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How to handle financial distress

Monday, May 13, 2013, 9:13:50 AM

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The reality is that while economic conditions have improved and the property market is currently experiencing an uptick in activity, many homeowners are still facing tough financial situations due to high levels of debt and the rising cost of living, says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

While some homeowners may just need to relook their current circumstances and make some financial adjustments to order to rectify the situation, others may find themselves in far more dire situations. “Often there is a lot of stress and sometimes shame surrounding the topic of financial distress, which makes homeowners less inclined to seek help or talk about the situation they are in. However, what homeowners should do is take immediate action and proceed with the necessary steps to rectify the matter as soon as possible in order to ensure the best conceivable outcome. Homeowners in financial difficulty should take control of the situation, consult with people who can help and act decisively,” advises Goslett.
Goslett offers homeowners advice on how to handle this often complex situation:

Assess your circumstances

According to Goslett, the first step is for homeowners to look at their current financial situation and determine whether they are able to continue paying their bond or not.  “If the answer is no, the worst thing that a homeowner can do is nothing. It is important that they notify the lender of their circumstances sooner rather than later,” he says. “While the thought of bank repossession can be somewhat traumatic, it shouldn’t make homeowners avoid dealing with the situation and defaulting on their payment without notifying the lender. If the situation is left to run its course, it will not only result in the homeowner losing their property, it will also lead to a tarnished credit record and black listing.”
Goslett notes that a blacklisting will result in the consumer being unable to obtain any credit for the next five to 10 years. This means that even renting a property will become difficult due to the fact that most landlords do credit checks on their potential tenants.


Often banks may be able to assist the homeowner with their situation by rescheduling debt or offering some advice on the right steps to take, however this can only be done if the bank is aware that homeowner is in need of help. “Distressed homeowners need to contact their bank as soon as they know they are in trouble. What many homeowners may not realise is that the bank wants them to keep their property and will try to assist where possible.  Some banks may be willing to renegotiate the term of the loan from 20 years to 30 years, which will decrease the amount of the monthly bond instalment. They could also offer a holiday period on the instalments of between three to six months, giving the homeowner a chance to sort out some of their finances,” says Goslett. “The fact of the matter is if distressed homeowners don’t communicate with their bank about their situation, they won’t know what kind of solution the bank could offer.”   

Consult with a professional

In instances where the debt burden is beyond what the homeowner can handle by themselves, it is advisable that they consult with a professional who can provide guidance. Goslett says that a professional debt counsellor can help the homeowner to review their finances and submit a proposed repayment plan to the relevant creditors. An application will be made in court to have the proposal granted and creditors will be unable to proceed with legal action, and the bank will not be able to repossess the property. If the situation is of a more permanent nature, the homeowner can opt to be placed under administration rather than debt review; however in this case the property can be repossessed to order to mitigate the debt.

Sell the distressed property

Goslett says that if the homeowners financial situation is dire and it looks as though they won’t see much of an improvement in the long term, the best option is for the homeowner to consult with a real estate company that specialises in the sale of distressed properties. In an effort to help distressed homeowners, banks are working with reputable estate agencies to sell their properties at market-related prices. “Selling the home through a distressed property channel is sometimes the most effective way of keeping the homeowner’s credit record intact and recovering from the financial crisis at the same time. If the homeowner has enough equity available, sometimes the sale is enough to cover the remaining outstanding amount on the bond as well as other debt the homeowner may have. This option could help the homeowner to start with a clean-slate and re-establish themselves and their credit record,” says Goslett.

RE/MAX of Southern Africa is the only real estate company in the country that has a dedicated distressed property department and Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) qualified agents that are trained to assist homeowners with these specific types of properties and situations.

RE/MAX of Southern Africa agents who have been marketing distressed properties have managed to achieve, on average, 91% of the asking price. In addition, the number of offers that have been accepted by the banks has increased considerably and distressed properties have spent an average of 45 days on the market before selling.

“While financial distress is often a complex and stressful situation, homeowners do have solutions and professionals available to assist them in navigating through these unfortunate circumstances,” he concludes.

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Home prices high in jam-packed Mthatha

Friday, April 19, 2013, 10:39:15 AM

Mthatha (formerly Umtata) in the old Transkei region is bursting at the seams, and urgently needs new housing development to alleviate stock shortages.
The town benefits from strong spending power, explains Kim Thomson, owner of leading local estate agency Harcourts Mthatha, as about 80% of residents are government employees and the rest mostly professionals such as doctors and lawyers.
“It also serves a large rural community and lately, there has been a strong inflow of contractors working on various infrastructure projects. At the moment, for instance, there are 55 schools under construction in surrounding areas area and the majority of the contractors working on these are from elsewhere and require local accommodation."
However, she adds, Mthatha only has about 14 000 housing units, which can only satisfy only about 60% of current demand. “The town urgently needs at least 10 000 to 12 000 additional units but privately-owned development land is very scarce. Most suitable land is either tribal or government land and developers shy away from the complex procedures required to rezone it.’
Consequently, the turnaround of properties is very slow because there are few suitable units available for owners to upgrade to, even when they are keen and financially able to do so. And the result of that is that new entrants to the market are now also having a tough time finding any homes for sale in their price range.
Thomson says prices have been rising quickly in response to the stock shortages and that buyers are now often willing to pay more than bank valuations if they have large enough cash reserves to make up the mortgage shortfall. “So a home that would sell for about R1,4m in nearby East London, for instance, will easily sell for around R1,8m in Mthatha.”
The local entry level for free-standing homes is between R650 000 and R800 000 but, she says, such units are really very seldom available now, and the rental market is benefiting as locals who are currently “priced out of the market” are joining contractors in a scramble for short-term accommodation.
“A standard three-bedroom home with a single bathroom that would fetch R4000 a month in other centres can easily be let here for R6500 a month, while four-bedroom units in the popular Fort Gale area are achieving monthly rentals of between R8500 and R15 000.
“In addition, homeowners who have converted their outbuildings into cottages or built small flats on their properties are reaping the rewards now by letting them to contractors happy to pay as much as R5000 a month.”

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Engel & Völkers now brokering property in the Dominican Republic

Friday, April 19, 2013, 10:36:53 AM

•    First Shop opens in the capital Santo Domingo
•    International network in 37 countries spanning five continents
Hamburg/ Santo Domingo, 11 April 2013. The Engel & Völkers Group is expanding its global network further and is now brokering high-end residential property in the Dominican Republic. This marks the 37th country in which the global company, which is specialised in the brokerage of premium residential property, commercial real estate and yachts, is now operational. The first Engel & Völkers Residential Property Shop to open in the Dominican Republic is situated in Piantini, one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in the capital Santo Domingo. The international network of Engel & Völkers will make it possible for the Shop to offer its portfolio properties in more than 500 locations worldwide, and to enjoy access to an international pool of prospective buyers.
“I am very pleased to be representing the service quality and international network of Engel & Völkers in the Dominican Republic. The need for qualified consultancy is very high, as both the domestic and international clients here have very sophisticated standards. Engel & Völkers will be making a significant contribution to the professionalisation of the real estate industry here and the provision of excellent services,” said Joan Arbusa, Managing Partner at Engel & Völkers in Santo Domingo.
The Dominican Republic is located between the Atlantic and the Caribbean in the eastern part of the island of Hispaniola. Haiti occupies the island’s western part. Idyllic beaches, a pleasant climate all year round, picturesque villages and a hospitable local population make this island state a very popular holiday destination. Due to numerous investments in the infrastructure, particularly over the last decade, the country has evolved from a purely tourist destination into a much sought-after location for second homes. Good flight connections mean that the Dominican Republic can be conveniently reached from many cities worldwide.
             Attractive investment conditions for foreign buyers
Political stability, sustained economic growth and favourable legislation all make for very attractive investment conditions. Flourishing sectors such as tourism, mining, construction, insurance and the energy industry are attracting increasing numbers of foreign investors, which gives an additional boost to the Dominican property market. Enquiries for prestigious second homes are received from around the world, and are particularly popular amongst buyers from the United States, Canada and Europe. Yet more interested parties originate from Asia. Besides native Dominicans, the investor demographic on the market tends to be dominated by US Americans, Canadians, Spaniards, Russians and Venezuelans.
The most desirable locations for second homes include Punta Cana, Samaná, La Romana, Juan Dolio and Puerto Plata. Villa properties directly by the ocean are in particularly high demand here. Many clients regard a spacious living interior with large rooms and high ceilings as an important purchase criterion. Resorts are also very popular, offering high-class real estate as well as an excellent all-round service and first-class golf courses. Exclusive estates in premium locations can reach top prices in the Dominican Republic up to 17 million US Dollars (approx. 13.0 million euros).
"We have seen a tremendous growth in the Engel & Völkers brand over the whole world and this benefits Engel & Völkers Southern Africa a great deal. With expansion over the world our referral systems grows and offers more opportunities for us to introduce new international buyers to our shores. This has been evident in the amount of international interest we have received over the last year, especially in the coastal areas of South Africa.
We believe that more shops overseas will increase our network strength and offers us a unique marketing opportunity for our clients", Engel & Völkers Southern Africa`s CEO, Craig Hutchison concluded.

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Delmas rental demand rockets

Friday, April 19, 2013, 10:26:19 AM

The residential rental market in Delmas in Mpumalanga's coal belt is under pressure and strong demand is pushing rentals higher, which is attracting investors to the town.
Contractors at several new coal mines in the area, as well as a new cement manufacturing facility currently under construction and the 18-month N12 road improvement project are snapping up rental accommodation, says Koos Pretorius, owner of the RealNet Delmas franchise. "And not only are they taking up available accommodation fast, but they are willing to pay premiums of up to 30% for short-term rentals.
"While landlords benefit, this trend is rapidly placing rental accommodation out of reach of many local residents, especially young people starting careers, and although new residential development is evident, more units in the affordable sector are urgently needed to keep pace with demand," he says.
Bachelor flats selling at between R220 000 to R250 000 now achieve rentals of between R1900 and R2200 per month while one-bedroom flats selling at around R300 000 achieve rentals of between R2500 and R3000 per month.
Home prices start at around R400 000 in neighbouring Eloff, but in spite of the low price level, homebuyers are showing resistance because of perceived security concerns, says Pretorius. "However, investors are not so reticent since units here are readily rented to tenants who urgently need accommodation."
Most family homes in Delmas proper sell at prices of between R700 000 and R2,5m, although there is a small supply of modest homes at around R500 000. Monthly rentals for homes vary between R5500 and R10 000.
Pretorius adds that most local buyers target homes at around the R900 000 mark. "Homes at this price level with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and two garages suit most family buyers' needs and mortgage payments are affordable for buyers in formal employment."
Investors are also buying up factory space and undeveloped land at market-related prices.  "Although commercial and industrial development has quickened, astute investors realise that demand is likely to outstrip supply in both sectors for the foreseeable future," Pretorius says.

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RealNet putts for charity

Friday, April 19, 2013, 10:24:59 AM

RealNet franchises in the Western Cape recently walked the talk when they joined forces to raise funds for the Paul Steyn Foundation.
The group held its second annual golf day at the Kleinmond Golf Club as part of Steyn's fund raising efforts on behalf of children needing prosthetics.
Steyn, who lost a leg at age 13, raises funds by walking long distances and the recent golf day formed part of his 49,5km walk from Gordon's Bay to Kleinmond. He completed the two-day walk, which ended at the golf club, in 13 hours, 3 minutes and 26 seconds.
A total of 64 local golfers, RealNet agents and friends played a four ball alliance and all participants received prizes.
Various RealNet franchises in the Western Cape sponsored holes and their branding at each hole lend a festive air to the course, says Lindsay Knight of the franchise in Pringle Bay and Surrounds that co-ordinated the event.
"Paul Steyn is a fantastic and inspiring guy and it was a rare privilege to help him raise funds for a very worthy cause. Our franchise has 'adopted' his charity and will continue to support his efforts - and we hope that all participants on the day will do the same," she said.
The successful event culminated in a dinner where prizes were awarded and a cheque to the value of R8000 was presented to Steyn.

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Calls for easing up of bank credit criteria

Friday, April 05, 2013, 1:08:48 PM

South Africans, says Mike van Alphen, National Manager of the Rawson Property Group’s bond origination division, Rawson Finance, can be grateful that its banks applied the National Credit Act rulings in time to prevent the across-the-board credit problems experienced in Europe and the USA.

Nevertheless, he says, there are now continual calls for a slight revision or easing up of the criteria on which the banks now ‘score’ mortgage bond applicants.

“I do appreciate that a return to the old one-on-one personal way of assessing a bond applicant, rather than using a hard and fast computerized set of credit rules, is not feasible for a major bank handling hundreds of applicants each month. However, it is worth noting that one or two financial institutions going this route are becoming increasingly popular with the public and growing their loan books steadily. Perhaps the commercial banks should be considering setting up ‘special cases’ teams of credit assessors to whom bond applicants could appeal if they have a good case but have been turned down due to the banks’ rigid scoring systems.

“At Rawson Finance,” says van Alphen, “we have found that the more personal and flexible our stance with clients is, the more we are able to find innovative solutions that are satisfactory to the banks’ bond assessors.”

Right now, says van Alphen, a 10% increase in the number of bonds awarded is “just what the South African residential property sector needs” and he and his colleagues are convinced that this could be achieved without increasing the banks’ risk profiles in any way.

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The ingredients for success

Friday, March 01, 2013, 4:10:32 PM

When a residential property franchisee is nearing eight years in the business and, in this time, has managed to raise her sales dramatically - placing her franchise in the number one or number two spot in the area she serves, it is safe to say that her opinion on the ingredients that make for success is bound to be noteworthy.

Lizette Joubert, who will have owned and run the Rawson Property Group’s Paarl franchise for eight years in October this year, was asked recently to identify the number one reason for her team’s success.

“Estate agencies,” said Joubert, “will be successful if their agents learn how to build trust and to establish a completely open and honest relationship with their clients.”

This, she said, means that they have to know their “subject” and have all the essential data on both the local property scene and how its prices have fared recently and in the past. In addition, they must know how interest rates have performed and what they are likely to do in the future - and they also have to be able to advise their clients on how to pre-qualify for a bond. Then, too, they must know everything about their town or precinct – its schools, its sporting and cultural activities and the factors which may or may not make it a pleasant place to live.

Having made sure that the client understands all of the above thoroughly, agents must then show their client that he or she is never far from their thoughts and that their interests are really being attended to. Whether the client is selling or buying, regular feedback is essential, said Joubert. Silence on the part of the agent will be taken as meaning that he is inactive or has lost interest. Even in the most hopeless situations, where there has been no activity at all, she said, the client has to be kept informed, possibly as often as once a day.

Coupled with these knowledge and service attributes, a good agent, added Joubert, will be known to be truly ethical.

“Unfortunately, in the estate agency world, there has been a fair share of those who have sailed close to the wind and whose morality is suspect. Once, however, it has been established that an agent will reject involvement in any shady deal, even if it can be profitable to him, his reputation will flourish and the number of clients he attracts will grow. This, I believe, is the reason why certain Rawson Properties Paarl agents have clients who have done anything up to four deals with them and established a truly trusting relationship. Franchise principals such as myself have to be absolutely ruthless in ensuring that the ethical foundation on which the business is being built is understood and adhered to by the entire team. Any overstepping the line has to be dealt with at once and it should be made clear that any agent trying to go this route cannot be part of the team. Once this is fully established and understood, it is amazing how teams will thrive and succeed.”

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Aida -- National honours for Pretoria agents

Wednesday, December 05, 2012, 9:48:48 AM

Pretoria North estate agent Jackie Meyer has just been named by the national Aida real estate group as its Agent of the Year.

And hers was just one of the many honours claimed by the group’s Pretoria franchise at its recent national awards ceremony.

The Pretoria East office, for example, took home the trophy for the Top Office overall, having first won the annual awards for the Top Metro Office and the Top Office (Commission).

Pretoria East agent SanetteGenis was also honoured as the highest earning agent of the year, while Pretoria North agent David Mmantji was named as the agent having sold the highest number of homes, helping to boost his office into its position as the Top Urban Office and Top Office (Units).

And Mariana Louw, also from Pretoria North, claimed the Rookie Agent of the Year title while EwaSchütt of Aida Pretoria Commercial rounded off a highly successful evening for the franchise by winning the Non-Residential Agent of the Year award.

The awards were presented by Neville McIntyre, chairman of Aida’s parent company Jigsaw Holdings, who said they were being made in recognition of the winners’ clear dedication to success through excellence, even in the face of an unpredictable political outlook, an economy hampered by low productivity and rapidly rising household expenses that are putting a severe damper on affordability.

“The success of these agents and offices shows once again that Aida is a great family of winners – people with imagination, courage, tenacity, resourcefulness and responsibility,” he said.

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Move fast to stake a claim to great value in Plettenberg Bay

Friday, November 02, 2012, 11:14:40 AM

Known as the Jewel of the Garden Route, top holiday destination PlettenbergBay has not always been an attainable choice for would-be homebuyers, due to high property prices.

But in the past few years, prices have moderated considerably and created some excellent buying opportunities, says local Sotheby’s International Realty franchisee Hein Pretorius – “with the most attractive of these at the moment being the luxury apartments in the Thulana Hill development at the top of Marine Drive on the ridge overlooking Robberg Beach”.

The two-, three- and four-bedroom units in the completed first phase of this development are available in a variety of spacious layouts, including some duplexes, but all offer luxury finishes, large entertainment patios, 24-hour securityand some have good sea views, he says.

“And prices range from R1,29m including VAT for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment of 133sqm, to R3,59m including VAT for a four-bedroom, four-bathroom home of 313sqm with excellent sea view – which represents the best value currently available for an upmarket development on the Garden Route.

“These apartments average around R10 000/sqm – a price at which it is not now possible to build similar homes. Indeed, Thulana Hill is about 30% cheaper than any similar development in Plett, and the apartments are also more spacious than the average available here. Also, prices include VAT so there is no transfer duty, and the developer will pay the transferring attorneys’ legal fees.

“Best of all, the developer is also offering a R100 000 discount to anyone purchasing before 31 December 2012.”

Features of the Thulana Hill apartments include Caesarstone kitchen counter-tops, aluminium windows and sliding doors, quality built-in hobs and ovens with both gas and electricity, space for four kitchen appliances (fridge, washing machine, tumble drier and dishwasher) and covered parking. The luxury duplex units also have a hot tub on the patio as well as a built-in Weber gas braai and single garages.

Outdoors, Thulana Hill boasts lush, rolling lawns and indigenous landscaped gardens, as well as a large pool with a wooden deck that enjoys an outstanding view of the bay. The complex also has good security provisions including controlled access via a manned gatehouse, and security patrols at night.

“The development is also,” says Pretorius, “just five minutes away from all the main attractions and amenities of Plett, including the beaches, the lagoon, two highly-rated golf courses and the shops, restaurants and night-spots in the centre of town.

“Plett is also surrounded by nature reserves that offer extensive opportunities for bird-watchers, hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians in addition to its full array of beach, river and sea watersports. For those who are contemplating living here permanently, it is also worth noting that there are excellent schools in Plett and that the local airport is being upgraded and is scheduled to re-open next year.”

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First Facebook app for property developers launched

Friday, November 02, 2012, 11:13:22 AM

PropertyEngine, a South African company that develops online technologies to assist property developers through the marketing and sales cycle of their projects, has just launched their innovative new product, the PropFolio Facebook App.

This application is the first of its kind and follows “hot on the heels” of the launch of HelloHouse, a niche property finding portal which lists secure residential communities such as gated leisure/eco estates, sectional title schemes, farm villages or apartment blocks.

The PropFolio app, being on an international platform, allows developers, no matter how big or small, to showcase their development to a larger audience from day one in a user-friendly, visually appealing way. By using this app, the developer’s branding, contact details and developments are made available to everyone who views his Facebook page.

“Social media marketing is now recognised as being a necessary part of every successful business’s strategy,” said Werner Stadler, director of PropertyEngine. “Facebook is used by more than a billion people, and that number is still growing. The PropFolio app puts property developments within reach of these users, most of which use Facebook daily.”

Property Engine has developed HelloHouse and PropFolio for developers and their teams who want to get on with the job of marketing their projects, so that the sometimes baffling task of building an online presence and reaching the public is “handed over” to those who know the industry and know how to create a site that has all the necessary information on it from the first click, said Stadler.

“Our goal is to create practical and simple tools to provide pertinent information to the public: compelling visuals they would want to see, maps, pricing, types of units available, living environments, etc, without having to sift through pages and pages of irrelevant content.

“HelloHouse and PropFolio is the developer’s direct link to buyers, and there is no need to hire a social media guru to make Facebook work for you. PropertyEngine will create a listing as well as an instant website. This will then be integrated via the Facebook app to ensure that your development takes centre stage in a very short space of time,” he said.

A demo of the app is available on or for further information contact PropertyEngine’s client liaison manager, Julie Mentor on 084 588 2403 or

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Friday, October 26, 2012, 4:11:15 PM

Situated in the northern most corner of Saldanha Bay along the Cape’s western coast is the seaside village of Saldanha, the location for the new RE/MAX 1st Realty office run by Broker/Owner, Tersia Dijzel.

According to Dijzel, who is no stranger to the real estate industry, the office was originally Weskus Eiendomme/Properties which was established in 1994. “However,” says Dijzel, “we decided that we wanted to be a part of the RE/MAX brand, which is, in our opinion, the world’s leading real estate company. We will work as a team with the RE/MAX offices situated in St. Helena Bay and Langebaan to build the image of the brand along the West Coast.”

The office will service home buyers and sellers looking to purchase or sell property in Saldanha as well as areas such as Jacobsbay and Vredenburg. Dijzel says that the different areas cater to buyers with different needs. Jacobsbay has beachfront property ranging in price from R1.5 million to R10 million, and many of the buyers in this area are looking for up-market homes or a place to retire. Vredenburg, regarded as the hub of the west coast, has amenities such as hospitals, schools and all the big brand companies and businesses while Saldanha caters largely for buyers who work in or around the harbour.

“Saldanha bay is the largest and deepest natural bay in the country, so there are a vast amount of people who move here because of the export and fishing industry that drive economy in the region. Many big companies such as Mittal Steel Company, the world’s largest steel producer by volume make use of the harbour,” Dijzel says. “Currently there is speculation that the harbour will be made bigger to accommodate new companies that are opening along the west coast, which has brought with it a large number of enquiries regarding property in the area and as a result, sales transactions have increased.”

She says that an entry level home in Saldanha will range in price between R400 000 and R550 000, a mid-level home will fall into the R550 000 to R850 000 bracket and the most expensive homes will range from R 2 million upwards. According to Lightstone, a property statistics provider, 100% of all property in Saldanha is freehold homes with an average valuation of R442 606. A large majority of the existing property owners in the area are between the ages of 36 and 49 years old, however, 33.33% of recent buyers are between the ages of 18 and 35 years old.

Dijzel notes that the majority of the buyers in the Saldanha area are blue collar workers or investors who purchase property to convert it into boarding houses. “Accommodation for contract workers is in big demand; so many investors have used this as an opportunity to capitalise on this area of the market. Workers have a place to stay while on contract and investors always have an influx of tenants,” says Dijzel.

She expects that in the current buyer’s market we are experiencing, the property market in the region will continue to grow from strength to strength in the year ahead, although there will be a few challenges. “Even though the number of property sales has increased over the past few quarters, many potential buyers are struggling to get finance approved,” says Dijzel. Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that affordability will remain a key element for buyers in all regions of the country looking to enter the property market.

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Durbanville sales 230% up on the same period last year

Friday, October 12, 2012, 2:57:28 PM

When a property franchise reports that its sales for a recent quarter are 230% up on the same period last year (as Rawson Properties’ Durbanville franchise did recently), the property trend analysts should begin to suspect that a significant upswing in demand is taking place in the area. They would also expect that the sales team here was operating extremely efficiently.

Louis Schoeman, Rawson Properties’ franchisee for Durbanville, said that in fact both statements are valid. The 230% rise reported recently by his franchise for the May to June period does, he said, reflect a big upswing in demand for property in the area, but it also shows that his sales team has “got back to the basics on which every estate agency should focus.” These, he said, are:

· Streamlining the office administrative systems and ensuring that all agents know how to use them. At Rawson Properties these systems are highly efficient and very easy to operate – it is simply a question of ensuring that agents make good use of them.

· Stressing the importance of getting mandates. Although very few agents enjoy canvassing, it has to take up to 50 to 60% of their time if the agency is to have sufficient stock to be able to attract a wide variety of buyers. Focusing on this aspect has made a very significant difference to the Rawson Properties Durbanville operation.

· Insisting wherever possible that mandates should be given on a sole mandate basis.

“All our experience shows”, said Schoeman, “that sole mandates motivate agents to perform really well. Our success rate with sole mandates has, in fact, been 80% higher than that of shared mandates and our selling times on them are 50% shorter. In addition, our ad spend on sole mandates is usually four times of that spent on shared mandates.”

In another interview, Schoeman has said, that the Durbanville area is seeing an influx of potential buyers looking for more expensive properties and this, he has predicted, will lead to an overall rise in property values.

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Rawson's Win-A-Home-Makeover Competition

Friday, October 12, 2012, 2:46:08 PM

The winner of the Rawson Property Group’s Win-A-Home-Makeover competition, which kicked off on the first of January, was drawn by independent auditors and announced at the Rawson Property Group’s three regional Bi-Annual Franchise Awards Ceremonies at the end of July. After much anticipation, the lucky winner of the competition, James Holmes from Weltevreden Park, was presented with his amazing prize at one of the group’s recent franchise meetings in Johannesburg.

“This competition,” said Jonathan Douglas, Rawson Properties Finance and Compliance Manager, who played a leading role in coordinating the competition, “has probably done as much, if not more, than any other promotional exercise by this group to make the public aware of what the Rawson Property Group is doing and how fast it is expanding its national footprint.”

The competition, said Douglas, was open to any person who agreed to have a free valuation done on his or her home. In return for this they were given one entry for the final draw.

If the client then gave Rawson Properties a sole mandate to sell their home, they were given a further five entries in the competition.

Similarly, any landlord who signed a new lease agreement with Rawson Properties (excluding renewals), for a period of six months or more, was also given five additional entries in the competition.

Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, said that the group was pleased with how the public responded to the competition and the volume of entries received from franchises all over South Africa was a testament to the growth of the group in the last 18 months.

The winner walked away with R125,000 worth of home improvements, i.e. a total home makeover affecting most parts of the home. The improvements will come from five leading suppliers in the residential market – Mobeli Outdoor Furniture, Tempur matresses and pillows, Rohms Timber World (floor installers), Radianz (quartz surfaces, countertop and flooring suppliers) and Whirlpool (suppliers of spas).

Clarke said that each of these suppliers will be installing R25,000 of improvements and these, he said, are likely to add far more than that to the value of the home.

“We were lucky that in every case we have been partnered by highly sophisticated upmarket companies supplying very good products,” he said.

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Nuutgevonden handovers

Friday, September 28, 2012, 11:28:09 AM


Asrin Property Developers have scheduled handovers on their first phase of completed single residential units at the 192 unit Nuutgevonden development for the end of October, said Asrin’s commercial director, Shiraaz Hassan.  The sectional title apartments are 80% complete, with handover of 33 apartments expected by November.

“At the moment we are coordinating the various professionals on site, completing the security fencing as well as the solid block wall with the palisade topping.  There will be a guardhouse at the entrance and exit of the two single residential precincts, with one permanent guard monitoring the sectional title precinct at all times,” he said.

The landscaping is being finalised surrounding the first phase of the development and the landscaped areas on the western border are taking shape.

Phase one has 85 housing opportunities and phase two will most likely be launched by the end of January 2013, said Hassan.  Phase two consists of 39 walk-up apartments in low density blocks and phase three will consist of 33 and 36 apartments respectively.  Construction on phase two will begin towards April 2013 with completion of these two batches of apartments expected by October 2013 and October 2014.

This is the first “green” project that Asrin has been involved with, with gas stoves fitted in all the units and heat pumps will be installed in the low density blocks in phase three, ensuring that the buyers here will benefit in the future from savings on the rising costs of electricity.

“This development is ideal for young families, retired people downscaling and students alike.  The key development highlights,” said Hassan, “include secure private landscaped space, play parks within private landscaped areas for children to play outdoors whilst their parents need not worry about their safety.  There is a 32m landscaped buffer within the development, which will not be built on at all. 

“There have been various additions to this development to help rehabilitate the area.  A natural water retention pond will collect stormwater, which will be cleaned and will be fed back into the Plankenbrug River.  A lot of thought has gone into this development in terms of the environment and the rehabilitation of the surrounding wetlands.  Asrin have removed all the alien vegetation and will stick to a strict indigenous planting guideline.  In turn, once rehabilitated, this wetland area will attract birdlife and in three to five years will contribute an ecological improvement to the area.  R2,5 million has gone into landscaping alone on this development,” he said.

Asrin have also just completed the much needed Welgevonden Boulevard/R304 intersection, which will now help with safely entering and exiting the estate and turning onto the R304.  Until now, there have been numerous serious accidents there, said Hassan.  Asrin has also created public transport slipways for taxis and buses alongside the R304.  The greater Welgevonden estate will also benefit from this intersection as they will now tend to use this safer intersection instead of driving around the “back way”.

“This we feel will encourage residents in this area to use public transport into town, and this should help alleviate the parking problems faced in Stellenbosch.”

“Asrin have, as on all of our other developments, focussed on delivering a quality product and have worked out what our market needs in this area,” said Hassan.

“We feel that there are still far too many challenges for developers when it comes to getting the relevant planning approvals.

“I do believe that those developers who are “doing their bit” by providing the type of housing that is in demand and actually in short supply should be assisted with getting their planning through the relevant government bodies rather than having to contend with obstructive personalities.  Local authorities must be answerable to developers and homeowners who are contributing to create revenue (in the form of rates) and job opportunities in the private sector.” 

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Ennik Estates expansion

Friday, September 28, 2012, 11:24:12 AM

Ennik Estates launches into year two off an expanded base

Ennik Estates has capped a successful start-up year with an expansion programme that reinforces its position and growth as a boutique marketer of high-end real estate in Gauteng, says founder and CEO Ronald Ennik.

The company, an exclusive affiliate of the Christie’s International Real Estate group, has added greater diversity of expertise and depth of experience to its specialist consulting and marketing team.

“At the same time, we have relocated to new, and larger, premises in the Rosebank CBD, which is now the hub of our operations across the prime property areas of Sandton and Johannesburg,” says Ennik.

“The performance of Ennik Estates since its launch at the end of August last year has fully justified the distinctive business model on which the company was built: to be price band-focused, rather than area-focused.

“Our operating footprint is the top 20 per cent of Gauteng properties in the price band from R5-million upwards – a market sector which requires specialist experience and top-level marketing and negotiating skills,” says Ennik.

The latest appointments to the Ennik Estates team line up perfectly with those credentials, he adds.

They include:

•    Vicky and Julia Torrente, a mother and daughter partnership of viewsite home specialists who, between them, have consulted on, and facilitated, the sale of virtually every home with a view in upmarket Linksfield Ridge.

“At Ennik Estates, they have broadened their operating horizons to include other top-range viewsite suburbs, such as, Houghton, Bedfordview, and some areas of Sandton – while retaining their dominance on Linksfield Ridge,” says Ronald.

•    Lynne Baker, who has returned to her original market domain in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs (which included Westcliff, Saxonwold, Melrose and the “Parks”) – after an extended period of marketing prime coastal homes, farms and retirement villages in and around Knysna and Plettenburg Bay.

Lynne is a specialist in online marketing, and an expert in country-to-country and city-to-city corporate relocations.

•    Denise Bruyns, a doyenne of luxury home marketing in the exclusive Sandton area, where she was at the forefront of bringing to the market blue-chip suburbs such as Morningside 40, Duxberry and River Club.

Most of the sales mandates Denise handles come by referral – off a network that has been painstakingly constructed over more than 30 years.

•    Julie Gouws, an entrepreneur and former consultant in the corporate banking sector before moving into specialist world of high-end real estate.

 “As a result of these And other  appointments, we now operate off an even more solidly structured platform, from which we deliver highly personalised services to meet the specific needs of discerning buyers and sellers of luxury homes,” says Ronald.

His passion, flair and reputation for marketing blue chip properties has been built over more than 25 years – exclusively in the upmarket  areas of Johannesburg and Sandton.

Collectively, the top team at Ennik Estates now embodies about 120 years of experience in the marketing of prime property.

Underpinning this depth of skill and experience is the Ennik Estates exclusive affiliation with Christie’s International Real Estate, the US$100-billion sales a year global luxury property arm of the world’s largest and oldest fine art auction house.

 “The affiliation is tacit confirmation not only of Ennik Estates’s adherence to international best practice in real estate marketing, but also because our performance is measured against Christie’s worldwide standards,” Ronald concludes.

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Top performing Rawson Properties sales agent

Friday, September 28, 2012, 11:23:21 AM

Top performing Rawson Properties sales agent takes on important Cape Town rental franchise

Ongoing publicity about the dangers of signing on unreliable tenants and/or appointing ineffectual managing agents has made the average South African buy-to-let investor far more aware of the need for extreme caution in these matters.

“Nevertheless,” says John Birkett, who has just bought a Rawson Rentals franchise to operate primarily in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, “there have been a number of unfortunate incidents which have resulted in investors being landed with bad tenants and losing money.”

Birkett, who in the last 11 years has always been among the top three commission earners in the Rawson Property Group and who will continue to operate as a sales consultant in partnership with the Rawson Properties Claremont franchise, says that he decided to add a rental management portfolio to his other operations because he had seen this type of investment go seriously wrong on occasions.

“The first big mistake made by buy-to-let investors,” he says, “is to try and handle the selection of the tenant, the drawing up of the lease and the managing of the property themselves.  The second mistake, in my experience, is to appoint an inefficient managing agent.”

In these situations, says Birkett, it is only too easy to end up with a non-paying tenant who then also proves to be extremely hard to evict from the premises.  The landlord can then quite easily lose half a year or a year’s rent.

“Owners going the d-i-y route with their tenants,” says Birkett, “are often motivated by a reluctance to pay commissions, but this in so many cases proves to be a false economy.”

In his franchise, he says, his commissions are competitive and differ for non-managed and managed, furnished and unfurnished units.

“Most commissions are relatively inexpensive in view of the work and effort involved and they will seem totally inconsequential if and when things go wrong through the landlord trying to handle matters himself.”

Good managing agents, says Birkett, will always have access to reputable credit bureaux and tenant records. He will be using the TPN (the Tenant Profiling Network) to check on all applicants’ financial and tenant track records.

Birkett’s new Rawson Rentals franchise is operating from ‘The Rondebosch’, which has 106 units and he has already received the go-ahead from clients to manage 98 of these – an indication of how respected he is in the industry.  ‘The Rondebosch’ is one of five high density sectional title developments brought to or planned by Rawson Developers for the Rondebosch and Claremont ‘academic belts’ – where students usually form the bulk of tenants.

Just how satisfactory the rentals can be in the Rondebosch/Claremont area, says Birkett, is shown by the average rental returns that will be charged at ‘The Rondebosch’.  Monthly rentals from R5, 500 will be the going rate for a one bedroom unit (from R6, 500 if the unit is furnished), from R8, 000 will be charged for a two bedroom unit (from R9, 000 if the unit is furnished) and R10, 000 or more will be charged for three bedroom units.

‘The Rondebosch’, Birkett reminds us, is only 1, 5 km from the UCT campus and will have A1 security with access by means of biometric finger print recognition.  It will also have secure covered and uncovered parking for 177 vehicles and its own Laundromat. 

His Rawson Rentals franchise, he says, will be employing a cleaning service and he is already urging buy-to-let investors to make use of this at least once a month.  Others should make use of this service as much as three to four times a week.

Paul Henry, Managing Director of Rawson Developers, said he welcomed the arrival of Birkett as a rental agent because operators of his calibre enhance the value of all units in Rawson developments.

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Major extensions by the Cape Metro in and around the V&A Waterfront

Friday, September 28, 2012, 11:17:33 AM

Major extensions which the Cape Metro now plans to undertake in both the Clock Town and the Cape Town International Convention Centre precincts have scotched any idea of the V&A Waterfront having reached the end of its development era, says Ryan Hamburger, a senior agent handling Atlantic Seaboard properties for the Rawson Properties Sea Point franchise.

Cape Metro, Hamburger reports, have committed themselves to between R4 billion and R5 billion worth of spend over the next ten years and these additions will make the southern end of the V&A Waterfront an even more upmarket focal point for residential, commercial and retail facilities.

The effect of these additions, said Hamburger, will be to add significantly to the value of all V&A residential property.  Residential units (i.e. sectional title apartments) here have almost always outperformed other residential sectors on the Atlantic Seaboard, which in itself has over the last two decades always run ahead of average Cape Town prices.

Among the new developments which have now received the go-ahead are a R1 billion ‘transformation’ of the No 1 Grain Silo area.  This will provide a seven level, 18,000 m2 mixed use complex which will have a double skin glass façade (to cut energy costs), 800 below sea level parking bays and 30 residential apartments and retail outlets.  It is said that it will be able to house 5,000 workers and it will link in with the new integrated Rapid Transit System.  The financial consultants, Alan Gray, will be an anchor tenant in the new building.

In the Cape Town International Conference Centre precinct, an additional second conference facility, CTICC2, equal in size to its predecessor, will be built at a cost of R800 million.  This will, among other things, enable Cape Town to host international jazz and music festivals which, it is said, are big money spinners.  The building, similar in shape to CTICC1, will have a fully planted green roof and will use 40% less energy than the first building.

Hamburger said that V&A apartments have proved to be excellent investments mainly because the short term rentals they command tend to be ‘highly satisfactory’.

The Rawson Properties Sea Point franchise, said Hamburger, are now managing up to 40 of these units at any given time and landlords are almost always pleased with their rental performance.

“Out of season, rentals for a one bedroom apartment can be around R1,000 per day and can rise to R2,000 per day in season,” he said.  “At the other end of the scale three bedroom apartments can achieve rents of anything from R4,500 per day to R6,500 per day in season, with even higher rents achievable over Christmas and Easter.”

Sales prices of such units, he said, according to Rawson Properties’ estimates, can be anything from R4,5 million to R6 million for a single bedroom apartment and anything from R8 million to R16 million for a three bedroom unit.

According to Rawson Properties’ calculations, these prices, after initialing falling by some 15% during the global financial crisis, have now stabilized and have increased steadily in value since 2010, by 12% to 14% on average, said Hamburger.

Right now, he added, Rawson Properties Sea Point has several apartments up for sale in the V&A, very few of which can be had at bargain prices because the few distressed properties that did become available here in the downturn have now been disposed of.

Asked to give two typical examples of what he would regard as good value properties at the V&A right now, Hamburger mentioned:

A 78 m2 one bedroom apartment in the Canal Quays block on the Foreshore, situated between the V&A Waterfront and the CTICC, on sale for R1,710,00.  All units come with parking, 24 hour security and incredible views and there is also a pool in the complex.

A superb 160 m2 ground floor apartment in the Bannockburn security complex in the V&A Waterfront.  This two bedroom, three bathroom corner apartment has a spacious entertainment patio, two parking bays, a storeroom and a swimming pool and gym in the complex.  The price here is
R7,5 million.

“The more one examines the performance of the V & A apartments over the last ten years,” said Hamburger, “the more one becomes convinced that the V&A, having always been a top performer in the Cape residential property market, will hold its position in future – and, as I have indicated, values will be further enhanced by the high quality and very attractive new projects now about to be started in the areas mentioned.”

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Velddrif furniture manufacturer's premises bought by Stretch Tent for R2 million

Friday, September 21, 2012, 3:09:09 PM

Rawson Auctions’ 6th September sale of a Velddrif furniture manufacturer’s business resulted in a successful deal whereby the 3,584 m2 property (with 528 m2 under roof) was bought by Brian and Marion Cole of Stretch Tent, the sail and marquee manufacturers.  The price paid met the reserve figure of R2 million.

Tanya Jovanovski, Rawson Auctions Western Cape franchisee, said that they will be auctioning the contents of the factory on transfer of property.

 “The owner’s decision to allow us to sell this equipment item by item,” said Jovanovski, “will mean that others operating in this field, whether they be large concerns or home handymen, may be able to secure exactly the equipment that they need.”

Enquiries regarding the stock available should be addressed to Tanya Jovanovski on 082 411 9599 or Victor Schonborn on 083 792 4169. Both have emphasized that there are several quality hi-tech items in the stock and now for sale.

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High-end Boland properties again attracting buyers

Friday, September 21, 2012, 3:05:21 PM

The long awaited revival in upper middle and upper bracket residential property in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek is now a definite reality, says Johan Hugo, Rawson Properties’ franchisee for these areas.

Hugo said that this was not just the experience of his agents – estate agents throughout the district have reported in a similar vein.

“It was,” he said, “always on the cards that Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, being in the Winelands and being in most people’s opinion among the most attractive towns in the whole of South Africa, would be the first to see high-end property once again in demand – but I confess that I have been surprised at how quickly this has happened.”

The change in buyers’ attitudes, said Hugo, began to be evident in about February or March this year.

“Homes priced at R8 million to R10 million or more, which had been on the market for a year or longer, suddenly started to attract buyers.  What is more, smallholdings priced at anything from R3 million to R19 million, which we always said offered the perfect lifestyle for the retiree, have also been much in demand.”

The majority of the new buyers, said Hugo, are from Gauteng and he is currently in negotiations with three of them for properties priced at R8 million to

R18 million.

Hugo stressed that sales at Stellenbosch and Franschhoek have always been fairly satisfactory, but had been confined largely to the lower middle brackets, i.e. properties priced below R2 million.  In particular, he said, investors looking for accommodation suitable for students had always been much in evidence and in areas such as Cloetesville and Idas Valley sales had always been steady.

Now, however, for the first time in the last three years and certainly for the first time since he took over this franchise 18 months ago, said Hugo, his team is fielding enquiries for upper middle and upper bracket properties.

Right now, he added, he and his team have several properties suitable for new buyers.  In particular, he mentioned the following three properties, all of high quality and which he believes offer great value:

·         On the slopes of the Stellenbosch mountains, the franchise is marketing a large four bedroom house, with a three bedroom cottage on a 2040 sqm plot. The house is priced at R7, 5 million and has breathtaking views of the winelands and surrounding mountains.

·         In the heart of Stellenbosch, in the popular Mostertsdrift suburb, the franchise has a six bedroom home for sale which is, says Hugo, an architectural “masterpiece”.  “The Eerste River flows through the 1600 sqm plot and the home captures the essence of the Stellenbosch lifestyle in every way.”  The property is priced at R15 million.

·         The third home now being showcased is in the Sante Winelands Estate on 12, 8 ha. “It will,” says Hugo, “leave potential buyers amazed. It has six en-suite rooms, breathtaking views and it sets a benchmark in luxury living.” The price here is R22 million.

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Rawson Developers hone in on Stellenbosch

Friday, September 21, 2012, 3:02:27 PM


Capitalising on their extensive experience gained in Rondebosch over the last six years in “academic belt” developments (those areas where there are large student populations), Rawson Developers will be launching a R28 million development in Stellenbosch in November this year.  This development, says the company’s Managing Director, Paul Henry, should prove ideal for the student population of that town - as being sited on the corners of Hofmann and Dennesig Streets, it will be only 250m from the Stellenbosch University campus – and, he promises, prices will be ‘distinctly affordable’.

“The Acorns”, as the development will be called, will consist of 42 apartments in a one storey block.  All the apartments will be one bedroom, will have 47m2 of floor space and will have open-plan kitchens and lounges leading to balconies.  The views from the complex will take in the Boland mountains.

All the units will be given granite countertops in the kitchens and buyers will have the choice of high grade tiles, laminated wood or carpets for the floor coverings.  As on all recent Rawson Developers’ developments, security is being taken seriously. The building will be enclosed with electrified fencing and access to it will be controlled by biometric fingerprint recognition. The site will have “more than sufficient” undercover parking bays and landscaped gardens.

Henry says that Rawson Developers will be running their own rental operation in Stellenbosch.  Experience, he says, has shown that this type of development is especially attractive to investors and he expects 40% of the purchasers to be buying to rent.

“Although several developers have been active in Stellenbosch, there is still a serious shortage of affordable accommodation for students,” says Henry.  “As a result, many students – and indeed many employees in the town – often have to live 20 or 30 km away.”

Asked how a developer in this day and age is still able to produce fully finished units for approximately R22 000 per m2, Henry says that with over 90 developments to its credit, his company has been able to build up a construction team capable of handling not only the structural work but also the civil component and many of the sub-trades, including the all-important electrical and plumbing installations.

“Assembling competent teams of this type is only possible,” he says, “if one has a steady flow of work.  We are in the fortunate position of having been continuously busy for 15 years and our follow-up projects, for which in most cases the land is already secured, will keep the present team busy until 2015/2016 at least.”

Gordon Hart Architects, who have designed some 50 Rawson developments over the last 10 years, says Henry, is particularly adept at maximizing the use of space in compact units and in ensuring that the interiors are light-filled.

 “The Acorns development will be the first in Stellenbosch to make full provision for disabled people.  All the upper floors will be accessible via lifts and every floor will have an indoor communal braai.  In addition, certain of the parking bays will be wider than usual so as to be able to accommodate wheelchairs being loaded or offloaded from cars.

Henry expects building work to begin in April 2013 and all units to be ready for occupation at the start of the 2014 academic year.

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Six examples of good buys in Hout Bay

Friday, September 21, 2012, 2:59:48 PM

In a recent interview, Piet van der Merwe, Rawson Properties’ franchisee for Hout Bay and Llandudno, commented that throughout these areas there is a serious shortage of affordable, entry level homes – by which he means properties priced below R2 million.  However, he said, demand for more expensive stock is once again improving and the value-for-money properties available here today are impressive.

Van der Merwe then cited six properties for sale (out of his total portfolio which numbers almost 80), all which, in his view, will prove good investments and will see substantial appreciation in value in the next year or two.

The properties to which van der Merwe referred are:

·         9 Payne Street

Sited on a 496 m2 plot, this Cape cottage style home has small panel wood framed windows and doors, a patio with a vine covered pergola, three large bedrooms and single garage with direct access to the house.  The kitchen is modern and neat.  Electric fencing, an alarm system and burglar bars have been utilized to give protection and - a real bonus – there is an outside guest suite which can be used as a work-from-home office.  The price for this property is R2, 1 million.

·         6 Grotto Way

This, too, is a Cape vernacular style home (with white plastered walls and straight line gables) and it has a shaded patio with a Spaanseriet covering.  Views from the home take in most of the Hout Bay valley.  Boldly coloured interiors and a mezzanine floor give this home a real avant-garde ambience.  The home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large studio and a double garage.  In the garden there is a lapa/braai facility.  The garden is automatically irrigated and the price of this home is R2, 5 million.

·         12 Eustigia Way

This ‘very grand’ double storey home on the western side of the Hout Bay valley has just over 400 m2 of floor area – and offers its residents magnificent views right across the valley to the ocean.  Large open-plan living and dining areas are heated by an attractive central fireplace and they are complemented by the home’s three bedrooms (all with Oregon pine floors), a study, a wine storage area and a separate flat.  The asking price here is R3, 950,000.

·         14 North Oaks Estate

Decidedly upmarket, this three level home, with 206 m2 of floor area, features a double volume, open-plan living area leading to a wrap-around balcony. The home is situated on the exclusive Northoaks Private Estate where residents have the use of a full gymnasium, a large pool, a tennis court – and great mountain views.  The price here is R4, 650,000.

·         In the more affordable price brackets, Rawson Properties Hout Bay franchise can still offer a 59 m2 flat in the Princess Beach Security Complex.  This unit has two bedrooms, a lounge/dining area open-plan to the kitchen and a balcony.  The estate’s communal facilities include a 24 hour guard service, a swimming pool and a laundry.  The price of this unit is R895, 000.

·         2 Bay Mews

Here again this 97 m2 freestanding home in a security estate is priced to sell.  The unit has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open-plan lounge and kitchen (with tiled floors), granite tops in the kitchen – and a single garage.  The estate’s residents’ facilities include a swimming pool and the asking price here is R1, 450,000.

“All of the properties mentioned here and a great many others not mentioned,” said van der Merwe, “could be said to be low priced right now because they are usually 25% to 35% below the prices that were before the 2008/2009 crash.  Whether one accepts that argument or not, the plain fact is that such homes are likely see 7% to 9% increases in value per annum over the coming three years.”

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Furnished offices becoming increasingly popular

Friday, September 21, 2012, 2:50:16 PM

Developers and landlords are increasingly looking to add value to their investments by adding additional unique selling points to their property holdings - including a growing trend to provide fully furnished offices.

This is according to Org Geldenhuys, managing director of property development and marketing company, Abacus DIVISIONS.

Geldenhuys said this trend is growing, including in the Irene and Centurion business areas - where Abacus DIVISIONS is active.

"We are seeing this trend at all the major office parks, including Route 21 Corporate Park and Highveld Technopark.

"What we now have available ranges from a single office of around 30 square metres  to various office sections of up to 1 200 square metres - and more that are furnished, coming with the necessary shared network and telephone infrastructure.

"In some instances there are even server rooms and sophisticated security infrastructure that is up for sharing.  Ancillary services such as generators, reception and cleaning services are also usually available to share.

"Typically,"Geldenhuys added, "multinationals and big corporate companies are inquiring about furnished offices, with a view to use them as disaster recovery sites for business continuity planning

Geldenhuys said his company is also seeing a demand for furnished offices for the purposes of "project offices" or "start-up businesses" .
He said there are a number of benefits to choosing this scenario, including lower capital outlay and the ability to meet businesses continuity compliance requirements with little or minimum effort.

"Most of these office parks - such as Route 21 Corporate Park - boast excellent data and telecoms infrastructures, provided via a fibre network with redundant routes.

"There are also multiple data and telecoms suppliers - all making use of independent network infrastructure. This," Geldenhuys explained, "makes these office parks ideal destinations for disaster recovery sites.

"The recent addition of fibre network into Route 21 Corporate Park, for instance, makes the decision to use the area as a disaster recovery location a 'no brainer'," he quipped.

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Syntech moves into new offices in a R25m property development in Cape Town

Friday, September 21, 2012, 2:49:14 PM

Leading IT distributor Syntech  - which celebrates its 10th year in business this year - has signed a deal for new offices in Cape Town as part of a R25 million property development.

The relocation to larger offices – including larger warehousing facilities – is part of the company’s re-branding process. The rebranding sees it change its name from Syntech SA to Syntech, as well as a move towards introducing a larger and more diversified product range, including a move into the consumer products market.

According to Ryan Martyn, a director of Syntech, the company has grown its overall revenue by 250% since the launch of its expansion programme in October last year.

Syntech, established in 2002, offers a wide range of product lines and has become recognised for its focus on professional storage and memory with high performance products such as Patriot, ATTO, OCZ, Sonnet, G-Technology and Netstor. These products are specifically imported to service media rich environments including clients within the film and production, photography and architectural industries.

But, with the company’s revenue increase, a number of new product lines have been added, including a move into CCTV, networking and security products.

“Moving into new offices – which was required due to our continued expansion – includes building a warehouse that is six times the size of our original warehouse.”

The new Syntech head office is part of a R25 million property development at Northgate Estate, Brooklyn, Cape Town.
“Our location,” said Martyn, “makes us the most accessible IT distributor in the Western Cape.”

Commenting further, Martyn said the change of the company’s trading name to Syntech, from Syntech SA, reflects its expansion outside of South Africa into the sub-Saharan region. Sales into the sub-Saharan region – which has mirrored the meteoric growth of overall company turnover – now accounts for 10% of total revenue.

“Besides our 250% turnover growth we have doubled our customer base,” said Martyn.
The rebranding exercise currently being undertaken by Syntech involves a “simplified, back-to-basics approach” including the commitment to a new company mantra, “Love Technology”, which “goes a long way towards summarising our edge in the market”.

“We are a company – with a committed team of people – who love technology, who are good at it, and who provide the right kind of technology to our client base in order for them to enhance their business delivery and success.”
Martyn said the company’s rebranding exercise and overall expansion plans will “stay in line with Syntech’s stated objective – and commitment – to supply the best products, and to provide solutions that assist clients with the ultimate empowerment of their businesses.”

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RealNet expands in Western Cape

Friday, September 21, 2012, 2:48:30 PM

The RealNet property group has further expanded its footprint in the lucrative Western Cape property market with the recent opening of a new franchise office in Brackenfell

Franchisee Michael Zackon, a seasoned estate agent with wide experience in property sales and launching new developments, says Brackenfell offers diverse property choices at affordable prices for homebuyers and investors alike.

Prices range from about R350 000 to more than R2m and the area remains popular among people working in surrounding areas such as Paarl, Stellenbosch, Somerset West and Cape Town thanks to its proximity to national roads and a centrally located station for rail commuters.

Zackon adds that new development is taking place rapidly and his office is already negotiating with developers to launch a series of new units that will come on to the market soon.

The new franchise covers the entire Brackenfell area, including suburbs such as Protea Village, Protea Heights, Ruwari, Morgenster, Morgenster Heights, Ferndale, Springbok Park, Eden Park, Vredekloof and De Tuin.

Prices of the bachelor apartments that are very popular in the area start at around the R350 000 mark, while one-bedroom apartments in Ferndale sell well at just below the R400 000 mark. Some very competitively priced properties are also available from time to time, Zackon says. A two-bedroom apartment in Ferndale, for example, recently sold at R385 000.

Older homes of approximately 200sqm on a 770sqm stand sell at around R910 000 while solid three-bedroom homes can still be had at just below the

R1m mark. Upmarket homes in Vredekloof reach selling prices of around R2m.

Zackon says it was an easy choice to join the RealNet group. "The group lives up to its national motto of 'We make it happen' and offers an incredible work platform that enables our property consultants to carry their offices with them wherever they are. And that means they are available at all times to give clients the service they deserve from a top class property brand."

RealNet Brackenfell has also committed itself to the community, and plans to rotate charity projects by allowing its sole mandate clients to select their charity of choice. "We strongly believe in giving back to the community that gives us our foundation and we are committed to help improve the lives of those in need," he adds.

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New franchisee for RealNet in Kuils River

Friday, September 14, 2012, 11:01:06 AM

The RealNet estate agency group has moved fast to establish new offices in the Kuils River and Eersterivier areas of the Western Cape following the cancellation of its agreement with former franchisee Elton Gallant.
The new offices – which opened their doors on 3 September - are under the direction of franchisee Ronelle Botha and manager Christine Brits, who both have many years of real estate experience and a track record of excellent customer service.
“We are delighted to have a new franchise team as well as a large contingent of agents in place in these areas, which are currently among the most active in the Western Cape as regards both property sales and rentals ” says RealNet MD Jan Davel.
“I have no doubt that Ronelle and Christine, with their combined legal and real estate knowledge, will make a great success of this franchise and ensure that the RealNet banner can once more fly proudly over the Oostenberg.”
The establishment of the new offices follows the decision by RealNet Holdings to formally and legally disassociate itself, as of 15 August 2012, from Elton Gallant and Gallant & Gallant Property Investments CC, which previously traded as RealNet Kuilsrivier.
“The decision to terminate this franchise agreement was made not only to protect our corporate reputation,” says Davel, “but to protect the interests of existing and future clients.
“And with the new team now in place, homebuyers, sellers, tenants and landlords in Kuils River and Eersterivier will definitely be able to count on the real added-value service that is RealNet’s trademark, and have access to the power of our national marketing network.”
RealNet Kuils River will operate in: Amandelrug, Amandelsig, Blackheath, Blue Downs, Bosonia, Brandwag, Brantwood, Danarand, De Kuilen, Des Hampden, Drosty Park, Gersham, Highbury, Jagtershof, Kalkfontein, Klipdam, Kuils River, Kuils River Industrial, Loucharmante, Mabille Park, Mikro Park, Mikro Park Outlying, Oakdene, Rouxville, Saint Dumas, Sarepta, Silveroaks, Soneike, Sonnekuil and Zevendal.
RealNet Eersterivier will operate in: Beverley Park, Blackheath, Blackheath Industria, Blue Downs, Brentwood Park, Camelot, Cedardale, Clairwood, Cormac Park, Delft, Delft South, Delro, Dennemere, Devon Park, Drift Sands, Eersterivier, Eersterivier-Suid, Eindehoven, Electric City, Fairdale, Forest Glade, Forest Heights, Forest Village, Fountain Village, Gaylee, Gill Cape, Greenfield, Hagley, Happy Valley, Heather Park, High Places, Highgate, Hillcrest Heights, Hindle Park, Houghton Place, Khayelitsha SP, Kleinvlei, Malibu Village, Maycape, Mfuleni, Mfuleni SP, Penhill, Rondevallei, Roosendaal, Rosedale, Rotterdam, Russels Rest, Rustdal, Saxenburg Industrial Park, Sillwood Heights, Silversands, Station Township, Stratford, Stratford Green, Stratford Park, Sunbird Park, Sunset Glen, The Connifers, The Hague, The Wines, Tuscany Glen, Vogelvlei, Wembley Park, Wesbank, Wimbledon Estate and Zevendal.

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Rawson Commercial franchise for Cape Town

Friday, September 14, 2012, 10:59:18 AM

The new fast growing Rawson Property Group Commercial franchise covering the whole of the Cape Metropol, which was purchased by Mark Vladislavich and his co-franchisee, Liz Grimbeek, at the start of this year, has taken over ground floor office space in the Island Club at Century City on a two year renewable lease.  The premises are strategically positioned opposite the bridge leading to the Canal Walk shopping centre. 

Vladislavich is already owner of the Rawson Properties’ Milnerton and Bothasig franchises and has twice taken the Rawson Property Group’s Chairman’s Award for the best franchisee.  He believes that there are synergies between residential and commercial selling which can be capitalized on by a shrewd agency.

Liz Grimbeek, who has had five years in commercial property and now manages the new Rawson commercial franchise, has four brokers working on commercial opportunities. The office is also providing a desk for a residential agent from the Milnerton agency.

“Our aim,” said Grimbeek recently, “is to be one of the leading commercial brokerages serving the greater Cape Town area.” 

The Century City office staff, said Grimbeek, will be involved in sales, leasing, valuations, the management of properties and they are looking to build up relationships with landlords who have several properties needing ongoing management.  (The valuations are handled by Marc Janeka, who is professionally qualified in this field.)

Jason Lee, National Head of the Rawson Property Group’s Commercial Franchise division, said that this team has the potential and the ambition to rival the star performers in the Rawson Commercial portfolio at the moment, which is the KwaZulu Natal franchises of Berea and Kloof.

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Aucor September Auction

Friday, September 14, 2012, 10:30:12 AM

Johannesburg, 13 September 2012: Aucor Property has announced that its September multiple auction will be held in Johannesburg on the 20th of September 2012 at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Rosebank.  The auction will feature a total of 30 lots with a combined estimated market value of R63 million and the will kick off at 13h00 on the day. Properties to come under the hammer include:

36 Hulbert Street, New Centre

36 Hulbert Street in New Centre is a rectangular shaped stand featuring a double volume workshop with ancillary offices and storage space. The workshop area has been divided into two equal size lettable areas numbered Unit C and Unit D, and could be used by two independent tenants. An opening has been made through the middle wall of the two units and the entire workshop is being used as a single unit. Both sides of the workshop have a double storey office and storage space as well as ablution facilities. Both units are fitted with an industrial type roller shutter door. The property is fenced with a steel palisade fence on the street boundary with an electric security fence on top. The building is further equipped with an alarm system.

The property is zoned for Industrial 1 and has an erf extent of 834m2. The property is currently owner occupied.

Hulbert Street in New Centre provides access directly off the M9 (Eloff Street) and is well served by major arterial roads such as Rosettenville Road and Booysens Road, linking the southern suburbs with the Johannesburg CBD. The M2 Motorway is situated to the north whilst the N17 Motorway is located to the south of New Centre. The property enjoys visual exposure to vehicular traffic as it is situated on a secondary arterial.

2 Andrea Road, Rueven Johannesburg

2 Andrea Road, Corner Booysens Road in Rueven Johannesburg is ideally located on a corner stand in the heart of the Booysens Business Node.  Booysens Road is a a busy double carriage way that provides excellent exposure to passing traffic both ways.  The suburb is well served by an established road network including Klipriver Drive and Alamein Road, linking the southern suburbs with the Johannesburg CBD. The M2 Motorway is situated to the north whilst the N12 Motorway is located to the south. 

The property comprises of two adjacent stands with a combined erf extent of 1099m2 and is zoned for business 2. The property houses a rectangular shaped double storey face brick building.  The ground floor is subdivided to accommodate three tenants, and Nedbank occupies the entire first floor.  There is a Nedbank ATM on the western corner of the building. On the southern side of the building is a steel carport offering covered parking to approximately 3 cars as well as a steel frame without shade netting. The section being occupied by Nedbank is fitted with console air-conditioning units. Currently the leases in place are long term leases, with options of renewal.

For information on these and other properties to come under the hammer on the day as well as upcoming auction events, please visit or contact one of the Aucor Property Brokers on 0861 2828 46.

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Rawson's belief training is a cornerstone to its growth and success

Friday, September 14, 2012, 10:29:18 AM

This year the Rawson Property Group will be sponsoring no less than 37 Rawson staff – agents, principals and Head Office personnel – to attend the five day National Association of Realtors Conference in Florida, USA – and in 2013 a similar sized Rawson contingent will again be in attendance.

“This,” says Nancy Todd, the Rawson Property Group’s Business Development Manager for the Western Cape, “should give those not familiar with our group an idea of the importance we place on training.  We are often asked how we can afford the ± R1 million bill for sponsoring the NAR attendance, however, I can assure you that it is only a small part of the far larger bill we devote each year to the ongoing training of our 200 franchisees and their staff, who these days operate in residential selling, letting, commercial property and auctions.”

Investing in franchises, said Todd, is fundamental to the whole Rawson Property Group thinking:  “By far the lion’s share of the revenue collected from our franchises is reinvested in the franchise network, i.e. in training, support and expansion.”

Rawson, said Todd, believe in two fundamental training principles:  firstly, that training should be regular and ongoing and, secondly, that no one is too experienced or too successful to benefit from further training.

“Olympic athletes rely heavily on their coaches and even top franchisees need a consultant.

“Every new recruit to every franchise is put through an initial eight day introductory course where he learns the basics of property law, such as sales contracts and is taught negotiating, selling and marketing skills.  A big emphasis throughout these courses is always placed on ethics and how to apply the Rawson ethical code.”

Thereafter, said Todd, Rawson staff members are encouraged to participate in training at least once a fortnight and sometimes more often.  Certain of the group’s rival companies regard this as excessive, but Rawson management is 100% convinced that agents benefit from being kept up-to-date by training.

In all its major training centres, said Todd, the group always has an in-house trainer – but is also committed to a policy of regularly hiring the best independent trainers.  These people, said Todd, can be expensive, but experience at Rawson has shown that large scale investment in such independent operators is very definitely worth undertaking.

In addition, Rawson makes a selection of the world’s best training DVDs and CDs on property, organizational sales and general life skills available to all franchisees.  These are regularly viewed as part of the ongoing training at franchise offices and can be taken home by agents for additional viewing.

Todd said that the Rawson programme is broad enough to cater for complete rookies who have never been in property before, as well as for those with solid property backgrounds and a string of successes - some of whom are probably aspiring to become franchisees in their own right.

“The proof of the effect of the Rawson Property Group’s training,” said Todd, “can be seen in the facts that, firstly, potential new franchisees almost invariably ask for and place a high priority on such training courses, having very often benefited from them themselves and, secondly, that the Rawson Property Group is now growing at 40% per annum, the highest rate in the property sector today.  This would not be possible if training had not already helped existing franchisees to succeed.”

The expansion of the group and moves to improve the training programme year-by- year, said Todd, have called for an increased training input this year. 2011 saw 2,995 attendees at Rawson training courses.  By August this year they were already 644 up on the 2011 figure, suggesting that by the year-end they will be 15% up on their previous highest figure.

“Training,” said Todd, “will always be a cornerstone of management policy in this group.  We believe that no estate agency group can have a sustainable success without it.”

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The importance of IT technology in real estate marketing

Friday, September 14, 2012, 10:27:16 AM

Those estate agencies which have not totally and completely embraced the information technology revolution – and, in particular, the use of websites – will be ‘dead in the water’, says Rawson Properties’ Hout Bay franchisee, Piet van der Merwe.

“I am,” he said, “eternally grateful to be a member of a group that saw the direction in which the market was moving and set out to become front-runners in the use of information technology.”

Today’s buyer, looking to buy in Hout Bay and Llandudno, said van der Merwe, will in eight out of ten cases first “google” Hout Bay/Llandudno property.  This will then introduce him to some half a dozen, multi-listing websites such as Property24 and Private Property, many of which are excellent and very up-to-date, and also to a similar number of websites from local estate agents.

The potential buyer will then in most cases email those agencies which appear to be able to offer what he is looking for.  These emails, said van der Merwe, quite frequently come through late at night or over the weekend and the agency that responds fastest will always gain credence from doing so.  Those without adequate stock, he said, will almost certainly be dropped from the investigation.

“As a result of these initial investigations by buyers, those who come to the table today are very often well informed and know pretty accurately what is good value and what is not in the area in which they are interested,” said van der Merwe.  “It is always a pleasure to deal with such people, provided one’s own information is up-to-date and wholly valid.”

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Ultra-low sales prices at Witsand and The Breede River Lodge

Friday, August 31, 2012, 1:36:12 PM

Ultra-low sales prices at Witsand and The Breede River Lodge attracting a new wave of buyers

Holiday and retirement property, especially those homes in coastal areas, have a seen a dramatic decline in prices over the last two years – but, says Hanli Pretorius, franchisee for Rawson Properties Witsand, these massive falls in prices have opened up a newly ‘affordable’ market which is proving attractive to a new generation of potential buyers, originating from both Cape Town and Johannesburg.  Hanli is co-franchisee with her husband Leon, and both are enthusiastic about future sales in this idyllic coastal setting 300km east of Cape Town at the mouth of the Breede River.

“Here in the Witsand village itself,” she says, “prices for freestanding homes can be anything from R800 000 to R4 million – but most sales and  interest are currently focused on the lower priced units, i.e. those significantly below the R2 million mark.”

“It has to be acknowledged”, says Pretorius, “that prior to the global financial crisis and the resultant fall in the second home market, many of the homes in Witsand were decidedly over-priced.  Now”, she says, “by any standards they are exceptionally good value and those moving in now will be doing so at the right time”.

Of particular interest to those buyers wanting fully furnished, modern, thatch roofed accommodation that is maintained for them all year-round is, The Breede River Lodge, which is selling 18 suites, most self-catering.  Here prices range from as low as R220 000 for a single bedroom unit to R2.2 million for a four bedroom, three bathroom unit with its own living room and viewing decks.

“Particularly popular right now”, says Pretorius, “are units that are priced around R1 million, with two bedrooms, full bathrooms and their own living area with fireplaces.

Of the more upmarket offerings, some five free standing full title homes in the Oysterbeds private village in historic Port Beaufort, are especially attractive and at prices of R2.950 000 million to R3.6 million. All these entitle owners to use a private mooring harbour – and the annual levies are exceptionally low.

“Right now,” adds Pretorius, “the choice at Witsand is extremely wide because some 50 homes (10% of the total) are available for sale.

“Steeped in history, this area has a unique environment because it has a river mouth, a beach and a rocky coastline. This means that fisherman are offered rock, beach, deep sea and estuary fishing – and the catches are always good.”

In fact, Witsand provides a wonderful setting for almost all outdoor activities.  These include the more active sports of surfing, kayaking, kite boarding, windsurfing, mountain or road biking and beautiful walks in both protected and wild Fynbos areas.  For the less active, there is whale watching, boat trips up the river and bird watching. This is, too, an ideal base from which adventure cyclists can explore the Overberg and Little Karoo. San Sebastian, the bay into which the Breede River opens, is famous for its nursery whale population which, and at this time of the year, reaches well over 100 animals.

“The almost unlimited space, the quietness and the dry climate, as well as, the wonderful friendliness of the local people coupled to some excellent dining establishments,” says Pretorius, “make Witsand the ideal retirement or holiday area for active people.”

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Esquire to spend R40 million on expanding its head office

Friday, August 31, 2012, 1:27:35 PM

Esquire Technologies, the leading lifestyle-focused computer and accessories distributor – and winner of the 2012 African distributor of the Year Award – is to spend R40 million expanding its headquarters in Midrand, Johannesburg.

This was confirmed by Esquire CEO, Mahomed Cassim, who said the expansion would take the office complex to more than 8 000 square meters of office and warehouse space. “The expansion will also include expanding our Xpress store concept from its current 1 500 square metres to 4000 square metres.”

Cassim said the “Xpress format” had proved extremely popular and was seen as a major convenience for the company’s more than 12 000 resellers, many of whom buy directly from Xpress.

A timeframe for the completion of the R40m phase two development was not clear at the time of going to press, with Cassim saying that building plans were “awaiting approval”.

Besides expanding the head office Xpress to 4 000 square metres, Esquire opened an additional Xpress store in Port Elizabeth at the end of June – and is planning a further store for Bloemfontein.

“We are currently looking at a number of premises – also at the option of buying rather than leasing premises.”

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Aucor property auction

Friday, August 31, 2012, 1:20:44 PM

Aucor Property, a standalone division within the Aucor group, specialising in the sale of commercial, residential or legal property through either public tender, private treaty or auction, has today announced that its next Cape Town Auction Event will take place at the One & Only Hotel in Cape Town on the 11th of September 2012 with the commercial property auction starting at 12h00 followed by residential auction.

Mark Kleynhans, Director of Aucor Property comments “Following a multitude of successful auctions in Johannesburg since our launch and demand from the market in the Western Cape, the team moved quickly to get our Cape Town operation up and running and in a short period of time we have opened a permanent office in the heart of the City Centre and secured excellent stock to offer to our Cape Town buyers. This coupled with the fact that we have a large Johannesburg auction event taking place on the 20th of September has proved that the market is receptive to the auction process and based on the good results to date has confidence in both selling and buying property using the auction platform.”

The September auction event in Cape Town will see a total of 21 lots with a combined market value of R32 million coming under the hammer.

Headlining the auction event is a cold storage facility located in Montague gardens. With an ERF of 1,536m2 and a GLA of 1,312m2, 7 Signal Crescent, Montague Gardens, Cape Town is zoned for industrial use.

Situated approximately 15km north-east of the Cape Town CBD and harbour Montague Gardens is one of the most sought after mixed-use nodes in Cape Town. This central location allows for easy access to the major freeways leading through to the West Coast, Southern and Northern areas as well as the N1 Freeway to Gauteng. Access to the area is easily achieved via both the N7 and N1 Freeways as well as via the three main arterials into the area - Bosmansdam Road, Koeberg Road or Plattekloof Road.

Montague Gardens is well serviced by public transport facilities with include bus, train, and taxi nodes situated close by, providing commuters with an alternative means of transport.  In addition to this, the property has close proximity to the super-regional centres such as Canal Walk and Makro, Milnerton MediClinic, Milnerton Police and Fire Stations.

The property is currently used as a fish processing and freezing facility, and is ideal for any industry requiring cold storage with or without a processing plant.

Featuring a double volume warehouse, the property has ample office accommodation in addition to a retail area, dry raw materials storeroom, compressor room, processing factory, chemical store extensive ablution facilities and change rooms.

The main loading / receiving area has an electronic push button and remote control roller shutter door situated on the western boundary of the site and can accommodate offloading of containers. The area also features an electronic built-in scale and private office. The main loading / receiving area provides access to the freezers / cold rooms.

The freezers and cold rooms comprise of 2 Holding Freezers, a Blast Freezer and a stand- alone Chiller unit.  All refrigeration is serviced by Grenco on a maintenance contract at a cost of +-R3, 700 per month. The majority of the ground floor offers under floor drainage.

The first floor is accessed via an enclosed entrance which provides access to the reception, two large open plan sales offices, two private offices, two administration offices with a server, a small boardroom, walk-in-safe with drop safe, storeroom , kitchen, and ablution facilities. All offices offer air-conditioning with network caballing and have three phase power.

Admission to the property is tightly controlled with remote control access, an intercom and CCTV system. The yard is paved and provides for six covered parking bays and eight uncovered parking bays.

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Honesty is the no. 1 requirement

Friday, August 24, 2012, 11:36:56 AM


This year, the Rawson Property Group expects to establish a further 38 new residential marketing franchises, in what they refer to as their Northern Region, i.e. all of South Africa except the Western and Eastern Cape and KZN.  This means that by 2013 the Group will have in excess of 100 residential property franchises in this area.

“There is now an exceptionally strong demand for Rawson franchises,” says Chic Berkhout, the Rawson Property Group’s Northern Region Expansion Manager, “and the more we establish, the more the word gets around and the more demand grows.  This is a business that appeals very much to the independent entrepreneurially minded person.”

Berkhout warned, however, that only one in perhaps 12 or 15 applicants is right for this sort of task and responsibility.

“Much the same guidelines that govern the National Credit Act and the Consumer Protection Act,” he said, “apply to the award of a franchise.  We have to be responsible and take care that the applicant does not take on a commitment which might be costly or ruinous to him or which might tarnish our group’s reputation.”

It has to be appreciated, added Berkhout, that the actual cost of the franchise may be less than half the total sum required – because the new franchisee will need set-up costs and seven to eight months funding to see him through the initial no earnings period before the business starts to give returns and fees are paid.

“The mere fact that even once a sale has been achieved,” said Berkhout, “it may be as much as 24 weeks before the transfer is achieved and commissions are paid, is a major obstacle to any one with limited means wanting to go the property franchise route.  However, it has been encouraging to find that there are still people in South Africa who do have the savings to tackle such a task.”

Berkhout added that some of their new franchisees are ‘conversions’ from independent agencies who now want to participate in being part of a major, well branded group. Others are ambitious, already qualified estate agents in other real estate companies who want to run their own businesses. The Rawson Property Group can, however, mentor rookies in their first year and help them to get the necessary NQF4 and NQF5 qualifications – so even those with no property experience are not necessarily debarred.

“It may surprise some people to know that the number one requirement for which we look,” said Berkhout, “is integrity.  We are, to put it simply, looking for people who can be relied on to be honest at all times.  As we all know, the estate agency sector’s image took a hammering last year but this has created a demand for squeaky clean enterprises – and I am glad to say that at this stage the Rawson Property Group fits into this perception. 

A certain amount of previous business or real estate experience, said Berkhout, is valuable for an aspirant franchisee but, then again, the systems and training supplied by the Rawson Property Group will enable any, reasonably intelligent new franchisee to be successful and to develop his business rapidly in the first two years.

“Although we can be fairly discouraging to new applicants, especially if they see property as a quick road to riches and do not have the 24/7 work ethic, it can be said that the Rawson support system has resulted in a very high success rate.  Countrywide, less than 15% of new start-up businesses survive, whereas up to 70% of new franchises become successful.  However in the Rawson Property Group the failures are below 10% - and should a franchisee, after a certain period of time, decide that property selling is not for him, provided he has used our systems and stuck to our methods, we will always help him to sell his operation and recoup his costs.”

The Rawson Property Group’s goal, said Berkhout, is to have 400 residential branches up and running by mid-2015 – but at the present expansion rate this could well be achieved before the end of 2014.  Residential property franchises, he said, will be complemented by franchises in the rapidly growing rental, commercial and auction divisions, all of which are expanding at present.

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Good auction bargains to be had at Port Owen

Thursday, August 23, 2012, 9:43:02 AM

Port Owen on the Cape’s West Coast, roughly 200 km from Cape Town, has recently offered several excellent investment opportunities, says Tanya Jovanovski, Rawson Auctions franchisee for the Western Cape.

“The reason for this,” she said, “is that many of the homes here, and indeed throughout the West Coast, are second or holiday homes – and these are always the first items to be sold when times get tough.  Now, however, we have not only one of the best such homes to sell, but in addition, we will be auctioning a fully equipped woodworking factory and a variety of other fascinating goods.”

The home in question, which is double storey, is on an 800 m2 plot on Admiral Island and fronts directly onto Port Owen’s sheltered sailing area.  It will be auctioned on 30th August at 12 noon.  The auction will take place at the Rawson Property Group Head Office, which is at 222 Main Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town (on the corner of Klipper Road.)

The home has four bedrooms and another room which can be used as a bedroom, a studio or a games room.  There is, too, a large formal lounge and a fully equipped kitchen.  On the upper floor, in addition to a master bedroom with its own en suite bathroom, there is a large family room with a TV and entertainment section and attractive verandahs.  A swimming pool and water features help enhance the exclusivity of this home and give an upmarket ambience to the whole property.

In Jovanovski’s estimation this home has a market value of R7 million.

Coming up for auction in the week following the auction for the house (i.e. on 6th September and on site) will be a 550 m2 steel framed IBR clad factory and contents, on a erf of 3584m², which over the years has gained a reputation in the area, and further afield, for attractive, well-made carpentry and furniture.  Included in the sale will be all the equipment required to keep this business going – presses, ladders, electric cables, bolts, crane gantrys, mechanical wood saws, dust extraction and ventilation systems and cutting torches as well as some of the stock and a range of vintage telephone sets.

“Even in the most depressed of markets,” said Jovanovski, “this equipment would stand on the owner’s books at about
R1, 5 million.  The cherry on the top of this offering is that the factory also has a two bedroom, two bathroom flat with its own kitchen.”

Also to be sold, but separately at the 30th August auction, is an intriguing list of extras, including a jet ski GTX Gap 4TC with its own trailer, a supercharged 185 HP Rotex engine and trailer (this piece of plant has less than 20 hours usage and is expected to attract bids around R70 000). A stand-by electrical power plant with 380 v/50 Kva/100 and a trailer, will also be sold – at, it is hoped, a price of R75 000.

The auctioneers will, too, be bringing to the auction the owner’s 1985 Volvo convertible.  This, said Jovanovski, is an exceptionally valuable collector’s item.  Vintage car enthusiasts around the world, says Jovanovski, would relish the opportunity to get hold of such a vehicle, especially as it has been kept in immaculate condition.

“It is very definitely worth reminding people,” said Jovanovski, “that most property analysts are now saying that the West Coast’s very low prices will not last more than another nine to 12 months.  The current times, therefore, are probably the right ones in which to secure valuable property here at a rock bottom price.”

Rawson Auctions do not charge a registration fee.  They do, however, expect a 5% deposit on the purchase price to be paid on the fall of the hammer, while the auction company themselves, in terms of their agreement with the client, are entitled to a 10% commission plus VAT over and above the purchase price.

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Traditional thatch in The Avenues Constantia

Thursday, August 23, 2012, 9:39:41 AM

Constantia Upper’s residential property market is one that is and always has been stable, with an average price of around R7 million, this area is constantly in demand either from upcountry buyers or from local Cape Town families, says Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank. 

There is an above-average home that has just come on the market through APKF that would suit either a larger family or one that regularly has guests to stay.   Situated in an elevated position in Constantia with 180˚ mountain views, this north facing thatch home, with impeccable finishes and flowing reception rooms, would suit a connoisseur of fine living, said Marianne Price and Fleur Lee, the APKF agents who are marketing the property.  The house is in a quiet road in the sought after ‘Avenues’ of Upper Constantia and is listed at R13,95 million.

The home has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, two living rooms, a study, a garage and parking for four cars.  The erf size is 4 137m² and the house itself is representative of one of the finest homes in Constantia.

The kitchen is open plan and adjoins the dining and living room.  It is fitted with extensive Caesarstone countertops to create enough workspace and an ideal working environment for even the most discerning chef.  The beauty of the kitchen is enhanced by cupboards of solid rosewood.  There is a separate scullery and laundry with a walk in pantry, an often forgotten extra for keen cooks who like to keep a good selection of produce in stock. 

The integrated sunroom and kitchen lends itself to informal entertaining.  The unusual floor in the sunroom of old vinyl records sealed with resin adds to the ambience.

The majority of the flooring in the house is bamboo, which is hardwearing, eco-friendly as well as being aesthetically pleasing and warm.
All four bedrooms upstairs, two of which are en suite, have picture windows looking out over the garden to the Kirstenbosch Mountains. The main bedroom is spacious and has a dressing room and a beautifully designed bathroom, said Lee.

The spacious covered patio, which has all the living rooms opening onto it, overlooks the swimming pool and landscaped garden with manicured lawns and is another feature making this home ideal for entertaining.  There is a separate cottage in the garden. 

“Although 35 years old this recently renovated home will suit someone who  wants something complete and comfortable to live in from day one,” said Price. 

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Rawson Auctions sell three properties in one week

Thursday, August 23, 2012, 9:34:49 AM

Those who predicted that auctions would be a temporary flash-in-the-pan phenomenon in the Cape property scene, brought on by the recession, are now being proved very definitely wrong, says Tanya Jovanovski, Rawson Auctions franchisee for the Western Cape.

“In one week our team has sold three properties.  These”, said Jovanovski, “were a Plumstead home with three bedrooms, which achieved a price of R920, 000, a Bishopscourt home, which was sold to the buyer for R2, 8 million and an apartment in Faerie Glen Mews in Heathfield on which the highest accepted bid was R360, 000.”

In all these cases, said Jovanovski, it is clear that the buyers got good value, but the sellers were not disappointed because they now recognize that South Africa is in a very different market to that of 2007/2008. 

Jovanovski added that ‘one of the joys’ of auctioneering is that one is not limited to any particular product.

“Although we have specialized in properties, particularly those which otherwise might have had to be sold off under liquidation, we have also branched out into a wide variety of other fields such as antiques, art, furniture and industrial equipment.  We are asking clients to bring us more of these in the near future so as to give us a wider portfolio.”

Rawson Auctions do not charge a registration fee.  They do, however, expect a 5% deposit on the purchase price to be paid on the fall of the hammer, while the auction company themselves, in terms of their agreement with the client, are entitled to a 10% commission plus VAT over and above the purchase price.

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Cranbrook Limited opens prospectus

Friday, August 17, 2012, 9:57:52 AM

On the 15 August 2012, Cranbrook Limited, a development company specialising in property and investment projects in Limpopo Province, opened up a unique investment offering to potential investors.  

Dirk Conradie, CEO of Cranbrook Limited, said that the company opted for less traditional financing channels in order to raise funds quickly and optimise return for investors through early adaptor mentality. Cranbrook has issued 2 300 000 shares in order to raise R260 million. Closing on the 15 November, the minimum number of securities to be taken up to fulfill the Prospectus is 530 770 ordinary shares equal to an amount of R20 million. “This capital will be used to release property and construct an additional 300 housing units and 13 industrial units for rental, to service the high demand for housing and light industrial units in the booming Limpopo mining towns of Lephalale and Burgersfort,” says Conradie. “Savvy investors will have the opportunity to take advantage of the ramp phase of development and participate in the vast potential of these high-growth geographies, through investment in a private share issue or fully proclaimed and serviced properties.

An issued new share of R113.04 has an underlying property asset value of R155.86 per share after the capital is utilised. The current shareholders and directors of Cranbrook Limited are confident that, adding to the underlying asset value of the share, their efforts in the market will enable the company to return value to existing and new shareholders. As income is derived through commercial, industrial and residential sales, servitude sales, as well as commercial, industrial and residential rental income, dividends will be declared to the shareholders.

The projected return on the investment is 18.02% per year, consisting of an average dividend of 9.06% after tax and capital growth of 10% on the investment amount. Investors has can stake their claim in one of South Africa’s premier growth nodes.

For more information regarding the prospectus offering, contact Cranbrook Limited on 012 665 5308.

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Rawson Commercial now looking back on a first year of rapid expansion

Friday, August 17, 2012, 9:56:26 AM


Wednesday 1st August saw the newly formed Rawson Commercial franchise division celebrating its first birthday.

Jason Lee, the National Head of this division, said that to the best of his knowledge no other similar organization in South Africa had ever grown so fast and achieved quite so much in its first year.  Since its foundation, he said, Rawson Commercial had established 19 franchises throughout South Africa and one in Windhoek, Namibia.

“We are,” said Lee, “now represented in three major metropoles – the Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng – and within the next six months we plan to have franchises and offices up and running in Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and East London.  By December 2012, we expect to have 30 franchises, thereby giving countrywide coverage.”

One of the prime motivations for the establishment of Rawson Commercial, said Lee, had been that the Rawson management had become aware that with a growing number of residential franchises and agents (the latest figures stand at 180 franchises and over 1,000 agents), the Rawson Property Group is in a good position to tap into the contacts and knowledge available on the residential side of their operation and to garner referrals from the very large workforce operating here.

“Many of those agents are familiar with commercial property, even though they do not deal in it,” said Lee.

Adopting much the same tactics as Rawson Properties’ fast growing residential franchising division, Lee said that he had made a considerable effort to ‘build a platform’ on which his entire division could work.  This had involved creating starter packs for new franchises. These include a complete set of carefully compiled legal documents covering such crucial aspects as leases, sales and mandates that are fully up to date and compliant with the Consumer Protection Act and the New Companies Act.

“History may well show that this set of legal documents is the best yet used in the commercial property sector,” said Lee.  “We have had landlords with 20 or more years’ property dealing experience telling us that from now on they will use no other legal documentation.”

Again taking a leaf out of the Rawson Properties’ residential franchise division, his division, said Lee, had created a package of marketing aids which have proved to be highly effective.

“It is widely accepted that the Rawson management, being young and innovative, have been front runners in the use of IT marketing technology.  Recognizing the power of IT in today’s marketing world, we too have embraced it as wholeheartedly as possible.”

IT-related marketing aids already up and running, said Lee, including a to let and to buy search function on the mainframe Rawson website, a mobile cost calculation service, a virtual tour facility available to any major property in the country and several other IT marketing initiatives including a new PowerPoint presentation (still being created) to explain Rawson Properties’ sole mandate system.

Especially useful on the IT side, said Lee, had been the division’s iPads:  these can assist a client to preview properties and reject those that would be unsuitable.  They also enable the agent to call up stats and figures for comparative market analyses and to talk authoratively on such matters.

“The iPads have proved to be a wonderful research and marketing tool,” said Lee.

In addition to the above aids, said Lee, his division is compiling its own nodal price and sale reports which will be useful for its franchises, their agents and their clients.

Site notice boards still play an important role in attracting buyers, added Lee, and here Rawson Commercial is using the latest 4-digit Q-key Movisite technology to enable those passing by the boards to access more information immediately via their laptops or pcs.

Looking back on the first year, Lee said that it had become clear that many entrepreneurial people are attracted to commercial property broking, possibly because they see it as part of South Africa’s mainline business operations, however, they hold back on making a career change because they feel they lack experience. 

“The good news,” he said, “is that we can and do train rookies and already some of those new to the operation have proved to be our most successful brokers.”

The Rawson Commercial training, added Lee, incorporates the Services SETA compulsory training courses and includes an intensive two day programme conducted by himself.  Training at Rawson Commercial, he said, is always ongoing and brokers are required not only to become fully accredited but also to attend regular updates.

“There are,” said Lee, “considerable advantages to being part of a group with a 30 year track record and a national footprint – and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with potential recruits whether or not they will be suitable for a career in commercial  broking.”

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IHPC recruiting and expanding

Friday, August 17, 2012, 9:55:49 AM

In the property industry, even in difficult times, there will always be the primary need for property, households’ needs change from time to time and so would the house a person lives in, says Michael Bauer, managing director of IHPC, a young, growing and dynamic estate agency.  Whether a young businessperson, a married couple just starting out or a more established, older professional, there are stages in every person’s life that would prompt them to sell and buy a suitable property for each stage.

“It is because of this confidence in the property market that we are looking to expand further afield,” said Bauer.  “We are expanding our operations, working on the Atlantic Seaboard, City Bowl, the southern suburbs, the northern suburbs, the Western Seaboard, the Helderberg and the Cape Peninsula, and soon in Johannesburg and Pretoria and we are looking to recruit twelve letting agents and twelve sales agents in both the residential and commercial sector.”

The property industry has become much more professional, said Bauer, and whoever chooses this as their line of work must be prepared to do all the necessary courses to become qualified or already have their NQF4 and the Professional Designation Exam (PDE). 

Although preference will be given to established agents who are looking for a bigger area or a challenge, IHPC is prepared, too, to hire and help train up interns (and assist with getting NQF4 and PDE), said Bauer.

“Working as an estate agent is challenging, it does take a newcomer at least six months to start earning commission, but the rewards later can be great,” he said.  “The property profession is a long-term career choice and requires building of a trusted brand and reputation for both the agent and the agency.

“The new qualifications required are a good thing for the industry, estate agents will now be seen as property professionals and not as they were seen previously, as part-timers or housewives who needed something to do.” 

IHPC was established in 2005, in the northern suburbs at Bardale Village and now have offices in Cape Town City Bowl, the northern suburbs and at Midrand, Gauteng.

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Friday, August 17, 2012, 9:53:39 AM

Intersect Sectional Title Services has been awarded three new management contracts in the past month, stretching from the Southern Suburbs to the Atlantic Seaboard and around to Hout Bay.

The first is Olive Grove, a new development nearing completion in Grassy Park which will be home to 70 sectional title apartment owners. "This is another great development by Rawson Developers, and we are proud to be associated with them,” says Martin Bester, Managing Director of Intersect.

The second management contract awarded is for that of High Level Court, a sectional title scheme based in High Level Road, Sea Point, boasting terrific views of Signal Hill and surrounds.

“Lastly we have been appointed to manage Houtkapperspoort Mountain Retreat, a fantastic development off Constantia Nek in Hout Bay,” says Bester.  “Houtkapperspoort is set in the most beautiful surroundings and is well known as a 4 star self-catering accommodation establishment.”

Intersect is the sectional title specialist subsidiary of the Spire Property Group and has just celebrated its 40th year of providing efficient property management services to its clients.

Intersect is registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board as well as the National Association of Managing Agents and Managing Director, Mr Martin Bester, represents the sectional title industry on the Sectional Title and Residential Committee of SAPOA and he is also an alternate member of the Sectional Title Regulations Board.

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Friday, August 17, 2012, 9:39:06 AM

The Trustees of Barclay Mansions in Durban’s South Beach, along with Harcourts DRM and Propell Levy Finance embarked on a challenging two year project to restore the building to its former glory and give it the much needed facelift it deserved. “Many historical factors contributed to the scheme and building being in a state of neglect, with overcrowding, levy arrears, water leaks, and illegal electricity connections, spalling of the concrete and overdue painting,” says Tertius La Grange, Propell Regional Manager in Durban. “Notice was given to all owners 12 months in advance that the building would have to be vacated in for a full month in February 2011 to carry out many of the necessary changes.”

Some of the changes that were made include; extensive plumbing and re-piping throughout the building, with each unit having their own individual council approved water meter; all illegal electricity connections were identified and disconnected. “Over-crowding in the building had become a very real concern,” says Tertius, “so a finger print recognition access control was sourced and installed to assist with this.” The entire building was repainted; and the refurbishment of the lift will begin shortly.

Whilst the building was evacuated many owners were able to renovate their units, resulting in them being able to secure rentals or to simply do those renovations required do increase their property value. Since the renovations have taken place the demand for rentals in the scheme has risen sharply.

“Through the use of products like those on offer at Propell, projects like water meters, lift refurbishment or plumbing can easily be addressed,” says Tertius. “With a strong Trustee and Management team in place, like with Barclay Mansions, projects like these are able to add enormous value to the units and the building in general.”

For more info please call Johann le Roux from Propell on 0861 33 34 35 or visit

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Route 21 Corporate Park nears completion and notches up leading tenants

Friday, August 17, 2012, 9:37:42 AM

Route 21 Corporate Park, the multi-billion Rand security office park development in the Centurion business node, is now almost near completion – with only three stands left to develop – with the park now boasting a number of blue chip clients, including the likes of the JSE listed EOH, Land Rover Jaguar, Ctrack/DigiCore Holdings and Equity Pharmaceuticals.

Org Geldenhuys, managing director of property development and management company, Abacus DIVISONS, said while 2011 was an extremely difficult year for the commercial property market – with the effects of the 2008 recession finally taking its toll – there were a number of “emerging positive signs”.

Abacus DIVISIONS is the key property developer and marketer at Route 21 Corporate Park.

“While rentals have been under significant pressure, we are seeing an increased interest, overall, from businesses at large and are expecting rental contracts to increase from a price perspective during the latter part of this year,” said Geldenhuys. 

He said that, to a large extent, Route 21 Corporate Park had “bucked the trend” and was one of the few office parks in the Centurion node still commanding “premium rental rates”.

“We had a number of interesting developments during the last year, including the development of a R60 million green-focused building- which is now almost fully let – and the development of a 4 200m2 head office/distribution facility which is the biggest of its kind in the office park.”

Leading technology company, Brother, also developed a new regional head office for South Africa and the neighbouring territories, with Geldenhuys saying that it is the park’s security infrastructure and location that is attracting prospective clients and owners.

“Buying and renting in a secure business environment is currently a huge trend that we will see continuing to grow as crime remains a significant worry in the South African landscape.”

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Strand middle bracket homes now selling at double the rate they did last year

Friday, August 10, 2012, 9:49:00 AM

Some months ago Rawson Properties’ Strand franchise mailed a wide cross-section of the homeowners in their area, giving them a simple message:  “The market has turned at last, there is light on the horizon now.  Is it not time for you to consider a re-evaluation of your home?  If you would like such a valuation, we will do it for you free of charge.”

“The message in our mailing,” says Wouter Joubert, co-franchisee and manager of Rawson Properties Strand, “was wholly valid.  There had been big price drops, but these are now very definitely over.  This year we are witnessing a 5% to 6% overall price increase in middle bracket homes.”

The response to the mailing, says Joubert, was excellent and in 2012, Rawson Properties Strand have been selling 10 to 14 houses per month. This is double the rate of last year.

Joubert adds, however, this good news applies mainly to middle bracket freestanding homes, i.e. those selling from R850, 000 to R1, 4 million.  Any home in a reasonably good area in this price category, if it is fairly priced, he says, will be sold by his team within a fortnight.

In the higher priced bracket, i.e. R1, 5 million to R5 million, he says, it can still take far longer to achieve a sale and owners have now to accept anything from a 15% to a 25% drop on the prices that were paid in the 2007/early 2008 boom.

Particularly hard hit in the upper price brackets, says Joubert, are the much coveted luxury sectional title units along the internationally acclaimed Beach Road.  This precinct has some of the finest coastal properties in South Africa.

Five to six years ago, says Joubert, in a flush of optimism and confidence, many new developments along this road were built and people were happy to pay up to R4 million for a luxury high rise unit.  This, he says, often equated to R20, 000 per m2.

Today many of those same units are selling for R12, 000 to R14, 000 per m2.  What this means, says Joubert, is that anyone taking the plunge today will, in his opinion, five years from now find themselves owning an asset that will represent excellent value for money and be the envy of sectional title owners throughout South Africa.

Also not faring as well as the middle bracket homes mentioned above, says Joubert, have been the more affordable, investment units set back from the beachfront, many of which are situated in the not-so-popular areas. Here prices can be as low as R280 000. This market, too, says Joubert, went through a boom five years ago, but today sellers struggle to get even close to the prices they paid back then.

“The message we need now to get out to the public,” says Joubert, “is that in all categories, prices are still exceptionally reasonable, especially when compared to those of other Helderberg Basin nodes, such as Somerset West.  This is, therefore, the ideal place for the slightly less affluent, the first time buyer and the retiree buyer to be looking – and, with some 300 sectional title and 150 freestanding units on our stock books we, like other agents in the area, can offer a very wide range of choice.”

Buyers, he adds, are finding it far easier now to get bonds and this, too, should be spurring them on to make a decision now while interest rates are at their all-time record low level.

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Academia boosts Lynwood market

Friday, August 10, 2012, 9:19:30 AM

Lynnwood in the heart of Pretoria's academic precinct is regaining favour as a residential suburb.
Sandra Steenkamp, Aida's area agent, reports that new security initiatives have stemmed the tide of residents relocating to boomed areas on Pretoria's far eastern boundary. "Indeed," she says, "the trend has been reversed, with many former residents joining new buyers in the quest for homes close to the University of Pretoria as well as prestigious schools such as St Mary’s DSG, Affies - the two Afrikaans Hoër schools - and the Pretoria Boys and Pretoria Girls high schools."
Five entrances to the suburb have been boomed and are guarded after 6pm, while several areas within the suburb have additional booms and security measures. The whole area is also patrolled, she says.
Academics, researchers and other staff at the CSIR, and parents who wish to enrol their children at top local schools form a strong component of buyers and they are not dissuaded by the premium price per square meter that the suburb commands.
"Top homes are selling at up to R6000/sqm, but buyers seem willing to pay for the convenience of living in this area," says Steenkamp. "They avoid heavy rush hour traffic to get to school or varsity and former residents who are returning often cite long commuting times from suburbs on the city's edge as a strong motivator."
Although Lynnwood Road and Atterbury Road are busy in peak times, Steenkamp says flow has improved thanks to the upgrades to the on and off ramps from the N1 highway. "And because these two main routes carry most of the suburb's peak time traffic, the side streets and lanes are quiet with very little traffic other than residential trips."
The Gautrain bus service has proved very popular among residents travelling to offices near the highway, which contributes to lower traffic volumes, as does school bus services.
Properties priced at R1,5m to R3m are selling well at the moment and are mostly comfortable family homes.  Apartments and town houses, which represent about 30% of Lynnwood properties, are available for less than R1,5m, while top properties in nodes such as Strubenkop reach prices of up to R16m.
Steenkamp adds that residents benefit from a strong sense of community, with retired academics notably active in community affairs. "Many serve on the local residents' association, which keenly protects the character of Lynnwood as a residential suburb and acts fast against illicit businesses in residential zones."

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Rental shortages spur Witbank property market

Friday, August 10, 2012, 9:18:41 AM

Demand for residential rental units in Witbank remains high as contractors and new employees at Eskom's Kusile power station and the steel industries in and around town scramble for accommodation.
But, says Rosa Frederico of RealNet's local franchise, investors in buy-to-let properties are currently sitting on the sidelines, which is causing a shortage of rental homes and leaving new residents few options. "As a result we have seen an upsurge in sales, particularly to first-time buyers and couples with young families," she says.
Homes priced at below R1m are particularly sought-after and, says Frederico, comfortable family homes in the R750 000 to R1m price range are now in short supply. Newer townhouses and apartments are selling well to younger buyers at prices ranging from R600 000, while two- and three-bedroom units in Kwaguqa, Clewer and Witbank extensions are selling fast at prices between R350 000 and R800 000.
Family homes that were built many years ago for Eskom and Highveld Steel workers but are now privately owned offer good value at prices between R700 000 and R900 000. "These homes are well-built and sturdy and have three bedrooms, a bathroom, lounge and dining room and one or two garages on big stands," she says.
Free-standing homes in popular areas such Model Park, Del Judors, Reyno Ridge, Highveld Park and Die Heuwel sell at prices starting at around the R1,2m mark and are typically targeted by professionals.
Frederico says demand for smallholdings is also steady because many buyers are looking for the best of both worlds by living out in the country but within a few minutes' drive of all amenities in town. However, smallholdings are not often offered for sale and those that do come on the market take a while to sell because prices are steep. Units of 2ha are marketed from R2m to as much as R10,8m.
However, a selection of undeveloped stands is available for buyers wishing to build their own homes. Prices start at around R400 000 for fully-serviced stands of between 900 and 1080sqm.

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Melkbosstrand property increasing in value as scarcity factors kick in

Friday, August 10, 2012, 9:08:34 AM

The fact that two estate agents of the Rawson Properties Melkbosstrand franchise, one a co-franchisee (Anne-Marie Evans), the other Cindy Jonker, have consistently been among the Rawson Property Group’s top sales performers nationally this year should tell property trend watchers something about the buoyancy and the strength of the residential property market in the Melkbos area, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group.

Karen van Vuuren, the Rawson Properties’ Melkbos franchise administrative manager, said this week, that their area has witnessed a 10% to 15% upswing in sales this year compared to the same period last year and has seen a concomitant increase in prices which, she estimated, are now rising annually at 8% to 9%.  Almost 5% of the 3,350 houses in Melbosstrand, Van Riebeeckstrand, Duynefontein and Atlantic Beach Golf Estate have changed hands in the last year and the upward trend, she said, is likely to continue for at least three good reasons.  These are:

  • The popularity of the village, which retains its fishing dorp and rural atmosphere, is increasingly appreciated by Capetonians tired of more congested and less relaxed living conditions in crowded Peninsula suburbs.
  • The fact that the three residential areas (i.e. Melkbosstrand, Van Riebeeckstrand and Duynefontein) are bounded on both the northern and southern sides by nature reserves and cannot, therefore, be expanded;  and
  • The potential of the new dedicated fast lane Rapid Transport Bus system to cut down travel times. This service will be extended into this area by the end of March 2013 and will traverse the entire precinct.  This service, said van Vuuren, is likely to add considerably to the value of houses in all three villages.
  • Another boost to the area will be given by the new Melkbosstrand High School, previously there was only a Primary School here.

“The new Rapid Transport Bus service,” says van Vuuren, “will make a huge difference to the many Melkbos people who do not actually need a car once they get to work but who currently have to leave very early if they want to avoid spending about an hour each way on their daily commute.”

All of the above factors, said Van Vuuren, are good reasons for buying now before it is too late.  A further good reason is that prices in Melkbosstrand are still ‘reasonable’, on average 25% to 30% less than people pay for similar homes in the Cape Peninsula.

Throughout the Melkbos area, said van Vuuren, buyers can find apartments for as little as R520, 000 and the average price of flats here is around R800, 000.  The freestanding homes on the sales list, she said, are mostly priced from R1, 1 million (for a two bedroom townhouse) to R6, 9 million for a three or four bedroom beachfront home, although a small number of the beachfront properties are “truly luxurious” and can be priced well above R10 million. The average price of a home throughout the precinct is still significantly below R2.5 million.

Arguably the most prestigious development on this coastline is the Atlantic Beach Estate where prices can go as high as R8 million and where the bigger homes usually cost between R2.5 and R3.5 million, although smaller homes can still be had from R1.3 to R1.6 million.  Rawson Properties now have a resident estate agent at Atlantic Beach.  Her name is Natalia Pead and she is achieving steady sales.

Asked to give examples of three good value properties currently on the stock list which she would regard as typical of what the whole precinct can offer, van Vuuren mentioned:

  • An architecturally exciting beachfront property which offers its residents spectacular sunset, sea and Table Mountain views.  There are three bedrooms here, the master bedroom having his and hers en suite bathrooms.  There are also two studies, a laundry and two braai areas.  Finishes are in antique walnut and cherry wood and the home is kept warm with underfloor heating.  Sited in Van Riebeeckstrand, this home is priced at R6, 9 million.
  • A home with four bedrooms in the heart of Duynefontein.  This home, too, is ultra-modern with extensive glazed façades and with generously proportioned rooms.  The enclosed garden has a well point and an automatic irrigation system.  The price is R1, 995,000.
  • A ‘smart start’ home near the hub of Melkbosstrand priced at R1, 285,000.  This home has three bedrooms, a family room, an open patio and a well-kept, walled in garden offering complete privacy.

Considering the quality of these and many other homes available in Melkbos, through a variety of agents, said van Vuuren, it should be apparent to property trend watchers that the area does offer very good value, particularly when the fishing, boat and beach orientated lifestyle is taken into account.

“I can truthfully say that no other villages that I have visited anywhere else in the Western Cape have quite such a delightful and charming atmosphere as ours.”

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RealNet brings core values to Centurion

Friday, August 03, 2012, 9:29:23 AM

The RealNet property group has opened a new office to serve the burgeoning Centurion market.
"We will put the focus back on people in what is, for all intents and purposes, a people's business," says Jan van der Merwe, owner of RealNet Centurion Core Properties.
"We feel too much reliance is currently placed on technology and our agents' mandate is to provide the personal attention that most people crave when making one of the biggest financial decisions of their life," he says.
Van der Merwe, who has 12 years' business management experience under his belt, has just returned to SA from Botswana, where he served as managing director of a large international relocation, logistics and records management company. "There are great similarities between the relocation and the real estate industries - both involve emotional issues and clients deserve personal attention and a sharp focus on service," he explains.
He has teamed up with property stalwart Jane Nielsen, who serves as the agency's principal agent and operations director. She brings a wealth of real estate experience to the operation, having worked for a total of 21 years as an agent, estate agency manager, franchisee, principal agent, brand trainer and as a help desk advisor with a service provider for the new mandatory real estate agent qualifications.
The office, which opened at the beginning of June, has six agents active in the field but, says Nielsen, a further 12 to 14 agents will be recruited in the next six to 12 months to do justice to the extensive franchise area.
"We recruit quality agents and view them as the most important asset of the franchise since they represent a large investment, and they will be encouraged  to embrace entrepreneurship," she says.
The office will serve areas such as Bronberrick, Celtisdal, Centurion CBD, Clubview, Die Hoewes, Doringkloof, Eldoraigne, Hennops Park Industrial, Hennopspark, Heuweloord, Highveld extensions, Kloofsig, Kosmos, Lyttelton agricultural holdings, Lyttleton Manor, Monavoni, Monrick, Raslouw, Raslouw agricultural holdings, Rooihuiskraal, Rooihuiskraal North, RuaVista, Tamara Park, Thatchfield, The Reeds, Valhalla, Villa Rosa, Wierda Park and Zwartkop.
The partners will open a second RealNet office shortly on Saxby Road to serve areas in the immediate vicinity.
Van der Merwe says the initial focus will be on residential sales and letting but there are long-term plans to enter the commercial segment within the Centurion market. "There is a vibrant residential market in the lower to medium price range of R500 000 to R1,2m but we intend to also focus on residential properties in the higher end of the market to keep a healthy mix."

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Friday, August 03, 2012, 9:23:08 AM

An official opening of Aruba Eco Building Systems’ brand new showroom in Westlake took place this month (July), which houses a “mini-home” to illustrate how the Insulated Concrete Form (ICF) construction system works and how efficient it can be to build in this way.
Steve Ruffel, Aruba’s managing director, introduced guests to the innovative “green” building system by showing them how the interlocking modular, hollow core Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) modules fit together and how they are filled with concrete to create strong, watertight, crack-free structures. 
In the showroom you can pick up the polystyrene formwork, see what the walls would look like plastered and unplastered and get an idea of how quick and efficient this building method is.
The polystyrene formwork is incredibly light and easy to use, said Ruffel, in a very short time the forms are locked together and are ready for the concrete to be poured into the cavities.  In addition to the speed at which you are able to build (in 75% of the time of a normal brick and mortar building), this system can be used by a workforce consisting largely of unskilled labour, helping those with little training obtain jobs in the building industry. 
“There is a serious lack of skilled labour in South Africa, and we see ICF building as a way to create employment for those who, with other building methods, might not be able to get work,” he said.  “Using this method you could have a team of 80% unskilled workers and 20% skilled.”
“In addition, this system will be particularly suited to building in South Africa now,” said Ruffel, “as the new SANS regulations stipulate that insulation is necessary on all building developments going forward.  The polystyrene outer casing is one of the most effective waterproof and pest proof insulations available today.”
The ICF method creates a building which is incredibly structurally sound, said Hilton Cowie, Aruba’s technical manager.  It has a monolithic concrete core and the polystyrene outer case creates the optimum curing environment for concrete, which prevents settling cracks. 
Houses built using this system have an R-26 insulation value (an R value is a measure of thermal resistance and the higher the value the better the insulation).  The average brick and mortar home would have an R-1.8, which gives a good comparison of how savings can be made later with heating and cooling the building down the line.

Apart from being well insulated against heat and cold, there is also an improved sound insulation, which can be of great benefit for high density developments. 
EPS is hydrophobic and will resist any water which, in turn, ensures that there will be no rising damp.  This is of particular importance to Cape houses, as many of the traditionally built homes here have this problem. 
“The savings from using Aruba’s Eco Building System will come from various aspects of your build.  It is lighter and is therefore greener in that it takes less fuel to get it from A to B.  You will save on actual building time, on wages for your workforce, on the hiring of equipment (due to less time needed) and then later from the lower costs of maintaining and running your home,” said Ruffel.

“Aruba has built over 2 000 homes in South Africa so far.  We have also completed large scale mall projects with the likes of Grinaker LTA and housing complexes with Stefanutti Stocks.  We feel as if the market is turning and we are reaching the tipping point in terms of perception of product.

“Every homeowner who lives in one of our structures cannot believe the quality of the build and the insulation it offers.  An Aruba house provides a more even temperature, sharply reduced draughts and provides a noticeably quieter living environment.”

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Short term rentals in the Atlantic Seaboard

Friday, August 03, 2012, 9:18:45 AM

Brynn Tomes, CEO and founder of the BIP group which is partnered by Rawson Properties’ Sea Point franchise and which specializes in short terms rentals for luxury sectional title and freestanding homes on the Atlantic Seaboard, reports that, despite the serious global economic problems, demand for the type of accommodation his group rents out, to industry and finance moguls and super-rich European and American holidaymakers, has been so good that in the coming summer months they could well be facing a serious stock shortage.

Cape Town, with its congenial weather and lifestyle, says Tomes, is seen by many foreigners as the ideal base from which to expand into Africa and they are increasingly evident in the Cape Town rental market.  Being mostly senior executives that are accustomed to comfortable homes, they tend, he says, to want ‘only the best’ and are prepared to pay anything from R1, 200 to R120, 000 per day for their units.  (The latter price is not a thumb suck:  it was achieved on a Clifton home and included such extras as a car, a chauffeur, a butler, a cook and housemaids. Rentals of R30, 000 to R40, 000 per day have been regularly achieved over the past years, says Tomes.)

Tomes’s alliance with the Rawson Properties Sea Point/Atlantic Seaboard franchise (owned by Sandy Soller and run by Alisdair Crofton) has enabled their rental manager, Gary Freeman, to pass on leads for expensive short term rentals to Tomes, who in turn introduces them to clients looking for longer term rentals.

“Our opinion is that the top level rental market is just now feeling its strength and that it will only grow from here onwards,” comments Crofton.

“From a sales viewpoint this is also good news because many of the upcountry and overseas tenants, seeing the potential for excellent returns in this market, decide to become property owners, using Brynn Tomes and ourselves to secure them short term rentals when they are not in occupation themselves.”

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Stor-Age Breaks into Pretoria market

Friday, August 03, 2012, 9:17:15 AM

Stor-Age, South Africa’s leading self storage company, has opened its newest store in Centurion. The store is the first to open in Pretoria and extends the Stor-Age store portfolio into four major SA cities – Cape Town, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and now Pretoria.

According to SASSI (SA Self Storage Investments) although there are 220 self storage facilities at present in South Africa, the market is highly fragmented and often lacking in professionalism. With only several of the industry leading brands owning more than five branches Stor-Age’s success can be attributed to the identification of a gap in the SA market and the adoption of international standards in their approach and roll-out of storage facilities.

Currently with 13 stores trading across the country and a property portfolio of over R500 million Stor-Age has big plans for their move into Pretoria, with Stor-Age Centurion being the first of many more to come.

The move to Pretoria forms part of Stor-Age's strategy in establishing itself across the country. With further plans in the pipeline to open stores in Durban and PE, Stor-Age is set on becoming a truly national brand.

“Breaking into the Pretoria market has always been a long-term plan for Stor-Age” says Steven Horton, Property Director at Stor-Age. “Although originally a Cape-based company, we are pleased to be strengthening our presence in Gauteng, and particularly in Pretoria, with Stor-Age Centurion.”

Stor-Age Centurion is located on the corner of Samrand Avenue and Rietspruit Road and enjoys excellent visibility to commuters accessing the N1. The store boasts the latest generation of on-site security, 9,300 square meters of self storage space spread across two floors and upwards of 700 self storage units ranging from 3-30 square meters.

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Developers buy part of Claremont's 'big hole' for a new development

Friday, August 03, 2012, 9:14:29 AM

Rawson Developers, having already completed over 500 sectional title residential units in the Rondebosch/Claremont precinct, have acquired yet another site in this area that they find so suitable for developments – and they hope by September this year to be able to launch a further development, this time with 185 apartments.
The site is situated between Brook Street and Grove Avenue and has an L-shaped formation.  Rawson Developers’ acquisition, for which they paid R38 million, covers 2448 m2 on the back section of the site.  The deal was negotiated by Rawson Developers’ Chairman, Bill Rawson and their Strategist/Marketing Manager, Trevor Weston-Green.  On the site they plan to erect an 11 storey block in which the apartments will be suited to middle and upper income buyers, says Paul Henry, Managing Director of Rawson Developers.  At this stage, he predicts, the prices of the units will range from approximately R 800 000 to R2, 4 million.
“We already know from our many previous projects in this area (Rivers Edge, Rondebosch Oaks and The Rondebosch) that demand for quality, well-appointed units here is very strong, especially from buy-to-let investors, university students, their parents and, surprisingly, those who are looking to downscale from larger homes all around the Cape Peninsula,” says Henry.
Rawson Developers will again be using Gordon Hart as their architect.   He has, says Henry, shown a real flair for being able to design units that genuinely maximize the use of available space and are light-filled year round.
“A big plus factor on this project,” says Henry, “is that most of the units will have the same 180 degree views of the southern spine of Table Mountain, that have made certain other projects in this area so very attractive to buyers.”
The development’s close proximity to Cavendish Square and the fact that it is on the UCT shuttle bus route are also, he says, bonus points.  Security, he promises, will be given a very high priority:  the foyer will be manned and guarded 24 hours a day and anyone entering the building will have to undergo biometric screening before they are able to have access to the lifts and the apartments.
“A very big advantage of this new development,” says Henry, “is that it is already zoned for residential development and is exactly the sort of building that the City of Cape Town had hoped to see erected here.  This is one occasion on which we believe there will be no objections – a big relief.”
Rawson Developers is also now in the final approval stages of a 41 unit development at the Marist Cricket Club in Park Road, Rondebosch, where they have been through a four year planning and re-planning exercise to meet and accommodate objections.

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10 rental deals for Highveld Techno Park in Centurion

Friday, August 03, 2012, 9:13:20 AM

Marking a trend that might signal an improvement  in  rental vacancies in the Centurion business node, local property developer and marketer, Abacus DIVISIONS, has secured 10 new rental deals for the Highveld Techno Park office park, one of the growing number of office parks which are offering businesses “great value for money”.

This is according to Org Geldenhuys, MD of Abacus DIVISIONS, who said there appears to be an “upsurge” in rental activity in the Centurion area, confirming that his company, during the past three months, had notched up ten new rental deals. “This may not sound like a lot, but we are coming off what was a very quiet period – especially in the Centurion area.”

He said his company had focused on an integrated and multi-pronged approach to marketing the Highveld Technopark properties, including the use of Abacus’ dedicated property search engine on the Internet, word of mouth, extensive social media marketing, billboards, online and printed media, and direct mail.

”We hope to reduce vacancies in the Highveld Technopark area even further, bringing it down to acceptable levels within the next three months. Highveld Technopark will definitely remain a focus area of our business.

“But we are definitely witnessing more of an interest in the Centurion business node – and this is arguably because of good value propositions being offered by many office parks in the area.”

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Rawson Auctions to auction a Cape Town CBD apartment

Friday, August 03, 2012, 9:05:30 AM

The 15th of August will see Rawson Auctions auctioning a central city studio apartment sited in Longmarket Street, Cape Town. The apartment in question is unit no. 9 in the three story Red Lion building, regarded by many as one of Cape Town’s best examples of a total upgrade to an existing CBD building. The apartment has 56 m² floor area and a kitchen fitted with all of the most modern appliances (including a washing machine, tumble drier, dishwasher, refrigerator, oven and extractor fan).

Tanya Jovanovski, Rawson Auctions franchisee for the Western Cape, said that the going rate for apartments in this block in recent months has been R900 000 or more - and she expects opening bids to come close to that price because, she said, buy-to-let investors know that demand for urban lifestyle CBD apartments in Cape Town is still very strong indeed.

“The last ten years have seen a huge rise in the call for this type of central city accommodation,” she said. “As a result, the more recently developed units throughout the CBD are now appreciating in value at 6 to 7% per annum.” The apartment to be sold, said Jovonovski, although chic and sophisticated, is priced at almost half what is being asked for similar new CBD flats – but provides everything that they do.

The auction will take place at the Rawson Property Group Head Office (222 Main Road, Rondebosch) at 12 noon. Rawson Auctions do not charge a bidder’s registration fee but expect a 5% deposit and a 10% commission to be paid on the fall of the hammer.

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Branded cars playing a significant role

Friday, August 03, 2012, 8:41:46 AM

‘Branding’ an estate agency so that it becomes a national name is an exercise embracing multiple aspects - and I.T. communication, a website, social media and in-house magazines are becoming increasingly important.

It was interesting, therefore, to hear Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, say recently that while all of these have played an important role in establishing a national image for the Rawson Property Group, the franchisees’ yellow and black branded cars, many of which are small ‘cheeky’ Smart Cars had, in his view, played a huge role in making Rawson better known.

The group now has over 200 of these vehicles on the roads of South Africa and the comments picked up from the public indicate that their impact has been far greater than was ever envisioned at first.

“Although our franchisees have Mercedes and Audis branded in this way,” said Rawson, “the majority of Rawson cars are smaller and they come across to the public as friendly, easy to relate to and service orientated. This is exactly the sort of image which we like to convey - we are indeed a service orientated group which feels no need to stress its power and position but instead concentrates on looking after our customers.”

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Centurion office parks offer great value for money

Friday, July 27, 2012, 10:16:40 AM

Office vacancy levels in the Centurion business area are currently sitting at between five and 20% - depending on the office park - and are arguably partly due to over exuberant property developers moving in on the territory during the boom years. During the massive slump that was precipitated by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the USA in 2008 the market has all but imploded – or at least leveled out dramatically.

This is according to Org Geldenhuys, managing director of property development and management company, Abacus DIVISIONS, a company who is currently involved with popular office park developments  such as the Route 21 Corporate Park in Irene, and Highveld Techno Park in Centurion.

Geldenhuys said that with the slowdown and the concomitant growth in vacancies the overall “rental value” of the Centurion area has “come under pressure” from a supply and demand point of view. “Commercial property rental prices are certainly under pressure in the greater Centurion area at the moment. Additionally, with the development of the Gautrain station near the Centurion Lake there has been a shift away from some areas to this area as companies recognize the benefits of being close to the station. This has placed more pressure on office parks that are located further away from the station,” said Geldenhuys.

He said the main “value proposition” that can now be marketed by property owners in the area is the fact that there are many office parks in Centurion that offer rentals that provide a very high price/performance ratio.

“It is true that rental prices are somewhat muted but this is definitely providing advantages for businesses. Centurion,” said Geldenhuys, “now provides companies with tremendously good value for many.”

He said prime office space can now be snapped up at leading office parks, such as Highveld Techno Park, for as little as R75 to R85 per square metre. “The upside for companies,” he said, “is that these are very cost effective rates. They are hard to beat from a value provision point of view.”

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Friday, July 27, 2012, 10:03:46 AM

“When, as happened here, a man with 30 years’ experience in quantity surveying and property development decides to buy a commercial franchise in a specific area, that should tell property trend watchers something about the future prospects of that area,” said Lee.

Lee’s remark was sparked off by his deal to set up a new commercial franchise with Rob Joynson (the quantity surveyor referred to). Joynson and his partner Clive Moffatt recently negotiated a contract with the Rawson Property Group to establish a commercial franchise serving Pietermaritzburg and KZN Midlands – and are now looking to buy a Rawson residential franchise for Howick as well.

Joynson said that although there is still a significant surplus of office and industrial space in Pietermaritzburg, rents, which two or three years ago hit rock bottom levels, are slowly starting to firm up.

As a result, he said, in Pietermaritzburg standard A-grade office space will now command a price of R120 per m², while land in the new developments, most of which are in nodes outside the CBD, will fetch a price of R2 000 per m² bulk.

A front runner among the new commercial office developments, said Joynson, is the Victoria Country Club office park which is attracting new tenants and buyers all the time. Also doing well are new mixed use developments in the northern suburbs of Pietermaritzburg. Both of these will provide A+ office space, said Joynson, and can expect rents of R120 per m².

Joynson estimates Pietermaritzburg will have some 10 000 to 15 000 m² of new office space coming on stream by 2014.

“Long term rents signed at current levels could be a very good proposition,” said Joynson. “I believe a stabilisation period has now set in and rent rises can probably be expected over the next two to three years. Interest rates remain good and all the major banks are keen to look at new deals.”

Also looking promising, said Joynson, is the Howick area where a steady influx of retired people and holiday makers, many from Gauteng, are being catered for and new retail outlets are being planned for the area. The development of the old ‘Stockowners’ site is “gathering momentum” alongside the N2 at Howick Tweedie and a mixed use development is planned on 48HA of property. Here freehold sites are available from 900 to 20 000 m². Prospects for residential property in Howick, he added, also look promising because of the influx of already mentioned retired people and this is being catered for by several new residential developments – hence his decision to apply for a residential franchise.

Lee said that right from the early stages of the Rawson Commercial Franchise Division, initiated last year, the response from KZN had been particularly good. And, he believes, Joynson’s purchase of a commercial franchise for his area has been done at ‘exactly the right time’.

Completing these initiatives, Rawson Commercial has sold a commercial franchise to Alex Bedel and Andrew Morphew to serve the Hilton area. In addition, a new residential franchise has been sold to Ismail Noorgat in Pietermaritzburg. 

“These and other sales show that Rawson’s expansion throughout the KZN area is continuing at the fast pace predicted originally by our Managing Director, Tony Clarke, said Lee.”

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Large traditional Rondebosch family home

Friday, July 27, 2012, 9:46:55 AM

A large, well maintained family home with four bedrooms has come on the market in Rondebosch through Anne Porter Knight Frank, at a price of R4 250 000. 

The home is on a 618m² plot and has three reception rooms, a study, a garage and a swimming pool in an established, well looked after garden.

“This home,” said Jeanne Cowan, the Anne Porter Knight Frank agent for this area, “would be perfect for a family with school-going children.  It is across the road from Bishops, on a corner plot opposite a park. It is within walking distance of Rondebosch Boys Prep and Senior schools, a few minutes’ drive from Rustenburg Girls, Westerford and Herschel.  It is also very close to UCT and a number of retail centres.”

The home has traditional finishes such as a sweeping wooden staircase, teak windows and Oregon pine floors which have recently been sanded and varnished.

The Rondebosch area is usually one of those much sought after suburbs because of its close proximity to the Newlands Cricket and Rugby stadiums and its central position in relation to the M5 and M3 highways, said Cowan. 

“Anyone buying here would definitely be making a good investment, CMA reports show that house prices in Rondebosch have risen steadily from an average of R1 125 000 to R2 825 000 over the last ten years.”

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Friday, July 27, 2012, 9:37:34 AM

With more agents on her team, and a smaller, yet more technologically advanced office, Dorothy Foster, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Oaktree which has serviced the Stellenbosch area for the past 13 years, says that business is going well and more agents are being attracted to the RE/MAX brand due to its offerings.

With technology becoming an ever-increasing tool for business-client interaction and communication, regardless of the agency size or location, Foster says that agents no longer need to be confined to their desks and can interact with buyers and sellers more professionally through making use of the range of technology-enabled tools available to them.

This is one of the main reasons why the RE/MAX Oaktree office, which is still in the same building on Dorp Street within the historic core of Stellenbosch, is now two thirds of its original size. “Our service to agents has been streamlined and, compared to 10 years ago, all agents are now computer literate,” she says.

Foster says that there is no doubt that the world of technology is constantly reinventing itself and that estate agents need to get connected and keep abreast of technological advances in order to remain successful.  “If we don’t keep up to date with what’s happening and are not constantly striving to make our business more efficient and technology savvy, we will get left behind,” she notes.

Foster continues: “The real estate industry has been changed dramatically through the use of modern technology and property professionals as well as their clients, both locally and abroad, can gain access to masses of property information instantly. Never before have agents been in such a powerful position to initiate and focus communication to their target market.”
Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that agents need to become more mobile and connected than ever before. “Clients want faster access to information and agents need to be able to provide that information in real time.”
Goslett reports that with all the technological savvy support services RE/MAX of Southern Africa offer its agents, it comes as no surprise that more and more agents are attracted to the brand. To date this year 11 new RE/MAX franchises have been sold and more than 188 agents have joined the brand around the country.

Two new agents recently joined RE/MAX Oaktree: Marelize Smith who has banking experience and more recently gained bond origination skills and Carey Jones who has sound sales experience.
Foster explains that as both Marelize and Carey are completely new to the real estate industry, they are considered to be interns. This means that they have to attend classes, complete assignments and remain under the mentorship of an experienced agent.
“Marelize and Carey joined the RE/MAX Oaktree team as they like the brand and our reputation in Stellenbosch. The RE/MAX system, which allows them to progress once they have experience, was also an attractive part of the offering,” she says.

Community involvement and charity initiatives remain important to RE/MAX Oaktree, which is why all 10 of its agents continually contribute a set amount from each transaction to the Reach for Dream Foundation. In addition, the office is currently on a blanket and clothing drive to support The Night Shelter. Foster explains that The Night Shelter opened in October 1999 to provide overnight facilities and basic care for the increasing number of homeless people in Stellenbosch and has room for 30 men and 10 women. Welfare and medical care are provided with preference given to the oldest, sickest and poorest. The Night Shelter is not considered a permanent shelter but rather a transitional home and people are encouraged to make contact with their families or to get jobs and move to a more permanent lodging if possible. “We have a collection box in the office and clients are encouraged to bring what they can donate to this worthy cause,” Foster concludes.


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Prospects for Cape West Coast property look brighter

Friday, July 20, 2012, 3:14:25 PM

The Rawson Property Group’s franchisee for the Cape West Coast towns of Vredenburg and Saldanha, Raylene Fredericks, reports that the number of enquiries, being fielded by herself and her four agents this year, has been almost exactly double what was experienced in the last half of 2011.

Fredericks attributes this big upswing in demand to the towns’ being focal points of major industries which are being expanded, staff consistently being drafted in and out of the area. There is, therefore, a constant demand here for accommodation, she says.

“Although their new projects will only be operational in 2013”, she said, “we do know that Transnet will be expanding their port, LPG gas will be building a new plant and Saldanha Steel has committed itself to a big expansion - all of which will be initiated by 2014.”

“At present,” said Fredericks, “the big call is for rented premises.” Her franchise, she says, does run a rental portfolio, but the fact that recently, in eight weeks, her team was able to sell six properties indicates that, after the drastic price drops of 2009 to 2011, the sales market is now bottoming out. From here on out, she predicts it will be a great deal more stable - although she concedes that there are still some distress sales on the market which could bring down average prices.

Prices in the area she serves, says Fredericks, remain among the lowest in the entire Western Cape: Saldanha residential property is going for around R600 000 and Vredenburg homes on average go for about R775 000. “Lower prices than this are almost impossible to find in the Western Cape,” she says. Vacant plots are especially well priced right now. Plots in her area often sell for as little as R175 000.

“There are many exceptions to this, however”, says Fredericks, “homes in Shelley Point cannot be had for less than R1 million and beachfront property throughout our territory is still priced at around R1, 5 million. However, even these are much reduced in relation to previous prices, for example, at St. Helena Bay, it is now possible to buy a vacant beachfront plot for around R150 000 - an excellent long term investment.”

A three bedroom, two bathroom home with a double garage in Saldanha. The asking price here is R630 000.

A three bedroom, two bathroom home with two reception rooms in Vredenburg on sale for R899 000.

A four bedroom, three bathroom home with two reception rooms, an entrance hall and a laundry in a secure golf estate in Shelley Point, St Helena Bay. This property is on sale for R2, 4 million.

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Increased demand for Atlantic Seaboard holiday villas

Friday, July 20, 2012, 9:45:03 AM

A recent Stats SA report issued last month revealed that income from tourist accommodation for a three month period ending in April this year increased by 12,5% on the figures of the same period of last year.  This increase in income was not just due to the increase in costs per unit though; there was also an increase in unit bookings, according to the report. 
This, in turn, has pointed to a trend noticed by Janine Sullivan, who manages Anne Porter Knight Frank’s short term letting division on the Atlantic Seaboard that, not only is there an increase in demand for accommodation, but there seems to be an increase in those from upcountry and abroad hiring luxury holiday villas over booking in at hotels. 
“I have noticed that many tend to prefer the ease of holidaying in self-catering accommodation as there is such a large variety of styles, prices and sizes of homes on our books and we can cater for most needs,” she said.  “Interestingly, too, is that we have loyal clients who book the same unit with us year after year and some for two years in advance.”
When asked what services APKF would offer over and above what hotels offer, Sullivan said, “We offer a complete turnkey service.  If a chef is needed, one will be hired, if food or food vouchers from the local restaurants is to be delivered daily, we will arrange it.  Housekeepers, concierge services, security, etc, can be arranged through our offices.”
Asked to give examples of accommodation available, Sullivan mentioned:
A one bedroom unit in Camps Bay priced from R2 900 to R5 900 per night;

  • A five bedroom villa in Camps Bay priced from R7 500 to R25 000 per night;
  • A six bedroom house in Camps Bay priced from R9 500 to R25 000 per night; and 
  • A luxurious villa which can be rented for R180 000 per month. 

“It is interesting to note that all the units we have available to rent out at the V & A Waterfront have been booked from the 20th December this year for the entire holiday season,” said Sullivan. 

“APKF do need more units to rent out and if anyone has considered it, we offer a full management service, payment of bills, cleaning, garden services and maintenance if necessary.  We have quite a few clients in Camps Bay (where it is possible to get from R8 000 up to R28 500 per day per unit) who leave South Africa to go skiing over that time and then hand their homes to us to rent out as holiday accommodation.
“Cape Town has become a sought after holiday destination and I am sure if I could double the units I have to rent out, I would fill them all,” said Sullivan.

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Older sectional title blocks good investments

Friday, July 20, 2012, 9:39:23 AM

There are many new sectional title apartment developments coming on stream in the Rondebosch area, but, says Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank, if you are considering buying there, remember to look at the older, very solidly built apartment blocks.

“For under R1 million there is a spacious, secure ground floor apartment for sale through Anne Porter Knight Frank.  It has an enclosed balcony opening out to wonderful landscaped communal gardens of the type often found in the older developments, but which are often a forgotten extra in today’s sectional title schemes. 

“The older blocks often have high ceilings, well proportioned rooms and very often, if the body corporate has been well managed, the accumulation of funds over time helps keep the monthly levies low.”

This one bedroom, one bathroom apartment has 71m², which is a generous floor area, said Steward.  The living room is spacious and the flat is well maintained throughout.  The price includes one parking bay.

The sectional title trends in Rondebosch show (according to CMA Info) that the average selling price in sectional title units rose from an average in 2003 of R345 000 to an average price of R950 000 in 2012.  The report shows that there has been a steady increase in prices and even in the really bad times of last year the average sales price was R1 082 500.  In addition, Rondebosch figures in this category have been consistently higher than the prices of the rest of the Cape Metropole. 

“Given the close proximity to UCT, an older flat such as the one mentioned, would be a very good investment buy, the levies are lower than many of the new developments, the flat is larger and the capital appreciation might be greater as you are not paying in at a new block rate,” said Steward. 

Steward added, “If you are considering investing in property, think about getting involved in the student market.  If you are prepared to run it yourself, there is a huge return on renting to students from the international market coming to UCT looking for furnished accommodation. 

“We at APKF have also noticed an increase in young internationals coming to South Africa to do their internships, and this sort of accommodation is ideal for this sort of person.”

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Durban's Upper Highway properties much sought-after

Friday, July 20, 2012, 9:27:59 AM

Throughout South Africa estate agents in the more upmarket areas are now reporting that a bottoming out of the market has been apparent for some time and that sale numbers and prices are at last showing a slow but steady improvement.

Nowhere is this more true than in Durban’s Upper Highway and Pinetown areas, says David Hitch, Rawson Properties residential and commercial franchisee for these territories.  Residential property in this area, he says, has always been highly sought after because being some 30 km from the Durban CBD, it is easy to commute to the city centre and at the same time Kloof, Gillitts,Hillcrest, Waterfall and the surrounding suburbs, being sited on much higher ground, do not experience the intense heat and humidity of the Durban coastal belt.

Hitch reported that although prices of upmarket homes here took time to see an upturn, they are now moving up at 5% per annum in gated complexes and his agency’s monthly sales are increasing year-on-year by over 35%. Free standing homes, he says, have not yet seen a price increase but are no longer deflating.

Asked to what he attributes this welcome upswing, Hitch said that three factors are clearly identifiable.  The first is that among business people there has been a slight but noticeable increase in confidence.  The second factor is that people have now often ‘sorted out’ their finances.

“At one stage, although almost all our potential clients could on paper apparently easily afford to buy, they were getting a 43% bond rejection rate from the banks.  This was almost always due to poor credit ratings, which in turn were the result of often minor late payments and glitches.  Today the average home buyer understands the National Credit Act far better and knows the importance of getting his finances in order before applying for a loan.”

The third factor boosting sales, said Hitch, is that sellers have become ‘a great deal’ more realistic and are more willing to accept a professional agent’s comparative market analysis and valuation.  In some cases, he said, it can still take a seller six to nine months to realize that the price that they have been insisting on is not achievable.  In general, however, there is greater “realism in the market”.  For example, a magnificent Bushveld-type home sold recently in the Kloof area by Rawson Properties agent Charmaine at R2,9 million, was originally put on the market (by another agent) at R3,6 million.

“It has to be appreciated,” said Hitch, “that today’s buyers are far shrewder and more selective than those of three to four years ago and they tend to do a considerable amount of IT research before they even begin to talk to an agent.”

The big demand in his areas, said Hitch, is still for homes priced in the R 1, 2 million to R 1, 8 million range, especially if they are in gated security estates (which account for roughly 40% of all Rawson Properties’ Upper Highway sales), but the 18 residential agents serving the Kloof area and the three agents serving Pinetown can offer units as low as R380, 000 - or as high as R16 million.

Hitch added that although sellers are now more reasonable in their pricing, the desperate/distressed sellers of a year or two ago have largely disappeared.  Those selling now, he said, can often afford to be patient and may even take their homes off the market for a year or two.  This is one reason why his team is now experiencing stock shortages.  Another reason, Hitch pointed out, is that there is very little new land available in his precincts, but this, he predicted, will also help to raise the price of existing properties.

Asked to list three homes which he would regard as excellent value right now, Hitch mentioned:

  • A brand new home situated in central Kloof, priced at R3, 475, 000 – offering four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a modern open-plan kitchen fully fitted with new Smeg appliances, full staff accommodation, 3 garages, a pool and a beautifully landscaped indigenous garden.
  • An ultra-modern eco-friendly home with its own indigenous garden at Forest Hills.  This home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and two garages and is priced at R2, 350,000.
  • A low profile Waterfall home priced at R995, 000.  The home has three spacious bedrooms, two bathrooms, two garages, a farm style kitchen, a verandah and a huge covered patio as well as a large and level garden suitable for children to play in.

As mentioned, Hitch’s residential operation is paired by a commercial franchise serving mainly the Pinetown area.

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Hennopspark touted as an exciting industrial node by Abacus DIVISIONS

Friday, July 20, 2012, 9:25:56 AM

As the demand for small to medium-sized industrial space continues to pick up, Hennopspark has now been identified as an industrial node offering the marketplace “significant value for money”.

This is according to Org Geldenhuys, managing director of property and management company, Abacus DIVISIONS  , a company who is currently involved with popular office park developments  such as the Route 21 Corporate Park in Irene, and Highveld Techno Park in Centurion.

Geldenhuys said Hennopspark is situated close to the popular Centurion business area and has “comfortable access” to the Ben Schoeman (N1) highway and auxiliary roads. “While the rental market is slowly picking up, rentals, in the Hennopspark area, start at R40,00 per square metre. This,” said Geldenhuys, “offers superb value for money for companies – especially considering the growing need for a mix of office and industrial space. “

Geldenhuys said that while the rental market is continuing to show sustained signs of recovery, there was still considerable pressure on many landlords – with an estimated 40 000 square metres of office space “still standing vacant in the Centurion business area”.

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The Cape Peninsula central southern suburbs an unrivalled appeal for buyers

Friday, July 20, 2012, 9:22:48 AM

If there is one factor which remains constant and unchanged in the Cape Peninsula property market, it is that the Rondebosch, Rosebank, Mowbray, Claremont and Kenilworth precincts continue to be highly valued and sought-after by large numbers of buyers – and are, therefore, able to ride out recessions well.  So says George Hayes, Rawson Properties franchisee for these areas.  (The Rawson Property Group, he adds, has had a high profile in these areas for many years, not just because his franchise operation here dates back 18 years and employs some of the Group’s longest serving agents but also because the Rawson Property Group Head Office is situated here and Rawson Developers has three projects now complete in the area and three more to come.)

Hayes, now in his 60s, has in one way or another been in residential property since he was 21 – and has had 21 years in the Rawson Property Group.

In all that time, he says, there has never been a period in which these central Southern Suburbs were not in demand – and even today, after three years of near-recessionary trading conditions, his agents have time and again been able to sell a newly listed home prior to placing advertising and within a matter of days or even hours.  The big challenge therefore, he says, is not a lack of buyers but a severe shortage of stock.

The reasons for the area’s high demand status, says Hayes, have been explained by local agents time and again:  these suburbs have some of South Africa’s top private and state schools (including the new Madras School in Landsdowne Road).  In addition they are ideally positioned in relation to UCT and a number of complementary secondary and tertiary institutions such as Varsity College and Boston City Campus and Business College.  They also are home to several of the Cape’s major hospitals and medical centres (Groote Schuur, Red Cross Children’s Hospital, The Kingsbury Hospital and Claremont Medical Centre) and the area has some of South Africa’s leading cricket and rugby stadia, as well as, numerous swimming pools, tennis courts and bowling greens.  Add to all this the fact that the precinct has excellent retail facilities and is only 15 minutes from both the airport and the city and its popularity, says Hayes, is wholly understandable.

“The combination of factors making the central Southern Suburbs so popular are possibly without equal anywhere in South Africa today,” he says.

Another big advantage of the area, says Hayes, is that it offers a fairly wide diversity of prices.  On its fringes in Rondebosch East and Kenwyn (not strictly speaking central Southern Suburbs but always popular) the majority of homes are still trading in the R700,000 to R1,5 million bracket (but it is not unusual for sales of R3 million to take place); in the academic belt, sectional title apartments are available at anything from R 500 000 to R 3 million and in Kenilworth, Harfield Village and Lynfrae, always popular with young and middle aged families, (particularly if the homes are reasonably close to a school), prices can be anything from R 700 000 to
R 5 million.

One result of the ongoing demand for homes in these areas, says Hayes, is that buyers tend to be quick off the mark and fairly decisive, but the lack of stock means that an ongoing knock-and-drop brochure campaign is essential.

Those buyers who surf the net first are often, says Hayes, the most successful and tend to save the agent’s time as by this means they eliminate many unsuitable properties which they then don’t have to visit.  These days, estimates Hayes, some 60% or more of all buyers check out what is available online before they even think of contacting an agent and these online facilities have the big advantage of being able to offer five colour photographs plus and, in many cases, a virtual tour of the home.  Hayes predicts that the popularity of the central Southern Suburbs will ensure that price rises, which although steady have over the past two years have been unspectacular, will increase faster over the next 12 to 18 months.  Buyers contemplating moving towards the area, he says, should be making enquiries now.

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Belville rents booming - and residential prices starting to firm up

Monday, July 16, 2012, 10:44:02 AM

Side view of a home sold in the more affordable area of Boston, Belville. This home was sold for just over R1 million, which is the average selling price in the Boston
A few years ago the Rawson Properties franchise and other estate agencies in Bellville were recording some of the highest sales per month. Today, says Morne Veer, who has owned this franchise since 2002, most agencies’ sales figures are under half of what they were during the boom time.

Nevertheless, he says, his team is still achieving four to five sales each month and is now seeing prices stabilizing. Price falls, he says, are now very definitely a thing of the past and certain properties’ values in sought-after areas such as Boston, Chrismar, La Rochelle and surrounding areas are increasing rapidly on year-on-year basis.

“A fairly high percentage of sales activity in the past,” said Veer, “was the result of owners steadily upgrading. Today, with salary increases leveling off and the National Credit Act, making it difficult to obtain larger mortgage bonds, many owners can no longer afford to move to bigger or better homes and areas – instead they use what spare cash they have on upgrading their existing homes or they simply sit tight.”

Prices in Bellville, said Veer, are still genuinely affordable, particularly if the buyer stays below the N1 freeway. Above this line 25% to 30% increases per square metre immediately kick in, but below the N1 it is still possible to get an average three bedroom on a 500m2 plot for between R850 000 and R1 million, which, added Veer, is ‘amazing’ for a home so conveniently placed to serve the Bellville and Cape Town CBD areas.

“Sixty percent of all homes sold in Bellville are still below R1 million and almost without exception they are great value in today’s market,” he said.

This area, added Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, is in many respects typical of urban residential precincts throughout South Africa in that the slowdown in sales has been complemented by a big upswing in rentals and the prices that rental properties can command. In the Rawson Properties Bellville rental portfolio there are certain homes that a year ago rented for R4, 500 to R5, 000 per month which are now easily obtaining rentals of R6, 500 per month. Similarly, homes that used to rent at R6, 500 per month last year are now going from R8, 500 to R9, 000 per month.

“Certainly in my experience,” said Veer, “I have never before seen rents rise so fast. The general short supply of stock, the new tendency to hold onto homes rather than to upgrade, the lack of land for development coupled with the increasing attractive rentals seem highly likely to send prices up by some 10% before the middle of next year.

“The tough economic conditions, which have mitigated adjacent fast price rises,” he said, “will no doubt still be with us, but the plain truth is that Bellville is so affordable and so conveniently sited that it will always suit a fairly significant proportion of people living in the Northern Suburbs.”

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A property solution to suit all involved

Friday, July 13, 2012, 9:30:43 AM

A willingness to listen carefully to all objections to the “Rondebosch Oval” residential development, to adapt its plans in accordance with these objections and to make massive concessions has, says Paul Henry, Managing Director of Rawson Developers, ensured that the plans for the development can now be submitted to the City Council for approval in the sure knowledge that all concerned and affected parties are now satisfied that the development will be beneficial in every way to the neighbourhood.

Among those with whom Rawson liaised have been the Rondebosch Central Improvement District, the local ratepayers association and the local ward councilor, Mr Matthew Kempthorne. “Rondebosch Oval”, it is now proposed, will comprise 41 free standing homes in the ground of the 30,000m² Marist Sports Club site. “These units will be sold for ± R2, 9 million each, making this a very affordable and desirable security development,” says Henry. The original proposal was for 75 (less expensive) units, but this was considered by the local residents to be over bulking the site and that scheme was accordingly dropped.

In the new development, architect Gordon Hart has designed the units to have three or four bedrooms, open plan living and dining areas, view patios, balconies and garages. The floor areas, including the patios, will cover 200 m2, which is large by today’s standards. Henry has given his assurance that the finishes and fixtures will be upmarket and will include granite and Caesar stone countertops, porcelain tiles and laminated wood flooring, as well as, subtle down lighting and aluminium framing to the windows and glazed doors.

The homes, Henry has promised, will be warm and light-filled as they will all be north facing. They will cluster around some two-thirds of the cricket field’s perimeter and their occupants will enjoy views, not only of the field, but also of Devils Peak or the Maritz Club’s bowling green and pavilion.

A factor which had been a big help from the start, said Henry, was that the club itself was, from the early stage, highly supportive of such a development. This, he said, was because over the last decade they had witnessed a decline in memberships and they badly needed an injection of capital and a greatly upgraded clubhouse. All of this, he said, was made possible by the current agreement.

Rawson Developer’s package deal now, therefore, includes such socially beneficial ‘extras’ as the building of a new, greatly upgraded, clubhouse with offices, a lounge and a communal patio, as well as, a swimming pool. Rawson Developers have also undertaken to reinstate the bowling green (which has been out of use for some time) and to landscape the entire site with indigenous vegetation similar to that which has proved so attractive at Rondebosch Oaks.

Recent meetings and negotiations have also resulted in the Department of Public Works agreeing to cede the field adjoining the Marist ground to the Rosebank Junior School – at no cost – and Rawson Developers will upgrade it using their own funds. The upgrade will include the changing rooms and a pavilion. In addition, Rawson Developers have undertaken to construct a traffic circle at the intersection of Park and Croft Roads, the benefit of which will be that it will alleviate traffic congestion.

“Those who are inclined to believe that developers are entirely motivated by profit and gain will probably revise their ideas if they examine how thoroughly Rawson Developers have adapted to the vast majority of proposals and objections,” said Henry, “and I would like to add that this co-operative spirit is, I believe, seen in almost all our operations.”

Trevor Weston-Green, Rawson Developers Marketing Manager, who was the first person to identify this site some four and a half years ago and bring the negotiating parties together, has commented that Rawson Developers are fortunate to have got this far with the development because, despite Rondebosch being so universally popular with the buying public, land for development here is very scarce indeed.

“Rawson Developers were, I believe, the only residential developers who anticipated how strong the need for sectional title units would be in the Rondebosch area and who moved early enough to secure some very good sites here. As a result, the company has been able to sell 500 units at Rondebosch Oaks, The Rondeboch and Rivers Edge in under 36 months. No other Cape Town sites have proved quite so popular and fast selling.”

Henry’s final comment on the lengthy negotiations which has got the development to its present state was that it was “exhausting and expensive” but, he added, “the good news is that this project is coming to the market at a time when not only is demand for such units very high but there are also signs that investor confidence in property is rising and the banks are becoming more amenable to issuing bonds”.

Henry said he was unable at this stage to predict when the project would get the final go-ahead (if it does), but this would probably not be before the end of 2012.

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Presser from Leapfrog: Suburb Focus - Centurion

Friday, July 13, 2012, 9:11:06 AM

What used to be the sleepy area of Pretoria known as Centurion is today a bustling hub of activity with much working in its favour – specifically in terms of planned development – which stands to benefit residential property in the area.

City of Tshwane executive mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa recently announced that the city plans to raise R750 million on the capital market during the next financial year plus an additional R10bn over the next five years to fund infrastructure.

One of the main beneficiaries of these funds will be the proposed Tshwane International Convention Centre as well as adjoining road improvements to the site and access to the electricity network.

Another project is the construction of Rainbow Junction which will be situated 6km from the city centre and will serve as a mixed use development. The city envisions this project to mirror the success of Melrose Arch in Sandton.

The Centurion residential property market stands to benefit from these developments – even though not all of them will occur in the area itself - the infrastructure upgrades will likely boost local business which will draw people, many of whom will buy in the surrounding suburbs such as Centurion.

Residential property can be divided into two markets offering something for everyone; the upper market focuses on the various estates (Cornwall Hill, Centurion Golf Estate, Zwartkops Golf Estate, Irene Proper, Tenth Lane Estate, Irene Farm Village, Southdowns, Midstream and Heritage Hill) and the open areas that cater to the lower to upper income markets.

Properties in the estates tend to be freeholds and selling for between R1 million to R3 500 000. Typically these properties tend to be re-sales and are not bought by first time buyers. This is reflected in the latest statistics from Lightstone which indicates that most recent buyers fall within the 36 -49 year age bracket.

Prices in the other areas vary quite drastically from R400 000 to R1 500 000 and buyers fall predominantly in the 18 – 35 year age gap. Glenda Wolters from Leapfrog Property Group believes that, “complexes are still mostly in demand; however there is a new trend starting picking up where we’re finding that younger people are moving out of townhouses and into free standing properties for the bigger stands”.

This area specifically stands to gain from the increased connectivity provided by new BRT stations; according to a report in Pretoria News the service will now operate Paul Kruger Street/CBD to Hatfield and Menlyn, ending in Mamelodi.”

The same report indicates that council has been advised to revise the current route to include “a service to Hatfield via Kotze/Jorissen/University Road and that the service from Menlyn to Mamelodi be rerouted via Simon Vermooten Road, Tsamaya Avenue, Waltloo Road, to Mamelodi (Mahube Valley), rather than Solomon Mahlangu Drive (Hans Strijdom Road) to Mamelodi.”

Not only do these areas stand to gain from the improved connectivity but areas slightly further afield such as Centurion will benefit due to the fact that commuting will become more viable. A desirable residential area like Centurion might well become more attractive to buyers who couldn’t consider it before due to traffic and/or transport.

The Gautrain could also come to play a much larger role in the area with Gautrain Management Agency CEO Jack van der Merwe indicating that “the next phase of the Gautrain development could include a loop through Pretoria connecting suburbs around the central business district that are home to 400000 people, two universities, 48 government departments, six hospitals and 30 schools”.

The Agency is also contemplating a route extension between Pretoria and OR Tambo whilst the link from Park Station opened recently.

Not only do businesses in Centurion stand to benefit from the improved infrastructure and increased connectivity in the area but also home owners; the upgrades could dramatically reduce congestion in the area which makes commuting a better prospect. The upgrades also stand to make the zone more popular for potential investors and property buyers – increasing the value of residential property.

The hope is that both the infrastructure improvements as well as the increased connectivity between Centurion and the rest of Pretoria and the Johannesburg CBD will make the area more attractive to students needing accommodation as well as people who work in Johannesburg but, would prefer to live in Pretoria.

Another plus in the area’s favour is of course the plethora of schools available – there are no less than ten primary schools and eight secondary schools. A variety of reputable medical institutions service the public. Liza Smit, an agent at Leapfrog Centurion finds that “ an agent it’s great living in Centurion because it’s so centrally located with easy access to several highways, shopping centres, private schools, government schools, hospitals and the Gautrain. Then there is also the farmlike area – Irene - with the dairy, big trees and historical areas. It’s got everything my clients or I could ever need.”

“More good news is that the banks have generally relaxed their lending criteria making now the time to buy a home – especially in an area that’s got so much in its favour”, believes Bruce Swain, MD of Leapfrog Property Group.

While many of the proposed upgrades are only in the planning phase at the moment it is clear that Centurion already has much to offer in terms of property selection, services and ease of commuting. This picture only stands to improve as the upgrades take place.

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Booming Goodwood sales result in a serious stock shortage

Friday, July 13, 2012, 9:10:13 AM

South Africa’s urban areas which are both affordable and close to the CBD have experienced a phenomenal increase in demand from the emerging, rapidly growing middle class, most of whom previously lived in outlying areas – and nowhere is this more evident than in Cape Town’s Goodwood suburb.

Goodwood is just 8 km from the city centre and served by two railway lines, with stations on each side of the main residential district. This suburb, says Lee Ross, Rawson Properties’ franchisee for the area, is now the number one choice of many who previously lived as far afield as Mitchells Plain, Ottery, Athlone or Grassy Park, for the simple the reason that it is so much more conveniently positioned from a commuter’s viewpoint.

Discussing this recently, Lee said that in the 16 years that he and his father have sold homes in Goodwood and the surrounding precincts, they have never known correctly priced houses to sell so quickly – often, indeed, within 48 hours of being listed.

“There is now a very serious shortage of stock,” said Lee, “but sellers are not yet in a position to raise prices significantly because for most of our buyers a purchase here represents a massive upgrade in home costs. Typically they are unable to go much above

R1 million and many, in fact, can go no higher than R600, 000.”

The average three bedroom Goodwood home, he said, is now selling for R850,000, but in certain precincts like Goodwood/Tygerdal prices can be over R1 million. On the other hand, in Ruyterwacht prices of ± R700, 000 are still regularly obtainable and the prices can be as low as R450, 000.

Ross said that in the price brackets mentioned he and his team do face an ongoing challenge of educating buyers on the restrictions imposed by the National Credit Act and the banks. Often, he said, relatively small lapses in their credit payments can disqualify the borrower for life and many are unaware that there are means by which they can reinstate themselves. Up to 40% of all potential Goodwood bond applications are currently being rejected by the banks.

Buy-to-let investors, added Ross, should now be capitalizing on the huge demand for tenants who see the area as highly desirable for exactly the same reasons as the buyers do.

Sellers, he said, should take note that Rawson Properties does have access to a multi-listing service and if a quick sale is needed it can draw on a pool of buyers from 27 estate agencies altogether.

Right now, said Ross, prices in his territory are 20% to 30% off the peaks of late 2007/early 2008. The very low current prices will not last that much longer because, despite the number of applicants being rejected by the banks, demand continues to rise and despite the high rejection rate, many applicants are now qualifying, sometimes even for 100% bonds. By the middle of 2012, he predicted, prices will be rising again at a rate of 5% to 8% per annum.

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Tyger Waterfront apartments now much sought after

Friday, July 06, 2012, 1:18:56 PM


When in 2002, just ten years ago, Mvelaprop began developing the huge Tyger Waterfront area, the pace at which this was brought on stream matched that of any mixed-use development ever seen in South Africa. In under five years over 1,000 new apartments, as well as, a considerable quantity of office and retail space had been completed and in most cases sold.

Many of these buyers, seeing how attractive the water-related scene was and how good the majority of the designs were, expected to be able to achieve high rentals from day one.

That expectation was not, at first, met as the large number of units ensured that for some time supply exceeded demand. Rents could not therefore be spectacular.  However, the appeal and the convenience of the development were bound in the end to become so widely recognized that this would become a sought after residential area and all stock would be taken up.  This, in turn, would, it was hoped, mean that it would become a landlords’ market.

This positive scenario is now starting to become a reality, says Paul Abbott, Rawson Properties’ franchisee for the Tyger Waterfront, but it will probably take another 18 months for rentals to respond with a big upward swing.

Abbott’s rental portfolio now has 175 units and because of the demand, he expects to be able to double this in the next year.  What is particularly gratifying, he says, is that at the moment, he is operating on a vacancy factor close to 0% – no sooner does a unit become available than it is snapped up by a tenant.

The increasing demand, Abbott predicts, will inevitably result in all rents rising.  Right now, he says, the biggest demand is for units renting at below R5, 000 – and this demand can never be fully satisfied.  In general one and two bedroom units are able to attract rents from R4, 400 to R7, 000, while the three bedroom apartments rent at anything from R6, 500 to R15, 000 per month.  A premium is usually paid for water frontage positions, but several set in back complexes like Cornerstone (in which he himself lives) are able to charge anything from R5, 500 to R7, 000 per month.

The improving rental situation, says Abbott, has been noticed by those investors who keep a close eye on property trends.  Realising that they can now get a net return (i.e. after paying their rates, levies and the agent’s commission) of 6%, as well as, capital appreciation (if not immediately certainly down the line) they have been steadily climbing back into this market.

On the sales side, says Abbott, prices, although improved, have in most cases not yet returned to the levels at which the majority of their apartments were originally sold.  Here, too, sales are picking up, with the result that in the first six months of this year his franchise has already more or less matched their sales of last year when they were responsible for 53% of sales in the precinct.

Many owners, says Abbott, are still offloading, often at discount prices, as they have hit hard economic times.  Conversely, many of the buyers are fairly ruthless bargain-hunters looking for especially good deals.  This scenario, too, he says, will probably change within about a year.

On the sales side, the big demand, as in the rental market is in the lower brackets – one and two bedroom apartments can still be found for prices as low as R520,000 and any unit in the R500,000 to R600,000 category tends to find a buyer quickly.  However, says Abbott, there has also been an increased buying demand for units priced from R700, 000 to R800, 000. The luxury apartments at the waterfront, which can be priced up to R3 million (in the case of a real penthouse suite) are still sticking on the market but he has no doubt that these, too, will start to attract buyers within a year or two.

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Engel & Volkers Silver lakes open at New Chamberlains Centre in Silver lakes

Friday, July 06, 2012, 11:27:12 AM

Engel & Vӧlkers has opened its doors in Silver lakes.

Engel & Vӧlkers celebrates the opening of yet another signature shop, in the new east of Pretoria. The shop is set to cater for areas such as Lynnwood Ridge, The Willows, La Montagne, Equestria, Silver Lakes and surrounding areas.

The shop officially opened its doors together with the grand opening of the new Chamberlains at the Checkers and Chamberlains centre on Solomon Mahlangu Drive (Hans Strijdom Drive) on the 30th of June.

The grand opening was a great attraction for all shop goers as the event was visited by thousands of people, and was also joined by radio personality Barney Simon from Jacaranda FM

“We received good response from visitors and a great deal of referrals from new clients, which shows how important openings such as these are for business,” says Ettiene Pretorius Licence Partner of Engel & Vӧlkers Silver lakes.

Ettiene also noted that the surrounding areas have been favourable for buyers in Pretoria, not only for first home buyers but investors as well.

Engel & Vӧlkers now boast with shops in all the major Pretoria areas. “We are very excited about the opening of this shop, we have had tremendous amounts of enquiries for properties in the area and are delighted that we can now offer an exclusive service to our clients in the New East of Pretoria”, says Craig Hutchison CEO of Engel & Vӧlkers Southern Africa. 


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Constantia property sales continue to improve month by month

Friday, July 06, 2012, 11:11:05 AM


Estate agents in the Constantia Valley in Cape Town have repeatedly said that the market for residential property there continues to improve steadily – and has been doing so for over a year now. This is not just sales hype but it is the plain truth, says Sandy Dicey, of the Rawson Properties Constantia and Wynberg franchise, which is owned and run by Eugene Pienaar.

“It is common knowledge,” said Dicey, “that our franchise has had a good 2011 and is now having an even better 2012.  What is more, we are getting feedback from other agencies indicating that they too are experiencing steady growth.  Prices are not rising yet, but they have very definitely stabilized at the lower level that they hit in 2011.  Sales, on the other hand, are now steadily improving.”

Quoting statistics drawn up by her sales colleague Gerald Romanovsky (a MBA graduate), Dicey said that in the last 16 months, 96 properties were sold in Upper Constantia alone and these had a total value of R456,816,000.  The average price for Upper Constantia sales in the R4 million to R10 million brackets, (i.e. excluding those sold at the higher price levels where sales were fairly slow), was R5, 5 million and the time that they typically took to find a buyer was just on six months.

“These figures,” said Romanovsky, “are all a big improvement on the situation 24 months ago and they indicate pretty clearly that if your aim is to buy in Constantia, now is the time to make a move.  It is highly unlikely that today’s very reasonable prices will ever be seen again.”

Dicey, Romanovsky and Pienaar focus on the Upper Constantia market, including Constantia Rural.  Although, as indicated, sales here have been satisfactory and their report shows that the really big demand has been in Lower Constantia, especially for homes selling at R2 million to R4 million, where buyers are often found within the first two months of a home being listed.  Here, said Dicey, owners traditionally stayed only four to eight years before moving on to Upper Constantia.  Now that money is tight they tend to stay for longer periods and spend whatever spare cash they do have on improving their homes.

“In Upper Constantia, as Romanovsky’s figures show, steady sales have been achieved in the R4 million to R6 million bracket.  In most cases these, however, took place at an average discount of 16% on the original asking price,” said Dicey.  “In the higher brackets, i.e. above R10 million, sales have been very slow indeed.  On at least one occasion a show house in this bracket priced at R15 million, attracted no more than one visitor on the day.  “This situation, however,” Dicey predicted, “will change by the middle of 2013 because the value on offer here is ‘superb’.”

Asked to identify four good buys in Upper Constantia right now, Dicey pointed to

  • A two homes in one opportunity on a 2,000 m2 erf in Strawberry Lane.  Here the asking price is ‘a very reasonable’ R5, 995,000.  This is already a 10% reduction on the price originally proposed by the seller.  Both homes on this property are double storey and have large reception rooms.  They also have two bedrooms each, which are en suite.  Both have been designed in a style reminiscent of a French Provençal mas.  The larger home has two garages, a swimming pool and is air conditioned.
  • A very luxurious double storey slate roof ‘mansion’ in a tranquil garden with old oak trees in Willowbrook Lane.  Again the erf size is 2,000 m2.  The house here is priced at R13,8 million and has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a swimming pool, two garages, a bore hole, an automatic irrigation system, air conditioning throughout, under floor heating and very opulent finishes.
  • ‘A real bargain’ at R3, 995,000 in Ladies Mile Extension, which, for those unfamiliar with Constantia, is very close to the main retail centre in Constantia, Constantia Village.  This L-shaped, low profile single storey ranch style home has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, dining, living and study areas.  It also has a large pool and a massive palm tree in the centre of the garden.  Capital appreciation on a home at this level, said Dicey, is absolutely inevitable and makes it a very good buy indeed.
  • A home in Brommersvlei Road.  This again is slate roofed and has seven bedrooms, two of which are en suite, three reception rooms, a north-facing enclosed all-weather entertainment area and a pool with a beautifully cared for garden.  The asking price here is R6, 250,000, which, said Dicey, is probably some 25% off what such a home would have achieved before the 2009 slump in residential prices.  Again, she said, the capital appreciation potential here is tremendous.

Summing up what is on offer in Constantia, Dicey said that in all cases the homes have maintained their rural feel and atmosphere and in all cases, the designs, although often traditional, are very attractive.

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Major projects set to give new life to the Mossel Bay property market

Friday, July 06, 2012, 11:04:30 AM


The main reason why the three franchisees of Rawson Properties newly established Mossel Bay franchise – Isidore Langenhoven, Andre Piguet and Ursula Otto – took the decision to set up this new Rawson operation was that they are convinced that the Mossel Bay property market will experience steady growth over the next five years. This view was supported recently by Finance Week, which said that Mossel Bay has much to offer and should now be considered one of the jewels in the Western Cape’s crown. It has, in fact, also been declared by the journal as ‘the best town in South Africa’ to do business in.

Discussing Mossel Bay’s future recently, the new Rawson franchisees said that the town’s inhabitants (and local government) are excited by the fact that three major projects in their area are set to attract considerable capital and many people to Mossel Bay. This, in turn, they say, will make local property once again very attractive to investors and boost the town’s reputation as a good place to do business and to live an enjoyable life.

The main three projects referred to are: (1) Petro SA’s offshore drilling operation, for which the company has now been given the go-ahead and on which work has now started; (2) the upgrading of The Point precinct, the focus of Mossel Bay’s tourism which is set to become a Provincial Heritage Site with the focus over the next five years on achieving “World Heritage Site” status. (The vision for this includes: a public square, carriageways, new parking areas, a museum and plans for most of these have already been passed by the Municipality) and; (3) the initiation of a waterfront which had been discussed for years, but in which Mossel Bay locals had largely lost faith.  Building on concepts that have proved so successful at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, the Municipality here will be transforming the harbour area into a tourist and retail mecca.

At a recent Business Chamber function, the Rawson team had the opportunity to confer with Minister Alan Winde, Western Cape MEC for Tourism, Economic Development and Finance. They were pleased to hear that Mossel Bay is slowly becoming a priority to Provincial Government and all efforts to see growth in the area now have priority status with the minister.

“His message,” said Piguet, “was that people needed to bring tourism and business together to move forward and reach for new goals.”

“Surprisingly,” said Otto, the franchise Principal, “very few people, including most in Mossel Bay, have taken the trouble, as we have, to familiarize themselves with the details of these projects and their likely impact.  However, a handful of shrewd investors are already buying up property suitable for renting here, in the knowledge that demand for such properties will increase.  From September onwards we predict that there will be a steady rise in demand for residential accommodation and a stabilization and eventual upswing in property values.”

Initially, say the Rawson team, the strongest demand is likely to be for freestanding homes and apartments, especially those in the R900,000 to R1,2 million bracket, but also more generally in the R700,000 to R2,5 million category.  More expensive homes in the area will also in time be needed, they predict.  Although, the call for these currently is very limited, but they have already achieved two sales above R1, 5 million.

Piguet has said that the Rawson team, having researched the new market thoroughly, has identified three main market segments; the largest will be catering for Petro SA’s mainly artisan staff.  Piguet estimated that this will grow at 7% per annum and will peak at 5,000 prospective customers.

“This market,” he said, “is particularly attractive to investors as it is geared to lower income bracket homes, which, although sometimes currently overpriced, are still eminently affordable.  Many of these do require some renovation, but once upgraded are capable of producing good rentals.”

The second market segment identified by the Rawson team is that for local and incoming professionals, most of whom, they said, will be from the younger generation.

“We estimate,” said Otto, “that this market will grow by 4% per annum from now onwards.  This segment will eventually be responsible for buying or renting 4,500 properties, once all three of the major projects are under way.”

The third segment will be – and indeed already is – the conventional Mossel Bay real estate market catering mostly for locals and retirees.

“Here,” said Piguet, “we predict a 5% annual growth rate from this September onwards.  Again the primary demand will be for units under R1 million.”

The new franchisees bring a wealth of property experience to Mossel Bay.  Langenhoven has had 15 years in Oudtshoorn construction, sales and rentals.  Piguet ran his family’s construction company in Johannesburg, which is still fully operational with his brother at the helm, and Otto is a qualified attorney with extensive property deals and conveyancing experience.

“The message that we would like to get out to the general public,” said Otto, “is that big things are now happening in the Mossel Bay property market and that those who contact real estate agents, such as ourselves, in this region now stand a good chance of getting onto a wagon that is beginning to move forwards in an exciting way.”

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The marketing power of Electronic and Social Media

Friday, July 06, 2012, 10:05:36 AM


Another manager in the real estate marketing sector, Schalk van der Merwe, Rawson Properties Somerset West franchisee, has testified that ‘really getting to grips’ with the electronic media is paying off handsomely in increased sales for his estate agency team.

Van der Merwe said that when he attended the National Association of Realtors Conference in California last year, what had impressed him most was how sophisticated and advanced the American estate agents had become in the use of information technology, especially for marketing and liaising with clients.

“A whole range of excellent marketing packages were available to them and almost without exception they were using them effectively,” said van der Merwe.  “I was particularly impressed by the quality of the photographs on their websites and their ability to use social media in their marketing efforts.”

On returning to South Africa, said van der Merwe, he had at Rawson Properties Somerset West initiated links with Facebook (this franchise now has over 2,000 ‘friends’ on Facebook), You Tube, Linked In and Twitter. Van der Merwe believes that his is the first Helderberg estate agency to be going this route.

“It is very gratifying that over 2,000 people actually choose to have a link with us and to read our Facebook contributions,” he said.  “It has to be emphasized that this is a decision on their part – they could just as easily turn us down.”

Two foreign buyers, one from the UK and one from Brazil, have bought at Rawson Properties Somerset West as a direct result of Facebook exposure.

Especially appreciated by buyers, said van der Merwe, are the virtual tours which enable them to check a home in advance and to eliminate perhaps 80% of those homes they might otherwise have felt obliged to visit.

Also proving highly effective are the unsolicited testimonials logged by satisfied clients.  These, said van der Merwe, have helped greatly in dealing with new clients, as they have fostered a realization of “the sort of company we are, i.e. service minded, friendly and hardworking”.

This year, said van der Merwe, Rawson Properties Somerset West has already increased its turnover by 80% as compared to the first six months of last year – and they are confident that further sales increases will continue this year.  The bulk of sales, he added, are in the R1 million to R2, 5 million category and the best performers price-wise at the moment are homes in the 150 plus Somerset West security estates.

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Property franchising increasingly popular - but don't think it is an easy life

Friday, June 29, 2012, 9:36:00 AM

The South African residential property sector was recently surprised to learn
that the Managing Director of Rawson Properties, Tony Clarke, will, in the year
ahead, be focusing his attention on the growth of the group through the sale of
franchises in all sectors - residential, rental, commercial and auctioning - while
his second in command, Sean McCauley, Executive Director of Rawson Properties,
will focus on, to an extent, reducing the segregation of duties at the top level
in the group.

Discussing this change in the group's modus operandi recently, McCauley said
  that franchising has become 'wildly popular' and appeals to a wider and wider
  cross-section of the South African public, not least those who in the current
  economic conditions now find themselves redundant often after many years of
  faithful service to big corporations and organisations; or are looking for an
  improved lifestyle, one which gives a better work/life balance, greater flexibility
  and much improved autonomy.


McCauley warned, however, that the last two years have shown very clearly that
  many applicants for Rawson (and other) franchises have a number of misconceptions
  about which they have to be rapidly disillusioned if they are to be allowed
  to purchase a franchise and if they are to make a success of it.


"Quite often," said McCauley, "franchise applicants or, indeed,
  those seeking to become estate agents, assume that real estate will enable them
  to make money easily and to live a less arduous working life - one with shorter
  hours and plenty of free time. They have to have it explained to them that in
  estate agency work at least 20% of your time is put in after the normal working
  day, e.g. in the evenings and over weekends - and they also have to be told
  that they have to be prepared to answer telephone calls and emails on a round-the-clock,
  24/7 basis. This is the nature of the industry due to the expectations of buyers
  and sellers.


"Then, too, they have to understand that, unlike running a dry cleaners
  or any retail business, in real estate there is minimal walk-in trade: the agent
  or franchisee has to get out there and find his own stock, his sellers and his
  buyers. Such irksome tasks as door-to-door canvassing, knock-and-drops, random
  telephoning and manning show houses are an essential part of the job.


"In addition, the potential new agent/franchisee has to accept that he
  will almost certainly need educating. No amount of negotiating ability or sales
  skills will compensate for a basic lack of property knowledge, an inability
  to draw up an accurate valuation, ignorance of property law and/or a lack of
  information on how property finance works. All this has to be learned and in
  today's dispensation, spending several hundred hours on preparing for the NQF4
  and NQF5 examinations is also a very necessary part of the deal."


"The new agent or trainee franchisee has for at least one year to be a
  very willing pupil."


McCauley added that today's tough economy is, ironically, leading to growth
  in property franchising, not only as indicated because more people are now jobless
  and looking for a new means of supporting themselves, but also because many
  of the smaller agencies increasingly appreciate the advantages of linking in
  with a big brand which will give them credibility in the market, a nationwide
  referral system, ongoing advertising back-up, good management, accounting, report-back
  systems and sound advice, again on a round-the-clock basis - as well as regular


"The value of this support," said McCauley, "cannot be overestimated.
  It can and does often make the difference between an almost successful operation
  and one which really is successful and takes off. I would even go so far as
  to say that in all the major groups which provide ongoing franchise support,
  it is almost always the reluctance on the part of the franchisee to stick to
  the tried and tested systems that leads to their failure. Thankfully very few
  do indeed fail."


McCauley commented that the potential for franchisees serving black areas is
  especially good at the moment because there is a growing appreciation in these
  areas of the wealth creation potential in property ownership and a desire to
  provide for their children; and because the black areas have often been served
  by agents operating illegally, i.e. without Fidelity Fund Certificates, and
  with minimal training.


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"Too greedy" bargain hunters

Friday, June 22, 2012, 2:42:50 PM

"Too greedy" bargain hunters wreck their own chances of being successful in the residential house market

Although prices rises and residential property marketing conditions are improving noticeably month-by-month, South Africa is still very definitely not yet a home sellers' market - and bargain hunters are still able to buy homes at big discounts on the prices that would normally be set for the homes in question.

"This," says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of Rawson Properties, "can be a worthwhile and highly profitable exercise. However, time-and-again we find that these bargain hunters are missing out on chances and becoming totally disillusioned because they are determined to get the ultimate good buy but in doing so wreck their chances of getting any buy at all."

Such buyers, he said, tend to spend far too long hunting for homes and to look at far too many properties without making a decision. When they do make a final choice they often put in an offer that is so ridiculously low as to be almost certain to be rejected.

"Those who behave in this way will always in the end lose the co-operation of the estate agents and will not be fed information about new buys," said Clarke. They will also cause great emotional stress to the seller because he sees himself as being exploited and trampled on and he will do his best to see that he and others in the same predicament do not get involved with these buyers.
The ultra-low price tactic in buying, added Clarke, will almost never succeed if the property is repossessed because the banks themselves will always baulk at taking too big a loss.

On the other hand, those buyers who are still determined to get a bargain and are prepared to offer of 75% to 80% of the current value and who are able to sympathise with the seller's situation and to give him a fair treatment are still picking up excellent purchases, the true value of which, Clarke said, will become evident in two or three years' time.

"Never before in all my 22 years in property," he said, "has so much good value property been available at such reasonable prices. Now is, I am convinced, a good time to buy - but the current situation will not last long. Already, there are clear indications of a rise in house prices and in many areas an increasing shortage of stock."

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Rawson Property Group rental division on track to establish a national footprint

Friday, June 15, 2012, 8:33:23 AM

Since being officially launched as a separate division of the Rawson Property Group in 2011(rather than, as in the past, simply being a part of the Group's rental operations with no separate identity) Rawson Rentals has sold 19 rental franchises - and they expect to have 30 up and running by the end of this year.

Wayne Albutt, who is the Regional Manager of Rawson Rentals, says that the timing of this launch has been "near perfect" because in the last two years demand for rental property has escalated to the point where it far outstrips supply.

"We are," he said, "now in a situation where stock shortages are causing rentals to rise countrywide and where buy-to-let residential investors are once again fast to the market."

This situation, said Albutt, has come about because South Africa has felt the effect of the international economic crisis: jobs have been lost, people have had to move, houses have been repossessed, or sold under distressed conditions, and new development has significantly slowed down.

The situation, he said, has been exacerbated by the National Credit Act, which in some income groups has resulted in the rejection up to 60% of all bond applications - again forcing people to go the rental route.

Traditionally in South Africa (and in the Rawson Property Group), said Albutt, renting has usually been a subsidiary and less important activity, although in some cases it has been handled by specialist small groups concentrating on one or two areas. To date, he said, only one rental agency has established a national footprint - and the Rawson Property Group believes that there is very definitely room for another.

"While it is true that many of these subsidiary or independent agencies have given excellent client service, it has to be accepted that the skills required for selling are very different from those needed to be an efficient rental agent," said Albutt, "A split between the two operations, therefore, usually works to the advantage of both of landlords and tenants. Furthermore, it is already clear that the training, intellectual input systems and referral networks, as well as the countrywide advertising, made possible by a national brand can boost an agency's turnover very significantly. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the vast majority of our new rental franchise applicants are former independent agencies now looking for a national branding and it is clear from the enquiries received that they appreciate fully the advantages of such a national brand."

Albutt warned that those rental agencies which in one way or another have sailed close to the wind or possibly even operated unethically should not come looking for a Rawson Rentals franchise - because, he said, being part of a national network enables both landlords and tenants to appeal to the central authority/management who will adjudicate completely fairly and in compliance with the law.

"Regrettably it is true," said Albutt, "that tough and unscrupulous rental agents, landlords and tenants have on occasion got away with behaviour which would be very definitely condemned by The Rental Tribunal. With a group like Rawson Properties involved here, there will always be a "High Court" to appeal to, for example, the senior management etc., and it will be far simpler and quicker for landlords and tenants to get a fairer deal - or to have the full processes of the law thrown at them if they are in breach of contract. The average man-in-the-street should, therefore, welcome the arrival of another major rental agency on the property scene."

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New Rawson Rentals franchise network has a regional manager

Friday, June 15, 2012, 8:30:51 AM

Rawson Rentals, the relatively new division in the Rawson Property Group, established to create a national network of rental franchises, all operating under the Rawson banner, has appointed Wayne Albutt as its Regional Manager.

Albutt, now 44 years old, has had 13 years' property experience. For six and a half years he ran his own estate agency, concentrating on upmarket developments in the Western Cape. He has also worked for Rawson Properties in Hermanus for two years and has had service stints with three other national agencies in the Western, Southern and Eastern Cape.

Albutt has emphasized that by joining a nationally branded property group, a rental agent can very definitely be helped to increase his turnover and to operate more efficiently and professionally. The IT and other management support systems provided by Rawson Rentals, he said, are sophisticated, user-friendly and among the best available on the market today.

"Many small agencies," said Albutt, "have provided excellent service in their regions. However, in most cases they have lacked the referrals, the advertising and the reputation that a big brand can provide. They also tend, regrettably, to lack the credibility of a big name: Rawson's 30 year plus track record for ethical conduct in property dealings, it has already been shown, gives consumers, i.e. both landlords and tenants, confidence and peace of mind."

To date, Rawson Rentals has already sold and set up 19 dedicated agencies and by the end of this year they plan to have 30 up and running.

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Sotheby's International Realty now in Israel

Friday, June 01, 2012, 8:50:37 AM

The expansion of the Sotheby's International Realty global network* continues with the recent signing of a master-franchise agreement for Israel.

The owners of Israel Sotheby's International Realty are Tomer and Isidora Fridman and Orna Gotslak, who already have an office in Tel Aviv and plan to open a second outlet in that city later this year, followed by additional offices in key markets across Israel over the next few years.

The expansion was prompted, says Michael R Good, CEO of Sotheby's International Realty Affiliates, by Israel's increasing status as a Middle East destination and as a top performing real estate market.

"Tel Aviv is the financial capital of Israel and a major performing arts and business center with the second-largest economy in the Middle East," notes franchisee Tomer Fridman. "And with its close proximity to Europe, it has also become a very popular destination for second-home ownership.

"The country offers numerous ultra-exclusive residential projects by legendary architects including Richard Meier, and brands such as the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, which is currently opening its first property in Israel.

"There is also huge demand for high-end projects from local investors and a strong need for a luxury real estate brokerage company such as Sotheby's International Realty to be represented here. Indeed we believe it will soon become a force to be reckoned with in Israel's real estate arena."

Jason Rohde, CEO of Sotheby's International Realty clients in SA, says the new agreement also holds advantages for the international company's local clients. "There are quite a number of SA investors keen to purchase property in Israel, and we frequently receive enquiries from Israelis who would like to own property in SA. Having a Sotheby's International Office in Tel Aviv means we will now have a direct connection to the property market in Israel and be able to facilitate these transactions much more easily.

"This is important because the intricacies of buying and selling property in Israel are not the same as in SA and one needs to be able to access local expertise."

* The Sotheby's International Realty network currently includes some 12 000 sales associates in approximately 600 offices in 45 countries and territories worldwide. Their property listings are to be found on

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Establish pre-qualification limits for finance

Friday, June 01, 2012, 8:50:10 AM

Prospective home buyers, says Lanice Steward, Managing Director of Anne Porter Knight Frank, have to realise that crucial issues need to be sorted out when they come to pre-qualifying for mortgage bonds.

"The banks," says Steward, "are becoming a little less cautious in their mortgage loan policies. However, the optimistic potential homebuyer all too often comes completely unstuck in his home hunting because he simply does not recognize the necessity of sorting out his pre-qualifying constraints at the outset."

The first point to establish, says Steward, is what rate the banks will demand. Buyers new to the market frequently do not realize just what a big difference a half a percent or one percent increase in the interest rate can make to their monthly bond payments.

"Since the global banking fraternity drew up its Basel III recommendations," she says, "banks have had to conform to 'capital adequacy' and 'potential stress' tests. These, in layman's language, mean simply that the banks have to be sufficiently well resourced to survive any further serious economic downturns. In practice, therefore, banks have to now hold 4,5% of their common equity, which is 2% more than was previously obligatory.

"As a result, they are now highly unlikely to lend close to prime and the former below prime loans are very definitely completely out of the question. Young borrowers without assets will probably find themselves having to pay prime plus 2,5% and those new to bank borrowing, we find, frequently have not calculated just how expensive this can be for them."

The second point of which new buyers have to be aware, says Steward, is that the loan-to-value allowances may also be not as favourable as they first thought. Here again, she says, misconceptions are often rife: 90% and 100% loans are far more difficult to obtain than they were previously and it is highly probable that the new borrower may have to find a 20% to 25% deposit.

"Ignorance on these matters," says Steward, "can lead to a waste of time and big disappointments. My advice to all buyers new to the market is 'Find yourself a reputable agent and/or bond originator and establish at the start what your loan to value constraints will be'."

Once these are fully understood, says Steward, house hunting can be done on a realistic basis - and if this 'realism' involves setting one's sights lower, that too should be accepted.

"Today's trend to rent rather than to buy so as to get the 'right' address or an impressive house is short-sighted," says Steward. "With property likely to be the one truly stable asset in the coming decade, this is the field to which the vast majority of today's young investors should be looking."

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Clem Sunter talk on future trading conditions

Friday, May 25, 2012, 8:27:31 AM

Talking to members of his head office staff recently, Bill Rawson outlined for them a future in which there will be tougher trading conditions, increased competitiveness and a large number of business failures - but, he said, it will be a future in which the aware, "smart", adaptable property companies will capitalise on the difficult conditions and continue to grow.

These remarks were based on a talk given recently in Cape Town by Clem Sunter, the scenario planning guru. Sunter startled the 80 guests present by saying that South Africa now has only a 50% chance of remaining in the "premier league" of internationally competitive countries. In the last year, he said, they had dropped from 44th to 52nd position in this league.

Sunter, who originally made his name with his High Road Low Road scenario talks, warned that as a result of the western world's economic chaos, trading and business operations in South Africa should expect no significant relief or let up for five years.

The present times are economically, in Sunter's view, more difficult than any in his lifetime - and as a child he had a father serving in the Second World War. In the 25 years preceding the current downturn, Sunter said, even inefficient companies were able to make good profits. A whole generation had grown up never experiencing a recession and learning to extend their credit to the limit. That, he said, has now all changed: everyone is looking for low cost, high value alternatives. High net worth spenders are few and far between and property values in many parts of the world have fallen by anything up to 50%. Many slack businesses will continue to go bankrupt.

The all time high national debt levels incurred by most western countries (in the UK they stand at 60% of GDP, in Greece at 82,5% and the USA at 100%) make a quick recovery out of the question.

Most European economies will now in Sunter's view perform as Japan has for the last 20 years i.e. with minimal growth (probably around 1%). He rates the chances of Greece defaulting on its debt at over 50% but he said that is "containable". He puts Italy's chances of following suit at 20% - and if that happens, he said, Europe's central banks will probably not have the resources to continue a bail out.

In contrast to this, the economic graph of many emerging countries is likely now to be V-shaped, i.e. they are already approaching a sharp upward trajectory - and Africa will be one continent where high growths will be obtainable. As a result, old world capital is already moving there. As an example, Sunter quoted Kraft Foods, which saw 60% growth in turnover in Tanzania and 40% in Kenya last year.

South Africa, and the world in general, said Sunter, are now heavily dependent on China for growth - but, he warned, China's economy will slow as it is highly export orientated (38% of their GDP is generated by exports) and as it is already feeling the effect of economic stagnation in Europe and in the USA. China's booming property market is now also having to cut back drastically and their banks will have credit problems as a result of large developments now standing empty.

Particularly challenging, said Sunter, will be the increasingly high cost worldwide of basic necessities: oil could in the foreseeable future rise to $500 per barrel and a $1 000 price is not that far off. South Africa will need to invest R750 billion in the next 20 years just to provide adequate water to its people; electricity supplies will continue to make a hole in the budget and food, already rising in price, will be increasingly costly.

Shrewd politicians and businessmen - and scenario planners - said Sunter, have to be on the lookout for "red flag" warning signs.

Right now, he said, the "flags" disliked and distrusted by South Africa's investment and trading partners are:

  • talk of nationalisation which is still punted as a panacea but which has never yet promoted growth or attracted investment'
  • a clumsy, expensive, new health care initiative;
  • serious dissension and leadership challenges in the ANC;
  • high monthly welfare payments (15,5 million South Africans receive welfare handouts but only five million pay income tax);
  • high unemployment, especially among the youth.

Sunter said that high youth unemployment is always a signal that rioting and violence are likely to follow. Syria, he said, was a prime example of this. Here, social networking had proved decisive in stoking resistance - and much the same is possible in SA where social networking is on the rise.

South Africa, said Sunter, has to play to its strengths - these are the exploitation (and greater local beneficiation) of its natural resources, tourism and its status as the gateway to Africa.

Above all, however, SA has to free up the economic regulations and encourage entrepreneurs: Trevor Manuel has said that 90% of SA jobs will have to come from small business. This is vital to our future as the big corporates can no longer come anywhere near meeting job demand. Sunter's own group, Anglo American, which at one stage had 450 000 employed now has under 100 000. However, labour and business regulations and a dependence/employee mindset dampen SA's entrepreneurial enterprise. (In this respect, he added, lessons can be learned from India which has a largely unregulated economy and even from China, which although communist, which gives business a free hand.)

For the ordinary businessman (rather than the politician) what does Sunter recommend as a survival strategy in the current hard times?

Sunter, said Rawson, has stuck to his hedgehog vs fox recommendations (already published as a book).

Hedgehogs have one big idea, one plan, which they pursue with total dedication. In predictable times, with growth rates assured, hedgehogs do well - but their businesses fall apart when the operating scenario changes.

Foxes, by contrast, remain aware of every nuance and change - and play to the challenging conditions. They are adaptable - they abandon old strategies and take on new ones - and their businesses thrive under new conditions, and even in recessions.

"This," said Rawson, "applies 100% to property marketing and property development. The Rawson group has, we believe, understood this and will continue to grow in the current tough conditions because our franchise model suits the independent entrepreneur on which the future of South Africa depends."

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IT skills necessary

Friday, May 18, 2012, 8:37:29 AM

Time and again, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson property group, leaders in the residential property marketing sector have reaffirmed the fact that it is the willingness to adopt 21st Century Information Technology that is now separating the winning estate agencies from the rest.

Rawson adds that the gap between these big brand IT sophisticated organisations and those who continue to believe that elementary emailing and cell phone skills are all that are required to sell property is widening month-by-month.

"The plain truth," he says, "is that developing and implementing successful IT systems is very expensive and beyond the reach of smaller organisations. For this reason more and more estate agents are gravitating towards the companies which can provide sophisticated IT systems and training that will take them forward in the use of this type of technology"

The use of good IT, adds Rawson, is particularly important these days in marketing.

"We have to recognise that today's property clients, i.e. sellers and buyers, have different behaviour patterns to those we served ten or even five years ago. Initially, at least, they are often far less reliant on the agent and increasingly likely to do their own market research thoroughly before becoming involved with an agent. They are also quite likely to postpone such meetings for a very long time until they have all their ducks in a row."

Once these meetings do take place, says Rawson, it is absolutely essential that today's estate agent, drawing again on the multiple resources available through IT, is able to show that he is not only better informed and more in touch with market data than his clients but is also far more up-to-date in his information.

"iPads, iPhones, email and other online platforms are all essential tools in gathering information and in assisting the agent and his client to consider a wide range of options and make good choices without spending days driving to visit homes, as was the case previously," says Rawson. "and this has brought about a major change in the entire property sector."

So good are the technological presentations, which often include virtual tours, says Rawson, that his franchisees now quite often find that they are able to sell a home to an overseas or upcountry buyer without his actually seeing it. They also find that all buyers are now more price conscious and more aware of what is available on the market and are therefore in a position to bargain.

Where an estate agent's service is not efficient, adds Rawson, it possible for them these days with clients, particularly those using email, to keep up an 'attack' in a far more relentless way than was ever possible in the simpler days of landline telephones and letters. The Internet and social media can be used to disseminate adverse information about poor service very widely. Therefore, he says, a heavier responsibility now rests on the estate agent.

Rawson Properties will within the next few months be establishing a Rawson technology division as part of its current IT department. This will aim at extending and upgrading all Rawsons' IT systems and online platforms for the benefit of every one of the franchisees. Further details of this, says Rawson, will be announced within the next few weeks.

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GSB training for property sector leaders proving valuable

Friday, May 11, 2012, 8:11:36 AM

Having already spent twelve months on an 18 month Graduate School of Business postgraduate PBI Diploma in Management course, Lanice Steward, Managing Director of the estate agency Anne Porter Knight Frank, has commented that those who are sceptical about the value of such courses have almost certainly 'got the wrong end of the stick'.

"To me," she said, "it has been remarkable how this course run by Elanca Shelley has helped us at APKF to make good decisions at the appropriate time. It has, for example, influenced our training programmes, our commission policies and in my own case it has helped establish the priorities to which I have to attend urgently. I am now inclined to recommend the course to any senior or potentially senior person in property management and marketing providing they can face the prospect of doing an average of 15 to 20 hours extra-mural study per week and breaking away for several eight day intensive tuition periods at the GSB every few months."

The diploma course, added Steward, has been especially valuable in helping her and the APKF management team to plan the way ahead for the company in conjunction with their UK associates, Knight Frank, who have been in Cape Town recently for an all-Africa conference.

"The senior Knight Frank management," said Steward, "are extremely optimistic about the potential for many African countries. They are presently represented in nine of these and hope to expand their footprint."

Knight Frank's Wealth Report, compiled in conjunction with Citibank, said Steward, reports that the average growth in property values in Africa as a whole was just over 8% in 2011, South Africa with 3,4% growth being in many respects one of the less successful performers.

"The strategy now being worked on will give Knight Frank's Africa operations steady growth over the next decade and will take the brand into new territories," she said.

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Breede River Winelands Rotary Club emulates larger India Rotary Club

Friday, May 11, 2012, 8:11:06 AM

The small Breede River Winelands Rotary Club has followed in the footsteps of one of the larger Rotary clubs based in India - which recently raised R28 million for an eye hospital in Agra.
While the Rotary Club of Taj Mahal Agra raised R2,8 million for its Eye Project, the far smaller Breede River Winelands Rotary Club emulated the spirit of the Rotary Foundation by raising R210 000 in a Rotary matching grant for the Breede River Hospice in Robertson, Western Cape.

Rotary International is a worldwide organisation which brings together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian service, encourage ethical standards in all vocations, and to help build goodwill and peace in the world. A secular organisation, Rotary is open to all persons regardless of race, colour, creed, gender, or political viewpoint - and currently boasts 34 000 clubs and over 1.2 million members worldwide.

The Eye Project championed by the Indian Club is indicative of the type of work that is done by Rotary around the globe. Showing the level of personal commitment often displayed by Rotarians, one of the leading businessmen of Agra, Shri Satish Wadhwa - and his son Rahul Wadhwa - also assisted the project by donating a piece of land measuring 2 200 square feet for the Eye Hospital.

The Eye Project is one of the most successful Rotary projects in India to date.

Keith Poole, charter member of the Breede River Rotary Club - which includes Rotarians from the towns of McGregor, Montagu, Bonnievale, Ashton and Robertson - said the recent R210 000 raised for the Breede River Hospice is one of the most successful projects undertaken by the 'country club' since it was established in 2005.

Three Rotary Clubs - two from Germany and the Breede River Rotary Club - joined hands to raise the R210 000, which is having a "noticeable impact on the lives of patients and staff in the area that includes Robertson, Montagu, McGregor, Ashton and Bonnievale''.

The Breede River Hospice provides palliative care to people with life-threatening illnesses in the territory of the Breede River Winelands Rotary Club, situated in a rural area spanning 2 500 square kilometres compromising a total population, from five towns, of around 100 000.

At the start of 2009, a team of 11 medical professionals, 17 community care-givers and 10 support staff were providing services to over 300 patients. "The team," said Poole, "was highly skilled and motivated, but the facilities, equipment and transportation available proved to be a major obstacle to them rendering their much-needed services.

The R210 000 raised went into providing a raft of equipment for the hospice, including laptops, shop fittings, a motorized safety gate, turbine roof ventilators, blood pressure meters, office chairs, data projector, buzzers and keypads on gates, a blood oxygen meter, Glucometers, electronic haemoglobinometers, stethoscopes and a data projector for training.

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Warning to DIY landlords

Friday, May 11, 2012, 8:09:10 AM

With buy-to-rent investment in residential property once again becoming popular, an influx of assertive, independent-minded entrepreneurs are, as in previous times, making their presence felt in the property world - and often, says Lanice Steward, MD of the Cape estate agency Anne Porter Knight Frank, they enter this new field brimming with confidence that they can go the DIY route, finding a managing tenant without the 'extra' or 'unnecessary' expense of employing a rental agent.

"I am not saying that such landlords will inevitably learn a lesson the hard way in these matters," says Steward, "because experience shows that some do succeed all along the line. Nevertheless, it is regrettably true that many, perhaps the majority, make fundamental mistakes which would never entrap a trained professional.

"Lesson No 1 to be learned by those without experience in this field," says Steward, is never to waive the rental deposit.

"For one or other reason the tenant may try and persuade the landlord that there is no need for such a deposit. However deposits are, in fact, authorized by the Rental Housing Act, which stipulates that they have to be put into an interest bearing bank account and that the interest has to accrue to the tenant. Furthermore, the interest paid must not be less than the rate given by the same bank on savings accounts.

"If such a deposit is not paid by the tenant, the landlord has no fallback cash to be drawn on if and when the tenant damages the property or defaults on his rent - as can happen even with good tenants."

However, adds Steward, the landlord must see the money as sacrosanct and must not fall into the temptation of using it for other purposes and then trying to calculate the interest that it would have earned. This, she says, can lead to the landlord later finding he is unable to pay it back.

Common mistake No 2, says Steward, is to give the tenant access to the home before the deposit and one month's rental are paid upfront.

"If a landlord-tenant relationships starts in this way," she says, "the tenant may continue to try and take advantage of the landlord in all subsequent dealings. Furthermore, on moving into the house he may start raising objections and give reasons for not paying rent."

Mistake No 3, says Steward, is to be lax about the credit checks every reputable agent uses.

"It is in this aspect that so many DIY landlords fall down," says Steward. "Lacking the agents' access to credit bureaux they rely on word of mouth recommendations and perhaps a telephone call to the employer. They then sign on a tenant who may have several credit black marks against his or her name, which of course he has been very careful not to reveal."

Mistake No 4 is to be casual about getting a reference from the tenant's previous landlords - if he has had them. Here, says Steward, it is important to get at least two references because landlords have been known to give a favourable reference simply to get rid of a tenant they dislike.

Mistake No 5 is to neglect to draw up an inspection manual when the tenant moves in and then to get the tenant to sign it. Such check lists, says Steward, should be accompanied by photos of each room and of any defects. These lists become very important when it comes to establishing the damage for which the tenant is responsible (i.e. ordinary wear and tear) in contrast to those defects which were already evident when he moved in.

Mistake No 6 is to neglect to visit the tenant regularly to check on how he is caring for the property. There should, says Steward, be at least three visits per annum, excluding the initial occupation visit and the end of lease checkup. In some cases, she says, signs will crop up which indicate that the tenant is 'on the skids', e.g. having financial or partner problems. When such signs become evident it may be necessary, she says, to visit far more often and then to take firm action to get the rental payment necessary and to ensure that the property is cared for.

"Anne Porter Knight Frank's experience shows that if and when a tenant is having difficulties he may regard his landlord as the last person whom he feels he is obliged to pay. That mindset, which is all too common, has to be dealt with very firmly."

All in all, she stresses, ("and this is an objective opinion and not based on self-interest") professional rental agents tend to fare better than DIY landlords when it comes to tenant management and it is, therefore, wise to employ them and forget the relatively small fees they charge.

"Considering the pitfalls ahead a good rental agent's services are cheap at the price.

"As in so many other fields," says Steward, "there is no substitute for experience and inexperienced landlords have been known to lose a great deal of money."

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Slug & Lettuce move into Newlands building

Friday, May 11, 2012, 8:08:23 AM

Rawson Commercial Properties' attempts to foster a dining/entertainment node in the lower Newlands precinct (where they own the Cardiff Castle and the Butlers/Golden Spur buildings) has taken another big step forward with the securing of The Slug & Lettuce to occupy a 130m² Main Road fronting outlet in the Butlers/Golden Spur building.

Tony O'Brien, manager of Rawson Commercial, said that The Slug & Lettuce was exactly the sort of strongly branded, international group that this relatively small complex needs.

"The Slug & Lettuce," he said, "is part of the Hussar Group which has over 200 outlets in the UK. These vary from full-on pubs in the traditional English style to chic, restaurants and informal bistros focusing on healthy food and good presentation. In South Africa the Slug & Lettuce are in Green Point, Long Street, Gardens and Pretoria and now Newlands. It is said that they intend shortly to be in Constantia and Stellenbosch."

The new Newlands outlet, said O'Brien, will be more bistro-ish than pub-like with pizzas and burgers being their specialities with features reminiscent of UK pubs. Its big advantages, apart from its international reputation, said O'Brien, are that they will open from 7am for breakfasts (reputed to be "special") till late in the evening. Secure parking is available less than 40m away behind the Newlands swimming pool.

It is also, of course, ideally placed to serve Newlands Cricket and Rugby crowds before and after games.

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Netwoks global growth defies slow markets

Friday, May 04, 2012, 2:07:14 PM

The Sotheby's International Realty global network now encompasses more than 600 offices and almost 12 000 sales associates in 45 countries and territories worldwide, having grown by almost 7% in the past year despite difficult real estate conditions in many markets.

The Sotheby's International Realty brand has now also acquired the license from the Sotheby's Auction House to develop the brand in Australia, the only region where it did not previously hold the rights.

"The strong growth of the group in the past year demonstrates the value that both real estate professionals and clients place on the services we offer, as well as the power of the Sotheby's International Realty name and its reputation for excellence," says Lew Geffen, chairman of Sotheby's International Realty Affiliates.

"One of the network's goals for last year was to continue to expand in key luxury markets worldwide, and that was achieved with the addition of 12 new companies worldwide and the acquisition of the licensing rights for Australia, which will give us representation in a critical international market."

Outside the US, the brand has expanded its network in the past 12 months to provide its real estate services in: Milan in Italy; Costa Brava and Costa Blanca in Spain; Estonia; Aruba and, most recently, Taiwan and Israel.

In the US, it has added 10 new or merged residential real estate brokerage firms to its network.

And in South Africa, Sotheby's International Realty also continues to expand with new franchises recently opened to serve homebuyers and sellers in the Ballito, Vaal, Blouberg and West Coast areas.

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Business owners should aim to own their premises

Friday, May 04, 2012, 2:06:53 PM

Owners of all businesses, but particularly those which are small and medium size, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson property group, regularly ask him one question: "Is it a good idea to buy one's own premises or should I continue to rent?"

The answer, says Rawson, is almost always, "buy", and this is particularly true and appropriate right now, especially if the property contemplated is a residential building which has been rezoned to have commercial rights. The only proviso, he says, is that the deal should be seen as a long term one, i.e. the buyer should plan to hold the property in his own name for at least five years.

"The very obvious major advantage of buying for oneself is that the bond rate will be fixed at a fairly low level and right now in South Africa the consensus of opinion among economists is that it is unlikely to rise before late 2013. Furthermore, when it does so, the general prediction is that it will probably not rise by more than 1% or 2%.

"By way of contrast, commercial property rentals are rising steadily - an increase of ± 8% per annum is now almost standard and this means that five years down the line the tenant will be paying 50% more rental each month. These facts surely make buying a good proposition."

A client of Rawson Properties who operates in the distribution business asked him recently whether she should buy a rezoned residential building in the back streets of Claremont. As she does not need a high profile position for her business Rawson advised her to go for it - and he is perfectly confident, he says, that the advantages of the purchase will become increasingly obvious to her over the next few years.

Rawson did, however, warn that South African banks, now operating in strict compliance with the National Credit Act, will almost never issue a bond on a commercial building for longer than ten years. This in effect means that the buyer has to be able to pay roughly double what he would be paying each month on a 20 or 25 year residential bond.

If, however, the building was previously zoned residential and has since been rezoned, it is quite possible, says Rawson, that the banks will consider bonding it on a residential basis - especially if the owner or a tenant lives in part of the building.

"This option," says Rawson, "is very definitely worth applying for where the premises, as is so often the case, were once upon a time a home."

Rawson has himself followed his own advice and now owns a major portfolio of buildings, many of which are now commercially owned but were originally residential buildings.

"Next year," says Rawson, "such properties will appreciate in real terms. However, property values tend to be cyclical and by 2015 I expect that we will again be seeing steady annual value rises. If you can possibly afford it, now is a good time to secure your own premises, no matter what sort of business you operate - after all the monthly bond repayments on a business are tax deductible."

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Christies-affiliated Ennik Estates to market “The Houghton” residences

Friday, April 13, 2012, 1:58:04 PM

Gauteng luxury property specialist Ennik Estates has been appointed to help market
“The Houghton” – a R2-billion-plus development which overlooks the 7th and 12th holes of the newly-completed Jack Nicklaus signature golf course (in the century-old upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Houghton).

The golf course the centrepiece of about 170 acres of pristine private parkland in which the estate is set.

Ennik Estates is the exclusive affiliate in Gauteng of Christie’s International Real Estate, the US$100-billion sales a year global luxury property arm of the world’s largest and oldest fine art auction house.

“The Christie’s affiliation will enable Ennik Estates to add a powerful international investor-focused dimension to our local marketing campaign for The Houghton – a development which I firmly believe is now by far the best and most secure luxury lifestyle estate offering in Johannesburg since Melrose Arch,” says Ronald Ennik, CEO of Ennik Estates.

(Prior to launching Ennik Estates, he was closely involved with the successful marketing of the first two residential phases of Melrose Arch.)

“The Houghton could become a home-from-home for global corporates and executives who frequently use Johannesburg city as a base for doing business in Sub-Saharan Africa,” says Ennik.

After a recession-induced false start in 2008, The Houghton was redesigned and re-launched in 2010 with an enhanced value proposition that has already attracted over 100 high-calibre buyers – many of whom have taken occupation in the first phase of the development, which was transferred at the end of January 2012.

“They have bought across the entire spectrum of the offering, from the R3,5-million, 150sqm two-bedroomed units (with en suite bathrooms) to the penthouses, which range from R5,9-million to R39-million,” says Ennik.

“The big attraction at The Houghton is that home prices are roughly a third lower per square metre than at Melrose Arch and other like-on-like developments in Sandton, which have nowhere near the same expanse of parkland on their doorstep,” says Ennik.

“Right now, The Houghton is the crown jewel in the Johannesburg market for this type of aspirational lifestyle investment,” he adds.

“Most of the future buying interest in The Houghton will more than likely be concentrated among successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives and directors, well-heeled empty nesters, the professions, top-end buy-to-let investors,” says Ennik.

“Houghton is an exceptional suburb. It has embraced the new democracy to the extent that it has become the most cosmopolitan top-end area in Johannesburg. It has remained to this day one of the city’s most sought after residential addresses,” he concludes.

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Keen Interest in new Burgersfort estate

Thursday, April 05, 2012, 8:41:29 AM

Security, energy efficiency and real affordability are likely to prove a winning combination for the developers of the new Villa Platino estate in booming Burgersfort.

Property demand in the little Limpopo mining town has soared over the past two years, and there is great excitement about the new development as it offers an excellent opportunity for homebuyers and investors to enter the market at an affordable price.

Elsa de Bruyn, principal of the local RealNet agency that is marketing Villa Platino, says stand and building packages in the estate will start at R490 000 for a two-bedroom house, while packages including three-bedroom, two bathroom homes with lofts will range from R650 000 to R750 000. Also available will be three-bedroom home packages with three bathrooms and a study priced at between R800 000 and R850 000.

“This compares extremely favourably with existing similar homes in Burgersfort and other estates nearby, and with a new school and a new shopping centre under development in Burgersfort, there is now no reason why the families of those working on the nearby platinum mines should not make this their permanent home, instead of having to live far away in Lydenburg or Steelpoort.”

Indeed, she says, several of the local mining companies keen to provide housing for employees have also expressed strong interest in the estate.

“In addition, investors have realised that Villa Platino will provide a golden opportunity to gain from the very high rental demand in Burgersfort that is typical of most mining towns. Two-bedroom flats here are now renting for around R5500pm, while three-bedroom townhouses can easily fetch R7500pm. The few freehold family homes that do become available are very sought-after and rentals start at around R9000pm.”

The overall architectural theme of Villa Platino will be Tuscan, and architectural guidelines have been established to ensure harmonious living and protect home values. Energy efficient elements have been built into the designs to keep home ownership costs down, and the developer also promises affordable levies.

Communal facilities in the estate will include two swimming pools, entertainment areas, parks and sports fields.

RealNet already has a long list of those interested in buying property in Villa Platino, and a deposit of R5000 is required to secure a stand while the developers await rezoning.

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Effective cause claims upheld in courts

Thursday, April 05, 2012, 8:40:10 AM

Property sellers, beware: there have recently been a number of court cases in which the judge has acknowledged the “effective cause” principle. No matter how long ago or how casually the buyer was introduced to the seller and no matter who he subsequently deals with, the agent who did this will in SA law be entitled to a commission.

In the most recent case to come before the courts (Chambers vs Burger) the claimant was rewarded with a commission verdict despite the final agreement being done with another (although connected) buyer and for a lower price.

In this case the agent had been asked to find suitable farms for the settlement of emerging farmers. An offer was taken through one of the government schemes which is involved with the buying of land for black farmers. Although this bore no fruit, later another scheme by the same government department did a deal directly with the seller.

The agent claimed, justifiably, that she had introduced the buyers to the farm and they might not have known about it otherwise. The court agreed with this argument.

Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank, said that it was good to see agents’ efforts acknowledged. In former times, she said all sorts of “issues” had resulted in agents not being compensated even though they had played a part in bringing about the sale. This is now far less likely to occur.

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Overvaluing of property

Friday, March 30, 2012, 8:02:19 AM

Another high profile Cape estate agency CEO, Anton du Plessis of Vineyard Estates, has now commented on the much discussed Erwin Rode statement about the 25% overvaluing of SA residential property.

“If we are talking about the real value that a reputable estate agent would put on a home in, say, the central Southern Suburbs of the Cape Peninsula, it is to me quite clear that Rode’s statement cannot be taken seriously.

“However, it has to be accepted that, despite ongoing coverage of this subject in the property media, there still are sellers who have not adjusted to today’s market values and who overprice so ludicrously that if and when they finally achieve a sale, it is close to 25% below the asking price.”

In today’s market, says du Plessis, sellers will usually inflate their prices by ±10% so as to leave room for bargaining and, when they finally sign, will do so at 6 to 7% below the price they had actually anticipated getting.

For example, an Upper Kenilworth seller might ask R5,5 million expecting a price of R5 million and settle for R4,8 million – a 13% drop on the asking price but a 4% drop in reality.

If he was one of the “deluded” as regards his home’s true value he would probably have asked for R6 million, only to end up with the same sale price of R4,8 million. He would then have thought that Rode’s statement of a 25% overvaluing was correct.

“In fact,” says du Plessis, “he was never in the right ballpark on his pricing – so the fact that he had to drop ±25% is irrelevant. The sale price achieved does not reflect a 25% drop in the actual value of the home.”

Just how far out sellers can be in their valuations, says du Plessis, was shown recently when a home in Upper Kenilworth was brought to the market at R10 million only to sell after 8 months of exhausting reassessments for R7 million.

“That home was never worth R10 million,” said du Plessis, “and the seller had only himself to blame for not accepting the valuation of an experienced agent at the outset. In most cases, a reputable agent should walk away from a property that he considers to be priced far above 10% of his assessment.”

Similarly, said du Plessis, a home in Newlands listed at R6 million was sold at R6 million – a 33% drop.

“Again, that seller might be tempted to believe that Rode’s blanket valuation was not far wrong – however, once more, the list price was totally unrealistic.”

When valuing a home, said du Plessis, an experienced agent will always avoid using a standard formula because every home has to be assessed on its specific merits and flaws. He will take into account what the current owner paid and how long ago he paid it.

“If the home was bought in the last three years, the chances are that the buyer will make no “profit” at all, especially considering the cost of transfer duty at ±7% of the value of the property and that this extra outlay makes absolutely no difference to the actual value of a property. However, any home bought before 2008 will almost certainly have risen in value

“In the end, when advising the client on price, the good agent has only one sure yardstick – the prices obtained recently on similar houses in roughly the same area. Even then, the right price might well be turned down by the buyer because one or two more other homes on the market are threatened with liquidation and are forced to sell well below market values.”

Du Plessis, who is now operating from an office in his home at 16 Tenant Road, Upper Kenilworth, says that 2012 is showing all the signs of being a good year. In his first six weeks this year he sold R11 million worth of homes (three in all) in Upper Wynberg, Upper Kenilworth and Bishopscourt Village, with a further offer currently awaiting bond approval in Bishopscourt proper.

“The market is again looking healthy. I do not foresee any dramatic changes taking place but rather a consolidation of values and slight increase in trading volumes,” he said.

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Friday, March 16, 2012, 8:22:49 AM

From Left – Len Pears, Quagga Property Brokers, James Gibson, CEO of Edelweiss and James Gorrie from Gorrie & Findlay Developers.

While some are downsizing others are expanding. Len Pears, Director of Quagga Property Brokers, has just concluded a sale to a leading pharmaceutical firm at Capricorn Business Park.

Construction of a new purpose deigned manufacturing plant is underway for Edelweiss Pharmaceutical, contract manufacturers of complementary medicines and cosmetics represented, by CEO James Gibson, with the expected completion in July 2012

The new premises in Capricorn Park are being developed by Gorrie & Findlay on a turnkey basis. Gorrie and Findlay represented by James Gorrie have been master builders since 1968.

“The R16.42 million 2400m2 plant will streamline Edelweiss’s operation and allow for additional production assisting the company to grow further in 2012” says Len.

For enquiries please call Len Pears of Quagga Property Brokers 082 828 2858 or email or visit

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Friday, March 16, 2012, 8:17:17 AM

Despite reasonably adverse trading conditions within the property sector during 2011, RE/MAX of Southern Africa continued growing from strength to strength and remained one of the country’s leading real estate groups.

CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, said at the group’s recent national convention held at Sun City that the success during 2011 was a result of RE/MAX agents going above and beyond to give their clients excellent service and understanding that the property industry is more about fostering relationships than selling a product.

At the end of 2011, the group reported a 33% growth on registered sales compared to the 2010 figures, which had grown by 37% on the figures from 2009. “The results are a reflection of the remarkable effort that RE/MAX Broker/Owners and agents have put in to achieve the impossible. RE/MAX of Southern Africa has continued to perform extremely well in conditions that have taken a toll on others in the industry,” says Goslett.

The national convention, which was attended by over 600 delegates from all regions in Southern Africa, was a chance for RE/MAX of Southern Africa to celebrate its results and award the top achievers of 2011.

There were a number of awardees from all regions who were commended for their outstanding sales performance based on various levels of registered commission achieved during 2011. The long list of awards included 274 agents attaining Silver Club status, 193 agents achieving 100% Club, 122 agents awarded as Gold Club members, while 91 agents were awarded Platinum Club status, A further 82 agents were awarded for being part of the Millionaire’s Club, while 34 became Chairman’s Club members and 12 reached the top tier of Diamond Club.

In addition, a number of RE/MAX agents received exciting career awards with 17 entering the Hall of Fame for their exceptional sales results and minimum of three years of service with the brand, and eight receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards for their exceptional sales results achieved over the seven or more years that they have been with RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Some top performers also laid claim to special awards presented for 2011, with the winners including Dieter Harck of RE/MAX One Hundred who was awarded as Broker/Owner of the year for a Single Office in a Metro area, while Maurice and Domonick Lodewick of RE/MAX Lifestyle Estates took the honour in a Non-Metro area. Glenn Norton of RE/MAX Masters and Kobie Potgieter of RE/MAX Independent Properties were presented with Broker/Owner of the Year in a Multi Office in the Metro and Non- Metro Areas respectively. Kobie was also awarded the Broker/Owner Individual of the Year by registered commission. Mark Brickles went home with the award for Broker/Owner Sales Team of the Year by registered commission. Broker/Manager of the Year was shared by Susan Watts of RE/MAX Living and Cameron Jansen of RE/MAX Central. The award for highest sales volume by registered commission for a Multi Office went to RE/MAX Masters, while the Sales Associate of the Year by registered commission was awarded to Tracey Snyman of RE/MAX Masters. Sales Associate of the Year by number of transactions was awarded to Sandy Lupton of RE/MAX Superior, while Zelda Caddie was awarded Sales Team of the Year by both Registered Commission and number of transactions. Nic van den Berg of RE/MAX Jowic took both the Passion Award and Recruiter of the Year Award. The Leadership Award was presented to Grant Gavin of RE/MAX Panache, while the Admin of the Year Award went to Yondi Rodgers of RE/MAX Jowic.

The Eagle Award, which is bestowed on individuals that have well and truly soared above the crowd and achieved the pinnacle of excellence, was presented to Caron Leslie and Jose de Abreu, Broker/Owners of RE/MAX Property Associates. This award has only been presented once before in the history of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

When top achievers were asked what business tool they could not live without and why, many responded that in today’s age with the vast amount of technology at hand, agents need to be available 24/7, so the one business tool that they can’t live without is their smart phones.

The Best Small Office of 2011 was presented to RE/MAX Marine in Richards Bay, the single office with the highest sales volume by registered commission was RE/MAX Platinum, which also received the highest average commission per agent in a Non-Metro area, with RE/MAX Property Merchants taking the honour in a Metro area.

What is the secret to RE/MAX agent’s success? Know your customers – they are not to be looked at as merely a target market. Listen to them and build relationships. Be honest, give nothing less than excellent service and cultivate a caring business environment.

Goslett says that while 2012 will have its challenges, there is little doubt that RE/MAX of Southern African will continue to strive to be the best real estate group offering the best service. “During 2011, RE/MAX Broker/Owners made sure that their offices and agents received the required NQF qualifications, with many achieving qualifications above what was required. Many of the agents also became Certified Distressed Property Experts so that they could provide a professional and comprehensive service to their clients. With investment opportunity in the market and the number of bond applications approved by financial institutions growing, the year ahead should prove to be another good one for the property market and RE/MAX of Southern Africa,” Goslett concludes.

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RE/MAX opens new office in Namibia

Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 2:13:03 PM

Due to the vast increase in demand and opportunity to expand, RE/MAX of Southern Africa has recently widened its horizons and opened a new office in the Namibian capital of Windhoek. The new office, which is called RE/MAX Properties Unlimited, will be headed up and co-owned by Wessel Louw and Kyra Stipp as Broker/Owners. The office will mainly service the Windhoek suburbs but will also branch out into north, south, east and central Namibia.

While the global economic slowdown did have its influence on the housing market in Namibia, demand has continued to grow for housing, particularly on development plots with the most sought-after residential locations found mainly in the suburbs that spread over the hills around Windhoek.

This is the first time in the last two years that RE/MAX will have an office in Windhoek, and, given the vast growth in demand for property, it is likely to be a huge success. “Visitors who have not been in Windhoek in the last year or two will definitely notice the differences,” says Stipp, “There is a lot more hustle and bustle. Development has been astounding, with more people flocking here almost daily. The infrastructure has been improved and more roads have been built to accommodate the increase in traffic, along with more buildings and housing to provide for the growing demand.”

Stipp notes that while most of these elements are good economic indicators, she says it has affected many of the citizens in Windhoek both positively and negatively. “With this growth, we are currently in a situation where supply does not meet the actual demand, which has led to property in Windhoek being relatively expensive. Perhaps the biggest effect of under supply is the ever increasing threshold for entry into the market. Middle-class young couples and first-time buyers are struggling to afford a townhouse – bottom-line, prices are high,” says Stipp.

An entry level home such as a two-bedroom apartment or small three-bedroom home in need of renovation and no special features, can cost between N$ 800 000 to N$ 1,5 million, depending on its location. Mid level homes in an average area with features such as a swimming pool, large garden and security system will cost anything from N$ 1,2 million and N$ 2,2 million. The most expensive homes, which will typically be outside of Windhoek on new estate developments, are priced from N$ 5 million to N$ 12 000 000 and will have all luxury features one would expect.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says: “Considering the vast increase in demand for and development of property in Namibia, it is the right time to reintroduce the RE/MAX brand to the market. We believe that the RE/MAX brand will add considerable value to the Namibian real estate market overall as well as to individual buyers and sellers.”

The new office aims to provide an excellent service to its clients and fly the RE/MAX colours with pride. “The common dream and ultimate goal of RE/MAX Properties Unlimited is to create a difference in the lives of the agents that work with us and to make the real estate experience something amazing for each and every buyer and seller. RE/MAX definitely has the tools and technology readily available for our use and together with RE/MAX of Southern Africa we believe we can change the way real estate works in Namibia,” Stipp concludes.

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Tough price cuts

Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 2:11:27 PM

Throughout the South African property development and construction sectors, says Paul Henry, Managing Director of Rawson Developers, one of the most active of the Cape residential property development companies, those involved are having to introduce exceptionally tough price cuts which may - or may not - keep them in business for the coming year.

“Almost all building materials other than cement and cement-based products,” says Henry, “have come down substantially. Three large aluminum suppliers have closed their doors in the last half year and the slow recovery has led to a price war.

“While we, as developers, obviously welcome the ongoing drops in prices, some of which in the boom era were far too high,” says Henry, “it really does concern us that the future of many merchants and suppliers, many of whom have given good service over the years, is now threatened. Several we know of are working simply to promote turnover and move stock, not to make any sort of profit. This kind of situation can only last for a relatively short time.”

Many of the professionals serving the construction sector, some of whom four or five years ago had more work than they could really cope with, are now, says Henry, without commissions and facing a future in which, despite being prepared to cut their fees drastically, they simply cannot see any significant new commissions on the horizon.

Developers of multi-unit sectional title schemes like Rawson Developers, says Henry, have learned over the last few years to be very innovative - probably more so than in any stage in the last decade.

“What we have learned about cutting costs,” says Henry, “is of course very valuable and experience has shown that redesigning units to make them even smaller can be done without their losing their appeal. We have also learned to source less expensive substitute materials, some of which are very attractive. In addition, certain tasks have been deskilled so as to make them less expensive. However it has to be recognized by the government, which theoretically believes in homeownership, that the 70% decline in home unit deliveries is not at all healthy for the country. Those of us in touch with the less affluent areas in and around the big cities know that urban and township overcrowding of residential units has now become a national problem - which only increased homeownership can solve.”

“Market lethargy caused by job losses, low salaries and a lack of bond finance has,” said Henry, “slowed home delivery and home buying down to such an extent that the unemployment rate in this sector is now very serious. Rawson Developers recently placed an advertisement for a quantity surveyor, and received more than 150 applications from qualified people.

“Never in my experience has the situation been as bad as this.”

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Deterioration of projects soon after handover

Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 2:09:57 PM

Developers of multi-unit sectional title residential developments all too often find that, having gone to great lengths to hand over their scheme along with its communal facilities and its gardens in a near-perfect condition, the project begins to deteriorate soon after the handover and snag rectification period is complete.

“Unless you have been a developer yourself, it can be difficult to imagine just how demoralising this is,” says Paul Henry, Managing Director of Rawson Developments, one of the most active of Cape developers - they have five sectional title schemes coming on stream this year.

What is it that causes this almost instant decline in the look and appeal of a new residential development?

“One of the main problems,” says Henry, “is the appointment of incompetent managing agents. It has been said that, as in other fields, only 20% of managing agents are truly competent. Quite often such applicants as unsuccessful estate agents who worked previously on selling the scheme, an unqualified relative of the conveyancing attorney or a retired small time bookkeeper will get the job - despite having minimal experience in property management, maintenance, insurance and the like.”

Such managing agents also, he says, frequently lack the all-important people handling skills required to ensure that difficult residents toe the line.

Before a managing agent is appointed, says Henry, checks should be made not only on his past track record but also to ensure that he (or she) is a registered member of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and of the National Association of Managing Agents.

“Quite frequently,” says Henry, “one hears of cases of where the managing agent visits a development only occasionally or where the monthly accounts for the trustees are simply not delivered. There have even been instances where, illegally, no AGM took place or was held long past the stipulated period.”

The financial affairs of managing agents, adds Henry, should be closely watched at all times because big thefts from trust accounts have occurred which have had serious consequences for the members.

Also likely to lead to problems on sectional title developments, says Henry, is the ‘unfortunate’ tendency to accept as trustees people who, again, lack experience in this field and who take on the job simply to do the chairman a favour or to join a friend already on the board.

“This type of lacklustre trustee often has no real interest in the development at all. If he is a buy-to-let investor he may well be completely ignorant of the conditions in the project itself and may have only one aim, i.e. to keep down the levies.”

Trustees, says Henry, should not only demand regular accounts from their managing agent but should also insist on monthly tours of the entire complex.

“The best trustees, in my experience,” says Henry, “are those who actually live in the building and whose welfare therefore is affected. It has to be admitted that being a trustee is a rather thankless job, but this is no excuse for people accepting the position and then totally neglecting their duties to other trustees and members. Instances have occurred where trustees were only interested in their own apartments or homes and simply did not understand that they have to act and make decisions on behalf of all the owners.”

Fairly frequently, says Henry, in order to see that the development does not deteriorate, at Rawson Developments, he or one of his fellow directors will buy one or more units in the project and make sure that they are trustees of the body corporate. Under such conditions, he says, schemes can be handled in such a way that they appreciate in value month-by-month and year-by-year.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012, 9:14:30 AM

As the hot summer months roll on as a constant reminder of the prevalent concern of global warming, it is arguable that water shortages may have become this century’s most burning environmental issue, says Dot Foster, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Oaktree, whose office operates in Stellenbosch.

“Water is a precious commodity and a resource that we all need to survive, so saving water is vital for the sustainability of our environment. With homeowners in South Africa consuming an estimated 30% to 50% of water on watering and maintaining their gardens, it seems that this is the most ideal area where the most water can be saved. While an attractive, established garden can add considerable value to a property, a water-wise garden that takes less water to maintain but is still beautiful makes sense from an environmental and financial view point,” says Foster.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says: "With water a dwindling resource and many consumers becoming more environmentally conscious, a greater emphasis has been placed on green properties. More and more buyers and tenants alike are placing a higher value on eco-friendly properties. Homes with water-wise gardens are attractive because they reduce cost and waste while still maintaining their aesthetic appeal.”

According to Foster, an established garden can be made water-wise with relatively little effort. However, ideally a garden should be designed to be water-wise from the start. The more water-wise the garden is from the outset, the easier and cheaper it will be to maintain and keep beautiful.

Foster gives a few tips that homeowners can use to establish their water-wise garden:

Choose the right plants

Once the decision has been made to concentrate on water-wise plants for your garden, go down to the local nursery and discuss which ones will work in your garden. As a general rule, only indigenous plants should be used as they consume very little water and require minimal maintenance. Certain bedding plants can consume a lot of water, however by adding mulching to the bed and water retention granules to the soil, the need for water can be substantially reduced.

Group plants with similar watering requirements

Grouping plants that require more water together will mean that only certain areas of the garden will need to be watered regularly. Showcase these plants and have them as a prominent feature of the garden. Once these plants are established, watering can be reduced dramatically. Plants that require less water can then be considered for the rest of the garden.

Reduce lawn areas

The fewer areas that require watering, the better and lawns guzzle water. Assess how lawn much is needed for things such as entertaining, children playing and pet exercising, and consider reducing these areas without reducing the enjoyment. Consider adding hardscaping features such as a paved or cobblestone footpath, which will reduce watering areas as well as add to the aesthetic appeal and overall feel of the garden. The lie of land may influence placement of hardscaping features, particularly if drainage is affected, and water features should be in shaded areas to reduce evaporation.

Lawn maintenance

It is important not to cut the lawn too short during growing season. As a general rule, sprinklers should only water areas that need it and sprinkler timers should be set to early mornings and late afternoons. If it rains, override the system because too much water results in shallow root growth and will encourage fungal and other attacks on the lawn.

“With soaring temperatures and lack of water that Stellenbosch endures this time of year, water-wise gardening is essential. It is not just about saving an important resource, but also sustainability and of course saving money with the higher cost of living today,” Foster concludes.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2012, 9:13:44 AM

Early in 2009, all sales associates with the RE/MAX Rangro office in Benoni signed a declaration that they would not succumb to the pressures of the recession. The results speak for themselves judging by the office awards recently held at the RE/MAX Randgro Imbizo, where the strategies and marketing plans for 2012 were also launched.

Jan Grové, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Randgro, paid tribute to the professional team of sales associates for their commitment to service excellence resulting in a 32.3% increase in sales compared to the previous year. “The exceptional achievement and results can mainly be attributed to the dedication and passion of our team and of course the exclusive, world-class training and a respected brand name,” he said

The event was officially opened by Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, who also provided an overview of 2011, who congratulated RE/MAX Randgro on its successful year. He said that despite all indications of slow and steady trading conditions for the 2011 year, RE/MAX of Southern Africa posted its best winter (June – September) sales results in the history of the company. “Added to this, the group’s sales figures for January to October were up 30% on the same period last year, while December’s sales results hit an all time high.”

The occasion also earmarked the RE/MAX Randgro’s annual awards, which are a prelude to the national awards that will take place the end of February at the RE/MAX of Sothern Africa convention at Sun City.

The RE/MAX Randgro sales award achievers that were celebrated were divided into different award categories which are based on commission earnings. The achievers include:

The Silver Club awardees, who achieved more than R5m in sales, were announced as Terri Teunissen, Karen Labuschagne, Lyne Boyers, Jacqui Newman, Marika Grové and Christine Furner

The 100% Club awardees, who achieved more than R7.5m in sales, were announced as Alet Allis, Fernando Dos Santos, Wendy Dos Santos, Marlene Currie, Lynne Heger, Rina van Wyk, Charl Burger, Warwick Bonnette and Laura de Stefani.

Gold Club awardees, who achieved more than R12m in sales, were Mary Andalaft, Lidia Zorrer and Juanita Louw, while Christine Roberts was awarded Platinum Club status for achieving more than R16m in sales. Rhoda Toker, Teri de Beer and Brenda Penny made up the Millennium Club category awardees for achieving more than R22m in sales.

Talking about the year ahead, Grové said: “As for 2012, the expectations are for an improvement in property market conditions over last year, despite the continued global financial turmoil. The economy has not yet stagnated and the demand for accommodation increases daily.”

He said that with interest rates at a 37-year low and house prices also offering buyers good value for money, there has never been a better time for consumers to boost their asset base by acquiring an additional property - especially credit-worthy investors/homeowners who have extra equity in their properties, and who therefore can apply for gearing to raise a deposit for the additional property or properties.

“Although a nominal capital growth, if any, can be expected in the short term, investors should be patient because the market will eventually turn around again - as Mark Twain once said: ‘Buy land, as they’re not making any more of it!’ Buyers and property investors must always remember that real estate should be regarded as a medium to long term investment,” Grové concluded.

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Friday, February 24, 2012, 8:57:51 AM

Property situated within the KwaZulu-Natal north coast suburbs of La Lucia and Durban North have shown consistent demand and consistent value growth, according to Grant Gavin, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Panache which operates in these areas. He bases this statement on the fact that RE/MAX Panache sales results and market share for last year were the best ever in the history of the company, which first opened its doors in 1996.

That is quite a statement, especially considering that market conditions were fairly flat during 2011, and even still, last year’s sales exceeded the previous best sales levels last seen in 2007, at the peak of the property cycle. Gavin says that this increase in demand and sales can partly be attributed to the fact that the North Durban suburbs comprise a very big selling area and right now, demand for homes in the these areas are very high. These areas are conveniently situated close to the Umhlanga business district as well as the King Shaka International airport. They are also only five minutes away from the Umhlanga beaches and 5 to 10 minutes from Durban beaches. “We are also noticing a lot of people moving down to Durban from Johannesburg which also probably has something to do with the expanding business areas in La Lucia and Gateway.”

Gavin says that last year, RE/MAX Panache achieved sales of R675 million which equates to an average of R56 million worth of sales each month. During the height of the last property cycle in 2007, RE/MAX Panache recorded R575 million worth of sales, the same as recorded for 2010, which was not considered to be a great year for property all round.

Market share statistics for the period from December 2010 to November 2011, which were based on registered sales versus the suburb registrations as indicated by Lightstone, a property data and statistics provider, also painted a pretty picture.

RE/MAX Panache dominated in Glenashley, a suburb where the average property sells for R1,8 million, with an impressive 50% market share. In Durban North, where the average selling price of a home is around R2,3 million, and Umgeni Park where the average selling price is R1,4 million, RE/MAX Panache attained a 28% market share of all sales recorded in the suburbs by the deeds office. Other areas showing good market share results were La Lucia at 24%, Glen Anil & Glen Hills at 24% and Sunningdale 22%.

“Durban North is a dominant suburb for us,” says Gavin, “and nearly one in three sales in the area were concluded by us. The fact that we have an office in central Durban North is definitely a contributing factor. The same could be said for Glenashley where we also have an office. In this area every second home sold during 2011 was sold by RE/MAX Panache.”

RE/MAX Panache currently has a team of over 55 highly qualified and professional agents, which is less than the number of agents they had operating in 2007. Despite this, the current team is exceeding 2007 sales levels. “This proves that our company has retained a higher calibre of agent since the new education requirements kicked in, and these agents are more productive as a result,” says Gavin.

Gavin also notes that for the major suburbs that RE/MAX Panache sells in, the total sales figure for this period was R1,7 billion or R141 million per month in property transfers. “Our combined market share for these suburbs was 26% which translates to more than one of every four homes is sold by RE/MAX Panache in the greater Durban North area.”

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, congratulates RE/MAX Panache on its exceptional success, saying that this office is proof that achieving outstanding results is possible despite current market conditions if agents are professional, driven and diligent when it comes to providing extraordinary customer service.

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Friday, February 24, 2012, 8:57:34 AM

Kobie Potgieter, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Independent Properties, expects this year to be much better than last.

When asked why she has such a positive outlook amid predictions of a flat market for the foreseeable future, Potgieter says that despite a slew of negative influences on the market, there are positives aspects to consider as well.

“We have the challenges with banks only approving around 50% of bond applications, inflation continues to rise which translates to lower disposable income and there is very little economic growth nationally. Added to this, sellers still expect unrealistic prices for their properties, while job losses remain a reality. “However,” she says, “there are some brilliant opportunities out there for the taking.”

Potgieter explains: “Port Elizabeth has the largest portion of industrial zoned land next to our new deep port harbour of Coega. Feasibility studies are currently being undertaken on projects to the value of R213 billion at Coega. Due to the fact that very little property development was completed between 2009 and 2011, property demand is growing daily. Since 2011 we have seen an increase in occurrences of multiple offers being signed on the same property. Agents are better qualified and more equipped to price properties more realistically for the current market conditions. The higher demand for rental properties is also encouraging for investors, and they are coming back into the market. Port Elizabeth’s manufacturing figures are looking particularly encouraging, which implies potential job creation and an increase in housing demand.”

With an outlook like this, it is not surprising that this Port Elizabeth RE/MAX franchise owner has added more accolades to her name, as Greyvensteins Attorneys announce her as the Top Performing Agent of the Year for 2011.

Since the start of her real estate career in 2002, Potgieter has been recognised for her achievements and business success through numerous awards including Business Woman of the Year 2008, Remax Life Time Achievement Award in 2010, first in the world for Remax for commission earned (excl.USA) in 2008 and nominated for South Africa’s most Influential Business Woman of the year 2008, among many other nominations and awards.

In June 2003 Kobie become the proud owner of Remax Independent Properties based in the Port Elizabeth suburbs of Walmer and Loraine. In just a few short years her small business of just five employees grew from strength to strength to become the multi-million rand operation it is today that employs more than 50 individuals.

It comes as no surprise that Potgieter is also a regular contributor to various business and property related publications. In fact, Your Money nominated Potgieter as the November 2011 Entrepreneur of the month. Added to this, Potgieter has been chosen to travel internationally for REMAX in order to share her knowledge with her colleagues from other countries, which will take place in a two day workshop in Germany later this year.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says: “In tough economic times, it is only the dedicated, professional agents and franchise owners that really go the extra mile who are able to achieve success. A strong vision and determination are not negotiable. Kobie has all of these attributes and more, as is evidenced by the awards she has won, making her a valuable member of the RE/MAX of Southern Africa family. We congratulate her on her achievements and are proud that she serves as a role model for other agents in the industry.”

Talking about property, Potgieter says that January 2012 has come and gone in a wink of an eye. “RE/MAX Independent Properties has experienced yet another phenomenal year that is in contradiction with what the local, national and international markets were telling us, with 704 sales and a turnover of R340-million for 11 months of 2011. We look forward to 2012 being even better!” she concludes.

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Fastest expanding property group in SA

Friday, February 17, 2012, 8:50:37 AM

Dedication to franchise support has paid off, says Rawson Properties MD

Reputations take time to build: there are few overnight brand creation successes.

In the SA property sector today, however, there is a mounting awareness that one real estate company, Rawson Properties, has become a major brand and is very definitely on the war (expansion) path.

Asked recently to comment on this new perception in the public’s mind, Tony Clarke, the MD of Rawson Properties, said

“It is not something we have conjured out of a brand building hat, it is based on facts.”

These, he said, are that in 2010 Rawson Properties grew its turnover by 63,6%. In 2011 they raised it by a further 26% and this year they expect to see a further 40% growth. They are now very definitely a national operation.

“It is now accurate to describe us as the fastest growing property franchise group in SA today,” said Clarke, “and we intend to hold onto that.”

The group today has 145 property franchises in nine provinces. In 2011 46 new franchise purchasers were accepted by the franchise sales team (which on average take only one in twelve applicants).

Clarke says that their policy is both to diversify in areas where they already operate and to seek out promising new territories. For this reason, he said, he and his team are open to any suggestion from any area, including territories across SA’s borders: two of the latest fully-fledged franchise sales have been to applicants from Namibia and Zimbabwe and Clarke has said that he has big hopes for both as in each case the new franchises are well qualified professionals.

In KwaZulu Natal, into which they moved only 14 months ago, they now have 12 franchises.

The expansion also, however, involves what might be described as diversification: Rawson Properties has always had some franchises in which rental management has been a strong contributor to profits. Now they are offering dedicated rental franchises in selected wider territories.

Similarly, in October last year, they established a commercial property division, giving franchisees here the opportunity to obtain mandates for commercial property for sales and renting. To date 16 such franchises have been established and the national commercial manager, Jason Lee, has said that by the end of this year he expects Rawson to have a bigger “footprint” in SA commercial property franchising than any other company.

These successes followed on from another diversification initiated in 2010. This was Rawson Auctions. They now have two auction franchises, operating in both the Western Cape and Gauteng.

In all its franchise operations, says Clarke, the group’s success stems from its support systems.

“We have,” he said recently, “made huge strides with our franchisee proprietary computerised management system, Realtytech. This is now in its third version and, put simply, it helps the franchisee to manage his franchise and his agents to perform more effectively. Coupled to this, we offer –indeed we insist on – regular ongoing training and system upgrading.”

This approach, says Clarke, although so patently and obviously the right way to go, is still relatively rare in real estate marketing.

“We realised that our franchisees had to know that we were committed to making them successful. In our view it is dangerous to run a branch – and franchise – operation in tandem because there will always be a temptation to favour the branch in whose profits the chiefs share directly, rather than the franchisee who pays on a royalty basis.”

Looking ahead, Clarke said that by 2015 Rawson Properties plan to have 300 franchises countrywide – and, he added, they are by no means averse to further expansion in Africa and possibly overseas.

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Longer repayment periods for bonds would lead to increased business

Friday, February 10, 2012, 8:14:40 AM

Jason Lee, who heads up Rawson Properties’ new Commercial Franchise Division (which in its first six months has sold 16 franchises), has raised again the thorny question of why banks limit their commercial bonds to relatively short time periods - usually 10 or 12 years at the most and sometimes for even shorter periods.

“The banks,” said Lee, “have said openly that they are now looking to expand their markets and to become more profitable. If they extended their commercial bonds to 15 to 20 years (as they are quite prepared to do in the residential property sector) they would make more money, especially as commercial bonds are issued at higher interest rates than those for residential property, they would attract more investors into this asset class and they would help struggling landlords come through the current difficult times.”

Lee said that, as a regular peruser of the Sheriff Auctions list, he can testify that commercial property repossessions have been relatively limited despite the difficult economic conditions - and, he added, there is little or no truth in the often-repeated statement that commercial property tends to need more maintenance than residential property.

“These days in almost every case commercial property has a large component of maintenance-free elements such as face brick, resin bonded floors and aluminium cladding. Furthermore, the bank issuing the bond is entitled to reserve the right to inspect the mortgaged property regularly to ensure that it is being properly maintained and almost all do this.”

Lee said that in talks with South Africa’s major banks he has, as yet, heard no valid arguments in favour of short commercial bond periods. What is more, he said, all the banks offered different reasons for the shorter periods, indicating that there is no consensus on this matter. The stances taken by them, he said, are based on traditional attitudes rather than on any logical reasons.

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Friday, February 10, 2012, 8:12:27 AM

Vacant land along the Cape West Coast will provide great opportunities for buyers to purchase their piece of paradise in 2012. This is according to Maurice Lodewick, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Lifestyle Estates, which services the Langebaan area among others along South Africa’s spectacular Cape West Coast.

Still considered to be an almost undiscovered treasure trove of rich geographical diversity from mountains and unspoilt beaches to the mass of wild flowers the region boasts in spring, the Cape West Coast has become a major holiday route out of Cape Town along Route 27.

“Stretching from Cape Town to Touws River, including the beautiful Cederberg Mountains, the West Coast is a smorgasbord of quaint historic towns and fishing villages, making it an idyllic location for buyers to build a dream holiday or retirement home,” says Lodewick.

He says that vacant land prices range from around R200 000 up to approximately R500 000, which makes it affordable for the buyer to put down a big deposit. He believes that these parcels of vacant land, along with some beachfront stands that range from around the R1,6 million mark up to about R2,5 million will be the most popular with buyers this year.

When it comes to providing buyers with value for money, Lodewick says that properties well located within security estates, particularly those close to the sea or with lifestyle offerings like a golf course, will be the best West Coast property buys in the next 12 months. “Secure estates that have good architectural guidelines always enhance the long term value of a property,” he says. Aside from this, Lodewick notes that beachfront or golf estates generally offer a good lifestyle with family facilities, which make them attractive investment nodes. “Properties within these kinds of estates will definitely hold the potential for great long term value growth.”

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that holiday home sales volumes this past festive season saw a solid increase on last year’s transactions, with RE/MAX of Southern Africa reporting a 27% increase on 2010’s holiday season sales figures. “If buyers do their homework and invest wisely, they are sure to benefit from solid long term gains.”

To ensure a good property investment, Lodewick’s advice to West Coast buyers in 2012 is to still heed the old property buying mantra of location, location, location. Added to this, he says that in the current market, a buyer should only purchase a property if they can comfortably afford the repayments and expenses. “Buyers should request the services of a reputable agent and ask to be added to the database for up-to-date “best buys”. Always work with an agency that has been working in the area for several years and knows and understands the local market dynamics well. If you looking to buy, then now is the best time taking general market conditions, the interest rate and property prices into account,” he concludes.

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Woodhill gets resident RealNet agent

Friday, February 10, 2012, 8:11:01 AM

The popular upmarket Woodhill Golf Estate in Pretoria's eastern suburbs has acquired the services of a resident estate agent.

Callie Louw, who lives in the estate and owns the RealNet franchise in Moreleta Park, has now also acquired the RealNet Woodhill franchise. “It is a good fit with the Moreleta Park agency and we expect to see a healthy synergy between the two," he says.

Woodhill is the residential estate of choice in the ‘new east’ of the city thanks to state-of-the-art security and the relaxed lifestyle afforded by open spaces and, naturally, the golf course, he says.

"Buyers are either opting to buy into the lifestyle or see units here as an excellent investment. And homes in Woodhill are also sought after by high-quality tenants such as top professionals and executives, as well as foreign embassies, which rent luxury accommodation for senior staff."

Prices start at around R3,5m for full-title homes and range up to R10m and more for large properties. A limited number of three-bedroom sectional title duplexes are available in the estate. Prices of these units start at around R1,7m.

Louw describes the property market in neighbouring Moreleta Park as stable. "It remains a popular area among buyers thanks to the established infrastructure, the wide range of residential units available and the fact that properties here hold their value."

Prices of full-title properties in the suburb start at around R1,7m while sectional titles, popular among younger buyers, start at around R700 000 for two-bedroom units. Prices of duets range between R1,1m and R1,5m.

Louw, a qualified attorney, says it was a natural career progression to enter the property industry. He joined RealNet last year when he bought the Moreleta Park franchise after a successful stint at a Centurion agency.

"It was a golden opportunity to become active on my home turf, where I can serve property consumers with in-depth knowledge of the local property scene. I was also very happy to join RealNet, a young and dynamic brand that brings innovation to the industry," he says.

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Affordable property up, down South

Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 8:56:07 AM

The demand for affordable homes continues to drive the property market recovery in Johannesburg’s southern suburbs, says Fanie Viljoen, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Superior, which operates in these neighbourhoods.

“We have experienced more and more buyers in our areas that are looking for property priced around the R1 million mark. In the environment in which we operate, the highest demand is for properties priced between R800 000 and R1,3 million. The simple reason behind this is affordability, which in some cases is taking precedence over security. It seems that the popularity of sectional title units has seen a decline, with buyers rather opting for affordable free-standing homes, which can often provide more value for money. People are looking for middle-class family homes that have space, but that don’t break the bank,” says Viljoen.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that those who can qualify for finance will be able to find many good properties that offer value for money in the current market. He notes the financial institutions have relaxed their lending criteria marginally and that now around 50% of all bond applications are being approved. However, he says that while affordability remains crucial, the interest rate, which was last this low 39 years ago, coupled with a good selection of well-priced homes on the market, make it an ideal time to invest in property. “While it is expected that house price growth will remain flat this year, we expect to see an increase in activity in homes priced between R700 000 and R1-million, which we also foresee will reflect the biggest value increase this year due to the demand for properties within this category.”

According to Viljoen, buyers across the board in the southern suburbs are generally looking for three-bedroom family homes with features such as a double lock-up garage and staff accommodation. Stands in these areas vary in size from 800m2 to 1200m2, and offer the buyer good value for money. He says that most of the recent buyers in the southern suburbs have been under 35 years old, which points to the fact that the young family buyers will continue to make their presence felt in the market.

Johannesburg’s southern suburbs have seen considerable development over the last few years due to an influx of investment. A large number of new developments have been built in a number of the areas and many older houses have been renovated, which means that the number of affordable properties available to buyers has grown steadily. The majority of the suburbs market stock is freehold homes, which make up over 65% of the homes available, while the remainder is made of sectional scheme properties.

One of the properties being marketed by RE/MAX Superior is an R880 000 home situated in The Hill. This neat and well-maintained property offers three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with various other features including a sunroom, double tandem carport, storeroom, manicured garden, remote gates and electric fence, plus a one-bedroom cottage with a bathroom, kitchenette and lounge.

For more information about this property or others in Johannesburg’s southern suburbs contact sale associate Edwin Wiggins of RE/MAX Superior on 083 234 9865 / 011 432 3911.

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Friday, January 27, 2012, 8:11:13 AM

One of Upper Constantia’s grandest and most lavishly fitted out homes has come onto the market at a price of R28,5 million. Fleur Lee, of Anne Porter Knight Frank, who has been given the right to market the property, says that it is one of only four or five houses in Constantia that set the benchmarks by which other big landmark homes in the valley are judged.

Sited just off Price Drive, the property is close to the boundary of the Groot Constantia vineyards and has direct access to these. The home has views across the Klein Constantia and Steenberg vineyards and Tokai Forest to False Bay as well as backwards to Vlakkenberg and Constantiaberg.

The home, which has no less than 1,000 m2 of floor area (roughly five times the size of a conventional big home), is double storey with large balconies and four big bedrooms, all en suite. There are six reception (living and dining) rooms as well as such ‘extra’ facilities as a gymnasium, a study cum library, a home theatre/cinema, a scullery (with a glass door), a temperature controlled wine cellar and servants’ quarters. The kitchen floor area covers close to 150 m2. All rooms are air-conditioned and many have underfloor heating. A central vacuum system ensures that all vacuuming is done with great efficiency.

A separate flat with a high measure of privacy is sited in the garden and four garages and ample parking space enable the home to be used for large-scale entertainment.

The garden has been partially landscaped to have a formal French Provencal appearance with olive trees, herbs and lavender. It is watered by an automatic irrigation system fed by its own borehole and a mountain stream tumbles through the property, giving sustenance to four water features and a koi pond.

The security measures, says Lee, are of the highest standard and include an electrified boundary fence, CCTV and a burglar alarm.

Lanice Steward, Managing Director of Anne Porter Knight Frank, says that homes of this quality are rare “anywhere in the world” and this one has the huge additional advantage of being not just opulent but also thoroughly modern and wholly appropriate to its setting, because it has a clearly identifiable Mediterranean feel to it.

“One hesitates these days to describe any home as really beautiful,” says Steward, “but that description would be justified in the case of this very superior residence.”

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Top honours for RealNet agent

Friday, January 20, 2012, 12:47:31 PM

RealNet franchisee Nelis Bezuidenhout has been named by the Institute of Estate Agents (IEASA) as its Agent of the Year 2011 in the category for agents working with assistants.

He was also recognised at the recent RealNet national awards as the Agent of the Year in the units sold category.

Nelis is the owner of the RealNet Wapadglen franchise, which specialises in selling townhouses in the eastern suburbs of Pretoria, namely Faerie Glen, Garsfontein, Olympus and Wapadrand.

An accountant by training, he has been involved in the real estate industry for the past 14 years and for the past few years has concentrated on Sectional Title units.

Congratulating Nelis on his achievement in winning the coveted IEASA award, RealNet Holdings MD Jan Davel said the property market was definitely not the easiest industry to be operating in during 2011 and further that sales figures such as those notched up by Nelis in the past year, as well as in previous years, did not just “happen” by themselves, no matter what the state of the market.

“They are the result of great perseverance and diligence, insight and an unfailingly positive attitude and we applaud Nelis for having all those and for his exceptional performance. Our group is always appreciative of this type of effort and example.”

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Thursday, January 12, 2012, 4:22:37 PM

2011, says Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, is likely to be remembered in the property sector as the year in which improper conduct and misappropriation of funds by several of the industry’s leaders did much to tarnish their reputations and that of the industry in general.

This, he said, was doubly regrettable because many of those who had been implicated had spent years establishing their reputations and building good brands. The damage to themselves and their companies, he said, had been increased by the general public’s ability to comment and communicate to the world on these matters via the electronic media. In one case a dedicated blog had been started just to air grievances about one operation.

Also damaging to the industry, said Rawson, had been the lack of efficiency, the changes and staff suspensions in the Institute of Estate Agents and Estate Agency Affairs Board. Fortunately, he said, these are being dealt with.

It would, however, help greatly, said Rawson, if the Department of Trade and Industry communicated with the industry leaders rather than implementing new legislation without much consultation.

In the circumstances, he said, those brands with clean images are attracting clients and staff formerly linked to the “damaged” groups – but, he warned, it will require continual vigilance to ensure that one or two operators within those groups do not let the side down.

“2011 has shown again that the independence and flexibility of the franchise system do attract the bold entrepreneurial types that real estate marketing needs. However, it is also clear that a franchisee who is not properly trained and mentored and who is possibly able to operate on systems of his own and without much feedback to his head office can be dangerous. The strength of good franchising lies in its ability to provide the franchisee and his agents with systems that simplify and speed up their work while at the same time revealing quickly to the head office any area where there is weakness or misconduct.”

Any agency operating a trust in its own name, added Rawson, should be questioned.

“The golden rule is that trusts in which clients’ money is held should be independent and preferably associated with attorneys. Even these have on occasions proved vulnerable but it is always safer if the trustees are not directly linked to the agency.”

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Thursday, January 12, 2012, 4:16:04 PM

RE/MAX of Southern Africa is pleased to announce that Kevin Jacobs will be joining the team in January as National Franchise Development Manager.

“With more than 19 years of experience in the financial sector of the property industry, of which 15 years were in management positions heading up successful sales teams, Kevin brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and understanding of real estate into the RE/MAX fold,” says Peter Gilmour, Chairman of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

Gilmour says that the growth that the RE/MAX brand has experienced over the past year, both in terms of sales figures and market share, is largely attributed to the high calibre of people that work within the group. “Kevin is passionate about property and people, and through the experience he has gleaned in the industry to date, he has a good understanding of where the industry has come from and where it is going to and will no doubt be an asset to the RE/MAX brand.”

Jacobs, who has spent most of his career developing and fostering relationships within South Africa’s real estate network, says that he is honoured to join the RE/MAX team. “This is a fantastic opportunity to be a part of the inner workings of South Africa’s leading real estate brand. It is a brand that is well-known and trusted by consumers around the world, and it is a brand that has a strong business focus – from the Broker/Owners to the estate agents, everyone within the group is an entrepreneur and I look forward to adding value to the operation.”

As National Franchise Development Manager, Jacobs will have a big focus on developing and nurturing stronger relationships with new and existing partners in the real estate industry as well as adding value to all of the RE/MAX franchises. “I am looking forward to growing the RE/MAX business even more, as well as developing new business and strengthening the brand. While the property market is expected to remain tough during 2012, I believe it will be a good year of growth for RE/MAX.”

Gilmour notes that brand focus, lead generation and offering a quality service will be the drivers of success in 2012. “RE/MAX of Southern Africa welcomes Kevin to the team and looks forward to a long and fruitful relationship with him. We have geared up to take advantage of the opportunities that the market will present during 2012, and with a strong foundation of key personnel, we are sure to achieve even greater success in 2012,” Gilmour concludes.

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Bigger deposits bring big benefits

Thursday, December 15, 2011, 8:15:26 AM

Many people are irked by the fact that 100% home loans are no longer freely available, but on the other hand it must be said that the bigger the cash deposit that potential homebuyers can make, the more benefit they will derive, even when interest rates are low.

That’s the word from Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, who notes that the latest statistics indicate that the average deposit now required by the banks has fallen from an average of around 18% a year ago to about 12%.

“This does of course make it easier for new buyers to get into the market, in the sense that they no longer need to have as much cash saved up and can buy now while prices are still low. However, the long-term implications may actually not be as positive, because no matter what the purchase price, a smaller deposit means a bigger loan, which means, firstly, that the borrower must earn more in order to qualify, and secondly, that the minimum monthly repayments will be higher.

“This, in turn, will restrict the borrower’s ability to pay the loan off faster and save a large amount of interest – a situation that may be exacerbated by the fact that the banks often charge higher rates of interest on low-deposit loans.”

Taking the example of a home costing R800 000, he says a 12% deposit would equate to a loan of R704 000 and a minimum monthly repayment of just over R6300, at the current prime interest rate of 9%.

“The buyer who pays an 18% deposit, however, will require a loan of just R656 000, and face a minimum monthly repayment of under R6000. He may well then be in a position to pay an additional R300 a month off his loan capital, which would enable him to pay off his home two years earlier and generate interest savings of about R108 000 – or more than twice the additional amount of deposit cash paid (R48 000).

“In short, it always pays to put down the biggest deposit you can muster, even when interest rates are low and there is an urgency to get into the market.”

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Bigger deposits bring big benefits

Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 2:28:13 PM

Many people are irked by the fact that 100% home loans are no longer freely available, but on the other hand it must be said that the bigger the cash deposit that potential homebuyers can make, the more benefit they will derive, even when interest rates are low.

That’s the word from Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, who notes that the latest statistics indicate that the average deposit now required by the banks has fallen from an average of around 18% a year ago to about 12%.

“This does of course make it easier for new buyers to get into the market, in the sense that they no longer need to have as much cash saved up and can buy now while prices are still low. However, the long-term implications may actually not be as positive, because no matter what the purchase price, a smaller deposit means a bigger loan, which means, firstly, that the borrower must earn more in order to qualify, and secondly, that the minimum monthly repayments will be higher.

“This, in turn, will restrict the borrower’s ability to pay the loan off faster and save a large amount of interest – a situation that may be exacerbated by the fact that the banks often charge higher rates of interest on low-deposit loans.”

Taking the example of a home costing R800 000, he says a 12% deposit would equate to a loan of R704 000 and a minimum monthly repayment of just over R6300, at the current prime interest rate of 9%.

“The buyer who pays an 18% deposit, however, will require a loan of just R656 000, and face a minimum monthly repayment of under R6000. He may well then be in a position to pay an additional R300 a month off his loan capital, which would enable him to pay off his home two years earlier and generate interest savings of about R108 000 – or more than twice the additional amount of deposit cash paid (R48 000).

“In short, it always pays to put down the biggest deposit you can muster, even when interest rates are low and there is an urgency to get into the market.”

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Don’t get into a double bind over commission

Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 8:23:15 AM

To earn commission, an estate agent must do more than introduce a willing and able buyer to the property seller or finalise a binding agreement of sale.

He or she, notes Jan Davel, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, must be the “effective cause” of the sale. “In other words, the buyer must be attracted to the property, or alerted to the fact that it is for sale, by that estate agent’s own marketing efforts – including, for example, the placement of advertisements or the holding of showdays.

“However this principle, which has been upheld by the courts many times over the years, can easily lead to home sellers having to pay ‘double commission’ if they do not take great care when they change their mandate from one agency to another or allow their homes to be marketed by several agents at a time.”

It also quite often happens, he says, that a seller whose property is being marketed by one agent or agency will be contacted by another agent offering to “deliver” – for a lower commission - a buyer who has become interested in the property as a result of the efforts of the first agent.

“But if a sale materialises in such a situation, the first agent will be in a strong position to claim that he or she was actually the ‘effective cause’ of sale and to claim the commission on the sale - even if the second agent has negotiated the actual sales agreement, and even if the seller has already paid commission to the second agent.”

And the ‘effective cause’ concept goes even further, says Davel. “If a person who views a property through an estate agent then tells someone else about the property and that person buys the property through a second agent, the first agent may still be regarded as the ‘effective cause’ of the sale, and the seller will most likely still be liable to pay him or her a commission on the transaction.”

The proper course of action in such instances, he says, is for the second agent to first reach an agreement with the first agent about how they will divide the commission – and to then indemnify the property seller, in writing, against any further commission claims or claims for damages by the first agent.

Indeed, any agent who does not follow this procedure and thus exposes his or her client to the risk of a ‘double commission’ claim will be contravening the statutory Code of Conduct for Estate Agents and subject to disciplinary action by the Estate Agency Affairs Board.

“In most cases, though, property sellers would be much better off if they just award a sole mandate and refuse to allow anyone else to interfere with this, or failing that, make sure that they have a written indemnity and a copy of the commission split agreement before they sign any offer to purchase where there are multiple agents involved.

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More buyers thinking about what children need

Tuesday, December 13, 2011, 11:03:55 AM

Adults aren’t the only ones whose lifestyles have changed dramatically in the past 10 to 20 years – children also live very differently now and their changing needs can have a big influence on home purchasing decisions and trends.

The most obvious result, says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, is of course the growing preference among those who can afford them for homes in gated estates where children can safely play outdoors.

“Another is the rising demand for apartments and townhouses in complexes that have their own playgrounds, pools and perhaps even a crèche. And even in the suburban context, parents are increasingly looking for homes that are not only close to good schools but will also accommodate the need for their children to spend more of their leisure or play time at home.”

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, he says some features that are likely to appeal to these parents include a safe back garden, spacious, sunny bedrooms, and an extra play space or “media room” where children can have their computers and play their own music without disturbing the rest of the household.

“And in cases where both parents of young children work away from home, additional accommodation for an au pair or a nanny is also a plus.”

Meanwhile, says Everitt, many families are having to deal with the fact that grown children now tend to stay at home longer than before. “It is often simply unaffordable for them to live elsewhere while they study, or in rental accommodation while they save up for homes of their own.

“Consequently, homebuyers with teenagers now often choose homes with an eye to accommodating these young people at a later stage in a self-contained suite or garden cottage.”

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Price resistance slows Grahamstown sales

Tuesday, December 13, 2011, 11:02:57 AM

With about 3000 students a year living off-campus, the demand for suitable rental accommodation close to Rhodes University in Grahamstown is alive and well – but the demand for houses on sale not so hearty.

So says Steve Birt, managing principal of the Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty franchise in the Eastern Cape town that is also home to several of the country’s top schools, who notes: “Despite a rash of new developments aimed at students since 2008, the student buy-to-let market here is still delivering good returns.

“There are a few new units still unsold at the moment, but this is only because the local investor market is saturated, and we are sure they will be swiftly taken up when they receive some outside exposure before the start of the next academic year.”

Family homes for sale, however, are likely to stay on the market much longer, unless the owners urgently adjust their asking prices, he says.

“For many years, people just accepted that Grahamstown house prices were high relative to other areas because of a shortage of non-student related development. Parents who decided to move here because of the excellent schooling available were prepared to pay a bit of a premium, and many academics were happy to rent rather than buy because they expected to have to transfer somewhere else after a year or two anyway.”

Now, though, things are different. “Since the recession of 2009, potential buyers have become increasingly price conscious and extremely resistant to any hint of overpricing. Added to this is the fact that the banks will simply not grant loans to buy properties where they don’t see a certain margin for future value growth,” Birt says

“Consequently, even homes that are well-priced in terms of the Grahamstown market are currently taking five to six months to sell – and even then may only achieve around 85% of their original asking price.”

The best-selling homes in Grahamstown currently, he says, are those priced between R700 000 and R950 000. The student flats that are available range from around R380 000 to R850 000, and monthly rentals currently start at around R2000. House rentals start at around R6000pm for a three-bedroom house.

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Real estate sector keen to comply with CPA transparency concepts

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:31:13 PM

The “consumer” in the real estate sector (i.e. the buyer and seller) now has rights to open and full disclosure and these rights have been more clearly recognised by and enhanced in the new Consumer Protection Act, says Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties.

“The industry,” says Rawson, “has no problem with the more stringent transparency concepts now enforceable and by and large its leaders have expressed a wish to comply with them but there is still much ignorance among both estate agents and consumers as to how the principles of the CPA will actually work in day to day property transactions.

“Just how far, to take one example, will they impinge on the voetstoots clause?”

At this stage, says Rawson, consumers recognise that they have full disclosure rights but they too are vague as to how these can be enforced.

“No doubt the whole scene will change in the next two years,” said Rawson, “but as so often happens with groundbreaking legislation, it will take some time for a body of case law to be built up which will define more clearly the way in which property transactions have to be handled.  We are pleased, however, that we in the real estate industry will be enabled through this legislation to improve our service and regain the confidence of the consumer.”

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Real estate sector keen to comply with CPA transparency concepts

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:31:13 PM

The “consumer” in the real estate sector (i.e. the buyer and seller) now has rights to open and full disclosure and these rights have been more clearly recognised by and enhanced in the new Consumer Protection Act, says Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties.

“The industry,” says Rawson, “has no problem with the more stringent transparency concepts now enforceable and by and large its leaders have expressed a wish to comply with them but there is still much ignorance among both estate agents and consumers as to how the principles of the CPA will actually work in day to day property transactions.

“Just how far, to take one example, will they impinge on the voetstoots clause?”

At this stage, says Rawson, consumers recognise that they have full disclosure rights but they too are vague as to how these can be enforced.

“No doubt the whole scene will change in the next two years,” said Rawson, “but as so often happens with groundbreaking legislation, it will take some time for a body of case law to be built up which will define more clearly the way in which property transactions have to be handled.  We are pleased, however, that we in the real estate industry will be enabled through this legislation to improve our service and regain the confidence of the consumer.”

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Property developments dropped off by some 70%

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:30:02 PM

Any review of the year now ending in the residential property sector would have to highlight the fact that in 2011 new developments dropped off by some 70% compared to the levels of 2006/2007. 

This was said by Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, in a staff briefing in which he covered many factors affecting the residential property sector in 2011.

“Many developers took a hiding in 2011,” said Rawson, “and some big names that were prominent throughout the greater Cape Town are now either temporarily or permanently out of action.”

This, he said, was due not so much to a lack of demand which, at least in the lower middle and lower brackets, is still strong, but to bank finance difficulties.

“There are,” he said, “two sides to this:  many developers can now no longer get finance unless they have the resources to mount massive sales campaigns and to achieve 70 to 80% sales prior to their bond application being approved – any many potential buyers (some of whom previously could get finance for two or three buy-to-let opportunities) are now finding that they no longer qualify for loans under the National Credit Act criteria as implemented by the banks.”

A further obstacle in the developers’ path, said Rawson, is the fact that in 2012 and thereafter new developments will have to conform to a list of “green” building regulations which, although highly commendable, will add a further 15% to the basic costs.  These, he said, will affect the glazed areas (which now will have to be shaded or be more effective), roofs and slabs (which will have to better insulated) and energy supplies, which will increasingly become solar and wind powered.

“It has to be recognised,” added Rawson, “that the already serious shortage of housing is being made worse by the slowdown in delivery.  In this context, the banks’ “new, more reasonable approach” to lending needs to be re-evaluated by the State, who, some people think, is not placing housing as high on their agenda as it should be.”

The only people benefitting from the current situation, added Rawson, are the landlords who are now finding that improved demand for dwindling stock enables them to raise rents.

Asked how it is that in this difficult situation Rawson Developers were able to report recently that they have projects in the pipeline for three years, Rawson said that they had had the foresight to acquire land well ahead of their work load in areas ripe for new projects – and, even more importantly, he said, they have been able as a result of having their own construction teams to pare down building prices and work only on a building (not a building and development) profit.

“In today’s market,” he said, “the independent developer employing an independent contractor simply cannot come out in the black unless he is able to offer something very special such as a perfectly positioned site.”

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Downscaling and sharing now the trend in SA property

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:29:06 PM

2009 – 2011 will go down in property history as a time in which certain trends gained momentum at a pace not seen before, said Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, in a review of the past year – and the most noticeable of these trends, he said, has been downscaling.

“At all levels in the property sector,” he said, “we saw a call for less expensive, smaller units with a concomitant falloff in the value of the more expensive homes.”

This, said Rawson, has resulted in some lower and sectional title units being developed with less than 40m² of floor area and in new lower middle bracket homes now coming onto the market with as little as 60m² of floor space.  Units this size, he said, can sell for anything from R450 000 to R1,2 million and the demand for this accommodation can only increase.

Upper middle and upper bracket homes, said Rawson have been through a period in which price drops in excess of 30% were the norm – and in this market it is still possible that the price drops will be seen but no longer at the levels experienced in 2010/2011. 

This situation, he said, hits the retiree hard:  he too wants to downscale but he cannot sell his existing home at a price acceptable to him and is often forced to stay on in the larger home.

By contrast, in the lower priced categories, said Rawson, signs of price stabilisation are now evident, with price growth beginning to match the inflation rate. 

The dire economic conditions, added Rawson, have greatly increased the tendency to share homes. 

“What we are seeing in SA was, I found, also happening in the USA:  offspring will stay on in their parents’ home for five or six years.  Young couples will also spend the first years of their married lives with parents – and renting out rooms to all comers is now a common practice.”

A spinoff of the current situation, said Rawson, is that rentals are rising and rent increases, he estimates, are now around 8% per annum and investors in areas like Table View are finding that they can often get 7 to 10% return from day one.  There have, he said, even been cases where a 12 to 13% return is achieved from the outset. 

Farsighted buy-to-let investors are, therefore, once again building their portfolios and are often faring better than those who stuck to stocks or the money market.

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Banks treatment of clients an abuse of power

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:20:27 PM

When the history of the SA residential real estate industry comes to be written, the period through which it has just passed could, says Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, become known as the era in which the banks treated the general public and bond originators poorly.

“Huge damage to the residential property sector has been caused by the banks’ ultra-strict application of the National Credit Act,” said Rawson, “but in view of their previous big losses in the housing sector that has become partially accepted - subject to the proviso that the Act could be more leniently and flexibly interpreted.

“However, no one accepts or condones the banks’ treatment of bond originators.”

Certain banks, said Rawson, had “declared war” on bond originators and refused point blank to accept a bond application from them.  The banks also punished clients by applying a far stricter credit scoring model against those who applied for home loans via independent mortgage originators than those who came directly to them.  This resulted in many not being able to secure home loan finance. 

“Double standards like this,” he said, “are difficult for the industry and the consumer to understand.  It could be said that this strategy was fuelling the recession and helping to create unemployment.”

The banks’ conduct was, he said, an abuse of power and their almost monopolistic control of bond finance.

One of the banks’ arguments given for this practice, said Rawson, was that it would enable them to reduce their risk but, he said, there is absolutely no evidence that the credit and qualification testing done by bond originators has been any less effective than that done by the banks – indeed, with their years of experience, many bond originators could be better qualified to assess an applicant than newly appointed staff working to a rigid scorecard system.

The banks then made life even more difficult for those bond originators with whom they did do deals by cutting their commissions by 50% – which in many cases forced them to go out of business – their earnings were simply too low to continue this valuable service to the industry.

There is, however, hope for the future.

“Recent good news,” said Rawson, “is that the bond issuers seem to have eased up on their credit scoring and are now granting loans more generously than for some time.  This is extremely positive as it could bring a lot of life into the property market in 2012.

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UK and European property a safe haven

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:19:14 PM

If right now you are looking for encouraging news about the state of the property market worldwide, three bits of information picked up by Lanice Steward, managing director of the Cape estate agency, Anne Porter Knight Frank, could be appropriate.

The first is that, according to Anne Porter Properties’ UK associates, Knight Frank, there has been a marked shift among investors into property.  This, said Steward, appears to be the retreat to safe haven bricks and mortar which takes place every time a big financial crisis hits the world’s stock markets and at the moment, she says, European asset holders are exceptionally worried about the future of the Euro and of the Eurozone.

“So, once again, property is proving its value and attraction in difficult times.”

The second surprising fact, said Steward, is that the US housing market is now turning over homes at 80% of its previous levels.

“If you read the less well informed reports,” said Steward, “you might get the impression that sales are down by at least 50% but that is not the case.  Furthermore, although average values dropped by ±45%, they are now back to within 32% of previous values – again, therefore, property is showing a resilience that other asset classes cannot match.”

The third encouraging fact, said Steward, is that in top-flight cities like London, Paris, Munich, New York and Toronto, the prime central business district residential properties have completely shrugged off the impact of the recession. 

“Knight Frank report that in central London prime property prices,” said Steward, “have risen 12,5% in one year and 38,2% since March 2009.  Market prices are now 5,2% above those of March 2010 and have in fact never been as high as this before.”

Liam Bailey, head of Knight Frank’s residential research team, predicts further price growth in 2012 in central London but at a slower pace.

Footnote:  the Knight Frank prime central London index, established in 1976, is the longest running and most comprehensive ongoing monitor of housing prices in Belgravia, Chelsea, Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, Kensington, Marylebone, Mayfair, Notting Hill, parts of the Thames South Bank and related outlying areas such as Canary Wharf, Hampstead and Wimbledon. 

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Institute speakers stress the need for knowledge

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:17:08 PM

The Western Cape Institute of Estate Agents ladies’ breakfast held recently at the Atlantic Imbizo in the V & A Waterfront was addressed by five leaders in the real estate sector – and, says Dianne Brock, general manager of this branch of the Institute, although this was a lighthearted end of year function, much the same message came though from every talk.

That message, she said, was that today’s property professional has to “come to the table” armed with market and economy data, legal knowledge and other relevant facts.

“We are no longer in an era where negotiations can be conducted largely by emotion,” she said. “Today’s professionals need well-researched data to support their statements.”

The speakers at the breakfast were:

  • Lanice Steward, managing director of Anne Porter Knight Frank and vice-chairman of the Institute, who asked the question, “Are we insane?” in relation to the knowledge agents “give away”.

“We need,” said Steward, “to value the time and the knowledge we have acquired and be more careful about how we make both available to clients for no reward. There is a regrettable tendency among the public to get all the information they can from us and to give nothing back in return.”

Steward joked that estate agents should now adopt the current practice of toy-toying when they feel hard done by and dance outside the doors of SA’s banks in protest against their reluctance to issue mortgage bonds.

“Regular vigorous toy-toying,” she said, “might even enable us to cancel our gym memberships.”

  • Vivien Marks, CEO of the rental training and assessment group, and a board member of the Housing Rental Tribunal.

“Marks,” said Brock, “emphasised the need to continue training, raising the standards of all agents still further. What has been achieved in the last few years is admirable but training has to be ongoing. The new high levels of knowledge and skill have to be raised still further.”

In today’s property market, said Marks, a knowledge of tenants’ rights is especially important. These have been given a new dimension by the Consumer Protection Act.

She then discussed cases taken to the Tribunal in which tenants’ rights had been upheld against ruthless non-compliant landlords.

  • Melanie Coetzee of the legal firm, Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes. Coetzee spoke of the alternative ways of generating business in today’s difficult market.

“Again,” said Brock, “the message was that knowledge opens doors and enables the agent to add value to his service. The agent with an extensive knowledge base on which to draw is more likely to be able to build long term relationships based on trust.”

  • Janine Barry of Remax. She, too, said Brock, stressed that a database of statistics and an in-depth understanding of both property and national economics are essential in dealing with today’s market.
  • Pam Snyman of Pam Golding Properties. She affirmed that in today’s market it is essential to offer more than what was previously acceptable. The ability to do this, she said, depends largely on the knowledge that the agent has assimilated.

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Partnership withe the ELC

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:16:12 PM

“There is a clear intent in businesses (including some labelled as “unsustainable”) to take the necessary steps to ensure environmental sustainability - and many companies are already doing incredible work at promoting sustainable business practices.”

This was said by Gunstons Attorneys director, Garth Watson, on his return from the COP17 conference in Durban.

“It was,” he said, “refreshing, after listening to hours of debate on the complexities of climate change law and policy to hear many encouraging reports from companies which are just “getting on with it”, finding creative solutions to their environmental problems.  Meeting the challenges of climate change and environmental degradation will, it seems, to a large extent be in the hands of individuals and the private sector collaborating to take responsibility on behalf of the global community and, more particularly in Africa.”

Gunstons Attorneys, said Watson, is determined to be one of those generating new solutions to environmental challenges.  It has, therefore tied up a strategic partnership with an environmental legal compliance business, The Environmental Law Consultancy (The ELC), one of the oldest firms of its kind in South Africa.

The ELC now operates from offices in the same building as Gunstons’ offices in Steenberg Office Park, Tokai and will liaise with and draw closely on the expertise of all Gunstons’ departments, especially the commercial, environmental and property divisions.

Grant Gunston, Senior Director at Gunston Attorneys, said that the already-defined intention is to grow the ELC's business and this, he believes, should be relatively straightforward because "there is a huge need for informed and responsible advice on environmental matters generally as well as health and safety law".

Peter Flynn, ELC’sBusiness and Systems Manager, said that the backing of Gunstons Attorneys would enable the ELC to provide new services and technology and to widen the range of products that they offer.

“Clients,” he said, “will have to have competent legal compliance assistance across all areas of their business operations, covering the full spectrum of South African legislation.  This will be especially necessary as new legislation begins to have significant impacts across traditional company verticals.”

The ELC, said Flynn, has been in existence for 20 years.  It focused on environmental legal compliance in its early years before expanding into occupational health and safety and, more recently, other areas.

"Our goal has always been to assist any company or organisation whose activities impact on the natural environment.  We try to see that they do so in a legally approved, responsible and sustainable manner."

ELC’s clients, he said, have tended to be mines and manufacturing entities such as processing, packaging, canning and bottling plants as well as property developers.  Most already have “massive” operations in South Africa and are continuing to expand and/or to upgrade. 

“No company is too small for us to help.  We have shown that we can be useful to entities of all sizes.”

The ELC's clients, added Flynn, tend to have two motives for partnering up with them.

"The first is a genuine desire to avoid harming the planet and/or their work place or community.  The second is the growing realisation that the penalties for non-compliance imposed by the state can be onerous in the extreme:  they often run into many millions of rands.  For example, a Witbank based materials producer was recently fined R3 million for contravening the National Environmental Air Quality Act even though in virtually every other way the company was already legally compliant."

Flynn commented, too, that many of the 'green' companies offering specialist advice and services (for example in the retro-fitting of buildings) are themselves often not fully compliant and, in fact, ignorant of much of South Africa's environmental legislation. 

Watson added that the steadily increasing prosecutions of businesses for not complying with environmental laws have compelled companies to become more aware of these laws but, he said, many have shown a willingness to “go beyond statutory compliance” and adopt best practice management systems and the use of creative new technologies and systems to ‘green’ their companies.

“Many companies are well down the road of sustainability”, he said.

Trudie Broekmann, Gunstons Attorneys Commercial Law Director, said that there is a growing need for a 'one-stop' legal service to ensure compliance not only with Environmental, Safety and Health matters but also with the growing body of other law affecting business operations such as the Companies Act, the Competition Act and the Consumer Protection Act, where, she said, the penalties for non-compliance can also be very high.

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Daily Telegraph survey

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:15:25 PM

A recent article in the UK’s widely read “Daily Telegraph” had the following first paragraph:

“The Euro is in crisis.  Stock markets are in freefall.  Two prime ministers have been sacked.  Italian debt is at record levels and Spain is about to have an early election.  Across the pond, America’s annual deficit is now measured in trillions.”

The article then went on to ask where, if anywhere, the beleaguered First World investor can find a safe property haven investment suitable for holiday use.  The answer to the question was given in a survey done by the same newspaper.  Guess what?  South Africa is ranked sixth in the world in this “Daily Telegraph” survey.

Top of the list was Canada, second was Hong Kong, third was Switzerland, fourth Mauritius, fifth Gibraltar and then came South Africa, followed by Barbados, St Lucia and the Cayman Islands.

Those conducting the survey were quite frank that they regarded the regular use of English as a bonus point in assessing their destinations.  Also looked at by the survey was how seriously the host country respected free enterprise and property rights and whether the areas under discussion offered easy access to First World facilities such as banks, legal firms, medical centres, airports, hotels and restaurants.

South Africa is praised for having “endless countryside, unspoilt villages, a burgeoning wine culture and a wonderful year-round climate”.  Everyone, said the report, speaks English (of some sort?) and the economy is seen as having been less volatile and less affected by Europe and the USA’s economic problems than much of the rest of the world.

Most important of all, however, says the survey, the prices of homes in South Africa are exceptionally reasonable given the fact that the exchange rate is heavily skewed in favour of the First World investor:  a three room home in the vineyard encircled Oakwood Estate in Hout Bay, a gated security development, can, reports the survey, can be bought for £333,000.  This would be a low price for the average high net worth individual buying internationally.

Lanice Steward, Managing Director of Anne Porter Knight Frank, who is quoted in this article, said that the survey simply confirms what APKF has been saying for some time.

“The simple truth,” she said, “is that for an English speaking holiday property investor South Africa - and more particularly the Cape Peninsula - offers virtually everything that the typical overseas property investor is looking for.

“Once an overseas visitor arrives in this country, despite our crime or negative image,” said Steward, “persuading them to buy is seldom difficult and APKF is looking forward to being contacted by at least 50 potential overseas buyers this summer season.”

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Tips to buyers from a property pro

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:14:09 PM

There has never, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of Rawson Properties, ever been a time when the inexperienced property buyer could get as much good advice from the media as he can at present.  Property newspapers and the sector’s online media, he said, are literally packed with good information and useful data - but, it seems, much of this is overlooked by those who are on the hunt for homes.

Asked what advice he regards as particularly important in today’s market, Clarke said that the first and best advice is ‘beware of the difficulties that await the go-it-alone buyer’.

“Time and again,” he said, “I have seen people going this route get into difficulties.”

Dealing directly with a private seller may appear to be a shrewd move, he said, but experience over many years has shown that it is almost always essential to call in the services of a professional valuer (or an agent whose valuations are known to be totally trustworthy), an attorney and, if possible, a construction expert.

“Almost weekly,” said Clarke, “we find ourselves having to counsel those who have paid too high or agreed to difficult conditions in the sale.  We are also regularly confronted by people who have bought a home with a serious latent defect of which the seller was quite possibly genuinely unaware.  It pays every time, therefore, to spend a few extra rand on hiring experts so as to avoid mistakes of this kind.”

The second important tip, said Clarke, is ‘find out in advance the size of the bond for which you qualify’.

This, he said, can best be done by talking to a qualified bond originator or your bank, if you have a good relationship with it.  Those who do not do this frequently waste much time in researching and looking at properties that are, in fact, beyond their means.

Tip three, said Clarke, is ‘do not take on burdens that may later prove too heavy’.

“Quite frequently,” he said, “the prospective buyer will find that his bank is willing to lend slightly more than he anticipated.  He then goes looking for a more luxurious and expensive home than he originally budgeted for - but in the process he often fails to tot up other expenses such as food, clothing, schooling, transport, electricity, rates and levies, all of which combined are likely these days to increase his household expenses by 10% to 15% per annum.

“He probably also makes no allowance for an unforeseen drop in income, e.g. the non-payment of a bonus or additional cheque, which in the present economic conditions is also a very common occurrence.”

Conservative budgeting, said Clarke, is therefore the only assured road to peace of mind.

His fourth tip, said Clarke, is ‘to try to avoid being too much swayed by emotion in the purchase process’.

“Often a buyer will walk into a house, get an extremely good feeling about it and immediately want to own it.  At Rawsons we encourage prospective buyers to take a second visit and we then try to get them to list their needs and their wants, ticking off each box as and when it is met.  Lists of this kind can show that the house is, in fact, inadequate.”

It is, added Clarke, always a good idea also to check the neighbourhood:  unruly teenagers, drug related problems, traffic congestion or poor schooling might all be valid reasons for looking elsewhere.

It is also important, he said, to check the zoning of any vacant plots nearby.

“Sadly,” he said, “beautiful views can quite legitimately be wiped out by major new developments making completely legal use of the ground to erect multi-storey blocks.”

When signing for a property, advised Clarke, it definitely pays for the buyer to have a lawyer on hand and ensure that every clause is explained.  It is also, he said, wise never to make an unconditional offer.  There should always be some conditions that in the deal give the buyer room to “move”.

In the agreement itself, he said, every possible detail should be specified in writing.

“South African property law dictates that a property transaction must be in writing, documenting the names the names and addresses of the parties concerned and the price.   However, it is important to make sure all involved are agreed on such other matters as the date of occupation and/or the date of the owner’s departure (all specified in writing).  Details regarding which fixtures and features are to be left in place are sometimes agreed only verbally and this can lead to serious problems.”

Once you have bought, said Clarke, do not indulge in buyer’s remorse -an all too common experience.

“Typically,” he said, “the buyer will go through a euphoric phase, followed by a downturn in which he finds reasons for disliking his new home - it may have blemishes and faults of which he was not aware at the time of purchase.  This downturn must be recognised as a normal process - and worked through.  Before long, the factors that made the home attractive to the buyer will reassert themselves in his mind and if he is at all mature he will find himself grateful for having acquired an asset which in the long run will always be an appreciating one.”

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Over-regulation a threat to residential property marketing sector

Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:07:44 PM

One of the subjects on which Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, touched in his recent comprehensive year-end review of the real estate industry was the stringent educational criteria which now have to be met by the aspirant agent or franchisee who moves into real estate marketing for the first time.

Rawson was one of those who previously always stressed the need for qualifications but, he says, the problem now is that over-regulation is strangling the industry.  Already, he said, it has caused a declining intake, fewer jobs becoming available and those who are already there could become an “elite” in the industry.

“The government’s declared aim of creating more jobs has been completely overlooked in the property marketing sector,” said Rawson.  “The number of agents now employed has dropped from 96 000 to 32 000 and there are no signs of a pickup as yet even though we at Rawsons know from the ongoing franchise applications that property today is seen as a suitable career for a far wider spectrum of people.  There is a marked reluctance to step forward and do such intensive training.”

The intern mentoring system, said Rawson, has two defects:  it can result in a highly qualified person such as a lawyer or a former schoolmaster having to report to a qualified agent who in most respects may be less intelligent and less competent then the newcomer and who may, therefore, lose his respect.

“Secondly, the system requires only a year’s continuous employment, irrespective of any outcome, positive or negative.”

It can, therefore, said Rawson, allow a completely incompetent agent (who is nevertheless quite good at passing examinations) after his first year to become fully qualified even though he may not be suitable for the job.

The same tendency to over-regulate, said Rawson, was seen in the State’s arbitrary promulgation of new property laws without any consultation with those in this sector, whose ability to function effectively can be easily hampered by inappropriate legislation.

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Tardy buyers, tenants are ‘shooting own-goals’

Monday, December 12, 2011, 12:24:55 PM

Property buyers and tenants who wait too long to make up their minds are losing out on good deals.

"In our experience," says Nelis Bezuidenhout of the RealNet Wapadglen franchise in Pretoria, "properties that are priced right and offer good value sell within a week and dithering buyers are losing out on good opportunities."

Bezuidenhout, who specialises in townhouses in the eastern suburbs of Faerie Glen, Garsfontein, Olympus and Wapadrand, adds that the Internet is a double-edged sword in this respect.

"The ‘Net has certainly made it easier for prospective buyers to source properties for sale but, at the same time, many buyers are so overwhelmed by the number of listed properties that they find it difficult to narrow down their search.

"And some buyers are so confused by the perceived abundance of properties on offer that they cannot even settle on a realistic price bracket. For instance, buyers will want to view properties in the range between R500 000 and R1m and then find it very difficult to compare value. This leads to further delays - and often when they do make up their minds the property of choice has already been sold."

Bezuidenhout advises prospective buyers to sit down and carefully weigh up what type of property they want at what price before they start viewing properties. "It is easier to make a sound decision if you are very clear about what you really want and what you can afford. You will also save a lot of time and effort if you do not view unsuitable properties."

He has the same advice for prospective tenants. “A few years ago, townhouses in Pretoria East were predominantly targeted by investors who let their properties. "However, most current buyers are buying property for own use, which has put rental stock under pressure. Prospective tenants who dawdle to sign a lease often find that someone else has beaten them to it."

He adds that now is a good time to buy townhouses in this area since they have generally held value and even showed small year-on-year price escalations since 2009.

First-time buyers and parents who have children attending tertiary institutions in Pretoria are currently active in the market. Student accommodation in the area has grown more popular among out-of-town buyers because it offers better value than suburbs close to campuses. Bezuidenhout says a one-bedroom flat in Hatfield, for instance, now costs virtually the same as a two-bedroom unit in the eastern suburbs. "And many parents also prefer to let their children stay in quieter suburbs further away from campus."

Stack units in Olympus are especially popular at the moment. Two-bedroom units of 85sqm on the first floor now sell at prices ranging from R530 000 to R550 000 while similar units on the ground floor sell from R550 000 to R590 000, he says.

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Why not let that extra space?

Monday, December 12, 2011, 12:24:02 PM

Difficulty in obtaining home loans, distressed selling and a lack of new development have combined, over the past two years, to create a shortage of rental property in many parts of the country.

On the other hand, says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group, there are many empty-nesters and others with large family homes who would like to downscale now to smaller properties that are less costly to run, but are doubtful about getting the price they want in the current market.

“And one solution to both these problems is for the homeowners to convert some of their extra space into a flat (or even two) that they can let. The extra income will help to offset the recent increases in municipal rates and electricity tariffs, and help them to keep their homes in good condition until they think the time is right to sell.”

Writing in the Property Signposts newsletter, he says that an added benefit of this decision, especially worth considering for older homeowners, is that having additional people living on the property, and coming and going at different times, tends to improve security.

“Homeowners do need to take especial care, however, with two aspects of this plan, the first being the selection of contractors if they need to make alterations to create their rental units.

“Secondly, it is vital that they let only to suitable tenants, and this is where the help of an experienced estate agent is invaluable.”

Everitt says it is imperative to keep the rental arrangement on a businesslike footing – even if you are renting space to friends or family - and that having the backup of an independent party that can check creditworthiness, deal with the conditions of the lease and collect the monthly rental will relieve you of a lot of strain and possible family friction

“A local agent will also, of course, be able to advise you what a realistic rental in the current market would be.”

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Rental demand soars in Witbank

Friday, December 09, 2011, 8:55:06 AM

Lack of affordable housing and tight credit have boosted the residential rental market in the Mpumalanga mining town of Witbank.

Demand for small units is particularly high, says Sharlene Doogan of the local RealNet estate office. "Once again, cost is a factor and with the cheapest units now commanding rentals of just under R4000 a month, tenants tend to shy away from family homes and target flats, apartments and townhouses instead."

Although there is steady demand among prospective buyers for homes in the R600 000 to R900 000 price range, not many sales are concluded because most buyers struggle to come up with the required 10% deposit to obtain home loans - and find it difficult to save enough additional cash for related costs such as bond registration and transfer duty, Doogan says.

Bachelor flats are currently the cheapest rental units. Monthly rentals start at around R3800, while more upmarket one-bedroom apartments achieve average rentals of R4200 a month.

Two-bedroom apartments are rented out for around R5000 a month while rentals for two-bedroom townhouses range between R5000 and R8000 a month, depending on location.

The tenant profile is diverse and includes entrants to the labour force, young couples and retirees, as well as upgraders and downgraders who rent while shopping around for good value before they buy new property.

Doogan says the high demand has pushed rentals up by between 6 and 8% in the past year and adds that the trend is likely to continue, unless conditions change to allow more own buyers to enter the market or more developers to launch new units. "As it is," she says, "rental stock is scarce and available units are usually taken up within a week.

"This creates long-term investment opportunities for prospective landlords. Purchase prices of rental units in high demand currently start at about R400 000 for one-bedroom apartments and from R620 000 upwards for two-bedroom townhouses."

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Franschhoek remains a popular leisure destination

Friday, December 02, 2011, 8:59:51 AM

Nestled between towering mountains in the beautiful Cape winelands Franschhoek is an area that is world renowned for its spectacular beauty, superb Cape wines and world class restaurants.

Originally settled in 1685 by French Huguenots who fled their homeland, Franschhoek was originally named Elephant’s Corner after the vast herds of elephants that roamed there. But soon after the French settled, the area changed its name to Franschhoek (French Corner). The heritage of these first settlers lives on today through the Huguenot monument situated at the top of the village.

While Franschhoek is not generally considered as a holiday destination by South Africans, it remains popular with overseas guests especially those from the UK, Netherlands and Germany.

This is according to Peter Hager, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Prestige Country Properties, which services Franschhoek. He notes that Franschhoek has, and always will be, a sought after and desirable location for both local and foreign property investors.

“In the past, investment in Franschhoek was divided equally between local and foreign buyers. However, that demographic has changed and we now have more local investment entering our market than foreign. A large number of buyers in the area are parents whose children are going to Stellenbosch University as they want to be close to the university but don’t want to reside in Stellenbosch,” says Hager.

Speaking particularly of the leisure property market in Franschhoek, Hager says that it has performed well as far as demand is concerned; however, property appreciation and selling prices have dropped due to the global downturn.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, notes that since the South African property market has resumed to normal conditions, it is anticipated that demand for leisure properties will slowly increase. “However,” he says, “it should be remembered that the leisure property market always lags behind the property cycle by about a year to 18 months. Therefore, while noteworthy recovery is not expected in this sector for some time to come, there are great leisure investment opportunities available to buyers.”

The most popular leisure properties that Hager currently has available are two-bedroom cottages with swimming pools, or apartments in secure complexes with pools which are priced between R1,5 million and R4 million.

He says that overseas investors often place their holiday homes in a letting pool. For example, Hager is currently marketing a two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage with a country kitchen and lock up garage for R2,5 million. This home has, in the past, provided its owners with R250 000 per year in rental income from holiday lets. “This home would usually sell for R3,5 million, which would be the price we would expect to achieve as the market improves.”

Full title properties, which account for close on 60% of the area’s total properties, according to Lightstone, a property data provider, are in higher demand among leisure buyers as the sectional title levies and increased care costs often put leisure investors off.

“While not a typical seaside holiday spot, Franschhoek holds the lure of culture and history, exceptional cuisine, a solid property investment market, along with excellent wine tasting and wine farm visits. The appeal lies in the fact that it is away from the crowded mass of beach holiday makers but close enough to go to the beach and Cape Town for all the tourist attractions should one so wish,” Hager concludes.

For more information contact RE/MAX Prestige Country Properties on 021 876 3147.

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US housing market recovering

Friday, December 02, 2011, 8:58:38 AM

Many of the 19 Rawson Properties franchisees who returned recently from the USA’s National Association of Realtors (NAR) conference in California have, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of Rawson Properties, faced a barrage of questions on the state of the US economy.

But, what are the facts about the US housing market, as Rawson sees them?

“The first point to be grasped,” said Rawson, “is that although our residential market was not so long ago at its lowest point since the 1976 riots, we did not feel the impact of this latest debt crisis quite as severely as the US market did. This means that our recovery will almost certainly be ahead of theirs.”

At the peak of the recent boom, i.e. in 2006, said Rawson, US realtors sold five to six million houses in one year. By 2010 the figure had dropped to 3,5 million. The number of homes currently for sale is around 4,5 million, but, he said, sales on an annualised basis have now increased to over 4,9 million, a sure sign that an improvement is taking place.

“Those who read only the less informed reports,” said Rawson, “have often picked up the idea that the US housing market is completely dead. However, as the figures quoted show, it has continued to have considerable activity and, what is more, sales are now rising month-on-month by a rate of almost 2%.”

It is, said Rawson, especially interesting to note that the average age of homebuyers has risen considerably from 39 to 43 years and that the US housing investment market, as in South Africa, is definitely showing signs of a revival.

“From the conversations I had in the USA this time,” said Rawson, “it seems that the older generation has retained its faith in property. Those with cash resources are often climbing into the housing market: no less than 30% to 35% of recent sales have been to cash buyers. This is an even higher proportion than we are seeing currently in South Africa.”

Does this mean that the younger US buyers are losing out?

“The NAR figures reveal that some four million potential younger buyers are currently still living with their parents, a situation not dissimilar to that which we see in many parts of South Africa. However, it has also been estimated that this situation will be greatly relieved within four to five years.”

As in South Africa, said Rawson, the steady return of investors to housing appears to be driven by fast increasing rentals (up 8% in one year), by still low prices (some 33% off the 2006 peak), by the nil or minimal interest rates paid in the current money market and by the fact that bonds can be had at interest rates as low as 4,1%, i.e. only 0,1% above the current US inflation rate. The popular Jumbo mortgage bond does, however, also involve transferring one’s bank and saving accounts (if you have them) to the bond issuer.

“If the same policy was adopted in South Africa,” said Rawson, “mortgage bond borrowers here would be getting bonds at ± 6%. For obvious reasons this is unlikely to happen, but a significantly lower rate of interest rate specifically for mortgage bonds – possibly state subsidised – is a possibility that should, I believe, remain open for discussion.”

Another option, said Rawson, could be to issue 100% bonds to a special category of ‘reputable’ borrowers. In the US, he said, any war veteran can qualify for a 100% bond, provided he has a satisfactory income stream. To date four million Americans have already availed themselves of this source of bond finance.

US residential developers (again, as in South Africa), said Rawson, have temporarily almost gone out of business.

“The rate of development is at a 40 year low. This, of course, is disastrous for those involved in the development sector, but the lack of new stock, coupled to the steady take-up of repossessed properties, will help prices to achieve ‘normal’ levels quicker than was expected. The NAR estimates that this will probably take another two years.

“This speed-up could, I believe,” said Rawson, “be faster if the government grasped the nettle and made a more determined effort to reduce the amount it owes. This would involve further cutbacks on defence lending, welfare and infrastructural development, while at the same time imposing higher taxes all round, especially on the super rich. However, the Americans to whom I spoke almost all agreed that they would accept this. It is the government’s lack of courage in this respect, they told me, that is preventing firm action here.”

Asked if his meetings and discussions in the USA had changed any of his well-known views on property, Rawson said,

“The simple answer is no.”

“What is taking place in the USA is that those who can afford it are building their portfolios in expectation of better times. In South Africa we are witnessing much the same trend - but the good news is that in both countries today’s investors are conservative, well resourced people acting responsibly within their financial limits. In both centres, therefore, a new stability is being imparted to the housing sector and this will pay investors handsomely down the line.”

Particularly good buys in the USA, added Rawson, are taking place in the holiday/retirement areas such as Las Vegas and Florida. Here, too, he said, there are similarities in South Africa.

“Properties on the South Coast of KZN and along the Cape West Coast are currently offering excellent buying opportunities that will not be available in one to two years’ time.”

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Aida flag now flying in Fishhoek

Friday, December 02, 2011, 8:56:46 AM

Aida National Franchises has acquired a new office in Fish Hoek with the conversion of an existing estate agency to the tried and trusted South African brand.

Co-owner Maggi-Mae Vidas says the office, established in 2008, has built up a sound market presence and she looks forward to introducing Aida's expertise and solid reputation to the existing client base. Aida Cape Lifestyle Homes will serve the whole Cape Peninsula market.

Maggi-Mae says investors are still buying holiday properties in the area although sales are slower as investment buyers take their time to source good value. "Our core market remains local buyers who are attracted by the comfortable lifestyle offered in Fish Hoek and surrounds.

"The area is still very popular among retirees who prefer a comfortable seaside lifestyle within reach of a host of amenities. And then, of course, the more temperate climate here clinches the deal for many retirees as well as family buyers. Superb views are an added bonus for many."

The area has a wide variety of properties on offer, including entry-level flats at prices from R500 000, comfortable family homes starting at about R1m and luxury homes with price tags of up to R10m.

Maggi-Mae adds that the peninsula offers price advantages to buyers. "Properties here offer better value than similar areas closer to Cape Town's city centre while office workers can comfortably commute to workplaces by train.

"Another factor favouring Fish Hoek is that the area is very family-friendly. Good schools, a hospital, several banks offering forex, and a host of excellent restaurants are some of the conveniences that residents enjoy.

"And then there is the family-sized beach with lawns for comfortable weekend outings, while the local sailing club launching off the beach adds a touch of glamour. A resident Great White Shark has become something of a local mascot and attraction - but lifeguards make sure that swimmers remain safe when the predator puts in an appearance," she says.

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Govt urged to beef up support for franchising

Friday, December 02, 2011, 8:55:49 AM

The government and business should pay much more attention to franchising and give it a bigger role in their planning for economic growth and employment creation through the development of the small business sector.

So says Jan Davel, MD of the RealNet national estate agency franchise group and chairman-elect of the Franchise Association (FASA), who believes franchising is one of the most important keys to solving some of the country’s biggest problems including lack of education, unemployment and poverty.

Quoted in the latest issue of Be Your Own Boss, he says that with regard to job creation, for example, almost 500 000 new businesses will have to be created if government is to meet its target of 5m new jobs by 2020.

“And franchising has already proved that it can fulfil the criteria for small business expansion and job creation. While formal sector employment fell alarmingly in the two years from 2008 to 2010, the franchise sector, which represents 17 different industries, created 2300 new business outlets and more than 28 000 new jobs.

“Indeed, franchising can go a long way in stimulating entrepreneurship and helping people to establish the successful small businesses that are the backbone of the economy and job creation. It provides inexpensive, measurable mechanisms to provide training, facilitate skills transfer and unlock opportunities in local communities.”

Consequently, says Davel, it is important for both the banks and more would-be business owners to understand that once a franchise system has been tried and tested, one can take well-informed decisions based on realistic financial projections – and subsequently mitigate risk far better than in the case of independently-owned businesses. “A franchise business is simply a much safer option for both the borrower and the lender than an untested new business, no matter how good the business plan.”

Having said that, however, he does not believe that the biggest challenge facing franchising at the moment is the current economic climate and banks’ conservative lending policies. “The biggest challenge now is to get the message across about the very important role franchising can and does play in the economy, and to expand the concept to other industries.

“Countries such as Australia, Brazil, the UK and US have far more franchised industries than we do, and just looking at some of our country’s current challenges, I think energy and water saving solutions, waste-recycling, health care options and education, for example, all offer excellent opportunities for franchise development now, and that we will possibly also see the development of public-private franchise systems for the delivery of government services in the not too distant future.”

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First homes sold in new retirement village near Hermanus

Friday, November 11, 2011, 8:07:33 AM

The full title units at the new Twee Fonteine retirement village near Hermanus in the Western Cape will all have two bathrooms and two or three bedrooms plus a single or double garage, as well as a spacious veranda. The units are being marketed by Aida Onrus and prices range from from R1,325m to R1,8m.
With its combination of seaside tranquillity and modern convenience, Onrus is a perfect retirement location, and soon now it will also have a purpose-built retirement village where residents can fulfil their dreams of a “cottage by the sea”.

So says Deon Esterhuyse of marketing agency Aida Onrus, who notes that groundworks for the development, named Twee Fonteine, have already been completed and that the community centre at the heart of the village is due for completion by the end of next year.

“Meanwhile, although building has just started on the first free-standing home in the village, which will serve as a showhouse, six of the homes have already been sold, and enquiries are being received daily.”

There will ultimately be 75 full title homes in the development, as well as 42 sectional title units, he explains. “The full title units, ranging in size from 128sqm to 183sqm, will all have two bathrooms and two or three bedrooms plus a single or double garage, as well as a spacious veranda. There will also be the option of an added braai room at a cost of below R4 000/sqm.

“Sited on stands ranging in size from 252sqm to 498sqm, these homes are being sold on a plot-and-plan basis at prices from R1,325m to R1,8m, and buyers will have 12 months from the date they purchase the stand to start building.”

The sectional title units, ranging in size from 28sqm right up to 83sqm, will be incorporated in the central building housing the community centre, which will also contain a kitchen, dining room, ladies’ bar and lounge, assisted living and frail-care facilities. Prices for these units currently range from R560 000 to R1,66m. All prices include VAT.

Esterhuyse says this is an ideal investment opportunity for those who would like to rent their units out prior to their own retirement in future.

He notes that the whole development will enjoy a high level of security, with a single guarded access point and a perimeter wall topped with electric fencing.

“Each home will also be equipped with a panic button connecting it to the nursing station in the community centre, and Elcare, which operates in many retirement villages around the country, will provide professional medical care.”

Finance is available for qualified purchasers.

*For more information about Twee Fonteine, contact Aida Onrus on 028-316-3393 or, or Deon Esterhuyse on 083 284 0027.

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WCIEA board members

Friday, November 11, 2011, 8:06:45 AM

“No corporate or other board in SA could have had better service than the Institute of Estate Agents’ Western Cape branch has received from its directors over the past year,” said Ivan Neethling, Chairman of the Institute, at its recent AGM which was held in the Imbizo Conference Centre at the V & A Waterfront, attended by 97 members.

“The defining characteristic of all the board members,” said Neethling, “has been a willingness to “go beyond” what would normally be expected of them and give generously of their time, despite being busy and despite directors never being remunerated for their time. This dedication in turn has given me additional motivation to serve.”

The good news, added Neethling, is that all the current board members have made themselves available for the coming year.

The list includes:

Michael Bauer, GM of IHFM, Vice Chairman of the Board and in charge of the board’s finances;

Bill Rawson, who, said Neethling, has recently received a Nedbank Lifetime Achievers Award for service to property;

John Nurse, who has more than ten years service to the board, in the past term serving on ethical queries and events;

Mark Marks, one of the longest serving committee members with over 25 years service to the Institute;

Anton du Plessis, CEO of Vineyard Estates, who oversees the Institute’s advertising and marketing efforts as well as ethical enquiries;

David Beattie of Chorus Letting, who is responsible for overseeing financial administration;

Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank, responsible for the events and fundraising portfolio;

Kevin Wynne, owner of Kevin Wynne Valuers and whose primary responsibility is ethical and legal matters;

Howard Markham, GM of Pam Golding Properties, who has been responsible for the Institute’s IT/website and the PropStats data service;

Emil Weiss, a Rawson Properties franchisee in Saldanha Bay area, who acts as the liaison link to the West Coast.

One new board member was elected to the board AGM - Michelle Lister of Pam Golding Properties.

Neethling said that the Western Cape Institute of Estate Agents controls a network of committees and sub-branches throughout the area it serves and is providing valuable ongoing training (e.g. with legal updates and the NQF4 and NQF5 qualifications). Certain members, he said, have now qualified as far as NQF5.

“The Institute’s online property sales statistical database, PropStats, has,” he added, “now recorded 27 000 transactions totalling R50 billion since 2007 – an excellent achievement.”

“The Institute’s finances are satisfactory and membership is solid.”

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Family homes in Durban North

Friday, November 11, 2011, 8:02:38 AM

Family buyers are making their presence felt in the property market and are finding their ideal home in Durban North, says Grant Gavin, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Panache, whose two offices service La Lucia, Durban North and surrounding areas along the KwaZulu-Natal north coast.

“Demand along the north coast has always been strong among family buyers, and remains so largely due to the fact that there are excellent schools in the region ranging from pre-primary school all the way up to senior level. The schools, who often prioritise their intakes based on the family’s residential address, offer an extremely high level of education, which is what many of the family buyers are looking for,” says Gavin.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that when buying property, location is always going to be one of the most important aspects to think about. This is because location will impact on the potential return on investment and lifestyle the property offers. But perhaps more importantly, aside from the convenience of being close to amenities such as shops and medical facilities, proximity to good schools plays a major role in how buyers choose where to live.

According to Gavin, other influences that have ignited buyers’ interest in the region is that it is so well positioned and central to both the Durban CBD and the Umhlanga Ridge business district as well as Gateway. The Umhlanga Ridge business precinct has continued to grow dramatically, which has opened up more employment opportunity and brought more and more business men and women to the area. “Property buyers will often purchase homes that are close to their place of work, especially if their business is relocated. Durban North is conveniently situated outside of the CBD node, but is a close enough commute for those who work in the business district,” says Gavin.

Gavin says that family buyers in the area are looking for homes that feature large, level stands which measure around the 1000m2 mark with three or four bedrooms and have staff accommodation on the premises. He says that the average price that buyers are paying for these family homes across all suburbs in Durban North, Umhlanga and La Lucia is around the R2,2 million bracket. “There are some really good value-for-money homes in the region that will be perfect for a family to live in and they will be a good investment over the long term. Given the current market, growth in terms of the property’s value is fairly conservative, however, Durban North homes remain fantastic long term assets.” says Gavin.

A four-bedroom, three-bathroom home is currently being marketed by RE/MAX Panache at R1,790 million. This family home features a study which could be used as a fifth bedroom, an entertainment area with a swimming pool and a separate large self-contained flatlet on the property.

For more information regarding family homes in Durban North, Umhlanga or La Lucia contact Grant Gavin at RE/MAX Panache, on 031 564 9202.

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Proficiency training course

Friday, November 04, 2011, 7:53:49 AM

Estate agents, be they experienced or inexperienced, who do not have regular ongoing training will almost always perform less proficiently than those of similar ability who are regularly updated with property matters and sales techniques by a good training division.

“This,” says Rawson Properties’ KwaZulu Natal Skills Coordinator, Richard O’Brien, “is the basic assumption on which I and all other Rawson Properties group trainers operate.

“For many years, but especially since Rawsons began its expansion drive five years’ ago, our group has claimed that one of the main factors setting it apart from its rivals is the importance that it places on training and our insistence that this must be an ongoing exercise.”

The foundation of all this training in KZN, says O’Brien, is the initial Rawson Proficiency Course that he and his colleagues provide monthly. This is attended by both experienced and rookie estate agents and in KZN lasts eight days followed by prolonged field training done back at the agency or at home.

The three main subjects covered by course are”:

1. Rawson documentation

“All the major agencies”, says O’Brien, “have their own documentation and it is absolutely essential that agents are completely au fait with what is set down here. They must be able not only to fill in the documents without having to pause to consider the meaning or implications of certain clauses but also to be able to explain these to clients “

2. Property legislation

“Every deal or move in property is subject to some legislation and agents have to understand all the relevant law. To take just one example, the Matrimonial Property Act sets out radical differences between the position of those married in community of property and those married with an ante-nuptial contract. The wrong advice here from the agent could cause great difficulties for the couple concerned.”

Similarly, says O’Brien, it is essential for agents to be kept abreast of all other legislation that could impact on property, particularly in recent months the National Credit Act, the new Companies Act and the Consumer Protection Act. Without informed legal knowledge here, he says, the agent can be a ‘loose cannon’ in the property world.

3. The sales techniques and inter-personal skills

“Even the most accomplished negotiators can improve their skills and all of us can create better working and personal relationships.

“It is sometimes assumed by those whom we train that somehow all people understand the need for these skills, but this is not so. Rawsons’ experience has been that in fact all of us need coaching and improvement of our personal skills, particularly sales skills, on an ongoing basis and that attending a course of this kind can very often set up a person to be far more proficient, sympathetic and competent in his work and other relationships.”

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Value of good support and branding

Friday, November 04, 2011, 7:52:50 AM

The closure of three major estate agencies in Hout Bay/Llandudno, says Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, reflects not just the drop in home sales in that area (from ±60 per month to under 20) but also the fact that the agencies which are surviving tend to be those with strong branding and effective ongoing support from their franchisor/head office.

In these difficult times, he said, the ongoing training and really effective system of the successful franchisors are helping the franchisees to survive where others cannot.

Asked if the success of the Rawson Hout Bay franchise (which is doing well) means that the Rawson franchise “system” equips a franchise to survive any downturn Rawson commented that where Rawson franchises have failed initially they have often been revived quickly under a new franchisee. As a result, he says, very few have “disappeared”. This, he said, indicates that the package offered is almost “recession proof” provided the franchisee is competent.

“On the very rare occasions where we have closed down a franchise it has usually been not due to a lack of sales but because the franchisee has adopted practices that did not conform to our model and/or his conduct had tarnished our reputation.”

It is, however, difficult, said Rawson, on first getting to know a potential franchisee to predict whether he or she will be a success. Many overrate their own ability – others prove far more successful than expected. However, as the majority of franchise applicants are now coming from already trained and already successful agents in other firms or working independently, said Rawson, it is possible to check on their previous performances and, in particular, their ability to keep good staff.

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Bank properties clearance sale

Friday, October 28, 2011, 8:24:23 AM

Bank properties clearance sale

Rawson Auctions’ close connection with South Africa’s major banks is paying dividends. As one of the banks’ preferred auctioneers, Rawson Auctions will on 9th and 10th November be auctioning 23 repossessed properties, including apartments, houses and vacant land.

“We are, I believe, taking the concept of multiple auctions to a new level,” said Tanya Jovanovski, Rawson Auctions franchisee for the Western Cape.

The properties, she said, have been fed to Rawsons by various banks and they are mainly in the Southern Cape region, with one at Atlantis. Five are at Jeffrey’s Bay, five at Hartenbos near Mossel Bay, one (a vacant plot) in Knysna and others are in Ladysmith and Swellendam.

“If ever there was a case of properties becoming available at massive discounts it is here,” said Jovanovski. “The reserve prices have sometimes been set at a 75% discount to their original price and every one of those on offer could go for well under R500 000.”

Jovanovski pointed out, too, that on repossessed properties the banks pay the auction company’s commission, thereby effectively giving the buyer a further 10% discount.

Asked to cherry pick some of the most attractive offerings, Jovanovski mentioned homes and plots in Jeffrey’s Bay priced to sell at R200 000 to R500 000. A home in Swellendam expected to go for R350 000 and a 308m² plot in Knysna which could sell for as little as R100 000. An Atlantis home expected to fetch R75 000, she said, could be the bargain of the year.

Full details of the properties available can be obtained from Faeqah Corker on telephone number 021 658 7100 or by email to

The auctions will take place in the boardroom of the Rawson Properties head office on the corner of Main and Klipper roads in Newlands.

Jovanovski has said that in view of the exceptionally good value on offer here she expects to sell many of these properties pre-auction.

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Commercial brokers must have financial and business experience

Friday, October 28, 2011, 8:23:44 AM

A lack of business and financial experience prevents many South African commercial property brokers from being able to maximise the benefits they offer their clients, says David Hitch, Rawson Properties franchisee of Rawson Commercial in KZN.

“The plain truth,” said Hitch, “is that the selling skills which are all important in the marketing of residential property are often of secondary importance in commercial property. Here the ability to structure a favourable deal is vital to success.”

For this reason, he said, the Rawson commercial team is led almost entirely by brokers who have held management positions either in their own business or with big corporates or banks.

“The decision to invest in a commercial property for one’s own company or on a buy-to-rent basis largely depends on financial viabilities,” he said. “The broker who has come to commercial property ‘off the street’, very often from other or more straightforward forms of selling, is almost certain to be out of his depth here.

“At Rawson Commercial we have found time and again that opportunities favourable to both landlords and tenants have not been realised for the simple reason that the broker did not have an understanding of finance and commercial leasing. Fortunately there are firms like ours which can and do offer these skills.”

Hitch made these comments while discussing the growth of the current tendency among cash-strapped industrialists who sell their own premises and then lease them back so that they can ride out the next two or three years of low economic growth and limited demand for their products. Rawson Commercial, said Hitch, is honing up its skills in this field and has found that this apparently drastic action can create a survival win-win situation for all concerned and, in the long run, can sometimes result in the tenant being able to buy back his property.

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Big guns to run Sotheby’s on Atlantic Seaboard

Friday, October 28, 2011, 8:23:15 AM

The Cape Town real estate scene is abuzz this week with the news that top Atlantic Seaboard agent Gail Gavrill - and several other “big names” in the industry - have joined forces to re-launch the Sotheby’s International Realty franchise in the area.

The new partners in the franchise are Gavrill and her husband Rob McKee of Gail Gavrill International Properties, Brendan Miller of Better Homes and Lew Geffen, who is also chairman of Sotheby’s International Properties in SA.

“Gail hardly needs any introduction,” says Geffen. “She is a dominant real estate personality locally and internationally and has been responsible for many of the most important sales along the Atlantic Seaboard over the past 25 years.

“At the same time we are delighted to have real estate management expert Rob McKee as the CEO of the new partnership and to welcome Brendan Miller, who has in the past few years built Better Homes into an extremely strong player in the Atlantic Seaboard market.

“Indeed, with this dynamic new team at the helm we are confident that the Atlantic Seaboard franchise is now well set to become the company’s flagship operation in the Western Cape. Gail and Brendan intend focusing on the higher price ranges in Fresnaye, Bantry Bay, Clifton and Llandudno - including off-plan developments – and with the backing of Sotheby’s International Realty will be in a position to source high net worth buyers for their sellers from branches in 47 countries around the world.”

Geffen also notes that all the sales agents employed by the previous owners of the Sotheby’s franchise have been retained, and that the re-launched franchise will also absorb Gail Gavrill International Properties and the Better Homes operation in Sea Point.

“Indeed, we will initially be operating from the highly visible – and rebranded – Better Homes location on the corner of St John’s and Main roads in Sea Point, although we will also have brand new offices in Camps Bay shortly.”

The re-launch of the franchise follows a High Court decision last week which enabled Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty to immediately terminate its agreement with the previous franchisees, and Geffen says he has been overwhelmed by the industry and public support he has received following this move.

“I have to say that the previous operation did not live up to our brand promise, but this new management partnership brings together some exceptional real estate talent and experience, and we are confident that the franchise will now come into its own and really deliver on that promise for our clients.”

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Buyers and sellers should trust their agents

Friday, October 21, 2011, 2:12:16 PM

Due to the effect that the global recession has had on the property market, the number of active realtors in the US has dropped by around 40% to sit at just above one million, and is expected to drop by a further 100 000 by the end of the year. South Africa, while reasonably protected by monetary policy from the worst effects of the recession, has seen a similar decrease in the number of registered agents. At one time there were approximately 70 000 agents and principles registered with the Estate Agents Affairs Board (EAAB) across the country. Today that number sits at around 31 000.

According to Grant Gavin, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Panache which operates in the KwaZulu-Natal north coast suburbs of Durban North, La Lucia and Umhlanga, the compulsory educational criteria are another reason why many South African agents have exited the industry in recent years. He says that in KwaZulu-Natal at the end of June this year, there were only 2 258 agents registered with the EAAB. “What this means for buyers and sellers of property is that, for the most part, the agents who remain active in the market are those who are dedicated professionals at the top of their game, and therefore are able to offer property buyers and sellers sound advice.”

But, Gavin says, more often than not, buyers and sellers discount the advice given from their agents to their detriment. “Given that in the past there was such a low barrier to entry to the real estate profession, the guarded mentality that the consumer now has towards estate agents in general is understandable. However, times have changed and real estate agents across the county have upped their game, their level of professionalism and level of expert knowledge.” Right now with the north Durban market changing fairly rapidly, Gavin believes that being aligned to a real estate professional is more important than ever before.

“In our local suburbs the market is changing very quickly from a strong buyer’s market to one where well-priced stock moves quickly,” he says. What this means for sellers is that if their home is priced correctly, there is enough demand for it to sell fairly quickly; whereas over-priced homes are still stagnating on the market. Sellers therefore need to allow the agent to guide them in the correct pricing of their home in order to get the balance right and ensure a fairly quick sale.

For buyers on the other hand, the time for cheeky offers is over and passively watching the agency web sites might mean you are two steps behind those buyers who are actively working with agents and viewing properties on the day they hit the listing books. Gavin cites an example where his agency recently had a property sell for the full asking price within 45 minutes of being listed, and he says that such examples are becoming more and more common.

Estate agents are now more qualified than ever before to professionally and expertly handle the property sale process and give advice and it’s for this reason that Gavin is of the opinion that buyers and sellers should allow the agent to lead and guide their relationship based on their expertise and knowledge. But, he says, buyers and sellers should also select their agent with care.

“There are certain criteria that an agent should meet,” says Gavin, who advises property sellers and investors to firstly select an agent from a reputable company that is well established in the area where they are buying or selling property.

Then, in order to ensure a reasonable guarantee of service, buyers and sellers should interview prospective agents and find out the following:

· Their past results and what sales they have concluded in the area in the past six months

· What company they work for and what tools it provides the agents to assist them in effectively meeting their obligations to buyers and sellers

· Assess the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns

· Establish their sphere of influence and find out how well known and liked they are in the area

· Finding out what buyer qualification process they follow in terms of getting finance approved for the sale

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Internet presence key to property sales

Friday, October 21, 2011, 2:11:29 PM

As more and more people gain access to internet facilities, online property listings will play an increasingly bigger role in the property sale process, says Grant Gavin, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Panache, which operates in the KwaZulu-Natal north coast suburbs of Durban North, La Lucia and Umhlanga. He points to research released last year in the Internet Access in South Africa 2010 study by World Wide Worx, which stated that South African internet users passed the five million mark for the first time in 2010, finally breaking through the 10% mark in internet penetration for the country. The research also indicated that the country’s internet user base grew by 15% in 2009, and it is expected that internet users in South Africa would grow as much between 2009 and 2014 as it had in the 15 years since the internet became commercially available in the country, taking the internet user population to the nine million mark by 2014. On a more local level, Gavin points to web statistics for property searches as pulled from the website. The number of unique users visiting the site increased by 33% year-on-year with 3000 unique users per month recorded in 2010 compared to the 4005 unique users per month recorded in 2011. “We rebranded our website with a new look and feel last year, and from the month we rebranded, we noticed a 30% increase in visitors. This goes to show that the look and feel of a website needs to be kept fresh to keep attracting people. Companies who have the same website for years and years are falling behind. It’s not good enough anymore to simply just have an online presence – you need to keep the site fresh and the content up-to-date.” The number of visits by each unique user per month has also nearly doubled from the 2010 figures, although the number of page visits has dropped by almost half. Gavin says the fact that people are viewing fewer pages per visit is indicative of the market change. “While we had an overload of stock on the market last year, stock levels are lower in 2011 on average than in 2010.” Gavin notes that in 2010 and so far during 2011, the busiest viewing times were Mondays between 7am and 10am, with the week tailing off quite rapidly, meaning that Thursdays and Fridays are slow viewing days. “Very little property surfing is done after hours,” he notes. Majority of visitors were South Africans who accounted for around 80% of all pages viewed, with the UK providing the second largest audience with an average of 5% of all pages viewed. The USA and Germany are always in the top 5 and account for about 4% of monthly page views combined. Lead generation and the use of integrated technology platforms are two of the 10 trends that will drive the next five years, according to US real estate expert, Steve Murray. Gavin believes that the internet is a key component of the technology platforms that will drive the market and assist in providing agents with buyer and seller leads “The internet provides an excellent tool for sellers to showcase their property and buyers to search for their ideal home from the comfort of their own home or office. Harnessing the technology and using it effectively will mean the difference between success and failure for many estate agents,” he concludes.

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Where opportunity grows

Friday, October 14, 2011, 3:18:18 PM

Located just south of Cape Town’s lively city centre, Gardens continues to attract many of the country’s young up-and-coming professionals says Susan Watts, General Manager of RE/MAX Living, who represents offices both in the Gardens and Sea Point areas.

“Gardens has always been seen as an affluent suburb and the place to be as a young professional, especially for those in the creative industry. It is definitely a neighbourhood that speaks to a generation looking to build their careers as well as enjoy the benefits of living in a bustling cosmopolitan city. There are a vast number of chic restaurants, boutique style shops, luxury hotels and New York flavoured loft apartments. Gardens is regarded as Cape Town’s creative hub and is home to a variety of production companies, film studios, modelling agencies and publishing houses,” says Watts.

While still richly entrenched in South African history as home to some of the country’s oldest museums and monuments, Gardens is a far cry from the fresh produce garden it once was in the 1650’s. Although the renowned Government Avenue is still lined with the oak trees planted during the time of Simon van der Stel, today this inner-city suburb is also home to more contemporary attractions such as the five-star Mount Nelson Hotel.

Since January this year general demand for properties in the area has increased, particularly those that are correctly priced. Watts says that correctly priced properties are selling fairly quickly, however, those that are priced too high have run the risk of waiting many months to sell with some properties being on the market for over a year. Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says: “This once again points to the importance of sellers pricing their homes at fair market value. In this market it is the buyers who are determining what that market value is and not the sellers.”

Watts says that the highest percentage of recent buyers in the area have been between 18 and 35 years of age and are predominately buying sectional title units. Currently, these types of properties are outselling freehold properties by three to one, with most of the movement in the R1 million to R1,5 million bracket. This is largely due to the fact that Gardens is made up of 66,74% sectional title units, with the remaining 33,26% consisting of freehold properties.

Pricing for an entry-level or bachelors unit starts at R450 000, while a one-bedroom apartment is priced from R900 000 upwards, depending on factors such as location and views. Due to the space constraints of inner-city living, one of the main factors affecting pricing is the parking bays available to the unit. This has a large influence on the demand and sale price of the property. In some instances an additional parking bay can cost the buyer as much as R100 000. She says that entry-level freehold homes are selling from R2 million upwards, while mid-level homes are selling from approximately R4,5 million upwards. Top-end homes such as the seven-bedroom, 595m2 restored Victorian Villa that is currently on the RE/MAX Living books, are on the market for R6,3 million.

According to Lightstone, a property statistics and data provider, out of 5180 suburbs nationwide, Gardens fell within the top 50 in terms of the average valuation of a freehold property and was ranked 227 out of 1969 suburbs reviewed for the average valuation of a sectional title unit.

Why is Gardens a good investment option? “Many tend to forget that property is not a short term money spinner, but over the long term it has proven to be a great investment, especially in Cape Town. We have had challenges in our local market but, compared to other regions, they are insignificant. We have a fantastic climate, scenery that ranks us as one of the top cities in the world and the attitude of the locals is positive and upbeat - what more could one ask for?” asks Watts. “It is clear that people are still apprehensive about whether or not the recession is in fact over. We are not immune to global market trends but Gardens has done specifically well in retaining good investment returns over the long term and will continue to do so in the future. Looking at the local market and our growth as a company over the last three years, it is clear that despite the global market conditions the property market here remains buoyant.”

According to Watts there won’t be any major surprises in the Gardens property market in the near future. “I do not expect a huge increase in sales over the next few months but I certainly expect to see a gradual increase over the next few years. I reiterate that sellers in this market will have to be wary of overpricing and should rely on the facts and figures provided by a trained real estate professional in order to price their property correctly in the current market,” Watts concludes.

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Friday, October 07, 2011, 3:37:31 PM

Research anticipates that close on 10 million South Africans will be retiring in the next 25 years. The results of the Sanlam 2011 Benchmark Pensioner Survey indicate that 80% of pensioners have not completely achieved their pre-determined retirement goals. On average, 31% of the pensioners believe they have not saved enough for their capital to last for the rest of their lives and 33% of members currently have a monthly shortfall between their income and expenses.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that while it has been widely reported that the South African retirement industry is under constant pressure to deliver adequate and sustainable benefits to its pensioners, and local retirement reform is on the cards once more, it cannot be emphasised enough that people need to start working towards their retirement fund as soon as possible.

He points to research from the Sanlam 2011 Benchmark Pensioner Survey where pensioners were very clear in their advice to start investing and saving as early as possible, start planning for retirement at an early age and make more enquiries and learn more about investments, investment choices and retirement.

“Property,” he says, “has always been a solid performing, long term investment, and therefore could be an ideal investment vehicle for those looking to add another element to their retirement policies and investments.”

He explains that if a person had to retire at 65 years of age, they will need 75% of the income earned when working to enable them to live a comfortable life. “Added to this,” he says, “the income stream needs to be sustainable enough to last at least 30 or so years, given the current life expectancy statistics.”

While there are many investment options available for those who are looking to start building up a retirement portfolio, including savings mechanisms and various retirement plans, Goslett says that well researched and solid property investments should also be considered as a key element of a retirement portfolio as real estate remains one of the best performing asset classes, despite the recession and its effects on current property prices and demand.

“This is because real estate investments offer diversity from the other alternatives that typically make up a retirement portfolio,” says Goslett, “added to which, performance of real estate is not linked to another asset classes which means that property investors can still benefit from their real estate purchase when other asset classes are struggling. Buying a property also offers investors long term appreciation opportunities and the potential for the property to contribute to a regular income stream.”

Goslett says there are two ways in which an established property portfolio can benefit retirees. One is that an investment property can be used by retirees to generate an additional income stream. “The buy-to-let market, for example, is currently performing very well considering that rental demand is strong,” says Goslett. “Tenants in buy-to-let properties can provide a stable income stream for retirees, should the property have been bought and paid for in full before retirement age.”

Goslett notes that investment properties can also be sold to provide a lump sum cash injection to retirement funds, once again provided that this property has been paid off before retirement age is reached. Added to this, an investment property can also provide extra avenues of equity to tap into, he says.

“While all investment options carry a certain amount of risk, a property investment which is well researched, bought for a good market-related price early on enough to ensure that it is paid off by retirement and is situated in a good location in order to retain rental demand and resale value will provide a solid retirement investment,” Goslett concludes.

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Ongoing sales and construction at The Rondebosch

Friday, October 07, 2011, 3:31:37 PM

The piling at Rawson Developers' The Rondebosch development is nearly complete.

Confounding those sceptics who have said that Cape sectional title development is in the doldrums, Rawson Developers’ R200 million “The Rondebosch” project has, says Paul Henry, the development company’s MD, “gone well”.

Units here vary in size from 43m² to 110m² and have sold from R845 000 to R1 875 000. To date just over 100 of the 166 apartments in the project have been taken and Henry is predicting ongoing sales in the next few months to parents of UCT students now looking for suitable accommodation for their offspring (The Rondebosch is one kilometre as the crow flies from the campus).

Over 30% of the purchases so far have been in cash.

Henry said that the demolition of the old Porter House office and garage complex which was previously on the site had been handled with commendable speed and with minimal inconvenience to Rondebosch residents.

All site operations, he said, have been subject to the strictest environmental controls, particular emphasis being placed on avoiding any form of pollution runoff into the nearby Liesbeeck River.

“Considering the route this river follows,” said Henry, “it is wonderfully clean. It must be one of the most unpolluted rivers in SA.”

The new seven storey building will have “more than sufficient” under cover parking, said Henry.

The main activity in recent months, due for completion soon, has been the driving by Fairbrother of 386 concrete piles – to an average depth of ten metres.

Henry said that the soft ground conditions on site had facilitated this activity.

Sales enquiries should be addressed to the site sales office at 021 658 7100.

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Transformation difficult in estate agency world

Friday, October 07, 2011, 3:25:27 PM

Those who attended the presentation by FNB and the Property Professional magazine to Bill Rawson of a Lifetime Achievement Award (and were impressed by his statement that success depends almost entirely on an ability to create good teamwork) were surprised to hear him also say that transformation in the property marketing sector had become more difficult than ever before.

The reason for this, said Rawson, is that the very high educational standards now deemed necessary for both estate agents and their principals have created yet another barrier to entry.

“It has,” he said, “been pointed out to me that my group and I pushed hardt for compulsory qualification standards. However, the EAAB and Services SETA have now taken these standards to the point where they are expensive and extremely difficult for many previously disadvantaged persons to obtain.”

The new educational qualifications, added Rawson, are also deterring young white people from entering the estate agency world.

In 2006, said Rawson, 96 000 estate agents had been registered with the EAAB. The figure is now 33 000.

“This far smaller group could, when times improve (as they inevitably will), be seen as an elite monopoly which has taken control of the entire residential market. That will be bad for property – strong competition is needed in all sectors.”

Asked what he proposes as a solution to the transformation impasse, Rawson said that it may be necessary to offer PD applicants free tuition in their rookie year and to give them more time to qualify – say, three or four years.

“The higher qualifications have undoubtedly raised the standards of SA’s agents, but we must not lose sight of the need for transformation and for avoiding the creation of cartel conditions.”

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Dangers of using unlicenced estate agents

Friday, October 07, 2011, 3:24:21 PM

It is, says Dante Fratti, CEO of D F Properties which focuses primarily on property in the Century City precinct, surprising how often estate agents are appointed by property sellers without the seller even checking on their track record or enquiring how successful they have been.

“Contractors, suppliers and even professional designers and engineers are often asked to give referrals before they can expect a job - but for some reason agents are very seldom subjected to this sort of examination.”

Fratti himself says that he is always willing to supply a list of recent buyers and sellers with whom he has dealt and in his experience this has proved valuable in boosting the confidence of his clients.

The agent, says Fratti, should always be asked to produce his Fidelity Fund Certificate,

“There have,” says Fratti, “been several cases where the agent’s certificate was out of date - and one or two cases where he has operated for a year or longer without a certificate being issued at all.”

This, Fratti reminds us, can be dangerous for the agent as well as for the seller. If an agent does not have a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate the seller could legally ask the attorneys to withhold the agent’s commission. Similarly, if the agent proves dishonest or inefficient, e.g. if he absconds with a deposit or some other situation deserving sanction arises the seller will have no authority (Estate Agents Affairs Board) to whom he can appeal. This applies to purchasers as well.

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Upgraders fuel Middelburg market

Friday, October 07, 2011, 3:23:32 PM

Local residents who are upgrading to bigger properties are giving the property market in the Mpumalanga town of Middelburg a welcome boost.

Low interest rates and increased affordability have spurred many locals to make the most of the opportunity and buy bigger properties, says René Peyper of the new RealNet Middelburg office.

“We are seeing significant activity in all sectors of the market but upgraders are particularly targeting areas such as Aerorand, Robberts Estates, Clubville and Groenkol and buying at prices up to R1,1m. Suburban homes as well as duets are in demand.

“And this trend is in turn creating openings for new buyers in the affordable sector, notably Eskom workers who are buying in areas such as Kanonkop and Extension 18. Indeed, the under-R500 000 sector of the market has become very lively. For example, a recent development of 18 one-bedroom units priced at between R430 000 and R460 000 was sold in record time.”

Although the top end of the market, where prices reach levels of up to R7m, is currently somewhat flatter than other sectors, luxury homes are still sought-after and developers are catering for this market, she says.

“Robberts Estate, a luxury security development, has just released stands in its latest phase. Prices range between R400 000 and R1,2m and stands are finding ready buyers. Owners can opt for building packages or build their own homes.”

Another luxury development just outside town is in the planning phase, she adds.

RealNet Middelburg, which opened for business in February, fields five agents and, says Peyper, sales in the first few months of operation have been exceptional. “Our turnover is very healthy for a new operation and may perhaps be ascribed to the fact that our agents are trained to pre-qualify buyers and to scout out properties that closely match their requirements.”

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Friday, October 07, 2011, 3:22:58 PM

The recent formation of a Rawson Commercial franchising division has come at a time when there are big opportunities in this field in selected areas, although these are often not seen by many, says Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties.

Right now, says Rawson, small one or two man commercial operations will find many worthwhile breaks.

“Already,” he said, “we can list four or five properties for sale through our first Cape Commercial franchise, which give an annual return of 8 to 12%. This is still the level obtainable in carefully selected properties countrywide.”

With interest rates at their present levels and banks relaxing their loan criteria, this type of return is definitely worth investigating. If as is highly probable, he adds, interest rates return to higher levels over the next four years. It is reasonable to predict that rentals will increase ahead of or at least in line with these interest rate rises.

“The market is, therefore, right for the investor who has the time (and the correct advice) to cherry-pick good opportunities – and it is these investors who our new franchises will target.”

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Friday, September 30, 2011, 1:56:53 PM

The Limpopo town of Hoedspruit, which borders the Kruger National Park, was once a small agricultural town situated in the centre of the Lowveld. Over the years Hoedspruit developed to become a pivotal role player in the provision of infrastructure and services to the Central Lowveld region.

Today the town supports a large network of farms, businesses, game reserves, lodges and educational facilities. Hoedspruit is part of the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere and the major tourist attractions in the region include The Kruger National Park, Blyde Poort Canyon, Maholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and the Hoedspruit Endangered Cheetah Centre at Kapama. Home to the Big 5, Hoedspruit offers investors many opportunities. Subsequently, Hoedspruit has transformed into a tourist hotspot and offers tourists a wonderful array of accommodation and other small town conveniences.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that in light of these developments and expansion, RE/MAX of Southern Africa is delighted to have a presence in this marketplace and notes that property purchasers in Hoedspruit will be spoilt for choice with a range of properties from B&Bs, guesthouses, to game lodges, private game reserves and residential wildlife estates available through RE/MAX Wildlife Properties Hoedspruit, which is due to officially open its doors on 7 October.

Annie van den Berg, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Wildlife Properties Hoedspruit, has worked in the Hoedspruit real estate market for the past 11 years, and hopes that her property expertise will be invaluable to the successful sales of wildlife properties that contribute to the protection of the country’s wilderness.

Annie currently has two agents working with her Elise Schuld and Gareth Putter, and reports that to date good progress has been made in the sales and rental market. Looking forward she says that while the property market is still feeling the effects of the economic slump, clear goals have been set for RE/MAX Wildlife Properties Hoedspruit and she looks forward to achieving incredible sales success.

In Hoedspruit, Annie reports that the top end properties have retained their value, as with many similar properties throughout the country. “Most of the wildlife estates have also kept their prices with the exception of a few desperate sellers,” she says.

Annie says that most of the buyers in the area are leisure investors who are looking to purchase a luxury bushveld retreat or second home and are therefore not as affected by the tight economic circumstances that many consumers have felt.

The RE/MAX Wildlife Properties Hoedspruit property profile ranges from basic bush accommodation to luxury bushveld homes in secure, private wildlife estates. Prices start at around R250 000 for vacant land with houses ranging from around R1,2million to R8million.

“The buyers are typically those who want to escape the city life,” explains Annie, “as well as pilots, bush lovers, single mothers, young families and retirees, as well as international families and investors. They are mainly people who love the African bushveld and range from young executives looking for lock-up-and-go properties to older couples who want to get away from the rushed city life. The well known nature-based Southern Cross School is situated in Hoedspruit and provides facilities for the children of the many families that have moved to Hoedspruit.”

Over the next three years Annie sees the Hoedspruit property market growing from strength to strength, as she believes the worst of the recession is over now.

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Don’t sell yourself short on agency choice

Friday, September 30, 2011, 1:55:52 PM

It’s most important for home sellers to have confidence in their agent – and that’s so much easier when that agent is backed by the marketing expertise and resources of a big national and international real estate group.

“No matter where your home is located or what it’s value is, the current market means you should seek out the very best real estate marketing service available so that you can achieve the highest possible price in the shortest time,” says Lindie de Bruin, co-owner and principal of the Sotheby’s International Realty franchise for the northern suburbs of Cape Town.

“And yet many home sellers in our areas seem to believe that they can’t avail themselves of our services unless they have a multi-million rand home to sell. This is simply not true as a very large percentage of the homes we market are in the under-R1m price range.

“What is more, we don’t discriminate at all as to level of service. Our highly-trained agents apply the same marketing methods and expertise to every property we list, whether it is worth R600 000 or R6m.”

Lew Geffen, chairman of Sotheby’s International Realty in South Africa, confirms that more than 30 percent of the homes the company sells locally are priced at less than R1-million, and says: “We obviously have the global reach to market high-end properties to high net worth investors from all around the world, and we do sell quite a number of these multi-million rand homes every year.

“But we also recognise that by far the majority of property sales in this country are still to South African buyers, and in the light of the growing trend towards downscaling to smaller, more secure and more manageable homes, most are taking place in the more affordable price brackets.

“Consequently, we make the international marketing expertise and the huge resources resident in the Sotheby’s International Realty group available to all our clients, right across the price spectrum – and in every area where we operate.”

For example, he says, the ground has one of the most sophisticated and effective internet marketing systems around, “which in addition to our extensive print advertising commitment, ensures that every client’s property gets the maximum possible exposure to potential buyers.

“And it’s all part of our standard service offering, so even sellers with smaller, less-expensive properties don’t have to sell themselves short when it comes to choosing an agent.”

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Friday, September 02, 2011, 8:25:08 AM

Habitatio rights not confirmed by the relevant clauses in the document.

Whenever a property is bequeathed or sold to a buyer on the understanding that he or she will allow a third party to occupy the premises in perpetuity (i.e. until that person moves on or dies) – a situation of conflict is possible at some future date, says Anton du Plessis, CEO of Vineyard Estates.

“A recent High Court case,” he said, “has shown just how tricky and difficult this can be, especially when the third party lives there free of charge and shares premises with the buyer.”

In the case referred to (JJ Jordan v ED Lowery), said du Plessis, the applicant, who had bought the property some years previously, alleged that the conduct of the respondent, who had been give a right to live free in the home with the applicant (but was expected to pay half the electricity costs) was such that it had become unpleasant to have her there. It was alleged that she had abused the applicant verbally and physically, had cut down trees and kept chickens (against the applicant’s wishes) and had not paid her share of the electricity bill – at one stage being ordered to do so by a court.

The applicant, therefore, applied to the court to have the respondent evicted. Earlier requests for her to leave having been ignored,

The respondent argued that she had a habitatio right to live in the house which could not be ignored or dismissed.

The court’s decision depended on whether the respondent did indeed have a habitatio right or whether she was just a ‘non-paying tenant’.

After perusing the Deed of Sale and a later addendum to it Justice N G Beshe said it was clear that no right of habitatio had ever been granted or agreed to and that the respondent’s status as a non-paying tenant had been established. She had, therefore, to observe all the rules normally associated with such a position.

The court ruled that the respondent had to leave the premises within 30 days and pay the costs of the court application.

Du Plessis commented, as has done on previous occasions, “Here again we have a case where the wording of the documents had to be interpreted literally and no alleged “understandings” or even possible verbal agreements could allow the court to place a different meaning on them.

“In my career as a property marketer,” he said, “time and again I have found it necessary to get the parties to an agreement to firm up the wording in their documents because as originally drafted it could have been open to more than interpretation. In this case the respondent’s view of her rights simply did not tie in with the written agreements so she did not have a case.”

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Donation for NSRI Witsand

Friday, August 26, 2011, 7:55:25 AM

Rawson Properties Financial Director, Calum Wedge, and Honorata Saar, Brand Manager, donated over R20 000 to the Witsand Sea Rescue station. Receiving the cheque is Leon Pretorius. Top left is Quentin Diener and bottom right Attie Gunter. The three volunteers were awarded a Gallantary Award, Silver class at the NSRI AGM for the rescue of four sailors off the yacht Gulliver during a terrible storm.

The day following the recent Annual General Meeting of the National Sea Rescue Institute, Rawson Properties’ brand manager, Honorata Saar, and the financial director of the Rawson Property Group, Calum Wedge, handed a cheque for just over R20 000 to the NSRI Witsand, Cape, of which their Witsand franchisee, Leon Pretorius is a member.

The donation which was collected, following an appeal by Rawson MD, Tony Clarke, from franchisees countrywide, is in honour of the outstanding courage shown by Leon Pretorius and his fellow Witsand crew members Attie Gunter (skipper) and Quentin Diener when they went to the aid of the 13m catamaran “Gulliver”, sailing from Stilbaai. This had got into serious trouble on account of appalling weather – and had capsized. The skipper, Greg West and his three man crew had, however, managed to activate their EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and to inflate and get into their rubber life raft.

The EPIRB signal was picked up by the nearest NSRI Depot, at Stilbaai – but they were unable to help as their 7,3m rescue boat was out of commission. They appealed to Attie Gunter, at Witsand who immediately called out his crew – Pretorius and Diener.

At their base the trio were forced to face two major difficulties – the weather was bad and worsening and their 5,5m boat, Queenie Paine, was too small for an exercise in which they might have to take on several rescued sailors – they also knew that their boat’s fuel capacity would make it difficult to cover the 30km to the EPIRB position and back.

Shortly after launching, the moon went into total eclipse and they had to fire a series of flares to negotiate the big swell and the 500m of waves at the Breede River mouth.

Then they left the shelter of Cape Infanta, and all hell broke loose. The swell had grown to eight metres and the wind, from behind, was now 60kph.

After approximately one hour, the Queenie Paine reached the EPIRB position – only to find no “Gulliver” – but another flare sent up 1 000m showed a small light to the west – and this turned out to be the overturned catamaran.

Anyone who has ever been involved in a situation of this kind will know how difficult it is to transfer a crew, some of whom are hypothermic, from a life raft to your own boat in adverse weather conditions – but the NSRI accomplished it in 15 minutes.

Now they faced the return journey in an overloaded boat – and into the wind. With 25km to go, Attie Gunter decided to rev back so as to save fuel. It was soon clear, however, they would not make it on the supplies they had – so Leon Pretorius put out a radio call, “Please send help.”

This was picked up by the Agulhas NSRI team whose 8,5m Vodacom Rescuer VII, an ideal boat for the conditions, immediately set out to cover the 25km gap to the smaller boat.

In the end they had only to track the small boat, which just 7km from base had been refuelled by a trawler. They stood by while the small boat then went over the treacherous Breede River bar (graveyard of many vessels) and then home.

Tony Clarke said that if ever there was a case where the NSRI men put themselves in danger, this was it: the danger of the small rescue boat itself capsizing, he said, had probably only been prevented by good seamanship and cool heads.

“I am very proud that a Rawson franchisee was part of this rescue and our donation is evidence that we recognise and value the NSRI’s efforts which over the years have saved so many lives.”

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Aida opens new coastal offices

Friday, August 19, 2011, 8:13:38 AM

Still on the expansion trail it has been following for the past 18 months, national real estate group Aida has just opened three more offices in KwaZulu-Natal – two on the South Coast and one in Ballito on the North Coast.

This brings the total of Aida outlets in the province to six, and there are more in the pipeline, says CEO Young Carr. “The KZN property market is beginning to recover from the recession, with prices starting to rise now in response to increased demand.

“Indeed, the latest Absa Housing Review reveals that the average home price in the province during the second quarter of this year was 5% up on the first quarter, and that year-on-year price growth is back in positive territory.”

However, he says, prices are generally still well below boom levels, and the increased activity in the market is in recognition of the fact that there are many really excellent buying opportunities now for both local homeowners looking to upgrade and out-of-province holiday home buyers and investors.

“We believe the timing is thus opportune to establish new outlets that can further showcase these opportunities to a national audience and benefit KZN home sellers.”

Carr says home sellers along the KZN coast should also take heart from the latest FNB Property Barometer, which reveals that holiday home purchasing has more than doubled in the past year.

“Holiday property buying expressed as a percentage of total residential buying has risen from an estimated 1% in mid-2010 to an estimated 3% by the end of the second quarter this year – which we think is excellent news considering that at the peak of the market in 2007, holiday home buying accounted for just 5% of all purchases.”

What is more, he notes, closer analysis of the Absa figures reveals that KZN coastal regions, while coming off a low base, experienced some of the best year-on-year performances in the second quarter of this year, “and we expected these to be sustained by growing buyer interest, especially on the North Coast.”

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RE/MAX office in Glengarry open for business

Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 11:08:37 AM

RE/MAX Property Associates, which services the Cape Western Seaboard and the northern suburbs of Cape Town, is now operating from the Glengarry Shopping Centre close to the suburbs of Bellville and Durbanville. This new upmarket office location will ensure that property buyers and sellers in these and the surrounding areas will benefit from easier access to agents who are known for their customer centricity, professionalism and exceptional service. 

Caron Leslie, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Property Associates, notes that although the Glengarry office is relatively small with only six agents currently, they intend to make a big impact in the area. “This new office has agents with the relevant NQF4 qualifications, as well as agents who are Certified Distressed Property Experts (CDPE).   We offer a very highly professional service to the community, as well as covering all the aspects involved with the selling and buying of property,” says Leslie, “We want to make a difference within the community in which we operate and we care about our involvement and how we affect our surroundings. This is why we are proud to be a RE/MAX ‘Green Office’ (eco-friendly).  RE/MAX Property Associates is also affiliated with Reach for a Dream and are involved with Blanket Drives during winter as well as providing jerseys for new-born infants in need.”

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says: “We have every confidence that the RE/MAX office in Glengarry will flourish in its new location and provide its clients with the excellent service that has become synonymous with the RE/MAX brand.”

Situated in the northern suburbs of the greater Cape Town area, Bellville was originally called ‘12 Mile Post’, since it is located 12 miles (20 km) from the Cape Town CBD. It was founded as a railway station on the line from Cape Town to Stellenbosch and Strand. Bellville’s is centrally located close to the airport, numerous golf courses, wine routes and amenities such as shopping complexes and excellent medical facilities. Bellville is also home to The Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of the Western Cape.

“Bellville is an excellent area for astute investors looking for buy-to-let opportunities due to its location. Its proximity to the universities will mean that there will always be an influx of students looking for accommodation in the area,” says Leslie.

Property prices within the Bellville area range in price from approximately R650 000 and go up to the R3,5 million benchmark.  Leslie notes that judging from recent activity in the area the most popular property choices among investors are sectional title units below the R1 million mark and freestanding homes in the R1,6 million price range. This falls in line with the country-wide trend of a greater demand for more affordable housing.

“There has been a noticeable upturn in the property market in terms of the sales transactions that have been concluded in the Belville area.  Property prices have currently stabilised here and we have seen many first-time buyers to middle income buyers entering the market. The current conditions have opened the property door to many buyers that were previously unable to afford it,” says Leslie, “We still have a long road ahead of us in terms of market recovery, however things are looking up,” she concludes.

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RE/MAX opens new office in Kraaifontein

Wednesday, August 03, 2011, 2:42:03 PM

RE/MAX Property Associates, which currently has offices in Blouberg, Parklands, Pinelands, Table View and Tygervalley on the Cape Western Seaboard, has opened a new office in Kraaifontein. The new office will service Kraaifontein and the surrounding areas such as Brackenfell and Kuils River.  Jose De Abreu, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Property Assoicates, says: “Over the years RE/MAX has concluded many property transactions in these areas, from stand sales to sectional title units and small holdings. This is why it made sense to establish an office in Kraaifontein and provide a personal service to both sellers and buyers on their doorstep.”

De Abreu adds that there are currently 15 estate agents that are working from the Kraaifontein office.  “Our agents are qualified professionals that are able to provide assistance to sellers and finding the right buyer for their property in the shortest possible time.  RE/MAX agents are well trained in order to provide an unequalled service to their clients,” says De Abreu.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says: “RE/MAX continues to grow its share in the market and strives to be the leading estate agency in the country. In the current economic conditions it is the expertise of a knowledgeable and reputable agent that makes all the difference when concluding a successful property transaction.”  

According to De Abreu, many sales are currently being concluded in Kraaifontein and the surrounding areas. “Due to high demand, the stock of property we have available to buyers is starting to become less and we could see the market in these areas soon favouring sellers. While currently many offers that are being accepted by sellers are lower than what they originally wanted, the properties are being sold at market related prices. This indicates the importance of correctly pricing a property at a fair market value,” says De Abreu.

De Abreu notes that Kraaifontein offers something for everyone from the first time buyer looking for a start-up home to the most discerning buyer looking for a high-end home. Free standing homes are in high demand in the area and the most popular choice, with prices ranging from a few hundred thousand to multi-million rand homes.

“Currently people feel that our area is predominantly Afrikaans speaking but that is not the case. We have people from all walks of life and ethnical backgrounds. We have great amenities in the area such as medical facilities and shopping centres, and the area is situated just 30 minutes drive from the Cape Town CBD.  Buyers looking for value-for-money property and lovely family homes will find them in Kraaifontein and the surrounding areas,” says De Abreu.

According to Lightstone, the average purchase price for a freestanding home recorded in 2011 in Kraaifontein is approximately R500 000.  The majority of the current homeowners are between the ages of 36 and 49 years old, while 100% of the recent sellers were over the age of 65 years old. This seems to point to the fact that the demographic of the area seems to be getting younger.

Looking to the next 12 to 18 months, De Abreu predicts that the property market in the area and in general looks promising. “Currently we are in a market where the majority of our buyers still rely on a 100% loan when applying for a bond.  Affordability is still an issue and the banks’ lending criteria remains fairly stringent.  As time goes on and the market recovers, buyers will become more financially stable and will have the deposits required by the financial institutions. They will also be more familiar with the requirements of the National Credit Act (NCA), which should help us when it comes to reducing the amount of declines we are currently experiencing when it comes to bond grants,” he concludes.

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MPC interest rate decision

Friday, July 29, 2011, 2:42:23 PM

The Monetary Policy Committee’s decision to keep interest rates at their current levels will be welcomed by the property sector, says Tony Clarke, MD of Rawson Properties.

“Had they opted for a 1% or even a 0,5% increase,” said Clarke, “an already difficult situation in the property sector would have been made even more difficult.”

Clarke said that most property analysts agree that the inflation rate (now up from 4,2% to 5%) is still low enough not to require a further rate increase.

“No doubt,” he said, “the time is coming where the big price increases in petrol, electricity and food, exacerbated by wage increases to trade union members that are often double the inflation rate, will call for an interest rate rise – but that stage has not yet been reached.”

The recovery in the property sector, said Clarke, is coming about – but only at a very slow pace.

“Everything must be done now to keep it going – and there can be no doubt that even a small interest rate rise at this stage would have been disastrous.”

Asked in what way it would be harmful, Clarke said that right now “thousands” of homeowners are struggling to pay their monthly bond repayments – and many are “not far off” having their homes repossessed or sold in execution. Even small rises in the rate, he said, could tip the scales against them.

“What has to be appreciated,” he said, “is that the large numbers of distressed properties for sale bring down the average price of all property. The quicker we can get rid of this backlog, the better. The below-average interest rate is essential to property’s recovery.”

By the first quarter of 2012, added Clarke, further inflation rises will probably make it necessary for the MPC to “normalise” the rates, but this could be held off due to political electioneering.

“At the moment,” he commented, “there is still far too much volatility in the SA economy – it jumps around “like a hyperactive rabbit”, overreacting to internal and external factors.

Spokespeople in the property sector, he said, would welcome a steady conservative performance which would enable them to plan ahead more easily.

Clarke predicted that by 2013 the current slow recovery will be evident to all but, he said, a bull market should not be counted on before 2015.

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Lack of sub-prime credit not disastrous

Friday, July 22, 2011, 9:23:02 AM

FNB’s decision to stop issuing any bonds at sub-prime rates will probably be followed by the other banks – but this is not a death blow to the residential property market, says Anton du Plessis, CEO of the Cape Peninsula estate agency, Vineyard Estates.

“Right now,” he said, “the rates are low enough to promote a lively housing market. The problem is not the interest rate levels but the high number of mortgage bond applications that are still rejected, especially at the lower end of the market.”

In upper middle and upper bracket housing (on which his company focuses), said du Plessis, the average bond is around R3 million. At a sub-prime rate of 1% below prime, (i.e. 8%) this would mean that the borrower would pay approximately R25 000 per month. If, as seems likely, he could only get prime, he would be paying R27 000, approximately R2 000 more per month.

“In the market I serve that would generally not be a problem to most buyers,” said du Plessis.

Asked if buyers at the lower end of the market would not be seriously affected by a 0,5% or 1% rise in their rates, du Plessis said that almost no borrowers at this level were granted sub-prime rates, so their situation has not been changed by the new ruling.

“It has to be added,” he said, “that although a lack of bond finance has been the limiting factor on house sales, this is not as serious a problem in the upper middle and upper brackets as it is in the lower markets.. In general, the potential buyers with whom companies like Vineyard Estates deals have good credit records, and are in good standing with their banks: over 80% therefore do get bonds without undue fuss, especially if they work through a good bond originator and can manage a 10 0r 20% deposit.”

Psychologically, said du Plessis, the cancellation of sub-prime lending may give a negative message to potential property buyers.

“It might in some quarters be interpreted as an indication that the banks still see residential property as high risk. All the evidence available points to the opposite conclusion – property remains a safe long term investment – but market sentiment might react to the bank ruling negatively.”

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City Council's inept planning offices

Friday, July 22, 2011, 9:21:47 AM

“Cape Town’s property planning and approval department has lost touch with the real world. They continue to pat themselves on the back because they are told they are performing more efficiently than other SA local authorities – but that is a meaningless yardstick. The truth is that, employing unqualified and inexperienced staff for jobs which they are not yet competent to handle, the department is causing developers and construction contractors month after month to lose large sums and limiting the number of new projects. Regrettably, ongoing complaints about this have so far had little effect.”

These tough words were said recently by Paul Henry, managing director of Rawson Developers, one of the few Cape Town residential property developers which has been able to launch new projects in the last two years.

Henry said that by any “normal” standards, the approval of a new development should be completed in three months. In practice, he said, it now takes 18 months or longer.

“What the department forgets is that these inexcusable delays all add to the cost and risk of every project. They make the task of the developer already hard hit in these straitened times far more difficult.”

Those most frustrated by the current inefficiencies, said Henry, are often the end users who time and again find for no reason that they can identify that transfer has been delayed.

Rawsons, said Henry, have encountered delays on every project which they have launched in the last six years but nowhere has this been worse than at their River’s Edge development.

Sited in Rondebosch, 50m from the Liesbeek canal, this 84 unit complex was deemed by City Council to be subject to their new Flood Plain River Management Policy. This, says Henry, appears to have been drawn up without any clear directive on how it is to be implemented and enforced.

“The impression developers like ourselves are getting is that city officials themselves do not understand the policy and their engineers are still debating it.

“In an industry now facing massive unemployment as a result of the available jobs being reduced by over 50%, one could have expected the city officials to do all in their power to keep new developments coming off the drawing boards. However, like the banks they appear to have no real feeling of responsibility or duty in this matter.”

Henry’s statements tie in closely with those of Deon van Zyl, chairman of the Western Cape Property Development Forum, who in a recent letter to forum members said:

“Where developers do dare to develop, bulk infrastructure constraints, ill-defined development contribution policies and slow building plan approvals are hampering attempts to break ground.”

Van Zyl then said that the Property Forum has set for itself the following goals:

  • to increase its levels of communication with executive politicians and officials;
  • to assess what reasonable timelines for approvals should be and to compare these with what is actually achieved by the Western Cape province and municipality planning departments;
  • to create a confidence index reflecting forum members’ experiences with the above authorities;
  • to lobby forum members to comment on provincial and municipal policy changes and to make constructive suggestions;
  • to inform members of legislative and policy changes likely to affect them; and
  • to forward all information and members’ questions to the province and the municipalities.

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Plumstead unit coming up for auction

Friday, July 08, 2011, 10:10:33 AM

Coming up for auction on Wednesday 13th July is a modern two bedroom apartment in a secure complex at Plumstead.

Tanya Jovanovski, CEO of Rawson Auctions, who are handing the sale, says that, like certain other properties which Rawsons has recently auctioned in the Southern Suburbs, this apartment, which already has a tenant paying R4 000 per month (who will stay on if the buyer is an investment buyer or will leave on transfer of the property if the buyer wishes to use it himself), is the perfect buy-to-rent property. She is, therefore, expecting bidding to start at R700 000.

In addition to its two bedrooms, the apartment has an open plan living room linking to a kitchen and a balcony, and has its own garage.

“This is exactly the sort of secure, reasonably priced flat, close to enough to the suburban rail line and to good local schools, that many tenants are looking for,” said Jovanovski, “and as I have said before, those now building portfolios of such units five to ten years from now will, I believe, be seen as having made the right moves at the right time.”

Rawson Auctions do not charge a bidders’ fee but they expect a 10% deposit to be paid on the fall of the hammer and their commission fee is 10%, payable by the buyer. Right now, says Jovanovski, properties of this type in the less expensive Cape Peninsula suburbs are going at 30 to 40% discounts on 2007/2008 prices.

Jovanovski can be contacted on 082 411 9599 or Jason Lee, Rawson Auctions’ legal expert, on 082 940 6605.

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Technology Training Branding and Sheer Size

Friday, July 08, 2011, 10:09:51 AM

While there will always be a place for the one or two man real estate marketing teams operating in a specific area of which they have specialist knowledge, the estate agency sector is today being ‘driven’ by two major factors, both of which work in favour of the bigger agencies - and both of which are so expensive that it is increasingly difficult for the small agencies to afford them.

This is the view of Bill Rawson, Chairman of Rawson Properties. The two factors to which he is referring are education/training and computer-related technology.

“Success in real estate marketing does depend on the agent’s attitude and perseverance - but the history of the Rawson group shows clearly that the performance of an agent can be significantly enhanced if he is regularly trained. A good agent will become even better and an average agent will become a good one. However, training is expensive and demands considerable commitment from the franchisor.”

Similarly, said Rawson, IT technology is now a sine qua non in marketing and in the running of a real estate operation – and is costly.

“Today’s consumer and potential client is increasingly IT savvy: he wants to do his research away from the agent on his own and preferably before he meets him face-to-face. He expects to be able to use his PC, cell phone or smart phone and iPad to get almost all the information (and pictures) that he needs to help him make his decisions. The information supplied in this way would in most cases cover not only the property but also the area, its facilities, its security and its properties’ economic performance in previous years. For the franchisee running an agency learning to operate sophisticated IT systems is, therefore, essential.”

Furthermore, said Rawson, the franchisee running an agency will operate far more effectively if he is given simple, easy to understand systems on which he can track and organise his business, including all the documentation that is such as essential part of property trading.

This technology, said Rawson, is improving so fast that these days it has to be updated every few months. This again, he said, is an expensive exercise that the small agencies simply cannot afford.

Other factors working in favour of the bigger, more sophisticated agencies, said Rawson, are branding and contacts/referrals.

“In groups like Rawsons which have 140 franchises, ongoing exposure and advertising play a huge part in forming and increasing the public’s perception of the company - and with ± 1 000 agents all making, say, four or five contacts per day, up to 100 000 people are kept informed or made aware for the first time of Rawsons each month. The effect of this simply cannot be overemphasised: people will try the well exposed group first, partly because they know that in such a group there is always a more senior person to whom they can refer a problem if their initial contact happens to prove unsatisfactory and partly because success fosters respect.”

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MortgageMax the ‘plug-and-play’ solution for independent originators

Friday, July 08, 2011, 10:09:02 AM

Mortgage origination is a tough business at the best of times, and especially stressful in the current tight credit environment - unless you are part of a major group with a high profile national brand, extensive resources and strong relationships with lenders.

Which is no doubt why scores of independent origination businesses and bond consultants have already elected to operate under the new MortgageMax banner raised late last year by BetterGroup, the parent company of leading SA originator BetterBond.

“MortgageMax,” says CEO Jors van Niekerk, “offers a licence model that enables the smaller originator or independent consultant to immediately ‘plug in’ to the group’s long-established relationships with the banks and to use proven online transaction management and back office admin systems.

“There is no upfront capital outlay required as there would be in the case of a franchise, and licensees also save the costs of setting up their own IT and admin support systems. There are also no royalty fees based on turnover, no geographic restrictions and no source or channel restrictions.”

In short, he says, MortageMax licensees are able to retain all their independence while enjoying national brand recognition and both business and technology support from a “big brother” with long experience and substantial resources.

“And because MortgageMax is part of the same group as BetterBond, our licensees are also able to offer their clients added value in the form of services such as bridging finance (through BetterBridge); credit life and short term insurance (through BetterSure) and personal loans (through BetterLoan).”

All of this, says Van Niekerk, adds up to a highly cost-effective package of benefits that is drawing an increasing number of independent operators into the MortgageMax fold.

“Our national footprint is increasing rapidly and we now have dedicated relationship managers in most regions. The next step is to convert most of the independents under our existing Mortgage Alliance brand to the group-supported licence model, as this will immediately increase the value and credibility of their businesses.

“We are also inviting all independent originators (aggregators) and new entrants to this market to contact our regional relationship managers or myself to discuss our full value proposition in more detail.”



Jors van Niekerk - CEO

082 336 6490

Zelda Killian – Gauteng

083 406 1299

Charmaine du Plessis – Pretoria

082 459 9245

John Goldstone – KZN

084 677 2311

Lindsay de Koker – Western Cape

082 788 6309


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Friday, June 24, 2011, 8:29:45 AM

The best time to get into the property market is always right now, says Dorothy Foster, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Oaktree, which has serviced the Stellenbosch area for the past 12 years.

“Market conditions currently favour buyers who have done their research and are able to make an informed decision about how and where to get their foot in the door. In my opinion, the sooner investors get into the market the better as prices in Stellenbosch have remained the same over the last 18 months and added to that, the lower interest rates are an advantage to any property buyer. For those who currently own property and are selling to upgrade, they must remember that they are selling and buying under the same conditions,” says Foster.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says: “With predictions that the interest rate will increase in the near future, buyers should take advantage of the opportunities that the market conditions we have experienced since November last year have brought about.”

According to Foster, Stellenbosch offers a great return on investment due to capital gain and many of the investors currently buying in the area are purchasing as part of their buy-to-rent portfolio. Stellenbosch has always been regarded as a sought-after area by investors, largely due to its unique offering. “Stellenbosch is 35 minutes from Cape Town city centre, 15 minutes from the beach and just five minutes from the nearest wine farm. The area is alive with art and culture and there is so much history here as it is the second oldest town in the country. There is also always a large influx of students to the area every year making a buy-to-rent property viable for investors,” says Foster.

Statistically most types of properties in Stellenbosch have been performing well, however many transactions have been in the under R2 million category. “There seems to be a strong demand for affordable housing in the area. We have sold high-end properties but most of our transactions have been in the entry-level and mid-range price brackets,” says Foster.

Although the property market is still in the recovery stage after the recent recession, described as the worst in modern times, the market continues to improve and the volume of transactions in Stellenbosch have increased year on year from 2008.

“Here in Stellenbosch, its business as usual and the area has been doing really well. Last year many of the agents at the RE/MAX Oaktree office won awards for their achievements and our office ranked as the number two RE/MAX office in the Western Cape, based on total value of sales. Aside from the improvement we have seen in the market, I think this is due to the fact that our agents are self-motivated, business-minded people with years of experience in the industry,” says Foster

There have been many factors that have influenced the property market recently in the last while, such as the introduction of the new Consumer Protection Act as well as the new legislated qualifications that are required for all real estate professionals. “I think that property buyers and sellers in Stellenbosch and across the country can be assured that they are dealing with professionals and estate agents in our area will continue to focus on providing the invaluable service to their clients,” concludes Foster.

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Friday, June 17, 2011, 9:55:05 AM

As the cold winter weather begins to creep through our country and we dust off our heaters and try to stay warm, there are many who are not as fortunate and do not have the simple necessities such as warmth or shelter that are so often taken for granted.

Many in South Africa are unemployed or homeless and the cold winter months will be a harsh reality to contend with. Some seek refuge in caravans, sink houses or tents, while others have nowhere to go at all.
"Now is the time to get involved in our communities and help one another during the cold months that lie ahead. Saturday 11th June 2011 marked one year since the start of the South African Soccer World Cup and we remember how amazing it was to see our country united in one cause. The country was filled with talk about the spirit of Ubuntu and came together as a nation. Wouldn't it be incredible if we could unite again to help those in our communities that need it most," says Neville Brits, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Dazzle, that services the Kempton Park and Mulbarton areas.

Brits says that his office is currently involved with a project to uplift and help 120 people living in the Kempton Park community. "For many their sense of hope is slowly vanishing and whether young or old we could all use a helping hand at times to get back on our feet. The people that we have connected with are in frantic need of our help, as life has dealt with them harshly and their struggle continues daily," he says.

The RE/MAX Dazzle team is currently working on finding a safe place to help settle this community of 120 individuals and families. "We are currently looking at different housing options as well as small business opportunities that would generate an income for the residents once we have found premises for them. The goal is to have a facility that will include child-care for babies and toddlers so that they are being looked after while their parents are contributing to the community. Ideally the project needs to be sustainable and help the participants to help themselves. We want these families to be able to live normal and healthy lives while being able to provide for their own children," says Brits.

He continues by saying: "We honestly believe that by pooling our resources and ideas together as well as connecting with our business and personal networks we can make a difference, we can change the lives of 120 people for the better. Our aim for the time being is to help them with their primary needs."

Brits lists these as:

  • Food
  • A safe, warm place to sleep
  • Basic access to clothing and hygiene facilities
  • Help them to re-establish their sense of self-worth and self-esteem
  • Address basic social issues
  • Help cultivate sustainable income-generating opportunities such as employment

This is a huge project but as the saying goes, you can only eat an elephant one bite at a time. RE/MAX Dazzle is kicking off this initiative with a charity event in conjunction with Sonja Herholdt presenting the 'Heartbeat of Womanhood'. This inspirational event will take place on Saturday 20th of August at 9am for 9:30am at Kempton-Hoogland, 85 De Wiekus Way, Van Riebeeck Park. "We would like to get a minimum of a 1000 women together that would like to sponsor, donate or just support us in this regard either in their private capacity or as a part of their business initiative. Any help is appreciated," says Brits.

  1. By buying a ticket of R100, you will take your first step in helping someone change their life.
  2. Donate one item of non-perishable food, baby food, wipes, nappies etc. (Companies that are able to donate small gifts, samples and magazines will help us in putting together a 'Goodie bag' for all the ladies taking the time to help and support this project.)

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says: "RE/MAX of Southern Africa has a strong association with various initiatives that help those less fortunate than ourselves. As a company we believe in community involvement and giving back to the communities in which we operate in an effort to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most."

"We can't do this on our own, but we can do it with the help of the members in our community. The more people that are involved with this project the better and we can stand together united to help those in need and move forward to a better South Africa," concludes Brits.

For more information about the project or how you can help please contact Cindy Brits from RE/MAX Dazzle on 084 569 9590.

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National honours for Alberton agency

Friday, June 17, 2011, 9:53:11 AM

Local agency ERA Alberton has been named as the Franchise of the Year by the ERA South Africa real estate group, while its principal Jacques Louw has been honoured as the group’s Broker of the Year.

The accolades were announced at a recent national awards ceremony, where ERA Alberton also notched up the awards for the top franchise in the northern region (for the second year running) and top franchise nationally in the commission-earned category and top franchise nationally in the bank-assisted sales category.

The agency was also named as one of the top three nationally in terms of the total number of units sold, and ERA South Africa CEO Gerhard Kotzé says it has turned in an outstanding performance over the past 12 months, especially considering the difficult market conditions prevailing.

He also notes that the group is actively seeking more franchisees in Johannesburg and on the East and West Rand.

Louw says several factors have worked in the agency’s favour over the year, not least the increasing recognition of the ERA brand in the Alberton area.

“In tough times especially, homebuyers and sellers would prefer to deal with a big-name agency that they know is still going to be around tomorrow, and we have invested heavily in advertising and marketing over the past few years to get the ERA brand well-known in Alberton.

“In addition, as an ERA franchise, we are on the panels of all the banks for selling distressed properties before they go into repossession, and that has helped to increase our sales volumes in a depressed market.”

As for the future, he says the local property market is definitely improving. “Any home priced between R500 000 and R700 000 is selling almost as soon as it is listed, and the R700 000 to R1m sector is also very buoyant. At prices up to R1,5m we are also getting a better response from buyers now. Although sales are still a bit slower above that mark, any correctly priced property doesn’t stay on the market for too long.”

This improvement, he believes, could also be attributed to a change of mindset among buyers - with most now understanding that they need a deposit of at least 10% - combined with a somewhat more relaxed approach to lending on the part of the banks, especially at the lower price levels.

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Friday, June 10, 2011, 8:30:39 AM


One of the most important decisions you will ever make in your 'Golden Years' will be about the retirement property you decide to buy, says Dorothy Foster, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Oaktree, which services the Stellenbosch area.

"South Africa is fortunate in that there are a wide variety of options available to property buyers looking into retirement communities. These range from modest entry-level properties to plush properties which give the potential buyer the opportunity to make the appropriate decision based on their criteria and financial status," says Foster.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says: "As with any property purchase the first step is to do your homework and access your finances carefully. As a general rule with buying a retirement home, once you have paid for your home, your monthly income after deductions should be four times the amount of levy that you pay. It is best to consult with a professional financial adviser to assist you in correctly working out what you can afford."

Statistically most property investors in this life-stage currently own some kind of property, however, the property they presently own no longer meets their requirements and they wish to downsize or move into a more secure environment that is close to amenities such as hospitals and frail-care facilities. Foster says that investors who own property should have it valued by a reputable estate agent; this will help them assess how much they can afford to spend on their new home.

"We find that in Stellenbosch secure retirement estates such as Paradyskloof Villas are very popular among property buyers over 50 years old due to the excellent security and frail-care facilities available to the residents. There are not many properties in Stellenbosch that have all of these facilities so there is a great demand, even for clients looking to rent. Many investors at the estate have bought their property and chose to rent it out until they are ready to move into the estate themselves. Rental incomes range from R8 000 to R12 000 per month," says Foster.

Aside from the frail-care services available to residents at Paradyskloof, there are other facilities such as a restaurant for residents and their visitors, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a dam with swans.
Foster says that there are 58 sectional-title units on the estate ranging from approximately 124m2 to 260m2. There are two kinds of property options available to investors. The first option is a two-bedroom unit with two bathrooms, main en-suite and a single remote operated garage. The second option is a three-bedroom unit with two bathrooms, main en-suite and a double remote operated garage. Prices of the units differ depending on their location. Two-bedroom units that directly overlook the dam are priced at approximately R3,2 million whereas ones that don't cost around R2,55 million. Similarly the three-bedroom units will cost between R3,5 million and R2,95 million respectively," says Foster.

According to Foster, it is important to ensure that buyers choose the retirement complex that suits their requirements and their lifestyle. There are many estate agents who specialise in retirement communities and their expert knowledge can be an invaluable tool to buyers when looking for the right community to meet their criteria. "Buyers should ask whether their lifestyle can fit into the environment that the retirement complex provides. This will ensure a happy transition into this new and exciting phase of their lives," she concludes.

For more information about property at Paradyskloof Viilas or others within Stellenbosch contact Louise Brink at RE/MAX Oaktree on 082 578 5085.

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Franchising proven to be the best for residential property

Friday, June 10, 2011, 8:29:36 AM

The last decade, says Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, has shown conclusively that in residential property marketing franchising is far and away the best route to achieving real results and ongoing growth.

“In the 20 years or so that we ran with branches controlled and run by a head office team, we had many really good performers – but, almost without exception, they upped their game when they became franchisees.”

Even more significantly, said Rawson, once the franchise system had proved itself, “as it did in a short space of time”, it resulted in the group being able to recruit or promote top level independent entrepreneurial leaders who would never have been content under a centralised branch system but who flourished when put in a position of real command.

Asked why, if the system is so effective, certain franchise groups have had a fairly high dropout rate Rawson said that a good franchisor will always provide a 24/7 support group, training and systems which enable the rookie franchisee to survive the first year – and indeed, thereafter.

“We made some mistakes when we set up our franchising network – but we always understood the importance of real backup. All the groups that give 100% support to their franchisees have flourished. Those who simply sell them the right to operate under their name and to capitalise on their brand without providing significant support have seen high failure rates.”

For further information contact Bill Rawson on 021 658 7100 or email

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High end market in Strand and Somerset West

Friday, June 03, 2011, 9:01:22 AM

Rawson Properties Somerset West franchise is marketing this Tuscan style home in the Spanish Farm area at a price of R9,1 million.

View site home is a bargain at its price of R9,1 million, says franchisee.

Over the last two years Schalk van der Merwe, the franchisee for Rawson Properties Somerset West, has taken it upon himself to cultivate the high-end market as much as possible. As a result, he reported recently, he now controls some 20% of the mandates in certain areas, one of the most satisfactory of which is the affluent Spanish Farm district near Somerset West.

The Spanish farm area, says van der Merwe, is genuinely acknowledged to be the most elite area in the Helderberg - and, he adds, turnover here has been far better than most property watchers would expect.

Looking at the Spanish Farm sales of the last few years, van der Merwe said that in 2005 13 sales were achieved (with a total value of R36,2 million) and in 2009, in a year which most people regard as the worst in recent property history, there were nine sales with a value of R48,6 million.

These figures, which van der Merwe extracted from the SA Property Guide, indicate, he says, that although prices in the area have not risen spectacularly they have continued to rise.

“This is a factor of which all interested in the area should definitely take note, because it is a safe bet that if price increases could be achieved in such a tough time they will be a great deal more satisfactory when the current recession ends, which I estimate will take another 18 to 24 months.”

Van der Merwe has recently been given the sole mandate for a home on the roller coaster, high level Rembrandt Road which links the Helderberg Nature Reserve with the Helderberg College precinct. This is thought by many estate agents, says van der Merwe, to be one of the most attractive suburban roads in South Africa.

Views from the home for which he now has the mandate take in a panorama that includes the Hottentots Holland Mountains to the south, False Bay and the southern spine of Table Mountain to the south and west.

“It would be very difficult indeed to find a home with more impressive views than this one,” says van der Mewe.

The double storey Tuscan style home was built to German standards (the client was, in fact, German) and has many finishes and fittings that would normally only be found in upmarket, European homes. Many of the cupboards and fittings have been handcrafted and several of the interior walls have been painted by Italian artisans.

The home has five bedrooms, all en suite, three receptions rooms, a bar, a wine cellar, a scullery and a double garage in which the doors open and close in response to electronic controls.

The steep slope of the property has not, says Van der Merwe, deterred the owners from developing a garden, which is irrigated by a computer-controlled system - but perhaps the most attractive feature on the entire property, he says, is a large, rim-flow pool sited in front of the living and dining areas.

The home has no less than 550m2 of floor area, which is three times the size of the average South African middle class home, and is on a plot of 2,425 m2.

Under ‘normal’ trading conditions, says van der Merwe, a home of this quality would sell for a far higher price than the current list price, which is R9,1 million. This, he says, is exceptionally good value, even in a market where upper bracket homes are taking anything from six to 12 months to find a buyer.

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Elections will give positive message to investors

Friday, June 03, 2011, 8:54:34 AM

They way in which the recent South African elections were run and the trends that emerged in the voting patterns will send a positive message to potential property investors, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of Rawson Properties – and, he adds, he will be relaying the news of this success to the business colleagues he meets in the three week visit to the USA on which he is now about to embark.

“Many in the First World,” said Rawson, “have slapped a Third World African label on South Africa – but Third World countries tend not to have well-run peaceful elections, nor do their voters show a mature understanding of the delivery and economic issues at stake – as a significant proportion of SA voters appear to have done this time.”

Rawson said that the fact that a truly multiracial party, like the DA, had been able to increase its share by 12,37% to 24% and that about 20% of its support now comes from black Africans is “hugely encouraging”.

“There are now signs that the hurts and discrimination of the apartheid era can be forgotten and that young, educated Africans will start to support those parties which best advance their prospects and do not rely purely on racial loyalties for votes.

“The reaction of potential property investors both here and overseas to this voting pattern has been cautiously optimistic. We can only hope that in the next four years those who play the race card will be further shunned by those looking for real efficiency in government.”

One very positive result of the elections, said Rawson, is that they should speed up the delivery of low cost housing and services.

“The lack of delivery has proven so contentious in this election that all responsible for it will now realise that a faster rate is a key to their survival – and more will benefit at last from all parties. The regular chant “we are here for the poor” may become more of a reality.”

In previous statements, Rawson has repeatedly argued that with the money markets and the JSE still showing signs of volatility, property represents a viable, safer investment channel.

“This,” he said, “has been my message for over 40 years and I have yet to find an investor who took our advice who today regrets it.”

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Trustees must sign AGM resolutions within two weeks of meeting

Friday, June 03, 2011, 8:53:13 AM

When new trustees are appointed or former trustees re-elected in sectional title schemes it often happens that they fail to observe one of the most important clauses of the Sectional Title Act, the rule that trustees must convene within 14 days of the AGM to pass certain resolutions.

Pointing this out recently, Michael Bauer, general manager of IHFM, the property management company, said that Section 37(2) of the Act lays it down that within 14 days of the AGM trustees have to:

  1. elect a chairman;
  2. set the levies for the coming year and stipulate when and how they will be paid;
  3. determine the interest rate to be charged on levy arrears; and
  4. sign the financial statements for the finances for the past year.

If for any reason the trustees are not able to meet, these resolutions can be signed and confirmed by them in a round robin resolution which they must sign and send back to the management agent for filing in the minute book.

It is particularly important, added Bauer, to decide by what date monthly levies are payable and to remind members that the bank transaction fees are for their account.

“Many members today do not appreciate how onerous these fees can be, especially if levies are paid in cash,” said Bauer.

If these resolutions are not made on time, levy and debt collection becomes very difficult – nor does it help to try and charge an approximate levy which can then be added once the calculations are worked out.

“In these circumstances,” he said, “the member who is called on to pay more will often avoid payment.”

A free copy of a sample trustee resolution is available by going to of first trustee meeting.pdf

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Wise to have public liability insurance

Friday, June 03, 2011, 8:51:18 AM

<p>There has been   further comment, this time from Michael Bauer, general manager of IHFM, the   property management company, on the court case (Swingborne v Newbee Investments)   in which the tenant in a block of flats was able to sue the body corporate   successfully for damages after he injured himself on a flight of stairs that had   no handrail.</p>

<p>Bauer says that   in his experience many schemes&rsquo; liability insurance specifically excludes any   claims for damage to the property and occupant&rsquo;s possessions but neglect to   exclude damages or injury that might happen to people.</p>

<p>&ldquo;The liability   clauses are often inadequate,&rdquo; said Bauer. &ldquo;At IHFM we advise having a policy   that does cover personal injuries.&nbsp; This has to be complemented by warning signs   regarding slippery surfaces or any other hazard as well as regular health and   safety inspections.&rdquo; </p>

<p>Public   liability policies, he said, are not required by the Sectional Title Act, but   his does not alter the fact that it is wise to have them and ensure they provide   sufficient cover.</p>


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Brettenwood Coastal Estate

Friday, June 03, 2011, 8:48:50 AM

<p>Investors looking for idyllic coastal property coupled with secure  estate living will find it in Sheffield, says  John Pechey, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Dolphin Realtors. </p><p>
With its long history of sugar cane farming, Sheffield  is arguably one of the most beautiful areas on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.  Given its name in honour of sugar magnate Sir  Leige Hulett&rsquo;s birthplace in Sheffield, England, the area is one of the best kept secrets  of the Dolphin Coast.</p><p>
Initially a sugar cane farm, Brettenwood Coastal Estate, situated above Sheffield Beach  is set high on a ridge overlooking the Indian Ocean.  The estate successfully combines the security and facilities of a gated  residential estate with the tranquillity of a sub-tropical coastal  lifestyle.  &ldquo;This estate offers the best  of both worlds with beautiful ocean views from many of its stands along with a  high level of security to the home owners,&rdquo; says Pechey.  </p><p>
Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa  says: &ldquo;There is definitely a strong demand for secure lifestyle properties such  as Brettenwood Coastal Estate, with more and more buyers requesting to be shown  properties in gated estates.&rdquo; </p><p>
The 104,34 hectare estate, which forms part of the 3000 acres purchased  to supply the first  sugar mill at Tinley  Manor, is being  developed by The Hulett  Development Company (Pty) Ltd.  Approximately 70% of the total land area will  be developed with 25% of the development already completed. More than 26% of  the estate is private open conservation space. </p><p>
Brettenwood Coastal Estate is the dream and legacy of developer Brett  Hulett, a fourth generation Hulett. Says Brett: &ldquo;I have spent most of my life as a farmer compromising nature with  insecticides and poisons in order to earn a living. This is now my chance to  give something back by restoring nature and thereby creating a truly special  place &ndash; Brettenwood Coastal Estate. To date, we have planted more than 3000 indigenous trees on the Estate,  2000 of these along our verges. Our conservation areas on the Estate are lush  and full of bird and small wildlife. The stunning sea views a large part of the  Estate has to offer as well as our inland views, particularly in the late  afternoon when the sun starts to set, are breathtaking &ndash; nature at its best&rdquo;.</p><p>
Brettenwood Coastal Estate is  positioned between an indigenous forest on one side and the Indian   Ocean on the other. The architecture was specifically selected to  enhance the natural beauty and to create homes that are in harmony with the  surroundings.  There are four individual  eco-zones and several well populated catch-and-release dams for the eager  fisherman. Picturesque walking trails meander through the estate under forest  canopies, making it easy to forget that the estate is situated in one of the  fastest developing areas along the North   Coast. </p><p>
&ldquo;When in you invest in property such  as this you are making a lifestyle choice as well as ensuring a good return on  your investment,&rdquo; says Pechey. &ldquo;This estate is in an excellent location,  features facilities for all members of the family in different life stages and  is close to amenities. What more could a property buyer want?&rdquo; he asks. </p><p>
Once completed, the estate will boast approximately  300 free standing homes and 400 sectional title units. Pechey says that buyers  have the option of purchasing land, freestanding homes, building packages or sectional  title units. Land prices start at R650 000, building packages at R2,95 million,  built homes at R3,25 million and sectional title units at R1, 925 million. </p>
<p>One of the properties in Brettenwood  Coastal Estate that is currently being marketed by RE/MAX Dolphin Realtors is a  R3,4 million double-storey freestanding home. It offers four bedrooms, three  bathrooms and a kitchen featuring a gas hob and electric stove. Other features  include a double garage, six air-conditioning units, solar heating, fibre optic  TV and internet connections, mechanised chair lift on the suitcase and a  private swimming pool.</p><p>
  For more information on this home or  other properties within Brettenwood Coastal Estate contact RE/MAX Dolphin in Ballito  on 032 946 0881 or Salt Rock on 032 525 4796.  </p>


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2012 - 2013 likely to see property recovery

Friday, June 03, 2011, 8:47:49 AM

<p>Ongoing reporting on the   USA&rsquo;s massive debt, serious economic problems in at least five European   countries, war, revolution and other problems in the Arab world, Afghanistan and   Pakistan are said by some to have dampened confidence in property worldwide &ndash;   and here in SA.</p>

<p>One residential property   sector leader who, however, still takes a long-term optimistic view is Lanice   Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank.</p>

<p>&ldquo;With over 30 years in the   marketing of property,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;I incline to the view that the more severe   the downturn, the more positive the eventual upturn usually is.  There is some   evidence in SA that our residential property market operates in ten year   cycles:  we saw downturns and huge difficulties in getting bonds in the early   eighties and mid-nineties followed by big upturns in 2008 to 2009, and in 2010   we were again in a recession.  It seems to me highly likely that we will again   be in a positive growth phase from 2012 to 2013.&rdquo;</p>

<p>Pessimistic property   watchers, said Steward, tend to forget that it is only two years since the   residential market hit rock bottom &ndash; and that recoveries take three to four   years.</p>

<p>&ldquo;My view is that the first   signs of a more optimistic outlook, e.g. more buy-to-rent investors coming in,   are now becoming evident.&rdquo;</p>

<p>It is also encouraging that   FNB are easing up on their lending criteria.  When one bank does this others   often follow suit. The National Credit Act is open to a variety of   interpretations but now that the worst of the recession is behind us it is   possible that it will be applied with less stringency. </p>

<p>&ldquo;My feeling has always been   that the Act was used by the banks as a reason for being tough on lending in the   recessionary conditions.  If we can get back to something like the previous loan   conditions, without being irresponsible or careless, there is a host of buyers   waiting for an opportunity to get onto the property ladder &ndash; or move up   it.&rdquo;</p>


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Friday, May 27, 2011, 2:32:30 PM

Asrin Property Developers are now gearing up for what they say will be an exciting launch for the second quarter of this year: Azure at Big Bay, on the Cape West Coast just 20km from Cape Town (which can be reached in 20 minutes in off-peak traffic times) which will, they say, add a new dimension to the total Big Bay offering.

Azure will consist of one, two and three bedroom apartments varying in size from 46m² to 146m². They will be sited on the steep slope behind but overlooking the chic R600 million Eden on the Bay mixed use project, which was also developed by Asrin and which has now been in operation almost two years.

Azure will, therefore, form part of the prestigious central Big Bay village precinct below Otto du Plessis Drive and within three minutes walk of the beach and, being on the doorstep of Eden on the Bay, its residents will share in its cosmopolitan lifestyle.

“What makes Azure unique and appealing to buyers is that it will offer units at prices in general at least half the going rate of apartments in the Big Bay area,” says Shiraaz Hassan, commercial director for Asrin.

“Buyers will have an opportunity to purchase a two bedroom apartment from as little at R15 794 per m² whereas most apartments in Big Bay are selling at R26 000 to R30 000 per m². It goes without saying that these prices can never be repeated in this precinct.”

Hassan said that Azure’s design, by the architects Smith and Smith, will place the emphasis on a convivial, communal lifestyle. It will do this by confining the residents’ cars to an underground parking basement, and by creating a large central landscaped courtyard with a two level swimming pool and entertainment areas which will be open to all residents and their guests.

Many apartments will have exclusive use patio areas and the views from their upper levels will take in Table Bay, Robben Island and the internationally recognised east face of Table Mountain.

Since the launch of Big Bay, said Hassan, many people have approached Asrin and other developers here about buying at Big Bay but in general the prices are above what most can afford.

“Now at Azure,” he said, “prices are suddenly within the reach of the middle income earner.”

This, he added, has been quickly appreciated by the more astute property watchers, with the result some 20% of the units have already been put on reserve for buyers who have learned by word of mouth of the new scheme.

A pleasantly surprisingly high proportion of those who have shown interest already, said Hassan, are currently renting at Big Bay and the immediate surrounds.

“In view of the pre-launch interest we are fairly confident that we will achieve full sell-out towards the third quarter of this year and will be able to pass transfers to end users by the end of 2012,” said Hassan.

“It cannot be overemphasised that to be able to buy a luxury two bedroom Big Bay apartment for less than R1 million, where many units are priced at over R3 million, is a rare opportunity.”

Contact the sales agents: Seeff Blouberg on the following numbers: 021 5571115 OR Emarie Cambell on 083 601 0822.

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Friday, May 20, 2011, 8:13:43 AM

Quentin Miller with examples of some of his work.

Bill Rawson, chairman of Rawson Properties, remarked on one occasion that “architects are nice men – they like to draw”. Being creative, it is easy for architects to get carried away at times and to overrun the budgets of their projects, he said.

One Cape Town architect who has always avoided this temptation and has a keen awareness of the financial implications of his decisions – but who is also passionate about drawing, is Quentin Miller. Throughout his 35 years in architecture, indeed, for most of his life, he has drawn and painted. Miller's architectural clients have always enjoyed participating in the design process as he produces quick freehand perspectives that enable them to visualise the design.

Miller now has his own gallery, stocked exclusively with his paintings, at Little Stream, the large garden conference centre at the end of Klein Constantia Road, on the east slopes of the Constantiaberg.

Here visitors can see not only some of the 40 or more paintings and sketches coming off Miller’s easel but also the self-bound collections of paintings and text produced by him covering his sailing trips in the Caribbean and walking experiences in the Himalayas, Tuscany, the Greek Islands and South Africa.

Miller, who at one stage in his career was partner to the architect and artist, Hannes Meiring, is, like him, especially drawn to depicting old buildings and designs which meet his approval.

His practice has specialised in “giving new life” to older buildings such as Nazareth House, The College of Magic, The Decks and 56 Shortmarket Street – and he almost invariably celebrated their completion by doing one or more watercolours of them – which in many cases his clients have “seized”, making it necessary for him to do another.

As he enjoys this work so much, Miller is now making himself available to any home or building owners in SA to do a painting of their building. What is more, his prices are very affordable, starting from R2 500 for an unframed A3 painting.

“A good painting,” he said, “can catch the spirit of the building in a way that a photograph can seldom do. People usually come to me for such paintings because they have just bought a new home or are about to sell, or simply because they have grown to love their homes. Often they will make colour reprints which they use as Christmas or greeting cards, invitations or in some other way.”

Although right now he is not always able to get onto such projects immediately, the delay before he gets started on a painting, says Miller, is seldom more than two weeks – and he very definitely would like to do at least two per week from now on.

Miller can be contacted at 083 330 3492 or by email at

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Upper Kenilworth apartment a safe proposition

Friday, May 13, 2011, 8:03:46 AM

<p>The Upper Kenilworth area has been one of the most stable and consistent on
  the Cape Town property market and any buy in this suburb has tended to be a
  good one, says Tanya Jovanovski, CEO of Rawson Auctions.</p>

<p>&#147;We have,&#148; she said, &#147;always found that properties sold here
  attract the shrewd, long term investors who know that rentals in this area are
  good and the type of tenant attracted to the precinct is reliable.&#148;</p>

<p>At 12 noon on 17th May Rawson Auctions will be auctioning a north-facing freehold
  duplex with 124m&sup2; of floor space in 8B Auburn Road, one of the best parts
  of Kenilworth.</p>

<p>Like many flats, it has some 50% more space than is found in most units being
  developed and sold today. It has a large living room with a bay window overlooking
  a small garden, a well fitted kitchen with under counter oven and built in hob
  and the installations for a dishwasher.</p>

<p>On the upper floor are three bedrooms, all with fitted cupboards. The main
  bedroom is en suite and there is, too, a second bathroom. The property has a
  lockup garage and ample parking and, unlike most new apartments sold today,
  is not subject to any levies nor has to comply with any homeowners&#146; association
  or house rules.</p>

<p>Jovanovski estimates that the apartment could attract a rental of R6 500 per
  month. She expects bidding to be around the R1,3 million mark.</p>

<p>Previewing, says Jovanovski, can be arranged.</p>

<p>For further information contact Tanya Jovanovski 082 411 9599 or Jason Lee
  082 940 6605. Both can be telephoned at their office on 021 658 7100 or emailed
  via </p>


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Sectional title property best performer

Friday, May 13, 2011, 8:03:28 AM

The chairman of Rawson Properties, Bill Rawson, has drawn the attention of buy-to-rent investors to the fact that the latest FNB property survey, compiled by the bank’s respected economist, John Loos, has shown that sectional title units have recently been far and away the best performers in the residential housing sector.

“The FNB report,” said Rawson, “shows that in both the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year, sectional title units sold faster and saw greater price rises than any other sector. Those units with less than two bedrooms did particularly well, showing a 6,6% price rise in the first quarter of this year. No other segment of the property market has equalled that kind of increase recently.”

Rawson Properties’ development company, said Rawson, had identified this trend two or three years ago and since then has only built sectional title units. They are currently bringing 416 units to the market, in the Rondebosch area and Grassy Park at prices ranging from R750 000 to R2,2 million.

Rawson said that his franchisees’ experience in the selling of sectional title property is that the major reasons for their popularity, apart from affordability, are the additional security such homes offer and the fact that most are well positioned in relation to work areas and to public transport.

“People will now pay a 20% premium – or more – for security and an even higher premium from being able to cut down travel time even if this means opting for a smaller, less comfortable unit,” he said.

John Loos, the FNB economist, said Rawson, has pointed out that the rise in first time homebuyers (now 22% of all sectional title buyers) has been a big reason for the success of this sector.

“Again, we at Rawsons would agree with this but it has to be added that it is extremely difficult today to meet the cost limits set for first time homebuyers, particularly if the land is in a popular precinct, reasonably close to the city and has already been rezoned.

“As Sean McCauley, our northern region director, has said, a broadening of the base applicable to FT buyers, but keeping it limited to the affordable sector, would be very welcome indeed.”

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Sales at Century City

Friday, April 15, 2011, 8:03:27 AM

A prediction made earlier this year by Dante Fratti, Chief Executive of D F Properties, one of the Cape’s most successful property marketers of residential property at Century City, appears to be coming true.

In February, Fratti said that he foresees sales of previously occupied Century City homes rising significantly before the end of 2011.

Since 3rd January, his company has, in fact, almost doubled its previous monthly turnover. It has recently achieved seven sales and, said Fratti, another half dozen possibilities await confirmation.

The confirmed sales are all in the R750 000 to R2,3 million bracket, thereby bearing out another of Fratti’s claims, that Century City can still provide high value sectional title and freestanding homes at prices that middle income earners regard as acceptable.

The sales to date were for:

· a plot, a two bedroom unit and a three bedroom unit at Century View;

· a three bedroom three bathroom sectional title unit at Waterstone East;

· a three bedroom garden apartment in the popular Island Club;

· two apartments in Royal Ascot (adjacent to Century City).

Fratti said that although value growth in these and similar units had been negligible in the last two years, since 2004 to 2007 the properties he has sold at Century City have increased substantially, for example, the sale of a standard two bed apartment at The Island Club, originally purchased off plan for R850 000 is available at R1 300 000 and a two bed apartment at Villa Italia sold off plan for R550 000 could achieve R920 000 in the current market.

Asked why he sees an improvement on the horizon, Fratti said that the banks seem to view Century City (and his company) in a favourable light and almost all who have bought through him have been able to access mortgage bonds, most requiring only 5% or 10% deposits.

In addition, said Fratti, his experience has been that investors, seeing the better times ahead and now tired of the low money market returns, are coming back fast to property, especially in established areas like Century City where lock-up-and-go units, a cosmopolitan lifestyle and 24/7 protection are available.

“This,’ he said, “makes sense when you consider that a two bedroom apartment in a development such as Villa Italia can be had for as little as R920 000 and will give a monthly rent from day one of R5 800 to R6 000.”

This year, said Fratti, D F Properties will be looking for mandates in properties close to Century City but slightly less expensive.

“We feel obliged to do this,” he said, “because every week we are approached by buyers who very much like what Century City can offer but want to be in lower priced units, preferably close by. A big market is, therefore, opening up in developments at Royal Ascot which have their own attractions but which to an extent are beneficiaries of the whole Century City success.”

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Check zoning laws before protesting

Friday, April 08, 2011, 9:33:19 AM

The public has every right to protest against a new development in the Cape Town Metropole (in indeed, anywhere else) but far too often this happens without any reference to the zoning laws.

When, therefore, the objections are heard but rejected, allegations of bias or favouritism are all too often levelled against councillors and/or the city planners, who are even accused of being in cahoots with the developer.

This was said recently by Paul Henry, MD of Rawson Developers.

“Cape Town’s development rules are, in fact, some of the most exacting in South Africa and have deterred many a developer from trying to do business here. It certainly does not help to have objectors who, to add to our difficulties, do not consult the zoning legislation but simply lodge a protest on the “not in my territory” principle.

“What protestors sometimes fail to understand,” said Henry, “is that the City Council is trying to reverse the injustices caused by apartheid which forced poorer (non-white) people to live on the urban fringe and spend hours (and cash) each day travelling to and from their work places.

“The only way this can be done is to allow in-city residential development and to densify residential areas that are reasonably close to the city or industrial nodes. The good news is that, although this policy is accepted by the Council, they have gone about it with extreme caution and with due regard, wherever possible, for the existing residents’ privacy and view rights.

“That said, it has to be accepted that the knocking down of single residential units or small flat blocks and their replacement with four or five storey blocks will often not be to the liking of those who live nearby, even when the new scheme’s landscaping is taken seriously and the aesthetics are put up for widespread comment – but developers cannot be expected to forgo the opportunity now open to them to create higher density complexes in areas like the Southern Suburbs, where these are zoned for this.”

Cape Town’s new Integrated Zoning Scheme, which will shortly become law is, said Henry, not a departure from the existing policy but a combination of/coordination of the 20 or more different zoning schemes on which the City Council has worked.

In terms of the Metropolitan Spatial Development Policy of 1999, densification in selected areas (“urban corridors”) of 40 to 100 units per hectare is allowed. The urban corridors, said Henry, have to lie within one kilometre of major roads or railway lines.

Protestors who run to their councillors as soon as a scheme is announced should, said Henry, first become familiar with the zoning rulings. These can be viewed in colour-map format on

“Most major developers are, I find, community sensitive and always consult with residents in areas they want to develop,” said Henry, “but there is no point in residents trying to overturn existing planning/zoning legislation. Instead they should cooperate with the developers to ensure that their neighbourhood gains the maximum benefit out of the scheme.”

Henry commented that no high density Rawson project had ever lowered the value of other units in its area.

“On the contrary, they almost invariably raise values – as we have seen recently at Rondebosch Oaks.”


The apartheid policy which pushed thousands of people out into areas where they did not want to live was, said Henry, contrary to the evolutionary nature of cities because the poor have traditionally lived within half an hour’s walk of their workplaces.

“One has only to look at London’s East End in the last half of the 19th Century and the early 20th Century to see how beneficial close proximity can be,” he said. “The architect, Lord Holford, has shown that in every major city in Europe the lower classes throughout history occupied houses close to the core, although usually on the “wrong” side, of the city, creating lively communities (like District Six) with their own spirit. In a small way, high density developments with communal facilities do the same.”

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Parklands renaissance on the way

Friday, March 25, 2011, 7:48:33 AM

At the bottom of the recent downturn in the property sector, Parklands, the West Coast suburb 15km north of Cape Town, had some very bad press – it did at one stage appear to have many distressed sellers – but it is now emerging from this downturn in triumphal fashion, says Gary Claven, the Rawson Properties franchisee for this area. (He is also the franchisee for Rawson Properties Atlantic Seaboard franchise).

"The plain truth," said Claven, "is that with an average price per unit of just under R1 million, Parklands has an amazing sustained ability to attract buyers, even in bad periods. Its prices now are exactly right for today's market."

A recent Lightstone Survey, said Claven, has shown that Parklands, with 495 sales in 2010, i.e. well over one per day, was one of the top two or three most active residential areas in South Africa in 2010 – and in previous years it was always in the top five.

"This huge suburb," said Claven, "has 6 187 freestanding properties and 89 sectional title schemes with 4 163 units. This makes it a very big precinct, but there is room for future expansion. Roughly 10% of Parklands properties changed ownership last year (a very high figure by South African standards) and all the indications are that the sales will improve further this year."

His nine agent franchise, said Claven, has cornered a high percentage of the market and last year handled 37% of the total sales volume in Parklands.

"With three bedroom freestanding homes still available at R850 000 and very few homes priced much above R2 million, this is an area where a keen agent can rope in buyers day-after-day," said Claven. "What is more, even in the sectional title units, the swing now is to first time homebuyers and away from buy-to-rent investors. This augurs very well for the future of Parklands."

Despite this, said Claven, Rawson Properties and other estate agents in the area have strong rental portfolios. His two man team in fact manage close to 200 properties and, when selling to investors rather than to occupant owners, the ability to offer this facility is much appreciated.

"Buyers who learn to trust you in the sales process like to come back to the same team for the management of their rentals. It is very seldom, indeed, that someone who buys through us does not also use us to manage their properties if they are looking for a rental agent."

As one would expect, said Claven, demand is especially strong right now for the four major security estates in the precinct. Here premiums of over 20% (on a per square metre basis) are being charged for space, but nevertheless the average price is still only around R1,2 million.

The first signs of price rises are now, said Claven, becoming evident at Parklands and anyone contemplating buying here should do so within the next six months. This, he added, would also enable them to notch up a purchase before interest rates rise, as some are predicting they will do early in the new year.

"A factor which has been mentioned but is, I think, still insufficiently valued is that the IRT (Integrated Rapid Transport) buses, running every 15 minutes at peak hours on their own dedicated tracks, will cut the travel time to the city to a mere 20 minutes – this compares extremely well with the 80 to 90 minutes taken by vehicles at peak hours moving both in and out of the city. It will have a huge impact on house prices and on demand for the area."

The fast IRT buses, said Claven, will stop only at Table View, Sunset Beach, Milnerton, Lagoon Beach and Paradise Island before reaching the city.

In Claven's team there is at least one agent (Marius van der Bank) selling two to three houses per month and at least one (Fred Chenal) who regularly sells two homes per month. Last year the agency also had the top rookie agent in the Rawson group, Shannon Ficek.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011, 3:29:50 PM

Teaming up once again with Gary Vos, one of his most successful developer clients, Mike Abrahamse, owner and principal of Rawson Properties’ Blaauwberg franchise, is now selling eleven luxury beach house apartments in Vos’ latest development, “Beach Walk”.

The new project is in Waves Edge, Bloubergrandt and is the sixth West Coast beach-related project that Abrahamse has marketed for Vos’s Blouberg Coastal Properties Trust group. All have sold in a fairly short space of time.

Vos’ architect, Enrica van der Linden, has opted for a clapboard façade and mono pitched roofs that will give the complex the currently popular Cape Cod look. Van der Linden has said that she wanted to create a beach related project, one that would be filled with light and encourage informal living.

Seven of the units are one bedroomed, the remaining four being two bedroomed. Four units will have their own private sunny gardens. Six garages are tucked in under the homes and are entered via a brick paved east facing side of the scheme. Each apartment will have its own dedicated, secure parking bay within the complex grounds.

Floors will be tiled or wooden and the interiors, says Abrahamse, will have cool neutral beach colours in shades of light blue and white.

“As one would expect in such sophisticated units,” he said, “they will have state-of-the-art fittings such as stainless steel ovens, hobs and extractors and granite working tops.

“This is the sort of lock-up-and-go home that suits the fast-moving, upwardly mobile single person or couple, possibly with children, who enjoy the outdoor beach life (the beach is, in fact, only two minutes away) and the boulevard/bistro lifestyle which is now so popular in the focal points of the Blaauwbergstrand beachfront,” says Abrahamse. “There are, we estimate, at least eight restaurants within 500 metres of this complex.”

Prices at “Beach Walk” begin at R599, 000 for a one bedroom unit (although many are priced in R600, 000s). Prices for a two bedroomed unit start at R799, 000 rising up to R895 000 for a sunny north facing unit on the ground floor with a landscaped private garden.

A landscaped park with a children’s jungle gym is also planned for those units without gardens.

An optional full furniture “pack” is available to buyers and is, says Abrahamse, especially well suited to those buying an apartment as holiday accommodation and planning to rent it out when they are not there. Furniture packages are priced at R17 000 for a single bedroom unit and R20 000 for a two bedroom apartment. These packages include TV sets, refrigerators, blinds, linen and much else.

“Considering the position of the development and the quality of the finishes, Beach Walk will always be in demand by tenants and will be easy to resell in the future. This is an ideal project for investors either as a short-term speculation or a long-term income generating buy with excellent capital appreciation,” said Abrahamse.

A sales office will be established on site and will be in operation by the end of March. Occupation of the units will be given early December 2011 with transfer taking place during February 2012.

For further information contact Mike Abrahamse on telephone numbers 082 555 5390 or 021 557 5514 or email

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Calling all first-time home buyers

Thursday, March 24, 2011, 3:26:11 PM

The Sibani Sands development situated on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast presents first time buyers, retirees and buy-to-let investors with an ideal real estate investment opportunity, says John Pechey, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Dolphin Realtors.

Located in Westbrook, between Umdlodi and Zimbali – a mere five-minute drive from the new King Shaka International Airport – units in Sibaya Sands range in price from R795 000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit, up to R890 000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit. The penthouses, which consist of three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and boast extra exclusive-use areas and outstanding sea views, are priced at R1,295-million each.

“There are 18 sectional title units in the complex, and we have already sold 10 of these,” says Pechey. He explains that the two-bedroom units measure approximately 72m2 and come with covered carports. The three-bedroom units measure approximately 89m2, and each one has its own private 16m2 lock-up garage. “The real selling point is the development’s location however,” he says. “Apart from being conveniently and centrally situated, around 70% of the units in the development boast outstanding, panoramic sea views.”

Pechey notes that Sibani Sands provides first time buyers with an attractive investment option. “The top-end, quality finishes, the generous size of the units, and the comparatively low prices are all qualities that are difficult to find along the popular north coast strip. Furthermore, the proximity to the new airport and Sibaya Casino, as well as the security features and tranquil and aesthetically pleasing natural surroundings makes this development a very attractive investment option.”

What is more, Pechey says that the price of the units includes VAT, so buyers won’t have to pay any transfer duty when they purchase a unit: “Buyers have the option to use the money they have potentially saved up for transfer duty to put down a larger deposit on the unit they want to buy. This in turn will increase their chances of a bond application being approved by the local mortgage lenders as the larger the deposit, the higher the chances of the loan being granted and the better your chances of negotiating the best interest rate possible.”

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that Sibani Sands is ideally positioned to take advantage of the fact that 2010 marked the highest percentage of first-time home buyers entering the market since 2005. “A local study by a South African bond originator noted that in 2010, the proportion of first-time buyers as a percentage of total applications increased to 47,61%.”

Pechey adds that interest rates are also currently at a 30-year low, and improved affordability has enabled many potential homeowners to make the leap of owning their own home, since the cost of servicing their mortgage has been considerably reduced.

“Sibani Sands is ideally suited to take advantage of this positive development in the local housing market – the price is right, the position is right, the lifestyle offering is right – this is a solid investment for anybody who may be thinking of entering the market,” Pechey concludes.

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Aida offers agents affordable RPL courses

Friday, March 18, 2011, 10:58:52 AM

National real estate company Aida is riding to the rescue of all long-serving estate agents who have still not completed their RPL portfolios to obtain the new compulsory real estate qualifications – and are short of cash to do so.

“This is the last year in which agents who were registered before July 2008 can get an NQF4 or NQF5 level qualification via the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) route,” says Aida CEO Young Carr, “and we want to help them do so without delay.

“So together with top real estate training company Ditasa*, we are offering them assessment, assistance and coaching to enable them to compile the necessary portfolios of evidence and fill in any gaps in their training, at half the normal price for such courses.

“What is more, they will be able to make payment over three months, so there should be no strain on their cash flows, even if they have to take some time off work to attend classes. And this offer is open to any registered estate agent, from any company.”

Agents who do not complete RPL portfolios before the end of this year, he notes, will have to join those who were registered only after July 2008 in taking the standard NQF4 and NQF5 courses – which they will have until the end of 2013 to complete.

“However, those who would like to obtain their qualifications sooner than this can also immediately start the relevant course through Ditasa – which has training centres around the county - and will also be able to pay these off over several months.”

For more details, agents should contact the Ditasa helpdesk on 0861 –348-272 or

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RE/MAX sell-ect offers help to distressed property owners

Friday, March 18, 2011, 8:35:43 AM

At the end of September last year, credit bureaus had records for 18.35 million credit-active consumers, of which 53,7% were classified as in good standing, according to the National Credit Regulator’s report. The report notes that this was an improvement from the previous quarter and in fact, is the first improvement in consumers’ credit reports since December 2007. However, there are still 8,49 million consumers with impaired credit records.

In light of these figures and in line with predictions that distressed properties could form up to 30% of all residential transactions over the next three years, Kevin Reddy, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Sell-ect, says the time has come for real estate agents to lead the housing market into recovery by providing solutions for homeowners in need.

“There are unfortunately too many homeowners who are unable to service their home loan debt that don’t make use of the assistance or advice that real estate professionals can offer,” he says.

Reddy notes that four of his agents are Certified Distressed Property Experts that have been trained extensively to understand the options, solutions, and effective methods for dealing with homeowners facing financial hardship. “A Certified Distressed Property Expert is a real estate professional with specific understanding of the complex issues confronting the real estate industry, and the options available to homeowners to take in order to avoid their property being repossessed by the financial institution that holds the bond,” he says.

The International Certified Distressed Property Expert Professional Designation (CDPE) course was launched exclusively to RE/MAX Broker/ Owners and Sales Associates in January this year. The license to Designate agents in South Africa was obtained from the Distressed Property Institute LLC which has been offering the Designation in USA and Canada for the last three years and is widely recognised as the leader in its field.

Reddy explains that the course focuses on the options and alternatives that professionally trained agents can offer homeowners who have found themselves in a distressed situation. “The primary objective for the professional agent is to find a way to assist the homeowner to keep their home. This is also the primary goal for the financial institutions. “

Peter Gilmour, Chairman of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, who also heads up the specialised Distressed Property Division of the company, says that currently there are more than 120 000 families in distressed situations in South Africa and this number is growing every month. “With these numbers being a reality, a significant proportion of these distressed properties need to be sold to reduce the debt of the financial institutions. “

To date, over 300 RE/MAX agents in South Africa have attended the course and are now Certified Distressed Property Experts.

“Dealing with financial challenges is a hardship for any family, but finding a qualified real estate professional that can assist you in selling your home for a market-related price, before your financial troubles get to such a point that your property could be repossessed, should not be. “The CDPE designation will set our agents apart and customers can easily identify a CDPE agent from our office to assist them in a distressed situation,” Reddy concludes.

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Where the bush meets the city

Friday, March 18, 2011, 8:34:59 AM

Located a mere 15 minutes from OR Tambo International Airport and the Gautrain, Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate is an exciting 780-hectare residential development within Kempton Park in Johannesburg.

Says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa: “This is such a massive development, that many define this estate as a city within a city. A development of this magnitude, within such proximity to the bright lights of Johannesburg, is a real find. Given its location and accessibility, it is unlikely that land of this size will ever become available again for residential property development.”

What makes this estate truly unique is the fact that its design vision embraces the wild African bush. Says Neville Brits, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Dazzle: “The estate boasts abundant wide open spaces – unlike other estates that are characterised by developers squeezing in as many homes as possible, on Serengeti there is truly room to breathe and explore. The estate has set aside 280 hectares of indigenous grasses and rehabilitated wetlands, which is home to a variety of buck and birdlife that roam free on the estate – bringing the feeling of the wide open African bushveld to your front door.”

With crime being an ever-present concern in South Africa, Serengeti boasts state-of-the-art security equipment and infrastructure for a total security solution, explains Brits. “Both the internal and external elements of the estate of policed by the Serengeti Rangers, who are controlled by the estate management and Serengeti’s superlative on-site security control centre, for 24-hours, 7-days-a-week peace of mind.

Offering a diverse range of world-class facilities, Serengeti’s residents can relax in the knowledge that their every need has been met without having to leave the estate’s perimeter. “One of the most talked about innovations is the fact that Serengeti has an optic fibre network that reticulates to each home inside the estate, providing connectivity, broadband Internet and email services, directly to each home, at no additional cost as it is included in the monthly levies,” explains Brits. The optic fibre also provides voice, video and data to all homes at no additional cost, meaning that all phone calls and video streaming within the estate are free.

As a golfer’s paradise, Serengeti boasts The Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and club house facility. “Officially opened by the golfing icon himself, Jack Nicklaus, this golf course was voted the Best New Golf Course 2010 by Golf Digest. It is the only golf course in Gauteng offering 27 holes, and together with its spectacular 6000m² club house, Serengeti offers the ultimate golfing experience for golfers who are in search of the best,” he says.

An ideal estate on which to raise a family, Serengeti also boasts a top-class private school, Curro Serengeti Academy, within the borders of the estate. Also, located in the heart of Serengeti, lies Village Square – a meeting place, deli for daily groceries and offering a selection of restaurants and coffee shops open any day of the week. Furthermore, Serengeti has direct access to almost 20km of bridle paths for horse riding enthusiasts, a hotel, spa and conference facilities, as well as a selection of offices, all within the secure Serengeti perimeter.

Says Brits: “A total of 1 800 units are planned for Serengeti, and the size of the stands range from 1 000m² to 2 500m² - the cost of which varies from R550 000 to R2-million. The cost of ready-built homes starts at around R4-million and extends right up to R10-million, depending on its location, size, style and finishes. “

John Smook of RE/MAX Dazzle is currently selling a modern six-bedroom home, with all bathrooms en-suite, with a private study and guest loo, four reception rooms, a spacious enclosed entertainment area, servants quarters complete with a full bathroom, and a total of five garages, for R5,8-million.

“For those who like the wide open feeling of the bush, who enjoy living in the country, but who need to have access to the city and its amenities – Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate offer a safe and secure solution for an upmarket family lifestyle.”

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Harcourts ‘most trusted’ in SA

Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:41:56 AM

Harcourts is now the most trusted name in SA real estate – even though it is the newest of the national big estate agency brands.

This has emerged from an recent poll run on the high-traffic Cyberprop website, in which thousands of users were asked to name their most trusted real estate company - and Harcourts gained the majority of votes.

“This result is really gratifying,” says Harcourts Africa CEO Richard Gray, “especially since the Harcourts brand was only introduced to SA two years ago and some of the other big names in the industry have been around for decades.”

Harcourts Africa, the local branch of the international Harcourts group, is currently also one of the biggest real estate groups in SA, with 129 estate agencies and rental property management offices in cities and towns right across the country.

And it continues to expand, despite the sluggish recovery of the property market. “We have opened 12 new offices in the past six months,” notes Gray, “and have at least another 10 currently in the pipeline.

“This reflects our belief that the future of real estate franchising in this country is not just about giving our franchisees and agents a ‘brand name’ to stick on their office doors, but about adding real value and providing them with superior training, technology, marketing tools and business systems.”

However, he notes, the group appreciates that acceptance and trust on the part of consumers – those who buy, sell and invest in property through Harcourts – is the key to real success. “We know that no amount of innovation can replace positive interaction with our clients, and the results of the Cyberprop survey now show that our commitment to always put ‘people first’ in our business is widely appreciated.”

* Harcourts International, rated one of the five fastest growing global real estate brands, has more than 650 offices and 4000 agents in nine countries, including the US, China, Australia, New Zealand and of course SA.

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High rentals in affluent southern suburbs

Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:41:12 AM

With the appointment of Dianne Leighton as his rental property manager, Anton du Plessis, Chief Executive of the Cape real estate marketing agency, Vineyard Estates, is signalling to the world that upmarket homes in the traditional, more affluent southern suburbs of Cape Town are now attracting excellent rentals and, he says, the demand currently exceeds the supply.

“We always knew that renting in this area could be a rewarding exercise,” says du Plessis. “The traditional Southern Suburbs have so much going for them that many of those relocating or moving to Cape Town look first to this area for a temporary home. However, we did not want launch into a full-scale rental division until we had the right person on our staff.”

Leighton, says du Plessis, in her first fortnight signed up five leases, with values of R7,500 to R15,500 per month, and she is now working to achieve a target of five leases per month. She has since rented a home in Rondebosch at R24 000 per month.

“It may come as a surprise to those people not in touch with the market to know that fairly ordinary two or three bedroom homes in Upper Kenilworth, Upper Claremont, Newlands and Constantia are fetching R15,000 to R26,000 per month. What is more, as there is a serious shortage of stock in this bracket, these rentals can only rise,” said Leighton.

It may also surprise people to know, she adds, that houses in the best security estates, e.g. Silvertree and Steenberg, can easily attract rentals of R40,000 to R50,000 per month.

For many people, she says, the cut-off point on rentals, whether they are relocating, retiring or just taking a year between homeownership, is between R25 000 and R30 000. Above that level the general consensus is that they would probably be better off buying although initially most will be forced to rent because it can take months to find a suitable home. However, because of the low expected annual increase in house prices – potentially as low as 3 to 4% per annum – it often makes sense at this stage to rent, particularly if the buyer is looking for “that perfect home”.

Leighton has had 19 years in property. She wrote her board examinations in 1992 and has worked for three of the larger real estate companies before, having taken a “well-earned” eight month break from property prior to joining Vineyard Estates.

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Transfer delays

Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:40:30 AM

Sellers and buyers dealing in residential property have to realise that delays in transfer do occur and no estate agency or conveyancer can guarantee a transfer date. This was said by Anton du Plessis, head of Vineyard Estates, commenting on a recent case in which the Deeds Office held up a transfer by almost one month.

“It is,” said du Plessis, “quite understandable that clients should assume that if the agent and the conveyancer work efficiently and win the cooperation of buyer and seller, transfers should not take longer than eight weeks. Regrettably this is not always the case.”

Recently, said du Plessis, a minor mistake in the Title Deed (it was, in fact, a duplication of a minor clause) resulted in a call for a correction. Normally, he said, this would have taken no more than four or five days. However, in this case the clerk responsible for the work happened to take leave for three weeks at the time and no one was delegated to take over his responsibilities whilst he was away.

“In the end the transfer took just under one month. The loss of interest over that period on so large a sum was significant and the inconvenience caused to those who had expected to be able to move in or out of certain homes on certain dates was considerable.

“A staff member taking annual leave is in most cases an event that Deeds Office management would be aware of in advance, and good management practice would necessitate forward planning to fill the gap. Correcting a simple error on a Title Deed is a simple administrative process, and it is beyond belief that some other official could not be made available to attend to this work.”

Delays in transfer, said du Plessis, can be caused by a variety of factors, including time lags in receiving rates clearances, transfer duty receipts, bond registration or cancellation instructions. In addition, unexpected increases in the number of transfers going through the Deeds Office can also slow down the process, as can any number of complications arising from complex conditions contained in many Deeds of Sale.

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Satisfaction from rental work

Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:39:16 AM

The great satisfaction of being involved in finding rented accommodation for people, says David Beattie, principal of the Cape company, Chorus Letting and a committee member of the Western Cape Institute of Estate Agents, which manages several hundred rented properties, is that what you achieve on the client’s behalf can make a very real difference in their lives.

“I have,” he said, “seen people’s enjoyment of life markedly improve simply because they have moved into an apartment or home which suits them and/or simplifies their daily travel arrangements. This does give considerable satisfaction.”

Those interested in making a career in property should consider being a letting rather than a sales agent, he says.

“All property marketing is fast-paced and those in the rental field can be put under considerable pressure – but the variety of the work and the contact with all types of people is exceptionally stimulating. There is, too, huge satisfaction from concluding deals regularly, not occasionally as in selling and it is worth commenting that many agents do end up owning significant rental portfolios.”

A big advantage of being a letting agent, said Beattie, is that the work provides a steady income, not the fluctuating earnings of so many estate agents – and this increases year by year.

But, he said, the job calls for long hours and does require a good clerical ability and a willingness to attend to detail.

“The accounting and record keeping are simple but have to be done right – and knowledge of SA property law is also essential.”

Those letting agents who put their hearts into the work, said Beattie, gain the satisfaction of building relationships with clients. When these are landlords, the successful letting agent can assist in building up a property portfolio which in many cases is extended year by year and form the main bases of the client’s wealth.

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Nuutgevonden heading for early sell out

Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:37:05 AM

Asrin Property Developers report that even though there has as yet been no official launch or advertising campaign at their new Stellenbosch residential development, Nuutgevonden, advance press and online reports have already resulted in their selling just on 50% in phase one.

On offer are two bedroom two bathroom sectional title apartments priced from R599 000 to R725 000 and two and three bedroom, two bathroom houses priced from R849 900 to R1 195 000. In both cases, the price includes VAT and transfer duty.

“The development theme and design lend themselves toward a modern Cape farmhouse style, making extensive use of the straight line gables, dark roofs and clean façades for which Stellenbosch is known, said Shiraaz Hassan, Asrin’s commercial director.

He adds that, as expected, the competitive price and prime location of the development have produced an “overwhelming” uptake. The project’s strategic position just off the R304 and next to the upmarket Welgevonden estate residential development, said Hassan, make it highly suitable for anyone working in Stellenbosch or studying at the university (both five minutes away by car), while its proximity to many famous vineyards and to the encircling Simonsberg and other mountains are added attractions.

“Worldwide,” said Hassan, “there is a shortage of affordable accommodation in university towns. In bringing units to Stellenbosch at our prices we have tapped into a huge reservoir of potential buyers who had come to believe that these sorts of prices were no longer possible in so sought-after and affluent a town as Stellenbosch.”

The agents marketing Nuutgevonden on behalf of Asrin are Property Pro (021 886 5212) and Chas Everitt (021 883 8493).

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Western Cape prices amongst the highest in SA

Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:36:25 AM

Michael Bauer, General Manager of IHFM, the Cape property management company and Managing Director of IHPC, the exclusive estate agents of Bardale Village, has drawn attention to the price analyses in the latest FNB report.

These, he said, confirm the generally accepted opinion that not only are Western Cape residential property prices the highest in South Africa but that, if measured on a square metre basis, they are particularly expensive in relation to other areas.

“This fact,” said Bauer, “becomes particularly evident in the sectional title sector where the Cape per metre square price last year was R10 341, 36% higher than that of South Africa as a whole (where the average price was R7 601).”

These high Cape sectional title prices, said Bauer, have come about as a result of the prevailing lack of land in the Greater Cape Town Metropolitan Area.

“What we are now witnessing,” he said, “is a scenario in which the value of sectional title and other property in the CBD continues to rise steadily because people can no longer accept the lengthy commuter times of up to two hours a day, nor are they prepared to pay the continually rising car maintenance and petrol costs which commuting generates.”

Bauer said that there are still no signs of this trend being reversed and CBD fringe sectional title units are, therefore, likely to continue to be an excellent property investment.

“There will always be those who want a freestanding home (preferably with a few square metres of grass and with some private space) and the type of property that is especially well suited to young couples with children is currently only affordable in developments like Bardale Village. However, it has to be accepted that when such homes are affordable in outlying areas, the travel costs can be expensive. For this reason many property investors are now increasingly moving towards sectional title in the high density urban areas and properties in the better positioned security estates in the suburbs.”

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Sectional Title Amendment will clarify window issue

Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:35:44 AM

The maintenance of windows in sectional title schemes (especially those that are near the sea and prone to rust) has long been a contentious issue. Whether they are the responsibility of the unit owner or the body corporate has always been subject to debate.

Michael Bauer, the sectional title expert and the general manager of the sectional title management company IHFM, said recently that previously the Sectional Title Act specified that any items inside the median line drawn through the middle of the unit’s outer walls was the full responsibility of the owner, while any items outside that line was the full responsibility of the body corporate. If it was placed on the median line the responsibility was shared. Window frames, said Bauer, can be either on the median line, inside it or outside it - “which of course means that the whole matter of their maintenance was bound to lead to controversy”.

Now, said Bauer, the new Sectional Title Amendment Act, about to be promulgated (Provision 5,5 (a)) will make all window maintenance the joint 50/50 responsibility of the owners and the body corporate irrespective of the window’s actual location in relation to the median line.

This new amendment, added Bauer, will be especially helpful in those cases where the responsibility of payment was unclear. For example, window frame deterioration on the weather side of the building far exceeded that on the protected area but where, nevertheless, all members have had to pay for their repair or replacement. Those on the protected side might feel hard done by.

“It has to be admitted,” added Bauer, “that after 50 years’ exposure to a salt-laden atmosphere almost any steel window will need replacement - hence the swing in coastal districts to aluminium.”

The cost of window replacement, he added, can be ‘astronomical’.

Bauer warned trustees that wooden frames, too, need regular maintenance. He recommends re-varnishing all outfacing wood once a year.

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Trust funds

Friday, March 11, 2011, 8:35:25 AM

Another high profile Cape estate agency chief executive, Anton du Plessis of Vineyard Estates, has commented on the practice adopted by some estate agencies of insisting that deposits be paid into their own trust accounts, instead of to the conveyancer’s trusts. These comments follow on the accusations now being levelled against certain high profile estate agencies regarding the misuse of funds.

Du Plessis said that, although the law stipulates that each estate agency must have a trust fund which has to be audited annually, in his company’s he almost always asks for deposits to be paid to conveyancer’s trusts.

“One of the benefits of the agency holding a deposit is that in the event of there being a commission dispute, the agent is in a stronger bargaining position. However, an agent cannot simply disburse money to himself from a trust account in the event of a dispute, and there are onerous regulations governing the conduct on trust accounts if a dispute does occur.

“Many reputable estate agencies, including some with nationwide franchises,” said du Plessis, “find it best to insist that all deposits or other money should be lodged with the conveyancer’s trust. In this way they keep their hands clean and minimise the risk of fraud, misappropriation or theft.”

That arrangement, added du Plessis, is not only preferred by the vast majority of clients but also has the advantage that, in the event of a disagreement, e.g. on the commission payable, the funds are in a ‘neutral corner’, the managers of which should, as professional attorneys, be able to remain detached and objective.

Many of the general public, said du Plessis, are now wary of handing over a large deposit for fear that they will lose it in the event of a forfeiture being legally decreed or taking place without their permission. They are, however, protected from loss by the Fidelity Fund which pays out funds to members of the public who lose money as a result of dealing with any attorney or agent registered with the fund.

“We need to remind such people,” said du Plessis, “that the Fair Penalties Act, although slow moving, will almost always result in justice being achieved and in no innocent person being victimised or paying a disproportionate penalty.”

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Golf Estates are a great lifestyle investment

Friday, March 04, 2011, 8:42:37 AM

When you buy a property on Sunset Links Golf Estate on the Western Seaboard, Cape Town, you are buying into an exclusive lifestyle, says Caron Leslie, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Property Associates. “Located on the edges of the fairways of the prestigious Milnerton Golf Course, Sunset Links Golf Estate is considered by many in the know as one of the best kept residential secrets in the greater Cape Town area.”

A coveted address by any high-flying investor, it is understandable why homes on this estate are in high demand. “An upmarket, security golf estate, Sunset Links Golf Estate is situated on Milnerton Golf Course; one of South Africa’s few links-style courses, with access through Sunset Beach. With the ocean on its western border and a river estuary encompassing Rietvlei Bird Sanctuary on the eastern side, the estate offers breathtaking views and scenery from all vantage points,” says Leslie.

A unique residential concept, offering unsurpassed 24-hour security, the estate has been designed with an ethos of making the most of its exquisite surrounds. Jeanne Thompson of RE/MAX Property Associates, who lives on the estate and markets properties for sale there, says that this estate affords its residents the most spectacular views of the surrounding ocean of Table Bay, Table Mountain, Robben Island, and even the new Green Point Stadium can be seen in the distance. “The specified architectural-style has been conceived with the aim of harmoniously complementing the estate’s natural surrounds,” she says.

The location of the estate is ideal for families and professionals, as it is close to the Mother City CBD, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town International Airport, schools, private hospitals and shopping malls. The new Rapid Transport System will add value and public transport convenience to the community. Sunset Links Golf Estate boasts a plethora of various amenities and facilities to cater for every need:

“The beach-side Milnerton Golf Course has been redesigned and upgraded to championship status. Water sport lovers can make use of the long stretch of beach for surfing, kite-surfing, windsurfing, jet skiing and fishing. The lagoon of the Rietvlei Nature Reserve forms part of an estuary that is extremely rich in birdlife – idyllic for any bird watching enthusiast,” says Leslie.

“A dedicated tarred track, which runs from the Cape Town city centre to Blaauwberg Road in Table View, and which can be used down to the beach and continues to Big Bay, is perfect for joggers, runners and cyclists. And for a bit of R&R, residents can access the beach and lagoon via dedicated private footpaths, to enjoy long walks along the adjoining beach, or simply to sip a glass of wine and enjoy the beautiful daily sunsets afforded all year round.”

Sunset Links Golf Estate consists of full title properties which are grouped according to position and divided up into Ocean Villas, Lagoon Villas, Ocean Terraces and Courtyard Homes. “A total of 250 homes are on the estate, and the erven range from 350m² to 1 550m². An entry-level home will start at around R3-million, with large luxury homes on the estate fetching as much as R10-million,” she explains.

Offering access to an idyllic urban-country lifestyle, the estate boasts a blend of foreign investors, retired persons, professional couples and families. Says Leslie: “We have a lot of foreign homeowners who ‘follow the sun’, spending up to four months of the year on the estate and then leaving to spend the summer months overseas, safe in the knowledge that their beloved homes are secure in their absence.

“In fact, Milnerton is one of the Western Cape’s fastest growing towns, boasting an infrastructure to support this growth. Sunset Links Golf Estate is within easy reach of a plethora of good schools, private clinics, Cape Town International Airport, Canal Walk Mall, and a wide variety of nearby restaurants, coffee shops and boutique stores. Cape Town city centre and the V&A Waterfront are a mere 15 minutes away – affording residents on this estate the best of both a quiet seaside lifestyle, with all the benefits of living close to a bustling city.”

Golf estates have been a popular property option since the concept first launched years ago, says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. “Properties situated within golf estates around the country have retained their value due to the security benefits and lifestyle they offer.”

A successful development on all levels, Sunset Links Golf Estate has a proven track record of offering owners an excellent return on their investment, superb value given its position, access to a sought after and secure lifestyle, and it offers tremendous growth potential. “Sunset Links Golf Estate is the perfect balance between an excellent investment and the ultimate lifestyle. With all of the homes within the estate complete and no further land available for development, now is the time to invest,” Leslie concludes.

For more information, contact Jeanne Thompson from RE/MAX Property Associates on 082 924 5899 or 021 521 3100.

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US residential property sector

Friday, February 25, 2011, 3:43:09 PM

Towards the end of 2010, Bill Rawson, Chairman of Rawson Properties, said in an off-the-cuff comment that he could think of no better place for a South African with limited knowledge of world markets to invest in property right now than in South Africa itself.

“All the Western and most of the Middle Eastern property markets have been hard hit by the downturn. It is only in Asia, India and the Far East that property right now remains a favoured investment channel - but it goes without saying that there are large unknowns and incalculable risks in going this far afield.”

Rawson has now just returned from a four week trip to the USA - and this has confirmed his negative feelings about investing in their property at the moment.

“I was asked by certain South Africans to check whether the rather gloomy figures coming back to us were warranted or not. Now that I have been to the USA I am fairly sure that it will pay to wait a year or two before moving into their residential property sector. The new R4 million per person per annum foreign investment allowance does open exciting prospects for diversification - but any step in this direction should be taken with great care as an overseas investment always carries a higher risk than a local one.”

In the course of his visit, Rawson went to two states - but in both, he said, he found the same scenario: homeowners and home investors had given their title deeds back to the bank and walked away, accepting their losses.

“This, of course, would not be possible in South Africa, but, possibly because the government is behind some of the biggest housing financiers, this behaviour is seen as acceptable in the USA.”

This type of action, said Rawson, had resulted in the drop of US residential property values, often being as high as 50%. Second homes and investments in the leisure market had been among the hardest hit, although in Hawaii the drop-off in values had been only 20%.

“In the case of the leisure market,” he said, “I was surprised to find that most of the fractional ownership, time share and outright buy-to-rent holiday accommodation buyers had from the outset expected no real return. People, it seems, had been prepared to buy simply to secure ‘free’ accommodation once a year, with the management company sometimes taking 60% to 70% of the rents just for looking after the property and the rest going in rates, taxes, levies and maintenance.”

Although there had been a big decline in tourism, said Rawson, the major shopping malls in the holiday areas, especially those in Hawaii, are still thriving, catering very often for Far Eastern, particularly Japanese, and Australian tourists. These centres, he said, are ultra-sophisticated and way ahead of what we can offer in South Africa, “excellent though many of our big retail complexes now are”.

Asked if, as in South Africa, residential rentals had not improved as a result of the drop in homeownership, Rawson said that it appeared that they had, but this had not yet boosted the buy-to-rent demand partly because, again as in South Africa, the costs of rates and services were also rising.

“As is happening here,” he said, “they are hitting the survivors in the affluent areas to help keep their systems afloat. I was surprised to learn that a significant number of municipalities are now technically bankrupt and have had to cut back on services accepted previously as every householder’s right.”

Obviously, added Rawson, the big question being asked is, “How long will this state-of-affairs last?”

“I have no clear answer to that question” he said. “All that one can say is that a full-scale recovery will not be seen this year and possibly not in 2012 either. It is just possible, that although the US economy is still five times as big as that of China, its government will never again be able to call the economic shots - and its housing market could remain in the doldrums for another three years. It will certainly take the banks and the large number of distressed home sellers that long to sell off the exceptionally large stock which is now waiting, and often waiting in vain, for owners.”

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Importance of all agreements being in writing

Friday, February 18, 2011, 12:30:53 PM

Although verbal agreements can be – and often are – binding in SA law, where property is concerned every agreement and condition has to be in writing (or in 21st Century terminology, in print with signatures).

Anton du Plessis, CEO of Vineyard Estates, said that he has in his 24 years in property seen several agreements fall apart for the simple reason that those who made them had not confirmed certain details and key aspects of the agreement in writing.

“In most cases,” said du Plessis, “the consequences have not been too serious but in a recent High Court case they were nothing short of disastrous.”

In this case, said du Plessis, an elderly couple whose daughter had married a suitor sold their home to that suitor on condition that they would be allowed to live in it for the rest of their lives. This agreement was verbal and not put in writing.

Then, however, the daughter’s marriage failed, relations became strained and the son-in-law refused to honour the agreement and demanded rent or departure.

The judge, while expressing sympathy with the parents-in-law, indicated that he had no power other than to abide by the sale agreement which made no mention of the old couple’s right to live in the home. The judge said, too, that such ancillary agreements had to be registered against the property’s title deeds to be enforceable. Had that been done the agreement would have stood up “against all the world, including any later owners of the property”.

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Who pays for upkeep of a property in a usufruct arrangement

Friday, February 18, 2011, 12:30:28 PM

The legal term usufruct is used to define a state in which an individual has the right to occupy a property even though he or she does not own it. To be legally binding a usufruct must be registered against the title deeds.

Usufruct, says Rob Lawrence, national manager of the bond origination service, Rawson Finance, is most commonly used when a married person (in most cases the husband) leaves a home to his children on condition that his spouse is allowed to live there for the remainder of her life.

This can be a wise provision, says Lawrence, because it eliminates the need to transfer the property twice – first to the spouse, and then, when she dies, to the children – and it secures the latter’s inheritance because the widow cannot sell the property.

But, Lawrence points out, a usufruct arrangement can lead to problems if the user has insufficient funds – or is unwilling – to maintain the property properly.

“Regrettably,” said Lawrence, “there have been cases in which the surviving spouse, who may often be a second wife, has very little income of her own and cannot afford the maintenance costs of the property, the rates, levies and other costs. Sometimes also she finds herself in an unsatisfactory relationship with the children/heirs. This does happen quite often – especially if the heirs are her stepchildren.

“In that situation, there may be little or no motivation to maintain the home – and the children may avoid stepping in to help in this matter, even though it would pay them to maintain their property. This all-too-common backing off can in a space of five to ten years result in the entire house losing much of its value.”

The children/heirs may decide to sell the house – but as the usufruct is registered against the title deeds, they cannot do so unless the buyer is prepared to honour the usufruct, which happens only very rarely.

Lawrence says that anyone going the usufruct route, should leave enough money, possibly in a separate account, to ensure that the property is maintained. The donor might also consider authorising an independent person to initiate and supervise maintenance.

The heirs can, however, consider buying the occupant out – i.e. paying her an agreed sum to relinquish her usufruct.

In a few cases, added Lawrence, the usufruct beneficiary will voluntarily give up the right to occupy – but this is seldom as satisfactory as being paid to relinquish it.

“It must always be remembered that a usufruct is registered at the Deeds Office against the title deed, so no transactions can take place on that property without due consideration given to this usufruct.”

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Surety guarantors will have to pay debt if the borrower renegs

Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 8:18:38 AM

When buyers are struggling to raise finance for a bond to purchase a home, one of the most powerful “tools” at their disposal is a suretyship or guarantee. If a borrower can get a well resourced individual or company to stand surety for the loan he is likely to be given it.

The danger here, says Anton Du Plessis , CEO of Vineyard Estates, is that the person standing surety may see himself as simply complying with banks’ red tape and may not see his signature as having much consequence.

If and when things later go wrong with the borrower’s financial position and the bank calls up the loan, the suretyship guarantor and may well feel “cheated” and try to duck out of his obligations.

Du Plessis has drawn attention to a recent High Court case in which ABSA sued a private individual who had stood surety on two fish retail outlets in Edenvale, Johannesburg.

The defendant, Groenewald, claimed that he was not liable for the money owed (a) because the letter of demand had initially had been sent to the wrong address and (b) because he was expected to sign as surety for the increase on an outstanding bond to a development trust which had an undefined relationship with the fish business – but he had never agreed to the fish business going into overdraft. He had, he said, made it clear to ABSA that he could not afford any further debt.

The court, however, ruled that they had to abide by the wording and conditions of the originally signed suretyship, agreements in property always in the end having to rely purely on written and signed documents. No possible verbal statements could, ruled the court, be accepted as altering a signed agreement.

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DIY property transactions often go wrong

Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 8:17:44 AM

There has always been a tendency among South Africans, especially those who have achieved success in the business world to believe that they are capable of handling property transactions on their own. They are inclined to think that a perusal of the business media and talks to friends have somehow qualified them as experts in property matters. All too often, says Anton du Plessis, this is not the case and this attitude leads to serious mistakes.

“When I advise clients that they must be guided by an estate agent, there will always be a few who believe that I am saying this to protect my position. This scepticism is, however, not justified. Many incidents have in my career shown that the average SA citizen needs guidance in his property deals.”

Clients coming to property from other fields, said du Plessis, almost invariably lack the knowledge of property law and property finance (and the nuances and conditions surrounding these matters) of which an experienced agent will be aware.

What should the client do, however, if he has doubts about the agent’s competence?

“In the case of a seller, it is prudent to send all written documentation (including all offers made for the house) to an attorney, preferably the one chosen to act as the conveyancer on the deal. The conveyancer will usually welcome this, as it is far easier to adjust an offer before the seller signs than to spend valuable time sorting out a dispute arising out of a faulty contract.”

In most cases, said du Plessis, buyers have recently sold or are selling their homes, and should already have a relationship with their conveyancer who can then be asked to check the new deal.

“Only rarely is an offer so urgent that it cannot be vetted by a conveyancer. Most conveyancers will make themselves or a partner available at short notice if required to do so.”

Should an offer go through without being checked by an attorney, the bidder will have to accept that it may be very difficult to alter the offer’s conditions after it has been submitted – and even more difficult after it has been accepted.

“Similarly, the seller, once he has accepted an offer, is at the mercy of the buyer, who may or may not allow changes.”

What are the factors in property documentation that can lead to problems?

Du Plessis said that a lack of accuracy or definition, vagueness and ambiguity are the main reason for contracts becoming “voidable”.

“I have recently seen a deed of sale where transfer was listed as 1 March 2011, and the buyer had until 29 February 2011 to sell his house. Clearly, no attorney in his right mind would initiate the transfer process until the suspensive condition of the buyer’s sale has been concluded. While this would not necessarily cause the sale to be cancelled, it clearly created a false expectation in the seller’s mind. In 2010 there was a R10 million sale on which the buyer reneged, but got away with it because the agent had not written the seller’s first names and surname on the deed of sale. (The parties to the agreement must be clearly identified.) Even the best agents may occasionally make a typographical error – although this is generally not grounds to cancel a sale if it is obvious that it was an error. For example, if an erf number is written incorrectly, as long as there is no confusion as to which property the buyer is making an offer on, it should not pose a problem. It would however be problematic where one is buying a vacant erf in a large development.

“I have also seen clauses which lack completeness: for example, the seller might agree to have the roof inspected by an expert but does not say who will be responsible for repairs if the expert finds faults.” (Du Plessis has his own “formula” for this situation and usually alters agreements in line with it.)

Errors or omissions, said du Plessis, lead to frustration, anxiety, delays – and quite often to the cancellation of the deal and in most cases they would have been completely avoidable if the error or omission had been picked up before the agreement was accepted..

But, he warns, sellers or buyers should not allow a pedantic attorney to insist on minor alterations in what is otherwise an excellent offer to purchase.

“When presented with a clean cash, binding offer, it is unwise to alter an agreement over a relatively small item – e.g. a second hand fridge. If one does, your alteration becomes a counteroffer to the buyer and if he does not accept the change, the deal can be terminated. There are many occasions where a buyer makes a clean offer, but when the excitement of making the offer dies down, he gets ‘ buyer’s remorse’. This often happens quite often but the sale goes through because the buyer is contractually bound. However, if he is given an opportunity to rethink, it is possible that he will change his mind.

“The involvement of a good agent should be a safeguard against pitfalls of this kind – so check your agent’s reputation with the Institute of Estate Agents and if he or she is not a member, or is a member with disciplinary hearings pending, treat that as grounds for caution.”

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Commercial investment island-style

Thursday, February 10, 2011, 4:38:19 PM

Mauritian real estate remains a great investments choice, says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa: “Part of the SADC region, Mauritius boasts a strong and diversified economy that offers a number of fiscal benefits, including a flat corporate and personal tax rate of 15%, the absence of inheritance and capital gains tax, no foreign exchange controls, trade barriers or quotas, and no restrictions on capital repatriation.”

He explains that over and above these benefits, Mauritius is a politically and economically stable country, with a strong financial and off-shore sector, modern and reliable IT and telecommunications infrastructure, and a comprehensive legal framework, which makes it ideal for long-term investment.

Recently, RE/MAX Properties in Mauritius was given the mandate to sell commercial and retail space in Kinoo Square, a well positioned and imaginative commercial development in the best located and busiest part of the island’s capital city of Port Louis.

Daniel Poupinel and Dominique Le Clezio, joint Broker/Owners of RE/MAX Properties in Mauritius say they are pleased to have been awarded the mandate to sell Kinoo Square, which is located opposite La Gare du Nord – on the corner of Farquare and Joseph Riviere Streets in Port Louis. “Situated opposite the La Gare du Nord Bus Station, the locale links the northern areas to the capital city. The site lies within the protected area of the Aapavasi Ghat World Heritage Trust Fund and is placed relatively close to China Town, the Central Market and the Caudan Waterfront.

“Kinoo Square is completely transforming the area by offering investors modern and secure shopping units with cutting edge amenities to meet market demand, in an exceptionally convenient and well positioned area,” they say. Kinoo Square comprises 82 commercial and retail sectional title units in total. The size of the average unit starts at 11m² and goes up to 71m², and they can be sold as either separate or multiple modules.

The price of the units starts at MUR 3-million, but varies depending on the size of the unit in question, as well as its locale. “The developer is a well respected and seasoned Mauritian businessman who has successfully completed and sold the first phases of this development: All 21 units in phase one have already been sold and phase two seems to be quickly following suit. Out of the 82 units in phase two, 25% have already been sold as from December 2010. The units have proven to be exceptionally popular due to their excellent location and modern aesthetics – in fact, the developer, who is also involved in the textile trade, has kept one of the units as a retail outlet and his head office for the textile arm of his business,” says Poupinel and Le Clezio.

Since these units offer an exceptionally attractive return on investment, Poupinel and Le Clezio say that investors are snapping them up quickly. “Generally, investors so far have mainly been individuals who are involved in retail and trade, such as book dealers, textile businesses, fashion and shoe retailers, jewellery and accessory outlets, sport equipment retailers, and so on. The development also boasts a healthy cross-section of lifestyle type businesses to ensure good foot traffic and passersby, including beauty salons and spas, pharmacies, art galleries, jewellers, restaurants and libraries. Of the 82 units that are up for sale, a well proportioned food court with an adjoining seating area has been included into the design.”

Set for completion and ready for occupation in August 2012, the project is headed by a team of professionals operating in the built environment. The development boasts GFA status (Guarantie de future achevement), which offers investors peace of mind that Kinoo Square will be completed to specifications on time.

Say Poupinel and Le Clezio: “All the permits have been approved and the work is currently underway according to the stipulated schedules to ensure that the project meets its deadlines.”

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RE/MAX agents qualify as distressed property experts

Thursday, February 10, 2011, 4:37:20 PM

The International Certified Distressed Property Expert Professional Designation (CDPE) course was launched exclusively to RE/MAX Broker/ Owners and Sales Associates in January this year. The license to Designate agents in South Africa was obtained from the Distressed Property Institute LLC which has been offering the Designation in USA and Canada for the last three years and is widely recognised as the leader in its field.

The course focuses on the options and alternatives that professionally trained agents can offer homeowners who have found themselves in a distressed situation. The primary objective for the professional agent is to find a way to assist the homeowner to keep their home. This is also the primary goal for the financial institutions.

To date, over 300 RE/MAX agents in South Africa have attended the course and are now Certified Distressed Property Experts.

Peter Gilmour, Chairman of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, who also heads up the specialised Distressed Property Division of the company, says that currently there are more than 120 000 families in distressed situations in South Africa and this number is growing every month. "With these numbers being a reality, a significant proportion of these distressed properties need to be sold to reduce the debt of the financial institutions. "

The introduction of the CDPE course exclusively to RE/MAX agents comes in light of the mass of distressed residential properties that hit the market last year. Gilmour says that distressed sellers are everywhere and no market is excluded. "It is anticipated that more than 30% of all property sales over the next three years could be distressed properties. It is therefore imperative that RE/MAX agents are prepared and well equipped to service this market. The CDPE designation will set our agents apart from the industry and customers can easily identify a CDPE agent to assist them in a distressed situation."

At the end of September last year, credit bureaus had records for 18.35 million credit-active consumers, of which 53,7% were classified as in good standing, according to the National Credit Regulator's report. The report notes that this was an improvement from the previous quarter and in fact, is the first improvement in consumers' credit reports since December 2007. However, there are still 8,49 million consumers with impaired credit records.

In light of these figures and in line with predictions that more distressed properties will hit the market during the course of the next three years, Gilmour says the time has come for real estate agents to lead the housing market into recovery by providing solutions for homeowners in need. "There are unfortunately too many homeowners who are unable to service their home loan debt that don't make use of the assistance or advice that real estate professionals can offer. Real estate professionals with the Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) Designation have been trained extensively to understand the options, solutions, and effective methods for dealing with homeowners facing hardships," he says.

Gilmour explains that a Certified Distressed Property Expert is a real estate professional with specific understanding of the complex issues confronting the real estate industry, and the options available to homeowners in order to avoid their property being repossessed by the financial institution that holds the bond.

"While dealing with financial challenges is a hardship for any family, finding a qualified real estate professional that can assist you in selling your home for a market-related price before your financial troubles get to such a point that your property could be repossessed should not be," says Gilmour. "Therefore, the introduction of the CDPE Course has created much excitement in the marketplace and those receiving CDPE designations in South Africa will join over 30 000 agents in North America who have benefited from the information and knowledge gleaned from the course," he concludes.

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First ever affordable prices at Big Bay

Thursday, February 10, 2011, 4:28:24 PM

Asrin Property Developers Director, Shiraaz Hassan, promised towards the end of 2010 that the new year would see the company launching new projects "ahead of the pack". At the time, he said, Asrin had been steadily working on preparing these for the market and would soon be ready to release them.

Sure enough, this week Hassan revealed a campaign to launch 83 affordable yet upmarket apartments at Big Bay - where the company was co-developer (and principal contractors) on the R600m Eden-On-The-Bay mixed use project. The affordable prices of the new offering, says Hassan, will make the project unique. The new development has been given the name "Azure" in recognition of the clear blue colour of the sky that in this area is seen 320 days a year.

The apartments now on offer will be sited just behind Eden-On-The-Bay and will therefore be one of 13 or 14 elite projects benefiting from being below Beach Road and within an easy walk of the beach and the shops of the Eden-On-The-Bay retail sector. The ground behind this sector slopes upwards, enabling most purchasers at Azure to enjoy sea views of Table Bay and Table Mountain.

Azure will comprise of one, two and three bedroom apartments, varying in size from 40m² to over 100m². These will be in a superstructure three stories high - with a large, secure parking basement of the kind that already serves Eden-On-The-Bay. The finishes, says Hassan, will be in most ways similar to those of Eden-On-The-Bay but the prices will be exceptionally competitive.

"If buyers do not respond fast to this opportunity, it will simply be because they have not understood the value offered. Never before has a project so close to the beach at Big Bay been priced so reasonably."

The units are selling from R850 000 including VAT and transfer costs. Even the most expensive penthouse suites will, therefore, be priced close to R2 million.

Hassan said that Azure, on which construction will start by mid 2011, will come on stream some two years later, (occupation is scheduled for late 2012).

Ground floor units will have gardens and wooden decks, and the centre courtyards within the development will create attractive internal out-of-the-wind landscaped spaces including a swimming pool and communal social centre courtyard. Top floor units will have domed roofs.

Access to the complex will be strictly controlled and it will be protected by state of the art security, common boundary walls and electronic gates.

Hassan predicted that current market prices in the village lead him to think that by the time buyers take transfer at the end of 2012, values at Azure will have already escalated by at least up to 20%.

"The Big Bay precinct has become so popular and so 'in' socially that it is already has great panache. As we see it, this can only increase now because land for development in the Eden-On-The-Bay precinct is now all but taken up."

For sales information contact Emarie Campbell on 021 557 1115 or 083 601 0822.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011, 4:27:46 PM

A dire shortage of land within the municipal boundary and strict rules regarding the demolition of existing older homes have ensured that new property developments at Stellenbosch have always lagged well behind the strong demand for accommodation here. As a result many of those studying or working in the town have had to live elsewhere.

Now, however, Asrin Property Developers are about to launch a residential estate, Nuutgevonden, that is both more ambitious and more affordable than most seen in Stellenbosch in the last decade or longer.

Asrin have acquired a 6,2ha site on the corners the R304 and Welgevonden Link Road. The land lies next to the popular and prestigious Welgevonden Residential Estate. Here Asrin will, this February, launch a development with 194 opportunities in six separate sections.

These are:

· 141 sectional title apartments in three-storey blocks, with a mono-pitched roof and a secure parking basement;

· 54 single residential homes in attractive, modern, Cape farmhouse styles, which complement the design aesthetics that prevail in Stellenbosch.

The two bedroom apartments will have 1½ bathrooms and will measure 60m². The envisaged launch price will be from R599 000, including VAT and transfer costs while the three bedroom single residential components will be selling from R849 900, also including VAT and transfer costs.

Hassan said that Asrin expect the communal facilities to be one of the big selling points of the project. They are providing two play parks for children measuring approximately 1 000m², walking trails within the 6,2 hectare site, a large communal swimming pool, clubhouse and an alfresco braai area. All open ground will be generously landscaped while initial gardens will be developed for the freestanding homes.

At the prices offered, said Hassan, purchasers, whether downscaling or upgrading, will find the development well suited to their needs, as will investors wanting to purchase for student accommodation.

“One of the important aspects of this project is that it is approx. 2km from the University of Stellenbosch,” he said.

The site’s panoramic view of Mt. Simon, added Hassan, is one of its most attractive selling points.

The development is also very convenient traffic-wise, it offers quick easy access to the R304 provincial road.

First handovers are scheduled to take place by November 2011 and, if the demand is as good as expected, Hassan expects that a total sellout will be achieved by early 2012.

For further information contact Ling Majiet or Rehana Moosa on 021 713 3012

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Rawson director queries whether trust accounts are needed

Friday, February 04, 2011, 8:16:15 AM

The recent revelation that the CEO of a national estate agency may have been able to use substantial trust deposits for purposes other than those intended by the depositors, has sparked a debate in the real estate sector as to whether any estate agency should be allowed to operate a trust account on behalf of clients.

Discussing this, Sean McCauley, Rawson Properties’ director (based in Johannesburg) said that he cannot see why estate agencies should be allowed to be in control of client trust deposits.

“In our group,” he said, “the sale agreement specifically states that we do not hold deposit monies on behalf of clients – we advise putting deposits in the conveyancing attorney’s trust account – but it has to be admitted that attorneys’ trust accounts have on occasion also been abused. It is time, therefore, that the whole system was reviewed.”

Certain options, said McCauley, are open to those who do need a trust account. In the case of estate agents, he said, the best safeguard would be to stipulate that when the money is deposited, the client has to be given immediate proof of this – and that no money should ever be released from a trust account without both the client’s and attorney’s signatures.

Another option is that of getting a bank guarantee for the full payment due to the seller on transfer of the property. This could eliminate the need for deposits.

“The estate agency sector has tightened up its controls very noticeably in the last few years. If the trust fund system was phased out it would, in my view, be another step forward,” said McCauley. “At a time when vastly improved qualifying criteria are set to transform the image of estate agencies, we must not have our image destroyed by financial misconduct.”

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NHBRC betrayed the poor

Friday, February 04, 2011, 8:15:15 AM

Paul Henry, managing director of Rawson Developers, has criticised the National Home Builders’ Registration Council (NHBRC) for failing to protect the very people it was originally set up to help most, those buying into low-cost units.

“The NHBRC, which came into existence some 15 years ago, is responsible for “policing” home builders to ensure that poor quality construction is eliminated. In return for a 1,3% fee levied on the total cost of the house and its land, they inspect the home at specified stages during the construction and, if satisfied on completion, provide structural insurance and a five-year warranty on the house. To qualify for this, the builder has to be a member of the NHBRC and to pay his levies on time.

“If the builder does not register with the NHBRC, no buyer of the home will be able to get a bond until it has stood for five years. Even owner builders should, therefore, enrol with the NHBRC.”

These rulings, said Henry, give great power to the NHBRC. Should an inspector detect poor workmanship, he will issue a “non-compliance” certificate which obliges the builder to remedy the problem within 48 hours, failing which he will be issued with a “cease work” order.

“This system is basically sound and has raised standards among SA builders,” says Henry, “but the NHBRC failed to insist that they must be involved on all low-cost housing and – with the result that 3 000 homes are now having to be demolished or repaired.

“Sipho Mashinini, Chief Executive of the NHBRC, said that he holds the State responsible for the non registration and that changes in the NHBRC’s mandate will be made to improve the situation – but no radical changes are in fact required: it is already agreed that all low cost housing builders should be NHBRC members.

“The truth is that the Council turned a blind eye to the activities in the low cost sector and let them continue without interference. Now, inevitably, SA is paying a high price for the shoddy workmanship allowed in so many contracts.”

What makes the situation particularly frustrating, said Henry, is that the NHBRC has focused on monitoring established recognised builders and developers who by and large employ qualified architects and engineers who already have professional insurers able to pay up in the event of any serious failures – and who, therefore do not need the NHBRC Insurance.

“The impression given is that the NHBRC is concerned only with those high value contracts where their fee will be large and the inspection task a matter of routine. The sector most in need of protection and most likely to engage unqualified builders has been overlooked.”

Also frustrating, said Henry, is the fact that although the NHBRC is now “sitting on” a fund “the size of which is not disclosed but which it is said now runs into billions”, the actual number of structural failure payouts has been minimal.

“When a claim is made by the owner of a home or his bond issuer, the NHBRC is mandated to put pressure on the builder to rectify the matter. In practice this has often had little effect because certain builders will close down their operations and restart under another name. Some will do only minor repairs and string the NHBRC along. Others will simply disappear. I would guess that less than 10% of claims have been paid.”

In previous statements Henry has already said that the standard of workmanship by many start-up companies handling provincial and municipal housing leaves much to be desired.

“It is these companies which the NHBRC should have been disciplining. In failing to insist on this they have betrayed the poor and let us all down.”

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Spending habits are linked to property affordability

Friday, February 04, 2011, 8:14:57 AM

South Africans are not known as a nation of savers, in fact more often than not the opposite is true. Statistics show that the majority of adults in this country do not think or plan ahead financially.

Adrian Goslett, the CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa says that saving can and should become a way of life. “Large numbers of South Africans received a wake-up call when the National Credit Act was introduced in 2007. Before government clamped down on irresponsible lending practices, it was easy to secure credit for just about any purchase, big or small, with little or no deposit. These days’ banks take a far-closer look at an applicant’s finances, obtain an overall picture of the credit history, the total amount of credit that is outstanding as well as the lenders ability to pay debt back. Banks have also increased the amount of the deposit required to secure larger amounts of money, including bonds or vehicle finance, although this is once again dropping.”

He says that in many ways the recession exposed our weaknesses and highlighted the importance of having a household ‘slush fund’. Those who had spare cash in the bank were, in many instances, able to keep the wolf from the door, while those that were swamped by debt didn’t.

With this is mind, Goslett says that it is now more important than ever for those planning to invest in property to get finances under control and implement a budget, before they buy property. There are a number of ways consumers can cut back on living expenses and areas that should be looked at include:

§ Writing out and sticking to a budget

§ Eating out less

§ Shopping around for the best prices

§ Paying cash wherever possible

§ Reviewing insurance policies and medical aids to ensure you are getting the best deal available

§ Saving on electricity and water costs

§ Curtailing unnecessary purchases and debt

§ Draw up a savings plan, decide how much you want to save on a monthly basis and stick to it

Managing debt has become one of the most important aspects of life in South Africa. It has been estimated that seven million South Africans are struggling to pay off their debts and it was recently stated that over 52% of South Africans have a bad credit rating. “These figures are alarming, given that the banks have taken a far stricter approach to credit and will not extend finance to anyone whose financial history is not squeaky clean,” says Goslett.

The ratio of household debt to disposable income has proved to be the biggest stumbling block facing those who are trying to raise finance. Simply put, many South Africans are still struggling to get to grips with their outstanding debt.

“On the other hand,” he says, “individuals who have money set aside for a deposit are finding it easier to buy the house of their choice and are taking advantage of the good deals currently available. It is distressing to note that while the current market conditions are ideal for investing, many are unable to invest, simply because they have failed to get their financial house in order over the last few years.”

While this advice may not be the be-all and end-all of money management as what works for some, doesn’t for others, but it certainly is a good starting point for a year that is successful financially.

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Buy to rent opportunities widespread

Monday, January 31, 2011, 11:05:25 AM

Examined critically, right now buying to rent in Cape Town’s southern suburbs does not appear to be a great investment opportunity – but some experienced, shrewd buyers have been buying steadily for exactly that purpose.

Seeking to explain this, Anton du Plessis, CEO of Vineyard Estates, which is headquartered in Upper Claremont, said that during the boom years of 2003 to 2007 he had sold numerous expensive Upper Claremont, Upper Kenilworth, Bishopscourt, Upper Rondebosch and Newlands homes to buyers who at that time were getting up to 34% annual appreciation on their investment.

“Even then the rentals were never that high (often they gave returns of less than 6%) but with annual appreciation at such incredible levels that hardly mattered,” said du Plessis.

Now, however, he says, property owners are likely to achieve only 4 to 5% annual appreciation on anything they buy in the next 12 months – and achieve negligible capital growth. So why are they buying?

“On the face of it, it is not wise to buy at today’s market prices. However, if you are able to get a property at 10, 15 or 20% discount, obviously the whole outlook changes – and such properties have been available as a result of the largest bank property repossession programme ever seen in South Africa’s history. Buying at a discount, shrewd buyers are “building in”capital appreciation for when the market consolidates.”

These buyers, said du Plessis, expect to see the plethora of repossessed homes dry up by the end of 2012, after which they will either continue to get rentals at up to 10% return on their initial investment) or they will sell at a true market related price, plus two years escalation, achieving perhaps a 20 to 25% total return on their capital outlay over two years.

Just how difficult it can be for a buy-to-rent investor buying at normal prices in today’s market was shown by du Plessis, taking a R3 million home in Upper Claremont as an example.

“Buying this R3 million home,” he said, “would involve paying upfront R220 000 in transfer duties and bond costs, the size of the latter obviously depending on how big a bond is taken. (For the sake of this exercise a 100% bond is assumed.) Thereafter each month the buyer would have to find at least another R1 000 to cover the rates owing to the municipality and a further R1 000 minimum for maintenance and repairs. This last figure might sound high but bear in mind that a repaint every three years can cost at least R15 000 and there would almost certainly be other unforeseen expenses which would have to be met.

“If the home was in a security village, the levy might add a further R800 to the monthly outlay. On top of these figures, the buyer would still have to find R500 (or more) per month for insurance. In addition, most investors would require an agent to find and/or manage the tenant – this would absorb another R1 300 (at least) of the rental income.

These outlays, although varying from house to house and from owner to owner, might, said du Plessis, total R5 000 per month.

What would the owner be getting back in rental?

“Bear in mind that the more expensive the home, the lower the return in relation to the investment. Certain homes in the R20 million bracket are only achieving gross rentals of R50 000 per month, but on our R3 million example, one can assume a gross rental of around R15 000 per month which equates to less than 6% on the outlay (including transfer costs). This of course assumes that the buyer achieves an unbroken tenancy, with no gaps between leases whilst he tries to find another tenant.

“Summing up, therefore, at present buy to rent investors have to find bargains if they are to remain in this market.”

That, said du Plessis, may seem like bad news – but currently, there are really good deals to be had, especially at ±R8 million. Even better deals are available in the R10 to R20 million bracket and “spectacular” deals are now achievable on homes above R20 million.

“Shrewd buy-to-rent investors will, therefore, continue to be active in Cape Town and, you can take my word for it, they are achieving killings for which they – or their heirs – five, ten or fifteen years down the line will be extremely grateful.”

The Cape Town market, said du Plessis, has always performed above average for South Africa and fluctuated far less than properties further to the north.

“The very simple, easily understood reason for this,” he said, “is that space in the more desirable areas of the Cape Peninsula has been for years been in short supply and will become increasingly limited. You simply cannot bulldoze away a 50km mountain or cover it in houses, because most of it is a national park. This fact ensures that Cape Town will not only retain its values but also its enduring charm and attraction which impresses so many people from all round the world.”

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RE/MAX of Southern Africa achieves solid growth in 2010

Friday, January 28, 2011, 9:16:17 AM

Despite predictions for a very slow and steady growth of between 3% and 5% for the South African property market overall during 2010, RE/MAX of Southern Africa reported a 37% growth on registered sales compared to its 2009 figures.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that while market experts were cautiously optimistic that property sales volumes and values would pick up during 2010, it is encouraging to see that our sales results have exceeded the anticipated national growth figures. He says December was the best month of the year in terms of registrations.

Looking at each of the RE/MAX regions of operation, it is impressive to see that every single one has shown an increase on registered sales. The highest growth reported was in the central region of Gauteng which saw a 68% increase on 2009’s registered sales. Next was the northern region which includes Mpumalanga and Limpopo Provinces which achieved a 45% increase on 2009’s registered sales. KwaZulu-Natal also performed well reflecting a 31% increase on its 2009 figures, while the Eastern Cape saw a 17% increase. The Western Cape achieved 14% increase while regions outside of South Africa, such as Mauritius, Namibia and Mozambique, achieved a collective 11% increase.

Looking at the leisure property market, Goslett notes that while there has been increased activity along the coastal areas, he says that sales in the leisure property market generally lag behind the traditional market. “Added to this, sales in the leisure market generally occur mainly in February and March, which means that only time will tell to what extent this market has improved, if at all.”

Aside from sales figures, RE/MAX of Southern Africa grew in office and agent numbers too, with 18 new franchises sold during 2010, 558 new agents joining the brand and 117 agents returning to work under the RE/MAX banner. Goslett reports RE/MAX agent productivity also saw an increase of 40% during 2010, which he attributes to the US-based Buffini training course offered exclusively by the RE/MAX group to its agents. Goslett says that this courses was introduced specifically to help agents better manage their client relationships.

Says Goslett: “Numerous factors have influenced the year-on-year growth, mainly the low interest rates that have aided consumers in reducing their high levels of debt. The interest rate outlook for 2011 is stable which will certainly add to the appeal of property ownership in the near future.”

RE/MAX of Southern Africa is geared for another year of solid growth in property sales as well as franchise and agent growth. To date, four new RE/MAX franchises have already been sold in the first week of business this year.

Talking about the year ahead, Goslett anticipates that demand for property will remain at much the same levels as the second half of 2010, meaning slow and steady growth for the first half of 2011.

“It is expected that there will be some increase in property values in the middle- to lower-end of the market, but the upper-end of the market is expected to remain stable. General demand is likely to gain momentum in the second half of the year,” Goslett concludes.

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South Coast continues to offer value for money

Friday, January 28, 2011, 9:14:53 AM

Sales on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast boomed in December. This is according to Pat Symcox, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Coast and Country who recently opened a new office in Hibberdene, further expanding the successful RE/MAX Coast and Country brand. The office operates in the areas between Hibberdene and Port Shepstone.

Symcox says that the boom in sales along the South Coast was due to the fact that those looking to invest in real estate have realised that real value exists in property there, particularly those situated between Port Shepstone, Umtentweni and Hibberdene. “This stretch of coastline has been a popular holiday spot for many years, with Pumula Hotel one of the most popular resorts.”

The area has come into its own as a destination, and, although there is still a large retirement contingent, the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast has become the place to be for those looking for a more relaxed lifestyle. “The younger generation, particularly those aged between 30 and 40 have become aware of the importance of planning ahead and as a result many are investing in holiday homes with a view to moving down permanently when they retire,” says Symcox.

He says investing in the area has a number of benefits including affordability. As many buyers are looking for a unit to cater to their holiday needs, security is important and for this reason, the lock-up-and-go option has proved to be the most popular choice. Symcox says that a quality offering in a secure estate is priced from R750 000. Full-title properties range in price from R850 000, although anyone investing in a home in this price range will have to undertake renovations. He says that full-title homes with a sea view that are situated close to the beach have retained their value.

“There is no doubt that in monetary terms, the South Coast offers some of the best value for coastal property in the country, particularly when compared to the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. The region has felt the full brunt of the slowdown in the property market and as such, there are still bargains to be found.”

The situation will not last forever as Symcox reports that the number of sales concluded over December alone surpassed the sales for the entire year. “This stretch of coast is also one of the few areas in the country that boasts six Blue Flag beaches and although a large amount of development took place in the “boom years, the villages that dot the region have not affected the beauty of the area. The beaches are clean, have shark nets and perhaps most importantly, are largely unspoilt,” he says.

Another factor driving demand is the number of golf courses in the area. “Although officially known as the Hibiscus Coast, the region with its 11 top golf courses is affectionately known as the Golf Coast. Hibberdene is ideally situated within a 45 minute drive from them all.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that while the property market is showing signs of recovery, buyers are still looking for those homes that meet their requirements while offering value for money. Property on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast seems to meet these demands for a large number of buyers looking for a retirement spot or a holiday home.

“The entire South Coast region enjoyed an extremely successful holiday season in December. This coupled with the reasonable prices of property has driven demand well beyond our expectations. Consumer confidence has returned to the area, various projects are on the cards and once completed will fuel demand for well-priced, quality property. The local market has turned the corner and I fully expect a further upswing during the second half of 2011,” says Symcox.

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Residential letting market more buoyant

Friday, January 28, 2011, 9:12:31 AM

Although South Africa has had to weather a serious global economic downturn, the economy managed well – and one sector of the local property industry has remained reasonably buoyant, says Michael Bauer, general manager of the property management company IHFM and a contributor to a landlord forum,

The economic problems affected tenants just as much as homeowners and resulted in more rent defaulters than previously – but they also caused a rise in those wanting to rent rather than to buy because once the lending criteria of the banks had been tightened up it became very difficult to buy.

At IHFM each month between four to eight units are being added to their existing rental management portfolio, he said. On these the company is achieving less than 2% defaulting payments each month.

“At the outset we conduct a tight tenant screening process, ask for at least 1.5 times rental deposit and we demand automatic debit orders from tenants,” said Bauer. “Then at the beginning of every month we are averaging 8% defaulters. By the seventh day of that month we have usually, through good credit control, reduced this to 4% and by the fifteenth day reduced this further to 2%.”

Landlords, said Bauer, tend to be resentful of paying extra costs for such services as tenant finding, advertising and other upfront fees charged by letting agents. IHFM, therefore, does not charge for these.

“We usually insist on 12% of the monthly rent being paid in commission. Fees of 10% are charged by some agents,” said Bauer, “but in these cases regular inspections are sometimes few and far between.”

Bauer said that any landlord or rental agent who is not able to use a national credit checking network such as TPN is likely to find themselves in serious trouble. After credit and background checks, he said, IHFM find it necessary to reject some 30% of applicants. Landlords, he said, can ask to see the tenant applications and credit reports for themselves and can approve or reject potential tenants.

The traditional practice of telephoning the previous landlord for a reference, said Bauer, can be unreliable because some landlords may say “almost anything” to get rid of an unreliable non-paying tenant who, in some cases, has actually been related to the landlord. Similarly, employers can be poor referees because they may know nothing of their employees’ spending habits and can simply confirm employment.

At IHFM, he said, they now insist on one and a half month’s rental deposit paid upfront - but this can on occasions prove inadequate to cover the repair work necessary when a tenant leaves.

An inspection with the tenant, possibly with photographs or a video, and the compilation of a snag list prior to the tenants taking occupation is essential, said Bauer, and should be repeated before the tenant leaves before the rent deposit is refunded. Regular checks on the condition of the property are also important.

Bauer said that trying to save on an agent’s fees is short-term thinking, because the role of a good agent in selecting the right tenant, ensuring that rentals are paid on time and protecting the property simply cannot be over-valued.

“Most landlords tend to forget that their time has value and a cost and “self-management” is far more expensive than using a good agent,” he said.

The selection of the right agents is equally important. Just as you would not hire a divorce attorney to represent you at a criminal trial, so you should not hire a selling agent to do the letting of your property.

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How to handle a poorly managed scheme

Friday, January 28, 2011, 9:11:32 AM

The difference between a well-run sectional title scheme in which the units appreciate steadily in value and those schemes which are not functioning well can often be seen on a first, short visit to the building, says Michael Bauer, General Manager of IHFM, the sectional title management company (see Bauer’s newsletter and blog on

“Poor maintenance will be evident even to the untrained eye,” says Bauer. “When trustees are losing the ability to manage their members (and collect levies from them) many of the units and the common property will tend to build up a maintenance backlog and need a repaint, waterproofing or some other improvement. As the property ages, the maintenance requirements and costs will increase.

Faced with a deteriorating scheme, trustees, says Bauer, have to act decisively: the Sectional Title Act empowers them to collect outstanding levies plus interest from owners and compel the owners to maintain their units. Should an owner fail to do so, trustees are entitled to do the repairs themselves and to recover the cost from the member.

“Obviously in a poorly managed scheme that is on the downhill slope, carrying out maintenance and recovering the costs can be difficult especially when there is no cash flow and working capital,” says Bauer, “but trustees must not shrink from doing this due to doubts about the timing and their ability to recover the costs.”

The problems, he said, are often twofold: while facing problems from non-paying members, the trustees may also be under pressure to keep levies down and avoid increased debt.

Many trustees, said Bauer, do not realise that, although slow-moving, the legal processes in these matters can be extremely effective and can bring about action on the part of the member.”

Firm action, he added, gives an important signal to all members – and lack of action will also be picked up by them as a sign that it is acceptable to pay levies only as and when they can.

“It is essential to maintain financial disciplines on all schemes. When this is done, they flourish. When neglected, they deteriorate.”

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Average house price differences can be misleading

Friday, January 28, 2011, 9:10:27 AM

In recent years, says Anton du Plessis, CEO of the Cape Peninsula estate agency, Vineyard Estates, the average difference between the achieved price and the asking price of homes in the southern suburbs has been ± 13 to 15%.

“This fact,” he said, “is often discussed. The danger is that it can lead to all potential buyers automatically offering 15% less on every offer they make – which could be a big mistake.”

The fact that the 15% is an average figure should, said du Plessis, make people realise that some homes have sold at or close to their asking price while others (usually hugely overpriced) have sold at 30% or more below the asking price.

“All sorts of intangible subtle factors can influence the bids on a home,” said du Plessis, “and statistics are by no means hard and fast reliable guidelines: for example, in the last six months, the “average” price in Bishopscourt was R20 million – but on investigation it transpired that only one house sale was put through the Deeds Office in that period - in fact, in that suburb, it is commonplace for properties to come on the market in the R30 millions and to sell in the early R20 millions.”

Then, too, said du Plessis, certain areas cover a wide range of housing: in Claremont, for example, it is, he said, still possible to find apartments priced under R500 000 but the precinct also has homes selling around the R 20 million mark. Averages here can, therefore, be misleading.

“The difference between asking and achieved prices in Claremont in the last six months is only 7% - this probably reflects the fact that sellers have become more realistic with their asking prices – it does not yet indicate a strengthening in the market.”

What will surprise many Cape Town southern suburbs property pundits analysing the sales in Claremont, said du Plessis, is that in the segment over R6 million the asking/achieved price difference recently has been only 5% while in the under R3 million bracket it is again at 7%.

“The 5% figure,” said du Plessis, “possibly reflects the fact that many upper bracket buyers can get bonds easier (as some are asking for only 50 to 70% of the purchase price). Others are straight cash buyers who do not need bonds. In the under R3 million market, many buyers are looking for 90% bonds, and are pushing the boundaries where it comes to qualifying for a bond.

Most of Cape Town’s southern suburbs, said du Plessis, have always been prime property and have traditionally resisted price falls strongly. While he does not expect prices here to rise by more than 5 to 6% in 2011, he remains adamant that in the long term the prime southern suburbs served by Vineyard Estates – Upper Claremont, Upper Kenilworth, Rondebosch, Bishopscourt and Constantia still rank among the top 10% best property buys in SA today.

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Friday, January 28, 2011, 9:02:28 AM

Those looking to buy a residential property are still waiting to find their dream home, even though their budgets have shrunk. This is according to Gerrit Stenvert, Broker/Owner of RE/MAX Outeniqua, which operates in the Garden Route town of George and has properties listed in Herolds Bay, Victoria Bay, Glentana, Tergniet and surrounding areas.

Stenvert believes that most people are not willing to let their dream home go and settle for less. "Instead they will rather wait for the day when their price range and their dream home are on the same level, and this is one of the main reasons why the property market in George has slowed down over the last two to three years."

But, he says, on the other hand investors here are becoming more and more active. They are looking for below market value buys with above market value income, therefore securing above average return on investment on the income and capital growth. "These kinds of investment buyers have been successful in George as this scenario makes a well-priced house with flat in an average area a polished diamond due to the huge demand for residential rentals in the sub R5000 per month market," he says.

Stenvert notes an increase in sales volumes in George towards the end of 2010. "Serious sellers are negotiating downwards and a decline in prices has occurred. The sub R800 000 market is moderately active but the market cools off as prices increase to the higher levels. The residential property market has been far more active than the commercial one and the industrial market is still in a coma," he says.

According to Stenvert, housing in George ranges from affordable to very expensive as its areas accommodate a diverse range of people. Therefore, he says that while entry level housing has different meanings to different buyers, those looking to purchase in George can expect to pay anywhere from R300 000 up to as much as R1,3million for entry-level housing, depending on the area or suburb.

He reports that the market has been slow in the mid-level housing sector, which ranges from R700 000 up to around the R1,8million mark. Homes in the upper price brackets however, are quite common in George suburbs such as Campfers Drift, Heatherlands, Glen Barry, Fern Ridge, Glenwood and Eden. Here prices range from about R1,7million up to R8million plus, with the odd investment exception.

But even though sales have been on the slow side, RE/MAX Outeniqua recently sold a house in Tergniet for R2,75million and two properties to one investor in the past four months.

While he cautions that property is a long term investment, Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that nationally property is only expected to achieve a growth rate of around 3% for the year, but those properties that are well situated and well priced have the potential to show better returns in a shorter period of time.

Looking forward, Stenvert believes that depending on area and price, property sales will be slow to moderate for the next 12 months in George and through the rest of the Garden Route. However he says that some residential properties here offer an exceptional return on investment that beats most commercial options on risk and capital growth.

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Visitors love new RealNet website

Wednesday, January 05, 2011, 8:34:09 AM

These days, no self-respecting agent would think of trying to work without a cellphone and similarly, almost all real estate companies these days have a website, or at least a web presence.

But of course not all websites are created equal. Some, like the newly revamped RealNet website, have been carefully designed and constructed not only to be really user-friendly and easy to navigate, but also to achieve maximum worldwide exposure through search engine optimisation (SEO).

The effect of this, explains ggroup mmarketing ssupport mmanager Piet Olivier, is that the website has higher visibility on popular search engines such as Google and so attracts more visitors. “This is evident from the huge jump in our site’s world traffic rankings since it was re-launched a month ago. It has moved up from about number 355 000 in the world to number 159 631, because it is now attracting twice the number of visitors as it did before.”

And this is of very real value to RealNet clients, he says, because it means that their properties listed on the website are now getting twice the amount of exposure, all over the world.

“Indeed, the percentage of visitors to the site coming from outside SA has increased by 86% since the redesign.

“We have also built in an option for any property on the website to be instantly shared via the Facebook and Twitter social networks, which will boost exposure even more.

“And then we have gone even further, creating a mobi site which enables visitors to search listings online, at any time, through their mobile phones. This means they do not even need a computer to access our website, and the highly efficient design allows fast downloads, including photos, to any phone with a mobile browser.”

Features of the redesigned RealNet site include categorised or “horizontal” searches to assist potential buyers to quickly find exactly the types of property they are looking for. For example, visitors to the site can now search for commercial properties for sale, or for farms and smallholdings, or for new developments and rental properties, as well as residential properties to buy.

Then, once they have selected the type, price and features of the property they are looking for, the results will give them the option of viewing all suitable properties within the province at the same time, eliminating the need to search area by area.

“The response to this has been tremendous,” says Olivier, “ with visitors now each spending an average of 55 minutes on the site compared to 21 minutes previously, and each viewing around 32 pages, which is more than double the average number viewed before the relaunch.

“In other words, and are now even more effective tools to help our agents and their clients connect with potential buyers across SA and around the world, and thus to achieve quicker and better sales.”

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Consider these issues before downsizing for retirement

Wednesday, December 15, 2010, 12:20:24 PM

For many homeowners nearing retirement, downsizing their home seems to be an inevitable step, particularly once all the kids have left the nest. While for some this may be a very emotional life event, others may well look forward to a more relaxed lifestyle, unfettered by monthly bond repayments and the never-ending upkeep and maintenance that is part and parcel of owning a freehold property. “Either way, there are a number of issues that should be carefully considered before making a decision,” says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.

“There are numerous lifestyle benefits to downsizing from a large, free standing, full title suburban property to a sectional title unit in a secure complex or a retirement village. For example, you are no longer responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of a home, a large garden, a pool and other property features. You can also enjoy increased security and easier access to amenities such as 24-hour medical care and social activities. In addition, downsizing can result in significant monthly cost savings for homeowners, in terms of the rates and taxes, utility bills, maintenance and repair costs, and security and insurance costs. This is important in light of the fact that monthly pensions are smaller than the monthly salary earned while working, even if the homeowner made good provision for retirement,” comments Goslett.

“However, the biggest expense in most households is the monthly bond repayment, and whether a homeowner will be free from this responsibility will depend on how well the family’s finances were managed prior to retirement.”

If a homeowner has paid off the mortgage bond on the property, or at least the bulk thereof, it may well be possible to sell the property, settle the outstanding bond and have enough capital to purchase a smaller property without having to enter into a new mortgage agreement. “Homeowners who have paid off their mortgages prior to retirement are in a far better financial position than those who still face a number of years of mortgage payments because they had, for example, taken out a second bond on the property, or upgraded to a bigger property a few years earlier,” says Goslett. “Should there not be sufficient equity – the difference between the current market value of the property and the outstanding bond amount – for a cash purchase of a smaller property, homeowners will face some challenges. Firstly, at age 65 and older, it becomes particularly difficult to obtain a bond. These homeowners will have to carefully consider what monthly rental or bond repayment they will be able to afford on their lower pension income, and whether they will be able to cover the costs involved in buying a new property, such a deposit, transfer costs and taxes.”

But there are further issues that complicate matters significantly. “For example, if a homeowner has owned the property for some time, the capital gains tax implications of selling the property could be significant. Homeowners may not be able to realise the full value of personal belongings by selling these belongings. In addition, timing should be carefully considered – it may not be the best time to sell a property and by delaying the decision to downscale by a few months may result in a better selling price, or - if market conditions change unexpectedly – in a lower sales price. On the other hand, despite the current market conditions, units in secure complexes and retirement villages remain high in demand, and delaying the downsizing decision could result in a homeowner missing a good buying opportunity in the current buyer’s market.”

Goslett says that homeowners who have paid off their bonds, or who have very small monthly bond repayments could consider renting out, rather than selling, the property. “Provided that the rental income will exceed the monthly bond repayments and other costs, and that the homeowner has sufficient cash flow to cover any vacancies, renting the property to a tenant could be a solution. It will provide an annuity income for the homeowner, which could supplement retirement income.”

Downsizing a property for retirement is not simply a matter of selling a large property and buying a smaller property. “It should form part of a comprehensive and well-considered retirement plan, in which the financial implications of various possible options – such as living on the property for a few more years, selling the property or renting out the property - is carefully considered in light of retirement income and lifestyle. In addition to obtaining the relevant information about the market value of the property, the current market situation and the rental possibilities from a reputable estate agent, homeowners should get professional financial advice in this regard to ensure they understand the full financial and tax implications of downsizing their property,” concludes Goslett.

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Estate agencies should offer Christmas bonuses of some sort

Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 9:15:51 AM

Kim Ashton, manager of the Western Cape Institute of Estate Agents’ PropPlacements division, reports that this year she has found positions in property for 52 candidates - 41 residential and rental agents; four interns to real estate and seven administrative staff.

“This,” said Ashton, “could give the impression that we are heading for another property boom but in reality many agents this year have had a rough ride.”

Now that the Christmas break is approaching agents may well find that they are short of funds.

“In the circumstances,” said Ashton, “perhaps it is time that the estate agency world adopted the practice of many corporates and smaller businesses of awarding some sort of December bonus to both administrative staff and agents.

Bonuses, she said, are not in any way obligatory in SA labour law and often, if they are paid, are strictly performance related but she would like to see agencies awarding a further 1% commission to agents on any deals done over the December break (when sales tend to be fewer) and “thank you” handouts made to the admin staff. These could possibly be paid upfront (i.e. before Christmas) on the understanding that if a sale falls through the agent will accept a commission reduction later.

“The estate agency world,” said Ashton, “is strong on incentives but still lacks certain perks.

“An IEASA committee member, Samuel Seeff, has pointed out that almost no agencies offer medical aid. This, too, should, I feel, now be considered. With the rise in status being brought about by the new educational qualifications, agents should have the extra benefits of other professionals.”

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ST trustees need not fear prosecution in the event of a mistake

Tuesday, December 14, 2010, 9:15:08 AM

One of the major challenges facing any sectional title scheme is to find competent trustees who will take their duties seriously and work