Home Buyers don't take Holidays

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Don't assume that just because you are taking a break over the festive season, buyers are doing the same. Many sellers believe that the property market virtually grinds to a halt over the holidays, but in actual fact, the demand for new homes remains fairly high during this period.

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. People tend to take leave at this time of the year and it is easier for couples to view potential properties together. Employees often wait until the end of the year to resign, with many taking up new positions in other towns in early January. This group generally falls into the serious buyer category and will urgently be looking for a place to live.

However, a change of scene is not the only reason that buyers are not going to be that thin on the ground during this time. Rudi Botha, CEO of BetterBond says that buyers are also keen to take advantage of the low interest rates and greater affordability available right now. "Mortgage interest rates are currently at their lowest level in almost 40 years, which now makes it easier for potential buyers to qualify for home loans. According to Absa statistics, the affordability of housing has been improving drastically since 2008, in terms of both the house price to household disposable income ratio and the mortgage repayment to household disposable income ratio.”

He adds that at the current standard home loan interest rate of 8,5 percent, the monthly repayment on a 20-year, R1-million home loan is R8 364 and buyers can opt to take a fixed rate option for very little more. In 2008, before the recession, that same loan would have required a monthly repayment of R13 168.

Searching for the right property when couples are on leave is also ideal. In addition to being in a more relaxed frame of mind, potential properties can be viewed together, which obviously saves a great deal of time all round.

The myth that fewer properties sell over the holidays generally leads to fewer new listings coming onto estate agents’ books. While not ideal, it does mean that buyers have less of a choice and serious sellers should take this into consideration before either removing their home from the market or delaying the decision to sell until the holiday season is over.

With this in mind, sellers should try their level best to keep their homes in 'showroom' condition during the holidays - not necessary an easy exercise, particularly if the seller has friends and family visiting. Discuss this issue with the agent and make a note of which days will not be suitable for viewing. While it is understandable that everyone, even sellers, need a break, it is advisable to keep the ‘no show’ days to a minimum.

Interestingly, in a number of coastal areas it has been noted that the bulk of sales happen around February and March, once the holiday rush is over and buyers have more time and access to holiday units. This however, doesn't necessarily mean that buyers aren't looking -they are simply delaying a buying decision until things quieten down.

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