HEIBERG ESTATES NEWSLETTER: APRIL 2020
SA PROPERTY MARKET UNDER CORONA VIRUS SIEGE!
Dear Property Partners
For all of us, but throughout the property industry as well these are extreme challenging times with the majority of businesses and institutions that forms part of our value chain, currently on hold! With the previous huge economic crises during 2008/2009, our beloved country at least had reserves, resources, and the resilience of its people to fall back unto – only resilience is left to pull us through this 2020 crisis and beyond.
However worth mentioning is the unified manner in which all political parties drew and stood together in the wake of the Covid-19 Virus. For a change President Ramaphosa has the much-needed support of his people across all borders. Maybe we did need this unseen enemy to stand back, take stock and get perspective as to where we are heading with our fragile Rainbow Nation. We can just wish that the spirit of self-enrichment and corruption eventually will be defeated together with Covid-19. And that the new dawn of a common goal and vision for our political and economic state of affairs to the benefit of all our people, will prevail. We as a nation and our country need it like never before for the road ahead in order to survive and pull us through this economic crisis. May this newly found co-operation gain momentum and the future built upon a solid foundation of unity in diversity for each and every one of our Rainbow Nation.
With our SA Real Estate Market under severe pressure and to such an extent that it is the worst that I have ever experienced in my real estate career spanning just short of 30 years, there fortunately is still limited movement whilst the property market remains to be resilient under very difficult circumstances. Furthermore, and in the process, establishing itself renewed as an international recognised medium- and long-term asset class and safe heaven where your hard-earned money, is safeguarded in brick and mortar.
Fortunately for our Property Market as well as for those parties involved in it over such a broad spectrum, the Deeds Office is likely to re-open again on Friday 1 May 2020, limited construction work will be allowed as specified within Level 4 regulations. At this stage it is still highly frustrating and uncertain when the Real Estate Industry and those affiliated with it over such a broad spectrum, (especially we as Realtors), will be allowed to go back to work fulltime again.
Some of the most recent facts and statistics impacting on our SA Real Estate Market, are as follows:
- There is a general outcry that the Covid-19 lockdown must be lifted from 1 April over a wider economic- and employment spectrum albeit in a well-managed, safe, and controlled manner, allowing more people to earn an income. Also, in specific referral to our vulnerable Real Estate Market where there are widespread calls for the Deeds Office to be declared as an essential service. With the closure of the Deeds Office for weeks now since the lockdown, no property transfers have been possible. This with clear consequences as not only does a closed Deeds Office result in enormous backlogs and delays in property transfers and causing havoc under both Sellers and Buyers, but this state of affairs also resulted that already issued municipal clearance certificates (normally valid for 12 working days), have now lapsed and most probably will need to be re-issued from scratch again. This further causing widespread delays in transfers. During a normal working month between 10 000 and 12 000 transfers take place in our country with huge contributions to the State in transfer duties and VAT, now being withheld from our much in need, depleted state coffers.
- Bond applications are being delayed and not granted within set time frames, especially since no properties can be assessed and valued as the final stage before bond approval can take place. This in turn resulting in the delays in delivering of guarantees, leaving both frustrated Sellers and Buyers in further deer straits.
- The Rental Market is also facing serious challenges where no movement, occupation, or evacuation to and from properties, has been allowed during the present Level 5 lockdown period. This is also causing havoc in day-to-day planning, resulting in serious delays and further financial losses and logistic challenges.
- Around 50 000 real estate agents are not generating income in any way with the Real Estate market that has come to a basic standstill and urgently needs to be working again, of course in full recognition and adhering to the strict Covit-19 virus safety regulations and guidelines. Also, developers, building and other suppliers, service providers, conveyancer attorneys, bond originators, auctioneers and so many property related jobs, have been put on hold with huge financial consequences and losses to individuals and companies.
- Hopefully soon property viewings will be allowed again as personal contact in any case is limited. Viewings normally take place only between the Agent, Seller and one or two Buyers per visit, with social distance easily to be kept during such viewings. We also foresee that responsible viewing by wearing masks and thorough hand sanitizing before entering any property, is here to stay for some time to come and that all professional agents needs to be responsible and ensure that health safety rules and regulations are being kept without any exceptions. Also, pro-actively screening their clients before viewing any properties will be especially important and ensuring as far as possible, that all parties are in good health.
- Our Construction Industry is also at a standstill and it being one of our big employment sectors, is facing more and more challenges as developers cannot complete projects. Already thousands of construction workers have lost their jobs in our country. Heiberg Estates being involved in the marketing of so many new sectional title developments, share the distress so evident amongst Developers where it is heart breaking to see and experience, how hard it is to make ends meet and in keeping their workforce’s salaries paid and sustained during this lockdown period. There is wide appeal and pressure on Government to recognise the Construction Industry and related service providers, as essential services. Interesting to note that construction workers have been allowed to start again after some period of lockdown in countries like the UK, Amerika, New Zeeland, Germany, Italy, and China. Mines here are now allowed to work at 50% of their capacity, and our economy needs more driving sectors like the Construction Industry to be back in operation ASAP to stimulate our economy and get things back on track in a gradual and controlled manner. Fortunately, as mentioned, it seems whether with Level 4, limited construction work will be allowed to commence again on 1 May 2020.
- It is well documented that the Real Estate sector has always been one of the biggest contributors to the overall GDP growth, as was again recorded in 2019. The present inactivity of the Real Estate sector withholds much-needed revenue. A recent risk-adjusted strategy for economic activity report released by Government, indicated that StatsSA some time ago put the Real Estate Sector in the ninth place of biggest contributors to our GDP at 4.7%, whilst the Construction Sector was in the seventh place contributing 5% to our GDP.
- It is now predicted that more than one million South Africans are bound to lose their jobs due to the negative and total encompassing impact of the Covid-19 virus on our economy. This state of affairs for sure not boding well for our Real Estate market in general and across all borders. Already prices as well as sales volumes are under pressure, but also our rental markets are taking a huge knock, especially in the Commercial Sector where shops that have been closed down, will not be able to open up again due to loss of income with subsequent heavy job losses.
- Due to continued job losses and rising unemployment, a lot of forced residential- as well as commercial sales are expected in the months to follow that will put property prices under further pressure as more stock comes unto the market, coupled with a lessening demand as people wait-and-see what is going to happen with our economy. Not to forget that business confidence is not much to speak of at the moment and at its lowest level in decades.
- At least the latest SA Reserve Bank repo rate cut of 1%, has brought the prime lending rate down to 7.75% – the lowest in decades and a most welcome reprieve for most homeowners under present challenging conditions and financial pressures. Also stimulating Buyers interest especially in the lower price margins, increasing affordability as well as sustainability in bond repayments for many households under constant and increasing financial pressure. It is likely that more repo rate cuts, could follow in the foreseeable future.
- Already around 40% less properties were sold in South Africa during the first quarter this year in comparison to the same period last year, whilst it is estimated that due to the global economic shocks, 50% less properties will be sold worldwide during 2020 due to the impact of the Covid-19 virus.
- Interesting to note that during the 2008 global crisis, commercial property prices fell much more than residential property prices – 30% versus 2% with proof that residential property prices retained their value better than commercial properties during economic crisis periods. It will be interesting to see how it plays out here during the present crisis with so many additional factors simultaneously playing a crucial role on both international, as well as local fronts. Bottom line is that property is still widely recognised as a hedge against inflation and this asset on the long term, is still regarded as a more stable and favourable investment than in equity.
- Focusing on national statistics, the latest FNB House Index reports that the average national property price increase was very moderate and a mere 2.8% y/y in March – the lowest recorded since May 2001 and in almost 9 years! The real impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on property sale prices as well as rapidly declining sale volumes, still to be determined in the months and most probably years to come.
- Looking in general at property prices over a more prolonged period over the past 3 to 4 years in our country, average yearly property price increases were more or less on par with our average inflation rate of around 4.5% to 5%.
- Going more local it is concerning to mention the latest rapid decline in average house prices in some of Pretoria’s most sought-after areas. As an example, in Brooklyn, being one of Pretoria’s most established, well located, and sought-after areas, residential prices have dropped drastically over the past 6 to 12 months. Several fabulous residential properties have been sold lately or are on the market to be sold, for less than R2,5, and even some around R2,2m/R2,3m. A scenario that has not presented itself for the past 3 to 4 years. The much lower than under normal pricing circumstances we are experiencing at the moment, will have a ripple effect on pricing for some time to come. But also, on the other hand, offers excellent investment opportunities for Buyers to invest in this sought-after and well-established area where more than 50% of the homeowners, have lived there for an average of 10 years or even longer! In general, the ceiling price of residential areas are coming down on a continuous basis, as also has been recorded by the latest 3 monthly- as well as 12 monthly Lightstone sales statistics. (For more of this information/statistics go to : https://www.lightstoneproperty.co.za/).
- Overall, it is widely expected that property sale prices and volumes will be lower in SA this year than last year with all the blows our economy had to face in specific referral to the deepening recession, the falling rand exchange rate with upwards pressure on our inflation rate, Moody’s downgrade to Junk Status and the immense impact of the Covid-19 virus. Hopefully, the property market will gain at least some momentum during the second half of this year – all depending on whether we can flatten the curve and limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus for the next few months to come!
- Unfortunately, the weakening rand exchange rate that has dropped around 25% against the US Dollar since the beginning of this year, has also impacted on our failing economy. South Africa imports more than exporting goods where as much as 30% of our SA economy is made up of imported inputs or imported final goods and this should also put further upwards pressure on our inflation rate. On the other hand, and looking at potential international property investors, our property remains to be in popular demand and with the exchange rate in their favour, our property market offers excellent value for money in comparison with international real estate prices. This will for sure be a positive factor to be considered by foreign buyers, considering, and continuing to buy property in our country, especially along the coastal areas.
- Despite the weakening rand coupled with rising inflation, further interest rate cuts are still expected in the foreseeable future in order to stimulate our economy. Indeed, our real estate market and homeowners will welcome any further interest rate cuts with open arms.
- On the Rental front, we are getting concerned especially looking at the latest statistics released by the Tenant Profile Network (TPN), stating that a third of SA’s tenants haven’t paid their full rent for this month and increasing default payments are inevitably expected for May. Almost 16% of SA’s residential tenants did not pay rent at all, around 16% did not pay the full amount and with escalating mass job losses expected due to the lockdown, this statistic will increase inevitably in both the residential as well as commercial and industrial sectors as time goes by until we are back to more or less business as usual again – unfortunately not soon to be expected.
The Covid-19 lockdown is likely to be a catalyst for change in our real estate industry where digitalisation and the use of technology to market a property, will play a much bigger role than before – but never to forget that you are working with people, that emotions are involved and that a well experienced professional realtor, will always remain to be important and play a vital role to potential property investors. A professional and well experienced Realtor is there to inform, share statistics and the latest sales figures and trends, to assist and guide the potential property investor through the whole property investment process in order for him/her to make a correct and solid property investment decision.
Despite all the challenges our people are facing, the SA Property Market will keep offering excellent investment opportunities with incredible price competitive properties to pick and choose from. With property acknowledged as an international safe investment heaven, the time is NOW to invest and buy properties. Property has proven itself to have the unique ability to surprise and defend market trends and has the ability to overcome obstacles as there will always be a need for brick and mortar – after all, we all need a roof over our heads! Hopefully, our SA Real Estate Market will return to stability within the next 6 months and pull through these hard times like it surely did in the past! You will hardly ever find the market as appealing as right now – so look at solid and good investment opportunities on our website: www.heibergestates.com (property descriptions, photos and walk-through videos), or call us 24/7 for any assistance you may need whether you are a Buyer or a Seller!
Always 24/7 on standby for you: Bambie Heiberg 083 654 3773 (PRINCIPAL – GENERAL RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES) Lauriann Vermaak 082 858 7256 (ALL RENTALS + SECTIONAL TITLE PROPERTIES, MENLO PARK), RUANDA GILDENHUYS 082 301 9332 (MONUMENT PARK, STERRREWAG, WATERKLOOF RIDGE) and Cheline Peacock 071 2188 4154 (SECTIONAL TITLE PROPERTIES).
Best and warm greetings, please be safe and healthy and stay in touch!
Bambie & Heiberg Estates Team