readers should always seek their own independent professional advice. Send your real estate questions to greg@gregtrembath.com.au
Greg Trembath is Principal/Licensee at Greg Trembath Real Estate.
Licensed Real Estate Agent – Licensed Auctioneer.

asknov13Q. I’m always reading about the Sydney property boom. What is the Port Macquarie market doing at the moment? Ben, Port Macquarie.

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asknov13Q. I am keen to buy a property, but I don’t know how to tell a boom market from a buyer’s market. Can you give me some tips? Amy H. Port Macquarie.

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asknov13Q. I recently attended an open for inspection and fell in love with the home. Unfortunately, there were many other people vying for it too, and I missed out. What should I do next time to make sure I secure the property I want? Simone P, Port Macquarie.

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asknov13Q. Greg, we are keen to downsize from our existing 4-bedroom home, but being pensioners, we are put off by the fact that so much money will be eaten up by stamp duty on the next property we purchase.
Do pensioners get any stamp duty relief, and approximately how much would we be up for on a property around $400,000?

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asknov13Q. We have been looking for an investment property and can see the local market is hotting up. Have we left our purchase too late? What tips do you have for buying in this type of market?

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askoct13Q. Some years ago I obtained an interest only loan to buy an investment property which I still own. It is no longer negatively geared, since the rent received is greater than the monthly payments. What is the best thing to do with a previously negatively geared investment property when it is no longer negatively geared?

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asksept13Q. Hey Greg, I’ve noticed you’ve moved to a fixed commission structure since we last did business. Based on the new rates, my wife and I estimate we will save quite a lot next time we sell through you. How do you do it? Paul, Port Macquarie.

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askaug13Q. When we moved into a home we had recently purchased, we were surprised to find a space left in the kitchen where the dishwasher should have been. We presume the previous owners must have taken it with them! The agent and owners solicitor say it wasn’t included in the contract, but we feel sure it should be ours. What should we do?

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askjuly13Q. We are in the process of moving, having sold our place and purchased a new home. Settlement for both will be on the same day, and the people buying our home intend to move in the same day. We are feeling overwhelmed about getting out in time and having the house clean for them. How do we take the stress out of this?

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askjune13Q. Our house is on a big block of land, which is larger than we need. What are the rules and regulations if we want to subdivide? We have one of those classic ¼ acre blocks and would like to stay in our house, but sell off about half the land.

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askmay13Q. My mum is ready to downsize and is considering moving into a villa, but she is worried about whether or not she can take her dog. I’ve heard not all places will allow you to have a pet. How can she be sure about being able to take her little companion with her?

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askapril13

Q. We have heard that soon everyone who has a pool will have to register it with the local Council. Is this correct and if so, where do we register?

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As first time home sellers, we are feeling quite daunted about the whole ‘for sale experience’. Where do we start? What are the most important things to get right? Read more