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New houses 'cheaper'
Fin24.co.za - South Africa
South Africa's five-year residential property boom is seeing the prices of existing homes playing catch-up with newly built ones.

In fact, the price gap between new and existing houses shrank to a negligible 1.5% in first quarter 2006, the lowest price differential in 16 years, according to the latest edition of Finweek, sister publication of Fin24.

Absa figures show that three years ago homebuyers still had to pay on average 31% more for the privilege of owning a new home. The sharp decline in the price difference between new and existing homes can be ascribed to house prices rising at a faster pace than that of residential building costs.

Big savings for homeowners
Fin24.co.za - South Africa
After just a year in operation, South Africa's first independent mortgage broker, Bond Busters, has already saved South African homeowners half a billion rand.

Bond Busters, the first local mortgage broker to offer bond switching, deals with ten of the country's financial institutions, sourcing bond rates up to 3% lower than clients had been paying.

"We have seen a marked increase in financial awareness in the past twelve months. Whereas before we would have to take time to explain the concept of bond switching, we now have customers phoning in fully aware of the service.
"This, together with the number of new products offered by the lending institutions, means we can offer clients smarter products suited to their needs, not just get the best rates available," explains Ian Wason, MD of Bond Busters.

Turning townships into suburbs
Business.iafrica.com - South Africa
In the 1980s, ex-Prime Minister P.W. Botha called for a black township to be developed outside Cape Town - far enough away not to be a nuisance but close enough to service the city. From the heights of his air force helicopter he is said to have pointed to a desolate patch on the Cape Flats. "There!" he commanded, and Khayelitsha was born.

Cape Town's largest and best-known township, Khayelitsha, presents a bleak face to the outside world. Grim lines of shantytown border the N2 highway and, once inside, the picture is not much more inspiring: wide roads, with only churches and the large concrete Oliver Tambo Recreation Hall for landmarks. There are only three exit points, despite the area's size, and rumour has it that the township was specifically laid out for ease of riot control. The bad old days indeed.

Buyers: All the insurance you need
Chas Everitt propertysignpost - South Africa
If you are buying a property with the aid of a home loan (like most people), you will probably require the following two different types of insurance:

* Homeowner's insurance, which provides cover against damage to the structure of a home in the event of disasters such as fire, flood, wind and hail. This type of policy protects the bank from loss of the "asset" that secures the home loan, and protects the homebuyer against possibly having to pay the outstanding balance of the loan even when the home has been badly damaged or destroyed.

* Homebuyer's insurance, sometimes also called "bond insurance", which is life insurance specifically intended to settle any outstanding balance on the home loan if the borrower dies or is incapacitated, and so relieve the family of a debt they may not be able to pay. Your lender might not insist on this cover but most would certainly prefer you to have it.

'Brockovich' in court triumph
Mail and Guardian - South Africa
When medical representative Nicole Barlow started asking questions about the building of a petrol station in a wetland, she never dreamed she would end up making legal history on the issues of freedom of expression and environmental rights.

In a precedent-setting high court judgement, Barlow this week won a major victory for civil society watchdogs guarding the environment. An application by the developers of the petrol station, Petro Props, for an interdict preventing Barlow from "unlawfully harassing" them was dismissed with costs.

Witwatersrand High Court Acting Judge Karel Tip ruled against Petro Props's claim that its property and commercial rights outweighed Barlow's right to free expression. He also ruled that administrative processes stipulated under environmental legislation could not be used by developers to limit public debate.
Mail and Guardian

'Tesco law' to reform legal system
Guardian.co.uk - UK
Reforms to the legal system will provide "21st-century legal services for 21st-century consumers", the Lord Chancellor said.

The Government will publish a draft Bill to introduce so-called "Tesco law", so that outside companies can own and run law firms for the first time. This will allow, for example, estate agents to offer conveyancing, surveying and mortgage advice from the same office.

The draft Legal Services Reform Bill will include strict tests to ensure the new owners are fit to operate law firms, following concerns that opening up the market would allow in criminals and other undesirables.

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