Residential property market is emerging from slump

Cape West Coast leads the revival in home sales

Most of the spokespeople for the Cape’s major real estate agencies have in recent weeks reported that the significant indicators (sale prices, sales numbers, length of time taken to sell and attendances at show houses) now confirm that the residential property market is very definitely emerging from its slump.

So far, so good – but where is the real action taking place? In what areas can buyers expect to see healthy appreciation by the end of this year?

Sumaria van der Berg, Business Development Manager for Rawson Properties’ southern region, is one of the few in a good position to answer that question because she provides backup and support to some 60 Rawson agencies in the Western Cape – and she is very closely in touch with the Institute of Estate Agents’ data service, PropStats.

“The information coming through to us,” said van der Berg, “is positive and is confirmed in almost every case by sales rises in the Rawson agencies in the areas concerned. January saw a new high point reached with over R1 billion in sales in the 160 agencies that report to PropStats – this is probably 65% of the total sales for the Western Cape for that month. This is an indicator of considerable movement in the market bearing in mind that as yet PropStats still does not reflect the total picture as it excludes private sales and some agencies.”

The areas in which the most action had been seen, said van der Berg, were the West Coast enclave between 12 and 20 kilometres north of the city – Blaauwbergstrand, Tableview and Parklands, and the West Coast areas further north: Melkbosstrand, Langebaan, Yzerfontein and Saldanha as well as certain parts of the northern suburbs, notably Welgemoed and Brackenfell.

“The Tableview, Parklands and Blaauwberg figures are particularly impressive,” said van der Berg, “because they showed that average sales prices were within 10% of the asking price, a situation we have not seen for a long time (at the peak of the recession the gap was up to ±20%) and this was achieved despite a 5% rise in prices (to an average of R1,1 million). Furthermore, the average waiting time for a sale was down to 80 to 90 days.

Constantia and Tokai, she added, had also experienced a surprisingly large number of sales for such expensive areas and this was reflected in Rawson franchise figures which in January were over 100% up in the region on January 2009.

Sales of expensive properties have increased to almost double what they were last year in the upmarket price category. This is partly due to the fact that many of these sales are cash and buyers, it seems, are not as adversely affected by the recession as the middle to lower markets.

Van der Berg said that the revival in confidence in property has led to a renewed demand for Rawson franchises, which, she said, it is still possible to satisfy because in the Western Cape Rawson Properties have added about ten new franchise or sub-franchise areas (on top of the 60 already in operation) in which they would like to be represented. The demand to join the Rawson Group, she believes, is partly due to the fact that the group’s turnover increased by over 100% year on year in January 2009 and its being seen as a group with a big future.

“Looking at the situation realistically,” she said, “it is likely that, although a 5 to 10% rise in prices will be seen this year, it will not be before 2013 that we are again in a price boom – but today’s franchise applicants are more sophisticated (there are there by choice rather as a last resort) and they are thoroughly equipped and trained in every aspect of being successful in running a franchise.”

Asked how a rookie franchisee with no previous property experience can hope to qualify under the new rulings, van der Berg said that the law allows her to act as mentor for a year to such people, after which they can write exams and become recognised as registered agents.

“Considerable recognition is given to other educational qualifications and experience and the course, though comprehensive, is not difficult.”

In her own support work to agents, she said, one of the challenges is to get the new agents comfortable and proficient with the “competitive edge, technologically advanced” IT systems that Rawson supply.

“Again,” she said, “these are not difficult to use and, once mastered, enable the agent to use the internet for market research, marketing, pricing, activity management, referral business and client liaison, all of which help him to function more efficiently.”

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