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Landlords: How to Deal with Troublesome Tenants

10 April 2019


Without tenants our investment properties start to lose their income potential and become another outgoing cost, but sometimes troublesome tenants can be more costly than a potential vacancy. So what can you do to ensure any early issues that arise with your tenants don’t turn into a major headache down the road?

Here are some steps you can take before troublesome tenants become unmanageable.

Speak with your property manager early

If your investment property is being managed by a property manager, then chances are they are the ones that have identified the issue. Once identified it’s best to try and resolve the problem early before the matter escalates. Depending on the type of problem, your property manager will be able to guide you on your options but will need you to make final decisions.

For example, if during a routine inspection, minor property damage is found at the fault of your tenant, your property manager will notify you and will also notify your tenants, asking them to rectify the issue at their cost in a specific timeframe.

In cases where the damage is not rectified, your property manager will follow-up with the tenants on your behalf and if need be will guide you through the process of making a claim to have the cost reimbursed from the tenant’s bond, which is why it’s important to have the matter discussed as soon as possible as there are timeframes around this.

Note, the latter process has strict rules around it and it’s best to have a chat with your property manager or receive expert guidance on how to proceed.

Make sure everyone understands their obligations when it comes to rent  

As a landlord, you have entered into a legal contract with your tenant to exchange accommodation in return for payment.

Make sure you’re clear that rent must be paid in full and when it’s to be paid i.e. make sure your tenant knows you won’t accept partial payments. If your property is being property managed, your property manager will make this clear to the tenant from the outset, in writing.

When it comes to rent that has fallen into arrears, there are things to consider before starting formal proceedings, again your property manager will guide you through this process and handle communication on your behalf.

Make sure you are getting regular property condition reports

Property managers know the ins and outs of property condition reporting and can perform these or organise to have them performed on your behalf.

Property condition reports protect you from potential conflict with your tenants down the track by ensuring photos, and detailed descriptions are taken for the property at the start of a lease agreement. This means if any damage is found when the tenant moves on, you’re both protected by a condition report which can easily prove if the damage was existing or not.

Be prepared if a dispute does escalate

If an issue can’t be resolved, a property manager can appear on your behalf to provide evidence and handle complaints which are referred to an administrative tribunal.

Property managers are required to keep detailed records of an agreement, inspections and even conversations, all of which are helpful when disputes escalate. If you are managing your investment property yourself, it’s also a good idea to ensure you keep track of notes made during inspections and conversations.

Budget speech delivers on expectations

10 April 2019


South Africa's Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivered his maiden budget yesterday. It was expected to be a tough budget by many pundits and it certainly delivered on that sentiment. We know that in order for South Africa to achieve positive economic growth Government is going to have to be tougher on state-owned enterprises. This was a central theme for the Minster and he was very clear about the effect these SOE's have on our economy.

What was reassuring was the Minister's clear focus on rebuilding a stagnating economy.  "It is all of our duty to tend the seed and see that it grows strong, tall and fruitful. It is a budget for the future,” he explained.

The past few months consumers have experienced serious financial pressures as costs continue to rise and bleak economic trends affect the activity in most major sectors.
Property was one of those markets that certainly felt the knock-on effects.

The budget, although far more balanced and focused on renewal and growth, it was disappointing that no pressures were relieved on consumers in the property market. The property market is incredibly susceptible to the message and plans in the Budget and how they are instituted.

As predicted VAT remained unchanged at 15% and there was no an increase in personal and corporate income tax. However, the Minister revealed that there would be an increase in fuel levies. Petrol: 29c per
litre and Diesel: 30c per litre. In addition, it is expected that real GDP growth in 2019 will rise to 1.5% and then strengthen to 2.1% in 2021.

If we can see the Minster and the Department stand strong on its desire to clamp down on SOE lending as well as aim to reduce pressure on the consumer, the economy will undoubtedly start to gain ground and we will be able to restore both consumer and investor confidence which in turn translates into increased economic activity.

Statement by
Richard Gray
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer



Choosing your method of sale

3 April 2019


When it comes to the sale of your property, there are more options available to you when choosing a method of sale than simply listing your property for a fixed price. In fact, according to the latest Harcourts figures, the number of auctions being performed around the country is up massively from last year.

So, why are people choosing to sell their homes in this way, and what are the alternatives?


We’ve all read the media commentary about rising house prices, and although there are many theories as to why this is, what it really comes down to are two factors – low supply and high demand.

Auction is the best way of achieving a premium price in a competitive market. Auction involves a short, sharp and intensive marketing campaign of a property without a price. This is to test the market to see what buyers, in a competitive situation, are prepared to pay to become the new owners of that property.

Marketing with a price limits what a keen buyer may pay. Once a listing price has been established for a property, a ceiling has been placed on what a buyer expects to pay for it. Auction, on the other hand, offers a real opportunity to get more for a property than the seller might expect.

What happens if I have chosen to auction my property, and I get an offer before the auction date?

If you wish to accept the pre-auction offer then Harcourts will recommend that you bring forward the auction and contact the other interested parties. The earlier auction can then be held with the acceptable offer as the opening bid. That way if any buyer is prepared to pay more Harcourts can obtain that premium for you.

Price by Negotiation (PBN)

This method of sale can be applied in any of these three ways:

1. No price is advertised. Buyers make offers through the sales consultants.

2. A minimum price may be advertised. Offers above this minimum price are considered by the seller.

3. A price range may be advertised. Offers within this price band are considered.

The benefit of PBN is the level of market interest will help the seller gauge a fair sale price. The ‘no price’ aspect will also attract more genuinely interested, cash-in-hand buyers as well as ensuring the sales price isn’t capped. In contrast, unlike auction and tender there is no sale date or deadline in place so there is no urgency placed on buyers to make a buying decision.

Another benefit of PBN is that this method creates competition between buyers, and this gives the seller the opportunity for stronger negotiating with potential buyers. 

Fixed Price

This means that a property is listed with a definite price. If the property is priced correctly it will attract a lot of interest, and in some cases have multiple offers resulting in a premium sale price. The fixed price also gives the buyer a price guideline and allows for a property search by price on real estate websites.

However it is easy to over or under price the property and buyers may discount the property without inspecting it, judging it solely on the price. This can effectively limit the market for that property.


Tender works in a similar way to the auction system, except there is no public auction day. Instead, tenders or offers close at a specific time on a specific date.

Tender presents another opportunity for sellers to create a competitive situation without stating a listing price. They set the terms, conditions and the deadline, and prospective buyers have only one opportunity to put forward their most competitive offer.

The seller doesn’t necessarily have to accept the highest price. They can choose to negotiate with any of the tenderers to achieve a satisfactory conclusion.

So, when you’re considering how to sell your property, take the time to work out which method suits you and your circumstances before making a decision, also take the time to discuss the best options for your property with your real estate agent. As property experts, Harcourts can help to advise you on the method of sale that’s going to work well for your property.

Petrol price hikes' potential effect on the property market

20 March 2019


Consumers who are already under financial pressure and in a price pinch due to food cost highs, transport cost increases, stricter banking lending

Sources are saying the department of energy published information today that the price of gasoline 93 ULP & LRP in Gauteng might increase by 26 cents per liter in the first week of October with the price of diesel expected to rise by 37 cents per liter.

Today's reports that fuel prices are expected to rise even further in October, largely due to the sharp rise in crude oil price, will definitely have an effect on the property market.

andThe residential sale market is not usually susceptible to short-term changes like fuel price increases and decreases

The greater effect on the rental market in the past has been that the demand for rental properties close to business districts, schools and amenities also increases in an attempt to curb excessive transport costs.

The rental market might experience it directly as it is usually more prone to react to economic fluctuations. The difference usually comes in where people who rent are able to make changes to their financial situation by scaling down their home choices. Whereas a home owner’s process cannot be changed quickly.

other macroeconomic factors will feel it even harder.


however there are a percentage of buyers balancing on the decision whether to buy now or not who might be more hesitant to make a financial commitment now. However, short term cycles usually don’t play a major role.

Statement by Richard Gray






Report states households are getting richer

13 March 2019

Despite the economic climate in South Africa being under pressure and to a certain extent unpredictable, according to the Momentum-Unisa SA Household Wealth Index the worth of households grew by 3.9% between the fourth quarter of 2015 and first quarter of 2016, with an increase of R67.8-billion.

The reason for the increase in household wealth, according to the report, is due to fewer liabilities, which means people are paying their debts a lot faster.


What is interesting to note is that the index showed that 25.6% of gross income is now going to paying off debt which is up from 23.1% in 2015.

Household debt has also reduced due to the sustained low interest rates that we have seen. We certainly hope that the South African Reserve Bank will keep interest rates at 7% this week when they meet.


As consumers consolidate their debt and pay it off faster they become more financially independent which opens up opportunities for them to acquire debt that acts as an investment, like property.  It is very good news that South African's are acting more responsibly and cutting down on excessive consumer spending. With stricter lending criteria enforced by banks consumers need to maintain a good credit record for private and commercial investment chances.

In an emerging economy it is good to protect yourself against external economic forces so you are shielded from drastic market fluctuations.


Statement by
Richard Gray
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer



Budget 2019: What it means for the property industry

6 March 2019


Richard Gray - CEO of Harcourts Africa

"We know that in order for South Africa to achieve positive economic growth Government is going to have to be tougher on state-owned
 enterprises. This was a central theme for the Minster and he was very clear about the effect these SOE's have on our economy."

 "What was reassuring was the Minister's clear focus on rebuilding a stagnating economy. "It is all of our duty to tend the seed and see that it 
 grows strong, tall and fruitful. It is a budget for the future,” he explained."

"If we can see the Minster and the Department stand strong on its desire to clamp down on SOE lending as well as aim to reduce pressure on the consumer, the economy will undoubtedly start to gain ground and we will be able to restore both consumer and investor confidence which in turn translates into increased economic activity."



Eight steps to prepare your house for sale

13 February 2019



Consider your house no longer a home, but a retail shopfront. Customers are coming to browse. Everything – from kitchen countertops to bathroom vanities to the garage and your backyard – should be clear of all unnecessary items. You want potential buyers to focus on the best features of your home not stuff, so pack up, give away or throw away everything that clutters or distracts.

This should go without saying, so we’ll just leave it at that.

When a buyer inspects a house, they are visualising what it would be like to move in and live there, a task made difficult if you leave personal items such as family photos, sporting trophies or religious décor. Pack these away and give your potential buyers a free slate for their imagination.

4.Curb appeal
We all know about the importance of first impressions. What will set the scene for your house when potential buyers either drive past, or drive in to your driveway? Front gardens, driveways, gutters, windows, mailboxes and fences all tell a story. Don’t make it a horror story!

Imagine this. The door handle comes off as you try to enter the bedroom. You turn on the light that doesn’t work and listen as the ceiling fan makes an irritating screeching sound as it rotates. No handyman is required to fix so many little things that can annoy a potential buyer out of signing a contract.

6.Clear pathways
Don’t turn your potential buyers into Jackie Chan. Buyers should not be doing their own stunts just to look through your property. Make sure there’s clear pathways between rooms to make their visit a no-fuss, pleasant experience free of commando rolls.

Time for a light bulb moment! When potential buyers walk into your bathroom and look in the mirror, soft, warm lighting can make it a more pleasant experience than it may be otherwise. In other parts of your house such as living areas, bright, white lighting will make the rooms appear bigger and more inviting. Also, think about which rooms will best be served by leaving blinds either open or closed.

This follows hard on the heels of the “clean” point (above) – a clean house is less likely to assault the nasal passages of unsuspecting visitors. The urban myth is to fill your house with odours of home cooking, but the research is in. Over-bearing smells don’t sell, not matter how delicious your scones. Instead, “hints” of fresh natural odours help to sell, such as orange, lemon, pine, basil, cedar, vanilla and cinnamon.

Time is a valuable commodity, and that’s what you will mostly spend if you follow these tips in preparing your property for sale. So spend wisely, and you could be rewarded with a quicker sale or a higher-than-expected selling price.


What you need to know about electric fence certificates.

6 February 2019

Most homeowners know by now that they must have a valid Electrical Compliance Certificate (ECC)  if they want to sell, because their property can’t be transferred to a new owner without one.

What they may not know, however, is that they are actually required to have an ECC at all times – and required to get a new one every two years, or whenever any alterations or additions are made to the electrical system on their property – whether or not they are planning to sell. 

And even more importantly, they need to know that if they have any electric fencing on their property – as so many people do these days - they are required to hold a separate compliance certificate stating that this installation complies with certain prescribed safety standards. 

This fact has not been the Safety Act in 2011. These regulations provide for all electric fences installed after 1 October 2012 to be certified and have an electric fence certificate of compliance (EFCC). In addition, any older electric fence system that has been altered or added to since that date must be certified, as must the electric fence on any property that has changed hands since that date, no matter how old it is. well-publicized or explained, but it has in fact been the law since new Electrical Machinery Regulations were added to the Occupational health and

And on top of that, the law states that only those contractors who are accredited by the SA Electric Fence Installers Association (What is means, in effect, is that everyone whose old electric fence has needed anything more than minimal repairs since 1 October 2012, and everyone who bought a home with an electric fence after that date, must have a valid EFCC. SAEFIA) may legally erect, repair and certify electric fences.

However, EFCCs are different from ECCs in that they are not required to be renewed every two years, and are transferrable. In other words, homeowners who have a valid EFCC and whose electric fence system has not been added to or altered since it was issued can pass the certificate straight on to the new owner when they sell their property. 

Nevertheless, it is worth inserting a clause into the sale agreement to make it quite clear that there have been no additions or alterations to the fencing system since the EFCC was issued and that the certification thus remains valid, and property sellers should ask their estate agents to do this. 

Meanwhile, in the case of sectional title properties, the consensus of legal opinion is that an electric fence erected on the common property forms part of the common property and is therefore owned in undivided shares by the sectional owners in the scheme, as per the Sectional Titles Act. In other words, the body corporate is the “owner” of the fence and must make sure it is property certified. 

It follows from this that when a sectional title unit is sold, it should not be necessary for the seller to produce an individual EFCC for the buyer – just a copy of the valid certificate that is held by the body corporate. 

As for the potential consequences for those who don’t have valid ECCs or EFCCs, these can be quite dire, so it really is not a matter that should be neglected.     

If a property incurs any damage as a result of an electrical fault, for example, the owner will be required to produce a valid ECC to validate the claim against his homeowner’s insurance – and could obviously face serious financial losses if he does not have one. 

Failure to obtain an EFCC, on the other hand, could result in a hefty fine or even imprisonment for up to a year. 

And of course, the worst thing of all would be if someone was injured or killed on your property because your electrical installation was not safe – and you did not know it was dangerous because it had not been properly checked and certified.


Statement by


Richard Gray

Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer




How to spot a worthwhile fixer-upper

  30 January 2019


With homes prices on the rise again in most popular areas of South Africa, more buyers 
 are open to the idea of acquiring a "fixer-upper” property that will allow them to gain
 cheaper entry to their favorite area in return for some of their own labor or “sweat

 “Indeed, buying a home that needs some work is a tried-and-tested formula for getting
 more house for your money, especially if you’re handy and enjoy DIY,” says Richard Gray,
 CEO of Harcourts Real Estate South Africa, “but you do need to be able to tell the
 difference between a property that is worth working on and one that would cost more to fix
 then it will ever be worth.

 “Even if you plan to live in the home for several years, you need to evaluate it as if you
going to sell it immediately after fixing it up. In other words, you don’t want to have to
 spend any more on it than the amount that would bring it up to the current average
 market value for the area.”


So, what you should be looking for, he says, are properties that require cosmetic fixes and have been somewhat discounted to allow for those, and homes that may require more work but are structurally sound and where the seller is willing to negotiate a good deal.

“And this is where the help of a trained and experienced agent who is familiar with your chosen area can prove invaluable. Tell this agent what you would be willing to look at – or rather ‘look past’ – and he or she should be only too willing to help you. After all, shabby and neglected properties are the hardest to sell, and it’s not every day they have someone specifically looking for just such a home.”

To help fixer-upper buyers, Harcourts has compiled a list of items that are relatively inexpensive to fix - and may just give you the leverage to acquire a hidden beauty of a home in your dream location. These include:

  • Faded paintwork, worn carpets, scuffed and scarred countertops, old light fittings and an overgrown garden, which are all to be found in homes where the owners didn’t want to invest any more time or money prior to selling – and where all that is really needed are a few purchases from the hardware and home improvement stores, some spadework and a good clean to bring it up to standard.
  • An ugly cloak over good structural “bones”. Sometimes all it takes is to get rid of badly-planned or executed additions and renovations to expose a well-designed home that you can return to its attractive original form. The seller will need to be willing, though, to discount the property considerably.
  • Roof leaks and stained ceilings. Both these problems can usually be solved by putting on a new roof – that may also create an opportunity to open a dated or dark interior by leaving the beams exposed to roof height and perhaps installing some skylights.
  • Bathrooms that are more than retro. Provided the plumbing is sound, it is easy to update a bathroom now with a huge range of shower, bathtub and vanity options on offer, and the cost of specialist tiling and flooring labour is relatively low.
  • An old kitchen. Replacing a whole kitchen is one of the most expensive renovations you can undertake – especially if you have to make plumbing and electrical changes - but also one of the best in terms of return on your money and improving the liveability and appeal of an older home.
  • Small rooms and dark interiors. You will need professional advice before you do this, but by taking out non-load bearing walls, you may well be able to create one modern open-plan living area out of two or three smaller rooms. And if it’s lighter you need, installing bigger windows and sliding doors will usually solve the problem – provided, once again, that the purchase price is right.

However, says Gray, there are some problems that just can’t be fixed, no matter how much you spend, and you need to be sure that the fixer-upper you have your eye on has none of these or it will just become a money-pit.

“They include serious structural problems, cracks and shifts due to problems with the foundations or local geology; major fire, flood, wind or earthquake damage; drainage, flooding or damp problems due to poor sitting; and signs of serious soil erosion or land slippage nearby, especially if the property is on a slope.”





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Expect more property developments in 2019

23 JANUARY 2019

  During 2018 the South African property market was under immense pressure. We saw many agents having to reinvent their
  strategies in an attempt to to grow their businesses. Some were also forced to evolve as the man on the street consumes
  information differently. However, there were certain areas that performed well, developments being one. Across the major
  metros developments took center stage as a lot of investment and high demand seemed to defy the downward trend of the
  property landscape. And without a doubt, this will continue throughout 2019.

The large scale investment injections into city living is certainly very exciting and much needed. We've seen how incredible the
 major commercial and residential property 
developments in places like the inner city of Cape Town and Johannesburg are
 transforming the CBDs. There is a real effort to make properties available and a effort to revitalize certain areas as well as boost already booming regions.  On the other side of the spectrum we are seeing well sought-after communities growing even more. According to reports property developers' goals are to meet the demand for housing in  areas like Sandton and surrounds. Many of these properties appeal to first-time buyers,  business executives working in the greater Sandton area as well as investors seeking an asset that will show positive appreciation and rental returns.

We expect the push to develop certain areas to continue. Especially due to the appeal of these properties. Many people view them as safer because of stringent security strategies. Also, there is often a community aspect to lifestyle estates and developments - children playing in the park and getting to know your neighbours. We've seen how the inclusion of a management body and property guidelines assist properties to have a long-term investment life.

The often overlooked aspect that certain developments bring to a community is the increased economic activity. In areas like Somerset West in Cape Town, there are developments almost the size of suburbs. This attracts commercial interest to the region, increasing employment and business growth opportunities and ensuring the local economy has a chance to grow.


Statement by
Richard Gray 
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer