OPPORTUNITY BEGS [Part 3]

In Part 1 we used the acronym of COVID to good effect. Our COVID stands for:

Concentrate On Victory In Defeat

We said that using a crisis for victory, means that although you are not exempt from it and may even be infected, you use every ounce of your energy for two things:

  • To protect yourself, those closest to you, and those beyond.
  • To learn from the crisis and then begin to plan for life after the crisis.

Point is, you don’t plan for the crisis but through it. It is a juncture, a point in time, an event that can precipitate change if you isolate but don’t hibernate if you lift your head and don’t succumb to defeat.

Your immediate three actions are:

Hygiene. Isolation. Test [if you get a dry cough and sense a fever].

In Part 2 we considered some gifts that are human and precious:

Choice. Family. Panic vs Patience. Levelling. Connectivity.

We concluded with these thoughts:

  • Coronavirus begs a response from us. It is business unusual. We now have time to change where change is needed.
  • Character is refined in a crucible.
  • Choose Family. Be Patient. Allow yourself to be levelled. Stay connected.

I have had positive feedback from some readers. But in receiving that, I cannot describe how I didn’t want it in the sense that right now, I’d prefer to be writing about a rebounding market and interest rate drops and recovering businesses as staff return to them. What do I say in Part 3 to businessmen and women who are facing a financial crisis? How do I explain away Moody’s Ba1 Negative Watch rating and that the Nedbank share price is R67? Right now, to me the only good news on the horizon is a R2 reduction in the fuel price.

Most of my readers I imagine are businessmen and women. Anyone who has had the courage to step out from corporate salaries and face the prospect of commission-based sales as an originator, an estate agent, an estate agency or a conveyancer is a businessperson, in fact, an entrepreneur deluxe.

Let me tread this water as humbly and hopefully as I can:

    1. Saleable, Scalable, Sustainable: Being clever in hindsight is not my style. But allow me this one look in the review mirror. No matter how small or big you are, these three things are a guiding light for business.
      • Saleable implies that you are building a business that someone else will buy whenever you begin to prepare to sell it. Of course, this does not apply to sole traders other than you have a database of relationships built over years and you “sell” that in different ways. Financial brokers value their forward annuities from clients. Doctors sell a practice with known incomes over a previous period which it would be up to the buyer to retain. Principals would do the same.Large businesses would have developed structures of mangers to make the entity saleable without the original founders involved, and then the past income multiples would kick in. The only point I make is that this process takes time and strategy to work out for your business but don’t lose sight of the value you have built up over time through hard work.
      • Scaleable: Point here is that it would be preferable if your business was scaleable. Investors buy income streams, but they also often buy expansion opportunities. How many estate agency offices do you think Seeff started with? One. How many today? “Over 200” says Google with 1200 agents. Not bad for a company founded in 1964. Whether scaleable by opening branches, licensees, franchises, etc, it really doesn’t matter. Think about the scalability of your business and follow the strategy with intention.
      • Sustainable: This is the hardest one for me right now. Let me handle it away from our property focus. Edcon [Edgars opened its doors in Joubert Street, Johannesburg in 1929 and now incorporates JET stores], is in trouble again. I got to meet its CEO, Grant Patterson, who is ex-Spar and -Massmart, back in the days I managed Nedbank’s Card Acquiring division. He’s been overseeing the turnaround at Edcon. My heart broke for him on Thursday when he wept as he told all his Suppliers that Edcon does not have the money to pay them. Briefly, Edcon has R400m and that is needed to pay staff who cannot work during lockdown and by end of this period, Edcon will be R800m shy of budgeted turnover. Without a fresh capital injection by shareholders, Edgars and JET will finally be no more. He has been praised by some suppliers for having the courage to face them with the news instead of, as some have done, sending a cold “we-have-a-problem” letter to suppliers. While off the focus, the SOE’s have proven a disgrace for the government. Imagine the R100’s of billions used to save them being in the bank right now for COVID measures. R16bn is still set aside for SAA. For what? Com’on, shut it down. Richard Branson’s Virgin Airlines is asking for a rescue package and the USA’s airline industry is taking $60bn in rescue from the $2trillion package signed off yesterday. How do you think SAA is going to fly again? Right now surely the only sensible thing left, seems to be to salvage those businesses with a fighting chance and close the rest, thus giving the staff decent retrenchment packages. Heaven help us!These real-life dramas dramatically speak to Sustainability. Essentially, being sustainable is having money in the bank when times get tough and enough of it to survive commercial storms. Today the question is how much it would take to survive coronavirus for each of us in business?
    2. Caring for the assets: Many owners pay lip-service to their most important asset. Intentions dictate People but behaviour may demonstrate more inanimate things. In financial services, very little beyond brand and technology has much value. We are people-orientated and people-intense businesses; you just have to walk through a conveyancer’s office to realise that. I put to you that if you care for the Hero, the business, as I described in Part 2, then you will naturally care for the employees.When all is said and done and the virus is dead, your people will return to work. Some may have expected compensation, but I’m positive that loyalty will increase with having been cared for to the best of the owners’ ability. I’m not a cynic who says if you want loyalty, buy a dog; I have experienced gratitude even in instances where tough calls were made. People appreciate people – care as much as you can for your employees. After all, they are probably the reason why you got where you did in the first place.
    3. Protect the Hero: The business gives returns to the investors and employees to the staff. In that sense, if your actions sustain the business through the tough times, it may not come through unscathed, but it may come through. In doing so, however, downscaled, it will continue to offer returns and employment for many years to come. Here is the rub: What is needed to sustain your people and keep even a remnant of the business alive? Monitoring what you have in the bank, allowing for a high percentage of non- or short-payment from debtors who have their own predicaments, providing for delays in conveyancing and registration, and then looking at your costs, is your best estimate of how much you need to survive.This principle is no different for individuals and I have no doubt thousands of people are planning to delay their debt repayments in order to fund themselves or their businesses. No wonder Nedbank’s share price has plunged to R67 [by the way, it was R54 after the crisis of the early-2000’s]. Your finances will be tested to the hilt and you may need to make terrible calls way before you hit rock-bottom. And remember, you need to act sooner rather than later to ensure you’re not too late. At a national level, as an example, I can’t help but feel it’s too late for SAA. What I have written before when discussing these matters is that the business that survives continues to employ for many years. The originators and so many other stakeholders in the property industry bear testimony to this truth. Some I can think of right now have flourished even more in the last decade than before the Sub-Prime crisis.
    4. Protect your brand: Your brand, both personal and business, is the beacon by which others know you personally and commercially. Whatever you do, protect your brand. Openness, optimism, pre-emptive actions, foresight, understanding, consideration, humility and courtesy, to name but a few attributes, are the characteristics that matter most.You and your business can have those attributes. What also happens in a crisis is that people lose sight of these human and business qualities. Psychologists doing Management interventions test you often at your limits; it’s there that fuses shorten, negative instincts exhibit and the real “me” come to the fore. Especially be honest with your people. Many of them know your business as well as you do. Tell them the truth as best as you understand it, they will value your transparency.
    5. Make contingencies: There is an old term: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It’s not helpful at the extremes as very often the real scenario occurs between the two. The only way I know to deal with this is by using probabilities. Using base case as normal business, you need to assign probabilities to income, debtor repayment and creditors’ willingness to assist. These probabilities would then give you a worse case and then a worst case. At these cases, the amount you need to survive the storm becomes calculable.Some things from experience:
      • This exercise almost seems puerile to discuss. It is really obvious. However, the reason why I mention it is because we may become paralysed by anxiety and spend more time worrying than acting. The exercise helps you focus on what needs to be done and when. Action casts out fear.
      • Don’t delay. If you need facilities, arrange them. If you need debt relaxation, ask; there is nothing lenders hate more that borrowers who duck and dive their payments – talk, restructure, arrange to pay a minimal amount. And if you need to shed costs, shed them before it is too late.
      • A planned reduction in overheads proportionate to turnover may become a hallmark of your leadership in a crisis. Watching the originators who survived 2008-2010 and then diversified their businesses into auxiliary financial services, they have done very well and are now better poised with more annuity income to ride this storm.
    6. Working remotely: We have talked about this phenomenon since the invention of the computer. The internet raised the opportunity. It was interesting to hear the CEO of Verizon talking about his 135000 global workforces working remotely as far as possible. What he also shared was the upgrades to their systems to enable corporate-orientated bandwidths to be upscaled for domestic traffic; a project to which they allocated $500m. How do you now manage? – no coffee meetings, no MBWA, no social occasions, no physical meetings. I’ve never done this, but I am now chairing boards virtually at least until end-April and finding it tough. I tend to watch people and facilitate meetings accordingly, now, especially with some line-loss, I find myself interrupting more frequently. Here are some of my thoughts:
      • Monitor technology links real-time.
      • I would have a virtual meeting first thing every morning to uncover needs for each role.
      • I would contact individual staffers to ensure their anxieties are aired. This would not be forced but a natural conversation between “friends”.
      • I would check myself daily for stress. As intimated above, unnatural circumstances affect behaviour. “You can’t preach the measles if you’ve got the mumps”, said one of my pastors years ago. Even though your time is face-only time, your eyes and voice will resonate unease. Calm down as a daily routine.
      • Manage your expectations. Nothing changes in delivery required to satisfy your clients. They may make some allowances, but don’t assume they will; retain standards of performance and especially, business risks management.
      • For the rest, be yourself. “This too will pass” must be our mantra as we deal some of the shocking revelations from every information source.

In conclusion, this has been very difficult to write. People matter and I’m writing to and about people with as much empathy as I can muster. But we must prevail and prevail we will.

Homeloan Junction is in this with you. We are not immune in the least and have uncertainty at every turn. However, we salute those of you working from home. Thank you for your support. We assure you of ours. Please keep in touch and let us know how things are going.

We trust God’s protection on you and your families.

Yours in Property.

DR ANDREW GOLDING ON SONG

I had the pleasure of attending a Pam Golding function in Hermanus. In greeting Andrew, I complimented his Mother who was the Founder of Pam Golding Properties over 40 years ago. An outstanding lady and businesswoman who drove a powerful ethos into Pam Golding estates over her many years. I believe she also oversaw the transformation of Pam Golding from an elite-area agency to an agency for “the normal man”, bringing all the class and expertise to that market’s operation without detracting from the sophisticated positioning of the Pam Golding brand.

She also oversaw the transition from her own dynasty to her son as the guardian and driver of the business into the future. I’m sure she was tough on her “boy” as he too transferred from Medicine to Property to take his place in an arena he had no doubt grown up in around the dinner table. With genuine praise, he has done that very well indeed, continuing to uphold Pam Golding as one of the iconic businesses in our industry.

He had a team thereof himself, Golding’s economist and Strauss Daly, the attorneys. Here’s a synopsis of what they spoke about. A little parochial but I’ll add some comments at times.

  1. Properties are moving given that Sellers are getting realistic as regards the value of their property in the current market.
  2. Prices are down about 20% compared with one year ago. Secure estates flying in the range <R2.5m. This is attributable to the continued perceived security threat but also due to downscaling from larger properties.
  3. Stellenbosch is flying with this town being the #1 Pam Golding office in the country.
  4. The value of a house that lingers on the market declines at 1.5% per month. This was an amazing comment that I have heard but never taken too seriously. I can now understand why friends have removed their homes from the market and then put them back on.
  5. House prices slowing are slowing which we all know but seemingly at a slower rate according to the latest research. 
  6. 7% (14% in my opinion) of house sales are for the purpose of emigrating. But, according to Andrew, many sellers are not actually leaving but are rather renting and then investing in golden VISA countries eg Malta and Mauritius. Apparently, the latter country is very active indeed.
  7. Semigration has slowed to Cape Town. People are now choosing PE and Durban for similar lifestyles but with much more property value. PE is now the top growth market for house prices, whilst Cape Town has been declining rapidly
  8. Hermanus [I knew we would get a mention ] is now attracting young buyers in the <R2.5m price range. As I experienced in George many years ago, many people place their families here but then fly to work in Joburg or internationally. Hermanus is beginning to carry value in all price ranges but I can attest to the 20% reduction in asking prices. I have two examples this month of sellers of newly built or renovated homes just getting their cost price or a little less after commission.
  9. Andrew agrees with us that a primary underpin of sales these days is the willingness of banks to lend. Their growing or defending of market share is driving sales.
  10. This slide caught my imagination. Consumer Confidence = The Great Depression. That is really sobering and I’m not sure how we’re selling anything if that is empirically true.
  11. First-time homeowners are changing the structure of the market. Millennials are moving to growth points eg Claremont.  Pods, which I experienced at the new Dubai airport some time ago and read about in Japan, are being built and sold. R1m buys you 24m2!! A parking bay then sets you back a further R250000. Point is that if you have a hectic social life or choose to avoid the traffic every day, such an investment may be realistic. Rental pools exist in these apartments if you wish to “timeshare” your unit.
  12. The Retirement market is robust which is quite obvious for two reasons: We’re ageing and many people cannot consider going offshore. KZN is repositioning itself to these buyers but the Western Cape is still outperforming all other markets. 
  13. 10 of the top estates are in the Western Cape.
  14. House prices remain at an absolute premium within 500m of the sea.
  15. The Coronavirus has the potential to infect 58% of the global population.  The only good news on this point is that deaths from infection are only 1%. Small comfort
  16. Ramaphosa is not as strong as we need him to be, neither as a leader nor as a politician. We are advised to watch the upcoming ANC NGC.
  17. Asked about property values, we are all waiting with bated breath – to downgrade or not to downgrade, that is the question. However, Andrew is realistic when he says that a downgrade will have negative sentiment value if nothing else. The hope is no downgrade but if so, it will affect property values.
  18. A fascinating statistic from Japan: 30% of houses are empty as older people move out to smaller properties. 


Andrew was asked about EWC. His answers were sensible. Firstly, that he hopes the matter will be settled between the Executive and the courts in such a way that recourse to the courts is allowed so that sensitive matters can be handled properly. Secondly, that we should not expect residential property to be included; it is occupied and used-for-purpose and any attempts to do so would be sensational. Thirdly, that land redistribution is an unfortunate consequence of our past but if handled correctly by ALL, he would hope it contributes to a lasting solution and economic prosperity in our country. The question is obviously on his mind and he answered it in a very level-headed manner as any business leader should.

In closing, the presentation was a privilege to attend and a feast of information. It is quite obvious that the global property market is experiencing enormous change. A friend of mine who is emigrating to the UK has been watching the guesthouse market very closely. Many of them, up to 11-bedroom, B&B’s of about UKP500000, have been on the market for 18 months or more. It seems that kind of money is not readily available, but on the other hand, perhaps Brexit has been hurting tourists and landlords alike.

Yours in Property.

SAA and PROPERTY

On Tuesday I flew to Joburg for business. Boarding my usual redeye Kulula flight, I was struck by the SAA plane parked next to us. The stairs were pulled up but not engaged and the pilots’ windows were frosted by early morning dew. Obviously, that plane was going nowhere and that had been so for some time. Isn’t it sad that two unions could cause that 15000 employees received half their pay and, according to management, the other half and their 13th cheque [?] will be paid next week.

The only thing I can see as good in all of this is that the unions have again highlighted the travesty of management’s incompetence and corruption including poverty, illness-pleading Dudu Myeni and that DPE has stood firm on not funding the business. To the latter point, where the R2bn rescue-package comes from I have no idea.

Property isn’t flying either but in my bones, I feel something is happening. Property is caught up in the economic malaise but I’m really hoping we won’t need business rescue. Reading the latest research, Standard Bank lends some substance to my emotions in their Property Research on 14 November 2019:

Bottom seems in sight — but a long recovery awaits

Nominal house price growth, per our inhouse Standard Bank House Price Index (HPI), ticked up to 4.0% y/y in October, from 3.7% y/y in September. HPI growth was 0.5% m/m, after contracting 0.3% m/m over the same time. Still, house price growth has struggled to grow at rates similar to last years because of SA’s sustained weak economic fundamentals such as rising unemployment rates, labour market uncertainty, and depressed confidence.


You know, coming off a previous month’s negative house price growth, I’ll take anything on the upside. I’m also acutely aware of the previously reported record month in Origination. That flows through to every market player and is such amazing news. In Hermanus, there is something abuzz. From the “dead” and “if only someone would phone in” to “there’s something happening”.

A home was sold to Americans at a good price in the scheme of things. A local paid R6.9m for a 1-bed home on the golf estate. The town is buzzing and occupancies are projected at 80% over Season compared with 30-50% last year. It seems relative social calm and the full dams is having a positive effect. “Bottom seems in sight” is a really good headline from a major bank and it’s a damn side better than we’ve seen for a long time.

The SARB interest rate decision was excellent in my opinion. 0.25% is neither here nor there and at 3/2 in the voting, it was an exceptionally close call. Very interesting to see that FNB Commercial Property called a reduction mainly as a result of benign inflation and no particular cost pressures in the medium-term. Being wrong in these times is not unforgivable as the SARB had to choose conservatism in the light of Ratings gloom.

Last Friday’s negative watch by S&P was a case in point and reading the IMF’s urgency this week leaves no room for doubt as to content and speed of the reforms required to spur growth. We are headed for a fiscal cliff if we don’t cut debt. In my last blog I said SAA was a dry run for Eskom.

In the manner it’s turning out, I am left a little bemused. A salary increase of 5.9% with a promise of the 8% if the specially appointed consultant can find the necessary cost reductions, is half-pregnant. On the other hand, Solidarity’s serving papers for business rescue still need to be responded to by the government. I would be amazed politically if they succeed but commercially, I cannot see any other option than to shut SAA down. “Half-pregnant” is that feeling you get when increases are being given and business rescue to avoid total collapse, is imperative.

Durban, my ex-favourite city, is lifting off. I believe it’s the warm water. FNB believes semi-gration has now moved eastwards; maybe we call it “easti-gration” ☺. Cape Town has had its time but now Durban is the new playground of Gauteng. Spurred on by the easier access of the airport and the new beachfront promenade, property prices may outperform the country. FNB’s Commercial Property Insights of 20 November 2019, talk to the point and even if they’re half-right, residential property will follow commercial property as people are employed. Hold thumbs, every region could do with a lift!

And here’s a thought from ABSA to leave you a little perplexed. In their Homeowner Sentiment Index, 23 October 2019, they have this to say:

Positive sentiment regarding conditions in the South African residential property market was somewhat lower in the third quarter of 2019 compared with the second quarter, despite a cut in lending rates in late July and a rebound in economic growth in the second quarter after a contraction in the first quarter.

To be honest, I’d take anything that started off with “positive sentiment” but it’s a bit of a downer to read that it’s “lower”. I’m feeling more and more that 2019 will be a year of highs and lows. The net result of that is the old story of the half-full glass. Half-full or half-empty? Always the question, the answer of which is loaded with insight and meaning. With it comes the issue of what I can control and what is out of my hands. When I read today that Donald has signed a pro-protesters Bill into law that commits the USA to support the Hong Kong protesters, what am I to do with the fact that it has made China raving mad?

I mean let’s face it, you or I are victims or benefactors in such a global play. All we can really do is decide if it might affect us and how, and then determine to drive our businesses like an upswing is coming until we feel ourselves lifting with the tide. HLJ encourages you. We swim in the same sea and fish in the same ponds.

We have feelings of euphoria and discouragement just like you. But we remain committed to honest, hard-working success and want you to experience that as well.

Have a Kulula moment and fly!

Yours in Property

A MIXED BAG

We celebrate Spring Day on 1 September 2019. But really Winter is from Friday, 21 June to 23 September. From the 23rd, our nights begin to shorten and our days lengthen. Nature comes alive and I wish I could send you some of the pictures and videos that I have received. You can Google the Cape flowers and feast your eyes.

Bottom line, sunshine raises our spirits and gets us out of bed earlier in the morning. We know the property market also adjusts upwards seasonally from October to early December, literally like night follows day. Enjoy the Sales!

With this brightness in mind, we cover a few excerpts of articles that are really interesting.

#ImStaying has hit the ground running with 330000 members and growing. In a Businesstech article dated 30 September 2019, #ImStaying is Spreading, 5 reasons were given for people not leaving the country:

Popular for reasons for staying include:

 

  • Diversity – A number of people on the group praised the country’s diversity – including South Africa’s multilingualism and the fact that people of different races are living side-by-side after years of apartheid. Commenters also praised the ‘mish-mash’ of cultures which makes the country unlike anywhere else in the world.
  • Family – A number of commenters indicated that they intend to stay in the country due to strong familial ties. Many posters indicated that they also have an ‘extended’ family including friends, colleagues, and employees who make them want to stay.
  • Quality of life – A large number of posters indicated that South Africa has some of the best weather and landscapes in the world. People also praised the general quality of life including friendly people, food culture, and the activities available to them.
  • Career – A number of people indicated that they remained in the country due to their jobs. Some posters indicated that they were proud to contribute to the economy, while others said that they received great personal satisfaction from their work.
  • Natural beauty – people also love South Africa’s natural beauty, including the beaches, mountains, and the many game reserves full of wildlife. The country is also being praised as having the perfect weather.

The page has garnered significant traction on social media and currently has over 330,000 members as of Monday (30 September).

The first reason is my best. The South African national motto is:

!ke e: / xarra //ke
Written in the Khoisan language of the /Xam people and literally means, Diverse People Unite. It calls upon each individual’s effort to harness the unity between thought and action and ourselves. Our old motto was, Unity is Strength. How the two make much sense for a united South Africa. I often hear that what unites us is greater than what divides us – we long for that to dawn on each of our people.

Last time I wrote I said,

“…next time you’re at the braai, think about tossing in just one morsel of Hope to the conversation…

Above are five good reasons to remain in South Africa and be part of the solution.

Our President has started a weekly newsletter to the nation. That’s going to be interesting. I like the fact that he is positive whilst being a realist. That must be a tough ask after the weekend NEC at which Tito Mboweni, our Finance Minister, tabled his latest economic turnaround plan. However, Businesstech today [30 September] in an article, What you need to know about the state of South Africa: Ramaphosa, quoted him:


“Concerns are real. This year, the economy will record growth that is lower than expected (and much lower than what we need). Government finances are stretched about as far as they can go, and several industries are looking at retrenching workers.”

Ramaphosa added that much of the country’s confidence has dissipated as the reality of the country’s problems become clearer.

“This confidence was born out of the hope that we would quickly undo the damage that was done over a number of years. Implementing change does take time,” he said.

In isolation, that’s an understatement. However, he is telling us that changing things takes time. The pace of change is too slow for the Goodies and too fast for the Baddies. I guess we need to be grateful that so much is happening [Google JP Landman’s articles if you want a list of all that’s taking place since the beginning of 2019], and have the patience that a Constitutional democracy demands. One thing to mention is Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola’s, Special Tribunal which will fast-track the recovery of billions looted from the State which will commence its work on 1 October. Strength to your arms, Minister Lamola!

FNB’s Property Insights by John Loos dated 25 September 2019, gives us the data to support what many of us are feeling in the market. New Mortgage loans have declined by -7.82% qoq from 1st quarter 2018 to 2019. I don’t know the impact of the pipeline on this number but obviously it is affected by developments. I must guess that the construction and sales of these complexes are slowing down though, I must say, driving down Bryanston Avenue, Sandton last week, you could have fooled me. From R3-R12million it is wall-to-wall new complexes. Long may it last if we consider that the New Commercial Property Mortgage loans have declined by -29.6% in Q12019; that’s heavy. John expresses the hope that residential loans will begin “leveling out”. Staying with FNB’s Property Barometer, “emigration-driven sales”, prevalent in the higher end of the market, declined from 14.2% to 13.4% in Q22019. That’s good and in the right direction. Perhaps #ImStaying-type initiatives do have an impact – they sure beat negative news.

Allied to this news is an interesting turn which we trust becomes a lead indicator. Property24, quoting Dr Andrew Golding of Pam Golding, reports that time on the market is showing positive signs. We extract:


“The time to sell varies according to a number of factors which include: realistic pricing in the current market, desirability of location – namely high demand, sought-after centres and key hubs, as well as other macro-economic and socio-political impacts.

“Currently, we are finding that properties in the price bracket up to R4 million are selling at a median period between 34 and 43.5 days, while homes in the price band from R4 million to R6 million sell in 76.5 days, those from R6 million to R12 million at a median of 90 days, while those in the upper price brackets generally take somewhat longer to sell.”


I close with a statistical analysis from Standard Bank Property Research, Evolution of SA House Prices 1991 – 2018, dated 16 September 2019. That is a long period and the full article demands a read by those of us interested in things statistical. For the others [], here’s a summary.

Considering Household Disposable Income [what you have left after benefits and tax], Household Debt-to-Income [your proportion of debt repayments to your HDI], Prime rate, and Building Plans Passed, you have the possibility of affording a home. In fact, according to this research, 84% ofthe fundamental growth of SA house prices is due to the confluence of these indices. I would not argue with Standard Bank but I can’t help but wonder what the correlation would have been if they had used Business Confidence and plotted house prices to this index. Confidence, not money, buys houses – a simplistic statement but the absence of confidence makes buyers terribly skittish and sellers reluctant to face the new reality of the value of their houses. That said, this research was really good and over a very long period. Excellent thank you, Standard Bank!

A mixed bag indeed. But I can’t help think that, like the budding little White Stinkwood trees up the path to church this morning, there are green shoots beginning to appear. Maybe it’s the longer sunny days, maybe it’s Braai Day and the time spent with families, maybe it’s the Whale Festival and the hordes of visitors in town who were not disappointed. Or, maybe, it’s just Hope.

Two quotes to close:


Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.

– Steven Maraboli

And finally, the Arch:

I’m not an optimist, but I am a prisoner of Hope.


Yours in Property.

HALF-YEAR 30 JUNE 2019

Hard to believe half the year has flown by!

It has been loaded with politics including a national election and the finalisation of parliament, economic data for the first quarter that sucks at -3.2% GDP growth, SOEs’ revelations every day that boggle the mind, defamation claims that seem to have become lawfare, and emigration statistics that leave you reeling. Never a dull moment in SA Inc.

That said, we have survived and even Donald and China seem to be reaching some agreement. Hauwei or Meiwei is Donald’s Wei but I Mustsei, he currently has the best stock exchange performance in the world – often in excess of 15% with the Nasdaq flying. And then there is the Brexit “Deal or No Deal” show which, with the weakest Bachelor I have ever seen, has had us glued to the screen more than Netflix. I never knew I would binge on Theresa May – flicking from her to Deputy Chief Justice Zondo more times than a fly escapes its swatter. Never a dull moment in world politics either.

Our property market has moved sideways and getting a positive article out of anyone that I didn’t think was simply “talking it up” has been really hard. But out there, hard-working men and women have made ends meet and sold and sold despite the push-back of the market. That it is a buyers’ market, there is no doubt but even getting a buyer to bite has been tricky. You can’t do deals with people walking through your show-house; you actually need an offer to make a negotiation possible. My friend who has had 25 couples come through his house in two months feels exactly what I’m talking about. But I must say, both from a rate and an approval point of view, the banks have remained really good. No shut down from them and truly, they hold the key to continued sales and borrowing. If we can just hold Eskom solvent, we have a good chance of emerging from the mess we are in. Heaven help us, please!

Getting technical for a moment, I received a good article in Businesstech, 29 June 2019, quoting Tobie Fourie, National Rentals manager, Chas Everitt and entitled, New South African rental laws may be implemented soon – these are the changes you need to know about, that gave some good insight for those of us owning buy-to-lets or in the rental business. Some extracts:

Top of FormBottom of Form

The Rental Housing Amendment Act will be implemented soon. The ‘new’ Act – which was actually passed in 2014 – contains the most recent amendments to the Rental Housing Act of 1999, which is still in force.

 

The act currently governs the overall relationship between tenant and landlord and sets out their statutory rights and obligations and aims to clarify certain aspects of the older Act that have given rise to many differences of interpretation.

 

The main provisions that landlords and tenants need to be aware of include:

  • It will become compulsory for lease agreements between the landlord and the tenant to be in writing and legally enforceable.
  • All sections of the lease and any explanations and definitions it contains will need to be explained to the tenants and understood before the document is signed.
  • It will be the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that the rental property is in a habitable state, which is in line with the existing Rental Housing Act.
  • The landlord will be responsible for maintaining the rental property and will have to ensure that it has access to basic services such as water and electricity.
  • Only the local authority will be permitted to cut off services to non-paying tenants.
  • No tenant may be prevented from entering the rental property or denied access to the rental property without a court order.
  • A joint inspection by the landlord and tenant has to be done on the commencement of the lease period, and if the landlord does not participate in this inspection, no part of the tenant’s deposit for repairs or damages may be withheld when the tenant leaves.
  • A defect list will have to form part of the lease agreement as an annexure.
  • When the deposit is paid back to the tenants, the interest earned on that deposit must also be paid to the tenant within seven days of the expiration of the lease, subject to any deductions for damages.

 

Landlords who fail comply with these and other requirements within six months of the new legislation coming into force could be liable to pay a fine or even face a jail sentence for non-compliance.

 

“And these legal complexities will make it all the more important for landlords to appoint reputable, reliable, knowledgeable, qualified and legally registered rental management agents to assist them and ensure they remain compliant”, said Fourie.

 

Let’s face it, if you are letting a premises that is not habitable, without a written lease and for which you do not have an inspection list at the beginning and the willingness to fix problems that arise, you should not be a landlord. On the other hand, good landlords have always paid some interest on deposits as they have earned [read: saved] interest if they took the money and put it in their bond on the property. But, there is the nagging feeling that letting is carrying more and more onus on the landlord to be proven right and the tenant to be proven wrong. Having said this, I can honestly say I have never had a bad tenant. Those of you who have will tell me to be very grateful, I know.

 

We enter the second half. Hopefully our politics settles down and the Zondo Commission provides an interim report on glaring state capture and we have a rate decrease. Then if we can hold onto our investment grade from Moody’s and fund enough of Eskom to keep the lights on, we may be through the first part of the drift. It’s knife edge to be honest but failure is also not an option.

 

Neither is pessimism. I understand how you feel believe me but one thing I know from personal experience is that all the worry in the world does not move you forward. Worry is like sitting on a rocking chair thinking you’re moving. You’re not; you’re just standing still and getting weaker every day, physically and emotionally. Cut it out and remind me to do the same if I lapse back. Homeloan Junction is in the same boat as you, nothing more and nothing less. We are here to support you to the best of our ability and are onside to help you succeed. Success to you in the second half!! – the same success we wish ourselves.

 

Yours in Property.

 

INVESTMENT


Shew, this month has been hectic! Yours as well?

We’re on the last of our three blogs on the “I” of the acronym, LIFE. So far, we have covered Live, Laugh and Love. Then Imagination and Inspiration – that was a tome as I re-read it 😊

Today, we’ll cover Investment and I promise it will be shorter. Nonetheless, I am again ready to “throw my heart into it”.

Albert Einstein dumfounds me when he says, The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” Every time I read it, I think he must have had unaffordable debt and he couldn’t believe the cost of not being able to pay it off on time, but, of course, that’s tripe – if he ever had debt, he knew how much money he repaid. We, at Homeloan Junction know that at 10%, a 25-year bond is 2,5 times more than the original cost. Throw in the transfer, attorneys, etc and buying houses are expensive.

Of course, this type of compounded interest we all know well. Hopefully, we also know enough to never incur credit card, and upwards in the sense of interest rate debt. My rule is simple,
what you can’t settle on your card at month end, can’t be bought. With that rule, I buy almost everything on my card and just settle the balance at month end. Negative compound interest kills and especially when no tax deduction lessens the load on our purse. The inverse is Investment. Here, compound interest works splendidly.

The other day I helped an elderly lady consolidate her investments; little bits and pieces in three financial institutions. Wow, what a surprise as I trawled through old records dating back to the late 90’s when she retired. Figures like R43000, R60000, etc, but nothing too rich. Unsophisticated investing – a unit trust, fixed deposits, money market, etc. To our surprise, the total amount was over R600000! The reason is that she has lived off her dwindling pension in real terms and never dived into even the interest of her investments. Then, every 6 months or so, she would be advised to re-invest and she did. The lot just grew and grew and the end result was unexpected. No wonder a friend of mine once asked me, What’s the best investment?” I waited and he told me, The one you stick to.” You see, the elderly lady could probably have done better in Naspers, but what she knew all well was that time and interest are directly correlated and maybe she didn’t maximise the opportunity, but she had enough. I am not an investment advisor, but here are some generic rules for Investment from personal experience.

Time is measured two ways, the length of time you save and the length of time you don’t.

You see, R500 per month over 40 years at 8% earns you R1745504. The problem of not starting 40 years ago can be expressed in three ways:

  • 30 years: R745180
  • 20 years: R294510
  • 10 years: R91473

This is the way we normally look at it and, often, we look at it relative to a fixed date, retirement, child’s education, the coffee shop we’ve always wanted to own etc.

There is another way and it’s not insurance broker-speak, just a fact of life – Cost of Delay. You see, the numbers of 40 and 30 years may kinda look alike, but the difference is R1000324. That’s a Million Rand! Compare it to the R91473 which you save in the first 10 years and the number is 11 x [1000324/91473] more than you could save. That’s the awesome power of compounded interest. It builds like a hockey stick at the end if you have not touched it.

You see, when the “fixed date” arrives and its retirement, the third problem is that you just don’t have 40 years of R500 per month to catch-up. Very sobering, I know.

In case you think you’re the only one who missed this, I took out a unit trust in 1976. It was R50 per month. As a guess, the JSE Index would have been about 500 then. Today it is 55000. Doing the sums, that’s 11.22% growth plus dividend yield of, say, 3,5% would total 14.72%. Using that “interest rate”, my little R50 per month investment would be worth about: R1900000. Makes you think, doesn’t it?!

So, the moral of the story is: Take out an investment while you’re young. Don’t delay, and then, stick to it.

You know as well as I do, that the money part of this Investment is the easy part. Life calls for an investment as well. For that thought, I turn once again to my old well-known guy, Dr Dennis Waitley, who said, It takes as much energy to live a good life as to live a bad one. So live a good one.” There’s a thought, but we also know we don’t always put the “good” together long enough to make the ultimate difference. We sometimes stumble up and then stumble down and then stumble up again.

We all seem to do it; I include myself. On the negative side, it seems we have the ability to:

  1. Try
  2. Fail
  3. Regret we failed
  4. Regret we tried
  5. Then try again
  6. Repeat the cycle.

You there as you read it? The downward spiral of defeat and “if only’s”? You know that the only failure is failure itself. Don’t judge me by my successes, judge me by the times I failed and then stood up again”, said Nelson Mandela. Read some of his books and this understanding of life permeates them. “I should have…”, “I could have…”, “I shouldn’t have…” are often on his lips but in the end, “I did, and if I failed as I or some may think, I tried again.” [My way of expressing this man’s attitude to Life]. Ultimately, despite the naysayers, Nelson Mandela succeeded beyond our expectations.

So let’s rerun a “good life”. One that you invest time, energy, and a focus on priorities into: 

  1. Try
  2. Fail
  3. Forgive yourself or ask forgiveness
  4. Learn
  5. Succeed
  6. Repeat the cycle.

You see, investment in yourself tries, parks the past, learns falling forward, and never gives up. Please hear me!


Taking from the financial lessons above:

  • Start as soon as possible. Lives also endure the cost of delay.
  • Invest regularly and as much as you can. A little study is better than none. An hour a day extra doing what you believe is important, not urgent, is 3650 hours of extra focus on your priority every 10 years, not just your “stuff”.
  • Opportunity cost is real. Redefine your focus by all means, but don’t stop doing what is right for you.
  • If you’ve wasted time, stop regretting it and get on using the time you have left.
  • Forgive yourself, you’re better than you think.
  • Celebrate successes, even if you’re alone.

I don’t want to go on to produce a tome like Inspiration, though I could. Thus, a closing thought from the Good book. Job is a well-known story – a great guy who loses everything and then recovers “twice as much as before.” At the end of chapter 42, the last verse says this: The he [Job] died an old man who had lived a long, full life. That fact stuck with me when I read it about 2 weeks ago. Long is easy – Job died at 140 years of age. Right now, scientists are telling us that the person who will live 200 years has been born. Whilst I’m thrilled that’s not me, the “full” caught my attention and has wandered through my thoughts since. What is a ‘full’ life? What things have I done, seen, been to, given attention to, consistently undertaken, left, adopted, listened to, read, spoken about, focussed on, achieved, believed, debunked, tried, striven for, loved, hated, bought, sold, eaten, experienced, achieved, learned, given birth to…that makes up a life that is “full”? I’m still teasing this out so I don’t intend to answer my question right now. However, I encourage you that if something in the question, or anything else above it, has struck you, read it again, begin to coagulate your thoughts, mind-map them and let them develop into something positive and forward-thinking.

As the business of HLJ, we are all on this journey. We have chosen to associate with each other. We have common ground, knowledge and resilience. Use what we have to make a better place from our inside out. Touch lives and encourage them upwards once again. For those on a high, imagine the possibility of being an inspiration to the rest of us and invest some time in all of us, and all of the others, you meet.

Yours in Property.

INTERESTING SLOWDOWN

Boy, do we have an interesting market at this stage in the game.

Our gut would tell us that the property market is slowing. Recession, politics and pessimism [RPP] all seem to indicate the obvious, but in some of the recent reports received from Homeloan Junction, some great contradictions appear to be happening. Make no mistake, the general trend is downwards from both the estate agents and the economists, but let’s see what jumps out of the woodwork to encourage us.

The following extracts are used for explanation and then I will make brief comments on some of the aspects:

First of all, the ooba ORIGINATION OVERVIEW: SEPTEMBER 18 tells us that “the Bond Application Intake for September 18 was 10.8% lower MOM and 8.9% lower YOY.  Cumulative volumes for 2018/19 are 10.8% down on same period 2017/18.”

Guys, if we had “suffered” that level of reduction in Sub-Prime [2008-2012], we would have been ecstatic. Most of us were down 90% by January 2009 from the height of July 2007. 10% is surprisingly good given the level of RPP in the market right now. I bet many origination consultants with good estate agent relationships have not yet felt any marked decline in their business. Admittedly, the issue is always pipeline and when that begins to drop, watch your step.

FNB’s Property Insights report, covering the FNB Estate Agent Survey’s 3rd Quarter 2018 indicates this slowdown:

“The 3rd quarter FNB Estate Agent Survey points to a further weakening in the housing market (and perhaps economy too) in the near term. A broad declining trend in the Residential Activity Rating started in 2015 and has continued in the most recent quarterly survey.

From a multi-year low of 5.35, seasonally-adjusted, in the 2nd quarter of 2018, the Activity Rating declined further to 5.12. On a year-on-year basis, the indicator went deeper into negative rate of change territory, from -7.21% in the 2nd quarter to -9.2% in the 3rd quarter.”

The direction in the rate of change in the Residential Activity Rating correlates reasonably, though not perfectly, with the direction in the rate of change of the OECD and SARB Leading Business Cycle Indicators for South Africa, sometimes even leading the Leading Indicators with directional changes. Both indicators thus point to an economy still in the doldrums, with weakening in the near term a possibility.

Agents point to further deterioration in market sentiment post “Ramaphoria”. Those that cited “Positive Consumer Sentiment” in the 1st quarter of 2018 were a far greater 56.7% of survey respondents. In the past 2 quarters, however, the response has deteriorated markedly. By the 3rd quarter 2018 survey, those respondents pointing to “Positive Consumer Sentiment” had dropped back to 9% of total respondents, while those pointing to “Economic Stress/General Pessimism” have increased noticeably to a very high 77%. The economic weakness thus appears to be increasingly taking its toll on sentiment in the market. Within this response category, agents include “recessionary conditions”, “cost of living increases” which include petrol price and tax hikes, and “policy uncertainty”, as factors.

For new mortgage lending, this can all have implications with a considerable lag.

While also having weakened of late, Gauteng appears to be the region where Residential Activity has held up best in the weakening national market. Of the 3 Major Coastal Metros, it has been Cape Town that has returned the lowest Activity Rating. This should not be too surprising, however, after recent years of far stronger house price growth than the rest of the country, Cape Town has run into home affordability challenges that have dampened demand and general activity.

Segmenting by Income Area, the Lower End outperforms, but the gap between it and the HNW has diminished.

In FNB’s Property Insights report, covering the FNB Estate Agent Survey’s 3rd Quarter 2018 Indicators of Price Realism and Market Balance,  in the 3rd quarter of 2018, we saw a slight quarterly increase in the estimated average number of “serious” viewers per show house before sale. From 10.42 viewers in the 2nd quarter, the estimate rose to 10.77. However, the average remains well below the 14.42 high reached in the final quarter of 2013, just before the early-2014 start of interest rate hiking.

In the 3rd quarter of 2018, we saw a further increase in the average time of homes on the market prior to sales. From 16 weeks and 4 days in the 2nd quarter 2018 Estate Agent Survey, the average time of homes on the market rose to 17 weeks and 6 days. We take the admittedly subjective view that around 12 weeks (near to 3 months) average time on the market more-or-less represents a market equilibrium situation on a national average basis. The market has thus broadly been drifting away from that equilibrium level since 2016.

No further rise has occurred in the high percentage of sellers required to drop their asking price to make the sale. The 3rd quarter 2018 survey showed a slight decline in this estimated percentage of sellers having to drop their asking price, from 96% in the previous quarter to 93%. Stock constraints remain low. We see very few agents pointing toward housing stock constraints in the market and slightly more pointing towards “ample stock”.

I order to corroborate the FNB and estate agents’ perceptions, just a short extract from Standard Bank’s Property Research of 25 October 2018:


“The SA property market was again softer Q3:2018 due to uninspiring real economy data and mixed signals from business and consumer sentiment indices. Also, financial conditions have remained tight, although relatively relaxed when compared to 2007 when last SA was in an economic recession. Consumers remain reticent about big financial obligations despite their relatively upbeat outlook on SA economy.

Regional house price trends show that the inland metros (Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni) still enjoy steady price growth but lost momentum in Q3.

In contrast, the coastal metros of Cape Town gradually decelerated in the past few quarters. Cape Town now is at the slowest pace since 2012. According to SBR’s regional HPI, it is also the first time since 2012 that JHB, SA’s biggest property market by volume, has outperformed CPT which is SA’s biggest market in value terms. We regard the current trends in CPT as a necessary cyclical downturn to realign prices with economic conditions at both regional and national levels.

The recent surge in prices (between 2014 and mid-2016) seems misaligned with the strength of economic fundaments at that time; now, prices are moderating. Waning sentiment due to the SA drought as well as policy uncertainty here and abroad, and a slowing influx of the affluent, restrained property prices in Cape Town. Properties in the higher end of our price segments are now deflating in the region and the volume of cash transactions is trending downwards.”

So we have the two banks pretty much in synch and the FNB Estate Agents’ research is really close to the coalface. To end, some points:

  1. On the lighter side, maybe I can get some sympathy for my early-year assertion that Gauteng would show real house price indices. At the time, I foresaw a good GDP growth and the fact that Gauteng house prices are really cheap in relative terms. At least now, Gauteng is the strongest performing market so I’m somewhat vindicated nearing year-end.
  2. Cape Town is adjusting significantly. No games here, it’s expensive and the only really good news is that we have alleviated Day Zero until the rainy season in 2019. Farmers and residents alike are delighted and the mood is far more positive on that front. It remains now for Patricia and the DA to sort themselves out so we can all get really happy so close to the next General Election.
  3. Don’t underestimate the fact that the SARB has not raised interest rates. Crippling would have been the effect on the back of Oil and VAT if they had. Thank you, SARB.
  4. The extended delay of house sales goes without saying but so interesting that the number of price reductions for a sale has reduced. FNB warns that we should not hang our hat on one measure, but despite the estate agents being “in stock”, buyers are willing to pay reasonably priced houses; that’s good news.
  5. On the other hand, sellers seem to be holding out for their price. Based on an average of 12 weeks on-market, that is increasing to over 16 weeks – a third longer. What that tells me is that genuine sellers are selling for good reason and that distressed sellers are fewer and further in between. In other words, distressed sellers would collapse their price to sell urgently but that’s not happening. I think part of the reason for that is that employment is holding its own except in distressed areas like the Platinum belt.

    Remember, things change quickly. Ramaphoria showed us all how quickly our perceptions become our reality and what an impact that has on our behaviour. The Rating Agencies are holding their horses, Tito is making very positive noises, the Nugent Commission is drawing to a close with an obvious outcome and the SARB has inflation on the side for the time being. Election 2019 will take place and I believe, is predictable. To not have that view is not an option to me.

    Things are positive and if there was any relaxation in the Emerging Markets drama, it would augur well for SA Inc. Look up, it might be sooner than you think. Whatever the case, HLJ continues to be in the market and there for you.

    Yours in Property.

PROPERTY OVERVIEW 9/2018

“Sorry, seems to be the hardest word.” That’s how the song goes. But in my last blog, I said sorry for over-estimating the rise in Joburg prices this year and the GDP growth of the country :-(!

Let’s have a look at the property market in this blog.

I still think that we’re being let off the hook and things are going fairly well given the dire economic news we read every day. My opinion tries not to be scientific so a lot of gut-feel goes into that statement. In addition, I live in a small, upmarket town which has had some raw land-delivery protests in the recent past and this, together with talking to contacts who are steeped in national property businesses, I’m sure colours my view. As you read, you may have a different perspective so let me know if you differ significantly.

Some insights:

  1. FNB’s John Loos, in FIN24.com on 4 September 2018, informs us that “the majority of home sellers (96%) have to drop their asking price in order to sell the property” in the Q2: 2018, according to the latest FNB Estate Agent Survey. “This is up from an estimated 91% reflected in the first quarter survey and compared to an estimated 78% who ended up having to lower their asking prices in 2014. He says the survey evidence suggests that asking prices on average have become less realistic in recent years. The estimated magnitude of asking price drop needed to make a sale became slightly larger – from -8.2% in the first quarter of 2018 to 9.2% in the second quarter”. And finally to this point, “FNB has not seen any noticeable increase in the percentage of properties resold at prices lower than the previous purchase price. About 9.6% of total properties resold in July were estimated to be at lower prices than the previous purchase price. This is higher than the 8.7% of May and 8.9% of June.”

    The word “realistic” is loaded with sentiment, the seller’s state of mind. If my home must be sold at less than the purchase price, about 10% per the comment above, that’s stressful. Making a capital gain of less than inflation is going backward fast especially given all the costs of selling and re-buying or renting. Making no gain could best be described as a stress-sale. On the other hand, in some parts of the country, 10-15% gain almost per annum, has been the order of the day. No more and my friend in Cape Town says that “to drop a Million on your price” is the nature of house sales at the moment. So, would any seller drop the million before selling? I don’t think so. You’d do that when you are a serious seller and see that no one is coming through your door. Getting the price right depends on the seller’s desire to sell. We have a house nearby going for R12.3m which has been on the market for about 6 months. It’s not going to sell even on a lucky dip and the price indicates seller reluctance.

  2. On the other hand, in a place like Hermanus what would be the price of this seller’s house? My guess is about R10m. Why a guess? Well, the market has definitely received more stock given the recent unrest which, as we’ve discussed before, is very in-your-face in a smaller town, so the outworking of these sentiments remains to be seen. The jury of potential buyers is out. Linked to this and for interest sake, the EFF held it’s Provincial Conference in Hermanus last weekend over three days. In the Zwelishle Primary school hall, the conference was orderly and had very little impact on the town. On Sunday, Julius held a rally at the sports fields and that went off peacefully as well. We’re grateful and trust such behaviour continues to pervade the run-up to the elections.
  3. Another aspect of the higher asking prices is that sales are taking longer to conclude – about 50% longer depending on where you read. 40 days on the market has moved out to 60 days overall. Again, I bet you the unrealistic expectations of sellers have contributed to this situation. What would be really interesting to see is the number of houses listed and then withdrawn from the market. That trend would tell you how needy the sellers were to sell for whatever reason. On the face of it, “I can’t afford my house anymore” should be rising as the economy remains very sluggish and jobs become more insecure, thus reducing confidence.
  4. Sadly, allied to the “I need to sell” category is higher levels of emigration. One can read very valuable information from the FNB Barometers covering this aspect, but perhaps the most interesting for me is that Police Clearances have moved out from about 6 weeks to 12, and even 15, weeks.
  5. One aspect that drives much of this conversation is the rate of interest and the desire of the banks to lend. The former stayed level last week as SARB, I am sure, attempted to supplement President Ramaphosa’s stabilization package and his envisaged stimulus mega-fund. On the other hand, the banks seem to still be saying Yes to lending and are thus a welcome part of the answer to growth; long may that be! On the absolutely negative side is an apparent helluva increase of petrol coming soon. What a tragedy that the tax on fuel and the VAT increase [which by estimates then, take R29bn out of consumers’ pockets], is simply the penalty of corruption under the leadership of the ex-president and his cronies. Imagine the same increases being ploughed into the Investment Mega-fund for housing, schools, and tourism! What a country we could have!

In summary, we are better than we could have been, in my humble opinion. I often say that as I write and then qualify myself by saying that I genuinely believe that. I have lived through terrible recessions, and this for all of its insidious undercurrent of large-scale theft, is not “terrible” in its outworking. Granted, these are not the “ol’ days” pre – 2008, but they could have been much, much worse for the property industry. My encouragement, therefore, is that we vasbyt. Reiterating my previous blog, our President can pronounce R400bn and maybe we don’t know where it’s coming from but from what I hear from his United Nations conversations, he has acquitted himself well. Remember, it was not long ago that Pravin Gordhan was called back from speaking to investors with R5tn in investment funds on the pretext of a one-pager spy accusation which resulted in Gigagupta being appointed in his stead – WE’VE COME A LONG WAY IN 2018!!!]

I learned an Afrikaans idiom the other day, “Die hoop beskaam nooit.” For the uninitiated, “Hope does not disappoint” [Romans 5:5], or, “Hope does not embarrass you.” On the contrary, hope rubs off on those around you. Enthusiasm is hope internalized and expressed. Remember, if you’re happy, tell your face. We are all more beautiful when we smile and “smile lines” are never wrinkles 🙂

Yours in Property.

MAURITIUS 2018 [Part 2]

In our previous blog, I began writing on the plane to Mauritius with the 2018 Winners. Over the next 5 days, I spoke to them about what it takes to be a winner, some recent in their success and for others, simply a trail of achievement over years.

We continue with the theme…

“She taught me”. Mentorship is a key to many things in management, leadership and business. The fact that a person is attributed with the success of a winner is noteworthy. How many of us are mentioned in the life successes of other individuals? What meaning for both parties is that in the course of our lifetimes; to see the other grow, to experience the dark days and enjoy laughter and prosperity together? Mentorship is crucial to our personal and business wellbeing’s. When I start out as a newbie, I watch and learn by being shown by example and taught through lecturing and then trial-and-error. Slowly, patiently I progressed to maturity in the business – this is what I call the apprenticeship. Just a slow grind of technical competence long before anyone would trust you with their bonds, both estate agent and customer.

I have a number of mentees in my life as the principle of mentoring has always been fundamental to my management. The fun occurs, when over the years, you are surpassed by your mentee; how cool is that? They take on a life of their own, learn skills different to yours and then progress even to be more successful than you, however, you decide to measure that. Truly, a virtuous cycle of life. I’ve found the challenge is to acknowledge when someone is simply better than you and then to just graciously encourage who they have become. One final note, when you have reached the pinnacle of success in your field, you need to teach others. None the least of which if you have the opportunity, those who have been previously disadvantaged. Remember, the essence of greatness is realising an abundance mentality gives everybody a place in the sun; their slice of a growing pie.

Competitiveness should give way to co-opinion as you grow your skills together in the marketplace. Some of us know these truths, whilst some still cower and “defend their patch” and the other final note is a statement that I really like, “Ek like die mense.” Let me sum up this one – if you like people, people will like you. There is no formula equating the two but it is my experience is that a smile begets a smile and an attitude begets an attitude; positive and negative. Think of it this way, don’t you like people who like you? “Passion for what you do” means that you rub off not up and people excite to you and what you have to offer.

Talking about an offering, “process and consistency” came through as the winners spoke about their technical attributes. One person was even more specific, “become more efficient and productive and respond to market changes faster while providing better service to your agents and clients.” That’s saying it like we all need to hear it. For most of the winners, they spoke about administrative efficiency in that their process had become slick and as quick as possible. What this winner is saying is that when your process is efficient, it needs to answer the question, “Is what I’m doing adding a competitive advantage?”

“Service” and “quality of work” were always mentioned in this regard, but have you looked at your competitors and said understood what it is that makes you special. Remember, one of the reasons I harp on about relationships includes the notion of your stakeholders simply knowing that their transaction is safe on your hands every time. You may need to step up to a higher level, understanding what that is, by becoming even more productive. There is a sense of enlightened self-interest in doing that – you work less when your process is optimal and you need only focus on the exceptions rather than applications that follow the norm. My suggestion is that you take a morning to observe your team and see how deals pass through the process; have a group discussion and see how the team could organise themselves either to handle more volume or, just become slicker at what they do. That way, they buy-in and everybody works a little less and agents and customers will love it. In closing, one winner had this to say, “Keep it simple, listen to the customer and know your product.” That’s sound advice on any day.

Most winners did not just arrive in Mauritius 2018. They determined to get there early enough to be considered. In the Conference, one said, “Next year I want to be in the Top 5” and set about some obvious changes: Visit 2-3 more estate agencies per month, new packaging of their offering and solid you management information to form the basis of well-prepared feedback sessions with their lead providers. Sounds easy, hey? And it worked, the business grew significantly enough to qualify. I guess the next question is, “And this year?” Why not just keep up good habits, systems and reports? At the heart of success are goals that drive you.

SMART goals that add meaning, encourage, employ people, impress agents and make customers repetitive. “Luck!” said one winner, just before she smiled and told me “angels on her path” had helped her over the years. Stories of her Dad and his influence on her life and family who had transformed her computer skills, but underpinning her confidence, and even faith, was the reality that she never gave in to giving up; something continued to drive her success. Goals set the upper limit, encourage success and warn of unacceptable performance. Goals focus the mind and secure intentionality until the rewards of success kick in to spur us on. Set some right now – “I’m going to be there next year” is the attitude of a winner. Like your Mom told you, you’ll never know until you try.

No blog of this nature would be replete, without a mention of the leader of this business. Vincent was referred to many times. “Calm, relaxed, not grilling me…a human element” was the description of this quiet yet determined man by on winner. “Mevrou, jy gaan ‘n kantoor oop maak in…”, a powerful comment for the listener; a sense of positive self-expectance and an opening up of possibility and change in an anticipative, encouraging, exciting way. Vincent has a character that, as I said at the final dinner, knows disappointment, determination, relationships and how to privilege others. That’s why he wins as his companies follow his lead. From sub-Prime to Highest Sales Performance: ooba licensee, an award won even while we were away. In typical style, Vincent hardly mentioned it but it’s an unbelievable achievement especially as we face technical recession head-on. Vincent, we respect you and appreciate you. We consider it a privilege to part of the team and to have been in Mauritius 2018, a privilege-upon-privilege. Keep it up for All of Us!

Two quotes that appeared on bed-drops each night are:

“To accomplish great things we must dream as well as act” by Anatole France, and;
“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of little things brought together” by Vincent van Gogh.

On that note, think about what you’ve read then decide on your response. You know as well as I do, that reading about winners is much easier than being one, but you can dream and act. You can take little things and bring them together into one big success, even next year and for a lifetime…

Homeloan Junction wishes this upon you. Like the Afrikaans says, “Ons gun dit vir jou”.

Yours in Property

MAURITIUS 2018

I am on a plane to Mauritius. How privileged am I to be included in a group of Homeloan Junction and Ooba Winners who have shot the lights out in 2017! I did nothing, they did everything to be here.  We have first-timers, people who have never flown internationally before. We have golden oldies, those who have won over and over again and now, have won again. Each has their own story so let’s explore that.

In my management career, I have met winners at the airport.  The most excited are those who have never flown before.  They are nervous to the point of fidgety; will I be safe,  will I return to the one who kissed me tenderly at the airport? Of course, you will say the initiated – just enjoy the flight. Light-hearted, but also caring. And then there are those who are used to winning; the die-hards who have done the hard yards, amazing people who have been consistently successful over years, even decades.  Amazing that!  To do it in one year is good. To do it over and over again takes a different story completely.

So, over the next two blogs, here are their un-named stories and a summary of their critical success factors…

“Success is what you believe in”. Perhaps this is a crux of the matter as I look back on the people I met in Mauritius. They are confident and assertive – there is an air of success about them. They know what they know and find themselves often in the company of winners. You can see it in the way they interact and hear it in their language as they speak to others and together. There is a balance of affinity, distance and a professionalism that is pervasive. They know how to have fun as well; they laugh easily and play appropriately, but they overdo nothing and enjoy the moment. You can just feel, these people believe in success.

“Perseverance and long hours”, says another. Some of this team know what it takes to work 18 hours a day. From early in the morning to late at night, administration with constant calls in between, they set to the task of satisfying customers. You know what it’s like – the young couple have bought their house and they’re starry-eyed as they await bond approval. The estate agent has done the sale and is counting the commission. The developer needs 70% successful sales/bond approvals for the development loan. You have your own office costs and need to build relationships. Little wonder that perseverance and long hours are needed, not just in the short-term but as a daily habit. We all know that over time, this hectic pace dissipates as a general rule, but every now and again, the need for huge effort raises its head. These winners have ceased wondering when it will stop; instead, they lift their game when required, every time.

“Niks, I just go with the flow.” I know this lady well and she is not a Niks kind of person. What has happened here is that decades of service have done two things – cemented relationships, and generated repeat business as a significant part of her income. She did the hard work years ago and has skilled herself through thick and thin to deal deals with the estate agents and the banks. She knows her oats and doesn’t submit what will not be approved; she’s efficient, values her time and that of others. On the other hand, if anyone in that process disagrees, they could cop the lip that comes with 20 years of experience. For the uninitiated, the matter of apprenticeship comes to the fore. You don’t study to do homeloans and your BCom degree means little if it has not taught you some property law, finance, credit, banking, administration management and then overlaid that with huge dollops of inter-personal skills. You don’t get to quip “Niks”, if you haven’t done the “Baie”.

Relationships are built over years. It is often said that a relationship takes years to build and seconds to destroy. I would add that where money is involved, that formula speeds up. Making my money through consistency and quality of work is good for relationships; a kind of “spice on the top” of commercial associations. But one lie, one un-met promise, or, one poorly managed expectation, can turn your relationship into a nightmare. By the way, but for the first malady which can often be terminal, the others can be dealt quite efficiently by what I call “emotional reserves”. These reserves are built over time and can be likened to a petrol tank’s gauge. Trust, care, friendship, efficiency, feedback are all ways to build emotional reserves that fill the tank of a relationship.

A mistake may use up some of the supply, but can be accommodated from the relationship’s reserve. This may sound a little “soft” but all relationships, personal and business, where emotional reserves have been built up can then be used, by saying sorry or committing [and keeping the commitment] to do better next time. Winners manage expectations and then even in the face of bad news, have a positive approach to an outcome. How often have I myself, told a customer they are flying high in terms of their credit request and then managed them through the decline of the bank to a more realistic application. By the way, another thing here is the question of credit terms. A customer’s lack of knowledge of banking can lead to the question, “Will you get me the best rate?” My answer, “No, but I will get you the best credit terms.” What is the good of Prime – 0.5% with a deposit of R100000 if the deposit does not exist or, was destined to be used for TLC of the property? Prime + 1% may be far more acceptable with no deposit under these circumstances. Don’t get caught up-front in pricing as the bottom line of your service; you’re better than that.

“Origination is entrepreneurial and gives you an opportunity.” I guess this goes for any self-employment though it never feels like that when you’re building your business. But as the years go by and your competency and relationships strengthen, origination is a really nice business to be in. It gets you out, gets you in, and gets you going. Office jobs are crucial to service delivery, but marketing gets you face-to-face with the customer and interface with the stakeholders; it gets you out. It gets you in, into suppliers, interesting projects, opportunities for value-adds and serious negotiations. These are the places where long-term, solid relationships can be built and sustained. And, origination gets you going; every day and continuously. Perhaps one of the cutest comments in my interviews with the winners was simply this, “I won’t change my job!” Not for anything; that entrepreneurship and opportunity talking and from behind a broad smile.

On the other hand, it takes a “wild ride” to leave a stable job and come into this crazy world of property and bonds. None of the winners found it easy but they figured that origination, with its value-adding benefit to the customer absolutely free-of-charge, was the way to go. “I wondered how I would survive” was almost common to all the newbies in Mauritius. It takes a strong cocktail of self-belief and courage to walk away from the known into the unknown. Just like any business venture, you will have days of doubt and days of elation, but what our winners know by their success is that “origination is for me.” Just a point on the taking and managing of risk. Consider the risk carefully, consult wise counsel, be fairly sure of your ability to succeed and why. Wait to build the skills and/or contacts if you do not feel ready, but once you jump, then begin to manage the risk.

Start within with positive self-talk and surround yourself with winning combinations of people and processes so that you give yourself an undisputed chance of success. Like the old saying goes, “you can’t fly like an eagle with turkeys like these.” If that’s arrogance talking, get off your high horse, nobody likes a smart-ass, but if you do not have the right people on the bus, get the right people – you can go out and compete in the marketplace every day but you better have a strong, competent team behind you. You cannot fight a frontal and a rear-guard action at the same time. Think about this, it’s absolutely true. Indeed, a critical success factor.

More to follow in our final part to Mauritius 2018…

Yours in Property.