Property 24/10 - 21

Homeowners still not renovating
While buyers are slowly but surely returning to the residential property market, South Africans continue to shy away from spending money on value-add upgrades to existing homes.

FNB's latest residential property outlook shows that in second quarter 2010 only 8% of all homeowners were believed to be upgrading and renovating their homes. That is in sharp contrast to more than 40% of all homeowners making additions and alterations to their homes when FNB first started its residential property survey in early 2004.

FNB property strategist John Loos says the low level of fixed investment activity in the existing home market is a reflection of the extent to which many households have been forced to reign in spending.

Land claim uncertainties mount
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is now facing even more uncertainties regarding outstanding land claims.

Rumours surrounding the resignation of dismissal of Tozi Gwanya, the director general of the department, were flying around for three weeks before Minister Gugile Nkwinti announced that Gwanya will be leaving the department at the end of July.

According to a media statement by the Democratic Alliance (DA) Sibusiso Gamede, deputy head land claims commissioner, recently admitted to farmers in KwaZulu-Natal that the department does not know how many land claims have already been finalised or how many are still outstanding.

Investors to avoid leisure property
The leisure property sector - with struggling golf course estates going up for auction - certainly does not look a segment where investors are likely to play.

But last month JSE listed Hospitality Property Fund - which specialises in hotel and leisure properties - announced it was at an "advanced stage of negotiations" to buy two flagship Western Cape properties from the Arabella South Africa Holding Limited group of companies.

Renting? Then dolly up the place
Just because you live in rented accommodation, doesn't mean you can't add your own personal touches to your home.

But this means that the landlord has to be consulted first and you may be required to return the property to the original state.

So says Dexter Leite, Pam Golding Properties' (PGP) rentals director for the Western Cape, who believes tenants can make design changes to their homes without falling foul of their landlords or leases.

"Putting one's personal stamp on one's place of residence is an important part of making it feel like home," says Leite.

Is your dream home too costly? Find out
Prospective home buyers are traditionally so caught up in the excitement of becoming a home owner that they often neglect to conduct any research on lending criteria requirements when applying for a home loan.

Since the National Credit Act (NCA) forbids any credit provider from lending to customers if the loan is unaffordable, it is critical for consumers to establish whether they have the means and ability to afford the monthly home loan repayments. "This also entails taking their future prospect and obligations into account when considering purchasing property", says FNB Home Loans CEO Jan Kleynhans.

The question of affordability considers all aspects of the consumer's financial affairs which include the stability of income, current loans, expense obligations (including costs incurred to purchase a property such as transfer duty and other property transaction costs) as well as living expenses and lifestyle. "An important consideration, whilst immeasurable, is the prospects of the consumer to service the loan should they run into financial difficulty at a later stage. These considerations often result in the credit provider requiring a deposit against the loan to mitigate any losses that may arise should the consumer default at any time during the loan contract period," says Kleynhans.

Deeds scams = Insurance?
Skulduggery in the Deeds Office has seen more than 70 municipal and corporate properties fraudulently transferred to shady private companies since December last year.

This raises the strong possibility of SA property owners now having to take out title deed insurance, as is the case in the US and other countries.

"Top officials who held positions of great trust at the Deeds Office have been implicated in the irregular transfers and fraudulent alteration of the title deeds registry, and the Hawks have been drawn into the investigation so there is a strong suspicion that there is a criminal syndicate involved," says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group.

What's behind that front door?
Seasoned home sellers know that first impressions can make or break a deal.

They understand, says Martin Schultheiss, CEO of the Harcourts Africa property group, that exterior appeal is crucial to whet prospective buyers' appetite. Homes that look tired and unkempt from the street will likely attract only the most intrepid bargain hunters, he says.

"However, once sellers have spruced up the garden and exterior of the house the next big hurdle is the entrance

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