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Negotiating the property world in uncertain 2021

Landlords should keep rents low and hold on to good, paying tenants, rather than increase rents and risk losing the tenant. Picture: Tembela Bohle/Pexels

Landlords should keep rents low and hold on to good, paying tenants, rather than increase rents and risk losing the tenant. Picture: Tembela Bohle/Pexels

Published Feb 1, 2021


South Africans active in the property market this year are likely to face some unknown environments as the country deals with the ongoing coronavirus threat and economic decline.

To help them navigate these conditions, real estate experts share their insight and advice for buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants so they can be as successful as possible in the property arena.

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This year’s buyers should prepare and do their research into all the costs of buying a property, from transfer duty to conveyancing fees and bond initiation, says Craig Mott of the Rawson Property Group. They need to consider and budget wisely for rates, taxes and – if buying into a complex – regular, as well as special, levies.

“They need to know what they can afford. The best way to do so is to get a prequalification certificate. They need to be cautious about taking the interest rate cuts as a signal to obtain a bigger home loan than they were previously contemplating.”

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He adds that the rate cuts have brought rates close to historic lows, which means they can be expected to rise as soon as the economy improves.

FNB’s Hayden Giger agrees: “Take your time, do your homework and make sure you factor into your calculations an interest rate increase buffer. When it comes to interest rates, unfortunately, what goes down must come up.”

From a property price, interest rate and bank lending point of view, Jawitz’s Herschel Jawitz says the market “couldn’t be better for buyers than it is now”. This means buyers should not try to time the market and wait for things to get even better.

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“If you can afford to buy and you see the property you want, put in an offer and see how the seller responds.

“If the seller counter offers, think about what this property means to you and how much more you are prepared to pay to buy your dream home.

“The best deals are when all parties have given a bit to meet somewhere in the middle,” he says.

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While property prices might still not be keeping up with inflation across most regions and price brackets, Jawitz says buyers have moved from “cautious” to “committed” when it comes to putting in offers and buying. This is a significant improvement from the market agents saw early last year.

He adds: “But this is not a market to test the theory of ‘if get my price I will sell’.

“Most sellers are not getting their prices, so you have to be a serious seller who is prepared to listen to what the market is saying when it comes to setting a price for your home.”

When deciding on an agency and agent, sellers should not use the highest valuation as the most important criterion.

“An overpriced home sends a very quick signal to the market that you are not serious about selling your property.

The relationship between the selling price and time on the market is almost always a negative one. Importantly, if you are going to sell in a soft market, make sure you buy in the same market, especially if you are upgrading to a home that is more expensive,” Jawitz says.

Mott advises sellers to assess their properties and make them presentable.

“Remember, buyers are knowledgeable and spoilt for choice so you need to make your property stand out from the rest. Get an updated valuation on your property so it can be priced right.”

In challenging market conditions, he says it is advisable for sellers to seek the advice and services of an experienced estate agent and let them handle the rest.

Giger says sellers must understand the area and market they are selling in and speak to the relevant experts to make sure their properties are priced correctly.


Buy-to-let owners who are seeking tenants need to market their properties at realistic and market-related rents.

“If you do have a tenant, make sure the maintenance that you are responsible for is always up to date and that you constantly engage with your tenant,” Giger says.

Jawitz says this is not the time for landlords to test the rental market.

“If you have a good, paying tenant, who is looking after your property well, try as hard as you can to keep them. This doesn’t mean you have to ‘give your property away’.

“As general advice, I believe that putting in a good tenant at below your desired rent – even if you can afford to keep the property empty – simply makes sense. Waiting for a higher rent, which in this market may not materialise, may leave you in a position where it will take longer and longer to catch up with your costs – such as rates, levies and upkeep – as the property stands empty.”

In this market, he says, cash flow is king. Jacqui Savage, national rentals manager for the Rawson Property Group, says 2020’s lesson was that a good relationship between landlords and tenants is crucial.

“Once there is a clear and good line of communication between the relevant parties, most things can be overcome.”

For landlords especially, compliance, financial and maintenance management are important factors.

Odette Maartens of Dogon adds: “Work with reputable agencies that would do proper checks on tenants and make sure they can afford the rent.”

She recommends landlords do not increase rents and rather keep good tenants.


Tenants who are experiencing financial difficulty must communicate this to their landlord, Savage says. If agreement can’t be reached they can part ways amicably.

Tenants should always pay on time and make sure they treat the property as if it were their own, Giger adds.

“Who knows, maybe the owner will hold back on the annual increase.”

The casualty of the economy is the rental market as it applies to falling rents or rents that are, at best, flat and vacancy rates that are climbing, Jawitz says. For tenants, this means they may be able to renew their lease at the same or a lower rent or look for a cheaper rental property.

“In the same way landlords should hold on to good, paying tenants, so tenants need to consider the benefits of a good landlord and factors such as the cost of moving.

“Negotiate with your current landlord first before you make a move. Landlords have expenses to cover and mortgages to pay and below a certain rent may want to look for a new tenant who will pay more than you are offering.”

Tenants must rent what they can afford, Maartens advises.

“We saw many tenants having to move in with family and friends and cancel their leases when Covid-19 hit, so don’t over extend yourself in case of hard times.”

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