Easy way to manage and replace featured images

If you need to set a default Featured Image for your posts, or want to change all the featured images in a particularly category in a trice, then this is the plugin for you.

If you need to set a default Featured Image for your posts, or want to change all the featured images in a particularly category in a trice, then this is the plugin for you.

Quick Featured Images in the Swiss Army knife for managing featured images in your WordPress website.

This plugin helps you bulk managing featured images, setting automatic default featured images to save your time.
1.    It sets, replaces and removes featured images for hundreds of posts and pages in one go. You can run it over all contents or let it work only to desired contents by using flexible filters.
2.    It displays assigned features images in an additional sortable image column in lists of posts, pages and custom post types if they support thumbnails. So you get a quick overview about used thumbnails of all posts and pages.
3.    It enables you to define presets for automatic default featured images for future posts as many as you need. You can set accurate rules based on post properties.

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Special report – Shocking news from the ANZ and the Reserve Bank

Shocking news from the CEO of New Zealand’s ANZ bank David Hisco where he essentially warns of the New Zealand housing bubble bursting.

This is a Property Podcast special.

Shocking news from the CEO of New Zealand’s ANZ bank David Hisco where he essentially warns of the New Zealand housing bubble bursting.

Within minutes of seeing this, I am sent a press release from the Reserve Bank with more dire warnings about the economy and real estate.

Hisco’s comment, 21 July 2016 is below, and the Reserve Bank warning is below Hisco’s piece.

David Hisco is the CEO of ANZ New Zealand, the country’s biggest bank.

Auckland house prices and the New Zealand dollar are over-cooked.

Having been in banking since 1980 I have seen this movie before. The ending is pretty much the same – sometimes a little plot twist, but usually messy.

This one has some different characters involved. Record low interest rates in New Zealand, 40 houses being built a day in Auckland yet the city needing 60, deflation in some of our trading partners, political turmoil in Britain, Australia and the US, some banks in Europe in trouble; the list goes on.

In the quick snack media world we live, sadly many are making decisions based on the last headline or quote rather than research and facts. Here is a fact: property markets can and do go backwards.

Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Grant Spencer says the solution to Auckland’s housing problem is a team game and that not all the heavy lifting can be done by them. He’s right. Spencer has also suggested immigration policy needs to be looked at. Our creaking infrastructure might do with a period of catch up.

The Leader of the Opposition says we need to build more homes faster. That makes sense, too, if we have the resources and approvals to do it.

The Auckland Council says we need a unitary plan that allows us to build up and out. That’s logical but unpalatable to a vocal few.

The Prime Minister recently told the Reserve Bank to get on with tightening loan to value ratio (LVR) rules. Part of the delay in it happening may be the Reserve Bank demonstrating that it won’t be told what to do by politicians.

Record low interest rates have played their part in this problem. But, because New Zealanders aren’t good savers banks have had to borrow from offshore to fund this rapid expansion in housing lending. And this funding supply is not endless unless banks want to pay higher prices for it. I doubt banks can keep lending at the current huge volumes anyway.

SO HOW DO WE SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?

At ANZ it’s not uncommon to find ourselves in complicated situations where different parts of the business have a solution to a problem. Breaking the impasse requires collaboration, leaving egos at the door, and a willingness to move from your previously held position and try something different. Most of all, it requires the fortitude to make a recommendation that everyone can live with (versus 100 percent agrees with). Then, like with all good strategies, it requires military like precision in its implementation.

Finance Minister Bill English recently told an ANZ post-Budget breakfast that the

Auckland housing market was overheated and that some investors would end up losing money.

That may be true but New Zealand’s issues go beyond housing. The strong Kiwi dollar, while great if you’re heading overseas on holiday, is impacting our exporters. It’s not helping with the recovery of the dairy industry. It also makes NZ tourism, one of our largest industries, far less attractive for overseas tourists.

The softness in the Australian economy, coupled with the fundamental changes they are going through with the end of the mining boom, makes our largest trading partner vulnerable. With the possibility of parity between the New Zealand and Australian dollars how long before they start buying their goods from cheaper sources?

There are storm clouds on the horizon for sure and when they break who knows what will happen.

One thing is certain, if employers start laying off staff because exports to an uncertain world are dropping, those people won’t be able to afford their mortgages and when that happens they will sell their houses. If unemployment rises and the dollar drops, overseas investors will cash in their chips and sell, most probably in a stampede.

The Baby Boomers who have become property investors in recent years based on shallow deposits will soon realise what I’m already seeing – more and more rental properties where owners either can’t find a tenant, or the rent can’t cover the mortgage. Salaries and wages have hardly changed whilst house prices have risen – this can’t continue so it’s a matter of when, not if, the market adjusts.

Eventually, landlords will realise that getting a measly yield is not worth it, nor is leaving a property empty, and they will try to sell and take any possible capital gain. Nobody knows where the top of the market is but, as they say, nobody ever went broke taking a profit.

The solution probably lies in pulling many levers which will no doubt trigger other consequences. But things we can do right now include:

Heavily increase LVR limits for property investors. The Reserve Bank wants most property investors around the country to have 40 percent deposits in future. We think they should go harder and ask for 60 percent. Almost half of house sales in Auckland are to property investors. Taking them out of the market will be unpopular amongst investors but it may end up doing them a favour. Of course this would mean less business for us banks but right now the solution calls for everyone to adjust.

Weaken the New Zealand dollar. The Reserve Bank should look to weaken the dollar, making our export industries more competitive. That’s good for employment and our balance of trade in the long run. The Reserve Bank in Australia are already examining unconventional measures to do this. The longer our dollar is out of step with the rest of the world we will slowly drift towards being uncompetitive. Rising unemployment and rising house prices can’t co-exist.

Voluntary tightening of lending criteria by banks. Since the GFC banks have been more conservative than ever on lending. But the current situation will see ANZ implement even tougher criteria for investment loans as house price inflation spreads from Auckland to other regions.

Review immigration policies. Immigration has been great for New Zealand. We are a harmonious, diverse and inclusive society. But Auckland’s housing, roads, public transport and schools are struggling to cope. Let’s have an honest and sensible debate about immigration using facts rather than prejudice to see if we should push the pause button.

Have a strong focus on infrastructure build, particularly in the growth regions. We always seem to play catch up in this country relying on bureaucratic formula to work out demand. There are smart ways to fund infrastructure that can spread cost across the generations if we choose to go that way.

New Zealand is a great country and we’ve come out of the Global Financial Crisis well compared with many. But logic tells me things cannot continue to run this hot.

Low interest rates give borrowers the best chance to repay their debt and that is what they should do, not use them as a chance to borrow to the max.

Now is the time for New Zealand to navigate carefully if it wants to remain as one of the world’s better performing economies.

ENDS

Reserve Bank releases economic update (21 July 2016)

Prospects for growth in the global economy have diminished despite very stimulatory monetary policy and low oil prices. Significant downside risks remain. Financial market volatility increased following the UK referendum and long-term interest rates have fallen.

Domestic growth is expected to remain supported by strong inward migration, construction activity, tourism, and accommodative monetary policy. However, low dairy prices are depressing incomes in the dairy sector and weighing on farm spending and investment.

There continue to be many uncertainties around the outlook. Internationally, these relate to the prospects for global growth and commodity prices, the fragility of global financial markets, and political risks. Domestic uncertainties relate to inflation expectations and the potential for continued high net immigration, ongoing pressures in the housing market, and the high New Zealand dollar exchange rate.

The trade-weighted exchange rate is 6 percent higher than assumed in the June Statement, and is notably higher than in the alternative scenario presented in that Statement. The high exchange rate is adding further pressure to the dairy and manufacturing sectors and, together with weak global inflation, is holding down tradable goods inflation. This makes it difficult for the Bank to meet its inflation objective. A decline in the exchange rate is needed.

House price inflation remains excessive and has become more broad-based across the regions, adding to concerns about financial stability. The Bank is currently consulting on stronger macro-prudential measures aimed at mitigating risks to financial stability from the current boom in house prices.

Annual CPI inflation was 0.4 percent in the year to June 2016. Headline inflation is being held below the target band by continuing negative tradables inflation. Long-term inflation expectations are well-anchored at 2 percent, but short-term inflation expectations remain low.

Despite rising capacity pressures and some recent increase in fuel prices, the stronger exchange rate implies that the outlook for inflation has weakened since the June Statement.

Monetary policy will continue to be accommodative. At this stage it seems likely that further policy easing will be required to ensure that future average inflation settles near the middle of the target range. We will continue to watch closely the emerging economic data.

Auckland home shortage bites hard

When I got home the other night I found a note from a real estate agent saying she had buyers for properties in my street.

As any Auckland house-hunter can testify, there are slim pickings at the moment — it’s something I mentioned a few months back when the trend started to emerge. But the shortage of houses for sale has become a lot worse, leaving wannabe buyers starved of choice and at least some real estate agents scratching around for something to sell.

When I got home the other night I found a note from a real estate agent saying she had buyers for properties in my street.

As any Auckland house-hunter can testify, there are slim pickings at the moment — it’s something I mentioned a few months back when the trend started to emerge. But the shortage of houses for sale has become a lot worse, leaving wannabe buyers starved of choice and at least some real estate agents scratching around for something to sell.

Industry players tell us that homeowners with a view to selling are sitting tight. It could be they don’t want to go to market seeing there is so little to buy, or they are waiting for the spring surge and hoping for a higher price.

Higher LVR

The Reserve Bank’s Graeme Wheeler is raising the loan-to-value requirement for property investors  to 40 per cent  from September 1, but expects the banks to adopt  the change  right away.

The new rule will apply across the country and loans to construct new dwellings  will continue to be exempt.

Wheeler says:  “A severe fall in house prices could have major implications for the functioning of the banking system and cause long-lasting damage to households and the broader economy.

“We expect banks to observe the spirit of the new restrictions in the lead-up to the new policy taking effect.”

It’s looking likely the Reserve Bank will reduce the OCR to 2 per cent on  August 11.

Median values up

According to the Real Estate Institute the national median value of a home is $500,000. In Auckland it’s $821,000, Northland  $360,000 and in Central Otago Lakes it’s a hair over $730,000.

REINZ’s Bryan Thomson says: “Although there is much discussion about the housing market and increasing new build supply, the fact remains that the vast majority of the supply comes from the sale of existing properties.”

There will be no quick fix to the housing issue. As Finance Minister Bill English said earlier this year, it “will take 10 to 15 years to sort out”.

Crisis

Over at property data firm CoreLogic, its head of research, Jonno Ingerson, says pressure has been increasing on the Government to admit there is a “housing crisis”.

He writes that the Government has countered  with claims it has a “comprehensive plan” which includes increasing housing supply, especially in Auckland, and working with the Auckland Council.

He says: “That helps to tackle supply but they have also talked about the need to constrain demand. Demand can come in the form of more people entering the country/Auckland, or it can come in the form of more people having access to mortgage finance.”

Bold plan needed to solve Auckland housing crisis

The Property Council has welcomed Labour’s plan to build 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years and sees it as a game-changer in alleviating the housing affordability crisis.

Under the opposition party’s plan, half the homes will be built in Auckland and

Worker working on the roof of a house under construction
Labour plans to build 100,000 new affordable homes over 10 years if it wins the 2017 general election.

The Property Council has welcomed Labour’s plan to build 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years and sees it as a game-changer in alleviating the  housing affordability crisis.

Under the opposition party’s  plan, half the homes will be built in Auckland and sell for up to $600,000. But the plan relies on the party forming a Government in 2017.

Alex Voutratzis, the Property Council’s director of policy and advocacy says: “In Auckland, we have a housing affordability crisis and this is because we are not building enough houses to accommodate a rapidly growing population.

“We are seeing the results of the housing deficit across Auckland, with people living in sub-standard houses, garages and cars.”
Voutratzis says the country needs a bold  approach to housing affordability to create healthy, positive and sustainable communities.

Immigration
This week I take my hat off to Grant Spencer, deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank.

The job of the RBNZ is to prevent inflation getting out of hand, while having just the right amount of economic growth to keep the economy bouncing along. Housing, is not its primary concern.

So when Prime Minister John Key told the RBNZ to get on and do something about house price inflation last week,   Spencer   suggested that  Key’s Government reduce immigration numbers. In other words, we can’t fix the housing supply issue overnight, so let’s manage the demand for housing.

During the past three years 160,000 people have moved to New Zealand — half settling in Auckland — putting pressure on infrastructure, housing, schools and health services.

According to research by the University of Otago, in 2013 there were more than 41,000 people living in severely overcrowded houses,  sleeping in cars or on the streets.

The Auckland City Mission and the Salvation Army have called for a national inquiry into homelessness. Last week, the Government said there was no need, maintaining it had a plan to deal with it.

Hamilton rising
Property valuation firm Quotable Value says home values across Hamilton City rose 29 per cent in the year to June. The average value there is $492,403.

The firm  says values in the surrounding districts are also rising, with Waikato values up by 26.4 per cent year on year.

QV valuer Stephen Hare says:  “We are continuing to see high levels of activity and demand at the lower value end of the market, in the price bracket of $400,000 to $600,000, from first home buyers and investors.”

$1bn loan won’t solve Auckland’s housing crisis

For a man who routinely says that throwing money at problems is not the answer, Prime Minister John Key’s $1 billion offer to help solve the country’s housing crisis is a huge U-turn.

For a man who routinely says that throwing money at problems is not the answer, Prime Minister John Key’s $1 billion offer to help solve the country’s housing crisis is a huge U-turn.

Key told TV3 news on May 16 that: “Throwing more money at Auckland’s housing crisis isn’t the answer and freeing up land supply is.”

But he has now offered an interest-free $1 billion loan to local councils to pay for infrastructure such as roads and utilities to pave the way for new housing developments.

However, the offer is late, it’s no where near enough money and will increase the rates of any council that accepts the loan. Not one cent will be used to build homes.

It’s not really interest-free money of course because the Government is borrowing it from somewhere. The piper will need to be paid.

Land snatchers

The other week I mentioned that developers were sitting on land because rising values mean they make more money doing nothing than building much-needed homes.

This week Housing Minister Nick Smith says he may compulsorily purchase land from land-bankers.

We are living in interesting times when the party of free enterprise, business and self-determination talks about snatching people’s property. A dictator would have done this years ago, but things run a bit slower in a democracy.

Look north

Northland is the new hot spot for home buyers according to realestate.co.nz.

The firm’s CEO Brendon Skipper says interest in the Auckland property market has dropped with average asking prices having risen last month to more than $888,000.

He says the number of users searching Auckland houses “for sale” fell by more than 19 per cent compared to the same time last year.

“It could be a turning point for Auckland,” says Skipper. “With prices now at an all-time high, they’re almost out of reach for the average income earner, with first-home buyers the hardest hit.”

He says hot spots in Northland are Waipu, Whangarei Heads, Paihia and Tutukaka.

“Whangarei Heads is the suburb to watch,” he says, with searches for property in the district on realestate.co.nz up 42 per cent on a year ago.

“The message seems to be getting through that with the shortage of listings and the speed with which properties are selling. It’s a sellers’ market.”

Damp Wellington

One in eight houses for sale in the capital is thought to have major maintenance problems with more than half being dangerously damp, according to Dr Nigel Isaacs of Victoria University.

Researchers analysed a random sample of 70 building reports spanning 12 years that were carried out by home inspection firm Buildsure Associates.

Dr Isaacs, a senior lecturer in Victoria’s School of Architecture, says one in eight houses has major maintenance problems that exceed general wear and tear.

Common problems include asbestos, corrosion, timber decay, [faulty] electrics and wall moisture. Isaacs says the problems are commonly seen in stand-alone timber housing.

How banks create money out of thin air, lend it out and charge you interest

It’s a common misconception that banks use their savers’ money when making loans to people such as you and I to buy something we don’t have the cash for.
In reality, the money we borrow is created by the banks out of thin air at the time it is borrowed.

need-bank-account-1

Why it’s time to change money

It’s a common misconception that banks use their savers’ money when making loans to people such as you and I to buy something we don’t have the cash for. In reality, the money we borrow is created by the banks out of thin air at the time it is borrowed.

They can do this under our Reserve Bank’s rules. When you take out a loan, the bank simply types the loan amount into its computer and adds the credit to your account. I know, you want to call me a liar to my face.

When the loan is (eventually) repaid the original loan amount is deleted from the bank’s computer, and the bank keeps the interest (doubles and triples all-round).

The system is called credit creation or risk based lending and is based on the perceived risk the bank takes lending out this money.

But don’t take my word for it. Consider this from the Bank of England publication Money Creation in the Modern Economy: “Whenever a bank makes a loan, it simultaneously creates a matching deposit in the borrower’s bank account, thereby creating new money.”

Now, lending on housing is low risk so banks only need to hold about 8 per cent of the money they lend in mortgages. If a bank lends you $500,000, it only needs to have $40,000 in its vault. What a wizard wheeze this is.

Lending to businesses and helping job creation, research and development, is a riskier undertaking, so the banks hold more than 20 per cent of the money they lend in reserve. One only has to look at the housing market to see which types of loan banks prefer to make.

Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the London Financial Times, said in 2014: “Why should we let such a social creation [money] be handed over to profit-seeking private enterprises?”

It’s a good question, and one that is increasingly being asked — but by only a few fool-hardy politicians.

According to the Reserve Bank the amount of money we the people owe the High Street banks is $233 billion dollars — and that’s just the household debt. As a nation we are spending 163 per cent of our disposable income. We are living on debt.

Sad to say that under the current system the debt can never be paid off. Even if we all tried really, really hard.

Here’s why. Think of our economy as a bathtub. Money is introduced into the bathtub as loans by the banks. Money leaves the bathtub when repayments are made. For our economy to grow, more money (debt) must go into the bath than leaves.

If all the debt could be paid off the bath would be empty and none of us would have any money — because apart from our notes and coins — money is debt.

Those looking to reform the monetary system say that instead of banks having the power to create interest-bearing debt, the Reserve Bank should issue our money debt-free.

Now, before you choke on your tea and spill it over your credit card statement showing 20 per cent interest, consider this; the Reserve Bank already has the power to create money because it produces our notes and coins.

This cash makes up 3 per cent of our money supply and the rest is digital debt created by private banks. All the Reserve Bank has to do to bring itself into the 21st century, buy a computer, and create the debt-free digital money we need.

And to keep money creation well out of the way of politician – because  we all know they couldn’t  be trusted with such awesome power –  a new independent body would have autonomy to manage the money supply as it sees fit.

This does not mean there would be no more interest bearing debt. Banks could still lend money — but not a cent more than is in their vault. This will stop rising house prices.

They could also continue to provide chequing and savings accounts, offer foreign exchange and sell insurance. They just won’t have a license to create money out of thin air.

Under this system, once the bank loans are repaid the money can be lent out again.

The government could use the interest-free money the Reserve Bank creates for infrastructure projects, roading, social  housing, schools and hospitals.

People would be put to work building the things we need (without having to raise taxes or rob Peter to pay Paul).

To find out more see https://www.positivemoney.org.nz/