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Unlock real estate sector to help the economy, industry urges

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The real estate industry is reeling after mostly being ignored by government, in spite of submissions and recommendations for reopening of business at Level 4 on May 1.

Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel failed to include them in sectors to be opened at Level 4 as full lockdown restrictions were relaxed.

“There is too much at stake to leave it like this,” says National Property Practitioners Council’s (NPCC) chairperson, Vuyiswa Mutshekwane, who had petitioned Pretoria outlining devastation facing the industry and allied concerns. She contended the illogical action was groundless, and said requests for reopening inclusion at Level 4 would continue.

When President Cyril Rhamaphosa outlined a Five Level economy revival, the real estate and construction sectors’ reopening fully were designated for Level 2. No date has been decided.

“It is devastating government did not put into effect a single NPPC recommendation, not even budging on personal relocation requests,” Mutshekwane said. “We welcome logical counter argument to our appeals and why our work increases risk of Covid-19 transmission. At most two people are in contact. Relocation is contactless, andwearing of masks and use of hand sanitisers would be implemented.”

The NPCC told government about 70%-80% of the real estate industry faced disaster if trading remained paused – just part of a dire situation in which members found themselves after a month of lockdown. While the reopening of Deeds Offices around the country was some positive news and would offer “some reprieve”, more would have to be done to assist the sector.

“Until our members can work fully again the Deeds Office reopening, and assuming it opens with all its functions operational, will serve only retrospectively. It does not go far enough,” says Mutshekwane.

Tony Clarke, chief executive of Rawson Property, says: “While the reopening will help move matters that were currently in the deeds office and new matters would also be able to be lodged, how we will get those sales without estate agents functioning remains to be seen”.

Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group, says: “For buyers it means their property acquisitions can now reach final conclusion, although it remains to be seen when they will be able to move into their new homes, particularly as removal companies are not yet permitted to operate, and given the restrictions on the movement of individuals.”

Samuel Seeff, chairman of the Seeff Property Group, says while the Deeds Office opening next week will assist to get pending transfers through, the remaining restrictions mean that while offers and rental contracts can be done “digitally”, the transactions cannot move forward.

“For meaningful economic activity, we need urgent concessions.” However, this was good news for homeowners whose concluded property sales can now be processed and proceeds received, says Golding.

He says it was also good for distressed sellers who, in the prevailing economic recession, remain indebted and under significant economic pressure from creditors who are similarly impacted by the constrained economic environment.

“The opening of the Deeds Office, if done fully, also means cash could flow to the real estate industry and help save jobs of the many commissioned-based realtors.” 

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