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July 4, 2019

Serious Sellers Need to Hear This

Every market in the world operates on the basis of supply and demand.  The same is true of the real estate market.  When demand is strong and supply is low, then prices increase.  When demand is low and supply is high, then prices decrease.

 

Writing to you from Brisbane, Australia, I can confirm that it’s the same whether you’re sitting in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA, or anywhere on this planet.  What we’re seeing in many markets is that economic pressures have drastically reduced the number of buyers in the market and their purchasing ability.

 

South Africa, as well as Australia, has just come out the other end of an election.  There’s a lot of talk of government stability and the desire to stimulate the economy.  But the reality is that solutions will take time to impact the man on the street.  The economic factors that existed before the election still exist today.  And they’re not pretty.

 

So what does this mean for you if you’re a serious seller?  It means that the only way to obtain a result in this market is to listen to market feedback and make sure that you represent the very best value in your price range. 

 

And I’m serious about being “the very best value”.  In markets like these, the buyers will shortlist and view only the properties they believe represent the best value.  So if you are not seen to represent the best value you won’t even get feet through your door.  And without buyer enquiry and viewings there is no chance of a sale.

 

What if you have buyer viewings but you haven’t received any offers?  That simply means you are attracting the wrong buyers.  Because your price is too high, you’ve attracted buyers looking for a property that is bigger, newer, or offers more.  They’re not offering on your property, as they’re not looking for a property like yours.

 

The buyers who are looking for a property like yours aren’t even calling your agent to view it.

 

Here’s the bad news:  unless you change your price to attract the right buyers, nothing is going to change.  I haven’t read one opinion from an economic expert that is expecting the South African economy and the property market to strengthen significantly in the next year or two.  I’ve read plenty of sales pitches to suggest it will.  But the cold reality is that this market we’re in now is here to stay for a while, at best.  Let’s be positive and not consider the impact of a recession.

 

This is not doom and gloom.  This is just a reality check.  I believe that the property market is still the most resilient and represents the lowest risk.  But if you want to sell in the next 2 years then you need a result now.  The longer you take the less you sell for.  Listen to the market.  Be the best value, and you’ll sell.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

General Manager of Harcourts International

Principal of Harcourts Platinum

May 16, 2019

Knock Knock!

It’s over. The much talked about the election is behind us. And it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. Since December 2017 the country has been in a state of limbo and unable to deal with the economic pressures facing everyone. For whatever reason, everything was said to have hinged on this election. It became a reason for procrastination. And now it’s a thing of the past.

 

The reality is that, whatever the outcome of an election, life will carry on. It doesn’t matter who rules a country, every family needs a roof over their heads. There will always be a need for property. It’s true that property markets, like all markets, have their cycles. Investors will tell you that the key is to buy low and sell high.

 

Well, guess what? If you buy today, you’re buying low. There is no question that the property market has felt some paid over the past few years. Sellers who have needed to sell have done the right thing and listened to the market. Property prices are exceptionally attractive in most markets.

 

Unlike most other downward markets (such as the Global Financial Crisis), in today’s market, you are able to obtain bank finance to purchase your property. In fact, banks have a healthy appetite for home loan finance. Interest rates are favourable and are expected to remain unchanged this year.

 

you consider that prices are realistic and finance is obtainable, the only question that remains is “What are you waiting for?” There’s no benefit to using the election as a reason to wait and see. It’s come and gone. Your opportunity to invest is here and it’s never been more attractive! Think of the investors with foresight who bought in 2009/2010 and who sold in 2016. Weren’t you sorry you didn’t? Don’t wake up in 2021 and regret that you missed the boat.

 

Coincidentally, here in Brisbane from where I’m writing this, Australia is also poised for an election. As in South Africa, many buyers have been holding off to see what happens in the election and the market is feeling it. But as in South Africa, the election will come and go, and life will carry on.

 

Irrespective of political, economic, and social factors, if you have a need to upscale or downscale your property the best time to do it is now. If you’re selling, then meet the market to get a result so you can move on with your plans in life. If you’re purchasing, then make a fair offer and secure the property that you and your family require whilst taking advantage of the banks’ desire to finance.

 

If you’re an investor then, to be frank, I’m not sure there’s a more attractive investment vehicle than property at the moment. Prices are realistic and you can gear your investment with bank funding.

 

This market has “opportunity” written all over it. What will you do? History shows you only benefit when you take the opportunities that present themselves. Knock knock.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

General Manager
Harcourts International

April 25, 2019

How To Choose an Agent You Can Trust

Not all estate agents are created equal. So just how do you tell which ones you can trust and will do a world-class job? In answering that question you will need to look both at the estate agency and the individual agent.

 

For most people, selling a property means selling one of your biggest assets. Your choice in agent can make a difference of hundreds of thousands of Rands.

 

Here are some pointers you would do well to take into account:

 

1. Choose a company and agent with a track record. Nothing speaks louder than facts. Ask what their market share is, how long they’ve been in business, and what testimonials they have from past clients. Ask what recent sales they’ve done, what their average percentage drop in price is, and what their average selling time is. Some evidence of their claims would be a good idea.

 

2. Next, ask the agent what strategies they will employ to sell your home, and what options they have for you. You should be given a choice of options so that you can choose what suits you and your circumstances. If they have no options, shouldn’t you be looking for someone who has them?

 

3. Ask what marketing they will use to get you the best price. If their marketing is the same as everyone else’s then can you expect the result to be better? Facts show that the better the marketing the more you will sell for. And by the way, you will need the marketing plan in writing. If it’s not in writing it probably won’t be what you think it is…

 

4. Does their marketing include print advertising? Facts prove that it should. Often an agency’s reluctance to use print is mainly to costs. Chat to an agency that does use print to find out why you need it.

 

5. What is the service you will get? Tired of empty promises? Then ask for their service promise in writing.

 

6. What is your recourse if you give the agency your mandate and they don’t fulfil their marketing promise to you? Does their sole mandate agreement have a clause allowing you to cancel the mandate if they don’t deliver what they promise? If not, then don’t sign it. Far too often we hear of sellers who sign a mandate and simply don’t get what they were promised – and they’re often tied into a mandate with no benefits.

 

7. Is the company part of a national or international franchise? If so, then there is a good chance you will benefit from referrals that the franchise receives from their other offices. Referrals are significantly lower in independent (non-franchise) offices.

 

8. Lastly – do you like the agent? Do you like and trust them? Are they just blowing their own trumpet about how good they are – or are they sincerely listening to you? Are they going to work with you to get you the best result – or do they just want what’s good for them?

 

A word of caution: the agent that put’s the highest value on your property is usually the agent who can’t offer you any strategic advantage other than overpricing – which will eventually mean you sell for much less than you should.

 

Evaluate the agent using the facts above and select the one who proves to you that you can trust them. Don’t settle for less!

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies
Principal of Harcourts Platinum, and Director of Harcourts South Africa

April 18, 2019

The Selling Recipe is Universal

 
As I write to you from my new base in Brisbane, Australia, it’s interesting to see how the challenges that sellers face are universal. It’s true that markets differ, but dealing with them is the same irrespective of your geographic location.
 
In South Africa, and especially the Western Cape, we’ve been dealing with a difficult market for the best part of 18 months. Economic pressures, political shenanigans, and an oversupply of stock have resulted in a greater supply of property than there is demand. When there are more properties than purchasers there is always downwards pressure on pricing.
 
In Australia it’s no different. The states of New South Wales (and Sydney in particular), Victoria, and Western Australia, have all felt the pressure of declining markets. In some cases property values have declined between 20-30%, although most areas haven’t been as drastically impacted.
 
What’s interesting to note, though, is that the average days on the market in Australia, even in a tough market, is significantly lower than the days on the market in South Africa. For example, in most of the Australian states mentioned above, the days on the market sit somewhere between 30-35. In SA it’s approximately 3 times as long, with many properties sitting on the market for 6 months or more.
 
We’ve often covered the strategy that a seller needs to employ in a tough market in this column. As difficult as it may be, a seller has to remove the emotion from the process and look at the facts. In other words, what does the market say the property is worth? In most cases it will be less than we want or need. Professional estate agents have the skill to extract real market feedback and effectively communicate this to a seller. Less experienced agents fail in this regard, which often costs a seller valuable time and results in a sale for much less than the market should pay.
 
One of the reasons why the days’ on market is lower in Australia is the selling process that is used. Auction is a powerful selling method that is frequently used in Australia and it has many undeniable benefits. This isn’t “distressed” auctions. It’s a first-resort selling strategy that we’ve tested in the South African market with great success.
 
Auction has the ability to extract real buyer feedback within a few weeks, and at the latest by the auction day itself. It’s hard to argue with current feedback from multiple buyers. It’s this feedback that is critical to educating a seller as to what the real market value is.
 
Once you have the genuine feedback a seller has 3 options: withdraw your property and sell much later when the market recovers (possibly in a number of years); keep your price unchanged and wait for the market to recover (which always results in a poor result as buyers suspect desperation); or meet the market and adjust your price accordingly.
 
Wherever you are in the world, if you meet the market you sell. The quicker you do this, the better your result.
 
Steve Caradoc-Davies
General Manager of Harcourts International
Principal of Harcourts Platinum

April 4, 2019

Beware of Sole Mandate without Performance Clause

There is no doubt that the best way to sell your property for the most money the market will pay is with a Sole Mandate. By Sole Mandate I mean where you give an exclusive instruction to one estate agency to market your property effectively, use the correct strategies to attract you the strongest possible buyer enquiry, communicate honestly so you have the real market feedback, and then negotiate to get you the highest price.

 

There are 4 issues in play when it comes to the sale of your property: The marketing you need, the service you need, when your property will sell, and how much it will sell for.

 

The 1st two issues are within the control of the estate agency you list with. The 2nd two issues are in the hands of the market – the buyers. Whilst the marketing and service will have an influence on these last 2 issues – the buyers will determine what your property is worth today and when it will sell.

 

When you enter into a sole mandate to sell your property it is only legal and binding when it has all of the following: A selling price, a commission rate or amount, and an expiry date. If any of these three are missing then your sole mandate is invalid and not binding. Especially be aware of sole mandates that have as an expiry date “until sold”, or “until cancelled by mutual agreement”. These are invalid and a breach of the Code of Conduct.

 

In addition to these three legal requirements for a sole mandate, you would be prudent to ensure your sole mandate also has the following:

  • A commitment in writing from the agent to market your home, with detail on what the marketing plan includes, specifically relating to when and where they will advertise.
  • A commitment to deliver a minimum service level to you, with the minimum expectation clearly indicated.
  • A clause allowing you to put the estate agency to terms should they not stick to their undertakings, failing which you can cancel the mandate without any penalty.

 

It’s amazing how many sellers sign sole mandates with none of these undertakings from estate agents and then feel trapped in their mandate without recourse. If these commitments are not made in writing, then don’t sign the mandate. Choose an estate agency that will commit to writing what they promise.

 

The Consumer Protection Act allows for the cancellation of a sole mandate on 20 business days’ notice, but not without reasonable penalty. So you could take this route – but it would be much better to hold the estate agent to their promises and if they fail to do so after notice to rectify, make sure you have a cancellation clause without penalty to you.

 

A sole mandate with a company that does what they promise is the best way to sell. But don’t be caught out by signing a mandate that doesn’t protect you in the event of non-performance.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum, and Director of Harcourts South Africa

March 28, 2019

How to Strengthen Your Offer on a Property

There is very little to match the disappointment of making an offer on a property, only to hear it’s been declined – or even worse, that someone else made an offer and it was accepted over yours.

 

The reality in the current market is that, especially in the lower to middle price ranges, there are more buyers than sellers. This means that in many instances a seller will receive more than one offer on his property at the same time.

 

For a seller, that’s the best situation to be in. A really good estate agent will market a property well, attract buyer interest, and then competing buyers need to make their best offer. Every seller is fully entitled to sell for the best the market will pay on the day.

 

So, if you’re a buyer, what can you do to strengthen your offer and ensure that you have a good chance of securing your property over other buyers? Here are some critical points to consider:

  • It goes without saying that the price you offer is a key element. You can try to be clever and start low. But I’ve buyers lose out completely. Go in with your best offer and show the seller you are serious.
  • The strongest offer is always cash. If you can make your offer unconditional on finance, you will usually trump an offer dependent on finance, as long as the price is similar.
  • If you need finance, be absolutely sure to have yourself properly pre-qualified. It’s best to use a mortgage originator to do this. Submit your pre-qualification along with your offer. Whilst no guarantee of finance, it is a strong indicator you will get the finance you require, and it certainly beats another offer with no pre-qualification.
  • Again, if you need finance, make it conditional on the lowest bond you can. The lower the percentage of the bond, the higher the chance of approval.
  • Pay the biggest deposit you can. A deposit is an indication of your intention to secure the property. If you have a deposit of 10% and other buyers only have 5% you have significantly improved your chances. If you have even more than 10%, then increase the deposit. You get interest on the funds anyway, so you lose nothing.
  • Try and offer good terms. Make occupation and transfer at dates the seller would like. So ask the agent and where possible, fit in with the seller.
  • Be generous with the occupational rental you offer. In many cases transfer happens on time – but in the case where there is a delay a higher rental could swing it your way. So ask what a market-related rental is, and add a bit to it.
  • Remove as many suspensive conditions as you can. Reduce the risk to the seller of the sale falling through.

If you consider the above when making your offer you have every chance of being successful. If you really want the property then don’t play around – make your best offer and purchase the house you want.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum, and Director of Harcourts South Africa

 

February 14, 2019

5 Regrets to Avoid in the Purchasing Process

 

Buying a property, especially a home for your family, is thrilling. For most, the journey, whilst a little stressful, usually results in securing the purchase of a home that allows you to start the next chapter of your life.

 

Not only can the process be filled with emotion, but there is also a considerable amount of logic and common sense involved, as acquiring a property represents a serious financial investment, along with the resultant responsibilities.

 

The process is not without its problems though. Forewarned is forearmed – and these few pointers will assist in making the process much more enjoyable.

 

There is nothing worse than the disappointment of not being able to purchase the property you really want. In most cases, this results when the finance you had thought you were going to obtain is declined. Unfortunately, many purchasers make a purchasing decision based on inaccurate information regarding their financial ability. We so often hear buyers tell us “we’ve spoken to our bank and they tell us the finance will be no problem”. Sadly, such an undertaking means nothing. Avoid the regret of losing your dream property by getting yourself pre-qualified for a bond from a bond-originator, such as Ooba.

 

Once you’ve started your search and viewed the most appealing properties, make a list of the pros and cons of each. Don’t hold out for the perfect property that ticks all the boxes. You’ll realize later that it probably doesn’t exist. If you’re ticking 7 or 8 out of 10 boxes then give the property your serious consideration. You may only realize later that it’s the property you should have bought – but it may be too late.

 

It’s a terrible feeling when you later realize the property you purchased has faults that you weren’t aware of. When viewing ask the estate agent or the seller if there are any defects that need to be disclosed. They have a legal duty to inform you if you ask.

 

Many properties do not have approved municipal plans reflecting the current dwellings. Ask if there are approved plans. If not, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t purchase the property – but be aware that the responsibility for rectifying this at council will become yours. Also be very sure to confirm that, if there are no current approved plans, there is no part of the dwelling that encroaches any building lines. There is the chance you will be forced to demolish the offending section.

 

Lastly, it’s sickening to lose out on the property you want because someone else made a stronger offer – an offer you were also in a position to make if you knew you had to. Always ask the agent if there is other interest. The agent has a duty to obtain the highest price possible for the seller – so don’t shoot them if there is interest. If you know you’re competing for the home you want then make your very best offer. You may not get another chance.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

2018, December 20

Blog Real Estate in 2019

Real Estate in 2019

 

As the sun sets on 2018 there is much speculation around what to expect in the real estate world in 2019. Let’s face it – we live in Africa. Almost anything could happen and it wouldn’t surprise us! However, when considering the previous impact of an election on the market, and taking the economic factors into consideration – I’ll give an opinion on what I believe to be the most likely scenario.

 

Unfortunately economic pressures aren’t going to go away. The country is really just keeping its’ head above water and there are grave concerns over the ability of Eskom to produce the power that industry and business needs in order to grow. While there’s no arguing that the Eskom situation is an unforgivable mess, I think the government is finally taking some responsibility and we’ll find a way to navigate through the load shedding for a few years.

 

The average consumer will continue to shop around and purchase only what represents great value – and that applies to real estate too. We can’t expect property values in general to appreciate – at least not until supply reduces and demand increases. I expect we’ll be well into 2020 when we see good growth in property values again – with 2019 being tough for the first 6 months and then showing signs of stability in quarters 3 and 4.

 

There will be much electioneering for the next 4 to 5 months, and this will undoubtedly include the topic of land expropriation. The ANC has had to adopt the policy in order to win EFF votes. But make no mistake – the powers that be are no fools. They know full well that an uncontrolled land-grab will result in the end of the economy. I don’t believe that residential property is under any threat, and internal documents appear to have surfaced confirming this. It’s time for cool heads. Don’t overreact to the emotion of “election talk”.

 

It’s likely there will be some violence and “protests” in the next few months, and the news will portray this with all the usual negativity. But once the election has passed there will be a return to normalcy. People will get on with their lives, and confidence will return – just as it always does.

 

Once this happens it’s expected that sales volumes will increase. Purchasers who wanted to “wait and see” will realize that life carries on. This will be the first early sign of recovery that should translate into growth in property values in 2020.

 

That means the best time to purchase is now, before the election. Sellers who are motivated to sell and will listen to the market. So take advantage of this if you’re considering a purchase. For sellers, don’t hold your breath for values to grow beyond their current value until late 2019 or early 2020. Don’t sell if you don’t need to. And if you do need to sell, then get your price right and sell today.

 

This is not the time for panic. Stay calm. Be positive. There will be great opportunities in real estate in 2019 – be sure to take them!

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum

December 13, 2018

Reflecting on the 2018 Property Market

It’s hard to believe another year is almost over. It’s definitely been a challenging year in the property market, amongst other things. As we predicted 12 months ago, there was a sharp decline in the number of buyers with an appetite to purchase. This was in stark contrast to the increase of property owners who decided to sell in a tough economic climate.

 

As with all markets, when the supply increases and the demand decreases, there is downward pressure on pricing. We’re fortunate that our local property market is resilient, but it has nevertheless felt the pressure this year.

 

Selling times increased, buyers became more shrewd in determining what represents good value, and as a result, only the sellers who responded to the market managed to sell their properties.

 

The good news is that there are still buyers out there. In fact, this is the absolute best time to invest in property. Serious sellers have had no choice but to meet the market by reducing their list prices, and where fair offers have been made a sale has been concluded.

 

We expect the current trend to continue until the elections next year. We have, however, seen sales volumes start to increase in the last 2 to 3 months. That’s a really good sign that there is market confidence when the pricing is correct. There is also more optimism and many are starting to look beyond the elections, which are not far off at all.

 

We’ve seen the strong marketing and selling strategies are more vital than ever in helping a seller achieve the best price the market will pay. The year has also highlighted flat fee estate agencies. These companies provide an alternative to full-service estate agents and it’s more apparent than ever that, for any agent to survive, they need to justify their value. That’s good for the customers and good for the industry.

 

Ultimately customers deserve a choice. As long as everyone understands the pros and cons of each option, they can make an informed decision as to what’s best for them. What we’ve seen again this year is that skilled agents with solutions achieve the best results for sellers, especially in a tough market. That’s why it’s possible to achieve multiple offers and full price sales for those at the top of their game.

 

Next year will certainly have its’ challenges. The sooner the election is over the sooner everyone can move on with their futures. South Africans are generally optimistic people, and I have no doubt that quarters 3 and 4 of 2019 will mark a strong recovery in the market as everyone gets on with the new norm, whatever that may be.

 

For the shrewd, the next few months will still present some outstanding investment opportunities. Take advantage of the narrowing window of opportunity. As the year winds down it’s a great time to reflect on what we can be grateful for. Bring on 2019!

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

 

December 6, 2018

What to Consider When Purchasing a Sectional Title Property

Two of the most common forms of property ownership are Freehold and Sectional Title. It’s important for a purchaser to understand the difference between the two, and what to consider when purchasing a sectional title property.

 

Freehold is where you purchase a piece of land and the improvements thereon. You have title to the property, and you are 100% responsible for it. In some instances, a freehold property may be part of a Homeowners Association, where there are additional obligations such as compliance of architectural guidelines, and levies to cover security (in the case of a gated estate), maintenance of private open spaces, and so on.

 

When purchasing a sectional title property you are not purchasing the land. You are purchasing a section of the buildings on a piece of land, and an undivided share in the common property (which includes the land and any common buildings).

 

You own the section, and in some instances, you may also enjoy the benefit of exclusive use areas, which could be the use of a garden area or parking bay. As a member of the sectional title scheme, you take on certain responsibilities and have certain benefits.

 

An owner in a sectional title scheme will pay monthly levies that usually cover external maintenance of the units, security, upkeep of the common areas, building insurance, and a contribution towards a fund used to cover future costs. Your levy is calculated according to your participation quota – based on your unit size as a percentage of the total scheme, and your exclusive use areas.

 

You still pay your rates and taxes and in many cases your electricity and water if separately metered. However, your building insurance and maintenance issues are all taken care for you.

 

When considering to purchase in a sectional title complex you need to be aware of the rules and regulations, as well as the financial position of the scheme. Are pets allowed? How many? What are the rules and how will they impact you? Where may you park?

 

It’s important to see the latest financial statements of the Body Corporate before you purchase. How well is the body corporate managed? Are there surplus funds to cover maintenance concerns? If not, it may be that a special levy has to be raised to which you will have to contribute. Ask to see the minutes of the last AGM. Are there any plans for a special levy, and if so, how will this impact you? Should you speak to the managing agent?

 

A seller is meant to declare to a purchaser if a special levy will be raised and what this is, but they don’t always – so ask. A well-managed body corporate adds significant value to a sectional title property, and sectional title can be a very stress-free form of property ownership. Just be sure what you’re buying in to.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum

Email your real estate question to steve.cd@harcourts.co.za.

November 29, 2018

Where To Start When Searching for Your Property

Making the decision to purchase a property isn’t one that you take easily. For most of us, our property is our biggest financial asset. Searching for the right property is important, so here are some tips on how to go about it.

 

The very first thing you need to do, before you start shopping, is to have yourself property pre-qualified so that you know what finance you qualify for, what cash you need to have on hand for the costs and for a deposit, and what you can afford.

 

Resist the temptation to search for properties until you know this. It doesn’t take long. A bond originator such as Ooba can do this in a day or so. If you’re self-employed, you will need additional supporting documentation. Do this process correctly and not only will you know what you can afford, but when you do make an offer, when you are pre-qualified it carries much more weight.

 

Once you know what you can afford, then you can commence the process of finding a suitable property. First research the areas you want to live in. Are there properties in your price range? If not, you will need to look in alternative areas.

 

Start your search by looking at the property portal websites and the local newspapers. You will be able to identify properties that fit your criteria and price range. You should search for properties listed within 7-10% of your maximum price. That doesn’t mean every property is negotiable, as some are correctly priced – but others may be slightly overpriced and the sellers may respond to a fair market value offer.

 

Once you have your shortlist contact the listing agent to view the property. Some agents may offer to source listings for you from different companies. In most cases though, it’s much better for you to work directly with the listing agent. When you do, you know your agent can negotiate directly with the seller for you. You will usually know if there are competing offers, and it will give you the best opportunity to secure the property you want.

 

When viewing properties there are important questions to ask: How long has the property been listed for? Are there any structural defects the seller needs to disclose? Are there approved plans for the property as it stands (and ask to see them)? Are there any competing offers on the property?

 

Once you have viewed the properties then rate them against your criteria. Any property scoring 7 out of 10 merits serious consideration. Select the property you like best and make a written offer. My advice is to make your best offer. Ask the agent what terms the seller would like – such as transfer and occupation dates. Let the agent know it’s your best offer. If you can’t reach an agreement with the seller, then offer on your 2nd choice. Put down a deposit, and get your bond application in. Happy shopping!

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum
Director of Harcourts South Africa

 

November 22, 2018

The Smart Time to Buy Property

The most important questions that need answering in real estate are: when is the best time to sell? And when is the best time to buy?

 

The best time to sell is when there are lots of buyers, fewer competing listings, and prices are increasing. This is the most common of markets that we experience, and it’s the reason that property values show very healthy growth over time. However, it’s not the market we’re in at the moment.

 

Indications are that the current market conditions are expected to continue until after the elections next year.

 

So when is the best time to purchase property? It’s when there are fewer buyers, an increased level of properties for sale, and prices have dropped to offer much better value.

 

The good news for buyers is that we’re definitely in a buyers market right now. There are a growing number of properties that are coming to market. It’s true that there are still a number of agents who consistently overprice listings to get a mandate. But sellers are realizing that, if they want to sell in this market, their only option is to react to market feedback and lower their selling expectations. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing.

 

So when do you make the decision to purchase then? It’s impossible to know when the market will turn and prices start moving upwards. But there are always signs when we get near to that point. The first sign is an increased number of sales. It shows that buyers are taking advantage of the better value and making the decision to purchase.

 

We’ve seen in the last few weeks that this is exactly what’s happening. Sales volumes are increasing. The second sign is that, as sales numbers increase, so the lower section of the market starts to see a gentle upturn in value. This is the sign that we’re just starting to see in recent weeks, especially in suburbs with lower median selling prices.

 

Whilst this doesn’t mean the market has yet turned, it does indicate that we’re very close to the bottom of the cycle. In other words, it’s unlikely that property values will fall much further. So, if you’re waiting for the best time to buy – it’s right now!

 

Not only is there some exceptional value on the market, but the banks are also hungry for your home loan. Their pricing is competitive, especially if you’re able to pay a deposit of 10-20%. All these factors combine to make it the best time to put pen to paper.

 

So, if you’re considering a property purchase in the next 2-4 months, I’d suggest you don’t delay much longer. If you haven’t already done so, get pre-qualified so you know exactly what finance you will obtain. Make a shortlist of the properties you want to view – and make an offer on the property that suits you best. Buying now is the smart move.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum

 

November 15, 2018

Do I Rent, or Is It Time to Buy?

It’s the question many tenants ask themselves – do we continue to rent, or is it time to purchase a property?

 

There can be advantages to renting a property.  For one, your monthly outgoing expenses will be less than if you purchase.  You don’t have costs such as insurance, rates and taxes, and the maintenance that goes with owning a property.

 

You also have flexibility.  If you decide to move you can do so once your lease has run its’ course, or is terminated.

 

But that’s about where the benefits of renting a property end.  The reality is that, when you rent a property, you are paying towards the cost of someone else’s asset.  That money is an expense, never to be seen again.  I know of clients who have rented a property for decades and have absolutely nothing to show for it.

 

Contrast that to purchasing a property.  To stay within your budget you would probably have to purchase a property that is inferior to one that you could afford to rent.  It would be inferior in the sense that it may be smaller or need more work, or perhaps be in an area of lesser value than the rental property you could afford.

 

By compensating in this way you will free up enough in your budget to cover the costs associated with owning a property, such as the maintenance, in addition to the cost of servicing your mortgage bond.

 

It’s important to realize that you will also need to have funds available to cover the cost of purchasing, such as transfer duty and lawyers’ fees, and bond registration costs.  It may be possible for you to obtain a 100% bond, but if not, you would also need a deposit.

 

In working out your budget it’s also important that you allow for an increase in interest rates of at least 2%.  By doing this you will ensure that, when interest rates increase, you can cope with the additional instalment on your bond.

 

As a property owner, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that every single instalment you make on your bond allows you to own an asset that, in most markets, increases in value each year.  Even with the global financial crisis of 2008 property values over the past 10 years have increased handsomely.

 

The result is that you will own an asset that increases in value, with a liability (your bond) that decreases.  The difference at the end of the day represents your wealth.  Your monthly costs are not purely expenses – they become an investment in your asset, which will yield you a respectable return over time.

 

After 20 years, when your bond is paid off, you will own a property worth considerably more than you paid.  And there is nothing like owning your own home. Contrast this to the tenant who paid rental for 20 years and has nothing to show for it.  Which would you rather be?

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

November 8, 2018

Sole Mandate, Joint Mandate, or Open Mandate?


It’s a big decision that every seller has to make: how do I list my property for sale? By Sole mandate, Joint mandate, or Open mandate?

 

Here’s the brutal truth regarding each option. Naturally, you’ll have to interview the agents you are considering to ensure what their individual offering is – but this should guide you.

 

Open Mandate – this is when you list with many different real estate agencies and you have no commitment to any of them. Some sellers think this will give them access to a wide range of buyers, and that the agents will be motivated to work hard for a sale. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

If you give no commitment, you’ll get no commitment. That means you’ll get the absolute minimum marketing, you’ll be listed online my multiple companies (often at different prices), and you’ll be sending a message to buyers that you have no plan and that you’re open to anything. It’s the worst possible selling method. I’ve almost never seen a great result when it’s been used.

 

Joint Mandate – when a mandate is given exclusively to two or more agencies. It’s used by sellers who want commitment – and who believe that they will be exposed to more buyers and receive more marketing by listing with multiple agencies. The reality is that the marketing will be very average. Agencies won’t invest what’s needed when they have no assurance of a sale.

 

The same applies to their level of commitment. They will be motivated to get your listing sold – but sold at their price, not at the best price. They’ll push for you to accept their offer for fear another agent has a better offer and they don’t make the sale. They’re really not on your side. It’s a very bad strategy to employ if you want your agent to work for you to achieve you the best price.

 

Sole Mandate – where an exclusive mandate is given to one agency. This is always the best selling method to use – but only on 3 conditions. Firstly, the agency must commit, in writing, to a strong marketing plan. You need to be convinced that all the buyers will see that marketing and find your listing. When properly done, a single agency can reach the full buyer pool.

 

Secondly, you need to be assured of their commitment to provide you honest feedback and good service. Without this, you won’t know what you need to do to get your listing sold. This also needs to be in writing.

 

Thirdly, you will need the sole mandate to specify that, should the agency not deliver on their marketing and service promise, you can cancel the mandate. That way you are at no risk of being let down by empty promises.

 

There is convincing evidence that a sole mandate is the very best way for a seller to achieve the maximum price the market will pay. Your agent is committed to you, and the agency employs significant resources to ensure you attract the best buyers, create competition, and sell for the price you deserve.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies
Principal, Harcourts Platinum

November 1, 2018

Why Isn’t My Property Selling?

 

It’s a cause for concern when you are listed on the market and your property hasn’t sold yet. If properly managed though, there is no need to panic. It’s important to realize that you will need to evaluate the situation and make some decisions if you want a result.

 

Research shows that the quicker a property sells, the more it sells for. That’s because of the initial market period – being the first 2-8 weeks – is where most of the buyer activity happens. Many sellers are tempted to price their property high initially, sometimes on the back of an overvaluation by estate agents keen to “buy” your mandate.

 

By the time you adjust your price to be in line with the market value, you may well have lost the benefit of the initial marketing period where there are most buyer activity and competition. So don’t let that happen.

 

Your agent should be giving you regular feedback on the level of interest, enquiries, and buyer comments. If not, ask for the feedback or change to an agent that does communicate honestly with you.

 

If you have very few enquiries then that means one of two things: either your marketing is too weak, or your property is overpriced and buyers are not even bothering to contact the agent to view. Competing properties will appear to offer better value. Without a foot through the door, you just won't sell.

 

You will want to ensure your property is properly marketed online, in print, and on show. If not, change to an agent that will execute a powerful strategic marketing plan. If your marketing is in place and you still aren’t getting good enquiry, then you can safely conclude your price is too high.

 

What if you are getting viewings, but no offers? In most cases, this means your property marketing is strong, but when buyers view your home they don’t see the value in comparison with other competing properties. Again, this means you may need to reduce your price to present better value.

 

If your property is very unusual and will appeal to a small buyer pool, then you may need to allow additional time to find a suitable buyer. However, for the majority of residential listings, it’s vital to price correctly, marketing strongly, and attract the buyers during the initial marketing period.

 

Ask your agent for the buyer feedback. A skilled agent will know how to extract an honest opinion from a buyer. Listen to the buyers without taking it personally. There may well be some things you can do to overcome objections – such as maintenance or the way your property presents. If buyers indicate your property is overpriced then react quickly and make the adjustment.

 

As the market changes buyers will get more selective over the properties they wish to purchase. They will want the best value, and increasing stock levels mean they now also have more to choose from. Make sure you’re the best listing in your price range and you’re certain to sell.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies
Harcourts Platinum Principal

October 25, 2018

5 Regrets to Avoid When Selling

Selling your property can be a stressful event when not done properly. In my experience, here are 5 regrets that are best avoided.

 

If only I’d used my own attorney.

Sometimes a buyer may insist on nominating the transferring attorney instead of the seller. In most cases this is because the buyer has an arrangement with his attorney and will save on attorney fees. The problem is that, when the attorney is nominated by the purchaser, he won’t act for the seller if there is a dispute. Always be sure to nominate the attorney – and be sure to select wisely. A good transferring attorney makes a huge difference.

 

If only I’d informed my bank of my intention to cancel my bond.

Banks require 3 months’ written notice when you intend to cancel your bond. If you don’t give them this notice in writing, and transfer takes place less than 3 months after they are eventually notified, you will be charged penalty bond cancellation costs. These can be significant. If in doubt, notify your bank as soon as you list your property for sale.

 

If only I’d disclosed those defects.

A seller has a legal obligation to disclose all known defects to a potential purchaser. Not disclosing them makes you liable. It’s better to be transparent and honest up front. Specify in the Offer to Purchase that the purchaser has been made aware of the specific faults, as this then removes your liability. The same applies to not having approved municipal plans. Disclose everything before a sale is concluded. You may sell for slightly less – but you will be spared the much higher costs of rectifying undisclosed defects.

 

If only I’d known about the Certificate of Compliance (COC) costs.

When you sell you are responsible for obtaining certificates of compliance for your electrical, plumbing, gas, and electric fence installation, as well as a Beetle-free COC. It’s best to use a reputable COC contractor to do the inspection before you list for sale. There may be certain steps you can take to remove an installation, such as non-compliant garden lights, before you go to market. You will also have a better idea of what your rectification costs will be in order to comply.

 

If only I’d chosen my estate agent more wisely.

This is, naturally, my personal favorite. Estate agents can be full of promises at the time of listing, but then fail to deliver. Marketing and service promises need to be in writing. Select an agent wisely by asking them what strategies they will employ to help you achieve the best result. Check on their track record. Ask for testimonials. The agent with the lowest commission isn’t usually the cheapest. In fact, cheap is not good, and good is not cheap. You get what you pay for. All agents are not created equal. Don’t fall for the overpricing lie. It will cost you dearly.

 

Learn from the mistakes that others make and ensure that your selling experience is a positive one.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

October 18, 2018

Renegotiating a Lease Renewal

When the term of a lease nears its’ conclusion the landlord will usually want to negotiate new terms with a tenant.  In the absence of this, the existing lease will continue on a monthly notice basis – but in most cases, there is a renegotiation that takes place.

 

It’s natural for a tenant to want to pay as little as possible, and for a landlord to want to obtain as much rental as possible – so just how can the two parties negotiate terms that are fair.

 

Much has been said about the significant increase in rental values – which will naturally impact on a tenant.  However, it’s important to also appreciate that landlords have also had to absorb significant increases in their costs.

 

Consider how interest rates have escalated over the past year.  Where a property is bonded, this has an immediate and direct cost to the landlord, which he has had to absorb for the duration of the existing lease.  Also, consider that rates and taxes increase annually.  In most residential leases the landlord is not able to pass the increased rates onto the tenant, however, some leases do allow for this.

 

The landlord also has increases in house insurance and the costs of maintaining his property.  In most cases, these additional costs cannot be passed on to the tenant during an existing lease.

 

Then also consider that rental values have escalated drastically due to the increased demand for rental properties, and the limited supply.  When you put yourself in the landlords’ shoes it makes good business sense to extract the highest rental possible to mitigate the increased costs of owning the property.

 

There are, however, certain factors that would encourage a landlord to accept more modest rental increases – and in most cases, these factors are completely in the hands of the tenant.

 

For example, if the tenant pays promptly every month the landlord will ascribe a value to the fact the tenant is low-risk.  The landlord will also view the tenant in a very favourable light if the property has been well maintained.  The property is, after all, an asset that belongs to the landlord – and when a tenant shows real concern for the condition of the property the landlord will value this.

 

Naturally, if a tenant is a late payer, doesn’t maintain the property, and is hard to manage, the landlord will insist on the maximum increase and have no issues replacing the tenant.

 

Ultimately a shrewd landlord will balance the increased rental with the reduced risk of renting to a tenant that conducts himself well, and has proven his worth.  It’s much easier for a rental agent to motivate a landlord to reach a fair compromise with the tenant if there is evidence of the above.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum, and Director of Harcourts South Africa

October 11, 2018

 

Is Land Expropriation Without Compensation a Threat for Residential Property?

There is much talk about land expropriation without compensation. For property owners across South Africa, it’s not a topic that sits too well. It is also a concern for those who are contemplating purchasing property.

 

I won’t debate the merits of land expropriation. There will be strong arguments on both sides of the issue as to why or why not land should be expropriated without compensation.

 

The reality is that we have not really heard any definitive statements from the various politicians in positions of power that relate to residential property. What we do know is that the ANC approved the policy of land expropriation without compensation with certain conditions – most significantly that this would not negatively impact the production of food, and that it would not have a negative impact on the economy.

 

That being the case, any move to expropriate residential property would have a disastrous impact on the economy. Banks would stop providing home loans, and the entire property market would collapse. That certainly isn’t what any government would be looking to do.

 

Any move to expropriate land that is bonded would also have to stand up to the Constitution. How would it be possible to expropriate someone’s asset and leave them with a debt to service? What of the bond-holders rights? All the legal opinions I have heard have stated that the Constitutional Court would never allow this to happen as it infringes on many other of our constitutional rights.

 

Unfortunately, we have the not so small matter of a general election next year. The current land expropriation talk is obviously aimed at securing votes in the upcoming election – and there is no doubt that those hoping to remain in power are playing a dangerous strategic game.

 

But the reality is that whoever is in power also wants a strong economy. Simply expropriating residential land without compensation would collapse the economy to the point of no return. It would be highly improbable, and almost impossible, for general residential property to be expropriated without compensation.

 

The same logic would apply to agricultural property – although there is no doubt that this is what the politicians are really targeting.

 

So what does this mean for the average property owner? It means that land expropriation of general residential property is not a threat. Were it to happen, the entire property market would collapse – and that’s not an option for anyone. Banks will know this, and they will continue to offer home loans.

 

We’re in a market where there is excellent value on offer to discerning buyers. This is a great time to acquire an asset that will offer great growth in the future. As with all investments, research the area and the property well, and make informed decisions. Think back to those who invested between 2008 – 2010 and saw outstanding returns when they sold in 2015-2016. Once the election is behind us we can expect strong recovery – so now is the time to buy.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum

 

October 4, 2018

Purchasing Off Plan

You’ve seen your dream home – the only problem is it isn’t built yet. Is it ever a good idea to buy off plan? The short answer is yes – there are many advantages to buying a property before it’s been built. The trick, as with purchasing property of any type, is due diligence - and when buying off plan that means some investigation into the detail.

 

Some of the positives of buying off plan are that you can often get the property you want in a good location within a development, and at a lower price when you get in early. Prices can often rise as a development nears completion, especially if it is proving popular.

 

By buying early you are securing a property in the market and can benefit from any market price increases over the period of construction. In some cases, we’ve seen this as high as 16-20% growth by the time the property is completed.

 

The potential negative is that you don’t end up with the property you thought you were buying. There is the risk that it’s built and finished to a different standard than you expected. There is always the possibility that the market may drop between the time you purchase and the time the property is completed.

 

Here are some things to think about before committing to purchase an off-plan development property:

 

Check your sources. Once you’ve found a suitable development property, do some homework on the developer. What projects have they been involved in previously? How successful have they been? Do they have a track record of happy customers or a litany of complaints?

 

Be visionary. If you can, visit the development site and figure out where your chosen property fits. How much sun and natural light is it likely to get and at what times of the day? How much outdoor space and privacy will you have? What will the views be like? Make sure you have a clear picture of how big the property and all the interiors will be. Don’t rely purely on plans, artist impressions and show homes.

 

The devil is in the detail. You need to go over the purchase agreement thoroughly. Most disputes arise because buyers are disappointed the finished property is not up to their expectations. Make sure the contract covers everything the developer is responsible for. You should be clear on how much the developer is permitted to deviate from the original plan during construction and what your rights are.

 

Contracts can also include a sunset clause which allows buyers a way out should the project completion be excessively delayed. However, buyers should also be aware that these clauses have, on occasion, been used by developers to cancel contracts.

 

If you have questions, be sure to ask them so that you know exactly what you’re purchasing. When you go in with “your eyes open” purchasing off plan can be very rewarding, both personally and financially.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum

Director of Harcourts South Africa

 

September 27, 2018

Correct Pricing More Critical Than Ever

In any market, correctly pricing your home is critical to you selling for the most the market will pay.  Why?  Because, if you overprice your home you will attract the wrong buyers to your property.  These buyers will be expecting a property worth more than yours.  They will vote with their feet – and move on.

We’ve all seen properties that sit on the market for many months, possibly even years.  One is immediately suspicious that there is something wrong with the property.   Buyers will almost never pay market value for a property that has been listed for an extended period of time.

Research and experience have proven that a property that is correctly priced sells more quickly than an overpriced property.  We can also, with confidence, say that a property that sells more quickly sells for more money than one that is overpriced.

The reason for this is that, at any one point in time, there is an existing pool of buyers in the market.  When they see a new property coming to market they will respond to the marketing, and view the new listing.  After this initial marketing period, it’s only the trickle of new buyers that come into the market that view the home.

So it stands to reason that most buyers, and the best buyers, will view the property in this initial marketing period.  In our experience at Harcourts this initial marketing period is the first 8 weeks that a property comes to market.  It’s absolutely critical that your listing price is in line with market value in this period in order to attract the correct buyer enquiry.

When you do this – attract the correct buyers – you will create buyer competition.  And that’s when buyers will pay their maximum for your property.

This is true for all markets.  But it’s especially true in our current market.  The reason we say this is because there are fewer buyers shopping for property than there have been in the past few years.  The main reasons for this are economic pressures, political uncertainty, and the inability of the buyer to sell their existing property in order to purchase.

When there are fewer buyers it’s important that, if you want to sell, you need to attract them to your property over other competing listings.  How can you do this? Recent statistics show that buyers respond to properties listed within 5% or less of market value.  If you’re priced too high you just won’t get serious interest.

Additionally, you need to ensure that your property is aggressively marketed.   If your listing is lost in the crowd, perhaps one of many hundreds of listings on a property website, then you just won’t attract the interest that you need.

A comprehensive marketing plan that throws the net wide to attract all the buyers, and correct pricing, are key to you selling for maximum market value.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum

Director of Harcourts South Africa

September 13, 2018

Where Do I Invest Now?

 

There will always be investors, irrespective of the market and the economy. The difference when the economy is unsettled, and the market uncertain, is that investors are more selective about where they invest.

 

For the foreseeable future the Rand will continue to be unstable and will react to any political or economic changes. Just look back at the last few weeks to see how global fears and local issues have negatively impacted the Rand. There may well be a follow-on impact of interest rates increases next week – a careful balancing act that will undoubtedly impact inflation.

 

Consider the investment options. Just how volatile is the stock market? Unless you’re an expert, it’s really a gamble, especially in the current economic climate. Feel for those who had Steinhoff shares in December last year… or who have MTN shares now.

 

If you invest your cash in a bank, all you’ll earn is the interest, on which you are largely taxed. The interest barely covers the cost of inflation. So in real terms, allowing for inflation, you’re no better off.

 

Perhaps you could invest offshore, in foreign currency or property? Whilst it’s great to hedge against the Rand – with exchange rates as they are now, the opportunity has really passed.

 

So that leaves property. In uncertain times investors often turn to property. It’s much less volatile than most other investments. In addition to this, investors can often borrow from their bank to finance their property investment. The rental market is under pressure, but when your rental is correctly priced you will rent it out, and a large portion of your finance costs will be covered. When geared with cash, your rent should cover your finance and running costs.

 

The property market is not nearly as volatile as most other investment options. And whilst markets do move up and downwards, property cycles are more gentle and allow you to make informed decisions as to when to buy and sell. When you can plan ahead and time your decision to sell, you will very rarely do badly.

 

The great thing about the market we’re in is that there are excellent purchasing opportunities. Sellers who do need to sell are pricing their properties in line with current market value. Now is the time to buy! Add to this the fact that banks are keen for your home loan and will offer you a good rate, and you’d be a fool to let this chance pass you bye.

 

As with all investments, it’s important that you never overextend yourself. Allow for the interest rate to increase. Price your rental to attract good tenants. Be patient. When the market starts its’ cycle of recovery, expected late next year, you’ll be glad you invested in real estate.

 

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies
Principal

Harcourts Platinum

September 06, 2018

So How’s the Property Market?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked this question in my 29 years of real estate.  It’s the first thing that real estate agents are asked when meeting both new and old acquaintances.   And it’s a question I just love answering.

The obvious answer that most agents would give would be either “good” or “bad”, or somewhere in between.  But in reality, the answer is that there are great opportunities for buyers and sellers alike.

For example, if you were in the market to purchase property at the moment, the market would be absolutely fantastic!  Motivated sellers are very realistic and are listening to the market.  The result is that there are some exceptional buys at the moment.  Even developers appreciate the market we’re in and, in many cases, are incentivizing buyers.

Not only are properties well priced, but the banks are also really hungry to do home loan business.  If you have a deposit and are a low-risk client, you will get a very competitive rate.

The same applies to tenants.  For a number of years now rental values have increased at record rates.  But today there is a strong supply of rental property and lower demand.  The result?  Landlords are listening to the market and pricing accordingly.

So what if you’re a seller?  Well, it’s true that the market isn’t a buoyant as it was a couple of years ago.  In order to sell, you will need to listen to the market.  Despite this, sellers are able to achieve strong prices when correctly priced and well marketed.

Property investment is a medium to long-term project.  In most markets, it shouldn’t be possible to purchase a property and flip it within a year or 2 at a profit.  When this happens it’s the exception, not the norm.  If you purchased a property 10 years ago, even in the current market, you should generally be making a good return on investment.

It’s also true that when you sell in a tougher market you also buy in a tough market.  So what your perceived “loss” is when selling can be recovered when purchasing.  The only time you lose on a property investment is when you’re forced to sell at a loss.  This can be avoided by not overextending yourself so that you can ride out a quieter market and avoid being forced to sell.

The magic word is “opportunity”!  There is opportunity in every market – especially a market like this.  Discerning investors will be turning to property now in the knowledge that, when history repeats itself again, their asset will generate great returns in the next 5 – 10 years.  When you consider the volatile Rand, the high risk in investing on the stock market, and the fact that inflation negates the interest you earn in the bank – where else can you turn to?

Property.  It offers great returns for minimal risk.  Opportunity is knocking…. Speak to a knowledgeable estate agent to take advantage of this market.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

September 04, 2018

New Developer Offering At Hageland

The original developers of Hageland Residential Estate have been working on a new and exciting offering that has just been released to the public.  Marc Peeters, representing the developers, has released the last 8 opportunities to purchase directly from the developer. This secure estate comprises only 69 properties, situated in a safe and picturesque environment.

 

Purchasers can now purchase a luxurious turnkey home specifically designed for each of the remaining sites.  Plot sizes range from 671m2 to 1004m2 – which are generous in comparison to plots released in most other new estates.

 

Each house plan has been individually designed to maximize the features of the plot, taking into account the views and natural sunlight.  House sizes start at 246m2 up to 372m2, and each home offers a minimum of 3 bedrooms and a study or 4th bedroom.

 

As the properties are sold on a “turnkey” basis, the developer manages and funds the construction and the property is only transferred to the new purchaser on completion.  It’s a hassle-free way of owning a brand new home!

 

Finishes are luxurious, with Hans Grohe taps, Bosch appliances, engineered stone countertops, Geberit toilets, frameless glass showers, built-in braai’s, undercover patio’s, and swimming pools.

 

These homes are marketed by sole mandate agents, Harcourts Platinum.  A deposit of only R 100 000 is required to secure your home, with the balance paid only on transfer.  Prices range from R 3 995 000 – R 5 700 000 including VAT.

 

For more information or an appointment to view the newly competed showhouse please contact:

Di Gillespie on 083 228 3431 or di.gillespie@harcourts.co.za, or

Brian Mathews on 076 561 9286 or brian.mathews@harcourts.co.za.

August 30, 2018

Will Technology Replace the Real Estate Agent?


When you look at some other industries, such as the Travel Industry, technology has had a significant impact on their viability. I travel extensively and I haven’t used a travel agent for many years. Does this mean that real estate agents will perhaps be replaced by technology in the near future?

If you think about it, buyers now have access to most property listings through the property portals – much in the same way that a traveller can access flight and hotel prices online. Wouldn’t it be possible for a buyer to purchase a property online and cut the agent out altogether? Technically it’s possible – but is this good for a seller?

The short answer, I believe, is “no”. It’s not good for a seller and therefor technology won’t replace the skilled estate agent. But what it will do is ensure that estate agents need to demonstrate their value to the seller in order to survive.

When an airline sells their seats they do so on price. That’s the price and you either pay it or choose another flight offering you better value. There is no negotiation.

In real estate, there is a very real negotiation between the seller and various buyers that show interest – and the way this negotiation is handled will make a significant difference to the price the seller will get. Technology cannot replace the skilled estate agent in this process.

Every seller wants to sell his property for the maximum market value. In order to achieve this, marketing and selling strategies need to be employed to attract maximum buyer interest. This is where technology does play a large role – and it’s important that skilled agents use the technologies available to ensure a listing is exposed so as to appeal to a wide buyer pool.

The agent then needs to work that interest to the point where buyers make written offers to purchase a property. There are many components to an offer that can be negotiated until both buyer and seller agree: price, terms, and timing. A lower offer with better terms and timing could be much more attractive to a seller than a slightly higher offer with onerous conditions.

Additionally, a seller would need to know from their agent what other potential interest there may be before accepting an offer. Could there be other pending offers? Could the agent get the buyers to compete for the property?

It’s not uncommon for a skilled agent to sell a property at more than the list price. We recently closed a sale at 12% above list price, much to the delight of the seller. Technology would not be able to achieve the same result and the human element that manages the negotiation is critical to the result.

That doesn’t mean that all agents are indispensable. Only those who demonstrate their ability to use technology and their marketing strategies to create buyer competition, and who have strong negotiation skills, will add real value to the seller.

Steve Caradoc-Davies
Principal, Harcourts Platinum

August 23, 2018

Buyers – Pre-Qualify Yourself Before You Make an Offer

 

It constantly amazes me how buyers will start the house-hunting process, and even make an offer on a property, without first finding out what finance they will qualify for.

 

The banks change their lending criteria on a regular basis – so what you may have qualified for 6 months ago could well not apply today.

 

When buyers say: “I’ve already spoken to my bank” – that sadly, in most cases, means absolutely nothing! If you’ve spoken to someone at your local branch or even a personal banker, they are not the ones who will process or consider your bond application. Their sales pitch to you is that “it shouldn’t be a problem”. Really?

 

In our experience, where a buyer has not been pre-qualified for a home loan, they are mostly disappointed in either the amount of finance they qualify for, the interest rate offered, or the percentage of the purchase price the bank will finance – or a combination of all of the above.

 

I mean, would you go to do your grocery shopping without knowing that you had cash or credit available? How much more so when you purchase a property…?

 

You should start house-hunting once you have a very clear indication what you can afford. Surely it will make a difference as to what properties you will view? Why set your heart on something that you will never be able to purchase…

 

By all means, speak to your bank. But their informal indication of the bond you should obtain really means nothing. You need to request to be pre-qualified. Some banks have this facility – so make use of it. They will even give you a certificate confirming the figure – and this will help you when you come to making an offer on a property.

 

In my experience though, I’d encourage you to work with a bond originator. Why? They will know which bank will consider your application most favourably. They will know where the best deal may be, and they are in a position to submit to multiple banks to try and get you the very best finance deal.

 

There is absolutely NO cost to you. They get paid by the bank and it costs no more than if you went to the bank yourself. It’s just one set of application forms, one set of supporting documentation, one consultant to speak to – and then they fight for you. They’re on your side. Difficult to say that about the banks, who clearly “bat for themselves” given the record profits they are making.

 

For example, Ooba bond originators have a service called Ooba Bond Indicator – it’s on their website. You can “pre-qualify” yourself here and receive a very accurate indication of what finance you should obtain. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it costs you nothing.

 

Once you have been qualified and you make an offer, it will strengthen your ability to beat off competing offers of buyers that haven’t been through this process.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum
Director of Harcourts South Africa

August 16, 2018

 

The Issue of Trust in Real Estate

Selling or purchasing a property is a big decision. For most clients we engage with, their property is their largest asset. It goes without saying that Trust is a consideration for anyone engaging in a property transaction.

 

Let’s first consider the trust issue for a property purchaser. A purchaser has the legal right to know of any defects in a property that the seller or the agent are aware of. Currently, property is sold in South Africa with the “voetstoots” clause – which basically means “buyer beware”. The onus rests on the purchaser to ask questions such as: “Are there approved building plans?”, “Is there any damp that the seller is aware of?”, “Are there any structural defects or roof leaks that the seller is aware of?”, and the like.

 

Where there are serious concerns that a purchaser may have, they may consider adding to their Offer to Purchase a clause that states the Sellers response to the above questions.

 

How does Trust relate to a seller? For one thing, a seller needs to have complete trust in their agent. They need to believe that their agent is being transparent and working for them, not against them. This is best achieved when appointing an agent on sole mandate who will have a legal and contractual obligation to work in the best interests of the seller.

 

When you interview agents, try to determine if they are able to substantiate their claims. On what do they base their appraisal value? Is it factual, or a lie to get your listing? Do they commit to their marketing plan – and it is in writing? What kind of service do they promise you – and is their service promise in writing? What sort of track record and testimonials do they have? Be sure that you are completely comfortable with their proposal and that they are committed to work for you, not against you.

 

How does the issue of Trust relate to the estate agent? An estate agent needs to trust their principal. What values does their principal have? Do they show that they live by their values? A principal that is willing to twist the truth for personal gain, break an agreement, or lie outright, is likely to do the same to you at some point in time.

 

If you’re an agent and you’re associated with a company where the principal, or your colleagues, act in an unethical manner, then their conduct reflects directly on you. For a professional real estate agent, our reputation is the most valuable asset that we have. It wouldn’t make sense to associate yourself with a company or a principal that can damage your good name.

 

Trust is something that is hard to find in todays’ competitive business world. And yet there are professional and ethical people that are an absolute pleasure to work with. Work with the right people and value the trust that others have in you.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

June 28, 2018

Does Print Marketing Still Work?

 

We live in a very different world to the one we grew up in.  Remember the days of black and white print marketing?  We’ve come a long way since then.  Full-colour newspaper print became the norm.  The advent of the Internet changed things – and we were introduced to property websites.

 

As technology has improved, so we’ve seen video, virtual reality tours, drone footage, augmented reality, and the like.  This is all good.  It creates a better customer experience.  When you’re researching properties you’re able to find out a lot more about them than you would have just 10 years ago.

 

But does that mean that electronic marketing has completely replaced print marketing?  After all, print marketing is expensive.  As a real estate business owner, it constitutes one of my largest monthly expenses. 

 

To answer that question, consider the typical buyer journey.  You determine that you want to purchase a property in a certain area.  The first place you search will be the property portals as well as individual estate agency websites.  You will insert the suburbs or areas of interest, a price range, and perhaps a minimum number of bedrooms.  Your search will result in a list of potential options that you will view online – and then you’ll contact the agents to view the listings of greatest interest.

 

You’ll also usually drive through the areas as part of your research process.  You may well call an agent off a For Sale board.  And you will be very likely to view showhouses as well.  In fact, over 20% of our sales at Harcourts Platinum come off the back of showhouses.  Whilst these may be the most used buyer research tools – they’re not the only ones.

 

In most cases, buyers will also have a look at local print marketing.  What print marketing does that online marketing doesn’t, is expose you to properties that may be in locations and price ranges that you would have missed online.  In browsing through print, it’s not uncommon for a buyer to be attracted to a property at a different price point or suburb they may not have considered, but is their perfect home. 

 

In most cases, print marketing will also direct you to a website where more details can be found on the listing, and where your research can continue.  The result is that print marketing attracts a different kind of purchaser.

 

The purchaser searching online may often be guided mostly on price.  They may only view the properties that seem to represent the best value.  However, the buyer that enquires off print marketing is often a buyer who is attracted to a property more on emotion. 

 

It’s important not to forget those who are not really looking to buy, but who stumble across their dream home in print and end up buying a home they didn’t know they wanted.  There is no doubt that print marketing helps to attract the best buyers.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

August 02, 2018

Buyers Snap Up Well-priced Properties

Difficult economic times have impacted the market, with more listings available as property owners decide to access the equity in their property or reduce their debt.  With more properties to choose from, buyers are shopping wisely and reacting only to properties that represent the best value.

 

Our research shows that buyers generally respond to properties that are listed within 2-5% of their actual market value.  That means that if a property is listed outside this range, buyers will see it advertised but won’t respond to it.

 

It’s no surprise then that there is a decrease in the number of enquiries on properties, and in many cases, properties will go a week or three without viewings.  That’s a sure sign the list price isn’t close enough to current market value – and that something needs to be done in order to attract buyers.

 

For buyers, this is an excellent opportunity to snap up properties at very realistic prices.  Serious sellers will respond to current market feedback and consider realistic offers.  That doesn’t mean a seller has to give their property away – but it does mean that you can find really good value.

 

Often in tough markets, the banks have a much lower appetite for home loans.  But we’re seeing the major banks still very keen to grant finance to qualifying buyers.  It’s important to have a deposit so that you’re seen as a low-risk client.  When you require 90% or less of the purchase price to be financed the banks are keen to help you – and their rates are competitive.

 

Important to remember is that, if you’re a buyer who is upgrading, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts.  If you sell low you will also buy low.  So if you’ve made the decision to sell, then listen to the market and get your home sold.  Your ability to negotiate improves significantly once you have sold your existing property.

 

If you’re in the market to buy a property, this is an excellent time to secure your dream home.  Make a shortlist of all the properties that could suit you and arrange to view them.  Identify the listings that meet your requirements and represent the best value.  If you see the value, then make a fair offer and keep the terms as attractive as you can.  A seller will often accept a lower offer when the terms are good – especially when it comes to the suspensive condition of finance.

 

Speak to a mortgage originator in advance, such as Ooba.  They have a Bond Indicator product that virtually pre-qualifies you.  When you make an offer to purchase, supported by a pre-qualification, the seller will consider your offer more seriously.

 

Investors are also turning to property as good mid-to-long term investment options.  Purchasing now at more competitive prices means your rental return is greater.  It also allows you to be more competitive with your rental to secure a tenant.

 

Opportunity knocks.  Don’t miss out.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies
Principal, Harcourts Platinum

July 26, 2018

Tough Market Calls for Different Strategies

Yes, the market isn’t what most sellers would like it to be.  Difficult economic times are definitely impacting buyer demand.  Inflation is increasing, incomes are not, and many businesses are taking strain under the conditions.  The result is that buyer demand has decreased.  It’s a reality, and there is nothing that any agent or seller can do about the state of the market and the economy.

 

But that doesn’t mean that, if you’re selling, you can’t achieve a good result.  In order to do so, your selling strategies will need to change.

 

As with all markets, when demand decreases and supply increases there is usually downward pressure on pricing.  We’re seeing the same happen in the local property market.  Volumes of sales are down by about 50% in most price ranges.

 

There is no need to panic.  It doesn’t mean that property prices are drastically falling.  What it does mean is that buyers now have more properties to choose from and they are only reacting to properties that represent the best value.

 

We sometimes have sellers suggest to us that the price on their property has no bearing on buyer enquiry.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Price creates interest.  That’s why shops have “sales”.  It doesn’t matter how much you want a product. If the price doesn’t reflect the fair value you won’t be purchasing it.

 

The facts clearly show that we’re in a very different market to the one we’ve become used to in the last few years.  It’s hard to believe that many agents haven’t adjusted their strategies to cater to this very different market.  The result is that properties will sit on the market with few viewings and no offers.

 

So what needs to change to get a result?  For one thing, the approach to pricing needs to change.  If there are 50 properties on the market with a similar offering, buyers won’t view them all.  They will view the listings that seem to represent the best value.  Their shortlist won’t include overpriced properties.

 

Our research shows that buyers react to properties that are listed at less than 5% above market value in this type of market.  If you’re 15% overpriced you simply won’t attract the right buyers.  Despite this, we see many agents overpricing properties by as much as 35% in order to “buy” a listing.

 

This practice of overpricing isn’t only unethical, but it will cost a seller dearly when they have to sell for less than market value after many months on the market.  Don’t’ fall into this trap.  More than ever, your pricing is critical to you attracting the right buyers and selling for fair market value.

 

In addition to pricing, there are other strategies that need to be implemented in order to achieve a sale in a tough market.  If you have a property to sell, select an agent who can demonstrate what they are doing differently in the current market to get you the result that you deserve.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

July 19, 2018

Post Elections 2019 could well see a Return to Stability

There is no doubt that we find ourselves dealing with challenging economic conditions. The property market has generally been flat since early 2017 - and there is little indication that this will change before the general election scheduled for the middle of next year.

 

So just what does that mean for the local property market? Property values react to the universal market forces of supply and demand. When there is little supply and high demand, values increase. Conversely, when there is a great supply and little demand, value decreases.

 

What we've seen over the past year is an increase in the number of properties being listed. There hasn't been a flood of properties on the market, as we saw in the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 - 2010. But stock levels are increasing, which means buyers have more options to choose from.

 

What we're expecting to see is even higher levels of stock in the coming months, as growing economic pressure results in more property owners being forced to sell. Unless there is an equivalent increase in buyer demand, this will have a negative impact on property values.

 

Don't hold your breath for much positive change between now and the election. A good result would be more of the same - In other words, no crisis, no violence and peaceful elections. After the elections next year, then certainty returns to the country and to the market... we could see a positive move upwards. But it's unlikely this will happen sooner.

 

So if you're a property seller, you have only a few options. If you don't need to see and the market isn't showing interest in your listing price, you could withdraw from the market and wait until quarters 3 and 4 next year in the hope that values would have escalated by then. As explained above, that would be the soonest we could expect to see real growth in property values - assuming all goes well.

 

If you need to sell within the next 6 months, then you're left with only one option: Listen to the market feedback and adjust your listing price quickly. the sellers who respond fastest to market conditions will attract buyer interest and sell their property. Those who don't respond, simply won't sell.

 

The reality is that the longer you take to react. the less you will sell for. This becomes especially true when more properties come to the market, thus increasing supply in the market where demand doesn't increase. The result could be declining market values. At best, values will remain flat until after the election.

 

When you take inflation into consideration, at approximately 6%, it means that in real terms, in a flat market you are 6% poorer if you sell for the same money in 12 months time. As hard as it is, you need to remove emotion, listen to the market and make the adjustment. swift action is required for the best result.

 

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum

 

 

 

July 5, 2018

What Are You Looking For in an Agent?

 

One thing is for sure if you’re considering selling a property: you certainly have “choice” when it comes to selecting your estate agent. So that begs the question – just how do you go about selecting your agent?

 

Let’s start with identifying the outcome that you want. It’s usually the same for most sellers, but not always. Granted, a seller takes their property to market in order to sell it. So you’d need to be clear on whether you just want to sell your property – or if you want to sell it for the most the market will pay.

 

They’re not the same thing. Trust me.

 

Let’s assume you just want to sell your property. In other words, getting the most money isn’t the most important thing. Just sell it, and do it quickly. In reality, you could stick your own For Sale board outside with the wording “Any and all offers considered”. Or you could list it with multiple real estate agencies and see what happens.

 

In truth, when you list with multiple companies on a joint or open mandate basis – you really are saying to the agent and to the market “Just bring me an offer”. The agents will compete to sell your property – but not at the best price for you. They will push to get you to accept their offer, as if you don’t, then they don’t get paid.

 

For most sellers, just getting “any sale” isn’t good enough. For those who want the very best sale, their agent selection criteria are very different.

 

Common sense will tell you that, in order to get a buyer to make their very best offer, they will need to be in a position where they compete with other buyers for your property. The only way to achieve this is to price your property correctly, and then to market it so strongly that all suitable buyers are attracted to your listing.

 

This can only be done by executing a powerful marketing plan. So, in selecting your agent, find out what marketing plan will be implemented to ensure you attract all the suitable buyers out there. And get the plan in writing.

 

The next selection criterion is to understand what strategies the agency will employ to obtain you the best sale. Their strategies will reflect their experience, skills, and ability to get you the best result. Make sure you’re satisfied they have suitable strategies.

 

Next, consider their track record. Granted, track record isn’t everything – but it’s a really strong indication of how successful and skilled the estate agency is. If they can demonstrate a record of success and provide positive testimonials from other happy clients – then that’s a good indication you’re making a wise choice.

 

Lastly, you need to feel comfortable that the agent and the agency connect with you. You need to feel you can trust them, and that they are there to serve you. Select wisely. It makes a significant difference.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal, Harcourts Platinum