Homeloans and home ownership always remains interesting.

We return to buy-to-let.

Here are some solid thoughts for those of you privileged enough to afford a property investment.

  1. Remember to buy close to home. Think of it this way: Trouble equals distance squared. Ever tried to find a plumber to fix a geyser in another town. ever tried to sort out a non-paying tenant in Durban when you live in Johannesburg? One of the benefits of investing in property is that you can “touch and feel” the investment; be close enough to do so simply.
  2. Avoid maintenance as far as possible. That beautiful lawn, the sparkling pool, both can become nightmares in the careless attitude of a tenant. Similarly, look for a property where painting on the outside is kept to a minimum. There are many lovely complexes that are built with face bricks and only gutters, window frames and doors to be painted. Linked to this thought is the question of high rise buildings. A lift replacement in the retirement village in Hermanus has just cost R2.5m for only one floor and the Body Corporate has been saving for 3 years to do it. what you can see immediately is that it has come at the cost of painting and other maintenance. So try to avoid buildings with lifts in favour of stairs.
  3. Remember to retain a kitty for unexpected repairs. Stuff happens and your tenant will not appreciate a slow deterioration of carpets and fittings as you annually increase the rent. Prepare for some push-back and ongoing renovation. You also don’t want to lose on resale because your property is old and tatty.
  4. Secure your tenant contractually. I have just has reason to negotiate a Rental agreement. Rawsons have an excellent offering and the agent was highly experienced in his field – something it is always good to enquire about. However, Just Letting have Rentsecure for almost the same monthly fee. This policy enables your rent, less the 8% fee in total, to be guaranteed every month. If the tenant hasn’t paid, Rentsecure ensures the collection process until the tenant is up to date and will even initiate eviction processes if required. That’s cool to have when needed – collections and evictions can be expensive and time-consuming. Contract with your tenant without exception. a handshake is very difficult to manage legally if and when required. Furthermore, details around behaviour, alterations, pets etc are left in the air if you cannot prove what is considered acceptable. Finally, contracting collections and inspections by a reputable letting agent may look expensive but is well worth the while when required.
  5. Pay off the bond as quickly as possible and make sure it is an access facility. The purpose of having an investment property is to provide an asset to invest further. Just because the bond is being paid by the tenant is not a reason not to pay it off quicker as you are able. once you have the bond reduced or paid off, use it to invest again in whatever you choose. This does two things, a. It enables you to take risks using a non-primary property as collateral so in the event the business does not go well, you don’t lose your family home, and b. The ability to access your bond gives you the chance to take advantage of investment opportunities that arise in a number of markets, for some, even the stock market.
  6. Pick your spot wisely. Close to the Gautrain is popular and tenants will always be plentiful. On the other hand, close to schools and amenities will be popular for young families who often become good tenants. To the later point, a good tenant does not always pay the highest rental – I will often reduce a rental for a longer term or decrease a contracted increase percentage in appreciation of a tenant who looks after my property as their own and always pays on time. Often new property investors struggle with the thought of vacancies and to them I would say: There is always a tenant, there may not always be a high rental. Pretty cheesy if you have to earn a certain amount of rent to pay the bond but then maybe you should have waited and saved a bigger deposit before buying your investment property.
  7. Check out the returns: the following calculations are contentious but when I calculate my return on a property, I use the total cost as the base. See the following example:

Total cost: R645000

Rental per month net of services and levy: R6000

Return per annum: 11.2% [72000/645000*100]

By the way, this is a good return and you could expect less, say, 6-8% net. For this reason it is important to buy where you can expect a sustained capital growth.

Some would say that if I put down only a R100000 deposit and the bank financed the rest, then I could calculate my return as 72% [72000/100000] but I think this is nonsense particularly as the period of the bond increases and repayment occurs on the capital – you obviously use the net rent to do this so how can the return be so high. One thing is for sure in property investment – you don’t need to pay cash and can “gear” your investment with a smaller deposit relative to your bond size.

I’ve said it many times, an investment property or two prove a good long-term asset and give you financial choice when needed.


Our previous blog ” It’s time to be a fox” looked at the concept of hedgehogs and foxes. In this blog, we suggest some assertive behavior for the next period of our economic cycle.

But firstly, let’s reiterate. Hedgehogs

  • know one big thing
  • see the world through a filter of one big idea
  • stretch the idea and build data around it
  • are confident to predict and make many of them
  • drum on about the “tried and tested” formula
  • love complexity
  • are better in stable environments.


  • know many things
  • gather information from a wide spectrum of inspiration and sources
  • are self-critical and update their beliefs when faced with contrary information
  • are cautious about predictions
  • look for a new idea if something is not working
  • drive out with simplicity
  • are better in rapidly changing environments.

With that reminder, we are approaching rapids in our economy. That may sound like “one big idea” but it certainly is the consensus view of many writers at the moment. Just reading JP Landman’s article, Coming to a Standstill, dated 9 September 2015, he states that electricity and strikes initiated the SA growth problem, but these factors have been exacerbated by lack of confidence, a growing chasm between the public and private sectors, and a incoordination in key growth sectors. The SARB has also revised growth predictions and raised interest rates right into the headwind of a deteriorating economy in order to deal inflation. Not pretty at the moment, I’m afraid.

So what should you be, a fox or a hedgehog? We’ve been there before and survived, is a real hedgehog statement. You should’ve been around in 2008 to 2010, is another. Alles sal regkom, is a grand old hedgehog statement, loaded with stoicism and sense of duty. May I put to you that there is another way and explore the alternative.

The Foxy thing to do is to

  1. Review your business Good times layer in costs and make income assumptions. As for costs, scan every cost in your business and eradicate what even smells of complacency. As a radical move, you may wish to signal this effort to your people – stop the cake on Friday, change the coffee brand; just do something that makes everyone aware that times have changed.
  2. Review your activities – Golf on Wednesdays is really cool but stopping it will give you 6 good hours of extra work. And the message for your people will go without saying – news will get around. Start every day with a 2-Do List. Know what is optional and what must be achieved today, without exception. Follow-up on outstanding payments – years in business have taught me that “your best client [read, friend] will always pay you” probably means he is battling to pay. The other poor souls have already passed that point and you need to be the one creditor who collects. In property, chase up registrations and outstanding mandates. Remember management control is: Setting standards, Measurement, Evaluation, Correction or Reward and a Feedback Loop. Nothing short of that journey, is Control. Don’t delegate control if you’re accountable – by the time “your bank account tells you” it could be too late.
  3. Accept a Lower Standard of Living but not a Lowering of Standards: You can be poor but you don’t have to be dirty. Values drive behaviour and the values in your firm can leave space for facing the negative reality in the bad times, but not for excuses. You cannot create motivation but you certainly can channel it. Don’t allow your people to become de-motivated. There is a process of excellence in the business that needs to be maintained; maintain it. Customers certainly don’t need to know if you’re responsibly dealing with lowered economic growth. Stand up when answering the phone, convey positivity in your voice and your eyes, remain solutions-orientated and think possibility – there is nothing like sticking your chest out and tilting your chin upwards to make bad vibes go away. Remember your brain doesn’t know if you’re imagining or telling the truth when you decide to be positive in the face of circumstances. Imagination rules your world.
  4. Hunt for business: I have sat in airports recently reading the newspaper. I have even read the latest RW Johnson book and I am convinced that the day you believe it’s over, it is. Hunt for business. If you don’t someone else will. Jack Welsh had a famous saying: “Take control of your life, or somebody else will.” How true! No excuses, just down-to-earth action. No half-jobs, just hard work. If you want to read the paper and believe that China is your road to success, then go and work somewhere else. Remember this, people don’t leave you when they leave; they leave you in their heads a long time before that. You wish they would leave when they “opt-out” because that would save you money. The problem is they leave after months of “trying”, hours of toxic conversation with others, and a couple of unhappy customers. Watch for it in the daily activities and attitudes. Root it out asap. On the other hand, where genuine efforts are made by those great people who are with you for the long-run, encourage them and build them up. Remind them that “this too will pass” and that Action Conquers Fear.
  5. Find Inspiration: Running a business is tiring and battling cashflow, exhausting. Find a friend, a confidante, to whom you can turn. Pray, read, take “me time”, breathe deeply – 10 out, 10 in – to relax and replenish your soul. You can only give what you have, and be who you are. It is fair to say that your people “don’t need their leader with sweat on their brow.”
  6. Change BEFORE it hurts: It is always written about for one simple reason, people change WHEN it hurts. It is so difficult to simulate adversity in a successful company. It feels treasonous to even speak about the need to alter course when the island of delight is right on course. But, change you must. Bill Gates puts it this way:

When your business is healthy, it is difficult to behave as if you are in a crisis. That is why one of the toughest parts of managing, especially in a high-tech business, is to recognise the need for change and make it while you still have a chance.

Lots more could be said on this subject. Truth is that this is not the only recession we have faced and we have come through. Whether or not there is fundamental difficulty in this one, remains to be seen. Chance is there is little you can do to change that. But for foxes, they take inspiration from many sources, they re-consider the tried-and-tested, they try-abandon-try until their possibility thinking becomes their reality and their “new normal” meets their definition of excellence despite changed circumstances. They encourage others. They trade in hope and they are merchants of good news, truthfully spoken. Their word is their bond and their people trust them.

Hedgehogs have a place as well. They may be the very calm in the storm your company needs right now. Their idea may be good despite not ever pretending to be the silver bullet. Like all people, make allowances for them to enrich your team.

Yours in Property.

The role of an Estate Agent in a Property Transaction

In previous blogs we took a look at Conveyancing and some views on the positive association between originators and banks. We have also posited some tips regarding investment properties for those who would like to invest in property.

In this blog, I would like to share some of my experiences with estate agents.

We have all heard horror stories of “my estate agent!”. They are “this and that” and “why couldn’t they…”. To be honest, I have never had that experience in the sale of a number of properties with different estate agents and companies. I have many good friends who are estate agents and serve on a board of directors with outstanding men and women of high skill and integrity.

In short and upfront in this article, if you don’t like your estate agent [personality clashes and misunderstandings do occur] then call the Principal of the estate agency and change the person to someone with whom you would like to work. But, also understand some of things.

An estate agent does not work for you but for the Seller. They receive a mandate, virtually always in writing and sole- or joint-, to sell a particular property for the seller. They are to have the seller’s best interest at heart and present to the seller best offers that come from their marketing efforts. They are not at liberty to alter amounts or clauses without the written approval of the seller. Therefore nothing you say or write, is accepted until presented to the seller for signature approval or counter-offer by the seller. The estate agent is duty bound to achieve the best terms of price and conditions for the seller.

Does all of this mean that the estate agent is never for the buyer? No, not at all; they are professionals quite capable of seeing both sides of a sale. However, do not assume that the estate agent is working for you, the buyer, when presenting the offer. Be careful to be explicit in what you communicate and when conditions are written into a contract, understand the implication for you. Do not hesitate to obtain legal advice if you feel it is that serious that you need professional assistance. Trust is always essential in these relationships so work with someone you feel you can trust and then be wise in your dealings.

With this background, when buying a property

  • Be very clear on what you can afford, what deposit you have and what bond you can apply for. ( have a look at our affordability calculator if you are unsure about this)
  • Be very clear on what your minimum requirements are and, then, what you would like to have. For instance, understand the need for a study versus a family room and which one you would prefer if a house you can afford does not have both. And then, always leave room for debate and changes of mind – buying a home is stressful fun!

Once you have these matters clearly in your mind, approach a reputable estate agent in the area you wish to buy and brief him or her on your affordability and requirements.

You can see from this that your clarity, what I would call your Buyer’s mandate to the estate agent, is very important. You are not buying a couch here, this is probably your biggest investment apart from your pension, that you will ever make. On the other hand, you cannot expect a professional estate agent to bumble around with you on what you can afford or what you want.

An estate agent is trained and qualified theoretically and practically to:

  • Contract with seller who wish to sell their home. They receive a mandate from these sellers for many things, obviously, including the desired sale price. They probably also understand the negotiability of a price by the seller.
  • Understand the values of properties in an area and the comparisons between the prices of different houses. They may, for instance, advise a seller to paint and repair their house in order to assure a requested sale price knowing that houses in the area that have fetched a price have done so on the back of being clean and well-maintained.
  • Undertake a market analysis for the seller on which a future buyer can depend. For instance, what are the average selling prices over the last 6 months, what are the lowest and highest prices etc?
  • Administer the sale and purchase of the property for the seller and buyer in their best interests.
  • Negotiate the transaction between the seller and the buyer.

As regards latent defects, remember the estate agent is not supposed to know about them. After all, they would not be “latent” if any reasonable person could see them. What the estate agent must do is ask the seller if they know of any latent defects and, once revealed, must declare these to the buyer. Of course, you as the buyer may request a home inspection report [there is a good chance of these becoming regulated like an electrical compliance certificate] as one of your conditions of purchase. The same goes for roads and infrastructure where your local municipality could help you understand routes and the likelihood of occurring.

There is a role that is often not discussed and that is inter-personal relationships. Estate agents need to be fair and confident but always display sensitivity to the parties. Think of it this way, an elderly couple is selling their family home to retire and a young couple is buying their first home. The seller is reticent, nervous, sad, pondering the future and has brought their children along to advise and help them whilst the buyer is young, energetic, internet-savvy, aspirational, unexperienced and stretching their budget. The estate agent has the wonderful job of bringing these two parties together from mandate to transfer and making the experience of both memorable and enjoyable. Just think of the interpersonal skills that an estate agent needs to reflect in this scenario. And most of them are really good at what they do – I have never had a bad experience.

There are many twists and turns in property transactions. This blog is not a manual,  but rather just a heads-up for us to gain insight into the various role players and the relationships between them. Homeloan Junction hopes it informs you a little more and helps make your experience a good one.

Nepal earthquake, a stark reminder of how crucial Home Owners Cover is

I have had a Son and his two friends in Nepal for the last 2 weeks. He was two days out of Katmandu when the earthquake struck and two days shy of Everest Base Camp when the avalanche fell. Needless to say, it has been a long two weeks for my wife and I. The good news is that he and his friends are safe in Kat at the moment waiting for their flight out tomorrow.

But all this earthquake talk started my thinking about our insurance cover. Fortunately we don’t have many earthquakes of any size at all and just now and again have tremors to remind us of Mother Nature. We have however, had recent fires in Cape Town that destroyed some beautiful properties.

Fires were in fact the start of what we now know as Comprehensive Insurance, in the 19th Century. Today it includes our household contents and cars mainly. In particular though, is Home Owners Cover [HOC] which is at the heart of what we probably call natural disasters.

The good news is that if you have HOC, you are covered for what are called Fire and Allied Perils which includes damage caused by Fire, Wind, Water, Storm and, thankfully, Earthquake including its cousins, Mudslides and Avalanches. [On a side note, one wonders how many of those poor people in Nepal have HOC]. You can check your policy, but this cover is a general rule for all policies in South Africa as it emanates from the fires that were prevalent in wood-built cities of old.

Some policies may have conditions that you need to understand. For instance, a house in a known flood plain may be refused HOC cover for Water or the owners may have to pay an excess to their premium for such cover. Some policies may insist that the construction of a building is such that it is engineered to withstand a 5-plus earthquake. It’s not a bad idea to understand your policy wording to be very sure of what is included or specifically excluded.

The crux of this conversation has two angles:

–   Firstly,  get insured for HOC as you should be for contents and cars. Do not delay, the loss you could take in a fire is unbelievable and they do happen. When your bank has a bond over your house, this is a general rule. You probably are insured per course with the bank but may have your own insurance. In the latter case, the bank insists that you let them know that you are still insured once a year or they will reinstate your policy at your cost and include the payment in the bond payment. Bottomline, they have a right to insist, as the bond holder, that you are and remain insured.

–   Secondlymake sure your insurance is for the right amount. This amount is the replacement value of your home. Find out from estate agents what your home is worth in the market and ask them if that estimate is close to replacement value. Things change over time and replacement from older areas can be far more expensive than you imagine. Please don’t delay.

Some final thoughts. Often you’ll read that only 30% of cars in South Africa are insured; that’s staggering and not good news for anybody. In turn, house under-valuation is an ongoing problem for insurers. You should also be clear in a sectional title development that your Body Corporate is representing values correctly. Ask your chairperson of the BC to show you the latest policy and values for your unit. As regards Subsidence and Landslip cover this can be a nightmare. Simply, if your retaining wall falls over who pays – once again, be certain that there walls are valued and covered in your HOC. The same goes for sinkholes – make sure you understand your cover.

Our experience in Nepal has alerted us deeply to the things in life that are precious and worthwhile. Homeloan Junction cares about your home and your family way beyond getting your bond approved. That’s why we write these blogs with useful and hopefully, compelling information. Check out your policy and its cover; you may be very grateful you did.

Get in touch with us if you have any questions  on this, or anything relating to home ownership.

Yours in Property.

Your mortgage bond is your best friend

Obviously, you don’t feel like that right now. That monthly payment for “as long as you’ll live” feels interminable. And you’re hearing lots of news about inflation and rising interest rates. Then there’s all those other expenses that chew the rest of your monthly income.

But let’s look at things a little different and see some light at the end of the tunnel.

  1. Your mortgage bond gives you your primary place of residence. It pays for “home”. Your home is growing in value, slowly but surely. So, at some point in time, when your salary has risen and your bond has decreased you will have Equity in your house. That is a turning point in your wealth creation. Just by the way, I once said that your home is most peoples’ biggest asset and I was corrected. Your pension, for most people, is their biggest asset so look after it.
  2. When you have the spare cash monthly, pay extra on your bond. If I told you just a 10% increase in payment would save you 5  years [54 months to be precise], in payments. On a R1m bond over 20 years that equals R341662 in saving. Obviously, that gets better over a 30 year period and with more than 10% incremental payment. Can’t do it now? Then set the financial goal to force a saving of whatever you can afford.
  3. Remember, whatever you save earns tax free returns. The reason is simply that you save interest instead of paying interest and the bank earns less while you have a saving over the period.
  4. Obviously, there comes a point when your bond may be paid off. That’s a huge saving in monthly cashflow. Aim for it, it holds a hidden gem.
  5. At some stage, your equity or your paid off bond releases cashflow for an investment property. That’s an exciting prospect.

We’ll talk more about property investment in this blog, but aim in your portfolio to have a rented property or two when you retire. The great thing about it is that it is paid by somebody else. Of course, there are nightmare stories about tenants but there are many more about great returns from a tangible asset. What is most interesting about a rented property is that the mortgage bond, serving as an access facility, becomes your overdraft if you want it to be. Interest is tax deductible and the facility can be used for all sorts of luxury and wealth generating activities. For instance but not recommended, you can go overseas and repay the bond. Better still, you can buy a business or invest in other assets or another property by simply using the paid off rental property. It also helps that if a business doesn’t succeed, you have not risked your home in the process.

Property may not always be the best return in your portfolio. Many will also say that a property fund is the easiest way to invest in property – this blog does not disagree. But, for the sheer investment enjoyment of property, a buy-to-let investment is good to own and use.



Welcome to the Homeloan Junction Blog

Starting a blog on property is daunting for me. There are so many great people out there with the most amazing knowledge of the property industry. In fact, I welcome their input into the blog as we proceed.

There are lots of articles  about swimming pools, maintenance and the need for it so as to retain value.

But I wanted to start at a point and compliment the role players in this industry. Those men and women, from labourers to billionaire owners, who wake up every day with a passion to drive property. In essence, what you provide is the residence for business, people and families. None of us would be comfortable and clean in the absence of a roof over our head and a bed and shower to use. Little matters more than housing and food to an individual.

The cycle begins with Developers who take the risk to provide housing. From the multi-million to the Affordable unit. Great risk and not always great reward. It was tragic in the sub-Prime crisis that the Banks withdrew finance to these developers – the suppliers of “housing to the nation”. In hindsight with the dust settled, it seems that we lost sight for a few years on the national asset of housing and couldn’t really see the crisis clearly. As we talk more, we will see that the environment has changed and now affordable housing is going up at an exponential rate.

Then the Estate Agents and their Principals. What an amazing group of people – frustrating to some sellers but nonetheless, the reason why 98% of our houses and factories are sold with contractual efficiency. I think they’re great and the few that upset, well, so be it. the firms that I know are professional to the nth degree and deliver as specialists.

To the Banks, Conveyancers and the Deeds Office, you are the glue ensuring finance and strong title in a world class manner.

Look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Jack@ Homeloan Junction

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