Foreign buyers are few and far between

There was a time two or more years ago when residential property estate agencies, some with international connections, earned considerable kudos by publicising impressive figures on the number of foreign buyers to whom they had sold South African property.

That time, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the fast expanding South African property group that carries his name, is now by and large past.

"At present I regret to say we are just not seeing foreign buyers in territories like the Western and Southern Cape where their presence previously - and their ability to buy in the more expensive brackets - very definitely did help to keep prices up."

Sales of upper bracket homes, adds Rawson, have been the hardest hit by the recession and the lack of overseas buyers here has been felt in this sector to a far greater degree than elsewhere.

In the circumstances, he says, the government's investigation some years back into the impact of foreign buying had become almost irrelevant today.

"Those who have had to sell in the upper brackets have been forced to accept fairly drastic price cuts," says Rawson. "For example, a seven bedroom Constantia home originally on the market at R17 million was knocked down recently on auction for R10 million.

"However, it is also true that in this market there are relatively few distressed sellers and those planning to sell are often able to sit back and wait for better times. Prices in areas like Constantia have, therefore, remained fairly satisfactory."

Buyers in South Africa who are not adopting a wait and see attitude (as some are), says Rawson, are currently getting exceptionally good prices - for which, he is convinced, they will later be grateful.

"This applies particularly, I think, to those buying currently in Rawson Properties' three “academic belt” (Rondebosch) multi-unit projects - Rivers Edge, Rondebosch Oaks and The Rondebosch. Buyers here are taking up units at the same pace we saw in the boom years."

Investors, says Rawson, have in recent months been able to arrange bank finance far more easily and at better rates than was possible earlier this year - "and it looks if the trend will continue".

Commending Dr Andrew Golding and his research team at Pam Golding Properties, Rawson says that their publication of the best areas in which to invest is "exactly the sort of information buyers and the whole industry needs. It will very definitely facilitate investor decision making".

The report, says Rawson, once again shows the importance of close proximity to good schools and efficient transport systems as well as upper bracket retail areas. It also emphasises the absolute necessity of increased security for private homes.

A further finding of the report, which, says Rawson, is particularly important and which has reinforced the long-held convictions of many Capetonians, is that the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town have been and are likely to remain the safest and steadiest appreciating place in SA to make a long term property investment.

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