5 things you need to know about prepaid water

You already know that we live in a water-stressed country, receiving an annual rainfall of 492mm, while the rest of the earth receives 985mm.

With a prepaid water system consumers can track usage, load credit remotely, and decrease the possibility of bill shock due to leakages or incorrect monitoring.

This is according to Marcus Thulsidas, Director: Business Development, Utility Systems, who says in addition, the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) cautions that 98% of South Africa’s water has already been allocated to users, leaving little surplus water to cater for a growing population and increasing demand.

In this context, could it be that prepaid water – like prepaid electricity – is the answer to more sustainable water consumption and management?

“Well, we at Utility Systems believe it is,” says Thulsidas says, and there are five important things that South Africans need to know about installing prepaid water meters:

1. What is ‘prepaid water’?
Prepaid water means that the consumer purchases water credit in the form of a prepaid water token. When entered into the user interface unit (located in the consumer’s home), the token instructs the water management device to allow a certain amount of water through the meter before closing.

Consumers can track usage, load credit remotely, and decrease the possibility of bill shock due to leakages or incorrect monitoring.

A prepaid water meter can also be used to limit water flowing to a particular area. This helps municipalities and property owners to control the amount of water used at certain outputs and prevents wastage in low-income households that can’t afford to pay for excess use of this basic need.

They can make payment in smaller, frequent increments. This prevents their falling into debt, which can compound in a post-paid arrangement.

2. Who can access it?
This is completely dependent on the municipality. So, even if you’re feeling inspired to install a smart water management device to enable prepaid water, you may not be able to – based on where you live or work.

That being said, most municipalities are beginning to embrace prepaid water management technology, so it may just be a waiting game. To find out your eligibility for prepaid water, it’s wise to approach your municipality and ask.

If you have a garden cottage, however, you can add an additional meter and smart water management device to the building to ensure that your tenants don’t rack up huge bills in your name – and then refuse to pay, or leave.

3. How does it affect rental properties and bodies corporate?
The implications for rental properties and bodies corporate are significant.

Prepaid metering reduces admin to a minimum, while removing the risk and frustration of late or non-payment of water bills. This is why housing estates are swiftly moving to prepaid water, as they did with prepaid electricity.

Gone are the days of splitting the entire estate’s water bill by the number of units. Prepaid metering means that users pay for their consumption only.

4. What’s in it for municipalities?
Prepaid systems are cost-effective solutions to sustainable water management in that they have a low cost of acquisition and, by curbing water usage, capital recovery is possible within months.

The systems are also able to distribute water equally, based on free water quotas, water balancing and fluctuating demand.

Aside from their ability to alert municipalities to leaks, prepaid water meters also drastically reduce government’s admin costs. This is because municipalities don’t need to chase bad debts or budget for legal fees on unpaid accounts. Public sector cash flow is immediately improved.

Collecting data from prepaid meters is also more efficient than the manual collection required for post-paid meters. A radio link receiver can be fixed, vehicle-mounted, or carried by municipality personnel.

5. Is prepaid water cheaper?
No – this is a myth. Prepaid and post-paid water cost exactly the same. It is illegal to sell municipal water above the municipal tariff rate declared. That being said, prepaid water gives consumers the opportunity to monitor their consumption and react immediately to possible leaks.

Finally
“The bottom line? Even the simplest smart water management device can provide the tools to track and control water usage. Prepaid water meters are smart tools with the potential to revolutionise water conservation efforts and revenue management worldwide. But it’ll be a while before every South African household is able to benefit from this enormous potential,” says Thulsidas.

11 smart ways to save electricity (and money) in the winter months

Eskom has issued steps consumers can take to save electricity as the colder weather grips South Africa.

A thermostat-controlled oil heater no bigger than 2 000W (watt) is the best choice to heat a room of 3 x 3 x 2.5 metres for three hours.

“During the colder months, space heating can be responsible for up to 8% of an average household’s electricity usage. The current constrained electricity network calls for smart electricity usage to help keep the warmth inside and the cold outside,” said the power utility last Wednesday.

Last week the power utility started implementing its ‘Use electricity smartly’ campaign, which aims to reduce electricity the shortage so as to minimise the risk of load shedding.

The power utility said insulated and draught-proofed rooms require 51% less energy to heat.

Eskom has the following tips for the winter period:

1. Use foam tape to seal windows and doors if they do not close properly – in winter, draughts can account for up to 25% of heat loss.

2. Hang curtains to reduce heat transfer.

3. Lay ‘door snakes’ to stop cold air from entering – aluminium skirts with rubber seals on the outside of doors are also highly effective.

4. Seal cavities in and between bricks with a polyurethane sealant.

5. Seal the chimney if you have one – the best way is to have a damper installed when the chimney is not in use; if not utilised at all, seal it at the top and bottom.

6. Install fire-retardant ceiling insulation – with approximately 40% of heat lost through the roof, ceiling insulation makes your home up to 5% warmer in winter.

7. Only heat the room you are occupying, and use the correct type of heater when you feel the need for extra warmth.

8. A thermostat-controlled fan heater is ideal to quickly heat a room of 3 x 3 x 2.5 metres for one hour.

9. A thermostat-controlled oil heater no bigger than 2 000W (watt) is the best choice to heat the same room for three hours.

10. A thermostat-controlled heater no bigger than 1 000W (watt) is the most energy efficient option to heat it for eight hours.

11. Most gas heaters generate a great amount of heat and do not require electricity at all.

Use ‘door snakes’ to stop cold air from entering.

The power utility has in recent weeks implemented load shedding as a result of generation capacity.

“Eskom is currently faced with challenges at its power stations, which has led to the need for load shedding over the past few months.

“If consumers can assist us by using electricity smartly, it would help to reduce the need for load shedding, which is a measure used to balance the supply and demand of electricity,” says Eskom acting Group Executive for generation, Andrew Etzinger. – SAnews.gov.za

Good news for home loan approval rates in South Africa

Buying a new home continues to become more affordable as weakening housing demand results in ongoing negative real price growth (after inflation) in the residential property market.

For the first quarter of 2019 (Q1 19) statistics from home loan comparison service, ooba, show negligible year-on-year growth in the average purchase price of 1.6% from Q1 18 to Q1 19.

Growth in the average purchase price for first-time buyers was also minimal at 0.5% from Q1 18 to Q1 19. This means that house price appreciation remains below inflation, reflective of the current uncertain economic and political landscape, ooba said.

Rhys Dyer, CEO of ooba, said: “Over and above more affordable property prices, buyers in the current market are also benefitting from higher bank approval rates. Banks continue to display a robust credit appetite and are increasingly approving home loans with lower deposit and also increasingly with no deposit requirements.

“This is indicative of the banks’ confidence in the property market and in customers’ ability to repay loans.”

“Our home loan approval rate of 81.3% in the first quarter of 2019 was the highest on record for ooba since May 2007 and importantly, the approval rate on applications without a deposit (100% loans) has increased by almost 8% on Q1 2018,” Dyer  said.

The average deposit as a percentage of purchase price is down by 11.3% year-on-year compared to Q1 2018, from 16.0% of the purchase price to 14.2% of the purchase price in Q1 2019. Similarly, ooba’s statistics showed that deposits for first-time home buyers are down by 21.6% over the same period from 12.5% of the purchase price to 9.8% of the purchase price.

“More affordable property prices, coupled with reduced bank deposit requirements, higher approval rates and improved home loan pricing create a perfect opportunity for property buyers at present,” said Dyer.

Banks are competing for a bigger share of the home loans market by approving finance at historically low interest rates, ooba said.

The group’s statistics for Q1 2019 show that the average interest rate is 5 basis points cheaper year-on-year. The average rate that ooba achieved for its buyers in Q1 2019 was 0.11% above prime compared to 0.16% above prime in Q1 2018.

 

this article was originally published by Businesstech on 18th April 2019

to view the original article Click here

Harcourts South Africa growth defies market decline

Despite the industry experiencing a decline in year on year sales, March 2019 was Harcourts South Africa’s best month since Harcourts started in South Africa in 2009. Boasting 10% growth on the same month last year. In addition, Harcourts South Africa’s first quarter was up 11% on the same period in 2018.

What’s so impressive about this growth is that it is happening on a national level with positive results from all regions. Also, what needs to be taken into consideration is South Africa’s economy has been under pressure in the past 18 months with consumers having to face volatile market fluctuations caused by unpredictable cyclical trends. Harcourts South Africa growth shows that the property market will remain active even in a decline and that investing in property is still a primary long term investment path for most.

There are many reasons to explain Harcourts’ success locally. Being a part of the impressive International Harcourts group, with more than 900 offices globally supported by almost 6600 sales consultants, the extensive global support structure ensures greater regional market penetrations.

Harcourts takes a values-based approach to real estate and they are guided by a set of values that dictate how agents and offices approach the industry. It is intrinsic to their ongoing success as Harcourts people live their values. In an ever-evolving real estate environment, it is imperative that client priority service based attitudes are instilled in business strategies.

The market is certainly changing before our very eyes and we have to ensure we stay ahead of the game whilst maintaining a clear focus on service.

Harcourts has invested in the development of cutting edge systems, property consultants have the full range of marketing, research and technological tools available to them at all times. Working within a tightly-knit and highly-motivated team environment, the business, customer support and online services which they can draw upon are very impressive. This undoubtedly influences the success rate of our business and ensures clients reap the benefits.

Successfully buying and selling real estate is mostly about fulfilling people’s needs and aspirations. Harcourts agents are committed to building meaningful and genuine personal relationships with their clients.

Harcourts continues to take the local real estate market by storm and if our growth and success continue on this exciting growth curve there are certainly exciting times ahead.

Statement by
Richard Gray
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer

Correct Pricing More Critical Than Ever

In any market, correctly pricing your home is critical to you selling for the most the market will pay. Why? Because, if you overprice your home you will attract the wrong buyers to your property. These buyers will be expecting a property worth more than yours. They will vote with their feet – and move on.
We’ve all seen properties that sit on the market for many months, possibly even years. One is immediately suspicious that there is something wrong with the property. Buyers will almost never pay market value for a property that has been listed for an extended period of time.
Research and experience have proven that a property that is correctly priced sells more quickly than an overpriced property. We can also, with confidence, say that a property that sells more quickly sells for more money than one that is overpriced.
The reason for this is that, at any one point in time, there is an existing pool of buyers in the market. When they see a new property coming to market they will respond to the marketing, and view the new listing. After this initial marketing period, it’s only the trickle of new buyers that come into the market that view the home.
So it stands to reason that most buyers, and the best buyers, will view the property in this initial marketing period. In our experience at Harcourts this initial marketing period is the first 8 weeks that a property comes to market. It’s absolutely critical that your listing price is in line with the market value in this period in order to attract the correct buyer enquiry.
When you do this – attract the correct buyers – you will create buyer competition. And that’s when buyers will pay their maximum for your property – when they have to compete for it.
This is true for all markets. But it’s especially true in our current market. The reason we say this is because there are fewer buyers shopping for property than there have been in the past few years. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main factors are economic pressures, political uncertainty, and the inability of the buyer to sell their existing property in order to purchase.
When there are fewer buyers it’s important that, if you want to sell, you need to attract them to your property over other competing listings. How can you do this? As explained, being listed at the correct price is critical. You simply can’t afford to lose out on the potential interest in the initial marketing period in the current market.
Additionally, you need to ensure that your property is aggressively marketed. If your listing is lost in the crowd, perhaps one of many hundreds of listings on a property website, then you just won’t attract the interest that you need.
A comprehensive marketing plan that throws the net wide to attract all the buyers, and correct pricing, are key to you selling for maximum market value.
Steve Caradoc-Davies
Director of Harcourts South Africa

 

How to Strengthen Your Offer on a Property

There is very little to match the disappointment of making an offer on a property, only to hear it’s been declined – or even worse, that someone else made an offer and it was accepted over yours.

 

The reality in the current market is that, especially in the lower to middle price ranges, there are more buyers than sellers. This means that in many instances a seller will receive more than one offer on his property at the same time.

 

For a seller, that’s the best situation to be in. A really good estate agent will market a property well, attract buyer interest, and then competing buyers need to make their best offer. Every seller is fully entitled to sell for the best the market will pay on the day.

 

So, if you’re a buyer, what can you do to strengthen your offer and ensure that you have a good chance of securing your property over other buyers? Here are some critical points to consider:

  • It goes without saying that the price you offer is a key element. You can try to be clever and start low. But I’ve buyers lose out completely. Go in with your best offer and show the seller you are serious.
  • The strongest offer is always cash. If you can make your offer unconditional on finance, you will usually trump an offer dependent on finance, as long as the price is similar.
  • If you need finance, be absolutely sure to have yourself properly pre-qualified. It’s best to use a mortgage originator to do this. Submit your pre-qualification along with your offer. Whilst no guarantee of finance, it is a strong indicator you will get the finance you require, and it certainly beats another offer with no pre-qualification.
  • Again, if you need finance, make it conditional on the lowest bond you can. The lower the percentage of the bond, the higher the chance of approval.
  • Pay the biggest deposit you can. A deposit is an indication of your intention to secure the property. If you have a deposit of 10% and other buyers only have 5% you have significantly improved your chances. If you have even more than 10%, then increase the deposit. You get interest on the funds anyway, so you lose nothing.
  • Try and offer good terms. Make occupation and transfer at dates the seller would like. So ask the agent and where possible, fit in with the seller.
  • Be generous with the occupational rental you offer. In many cases transfer happens on time – but in the case where there is a delay a higher rental could swing it your way. So ask what a market-related rental is, and add a bit to it.
  • Remove as many suspensive conditions as you can. Reduce the risk to the seller of the sale falling through.

If you consider the above when making your offer you have every chance of being successful. If you really want the property then don’t play around – make your best offer and purchase the house you want.

 

Steve Caradoc-Davies

Principal of Harcourts Platinum, and Director of Harcourts South Africa

Understanding The Buying Process

Buying a home is a big step and there can be a lot to consider. Here we run through the typical buying process you will go through when purchasing your new home.

Sorting out your finances 

The first step before buying a home is to ensure you have a deposit saved. Most lenders will require you to have a deposit for your home loan. However, most lenders have loan products to borrow up to 100% of the property value if you qualify.

You may also like to create a budget to determine what you can realistically afford to spend on mortgage repayments.

Mortgage calculator 

Once you’ve worked out your budget, you can use a home loan repayment calculator to get an idea of what your mortgage repayment, www.ooba.co.za has some useful tools you can use.

Pre-approved finance

Approach lenders to get finance pre-approval so that you know what price range you can look at for your new home.

Doing your research 

Start to look at neighbourhoods that would suit your needs and your budget. A great place to start is online. There are lots of property comparison sites on the web which will give you an indication of the average sale price of houses, land and units in an area.

Also start attending open homes and show houses. Take advantage of an open home and use the time to perform a thorough property inspection.

How to make a formal offer 

The best way to make a formal offer and avoid any confusion is to make the offer in writing. A sales consultant will most often provide you with a contract to start the process which will also highlight any conditions of sale. The consultant will then present this offer to the sellers.

After your offer is accepted

If you’re offer is accepted, and all parties have signed the contract you will be asked to pay a deposit if required.

Selecting a Attorney or conveyancer  

The Seller will nominate an attorney normally.

Property purchase costs

Financial fees vary greatly, depending on such matters as what percentage of the property value that you will be borrowing, the amount of the loan, the amount of the purchase and which bank you are borrowing funds from. If you speak to your local Harcourts agent or Ooba Financial Services representative you can quickly ascertain approximate costs for your particular circumstances.

Possible expenses you may incur are:

  • Bank fees
  • Conveyancing charges may include legal searches (please consult your attorney or agent)
  • Home protection insurance
  • Miscellaneous costs (building inspection, rates, removalists, etc.)

Completing the purchase

Before settlement your conveyancer will undertake the necessary searches with respect to the property and your financier will prepare the mortgage documentation.

On settlement your bond attorneys and conveyancing attorneys will conclude the following:

  • Monies, Guarantees
  • Transfer documentation

The attorney will lodge the transaction in the deeds office and will register normally within 10 days after which monies will be distributed etc.

Possession of the property usually takes place on the settlement day although the seller and buyer can agree for these dates to be different.

One of our team members will contact you to arrange a pre-settlement inspection. This is your opportunity to ensure all appliances at the property are in working order and that the property is as you recall from the time you signed the contract. If issues arise at this inspection, you should immediately contact your conveyancer to postpone settlement until your concerns are addressed.

Applying for rental properties: The do’s and dont’s.

With rental housing continuing to experience unprecedented occupancy rates, it’s more important than ever to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward when looking and applying for a rental property.

The more prepared you are, the better the chance you will have in ensuring a tenancy agreement can be reached.

First comes the initial contact and appointment. This can happen a number of ways. Consider though sending a thoughtful email to the Property Manager as the first point of contact. In it you can provide initial detail about yourself or your family and respond to various elements in the ad. Then, follow up with a phone call to make an appointment, if you haven’t received a call back already.

The appointment is not only your opportunity to see if the home will work for you but also to build a relationship with the Property Manager. This can be challenging if it is a group appointment as you may not get much face time with the Property Manager (see above). If it suits, ask for an application. You can always go to our website to retrieve it, but let the Property Manager know you’re submitting one.

When filling out your application, be sure to complete it in full, be honest, and ask if there’s something you’re not sure about. Remember, the Property Manager doesn’t know you but they’re doing their best based on the information you’ve provided to assess suitability and financial capability. You may then consider providing a profile and written references with your application. The more information you’ve prepared, the easier it will be to process and have an owner accept your tenancy.

In addition, know what’s on your own credit report (this can be done through each of the credit bureaus for free once a year). Sometimes these reports are incorrect so it’s worthwhile knowing what’s on record for you.

While these reports show debt and provide an opinion of credit risk, they don’t offer the complete story of financial capability. You may consider providing supplemental documentation, especially if you know you your credit is problematic or you don’t have much history in the country. This may come in the form of proof of income, identifying additional sources of income, a partial bank statement showing cheques that have cleared or a statement showing reserves.

Remember when applying for a property, the more information you can provide, the faster your application can be processed and the faster you can find your new home!

ARTICLE written BY ANDREA BUTT, HEAD OF HARCOURTS PROPERTY MANAGEMENT

 

Here’s some things you should consider before sending off your application.

DO: Consider writing a profile of yourself and include written references and other pertinent information that may help the Property Manager learn more about you.

DO:  Inform your referees that they may receive a call/email for a rental reference. And, follow them up with a thank you. You never know when you may need their help again or you can return the favour.

DO: Know what’s on your credit report.

DO: Use the viewing time to determine home suitability as well as build rapport with the Property Manager.

DON’T: Forget additional sources of income. The application only asks so much but if you have additional sources, it helps build a picture of financial capability.

DON’T: Leave blanks on your application. This can slow down the process.  If you’re unsure about the consent you’re providing or anything else, ask the Property Manager before you submit your application. Incomplete or unconsented applications may result in your application being bypassed.

Make your home ‘energy-friendly’ with these small changes

One thing everybody should understand about making their home more energy efficient is that it’s a process. These are small changes you can make that work towards a bigger goal, but only implementing one or two new elements and expecting substantial results will lead to a very discouraging place. However, a bunch of small changes are going to add up and leave you with a very positive outlook.

1. Change the bulbs

Most people start their energy-efficient transformation by first replacing the bulbs in and around the house. All the conventional incandescent lights are switched with LED or fluorescent bulbs, which don’t use half as much energy. Even though it’s not going to make the biggest dent in your electricity bill, consider the big difference in energy usage. Where a conventional bulb draws anything between 60 and 100 watts, LED and fluorescent alternatives only draw about 12 to 15 watts.

2. Insulation

Insulating the walls and roof is considered a long-term solution for temperature control. It keeps the house cool during summer, and prevents heat from escaping during winter. If insulating the walls proves a little bit too difficult, there are several insulating techniques you can use, such as weather stripping. The more you can insulate your home, the better. Think of it as a natural way of maintaining a comfortable temperature. While you’re at it, consider insulating the water pipes and help the geyser stay warm with a thermal blanket.

2. Look at the windows

Believe it or not, windows play an important role in a home’s overall energy efficiency. For example, single-pane windows and aluminium frames are not helping your situation. But a double-pane window and a vinyl frame on the other hand, that is a step in the right direction. If you’re serious about turning your home into a place that uses energy wisely, investing in some new windows and frames is a must.

3. Consider solar power

There is one thing you can use that could make a substantial difference, namely solar power. It’s the age of renewable energy, and what better way to turn your home into an energy-friendly zone? Consider for a moment installing a retro-fit solar geyser kit. While still using your tank, you can just install a solar panel to take over the responsibility of heating the water. If you’re in charge of paying the electric bill, you’ll know how much energy goes to water heating.

You can even take it step further and get yourself an Ecoboxx. It’s an all-in-one power station that can be moved wherever you need it. It comes with two panels that charge the station during the day, and there are two 220v sockets with an output of 1 500 watts. Whether it’s for emergencies or appliances, the Ecoboxx is more than just a little handy.

4. Switch to energy-efficient appliances

This might be little expensive, but you don’t have to replace all the appliances that consume too much energy overnight. Instead, when you shop for your next appliance, pay attention to the energy efficiency level or look for the Energy Star logo. Manufacturers that offer energy-efficient products will usually add an energy label. If the label’s not there, it’s probably not very energy efficient.

5. Install low-flow showerheads and toilet mechanisms

It’s staggering to think how much water is wasted through the toilet and shower. In fact, about 40% of water usage goes only to the toilet. And where a low-flow showerhead uses around 6 litres of water per minute, a conventional showerhead uses around 18 litres. By installing low-flow alternatives, you’ll be making a dramatic difference in terms of saving hot water and conserving valuable water.

6. Simply start cutting back and switching off

What about changing your lifestyle? You can still do all these things mentioned above, but don’t overlook the bad habits we maintain. A good example is leaving the phone charger plugged in while nothing is charging. Or what about appliances with digital displays?

Even when these appliances aren’t being used, they are drawing energy. As mentioned in the introduction, it’s a bunch of small changes that will ultimately make the big difference. Learning to unplug appliances and use heaters only when blankets aren’t enough, or even installing a geyser timer and using hot water at scheduled times, are things that will help you reach an energy efficient level.

Article courtesy of www.home-dzine.co.za

Budget speech delivers on expectations

South Africa’s Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivered his maiden budget yesterday. It was expected to be a tough budget by many pundits and it certainly delivered on that sentiment. We know that in order for South Africa to achieve positive economic growth Government is going to have to be tougher on state-owned enterprises. This was a central theme for the Minster and he was very clear about the effect these SOE’s have on our economy.

What was reassuring was the Minister’s clear focus on rebuilding a stagnating economy.  “It is all of our duty to tend the seed and see that it grows strong, tall and fruitful. It is a budget for the future,” he explained.

The past few months consumers have experienced serious financial pressures as costs continue to rise and bleak economic trends affect the activity in most major sectors. Property was one of those markets that certainly felt the knock-on effects.

The budget, although far more balanced and focused on renewal and growth, it was disappointing that no pressures were relieved on consumers in the property market. The property market is incredibly susceptible to the message and plans in the Budget and how they are instituted.

As predicted VAT remained unchanged at 15% and there was no an increase in personal and corporate income tax. However, the Minister revealed that there would be an increase in fuel levies. Petrol: 29c per litre and Diesel: 30c per litre. In addition, it is expected that real GDP growth in 2019 will rise to 1.5% and then strengthen to 2.1% in 2021.

If we can see the Minster and the Department stand strong on its desire to clamp down on SOE lending as well as aim to reduce pressure on the consumer, the economy will undoubtedly start to gain ground and we will be able to restore both consumer and investor confidence which in turn translates into increased economic activity.

Statement by
Richard Gray
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer