Countering the rise of property scammers

Jun 12, 2018 9:46:43 PM Share this:

Countering the rise of property scammers

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Topics: Richard Gray, Harcourts South Africa, Tips for Agents, Real Estate Agents, Scam Alert

Harcourts Shows Tremendous Growth in the USA

Jun 6, 2018 6:50:33 PM Share this:

Harcourts USA, an Australian based international real estate company, has seen tremendous recent growth in the US. They have acquired two new offices in Southern California, innovated their Harcourts Academy trainings, and continue to grow their non-distressed auction platform. Overall , agent numbers have drastically increased this past year as well.

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Topics: Harcourts International, News, Harcourts Academy, Auction, Growth, Harcourts USA

Home loan approvals hit best levels in a decade in SA

Jun 4, 2018 10:43:41 PM Share this:

Banks are showing an increased appetite to lend according to first quarter (Q1 2018) property statistics recently released by home loan originator Ooba.

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Topics: Richard Gray, Property Markets, South African Homeloans

Lighting up the outside of your property

May 22, 2018 7:10:03 PM Share this:

Lighting up the outside of your property is a great way to make your home safe while enhancing your home and garden at the same time, creating an atmosphere unique to your surroundings.

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Topics: Outdoor, Home Trends, Home Improvement

Increased lending positive for property market

May 2, 2018 10:54:48 PM Share this:
Statistics released by bond originator, ooba, in their latest "oobarometer" for the first quarter of 2018, reflecting banks increased willingness to lend money is fantastic news for the real estate market in South Africa.  

According to ooba  in the first quarter of 2018 they recorded the highest home loan approval rate in over ten years since the National Credit Act was implemented. With an increase of 4.9% compared to the first quarter of 2017.

These figures are certainly reflected in the market we're experiencing. This improved lending appetite will play a particularly important role influencing consumer confidence. After the market fluctuations and economic instability of 2017 the stabilization of 2018 thus far is reinforcing buyer interest and much needed investment activity. The current political climate continues to re-instill hope in the broader economy.

Another exciting sentiment shared by the report states that banks are increasingly more willing to lend the full value of a property without requiring a deposit. The average deposit over the entire market decreased by 6.4% year-on-year. For many first-time buyers the need for a sizeable deposit and stricter lending criteria implemented over the past few years greatly influenced the decision to buy. Having to apply for another loan to cover the deposit amount might put affordability of the home out of reach.

There are still corners of the market that remain under pressure and will continue to do so, however with the information emanating from ooba's report, both buyers and sellers are expected to benefit from this improved activity.

From a holistic perspective we're definitely dealing with a buyer's market, yet with banks letting go of the reigns more buyers will enter the market and create greater demand which ultimately leads to a far more beneficial environment for everyone.

Statement by
Richard Gray
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer
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Topics: Richard Gray, Harcourts South Africa, Property Markets, Buyers market, Ooba

Harcourts International’s Todd Cassie named to CIO100 list

May 2, 2018 6:30:30 PM Share this:
Todd Cassie, Harcourts International’s Head of Technology, has been featured by CIO magazine as a member of the CIO100 list. The list annually honours the most innovative technology leaders across all industries who are at the forefront of decision-making and strategic change.

Mr Cassie said that it was an honour to be included in the list and credited the recognition to the team members at Harcourts for their dedication to excellence and unrelenting focus on leading the way in the industry.

“It’s always great to be recognised for the work you do, but it’s a team effort,” he said. “For Harcourts it’s recognition as a potential place to work for those that are considering a change and recognition that we have a dedicated tech function that is reasonably large and is working hard to deliver great customer outcomes.”

"The success of Harcourts International's technology projects greatly influence the South African business prerogatives. Technology development and the evolution of the real estate market to include modern technological feats is of utmost importance to us. Our key strategic departments work non-stop researching ways to greatly improve client experience, product delivery to target markets and office/agent communication. Mr Cassie has certainly been a pillar of leadership in these advancements,"  said Harcourts South Africa CEO, Richard Gray.

Harcourts International Managing Director Mike Green said, “Starting with examining how Harcourts delivers technology throughout the business to its internal team, the business owners, sales consultants, property managers and leadership, Todd’s vision has seen tremendous strides over the past year.”

Since joining Harcourts one year ago, Mr Cassie has led the process of change in the way the Tech Team operates, with team members in Australia and New Zealand, noting that efficiencies and capabilities were enhanced and streamlined.

“For me the greatest accomplishment this past year has been the Tech Team accepting the need for change and getting on with it. Our greatest challenge now is to keep up the momentum as we continue to make changes because it’s not always evident without an instant return for your efforts.

“Harcourts has a proud history of using technology to deliver innovations to the industry that dates to the late 90s,” said Mr Cassie, noting that Harcourts was the first real estate brand to launch a website in New Zealand in 1997.

“Although that concept seems obvious, at the time it was revolutionary, and you can imagine the difference in the technology 20 years ago.

“Our focus is and continues to be on our clients. By maintaining this focus, we have a perfect yardstick to measure ourselves against as we continue our development lifecycle.”

Mr Cassie has worked in technology for over 20 years across a broad range of industries in New Zealand, Australia, the UK & Canada, and is a member of ISACA and Deloitte CIO Roundtable. Most recently he spent the 12 years working with the Christchurch International Airport where, in 2016, he was named to the CIO100 list.

It was the draw of working with New Zealand’s #1 real estate franchise network that brought him to Harcourts, where he now oversees robust technology team servicing 10 countries across over 900 offices and 10,000 team members.

He noted that Harcourts was one of the first real estate brands worldwide to partner with Facebook and launch its enterprise employee engagement application Workplace by Facebook. By supporting initiatives and involving outside developers, the company has seen success in the early stages of the project.

“Finding new and unique ways to do things that gives us a competitive advantage, especially ones that other real estate brands aren’t doing and being first to the market is a different way of thinking,” said Mr Cassie.
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Topics: Technology, Harcourts South Africa, Harcourts International, CIO100 list, Innovative technology

Agricultural sector fertile with problems

Apr 16, 2018 6:35:51 PM Share this:

Drought takes severe toll on farming property market

The next few months will be testing for the Western Cape’s agricultural property sector as it struggles to stand steadfast in the face of unrelenting pressure from the ongoing drought, which has severely hit the region.

Some markets are already suffering declines while others are reported to be surviving the challenges.

All agricultural commodities in the province are struggling due to the water crisis. Carl Opperman, chief executive of Agri Western Cape, says damage is so far estimated at R14billion.

In the livestock sector, grazing and feed shortages have already resulted in massive culling, and harvest prospects for the deciduous sector are showing decreases in crop volumes. This is resulting in both the import and export markets taking strain.

“The industry is an important generator of valuable foreign currency inflow, which is now also under pressure. The estimate for the viniculture sector shows smaller crops than 2017. Grain yields have been far below average, with no yields at all in certain areas. 

“Agriculture’s water supply has been curtailed by between 60% and 83%. In the Lower-Berg River region, producers’ water quota has been depleted.  No water is available for the after-crop irrigation of orchards and vineyards, and this will have an effect on next year’s harvest,” says Opperman.

The drought is a major risk for the Western Cape agricultural economy.

This phenomenon has been a major factor in agricultural property performance in the parts of the country worst affected, especially the Western Cape, where it has “kept a lid” on prices over the past few years, says Joop Coetzee of RealNet Plotte & Plase. Despite this, demand for small holdings is “vibrant” and interest in large farms has “picked up”.

In addition, even though Coetzee says the agricultural property market was quiet in the last quarter of 2017, it has “revived substantially” since political and presidential changes.

Land claims have also been an issue in the market for years, but sales have not slowed since the Land Expropriation Without Compensation motion was passed in Parliament, he says, adding there has also not been a rush of owners wanting to sell farms.

“It remains to be seen if this scenario will change over the next six months, but there is a belief land reformation will proceed in an orderly, considered and legal manner so as not to threaten the country’s food security or the financial institutions that support the agricultural sector. Consequently we do not foresee a decline in interest. Serious farmers will always be interested in good land.”

Although the land reform proposals have not yet resulted in any noticeable reduction in interest shown in the larger commercial farms either, Daniel Joubert, agricultural property specialist at Harcourts Winelands, says the very dry conditions have had a significant impact on the market. This is because their value is directly related to irrigation water availability and supply volumes.

“Farms are sought after in areas with a good water supply as opposed to areas in which supply has been restricted.”

Joubert says, for the first time, agricultural water supply has been restricted in many areas this year. It has created a new baseline of water security on these properties and this is adversely affecting their desirability. Buyers in the commercial segment are focusing their interests on those areas not been affected by water restrictions, and this has led to properties in these areas being in demand.

Currently, the market for smaller lifestyle farms is also slow, says his colleague James Visser, attributing this to political uncertainty and widely-publicised farm security issues.

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Topics: Harcourts South Africa, Agricultural, Harcourts Midlands

Avoiding the impact of VAT on your property payments

Apr 10, 2018 9:24:49 PM Share this:

A lot has been said about the increase in VAT from 14% to 15% as announced by the Finance Minister in his recent budget speech. There are certainly many sectors that are going to feel the shift in tax, however it might be the man and woman on the street who will be hit hardest.

Unfortunately consumers are directly impacted by tax increases due to our participation in a multitude of industries. We’re economically active and as purchasers of an array of products and services we feel the knock on effects of the suppliers. Who have to make changes in order to buffer the impact on their businesses.

Undoubtedly for the tenant and home owner food costs, as well as recent petrol price hikes, will influence affordability and budgets. For some the VAT increase might only be a few rand, for others it could be thousands.

It is imperative that you start adjusting and analysing the potential impact different expenditure increases will have on your budget. It is always better to be prepared than caught by surprise and then being forced to make last minute changes.

By having insight into budget amendments you will have the advantage of adjusting certain payments to account for increases. Cut down on unnecessary and wasteful expenses so that you continue being able to pay your bills or even fortunately save a little every month.

If you’re renting - now might be the best time to consider purchasing a property. With interest rates cut by 25 basis points, bringing the repo rate to 6.5% and the prime lending rate of banks to 10%, your value on monthly property expenditure might be more in your favour if you buy now.

Statement by
Richard Gray
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer

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Topics: Richard Gray, Harcourts South Africa, Financial Year End, Property Markets, Vat Increase

Repo rate good news for the property market

Apr 3, 2018 8:43:22 PM Share this:

The decision by South Africa’s Reserve Bank to cut its repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.5%, after the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting today,  Wednesday, March 28, will provide much needed relief to the consumer who is generally highly indebted. The knock-on affects of this rate cut should take the prime lending rate of banks to 10%. International ratings agency Moody's stable outlook for South Africa certainly influenced this decision by the MPC.

We believe this signals the turning point in the interest rate cycle. With the Rand relatively strong and inflation at its lowest level for several years, this is hopefully the first of a few cuts in 2018.

South Africans have experienced continuous economic pressures in recent times. Consumers have been in a price pinch with rising costs, increased taxes, heightened unemployment and economic instability.

So, in short, the repo rate cut is very good news. There will definitely be a direct impact on reduced repayments with regards to household debt. Furthermore, we predict an increase in consumer confidence and real estate demand over the short to medium term.

Increased consumer confidence influences a multitude of other markets and sectors and with increased economic activity from a holistic perspective South Africa's path to further economic stability becomes a closer beacon.

Creating favourable conditions for investors and buyers to enter the market is a priority. An environment conducive to financial and economic positivity ensures there are more entrants from a larger diversity of backgrounds. In addition, for those who are already active in the market this translates into higher investment returns and a far reaching trust in the country's economic stability.

Statement by
Richard Gray
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer

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Topics: Richard Gray, Harcourts South Africa, repo rate cut, repo rate

Getting the right property for you in 2018

Mar 26, 2018 8:00:00 AM Share this:
We’re now well into a new year, and with a new year comes a brand-new set of goals and priorities. If one of your top priorities this year is finding your brand-new home, here are some tips on where to start.

Time for a change?

A change in homes can also herald a change in lifestyle. Those looking at moving on from their quarter-acre paradise might suddenly discover the appeal of an inner-city apartment, while city dwellers might dream of a lifestyle block in the countryside or a villa in the suburbs. Whatever the change and new horizons you have in mind be prepared to make well-informed decisions as part of your move.
Tip: If you’re looking for a completely different lifestyle, make a list of must-haves, versus wants and be prepared to research your new location thoroughly. Chatting with your agent can help.

Thinking of investing?
If it’s the ‘development potential’ of a property which is your main reason for buying it, check to see what you can and can’t develop before the purchase. You may be limited on what and how high you can build, how much and what part of your section can be built on, and activities you plan to do there (such as operating a small home business for example).
Tip: Check with your city about development restrictions before making a purchase.

Urban development
Find out how your new neighborhood might change in the future. New buildings and businesses and even motorways may be part of the area’s plan. Don’t assume a quiet underdeveloped area will stay that way forever.
Tip: Ask a knowledgeable agent about possible changes to the local area. A well-informed agent should understand major developments in the works.

Don’t forget about the view
Check your new views won’t be built out, or even disappear behind recently planted trees.
Tip: Ask the city or local council how they will manage these plantings once they get high enough to block views and even sunlight.

Moving to a new environment can add an exciting new dimension and outlook to your life. But to make the most of your move, it is important to be well prepared for the changes in lifestyle. Your agent can advise you on the range of issues involved with such a change to ensure you make the most of your new property.
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Topics: Property Tips, buying property, Real Estate Agents, dream home