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Powering ahead after lockdown

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Agents pleasantly surprised by the volume of inquiries regarding sales and rental properties now that the industry is back to work in level 3

It has been all systems go for the real estate industry since it reopened at the beginning of this month, with demand for homes picking up where it left off before lockdown.

The first week back saw a number of inquiries from buyers and tenants, some of whom wanted to view properties physically and the rest wsatisfied with virtual tours. In KZN, agents have been “very busy” scheduling viewings with buyers who physically wanted to view properties, says Daphne Rhodes, regional sales manager at the Rawson Property Group.

There were also a number of rental inquiries and rental inspections that needed to be done. Most offices had many inquiries for virtual property valuations, she adds. Compared to the higher lockdown levels, buyers are capitalising on the reduced interest rates and many sellers are looking to downscale or sell due to financial constraints.

This has boosted the rental market with more stock becoming available. “Some estates, however, are still reluctant to allow agents to work there despite this being legal in level 3. Many business owners need to sell because of the aftermath of no business during lockdown,” Rhodes says.

Adrian Goslett, chief executive of Re/Max of Southern Africa, says market activity is likely to pick up “at a slow but steady” pace, now that the economy is partly open again. The group’s website traffic shows a “substantial increase” in listing viewings in April and last month, and he believes this spike will soon turn into more leads and then sales.

Similarly, there is a positive trend in terms of the number of home loan applications submitted, says BetterBond chief executive Carl Coetzee. “Overall, the market seems to be performing better than anticipated.

In April, when the lockdown started, the number of applications dropped by 68% year-on-year. In May, the number of applications dropped by only 32% year-on-year which shows that consumer confidence has not been eroded despite the country’s economic challenges.

This is a promising sign for market recovery post-lockdown.” Harcourts agents reported a “very positive” first week back, says chief executive Richard Gray.

A poll conducted among its agents nationwide indicated:

♦ 72% were busier than in a normal week when it came to working with buyers and sellers and concluding sales or mandates.

♦ Over 30% (included in the 72%) said they were “exceptionally” busy.

♦ 16% said that they were quieter than in a normal week. Most of these were in smaller markets.

“There was no regional pattern and it appears that the increased activity spanned all provinces and major metros.” The first eight days of level 3 saw HouseMe’s rental listings jump from an average of 400 a month to almost 700, says chief operations officer Lorne Hallendorff.

This includes an influx of fully furnished holiday-let units listing on the platform to find long-term tenants as they can no longer rely on the short-term market for income.

“This increased supply is likely to further push down the rental price, particularly in major cities – both the tourist and business centres – until tourism picks up again.”

Seeff Property Group chairman Samuel Seeff expects the rental market to be busier than usual. Many tenants will look to downgrade, and more people will move into the rental market until financial stability returns and the economy improves.

“While rental rates will come under pressure as a result of the economic decline, we do expect the market to bounce back quite quickly,” he says.

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