What does 2018 hold for the property market?

Jan 16, 2018 4:50:54 PM Share this:

Many of us closed off the year anxiously monitoring the ruling party's executive committee election. For the large part it's important for us to show an active interest in the direction our country is moving in, in the other sense we desire a Government that is transparent and has the best interests of its people at heart. The economy certainly experienced quite a number of dramatic shifts during 2017 and some markets were effected, be it positively or negatively. Harcourts for one experienced defiant growth, showing that many South Africans remain active in an uncertain economy.

What does 2018 hold? It is always difficult making predictions, as there are an enormous amount of factors to take into consideration. With both external and internal elements influencing the markets, forecasting cycles is purely based on interpretation of data.

Taking the trends we're already moving toward into consideration - digital and technological evolution is a major focus point of the property market. We've seen the portals incorporate virtual reality, video functionality and drone capabilities to ensure more detailed data for clients, at Harcourts we're equally dedicated to the advancement of more accurate visual representation of homes. We've also monitored how digital marketing has majorly influenced client and agent interaction, and this is certainly going to intensify during this year. Another technological point being incorporated into the property market internationally and locally is digital funding models - like cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding real estate. This will surely be hot topics throughout the year.

Another point to take note of are the knock on affects of the political climate in South Africa. Often the negative reactions to short term economic changes are only felt the following year. On this point I am very hopeful that there will be more stability in the political messaging from Government, as well as less major ministerial suprises, however this is difficult to predict. Consumers might be in a price pinch for a little while longer, but the market already seems to be gaining momentum. Property outweighs a lot of the immediate reactions due to its long term nature, however the commercial and rental markets might react more sharply to any more surprises.

An element of change in markets across the board which Harcourts is very excited by and spent a lot of time developing and improving is the corporate shift of focus back to client service. The internet has spun the wheel of change into the favour of the client, where it should be, and the prominence of consumer ratings platforms has forced corporate entities to be held accountable for their actions. It is shift that has had to happen. When services are dedicated to impeccable client experiences the bar gets raised and the dynamic in the relationship is strengthened. This is where Harcourts lives.

These are only a few interests I touched on, and there are many other market elements going to progress throughout the year. All in all, we're focused on continuing our incredible growth cycle and maintaining our rapid evolution and client focus.

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Job creation, not increased taxes

Dec 5, 2017 11:02:52 PM Share this:

The news that President Zuma has instructed the Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, to trim expenses and increase revenue in order to find a solution to the R40 billion gap identified in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement is of major concern.

The statement released by the Presidency on Monday identifying the steps being taken to address economic problems after Standard & Poor lowered South Africa’s long term foreign and local currency debt ratings by one notch each to ‘BB’ and ‘BB+’ on Friday, might put cash strapped consumers under even more pressure.

Reports explain that the split will equate to cuts in expenditure amounting to about R25 billion and "revenue-enhancing" measures of about R15 billion.

Despite the obvious concerns of less money being spent in crucial areas like RDP housing, social assistance and other key economic and social focuses, I don't believe South Africans can be squeezed for more taxes. We are in a price pinch as it is, with rising costs, increased taxes, heightened unemployment and economic instability. To further aggravate the situation by trying to recover the shortfall by extracting more taxes from citizens, Government is counteracting growth.

Instead, Government should be developing plans that combat economic stagnation. They should be tougher on corruption and mismanaged funds, so that the money that is available in the fiscal reaches its intended target.

An environment not conducive to job creation and economic growth is what is propelling our economic vulnerability. Businesses, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens should have access to funding models, advisory boards, mentors, technology etc. that boost commercial activity in the areas where we need it most. There should be a push to gain access to markets through programmes that aim to transfer skills and development.

Hasty plans with concrete solutions are desperately needed to penetrate problem areas, and a fresh approach to accessing funds needs to occur instead of looking to citizens for money they don't have.

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Topics: economic problems, Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, key economic and social focuses

Finding that country getaway home

Nov 27, 2017 4:47:44 PM Share this:

The hustle and bustle of the city and the energy of life a stone's throw from corporate magma is a drawing factor for many South Africans. We're aware of the urbanisation into major metros and the desire to achieve professional success as well the effects thereof on the micro economy of smaller towns.

However, for some, escaping that gripping hold of the city is essential and people who regularly trek to the country often explain how returning to simplicity a few times a year can be the recharge they were yearning for.

The primary option is usually to rent a home in the area for the holiday period or check into your guesthouse of choice, but calculating the benefit of owning property in these regions you'll discover can often be of greater value to the regular traveler.

Many estate agents have an extensive national footprint, Harcourts has over 150 offices nationwide with some being in smaller towns across all provinces, which will greatly assist in locating a property of your choice. Agents have databases and software that can match exactly what you're looking for against their stock.

When purchasing a second home or investment property, it is crucial to familiarise yourself with the local property landscape. Spend some time researching the value of homes in the area so you have a good idea what you can afford before starting the process. You don't want to overextend your budget on a home that is designed to relieve stress not create it. However, in many cases in the smaller towns you are able to get a lot more bang for your back.

Also, take into consideration what your usual holiday activities consist of and select a property that fits that schedule. If you're only looking for a place to rest your heads at night and typically explore the region during the day a home with all the extra bells and whistles that are aimed at extreme comfort might be a waste of money.

Buying a holiday home can be a very exciting process that yields incredible memories for your family. If you select a professional estate agent with a highly recommended local network then this investment could be a wonderful addition to the family.


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Topics: dream home, country getaway, getaway home

Holiday rentals scams beware

Nov 27, 2017 4:04:17 PM Share this:

Now is the time when holidaymakers start scouring the internet for properties to rent during the festive season. Last minute planning often fueled by desperation and online scammers exploit this need.

As the internet is usually the go-to platform for holiday rentals, anonymous communication is often a prerequisite, which can make any of us feel uneasy. It is important to understand that you need to be alert and rely on your instincts when parting with personal information and money. Some horror stories have emerged in recent times - most often related to people paying deposits blindly.

Here are a few tips:

Logic goes a long way. When something is too good to be true, it usually is. Be skeptical of advertisements where the rental quoted is a lot lower than the average for the area in which you are interested. Do a quick market analysis of similar homes to gauge the regional standard.

When communication is vague and your direct responses are going unanswered and are being replied with rhetoric, be weary. An extension of this scam is the "homeowner" that has a million excuses why they can't have someone meet them face to face, especially because they know you're usually still out of town. Their excuses range from always running late, or on business trips or in meetings. The next step is often a request to pay a deposit, albeit at times a smaller one, in good faith to "secure" the property. Do not pay until you're absolutely sure.

A picture speaks a thousand words. If the photos you're being sent vary dramatically in size and quality warning bells should go off. Many potential scammers download stock photos off the internet and use these as bait to attract potential holidaymakers. Request images from different angles and request new photos, with modern technology this is usually rather easy to achieve.

Digital history. Do a quick search online on the rental property's previous adverts. You can either search the contact numbers or address of the property to find out if this home is rented out on an annual basis. Obviously not a sole reflection on the validity of the home but just another factor to consider.

The majority of holiday rentals advertised contain accurate information from a trustworthy source and there is a good chance you'll have a very pleasant experience. This article is in no way aimed at dissuading you from contacting homeowners direct but for both the homeowner and the holidaymaker it is always the best option to make use of a highly reputable estate agency. This way both parties are secure and the transaction is managed professionally.

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Topics: holiday rentals

Festive season holiday rentals

Nov 17, 2017 9:16:57 PM Share this:

The festive season is fast approaching and economic activity and consumer spending typically spikes during this time. Many take leave during December, especially due to the relative warm holiday weather across the country.

Besides local travelers flocking to their favourite destinations, South Africa is a premier holiday spot for international holidaymakers too. Due to the high demand popular lodges, hotels, guesthouses etc. are usually fully booked months in advance. This is where renting out your property over this period to tourists can be a great source of secondary investment income as well as a way to ensure your home does not stand empty while you're away.

If you're thinking of letting out your home during this season here are few things to consider:

Firstly, it is imperative you get in touch with a rental specialist agent in your area that understands the market well. Not only will this agent be able to provide you with an accurate valuation of potential rental income but also be able to manage your tenant requirements. This process can often be a dissuading factor for home owners not wanting to deal with the hassle of vetting potential tenants as well as getting all the legalities in order. A rental agent will have all the necessary experience and training to assist greatly when exploring this option.

Secondly, the sooner the better. People tend to make holiday arrangements long in advance, and it is always better to step into the market whilst your potential tenants are deciding on accommodation. You don't want to go through all the processes of letting out your home only to find it was too late and with your potential target market being dramatically reduced.

Lastly, letting strangers into your house remains a risk. Take all the necessary safety precautions to ensure your investment is protected. If you have a safe on the property make sure accessibility is strictly reduced, also if you have any items of a high value rather lock them away in the safe or acquire a safety box off site for the duration of the tenancy.

There are a lot more aspects to consider, that is why step one is so important. Partner with professionals and you'll be surprised at the ROI potential.


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Topics: holiday rentals, festive season

African technology developments aim to boost online economic activity

Nov 17, 2017 5:03:25 PM Share this:

The global push by international technology brands to invest in the development and accessibility of emerging markets will be a key driver for future economic growth. We've seen how on a global scale development in these spheres can make positive contributions to alleviate unemployment and boost entrepreneurship.

These development strategies will undoubtedly translate into increased consumer spending online. In the past few years we've noticed a significant increase in the amount of users shopping for property on our digital portals. The advancement of these functionalities are evolving rapidly and are making major strides toward consumer convenience. The advent of Augmented and Virtual reality technology where you're able to view a property listing in 3D in the comfort of your home or your mobile phone in a queue at the post office is more readily available.

Similarly we're finding that client and agent communication is occurring more frequently on digital channels, which include our highly advanced user friendly Harcourts websites, social media channels and other mobile social apps. Harcourts invests greatly in technology and recently we became one of the first real estate companies, globally, to take advantage of and build our own member-facing app store on Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program.

As consumers become more comfortable with online purchasing, especially with the continuous evolution in the banking industry and development of mobile apps, we'll see that filter to other industries. It is incredibly important for Government and corporate leaders to embrace these market changes to not only use it for their own client convenience but to advance the usage thereof for holistic growth purposes.

The more entrepreneurs entering the marketplace the better chance we have of increasing employment opportunities which benefits everyone, especially those who need it most. That is why internet connectivity is so crucial to this process as trading with technology can impact the success of a small business in a very direct manner over the short term.


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Topics: Technology, online economic activity

Where have local rental prices increased most?

Nov 10, 2017 7:13:57 AM Share this:

The latest PayProp rental index for the third quarter of 2017 released recently indicates where rental prices have increased and decreased across the South African property landscape.


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Topics: Demand For Rental Properties

Overview of the KZN agricultural property market in 2017

Oct 29, 2017 10:55:07 PM Share this:

There is a strong demand for good quality agricultural land in Kwazulu-Natal, land that can be defined as land with a high productive potential based on soils, rainfall and other climatic conditions. This would refer to arable land capable of producing crops under dryland conditions (sugar cane, maize, soya beans, potatoes, etc) and irrigated land with water rights.

The threat of cheap imports and the extension of the time frame for submission of land claims is a worry for land owners, however commercial farmers are generally in for the long haul and seem to carry on regardless of these issues. The dominant enterprises within KZN are sugar cane on the coastal areas, dairy/ timber/cash cropping and extensive grazing in the Midlands, and extensive grazing/cash cropping in Northern Natal


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Topics: Agricultural

Harcourts launches App store

Oct 29, 2017 10:23:58 PM Share this:

Harcourts International, recognised in the real estate industry for game-changing mobile technology, has launched the Harcourts App Store. Built with Apple’s iOS (operating system), the store is an enterprise application through which Harcourts team members can access, download, update and install its proprietary mobile applications eOne, eOpen and eCampaign.

“We are one of the first real estate companies, globally, to take advantage of and build our own member-facing app store on Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program,” said Anton Jansen van Vuuren, Harcourts South Africa National Operations Manager.

“While most people are familiar with the Apple App Store, resident on all iPhones and iPads, the Harcourts App Store is a business to business solution to allow Harcourts team members to access our proprietary mobile applications eOne, eOpen and eCampaign, which were custom built and developed in-house. They are the backbone of what makes Harcourts unique in the marketplace, and they’re utilised across Harcourts' 150-plus office network in South Africa,” explained Richard Gray, Harcourts South Africa CEO.

The company’s three mobile apps utilise Apple iOS built-in technologies, seamless security, and integration with Harcourts enterprise systems. This month the Harcourts apps will benefit from a new release that offers enhancements specific to management of client information, designing bespoke marketing campaigns, registering and communicating with both buyers and sellers.

“The Harcourts App Store is an important milestone for our business focus on innovation,” continued Jansen van Vuuren. “We believe designing and building tailored solutions that our members can utilise on their mobile devices is essential to boosting productivity and the quality of service to their clients. It’s what sets us apart in the real estate industry.”

The vision for Harcourts is to deliver an unparalleled client experience. It is through the mobile app development platform of providing an end-to-end mobile solution to empower team members to operate with equal efficiency and effectiveness whether in the field or in the office.

"Harcourts was the first international real estate company in the world to have its mobile business solutions featured on Apple’s website. In recognition of Harcourts’ innovation and use of the iPad and iPhone to drive greater efficiency and productivity, Apple, produced a video and business case study about Harcourts’ mobile suite of apps," concluded Gray.


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Topics: eOne, eCampaign, iOS, eOpen, Harcourts app store

Harcourts donates R1million in South Africa and $5million globally to charities

Oct 16, 2017 11:33:34 PM Share this:

The Harcourts Foundation, the charitable arm of Harcourts International, has reached the latest milestone of $5 million raised since its launch in 2008. South Africa's arm of the Harcourts foundation, launched in 2011, has already donated R1million to the foundation.

Internationally, this translates to 686 charities supported, 311 communities impacted and 851 grants made through Harcourts offices in New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

“The Harcourts Foundation in South Africa is making a significant difference helping communities across the country. 100% of Harcourts South Africa sales offices donate to the Foundation with the sale of each property, and through specially organized events,” said Harcourts South Africa CEO Richard Gray.

Of all the incredible efforts undertaken in the past six years to help disadvantaged families and children, one of the signature events is African Angels, Ride for Education.

The African Angels Independent School, established in 2012, provides a quality primary school education to some of the poorest children in the area. With 88 children attending in 2016, all are from local townships with both economically and socially challenged backgrounds, including orphans.

"Ride for Education is used as a Harcourts team-building exercise to give offices an opportunity to come together for Fun & Laughter, and raise important funds for the community. The 2016 event raised R60,000 and the 2017 event aims to surpass that number," explained Gray.

“The Foundation is funded through Harcourts employee salary sacrifice, ‘off the top’ contributions from sales commissions, and through organised fundraisers,” added Gray.

“The money raised is significant, but what truly is impressive is how Harcourts people are impacting our communities, from supporting programs to end violence against women, and aiding underprivileged families to create a network of financial support for hospice care,” said Jenny Swanson, The Harcourts Foundation Coordinator. “These grants support a wide range of local community organisations that are quietly going about their work, making a difference in the lives of those who need it.”

The Foundation operates as a 100%, charity with all funds raised going directly to grants due to the volunteer-run structure that sees Harcourts employees donate their time and expertise to oversee and administer the process. No management fees, salaries or running costs are taken from the donation account.

"We are incredibly proud of the work The Harcourts Foundation has done over the past nine years," said Harcourts International Managing Director Mike Green. "The Foundation is at the heart of our company's core values, and it is an important part of our success as an international network. Every location in which there is a Harcourts office, there are people in need. We are grateful to be able to give back and make a difference."

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Topics: Harcourts Foundation, charities