Harcourts welcome President Ramaphosa's economic package announcement today

Jul 9, 2018 4:56:38 PM Share this:

We welcome the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that Government will in two weeks’ time announce a package of economic measures to cushion the public from the devastating effects of high fuel price hikes and the VAT increase. According to media reports Ramaphosa was addressing business and government leaders in Pretoria this morning ahead of the BRICS Summit this month. The President said a panel of various stakeholders from the economic cluster has been tasked with drafting the package.

It is an immediate necessity that consumer pressures on South Africans be addressed in a strategic and detailed plan. Therefore it is a welcome relief that president Ramaphosa said Government will be announcing a package of measures to ease the burden of the price increase, which will include the finalisation of the VAT exempt products.

The continuous rise of expenses on South Africans has led to many people stagnant in a consumer price pinch. We have certainly witnessed it in the property sector. With some locations slowing down completely as buyers turn to renting as a means to bide time and monitor the economic climate.

Even in high LSM markets the property market has slowed down. Analysing properties sold for the last 12 months along the Atlantic Seaboard, April 2017 to March 2018, registered with the Deeds Office, which includes both sectional and full titles, the region has undoubtedly experienced a cooling period after the drastic growth of the past few years.

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.

The rise of fuel costs as well as the increase in VAT has undoubtedly put pressure on the man on the street. As salaries are usually only increased annually, the consumer has to juggle unforeseeable market fluctuations on a perpetual basis. Making it very difficult to adhere to a budget and plan investments.
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Topics: President Ramaphosa

Harcourts' continued South African growth cemented in market understanding and culture

Jun 22, 2018 8:03:25 PM Share this:

Although South Africa's economy has been under pressure in recent years with rising costs placing consumers in a price pinch, compounded by volatile market fluctuations causing unpredictable cyclical trends - Harcourts South Africa experienced unprecedented growth over this same period. Sales have grown 115% in the past five years, the amount of agents have doubled and 2017 was Harcourts' most successful year on record.

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Topics: real estate technology, Innovative technology, Harcourts South Africa, Harcourts Growth

Countering the rise of property scammers

Jun 12, 2018 12:30:09 AM Share this:

The threat to the property market by fraudsters and scammers is very real and it seems the culprits are becoming increasingly advanced. The age of technology presents many with the opportunity to improve their business growth and market penetration. However, the evolution of technology continues to present fraudsters with more abundant opportunities to scam innocent people out of their hard earned cash.

There appears to be a rise in illegal activity related to the property market with scammers trying to intercept property payments, partly due to the high value of the amounts being paid. This is a very serious concern and the property market has to be extremely vigilant. All stakeholders have the responsibility to educate their clients and community on the dangers of this activity and ensure all the proper precautions have been put in place to counter these scammers.

In the past few months several conveyancing attorneys have issued stern warnings to real estate agents urging them to ensure these warning messages and security steps are transferred to the client.

Scammers are replicating email addresses that closely resemble that of the conveyancing attorney and others in the property market. They then strategically monitor and maneuver communication during the transaction process to identify opportunities to intercept important financial information.

It is imperative that buyers and sellers take care and cognizance of any behaviour raising red flags. The classic random email requesting you to change your banking information should immediately be taken very seriously. Contact your banking institution and inform them of the message.

Similarly, diligently read the emails and email addresses to and fro the relevant role-players during your property transaction. If any emails are suspicious and continually pressurizing you to make payment, make contact with your agent or attorney and ensure the communication has originated from them.

Establishing a good line of communication between yourself, conveyancing attorney and real estate agent assists greatly in mitigating these risks. Before making substantial payments double check all the information with your company representatives and follow up consistently on documentation requests.

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Topics: Property Scammers, fraudsters

Increased lending positive for property market

May 3, 2018 4:10:03 AM 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.

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Topics: increased lending by banks

Harcourts International’s Todd Cassie named to CIO100 list

May 3, 2018 4:05:31 AM 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: CIO100 list, real estate technology

Battery powered homes might soon be the norm.

Apr 19, 2018 1:02:54 AM Share this:

Sustainable solutions for homes are being developed at a rapid rate. Green homes are fast becoming the norm as opposed to the exception. We’ve seen the rise of water efficient homes dramatically rise in water scarce regions over the past few years. So, to a concerted effort is being made to ensure properties are energy efficient as well.

Maximising a home’s ability to save on resources can often be an expensive investment. However, the long-term pros continue to be an attractive choice for home owners. One of the areas where international green agents are investing a lot of research and development into is the addition of battery operated alternatives. We’ve seen organisations like Tesla make major advancements in the field of battery storage options.

For those of you thinking these are relatively new energy solutions to the real estate market you'd be forgiven. In fact in markets like the US battery powered homes have been in development and implementation phases for quite some time now.

Although the average home owner might not be able to afford battery packs that can drastically reduce grid usage there seems to be great interest in the developments and commercial markets. As in the case where US real estate developer Mandalay announced they plan to build 4000 ultra-energy-efficient homes which will feature 8 kilowatt-hour batteries from German manufacturer Sonnen.

There is no doubt that as South Africans continue to ride the unpredictable economic wave that more alternatives are going to be explored. Not only from the point of view to make a contribution to more sustainable solutions but also in an effort to become more independent and to ensure cost saving over the long term.

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Avoiding the impact of the VAT increase on your property payments

Apr 12, 2018 2:55:51 AM 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.

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Topics: Vat Increase

Repo rate cut good news for the property market

Mar 29, 2018 3:41:43 PM Share this:

The decision by South Africa’s Reserve Bank to cut interest rates by 25 basis points, bringing the repo rate to 6.5% and the prime lending rate of banks to 10%, after the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting today, will provide much needed relief to the consumer who is generally highly indebted. 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.

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Topics: repo rate, repo rate cut

The importance of estate agent training

Mar 23, 2018 2:55:53 PM Share this:

The real estate industry has undoubtedly undergone a drastic transformation in the past decade. The arrival and prominence of property portals, online classifieds and a large amount of new entrants to the market has not only provided the consumer with a plethora of choices but ensured that leading estate agencies have to continually evolve to stay abreast with service and client offerings.

There are an abundance of key industry changes that agents need to understand and master. Technology has played a major role in this shift, with agencies offering client logins on their websites which indicate to clients the status of their property, its marketing and interest. Similarly agents are having to enhance word of mouth referral strategies to include digital marketing platforms to reach new clients and stay in contact with current clients. South Africa's economic fluctuations don't do anybody any favours either and new legislative amendments occur often, forcing the agent to focus on keeping up to date with all the necessary information in order to assist the client in the best possible way.

At Harcourts training is an important path for our agents and it occurs on a continual basis. We have the Harcourts Academy that has training schedules for agents of all skill levels and this is done to perpetually equip agents with the highest level of insight into the industry. That is often forgotten when clients decide to sell their home privately. The agents knowledge, advice and understanding of markets remain a major contributor to the success of a property transaction.

It is of utmost importance that real estate agencies aim to develop the skills needed to build a highly successful career in real estate. Continually attending a range of dynamic courses and a tailored system of learning. Ensure your agents attend a reputable and leading training organisation.

Even the best tools and individual brilliance can be worthless without the correct focus. Recruit the best people and train them to be even better. This helps your culture of high achievement and success.

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Topics: Estate agent training

Harcourts South Africa 2018 Budget Reaction

Feb 22, 2018 12:13:30 AM Share this:

Overall it was a far more balanced budget speech than initially expected, with a focus on rebuilding, which is in line with the newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa's messaging. However, Finance Minister Gigaba's announcement that there will be an increase in VAT from 14% to 15%, the first time VAT has been increased since 1993, will undoubtedly have a direct impact on the property market. VAT is payable on the transaction of a home purchase and in some cases included in the price of the home. Although one percent seems like a very slight increase, transactions like high value commercial properties or development investments might feel the increase far more than that of the middle to lower end of the market.

There is no doubt Government is experiencing shortfalls in their budget and lending might tighten up, therefore accumulation of funds has to originate from taxes. South Africans experiencing a price pinch with rising food costs, fuel costs and tax hikes might continue to be under financial pressure as more increases can be expected. This was noted in the speech as a 22c/litre increase in the general fuel levy, and a 30c/litre rise in the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy was announced. South Africans will also be paying 52 cents more per litre for fuel from April 4. The effect of these tax hikes impacts the man on the street in a direct manner, and this might have an effect on the rental market on the lower end.

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Topics: Cyril Ramaphosa, economical news, 2018 budget