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Experts answer your questions about renting and buying during the pandemic

Q: My salary was halved during lockdown and this remains the case. I approached my landlord in this regard (via a managing agent) and a third of my rent was taken off with the proviso that I repay the outstanding amount when my salary was restored. I had already expressed to my managing agent that I was struggling before my salary was cut. I have paid the agreed reduced amount for the past two months but now see that the managing agent has opened a debt collection file on my account. I’m really anxious. Should I take up the conversation again with the managing agent or should I try to approach my landlord directly? He owns this block and two others in my area. I’ve rented the same unit for eight years and have always been an exemplary tenant. Also, am I allowed to renegotiate my full rent with the owner? Will this not bring the costs down? 

A: I suggest you do approach the managing agents again as they may well be amenable to reversing the debt collection fees based on the prior discussions and potentially with signing an acknowledgement of debt. I suggest you escalate to the landlord only if the managing agent is not reasonably responsive. Renegotiating the rent will depend on the expiry of your lease agreement or, if you are on a month-to-month lease with a good payment history, it would be worth raising this topic for discussion with the managing agent as well. Typically, the landlord would have agreed a standard policy for assisting tenants with rental arrears due to the Covid-19 lockdown disruptions and good tenants with favourable payment histories would generally be favourably considered for a fair concession. – Andrew Schaefer, managing director of Trafalgar

Q: I had planned to buy a home this year but am worried about all the economic uncertainty. My employment and salary have not been impacted by the pandemic, so my concern is not for my personal situation but rather the general situation in the country. Should I consider buying a home in this climate?

A: Absolutely. There has never been a better time to purchase a home than right now. Interest rates are the lowest they have ever been, along with the prime lending rate at 7.25%. If you are in a position to purchase a home, it is strongly advised that you reach out to a bond originator and find out what you can afford. – Tim Greeff, sales director at Greeff Christie’s International Real Estate.

A: The opening of the property sector is particularly good news for buyers and investors, as the prevailing market conditions are geared to favour residential property buyers. With interest rates at 50-year lows, and the threshold on transfer duty raised to R1 million earlier this year, upfront expenses when purchasing a property are lower, making it a buyer’s market for sure. – Carl Coetzee, chief executive of BetterBond

Q: I am selling my home and would like to have a show day for buyers as it is permissible under level 3 regulations. I have been advised, though, that a virtual open house would be better. Would I be at a disadvantage having a virtual show day instead of a physical show day?

A: Virtual open homes are a way to show homes online at a predetermined time to a broad audience of your choosing. For the first couple of months postlockdown, buyers and sellers are not necessarily going to want to be at events with loads of other people around. Virtual open homes allow buyers to see multiple homes and then physically view only a handful of properties before they make their decision. – Adrian Goslett, chief executive of Re/Max of Southern Africa

Q: I would like to invest in a buy-to-let property on Durban’s North Coast but am unsure as to whether we should let the property for short or long terms. What are the current market conditions for both options in the area?

A: When it comes to long-term letting, the properties that are trending at the moment are lower-end one and two-bedroom apartments, freestanding pet-friendly homes in secure estates featuring three or four bedrooms and freestanding three and fourbedroom homes not in estates that offer pet-friendly options. Here on the North Coast we are seeing freestanding properties and two-bedroom apartments that aren’t on the beach yielding the highest returns. For short term letting, Airbnb is a wellknown platform that is becoming more popular here on the North Coast, with more people considering holiday rentals for their investment properties. One, two, three and four-bedroom units closer to the beach are especially popular for this option. The lack of hotels on the North Coast, combined with it being a popular destination for young families and its proximity to the airport, is adding to the success of properties listed on Airbnb. – Kim Peacock, broker-owner of Re/Max Dolphin Realtors

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