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FNB Buy-To-Let Estate Agent Survey - 1st quarter 2011
FNB - South Africa
Conclusion - Residential property's attractiveness may be slowly improving, but don't expect buy-to-let fireworks soon
It may seem something of an irony that a lack of investor demand for residential property at present is key to improving the attractiveness of residential property as an investment asset class, and some signs are there that an improving rental market, along with flat house prices, may well have been leading to some rise in residential yields, thus indeed taking the market towards improved attractiveness in future.

However, any such improvement that may have taken place is not expected to lead to a significant increase in buy-to-let buying just yet. Financial pressure in the household sector remains widespread, while there is a significant group of would-be investors that would wish to see improved capital growth first (initiated by stronger primary residential demand). In addition, increased talk of interest rate hiking is expected to keep households cautious in their spending, especially on non-essential items such as buy-to-let residential buying.

We would therefore expect a significant improvement in buy-to-let investment only at the next interest rate cutting cycle a few years from now. By that time, we believe that further rental market strengthening and yield increase would have improved residential property's attractiveness significantly from where it is now.

Our Estate Agent Survey appears to support our view of weak buy-to-let buying in the near term. A slight decrease in the portion of the sample of agents expecting a near term improvement in buy-to-let buying, kept 1st quarter 2011 buy-to-let confidence in the doldrums. After a very slight improvement in the FNB Buy-to-Let Confidence Indicator to a revised 0.049 in the 4th quarter of 2010, the level (scale +1 to -1) dropped back again to a lowly 0.043.
Buy-To-Let Estate Agent Survey

EAAB opens window of disclosure to estate agents
Business Report - South Africa
In cleaning up its act, the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) has declared a three-month amnesty period for agents operating illegally as it looks to expedite the issuing of fidelity fund certificates and probe misconduct among the regulatory board's officers.
EAAB chairman Thami Bolani said yesterday there were close to 10 000 practitioners operating in the industry without the fidelity fund certificates that are required by the Estate Agency Affairs Act.

The amnesty period runs from April 15 to July 15.

Bolani said agents seeking amnesty would have to submit affidavits in which "honest disclosure is made of all estate agency activities that were undertaken when applicants were not authorised to perform the functions and activities of an estate agent".
Bolani said that there were certificates in the EAAB's offices that had not been posted due to officials not performing their duties. "Someone has not performed, and they are responsible for certificates which have not been delivered."

He said an investigation was under way, adding that some people had been expelled from the agency for misconduct.

"We will be guided by the outcome of the investigation. Proper processes must be followed so we cannot go on a witch hunt," he said.
Business Report

Concourt rules in favour of home owner in arrears
RealEstateWeb - South Africa
Court says only a judge and not a high court registrar could decide if a bank could sell a person's home in execution.

The Constitutional Court on Monday ruled that only a judge -- and not a high court registrar -- could decide if a bank could sell a person's home in execution.

In a unanimous judgment, the court ruled that "where execution against the homes of indigent debtors who run the risk of losing their security of tenure is sought after judgment on a money debt, further judicial oversight by a court of law of the execution process is a must".

"It is declared that it is unconstitutional for a registrar of a high court to declare immovable property specially executable when ordering default judgment," states the ruling.
RealEstate Web

UK's first chain of 'high street lawyers' is set to revolutionize legal services
Guardian - UK
Rapid growth of QualitySolicitors network, which announced 100 new branches last month, is shaking up the industry.

Shoppers on the high streets of England and Wales may have spotted the tentative signs of a revolution in legal services: the emergence of the first national chain of law firms.

While this might not qualify as groundbreaking in most sectors, in the sedate world of the law the exponential growth of QualitySolicitors - which is less than a year old and announced 100 new branches last month alone - represents a seismic shift in the delivery of legal services.

From QualitySolicitors Howlett Clarke in Brighton to QualitySolicitors Lockings in Hull, the network is arguably the first-ever legal services "brand", complete with distinctive shopfronts for its 170 branches, supported by a national television campaign and its promise of a better deal for consumers ("free first consultation... no hidden costs ... same-day response ... direct lawyer contact...").

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