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Putting a price on conveyancing
UK - LawGazette
Solicitors point out that every residential conveyancing transaction is different – so how to deal with ‘price transparency’ requirements that assume the service is commoditised?

Queuing for a car-washing service in Scotland last year – one man with a power hose – I rolled down the window and asked him how long the wait was. ‘How long is a piece of string?’ he said shrugging. ‘He does that all day, every day,’ I reflected, the car window back up. ‘He really should know.’

The Solicitors Regulation Authority sees several areas of legal advice in the same way I view this car-washer in Roxburghshire. Responding to Competition and Markets Authority concerns that the public do not have the information to shop around for legal services, and are therefore at a disadvantage, from December this year the SRA will require information on price and fees to be published prominently on solicitor firms’ websites.

For many residential conveyancers, there is an objection. The requirement assumes transactions are roughly the same – a necessary service that can, to a high degree, be ‘commoditised’. Certainly attendees at the Gazette’s residential property roundtable a few weeks ago reflected that frustration.

‘I think there’s a difficulty for consumers in the market in differentiating the different products that they’re buying, as far as conveyancing is concerned,’ was the view of Russell-Cooke partner Nigel Coates. ‘It’s almost impossible for the consumer to know what they’re paying for in terms of what they’re getting by way of service. We all like to think that we distinguish our services from other people’s services in the way that we deal with things, but it’s incredibly difficult for the consumer to form a judgement.’
Law Gazette

Homeowner Sentiment Index
South Africa - Absa
Property market sentiment somewhat down in Q3 2019 from Q2

Positive sentiment regarding conditions in the South African residential property market was somewhat lower in the third quarter of 2019 compared with the second quarter, despite a cut in lending rates in late July and a rebound in economic growth in the second quarter after a contraction in the first quarter.

Homeowner Sentiment Index (HSI) results
The overall national HSI score, which reflects the percentage of survey respondents with positive sentiment regarding residential property market conditions in the country, tapered off to 75% in the third quarter of 2019 from 77% in the second quarter. The main positive and negative sentiment-related factors mentioned by survey respondents in the third quarter were as follows (percentage of respondents in brackets):
Positive factors: Property is a secure asset (33%) and still increases in value (15%).
Negative factors: A poorly performing and volatile economy (24%), ongoing political uncertainty (15%), and land expropriation without compensation, which affects property as an investment (13%).
Sentiment Index

Lower rents fill up empty space
South Africa - Property360
Office vacancies have dropped as landlords taken in less

The national office vacancy rate has seen a slight improvement, but this has come at the expense of asking rentals.

The vacancy rate, according to the SA Property Owners Association’s (Sapoa) latest Office Vacancy Report, was 11% as at Q3 of 2019, a 0.3% improvement from the previous quarter. However, asking rental growth has declined by 1% year-on-year.

“This 30 basis point improvement in the sector’s overall vacancy rate puts us back at the level of Q1 2019, reinforcing the sideways trend that has been in place for the better part of five years,” the report says.

Residential building statistics
South Africa - Absa
Continued evidence of some diverging trends at segment level in the planning and construction phases of residential building activity
Although the gap in building activity in South Africa (see explanatory note) with regard to new private sector-financed housing in the planning and construction phases narrowed to some extent recently, diverging trends across segments are still evident. As mentioned in previous reports on residential building activity, these trends could have been the result of significant lags in the reporting of completed housing to and/or approvals of plans for new housing by local government institutions.

Building plans approved for new housing contracted in all three segments of housing in the first eight months of 2019, with plans declining by 15,5% year-on-year (y/y), or 6 583plans, to 35 977 plans in January to August.
Building stats Aug 2019

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