Financial distress - What are my options?Tue 12 Jan 2016

Financial distress - What are my options?
Although the property market has seen an increase in activity over the last few years, economic conditions are still tough for many and the predicted interest rate hikes are likely to place further strain on homeowners around the country. 
“This year, those with high debt levels will be heavily affected as the interest rate increases and the cost of living continues along its upward trajectory. While for some, it may simply be a matter of readjusting certain behaviour to rectify their financial situation, others may find themselves in more dire circumstances further along the road,” says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.  “Due to the fact that many feel overly stressed and sometimes shameful about their financial distress, they are less likely to communicate about the topic and ask for help. However, it is vital that homeowners in financial trouble take immediate action and proceed with the necessary steps before the situation slips out of their control. It is a time to act decisively, take control of the situation and consult with people who can assist.”
Goslett offers homeowners advice on how to handle this often complex situation:
Evaluate your situation
Homeowners need to be honest with themselves and look at their circumstance objectively when determining whether they can continue to pay their bond. Goslett says that if a homeowner can no longer afford their bond, they need to notify their lender as soon as possible. “Avoiding the situation and doing nothing is the worst possible decision a homeowner in distress can make. It is best to be upfront with the bank and tell them the situation, rather than defaulting on a payment without notification. If the situation is left to run its course, it will not only result in the homeowner losing their property, it will also lead to a tarnished credit record and black listing,” says Goslett.
He adds that a blacklisting will leave the consumer unable to obtain any credit for the next five to 10 years. This means that even renting a property will become difficult due to the fact that most landlords do credit checks on their potential tenants. 
Communication is key
Some homeowners might be under the impression that the bank will repossess their property as soon as they communicate their distress. However, this is not the case. Banks want the homeowner to keep their property and will try to assist where possible to ensure that this happens, but the only way they can help is if they are aware of the situation. “There are a number of ways that the bank can help the homeowner, such as rescheduling debt, offering some advice on the right steps to take or renegotiating the term of the loan from 20 years to 30 years. However this can only be done if the bank knows that the homeowner requires assistance. Once the homeowner tells their lender where they are financially, the bank will be able to offer solutions,” says Goslett.  
Seek professional council
If the situation has gotten to the point where the homeowner can no longer handle it by themselves, it is advisable that they make use of a professional debt counsellor who can provide guidance. A debt counsellor will be able to assist the homeowner in reviewing their finances and submitting a proposed repayment plan to the relevant creditors. An application will be made in court to have the proposal granted. Once the proposal has been granted creditors will not be able to proceed with legal action and the bank will not be able to repossess the property. If it seems as though the homeowner’s circumstances are not likely to change in the near future, they can opt to be placed under administration rather than debt review - however in this case the property can be repossessed to order to mitigate the debt.
Sell the distressed property
According to Goslett, homeowners that do not see any way out of their financial situation can opt to consult with a real estate company that specialises in the sale of distressed properties. In an effort to help distressed homeowners, banks are working with reputable estate agencies to sell their properties at market-related prices. If the homeowner would like to keep their credit record intact, the most effective method of doing so is selling the property and recovering from the financial crisis. “In certain cases where the homeowner has built up enough equity, they may be able to cover not only their remaining bond, but also some other debts as well. Essentially this option could provide the homeowner with an opportunity to start again with a clean slate,” says Goslett.
He notes that on average distressed properties spend around 45 days on the market and achieve around 92% of the asking price. In addition, the number of offers that have been accepted by the banks has increased considerably with more buyers showing an interest in the distressed property market.
RE/MAX of Southern Africa is the only real estate company in the country that has a dedicated distressed property department and Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) qualified agents that are trained to assist homeowners with these specific types of properties and situations.
 “Although financial distress can be a complicated and stressful situation, homeowners have options available to them, along with professionals who can assist them in navigating through these unfortunate circumstances,” Goslett concludes. 
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Selling a vacant propertyFri 08 Jan 2016

Selling a vacant property
It’s not uncommon for sellers to experience a degree of stress when selling their home. These feeling can be amplified if the seller no longer lives there and the home is vacant. The reality is that while most people are hard-working, law-abiding citizens, there is a portion of society who are not. A vacant home can be an easy target for vandals and the chance of the home being broken into increases. 
Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, says that when selling a vacant property it is necessary to take precautions to ensure that the home remains in its best possible state. “An unoccupied home is more vulnerable to criminals, so it is important to ensure that extra caution is taken,” says Goslett.
He provides a number of tips that can be practiced to protect the property during the sale period:
Inform the local law enforcement
Contact the local police station in the area and alert them of the fact that the property is currently vacant. As a tax paying resident of the local municipality, the seller has a right to request that the police keep an eye on the property while it is vacant. Many stations will be happy to take note of the vacant property and make additional drive-bys in the neighbourhood. Contacting the local police station can reduce the possibility of a problem with the home. 
Contact the neighbours
If possible, alert the neighbours that the property is for sale and is currently vacant. Ask them to keep an eye on the property and make contact if there is anything they think needs your attention. Many neighbourhoods will have a watch or association that will patrol the area. It is also possible to ask the real estate agent to check on the property periodically between showings. 
Install a security system
If the home does not already have an alarm system, installing a system will protect the property while adding value. Security is a top priority among buyers, so homes with security systems generally sell for higher premiums. 
Home staging
Although the home is unoccupied, it does not need to be completely empty. If the home is on the market, there is a good chance that the agent will want to take photos of the interior of the home. Ideally the photos should either be taken with the furniture still in the home before the seller moves out or with a few small choice pieces. Not only will this make the property seem more homely, it will also prevent criminals who are looking online to see the property as an easy target.
Secure entrances
This is more than just ensuring that the front and back doors are locked. Securing entrances also refers to closing the windows securely and bolting the glass sliding door. Pay attention to any area in the home that could be used to gain entrance. Extra precautions could include adding deadbolts to all the doors and installing wooden or metal sticks in sliding door tracks. 
Pick up mail and newspapers regularly
An overflowing mailbox and stacks of newspapers at the front door is a sure giveaway that the home is not occupied. If possible ensure that the mail is retrieved on a regular basis. Sellers can also ask neighbours, friends and relatives to help out by stopping by the property occasionally to empty the mailbox. It is vital that the seller informs the post office and all relevant parties of the change of address as soon as possible so that the mail is forwarded to the correct address – this will eliminate the chance of an overflowing mailbox. 
Install a timer on the lights
Installing a timer and setting the lights to turn on in the evening will give the appearance that there are people in the home while being energy efficient.  It is important that there is sufficient lighting for both the interior and exterior of the home. A poorly lit exterior will allow criminals the comfort of not being seen by people passing the home. Motion activated lighting is an ideal security feature and selling point. 
Maintain the exterior of the home
An uncut lawn and overgrown shrubs will be a sure sign that the property is vacant. It is important for the seller to maintain the exterior of the home regularly, ensuring that the grass is cut and the flower beds are watered and maintained. A well-maintained home with curb appeal is evidence that the home is visited often. Not only will maintaining the home deter trespassers, it will also make the home more attractive to prospective buyers. 
“Although selling a vacant property can be stressful, using the above tips can help to ensure that the process goes smoothly and without any issues. Using an experienced real estate professional from a reputable brand will also expedite the process and ensure a quick and seamless sale,” Goslett concludes.
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Steps to financial freedomThu 07 Jan 2016

Steps to financial freedom
With imminent interest rate hikes and the rising cost of living, 2016 is expected to be a difficult year for many consumers financially if they don’t currently have a system in place, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. He notes that regardless of whether someone is earning five thousand rand a month or five million, it is important to have solid financial principles in place to be able to get through the tough times and continue to thrive even when the economy is not in an ideal state.
“There have been many high-fliers who have lost everything because they did not understand the fundamentals regarding finances.  Irrespective of the individual’s earning potential, the same principles can be used and applied to ensure that the person has a solid financial foundation that they can grow from,” says Goslett. “Much like building a home, it is vital to start with a foundation and build upwards from there through a process of steps. Skipping a step will result in a shaky structure that will not stand in trying times.”
Goslett points to the financial management system of Dave Ramsey called the Seven Baby Steps as an excellent guideline and starting point. “Dave Ramsey is an author, talk show host and personal finance expert, who has developed a method to help people out of debt and financial stress and into a life of saving and giving. Even having had a successful real estate career, through some bad decisions, Ramsey lost everything and had to start again from nothing. This experience has provided him with hands on knowledge on how to reach financial freedom from a difficult situation,” says Goslett. 
He provides a guideline to the seven financial steps laid out in the program: 
Build a starter emergency fund
Most homeowners will know that there are always unexpected life events that happen and require additional funding. Regardless of whether it is a burst geyser or leaking roof, things happen and consumers need to be ready. An emergency fund will ensure that the consumer does not have to go further into debt to fix the problem. As an initial goal, it is good to aim for a savings of around R10 000 as a start-up emergency fund.
Pay off debt
Apart from the bond, make a list of all debts from smallest to largest. Debts with the smallest balances are given top priority, as these can be cleared off the list far more quickly than larger amounts. If two debts are similar amounts, then the one with the highest interest rate should be paid off first. The idea is to pay off the first debt and then use that money to pay off the second debt faster. This will have a knock-on effect and will help the consumer to clear all their debt in a shorter period of time.
Three to six months of expenses in savings
Unlike the initial starter emergency fund, this step is to build up a full emergency fund that covers all household expenses for at least three months, but ideally up to six months. This will ensure that the consumer will be prepared for some of life’s larger surprises and will be able to stay out of debt for good. 
Invest in your retirement
This step in the plan is to build long-term wealth. With no debt and a full emergency fund in place, it is time to focus on putting money aside for retirement. The money that was once used to pay debt can now be used to build a future. Ideally around 15% of the household income should be invested for retirement. There are several retirement fund options available to consumers, so they should be able to find one that works for them. A broker or financial adviser could prove to be a valuable asset at this stage. 
An education fund
What better way to prepare your children for the future than to invest in their education. University and all the associated fees can be costly, especially in a multiple-child home. Setting aside money for the children’s education will put consumers ahead of the curve when their children leave school and want to study further. 
Pay off your bond early
One of the best investments a homeowner can make is to pay off their home loan faster to reduce the amount of interest they pay over the term of the loan. Even a small additional monthly payment can make a big difference to fast-tracking financial freedom for the homeowner. An increase of R500 on a 20-year bond of R1 million at an interest rate of 9.75%, will reduce the term of the loan by around three years and save the homeowner a total of R202 903.00. 
Build wealth and give
The final step of the program is to live life and be generous. People who have no debt and no payments are free to do anything they would like to do. Exercising discipline for a few years will set you up for the rest of your life. Continue to set goals and budget every month, but have some fun along the way. 
“Getting to financial freedom is less about the knowledge and more about the change in behaviour and self-discipline. Having the know-how means nothing until it is applied and put into practise. Making a commitment to change to help consumers go from where they are now, to where they want to be,” Goslett concludes.
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Defects to be aware of when purchasing a homeThu 07 Jan 2016

Defects to be aware of when purchasing a home
Regardless of whether it is a buyer purchasing their first property or an experienced investor who is expanding their portfolio, buying a property is a large investment, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.
“Due to the fact that a property investment can have such a significant impact on a buyer’s financial well-being, it is imperative that they look past the aesthetic appeal of a home and focus rather on the integrity of the components that make up the property. While a home can be beautiful at first glance, there may be underlying elements that could end up costing the buyer a lot of money in the long run,” says Goslett. “While the seller is required to provide the buyer with a list of defects, it is still advisable for the buyer to be aware of certain aspects when viewing a property.”
Goslett provides a few defects that buyers should keep an eye out for when looking at a home:
Rotten wood
Areas in the home such as bathrooms and kitchens are often exposed to moisture, which could cause the wooden elements in these areas to rot over time if not maintained. It is important that wood is treated and protected with a paint or finish that is specifically designed for this purpose. Exterior features such as decks or trims that are made from wood should also be checked as these will be exposed to the elements. 
Loose or dangerous railings
While inspecting the exterior decks, it is vital to ensure that all the railings are fastened securely and that none are missing. This applies to any staircases or balconies as well – unstable or insecure railings can be very dangerous. 
Adequate ventilation is essential to ensure that any moisture in the home can evaporate. Moisture that sits for extended periods of time can cause issues. Another important aspect to consider is the space between the roof and the ceiling. This area should be well ventilated to ensure the longevity of the roof.  Weep holes and ventilation ducts will allow the intense heat in that space to escape, which will promote evaporation of the moisture and ensure that interior walls and structural elements stay dry. 
Roof problems
While checking the roof buyers should look out for old, broken or missing tiles that need to be replaced. If the roof is in bad repair, it should not be ignored as a leaky or damaged roof can cause other costly problems elsewhere in the home.
Plumbing problems
Buyers should look under sinks for pipes that are leaking or need repairs. It is important to have all plumbing issues addressed before the purchase of the home goes through as this will save the buyer a lot of money in costly repairs.
Electrical faults
Although the seller will be required to present an electrical compliance certificate to the buyer during the sale process, it is advisable to double check that electrical systems in the home are up to code. Outdated or faulty electrical systems can be extremely dangerous and cause breaker tripping or fire. 
Drainage and water control
Poor drainage systems around the exterior of the home can lead to water and damp problems in low lying areas around the property. This could cause penetrating damp as well as compromise the foundation of the structure if it persists. Water intrusion can be one of the most destructive and expensive problems.  Make sure all drainage areas are properly graded and direct water away from the house. Buyers should also check that water control elements such as gutters and downspouts are well-maintained. 
Amateur repairs
Although not always easy to spot, often homeowners who have lived in a home for extended period of time will have attempted to make some repairs themselves.  Check the plumbing and electrical areas as these are the areas where DIY repairs are most commonly seen. 
“If homebuyers are in doubt, before they sign on the dotted line they should get a trained, certified inspector who can help them look for defects and guide them to a smart buying decision,” Goslett concludes.
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Moving homes - pay attention to the detailsTue 05 Jan 2016

Moving homes - pay attention to the details
Although packing and unpacking boxes is a major element to moving homes, it is certainly not the only factor that needs to be considered when changing your address, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. 
“When it comes to moving homes there are also a few legal matters that will require attention,” says Goslett. “Each situation will be different and as such there will be unique aspects that should be taken into account. For example, if the new homebuyer was renting their previous property and are still bound by the lease agreement, they will need to read through their contract to see what their options are. They might be able to be released from the lease agreement early or find another tenant that could take over the property until the terms of the lease ends. This will require some research and a discussion with the landlord.”
Goslett notes that there are a number of legal and technical details that buyers need to keep in mind when moving. He offers some advice and considerations for buyers moving to a new home: 
It is best to ensure that the move is covered
A vital aspect when making arrangements with a moving company is to check whether any mishaps are covered by insurance. The homebuyer should read through all documentation provided by the moving company to see what falls under their insurance coverage during the move and what isn’t. While the moving company will provide some insurance, depending on the contract, it might be worthwhile to take out additional coverage. 
Send change of address to the relevant parties
A change of address notification will need to be sent to all creditors, along with being changed on any banks accounts. This will ensure that no payments or important notices are missed by the homeowner that could affect their credit record in the future. As a precaution, Goslett says that the homebuyer should also ask the post office to forward all post to their new address. The change of address should also be sent to any publications that the homebuyer has subscriptions with, and to family and friends.
Transfer or disconnect utilities 
Utilities or services will need to be transferred to the new address or discontinued if they are no longer applicable. These would include items such as water and electricity services, newspaper delivery, a telephone landline, DSTV subscription or a private security company. According to Goslett, there might be a deposit that can be refunded from certain service providers. He notes that homebuyers should also advise service providers where final bills are to be sent. 
Obtain all the necessary records
Although not as important if the buyer is moving to a home within the same area, for those who are relocating to another city it is important to get a copy of all vital documentation. This will include medical records from the family doctor, along with any chronic prescriptions that need to refilled or transferred to another pharmacy. Goslett says that buyers with families should get their children’s school records such as copies of report cards and a transfer card. Other records would include birth documents for all family members and any legal records. 
“While relocating can be a rather tedious exercise, if the homebuyer has a checklist and systematically deals with all the necessary aspects involved, it will be a far more manageable experience,” Goslett concludes. 
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Launching the home buying processTue 05 Jan 2016

Launching the home buying process
There are few events in life that have the same profound impact as buying a home. Purchasing a property is a milestone in life that most aim for and many regard as a coming-of-age event and status symbol. Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that buying a home has several advantages over renting, such as the sense of ownership and not needing to get permission from the landlord to do anything to the home. 
“Another major advantage to buying a home instead of renting one is that owning a property is in fact a kind of forced saving. The reality is that most South Africans do not save enough money for their retirement. The country’s current household saving rate is around 16%, which is relatively low when compared to other emerging markets. Paying money into a bond every month is a way of building equity and putting money away for the future. A homeowner will be able to sell the home that they have paid off over 20 years and downsize. This will offer welcomed financial relief when it is needed most. South African’s that have rented for their entire lives will have no asset to sell,” says Goslett.
In order to make the most out of the property investment, the secret is to get into the market as soon as financially viable, advises Goslett. “Although it may require the buyer to initially tighten their belt to meet the monthly repayments, assuming there are no drastic changes, a 20-year bond will decrease in real terms as the buyer’s salary increases. This will make the bond more affordable as time passes. Essentially, the earlier a buyer gets into the market, the better off they will be,” he says. 
Goslett notes that while getting ready to purchase a home requires some preparation and can take some time, the actual process of buying a property can be simplified into three basic steps:
Get pre-approved
Once a prospective buyer is ready to get into the property market, they may be tempted to hit the show houses as soon as possible. However it is best to start by paying a visit to the bank or a bond origination company such as the Betterlife Group to see how much you qualify for.  The pre-qualification process is essentially an affordability assessment based on the buyer’s earnings and credit profile. This will provide the buyer with a predetermined amount that they will qualify for when applying for a bond. Getting pre-approved gives the buyer an idea of what price bracket they can shop around in, narrowing down the search considerably and helping to reduce the risk of disappointment. 
It is important to factor in all costs when determining what is affordable, such as transfer fees, attorney fees and any renovation costs if applicable. It is also advisable to consider that South Africa is currently in an interest rate hiking cycle. Should rates increase, it is vital that the buyer can still comfortably afford the home. 
Making an offer
Buyers should work with a real agent estate from a reputable brand that has extensive knowledge of the area in which they would like to purchase. Working closely with an agent will ensure that the buyer is informed of any new stock that comes onto the market as it becomes available. It is vital that buyers bear in mind the old adage of location, location, location when looking for their ideal home. 
Goslett says that once a buyer has found what they think is the right home, they should get a trusted second opinion from friends and family members, who will look at the property with an objective view and possibly point out any defects that the buyer may have initially missed. These aspects should be taken into consideration when making the offer.
The real estate agent will be able to provide guidance to the buyer regarding what offering price would be acceptable to the seller. The agent will also be able to provide the buyer with comparative pricing of what other similar homes in the areas have recently sold for. 
Apply for a bond
Once the offer has been accepted by the seller, the next step is to approach the bank for a bond. Goslett says that buyers can either approach the bank themselves or make use of a bond originator. The service provided by the bond originator is at no cost to the buyer. The benefit of using an origination company is that they will apply at all the banks at the same time in order to secure the most preferential interest rate. Provided that all paperwork is in order, the buyer should receive an answer regarding their bond approval within a week. 
According to Goslett, while it might be tempting to look at a 30-year bond option because of the lower monthly repayments, the interest amount paid on the bond over the longer term of the loan will be significantly higher. 
“Taking the necessary steps to purchase a property will provide the homeowner with an asset in their name that can provide them with good returns on investment over the long term,” Goslett concludes.
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How the US Fed hike could impact SA marketsThu 17 Dec 2015

How the US Fed hike could impact SA markets
In anticipation of the US Federal Reserve bank hiking its benchmark Fed Funds interest rate, the first rate hike in the US in almost a decade, the South African Reserve Bank took proactive action by hiking the interest rate by 25 basis points at the last Monetary Policy Committee meeting. This was an attempt to lessen the residue effect that the hike would have on the South African market.  
Some economists believe that the reaction of the US equity markets to the hike in the US interest rates will be one of the most crucial influences on South Africa’s financial markets this year. Fed Chair, Janet Yellen had prepared the financial markets for the rate hike by describing the contraction in the US GDP during the first quarter of the year as transitory. The rate was already expected to rise in September this year, however the rate increase was pushed back to the end of the year. 
Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that the US has a major impact on the markets around the world, pointing to the sub-prime crisis as an example. “Often the monetary policies of the US Fed have a knock-on effect, with investors closely watching the US markets. While there are currently not that many US investors in South Africa when compared with some other emerging markets, the hike in rate is likely to increase investment interest in the US, with many choosing to take their money out of foreign countries and place it back into the US markets,” says Goslett. “Although year-to-date foreign investors have bought approximately R8.5 billion worth of SA bonds and around R22.9 billion in equities, data has shown that the percentage of non-resident owned SA government bonds has dropped to its lowest level in 18 months due to a loss of appetite ahead of the Fed’s expected interest rate hike. Now that the rate has been hiked this trend is likely to continue.” 
South Africa, along with other emerging-market economies will have to adopt measures that will both attract and retain foreign investment interest. 
According to economists, while the interest rate hiking cycle is likely to bring about a correction in US and global stocks, the correction will only have a mild impact on long-term investors, who should not be deterred. Property for example, will be far less impacted by the change as mortgages are not entirely dependent upon the Fed rate. Even with the increase, the overall rates will still be well below historic averages and it is anticipated that a slight increase will not have much impact on property sales in the US. The National Association of Realtors still forecasts that existing home sales in the US during 2016 will increase to 5.5 million from an anticipated 5.3 million in 2015. This is largely due to the fact that property investors do not solely base their decision on mortgage rates, but also take into consideration factors such as location, price, size and proximity to amenities. 
Goslett says that investors who have purchased property, which is viewed as a long-term investment, should remain invested rather than attempting to time the market. “While the property market experiences cyclical phases, property investments are far less volatile than other investment vehicles such as the equity and share markets, proving to be a solid asset class in which to invest over the long term,” advises Goslett.  “Although there are sometimes unexpected factors that can impact on the property market, generally property price growth is fairly consistent over time. This makes it easier to more accurately predict the potential return on investment with a property purchase as opposed to any other investment class. Unlike other investment options, there is no need for a property investor to constantly be watching the market to see exactly the right time they need to sell to make a profit,” he says. 
Goslett notes that with the US Fed increasing its rate, which will place pressure on the rand, and inflation expected to rise over the silly season due to excessive spending, it is likely that the South African Reserve Bank will continue on its hiking cycle. South African consumers can expect further interest rate hikes during the first half of next year. “Although interest rates have recently increased and are expected to go up further in the near future, rates are still relatively low when compared with the rates seen post-recession - in June 2008 the prime interest rate was 15.50%. It will be sometime before South African consumers see a rate that is even close to that,” says Goslett.
He urges consumers and prospective property buyers to focus on reducing debt levels and increasing their savings. “Those with low or no debt and savings in place, will see the rate hiking cycle in a far more positive light. Reducing debt will give prospective buyers the best opportunity to get into the property market. It is important to remember that despite rising interest rates, property will remain a sought-after asset class in the future and a key building block to personal wealth,” Goslett concludes. 
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Maintaining your holiday homeTue 15 Dec 2015

Maintaining your holiday home
Whether a primary residence or holiday home, upkeep is a vital aspect of homeownership, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. “Maintaining a property assists in ensuring that the home holds its value over time and that it remains in a livable condition,” says Goslett. “However, for many owners there is often the dilemma of what work needs to be done on the property and what they can actually afford to do when owning a second property.”
He notes that when a homeowner is at their holiday home enjoying their time off, the last thing they will feel like doing is thinking about what needs to be done around the property to prepare it for the months when they are not there. However, just like their primary residence their holiday home will need to be taken care of. “The grass grows rapidly during the rainy season, leaves fall from the trees during the autumn months and the swimming pool turns green. These are just some of the aspects that need to be considered and addressed by those who have holiday homes. It is also important to remember any large-scale maintenance projects should be booked well in advance, as experienced, reliable contractors are often not working during the holiday season,” says Goslett. “When selecting a contractor get at least two quotes for work that needs to be carried out on the property. It is surprising how different the range of prices can be from one contractor to the next. It is also advisable to ask for contactable references.”
Goslett adds that if the property is going to be left empty for long periods of time during the year, there are several things that holiday homeowners can do to ensure that their property is kept in a good condition: 
Exterior Maintenance:
Exterior walls – Check for any cracks in the exterior walls and carry out the necessary repairs. Cracks in the walls could lead to damp problems, which can be costly to fix. Early detection and maintenance will prevent larger repair outlays at a later stage. 
Door locks – Ensure that all door locks are in good working order and where necessary replace faulty lock barrels. This aspect cannot be over emphasized as it will assist in keeping the home safe when no-one is around. Remember to also have a look at the locks on any out-buildings such as sheds.  
Gutters and downpipes – debris can cause blockages in gutters and downpipes, which could result in penetrating damp and damaged fascia boards. Holiday homeowners should clear any leaves or foreign items out of their gutters at least once a year.  It is also advisable to replace any damaged gutter sections and seal joints. 
Drains - If possible, jet wash any accessible drainage points. This will prevent blockages from forming and ensure the integrity of the drain. 
Window and door frames – wooden frames will require regular maintenance, especially if the home is located at the coast.  Wooden frames should be inspected for rot and treated with a weatherproofing solvent at least once a year. Although it might be expensive at the onset, replacing wooden frames with aluminum will reduce the need for maintenance and will be a cost effective solution over the long term.
Patios and terraces – Wash down the patio or terrace to remove any dirt and see whether any grouting is missing and needs to be replaced. Remove and repair any damaged grout to prevent frost damage over the colder months and to ensure good surface drainage. 
It may also be worthwhile to consider getting the lawnmower and garden equipment serviced. 
Interior Maintenance:
Geysers – The geyser is the most power-hungry component in a home. Ensure that the geyser is turned off over periods when the property is not in use.
Water Mains – The water should be shut off at the mains. Once the water mains have been shut off, open up all the taps in the basins, sinks and showers to drain all the water from the pipes. This will prevent the water in the pipes from causing rust. 
Plugs - If possible, remove all plugs from wall sockets to prevent electrical equipment being damaged during thunderstorms. 
Fridge and freezer – The freezer and the fridge should be thoroughly defrosted and the doors should be left open to prevent mold from forming inside the unit.
“A property that is well-maintained will retain its value and will be a pleasure to those who make use of it. Taking care of the property and fixing  problems as soon as they arise, will ensure that small issues don’t become major complications,” Goslett concludes.
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Sellers: Deciding between multiple offersMon 14 Dec 2015

Sellers: Deciding between multiple offers
With the growing demand for property and many areas experiencing stock shortages, it is becoming more and more common for sellers to get multiple offers on their home, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa.  He notes that while it might be tempting for the seller to accept the offer with the highest monetary value, it is essential that they assess each of the offers they receive based on its own merits. 
“At first glance it would seem that the offer with the highest rand figure would be the natural choice, however the seller should read through each of the offers carefully, paying specific attention to the clauses in each,” says Goslett. “In cases such as this, sellers will benefit greatly from working with a trusted real estate agent who can assist them through the process of selecting the right offer to purchase. An agent’s role is to act in the best interest of the seller and ensure that the best possible result is reached during the property transaction. While the highest value offer is the ultimate goal, there are several other elements that will have an impact on the transaction and should be considered before making a final decision.”
Goslett says that before even considering an offer, the seller will need to ensure that they have a few aspects in place:
1. The seller needs to make sure that all documentation regarding the property is up-to-date and correct. If any renovations or additions have been made to the property the seller is required to have copies of any council-approved plans. This will reduce the time it takes for the property to be transferred and will ensure everything goes smoothly.
2. Ensure that the contract is in plain language and easy to understand. It should also detail all the elements that the parties need to agree to, including factors such as which items will be regarded as fixtures and fittings. Having these aspects in a written document will reduce any chance of a misunderstanding or disagreement in the future.
According to Goslett, when the seller is considering each of the offers they receive, there are a number of aspects they should pay particular attention to. These factors will help them in the decision-making process:
Offer is subject to conditions
The majority of offers that a seller will receive will be subject to certain conditions transpiring first, such as the sale of the buyer’s previous home. While it is not very common to find an offer that is totally void of conditions, the seller will need to keep in mind that their home will be off the market while the terms and conditions of the offer are waiting to be met. 
Does the buyer have a deposit?
Generally banks will require most buyers to have a deposit of between 10% and 30% of the purchase price of the home to be approved for finance. A deposit will greatly increase a buyer’s chances of bond approval. A deposit is an excellent indication that the buyer is in a financial position to purchase a home and are serious about the offer. 
Consider the financing
Simply put – cash is king. A cash buyer will not be reliant on the bank for bond approval before they are able to go ahead with the purchase. This makes the transaction far less complicated, so less can go wrong. It is also important to remember that a bank is far more willing to grant finance to a buyer that requires less than 80% of the purchase price of the property. 
Although it is generally not an issue, it is advisable to be cautious of buyers that require third parties to sign a surety on their behalf. The seller should also look at whether the buyer can provide proof from the bank that the funds are available to back up the offer.
Date of occupation
Note the date of occupation on each of the offers. Ideally the occupational date should coincide with the transfer date as much as possible. This will ensure that unnecessary stress and complications are kept to a minimum in the event that the deal falls through. If the offer contains any suspensive conditions, the sellers should not allow occupation of the home until these conditions are met and all documentation has been signed by both the buyer and seller at the conveyance attorney. The seller can counter the occupation date, if the best offer on the table doesn’t quite meet their timeline.  
“Once a seller has considered all other factors and are content to move forward, they should then consider the value of the offer. In some cases, a lower offer might be the right offer depending on the conditions presented. The seller needs to select an offer that best fits  their needs,” Goslett concludes.
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Keep it freshFri 11 Dec 2015

Keep it fresh
Updating the exterior of the home with a fresh coat of paint is a great way to refresh the look of a property and make it more attractive to buyers. “In fact,” says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, “a new coat of paint does not only add to the aesthetic appeal of a home, it can also have an influence on the perceived value of the property. However, it is important to select the right colour to complement the home and its surroundings.”
He notes that while choosing the colour for the home will largely be based on the homeowner’s personal preference and sense of style, one method which homeowners can use to give them a basic guideline on where to start is by using the acronym of the word FRESH when considering which colour to use. 
F: This stands for features on the exterior of the home that are fixed. Fixed features include the permanent design elements of the home such as the foundation stone, brick facades and pathways. “Very often there will be a colour that is common to all these elements which should be identified in order to find the right colour paint that will enhance it,” Goslett explains. 
R: Look at the regional colours in the particular area in which the home is situated. These colours will usually be based on elements such as the surroundings, styles and building materials used.  Neighbourhood consistency will make the area more inviting and aesthetically pleasing to buyers. 
E: Consider the environment in which the home is located, as the chosen colour will need to complement its surroundings, whether that be city, beach or mountainside.  Nature as well as the built environment should be considered to ensure that there is a sense of continuity with the rest of the houses in the neighbourhood. Have a walk around the property and take in the various sites, perhaps making note of what is seen with a camera. This will allow the homeowner to see any common colour palettes and take note of elements such as the surrounding landscape, foliage, textures and adjacent buildings. Most neutral colours will blend in with any environment; however the homeowner can opt to paint the home in a contrasting white to make it stand out. The colour white is known to show off the architectural details of a home.  
S: Style of the home. Some colours work well with a particular style of home more than others, depending on the overall look and feel of the property. There are also certain areas in some parts of the country that will have a specific building style and colour scheme that best suits that type of architecture, for example Cape Dutch style housing is generally white. 
H: Where possible preserve the intrinsic colours of the area’s history. If the home is situated in an area with a rich history, a coastal area or rural environment, customary colours of the area should be preserved. In coastal environments, various blues are used to mimic the colours of the ocean. Very often the natural habitat of certain geographical areas surrounding the home will have a large influence on how the home should look and feel.
Goslett advises homeowners who are unsure of any colour, to test several swatches of the colour palette on a section of the home. “Allow the painted area to dry for 24 hours and then view it in the morning, noon and evening, as the colours will appear to be different tones depending on the time of day. This will give homeowners the chance to compare the shades to see which one is best for them,” says Goslett.  
He concludes by saying that while the home’s surroundings will give the homeowner an idea of where to start, each home and homeowner is different and what works for one may not work for another. Be individual and let your home be a reflection of your style and personality.
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The landlord is selling, what are my rights?Tue 08 Dec 2015

The landlord is selling, what are my rights?
Many tenants may find themselves in a situation where the landlord decides to put their rental property on the market. What rights does the tenant have if this happens? Are they within their right to breach the lease agreement that they have in place with the landlord?
Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that according to South African legislation a landlord is not prohibited from selling the rental property to a third party while the property is occupied by a tenant and there is a leasing agreement in place. “However,” says Goslett, “in terms of the legal principle huur gaan voort koop, the lease agreement precedes the sale. As a result the tenant is within their right to retain occupation of the property for the remainder of the agreed upon lease period.”
He adds even though the tenant can stay for the remainder of the of the lease agreement, some may feel anxious about possibly dealing with a different landlord or the renewal terms of the lease with the new owner. Another concern is what the new owner intends to do with the property. It is possible that the new owner intends on living in the property themselves, rather than letting it out. 
“If the tenant finds themselves in such a situation, they might want to find alternative accommodation as soon as possible. However, the tenant’s right to terminate the agreement will largely be determined by the contract that they signed and what the law stipulates. The initial step would be for the tenant to read their lease agreement to see where they stand and what obligations they have contractually bound themselves to. In certain cases, there may have been a sales provision made in the agreement for such a situation,” says Goslett. “If agreed upon at the signing of the lease, there might be a stipulation giving the tenant to cancel their current contract should the property be placed on the market.  If these are the terms and there is mutual consent, the tenant is absolved from any penalties that may arise due to breeching the agreement.” 
If no such stipulation exists, Goslett advises that all terms and conditions in the lease before the sale of the property will be carried over to the new owner of the property. Essentially what this means is that it is far more difficult to get out of the contract, if nothing has been specifically stated in the lease with regards to the sale of the property. In this case, if the tenant breaches the lease agreement they could face paying a penalty of some kind. “The lease agreement will remain in effect under the new landlord and the tenant will be obligated by law to respect the stipulated terms, as will the new landlord. 
“It is possible for a buyer to purchase a rental property with the intention of retaining the tenant.  If this is the case they will more than likely not want to release the tenant from their contractual obligations,” says Goslett.
In terms of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), a fixed term contract within the fixed term can be terminated early on the condition that the new owner is a supplier who lets property in the ordinary course of his business. This is regulated by section 14 of the Act.  In these kinds of situations a tenant is able to give a 20 business day notice period during the term of the lease. However, they would then be liable for the notice month and possibly a reasonable penalty fee. Goslett says that the CPA will not be applicable if the parties to a lease agreement are both juristic persons.  
“Ideally, before the tenant makes any decisions about cancelling their lease agreement, they should first communicate with the landlord. Discussing the matter could help put certain issues to rest and there may be little or no need for concern. There is the possibility that the sale of the property only takes place after the period of the lease agreement has expired, or the new landlord may be better than the current one,” Goslett concludes.
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Property in 2016 - The road ahead Fri 04 Dec 2015

Property in 2016 - The road ahead
During 2015 the South African residential property market continued to see improvement with consumers still placing a high value on homeownership. This is despite the fact that consumers experienced increases in electricity tariffs and interest rate hikes. While there were many prospective buyers who struggled to meet deposit requirements during 2015, those with access to finance were ready to embark on their journey towards homeownership and get into market as soon as possible. This is according to Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, who predicts that access to finance will continue to be tough for consumers in the New Year.  
“The effects of the recent interest rate hike will be felt by consumers during the festive season and will impact the property market moving into 2016. The Reserve Bank has been warning consumers that we are currently in a rising interest rate cycle, and will be for some time.  It is highly likely that we will see further rate hikes during 2016, which will continue to put financial pressure on consumers. Rate hikes will influence affordability ratios and make it more difficult for prospective buyers to gain access to finance,” says Goslett. “While the residential property market has shown improvement, consumers who are looking to purchase property in 2016 will need to start preparing themselves now by focusing on building savings and reducing their debt-to-income ratios as much as possible.”
He notes that while most areas are performing well in terms of house price growth and sales volumes, markets in and around metropolitan areas are slightly more accelerated than their non-metropolitan counterparts.  “Another trend that we are seeing is that homes are generally spending far less time on the market than they did post-recession. Properties in good locations are selling within two weeks on average, whereas these same properties would have sat on the market for months before selling during 2010. This trend is expected to carry over into 2016 with stock shortages still a reality in some areas,” says Goslett. He adds that other factors that will have an influence on the residential market will include potential hikes in the fuel levy, along with personal tax. 
According to Goslett, those who are unable to meet the necessary affordability ratios will be forced to stay within the rental market a while longer. “The rental market has seen good growth during the past year, with demand also outstripping supply, particularly in areas around CBDs.  Access to finance will have a major impact on the demand for rental properties, especially those that are well placed close to business hubs and a wide range of amenities,” advises Goslett. “Buy-to-let investors should aim to grow their property portfolio to benefit as much as possible from the growing rental demand.” 
In 2016 we will continue to see excellent growth within the affordable housing sector, as well as continued demand for homes within gated communities that offer security. “Security in South Africa is and will continue to be a major factor that influences buying decisions, one of the many reasons why gated communities and estates will remain a popular choice among home buyers. Homes with lower maintenance requirements will also continue to be popular, mainly due to increased utility and municipal costs which are placing additional pressure on consumers’ pockets,” says Goslett.
He adds that while there is any number of factors that could influence the property market and its performance in the year ahead, the residential market continues to hold its own, despite challenging economic conditions. “Over the long term, property has proven to be a solidly performing asset and should be a core component of any investment portfolio. The crux is for buyers and sellers to understand the market conditions in which they are trading and tailor their buying and selling decisions and behaviour accordingly,” Goslett concludes.
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What to look for in a coastal investmentFri 04 Dec 2015

What to look for in a coastal investment
There is much debate as to whether purchasing a holiday home is a viable investment, especially when considering the costs involved in the upkeep of a property. However, as with any property purchase the success of the investment is largely based on the research done beforehand and how the investment is viewed by the buyer. According to Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, a holiday home purchase can be one of the best investments that a buyer can make, provided they have a long term view on the purchase of such property.
“If handled in the correct manner and the necessary property investment principles are adhered to, purchasing a holiday home can be seen as a vehicle in which to build wealth. The investor should view the property as a way to put money aside for their retirement, rather than leaving that money in a bank account,” says Goslett. “Many investors are particularly interested in purchasing coastal properties with the view that they will retire to the coast in their golden years. If the investors purchase the property early enough, by the time they get to retirement age they will have a fully paid off home to which they can retire.”
He notes that an additional benefit is that the investor would have had the full use of the property and a place to take their family to over holiday periods before they retire. “Often people live inland and then retire to the coast away from their family and support network. Owning a coastal property that becomes a home-away-from-home allows the investor to establish friendships and build a network in the area in which they decide to retire. This makes the process of retiring and moving to a new home far less stressful,” says Goslett. 
He notes that over the years the property will appreciate in value and the investor will be able to sell their primary residence in order to get the cash flow that they will require to sustain themselves. 
Goslett points out that while there are many benefits to owning a coastal home, there are also some negative aspects that the investor will need to consider, such as the fact that coastal properties generally require more maintenance than inland homes. “Due to the climate and proximity to the ocean, coastal properties are often exposed to some harsh elements that take their toll on the home. As a result a coastal property will require regular maintenance. If considering a freestanding property it is best to opt for modern, recently built homes reduce the maintenance costs from the onset,” advises Goslett. “Sectional title units are an ideal option for investors who do not want to worry about the exterior maintenance of the property. When purchasing a sectional title unit the body corporate will be responsible for maintaining the building’s exterior and all the common areas within the complex.” 
According to Goslett, because the investor often lives far away from their coastal property it is sometimes difficult to gauge the market and how the area is developing. “Ideally the investor should start to build a long-term relationship with a reputable management agent who specialises in the area. The managing agent will be able to take care of the management of the property, offer advice on the investment and keep the investor informed of any trends that might be occurring in the area.  Working with a real estate professional will keep the investor focused on the facts and not be driven to make any investment decision based on emotions,” says Goslett. 
Looking at coastal property investment over the last decade, Goslett says that there are a few factors that investors should pay attention to as they can influence demand and potential appreciation in value over time: 
Properties with ocean views are generally highly sought-after and hold their value.
Homes that are within proximity to the beach are usually regarded as a sound investment.
There is a quicker turnaround time on coastal properties that are close to amenities such as schools, medical facilities and shopping centres.  
Security is a driving force behind property buying decisions, so opt for an area with an active Policing Forum.
Consider whether the property will be popular among holidaymakers so that it can be let out should the need arise.
Low maintenance properties are generally sought-after among holiday home investors.
“A coastal home purchase can be a viable investment option, provided the investor takes the time to do the research. Obtaining as much information as possible from reliable resources will help the investor to make an informed and profitable decision,” Goslett concludes.  
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Spreading the festive joyWed 02 Dec 2015

Spreading the festive joy
RE/MAX Foundation national Toy and Book collection gets underway 
Setting its place as an annual fixture on the RE/MAX calendar, the RE/MAX Foundation is once again running their National Toy and Book Collection from 1 December 2015 up until 30 January 2016.  With assistance from the public, the Foundation aims to build upon the success of the previous two years and spread the festive joy to even more under privileged children around the country. 
“It is often easy to take what we have for granted, however there are so many children around the country who will go without this Christmas. The festive season is an ideal time to reflect and give back to those in need. Through the RE/MAX Foundation, the Toy and Book collection aims to uplift underprivileged children in the community who may not have received anything this Christmas. As a brand we want to have a positive influence within the communities in which we operate and make a difference where is it needed. The goal of the RE/MAX Foundation is help those who are not always able to help themselves,” says Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa and director of the RE/MAX Foundation. 
As with last year, the campaign will be run over a two month period to ensure that as many children benefit from the initiative as possible. “When the campaign was initially launched it ran over the month of December, however in order to maximise the impact of the initiative the period was extended to 30 January.  The 30 January is also a special day for RE/MAX as it is our Founder’s Day - the day RE/MAX was founded in the US 42 years ago,” says Goslett. “Commemorating the special day, the donated toys and books will be handed over to the various charities, crèches and orphanages.”
He notes that while the Foundation is supported by the RE/MAX offices, agents, buyers, sellers and business associates, the success of an initiative such as this is largely based on the support of the people in the community who step up to help by providing donations. “The response and donations that were received from the public during the last two Toy and Book collections was absolutely amazing. We are hoping that we can continue the success of the previous campaigns and spread joy to far more children.”
According to Sandy Smith, RE/MAX Foundation Manager, all of the RE/MAX offices around the country are encouraged to participate in the drive and will act as drop off points for the public. “People will be able to take their donations to the RE/MAX office that is most convenient for them. To ensure that the local community benefits from the collections, each RE/MAX office  can nominate a charity, crèche or orphanage in their area of operation that will receive all the toys and books,” says Smith. “The idea behind this is so that those who choose to give will be supporting those in need within their local community and making a direct impact to those around them.  We want people to be able to support the communities they live in so that they can see the difference that their contribution has made.”
She notes that it is also about giving to something that you have a heart for and making the community a better place in which to live. Each community will know where help is needed and where their donations will make the largest impact. “A big part of the RE/MAX brand ethos is to have a positive impact on the communities in which we operate. The RE/MAX Foundation initiatives have given those within the brand a vehicle through which to do just that,” says Smith. 
The aim of the RE/MAX Foundation is to have an on-going impact on the lives of young people in particular, and empower them to be the best that they can be. Currently the foundation supports a number of national beneficiaries and over 100 local charities around South Africa through various corporate social investment initiatives. 
“The impact we make now will have a carry-over effect on generations to come. RE/MAX Foundation aims to give back to local communities and uplift the next South African generation,” Smith concludes. 
For more information regarding the RE/MAX Foundation visit or contact the foundation manager, Sandy Smith on 021 700 2000.
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Not all renovations add valueMon 30 Nov 2015

Not all renovations add value
Renovating or building onto a home can add value and give the seller an advantage over other sellers in a particular area. “However,” says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, “it is important to remember that while renovations can add value, there are several factors that should be considered before undertaking any renovation project.”
He notes that whether a homeowner purchased the property with the intention of renovating it or the decision was made as a result of the home no longer fitting the owner’s needs, renovations or additions to the home need to be considered carefully and approached in the correct manner.  “Regardless of why the homeowner has decided to renovate, it is important that the project is completed in a professional manner. The homeowner should not attempt to complete the project themselves unless they are qualified to do so.  If corners are cut and the project is done cheaply, it can sometimes have the opposite effect and impact negatively on the property’s value,” advises Goslett. “In some cases it can be very costly to have a professional rectify badly completed renovation projects - in fact it could even be more expensive than if the job was completed by the professional right from the start.” 
According to Goslett, it is important to have a balance between completing the project on the cheap and spending too much. “If a homeowner spends too much money they run the risk of over-capitalising and losing money on their investment. The renovation may add value to the property, but not enough to cover the cost of the project,” says Goslett. “Knowing which additions will add value and which won’t also plays a vital role in deciding whether or not to look at renovation options. A homeowner will need to do their research before they spend money unnecessarily on costly upgrades, especially if the reason for the renovation is specifically for resale purposes.”’
Goslett provides a few aspects to take into account when considering a renovation project:
Calculate the home’s value
The only way a homeowner will be able to avoid the risk of over-capitalising is by knowing their home’s current value as well as the projected value of the home after the renovation project. The homeowner should not spend more than the difference between the two values. Goslett says that the projected value of the home will largely be determined by the property’s location. “While there will be marginal variations to the house prices in an area, most suburbs will have an average price range.  If the renovation will push the price of the home way above what it can be sold for in the current market, then it may be better to leave the property as it is,” says Goslett.  
Don’t go over budget
Once the projected value of the property has been calculated, the homeowner will be able to set a renovation project budget. As a general rule, the cost of the renovation project should not exceed 25% of the current value of the home. According to Goslett, homeowners should ensure that they have a cushion of least 10% worked into the budget for unexpected overruns in cost – it is best to be prepared as possible for any surprises. “In order to ensure maximum investment benefit, the homeowner should keep within the confines of their set budget. While this may require extensive research and discipline, it will be financially beneficial in the long run,” says Goslett.
Take area trends into account
There are certain renovations that will add value regardless of where the home is situated, such as security upgrades or kitchen and bathroom updates, which remain the most popular rooms in a home to remodel. However, Goslett says that if the renovation is outside of this scope it is important to research trends that are specific to the area. 
Not all additions or renovation ideas will appeal to every demographic of buyer, so it is essential to determine the predominant buyer profile in the area and specific features they are attracted to. For example, family buyers in upmarket suburbs are often looking for aesthetically pleasing homes with staff accommodation. Entertainment and living areas have also become important with many buyers looking for properties with covered patios and built-in-braai facilities. “Consulting with a real estate professional with working knowledge of the area will be very useful in gaining this type of information, along with gathering information from property websites and newspapers,” Goslett concludes.
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Tips for staging a small outdoor areaMon 30 Nov 2015

Tips for staging a small outdoor area
Regardless of its size, an attractive outdoor area can be a major selling point for prospective buyers, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. “Even if the outdoor space is just big enough to sit and have a coffee break, it can add a little something to the home and might just be what differentiates the home from others in the neighbourhood,” says Goslett. 
He notes that many sectional title units and entry-level homes have limited space for outdoor areas. However, just because the outdoor area is small, it should not be neglected when it comes to making it look its best on show day. “If a buyer has to choose between two properties within the same price bracket that offer the same kind of features, it will be the small differences between the two homes that will make one stand out from the other,” says Goslett.
According to Goslett, there are a number of ways in which sellers can enhance their outdoor spaces to make them more appealing to buyers. He provides a few points that will assist in maximising small outdoor spaces:
Smaller spaces are often more cost effective to upgrade. Due to a smaller surface area, it won’t cost that much to invest in higher quality tiles or stones to cover the area. Decking is also another flooring option that is practical and adds a touch of sophistication. 
Envision clarity 
When deciding on outdoor furniture, a glass-top table will be the best option for a small outdoor area. The table can be functional while still creating an illusion of a larger space.
Lose the back 
For sitting options, chairs and benches with no or minimal back rests will look less cluttered and won’t interrupt the line of sight as much. This will make the space look larger and feel more open.
Size matters 
The outdoor furniture selected for the space should be scaled correctly to fit the area. The larger and more bulky the furniture, the smaller and more cramped the space will feel. It is best to choose smaller furniture items that function well rather than items that smother the space.
A focal point 
Even though an area is small, doesn’t mean that it can’t be visually interesting. Adding a focal point such as a piece of garden art, bonsai tree or tiny water feature in the corner can make the area more aesthetically pleasing while adding style. A focal point can also distract prospective buyers from focusing on the square meterage of the area.
Get vertical 
Wall gardens are a great way to add foliage to the area without sacrificing space. Wall art made from succulent plants is another low-maintenance option for adding a green element, while drawing attention to the edges of the area. This will also assist in making the space look larger.
Get out the grill 
Seeing a clean braai in the outside area will help potential buyers envisage their own outdoor meals in that space. However, it is important that the braai is size-appropriate, clean and in good repair.
“Maximising outdoor areas and showcasing them in the right way will be an advantage on show day,” Goslett concludes.
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Social networks: The new mediaWed 25 Nov 2015

Social networks: The new media
Since the advent of the internet, we have been living in an age of instant information. Everything that anyone would like to know has become accessible and is just a simple click of the mouse away. Computers and technology are elements that have transformed the way in which people interact and communicate with one another, making the world a smaller place. With technological advancement constantly pushing forward, the face of business and industry has been forced to adapt to the ever-changing environment in order to accommodate the new way in which business interactions are undertaken. 
According to Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, within the real industry, agents have had to make adjustments to their marketing methods to ensure that they are integrating new forms of media into their marketing plans. “Gone are the days that real estate professionals could just use the traditional methods such as signboards, newspapers and flyers to promote and sell property.  While these elements still have their place, property websites as well as social media channels play a pivotal role in the strategy used by real estate professionals to market their property listings,” says Goslett. “Since the introduction of the internet, consumer behaviour has changed considerably. As many as nine out of ten property buyers are first searching for properties on the internet before turning to any other form of media.”
While publishers and editors were once the only gatekeepers of the media world, the introduction of social online platforms has changed the balance.  “Traditional media platforms still hold a part of the media networks, but social media has given consumers an influential voice, making them a new form of media network. Social hubs continue to grow and influence consumers in the real estate industry as well as other markets. In other words, it is the consumers themselves who have the power to impact the market and the opinions of other consumers,” explains Goslett.
He notes that both consumers and real estate professionals have the opportunity to share information, wisdom and speak their mind regarding the housing market or conditions that surround it. This has given estate agents the opportunity to market property in a different way, provided they change their approach. With the new generation consumer having the information readily available at all times, the relationship is no longer based on a trusted adviser capacity, but rather as another trusted resource.  Buyers and sellers require the facts, figures, graphics and comparative market analysis from an agent that they can’t get from other resources.  
According to Goslett, once an estate agent has become a conduit of information to the buyer and seller, their role would then be to guide them through the details of the transaction and help them make the best possible decision. “As a resource, the real estate professional will be able to provide access to the information and knowledge needed to conclude the transaction. However, it is the seller who will determine how that information is used. The buyers and sellers that do their own research will normally consult with the resources they have on social networks before they make a final decision,” says Goslett. 
He concludes by saying that as social media networks and their influence on the market grows, the face of the real estate industry will continue to transform accordingly. There are approximately 500 million users on Facebook, of which more than 50% are within the home buying age bracket. That is a massive pool of potential buyers and sellers that can impact the market and the way in which their peers view property investment. 
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Rate increases by 25 basis pointsThu 19 Nov 2015

Rate increases by 25 basis points
Remaining on its rate-hiking phase, the Reverse Bank has once again announced at today’s Monetary Policy Committee meeting that the interest rates would increase by a further 25 basis points. This brings the repo rate to 6.25% and the prime lending rate to 9.75%. 
The decision to raise the rates has been on the cards for some time, with current economic conditions leaving the Reserve Bank little choice.
With the US dollar strengthening over the rand in the last two weeks and the US Federal Reserve expected to raise its rates at their next meeting, economists had predicted that the South African Reserve Bank would follow suit and hike rates by at least 25 basis points. Concerns that the weakness of the rand would impact on inflation had economists expecting that the Reserve Bank would raise the rates to counteract the effects. However, while a higher rate could mitigate the inflation pressure, an excessive rate would slow economic growth and place more pressure on prospective property buyers and homeowners.  
The Reserve Bank had to address the current economic conditions that the market is facing at the moment, however it will be a balancing act to try and counteract inflation pressure while not stunting growth. It is expected that there will definitely be further rate increases during the course of 2016. Prospective property buyers, along with those who currently own property should prepare for this by tighten the reins on their spending habits and building a savings reserve. While those with high debt levels will be adversely impacted by a hiking cycle, those who have saving in place will benefit greatly. 
It is important for consumers to bring down their debt levels and place themselves in the most optimum financial position they can before the next Monetary Committee meeting.
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Show days - Are they worthwhile?Thu 12 Nov 2015

Show days - Are they worthwhile?
With nine out ten property shoppers looking for homes online, many real estate professionals have steered away from having traditional open show days, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. 
“Show days and their worth has become a somewhat controversial debate among agents. While some still believe that show days are an intricate and necessary part of marketing a home successfully, others feel that the marginal success rate coupled with the security risks are just not worthwhile,” says Goslett. 
He notes that there are merits to both sides of the argument. “Regardless of which side of the fence an agent stands on, both opinions have positive and negative attributes. For example, a few advantages of having a show day are visibility and accessibility. It is also possible for show days to save both the agent and the seller some time, as numerous prospective buyers can view the property within the same day. Regardless of which brand is represented by the sign outside the property, buyers will stop in at a show house to see what is on offer if they are interested in buying a property in that area. Another positive aspect is the fact that buyers have the opportunity to personally interact with the agent and ask them any questions they may have regarding the property. The interaction will also open up the chance for the buyer to be put on the agent’s database or make appointments to see other homes within their portfolio of stock,” says Goslett.
In certain instances, show days can be less stressful than a view by appointment strategy. This is because the cleaning and tidying is only done once a week, rather than numerous times to accommodate the potential multiple viewings in the course of the working week. The seller is also not inconvenienced by constantly needing to be home at a certain time or wait around to let buyers who want to view the property in. A show day can sometimes be easier from a logistical point of view. 
According to Goslett, a reason that many agents avoid open show days is the security risk to both themselves and the seller’s property. “With people able to walk into a show house from the street, it leaves it vulnerable to thieves. It is not always possible for the agent to keep an eye on everyone who is looking at the home - this means that it is sometimes easy for valuables to be removed from the home,” he says. “Unfortunately an open house can be a dangerous invitation to the criminal element, providing them with undeterred access to the property. This can put the seller’s and the agent’s safety at risk. There are also those who will come and view the property without any intention of buying, but are merely looking at the home for the entertainment value of it.”
Goslett says that when it comes to formulating the actual success rate of show days, it is very difficult because there is different feedback depending on the area and type of property. He adds that every neighbourhood has a unique demographic and dynamics, which emphasises the importance of working with an agent who understands their micro market. “Certain agents say that the majority of their sales come from buyers who viewed the home during a show day, while others have not sold a property using this method in the last three years. It largely depends on the area and what works there,” says Goslett.
 If not a show day, then what? For sellers and agents who prefer not to have open show days, there are other marketing options. Technology has seen massive advancement over the last decade, with buyers able to access a world of information and properties online. “The majority of prospective buyers have access to the internet via a computer or smart device of some kind. Added to that, property search portals are generally well advertised and very user-friendly. Buyers often appreciate the simplicity of the online resources available to them and how these resources have streamlined the property search process. Many of the best leads in real estate have been generated through online property search portals,” says Goslett. 
“Searching for a property online allows buyers to view and compare properties in their own time and without leaving their home. They can then make appointments to see the homes that they are serious about buying. Prospective buyers who do this know what they are going to see, as opposed to house hunters on Sundays who are looking at any property regardless of their requirements and budget.”
Goslett adds that other simple but effective methods of marketing a property are ‘For Sale’ boards, flyers at busy intersections and newspaper advertisements. He notes that many agents have also embraced the marketing power of social media networks to enhance their connectivity to buyers in the market. 
“Regardless of the method used to sell a home, it is vital that sellers use a reputable agent who has working experience in their area. The right agent will find an effective method to successfully sell the home for the best possible price and within a reasonable time frame,” Goslett concludes.
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Reducing stress during property buyingThu 12 Nov 2015

Reducing stress during property buying
While an exciting chapter in one’s life, buying a home can also be one of life’s most stressful times, says Adrian Goslett, Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of South Africa. “Even though it may mean moving to a bigger and better property, the event of moving homes, while happy, can still be stressful as it is a disruption to a person’s routine. Any life event that affects a person’s routine, such as moving an entire family, can be a cause for stress,” says Goslett. “Packing up and unpacking belongings, finding a new property, dealing with sellers, applying for finance - all of these aspects can add to the stress. One of the key ways to effectively manage stress during the process and to reduce anxiety is proper preparation.”
Goslett provides a few tips to help buyers prepare and reduce their stress levels when purchasing a property:
Select the right agent
Working with an experienced and reputable real estate professional who can help provide guidance through the process will assist to alleviate some of the stress. “As a property professional who deals with the home sale process on a daily basis, an agent can be a highly valuable source of information. Having an experienced agent on hand to answer questions and assist deal with the paperwork can take a lot of pressure off,” says Goslett.
Create a list of wants and needs
Before going out and looking at properties, a prospective homebuyer should sit down and make a list of wants and needs of the features they are looking for in a home. “Buyers who have a clear idea about what they want will save time as they will have narrowed down their options. If buyers know what they are looking for beforehand, they will eliminate being put on the spot, which will also help to reduce anxiety,” says Goslett. 
Get pre-approval
Goslett says that rather than finding the right home and then waiting to see whether or not home loan finance is approved, buyers should go to a bank or bond origination company such as BetterLife Home Loans and request a pre-approval. “Pre-approval allows the buyer to shop for homes within their budget, while eliminating the waiting periods or any unpleasant surprises from lenders,” Goslett adds.
Keep things in perspective
When things seem like they are getting too stressful, it is important to try and look at the situation in perspective.  “Although moving to another home is a life altering experience, it is also an exciting adventure. It is important to find positive aspects about the experience,” says Goslett.   
Focus on something else
Sometimes it is best to take a step back and have a break. “Indulge in something that has nothing to do with the home sale process and requires undivided attention, such as an art class or yoga lesson. This will reduce stress by refreshing the mind and helping to bring about a new perspective on the situation,” says Goslett. 
Try not to take it personally
There will be sellers who reject a perfectly good offer. While it might be difficult to be completely unaffected, it is best not to take it personally and to understand that they have their reasons. 
“Although it might take some time to get established in a new home, it is best to try and get into a routine as soon as possible, especially if children are involved. It won’t be long before all the stress of moving is a thing of the past and the family is enjoying the benefits of their new home,” Goslett concludes.
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