Navigating the real estate market in 2021

Many industries are piecing things back together again this year, as they try to recover from the effects of the pandemic or recreate themselves to remain relevant in a changing world. One industry that has been left unaffected to a great extent, and yet has had to re-create itself almost entirely in the same breath, is the real estate industry. As 2021 sets off, it’s important to understand just how the industry will shift gears in the months to come.

The biggest factor that will influence the industry is the fact that the public is in need of more guidance and advice than before. The uncertainty that still surrounds the economic landscape and the future of the world as it battles COVID-19 means that people are more cautious when it comes making real estate and investment choices. The role of property practitioners is thus more vital than ever in supporting the public through this period of recovery.

Property practitioners have a tough task ahead of them as they provide the public with confidence in their decisions, while also helping grow the market again so that that confidence is not misplaced. A vital part of this process, beyond the elbow grease and hard work that is already going into recuperating the industry, is the building of strong relationships with clients. Property practitioners may have acted as a “middle man” of sorts in many instances in the past, but their roles are being redefined as they provide more and more tailored services to those who are navigating the real estate landscape.

With the past year obliging so many industries to re-evaluate their way of doing business, the real estate industry has also sought out more streamlined solutions that put less strain on property practitioners while offering the public more efficient service. A big role player in this process is the adoption of Customer Relationship Management systems that allow property practitioners to enhance the way they interact with both existing and prospective clientele. This is especially of use when it comes to the rental market, where a rotating roster of clients needs to be connected with.

As a result of the continuing uncertainty and the weakness of the economy, the rental market is proving to be one of the most greatly affected. Where tenants are able to, 2021 will most likely find them choosing to continue renting where they currently are, opting for safety above prospects. Unfortunately, vacant rental properties could remain vacant for quite some time still as a result. This may be even more true for properties at the lower end of the price spectrum, as lower-income individuals have been some of the worst affected by the lockdown and TERS relief coming to an end.

As more and more tenants conduct research regarding their financial futures, many may also realise their rental amounts are almost the same as bond repayments would be, leading them to reconsider the possibility of becoming homeowners and bringing stability to their lives amid the storm. As more South Africans re-evaluate their futures, with considerations such as work-from-home options becoming more prevalent, many people are looking for homes that will better suit their changed lives, and renting may simply no longer be the answer to those plans.

All of this cements the necessity for property practitioners’ role in the months to come. If it is time for you to alter your real estate situation, enlist the guidance and advice of a trusted property practitioner to help you navigate whatever comes next.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Exit tax and homeownership

The exodus of South Africans to foreign jurisdictions has been well publicised, and due to this, much has been written about the so-called “exit tax” that applies when one ceases to be a tax resident in South Africa, as well as matters relating to foreign employment income earned. However, what is often overlooked is what happens when you emigrate but retain your home in South Africa.

The general principle is that when you cease to be a South African tax resident, your home (constituting immovable property in South Africa) will not be subject to the “exit charge”, since that immovable property always remains a part of the South African tax net. This means that should you initially keep your home in South Africa and only sell it a few years down the line, you are only likely to pick up any capital gains tax consequences once you do sell the home.

The question arises, however: What is the interaction is between you having used your home as a primary residence whilst in South Africa and you not having lived there after your emigration? It is important to note that the way in which you used your residence whilst not actually living there while aboard is irrelevant for the consideration below.

In terms of the Income Tax Act, the first R2 million of a capital gain made on the disposal of a “primary residence” is excluded for purposes of calculating your tax liability. However, since you were not resident in your home for the entire time during which you owned the property, it will not constitute as being your “primary residence” for the entire time. An apportionment must thus be made for the time during which you lived in that residence, and the time you used it for other purposes.

Taxpayers are often incorrectly advised that for purposes of the apportionment mentioned above it is the primary residence exclusion of R2 million that must be apportioned on a time basis to determine the capital gains tax exposure. However, paragraph 47 of the Eighth Schedule of the Income Tax Act is clear in that it is the capital gain that must be apportioned on a time basis for the period you were resident and the period in which you were not resident. The gain made in respect of the period during which you did not reside in the property as your primary residence is fully subject to capital gains tax, while the R2 million primary residence exclusion can only be applied to that portion of the gain during which you indeed resided in the property, as your primary residence.

Persons who currently reside aboard or intend to emigrate while retaining their property, which they used as a primary residence at some stage, are therefore encouraged to obtain professional assistance when doing the apportionment calculations to ensure that they are not prejudiced in any way (either through the overpayment or underpayment of tax in respect of the disposal of that property).

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Investment with a solid foundation

Buying real estate is more than finding the right home or location for your business – owning property is an investment that holds more benefits than you might know.

Income Predictability

While interest rates may alter mortgage repayments at first, real estate offers a somewhat constant financial investment. Once home loans are repaid in full, real estate offers the owner a constant income that does not fluctuate with the market, an income that can increase with inflation. Of all the investment types, real estate is the safest from external influence.

Increasing Value

Property appreciates in value over time. Thanks to South Africa’s reliable climate, real estate investments rarely depreciate due to natural causes, so long as the property is well looked after by its tenants and owner. Appreciation levels have increased at 6% per year, on average, since 1968, meaning your investment will grow no matter what.

Improve Your Investment

Where other investments rely on the financial market, the greater economy and an organisation’s performance to increase their value, property value can be greatly improved by improving the actual property. With a little elbow grease and dedicated planning, you can increase the value of your investment yourself.

Retirement Ready

A great benefit of owning property is that it is there when you need it the most. While the initial burden of home loan down-payments on cashflow can be rather strenuous, the weight lessens considerably over the years as the principal reduction increases. This means that your cashflow will increase as you near retirement, allowing you to invest your money more appropriately.

Up Your Equity

While you pay off your home loan, you are also increasing your equity as your property counts as an asset in your net worth. Through increased equity you will be able to gain more leverage in financial situations, when obtaining a loan, for example, and you will be able to grow your wealth more steadily as well.

Portfolio Diversification

Real estate investment holds less risk than other major class investments, allowing you to create a diversified and safer investment portfolio. Through a diversified investment portfolio, you ensure that your investments are not all influenced by the same external factors, such as a fall in share value (as has been seen during the COVID-19 pandemic).

When you start looking at investment options, it may be a wise decision to consider including real estate in your portfolio early on. Remember to reign in the assistance of the experts to help you find the perfect property to invest in.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

How binding are body corporate fines?

In an estate or sectional title scheme, it is challenging to ensure that everyone will stick to the conduct rules and to aid this, body corporates often fine the chancers. How far can the body corporates stretch their fining, and are these fines binding?

 

Each body corporate may choose what to impose formally in their code of conduct unless a rule is already part of the conduct rules in terms of the Sectional Titles Act. This is the only way the fines can be binding as enforceable, and they have to be reasonable and fair.

 

When fines are imposed, they cannot favour or benefit certain residents while leaving others out of mind. Substantially, they must serve the same purpose. The notification of a fine must be received by the owner or resident through writing. There is a correct way in which fines may be imposed:

 

  1. Complainants to lodge complaint

     

This must be lodged in writing or through an incident report to the trustees or the estate’s managing agent.

 

  1. Notice of particulars of the complaint

     

The owner and the tenant, or the resident, must be given a notice of the particulars contained in the complained as well as reasonable time to respond to the complaint. The resident/tenant must also be given enough information regarding the incident, including the rules that they may have broken.

 

  1. Second notice

     

Should the owner or resident not heed the first notice, a second notice may be issued mentioning the contravention is continuous or has been repeated. The transgressor must then be invited to a trustee meeting where they will be given a platform to present their case or defend themselves.

 

  1. The hearing before the fine

     

Before a fine is imposed, a hearing must have taken place. In the meeting, witnesses may be called to testify in favour of the transgressor and the transgressor may state their side of the story. Those who laid the complaint may also be cross-examined.

 

  1. Discussing evidence

     

Once the hearing is over, the trustees may then review the evidence presented to them and make a decision on whether or not to impose the fine.

 

If a fine is imposed, the amount should be reasonable, substantial and be proportionate to the purpose of the penalty.

 

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Transfer duty

Transfer duty is a tax levied upon the purchaser of immovable property situated in South Africa.[1] The duty is levied in accordance with the following sliding scale and is based on the value of the property which is the subject of the transfer:

 

Value of the property (R)

 

Rate

 

0 – 900 000

 

0%

 

900 001 – 1 250 000

 

3% of the value above R900 000

 

1 250 001 – 1 750 000

 

R10 500 + 6% of the value above R 1 250 000

 

1 750 001 – 2 250 000

 

R40 500 + 8% of the value above R 1 750 000

 

2 250 001 – 10 000 000

 

R80 500 + 11% of the value above R2 250 000

 

10 000 001 and above

 

R933 000 + 13% of the value above R10 000 000

 

 

While the sliding scale above previously only applied to natural persons acquiring property, this is no longer the case, and legal persons too are subject to transfer duty based on the above table. (Previously, legal persons were subject to transfer duty simply at the maximum rate in the table being applied to the entire value of transfers where a legal entity bought property).

 

Based on the above table therefore property transfers involving property worth less than R900,000 are effectively exempt from transfer duty, although the tax exposure may quickly thereafter jump to involve significant amounts. From the perspective of individuals buying property financed by way of a mortgage bond registered in favour of a lending bank, the duty quickly becomes a material consideration when purchasing a property, considering that the financing of the duty is typically not covered by financing provided by a commercial bank and which therefore may require the duty to be settled by way of existing cash resources available to prospective buyers.

 

Most notably, property transfers on which the transfer duty may be levied are not limited to transfers of immovable property only, but also includes the transfer of shares of so-called “property rich residential companies”, that is the sale of shares in a company where more than 50% of the value of such a company is derived from residential property owned by that company.[2] [3]

 

Various exemption apply in respect of transfers of property where the transfer duty will not be levied.[4] These include where the transfer involves a transaction where the relevant group relief provisions of the Income Tax Act[5] are applied, or where the transfer is subject to VAT (i.e. where the seller sells the property as part of its VAT enterprise).[6]

 

[1] Section 2(1) of the Transfer Duty Act, 40 of 1949

[2] See paragraphs (d) and (e) of “property” in section 1 of the Transfer Duty Act.

[3] Interestingly, the anti-avoidance provision does not extend to shares transferred in companies which own non-residential property.

[4] Section 9 of the Transfer Duty Act.

[5] 58 of 1962

[6] Section 8(15)

 

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)