‘Cautious optimism’ for property in South Africa

 ·27 Feb 2024

South Africa is set for a noisy 2024, but there will still be opportunities for sellers, buyers and investors.

Despite 2024 being an election year, Herschel Jawitz, CEO of Jawitz Properties, said that adopting a wait-and-see approach when making big decisions, such as selling or purchasing a property, may be a mistake.

“It’s true that there is uncertainty at the moment, but if you take the time to look, there are opportunities for sellers, buyers and investors. We tend to see only one part of the picture – one needs to take everything into account,” he said,

For instance, inflation is now within the South African Reserve Bank’s target range of 3% to 6%, which should support interest rate cuts.

In 2024, interest rates are expected to drop by between 0.5% and 1%, with the slight reduction expected to help with bond repayments for cash-strapped homeowners and buyers,

Dropping interest rates by only 1% will have the effect of reducing the monthly repayment on a R1 million home loan by R1,000.

Food inflation is also expected to ease, providing further relief on disposable income.

Buyers market

Although South Africa currently faces a slow economy and sluggish property price growth, bank lending remains positive.

Increased competition means that banks are offering below-prime rates for most buyers, with home loan approval rates and deposit requirements remaining steady. This is good news, particularly for first-time buyers.

With South Africa currently in a buyer’s market, sellers will have to pitch their properties at the right level.

Even in the Western Cape, where the market is better in terms of both price and activity, buyers have a possibility of getting better value than would have been possible in the past.

“Buyers are making decisions based on value: ‘Can I get more house for the same money or can I buy for less and still get everything I want.’ Sellers must understand that they are competing with other sellers for a limited pool of buyers,” Jawitz said.

“While sellers might have to take a lower price than wished, they have the corresponding opportunity to buy in the same market.”

Nevertheless, many sellers struggle to accept the price at which they may have to sell their home, particularly if they are moving into a more expensive home.  

“The gap between what you are selling and what you are buying may be substantial, for example, if you’re semigrating to the Western Cape.”

“But when the market turns, the Western Cape property market will rise more quickly and higher than Gauteng’s will.”

“In other words, as the market improves, the gap between what your Gauteng property fetches and what you have to pay in the Cape will expand,” he says. “It’s about relative value, not absolute value in this case.”

Rental market is not going away

The rental market has been strengthened as high interest rates have discouraged many buyers.

Although interest rates may decline in 2024, rental demand will continue to be firm, and rental escalations are expected to outpace the increase in property prices.

Yields for buy-to-let investors are thus expected to improve, specifically in the Western Cape, where demand outstrips supply.

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