December news

The last month of the year 2011 is here - time flies! We look forward to a break to recharge our batteries - next year we shall need lots of energy to achieve the big goals we have. Our office will close on 15 December and will reopen on 5 January.

With this newsletter we again bring you information we believe may shed some light on property matters. We look at 5 factors which will influence your selling price, have some tips on wisely watering gardens in the hot summer months, explain what the law says about damage deposits and deal with a few legal requirements with regards to sectional title.

If you want us to address a specific topic, please let us know. We are currently researching heat pumps vs solar heating, and hope to bring you an article on that next month.

We wish you a safe and joyful festive season.

Kind regards
Daleen and Carina van der Linde

5 factors that will influence your selling price

The selling price of a property - as with any other commodity - is determined by demand. In a seller's market, there are more buyers than sellers, and property prices soar. We saw that a few years ago. In a buyer's market, as we are generally experiencing now, buyers are making decisions only after careful consideration. But in good times and bad times, there are factors which will influence the selling price of a property.

What are these factors which influence a buyer's decision to make an offer on a property?


Very few buyers will buy the first house they see. Most buyers will look at a number of properties in a suburb, or neighbouring suburbs,  and they will compare these homes to each other. If a property is overpriced, it will help other similar properties in the area to sell for a better price - while sitting on the market for ages. For this reason, it is very important that a property's asking price is determined after thorough research of the prices similar properties in the same area have sold for in the preceding year, as well as the prices similar properties are being marketed for at that point in time. A good agent will be able to present you with a Comparative Market Analysis, which is a reliable aid when one has to decide about the correct marketing price.


Rather buy the best home you can afford in a  good suburb than the best home in a less popular suburb. This advice you must have heard many times before. The proximity of schools, public transport, shops and churches may also lead a buyer to choose one suburb above another. Muslim buyers give preference to homes close to a mosque or a madressa, and is often willing to pay a premium for that.  If your property is situated on a busy road, or even close to one, many buyers will have a problem with the noise levels, and, unfortunately, that makes the buyer's pool smaller - with a negative effect on the selling price.


Of course, the "fact" that one neighbourhood is better than another can be based on perception. The  Oxford dictionary defines perception as an "intuitive recognition (of truth, aesthetic quality, etc)." What the buyer perceives, is not necessarily a fact, but it still influences his decision. For this reason, the selling prices of two similar homes on different sides of the same street, but  in neighbouring suburbs, may differ - the one suburb being perceived as better. Many buyers also perceive the proximity of an open area such as a park as a potential security risk - again not necessarily true, but still a factor that influences their decision.


Buyers will pay more for a smaller house which is in tip-top condition than a rambling, run-down house across the road. The importance of maintaining a property can not be emphasised enough. If the buyer sees a few cracked windows and peeling facia boards as he walks in,  it immediately makes him wary of other potential problems. Don't neglect maintenance until you want to sell - it is likely to be too costly to do all at once. If you attend to problems as they arise, you will benefit greatly when you sell in the future.


Obviously a home which offers a lot more accommodation will sell for more - if its position or condition does not negatively affect buyers' perception of its value. Most buyers looking for family home require  at least 3 reception rooms, 3 to 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms  (of which one must be main en suite), a kitchen and a covered entertainment area. Good staff accommodation also is in demand, as is  a double garage. Cottages and  home offices will have value only for a smaller group of buyers, and unless your buyer is in need of this, he is unlikely to pay more for the property because it has these "extras".  Keep this in mind when extending your property. That jacuzzi room or built-in bar will only increase your property's value if the buyer has those on his wish list.

A seller can not really do anything about his property's position or buyers' perception.  It is a given. It is also not recommended that costly alterations to improve the property be undertaken just before selling - you may not be able to recoup your investment. The seller, however, can make sure that the property is in tip-top condition when he sells, and he can set a realistic asking price with the help of a reputable agent to ensure the best selling price possible is achieved.  


Watering the garden

Why is it so important to water the garden properly? Plants are expensive, and enough water will help them to develop properly. They will also be less susceptible to damage from pests. Too much water, on the other hand, will make plants prone to rot and disease.

The visual signs of overwatering and underwatering are similar - wilted leaves and a yellowish colour. For this reason, keeping track of rainfall and having a consistent schedule of watering is beneficial. We lead busy lives, and it is easy to forget when last  the garden was watered! Check the soil if uncertain - if the soil is dry to a depth of 3 cm or so, it is probably time to water.

The amount of water your garden needs is influenced by the type of soil and the type of plants you have planted. It is also logical that more evaporation will take place on warm, sunny days.

The first step is to know what kind of soil you have in the garden. If uncertain, do the simple jar test. Water will drain away quickly if the soil is sandy, whilst heavy clay, although more difficult to penetrate, holds water longer and is more likely to be overwatered. The soil's water holding capacity can be improved by adding organic matter such as compost.

In South Africa, it is wise to give preference to drought-resistant plants in the garden. If you simply love plants with high-water needs, such as azaleas and rhodendrons, group them together. Also, remember that large shrubs and trees will suffer less if they dry out a bit than newly planted plants and plants with shallow roots, which  need to be watered more regularly.

Mulching is a must for moisture conservation. It reduces evaporation, keeps the soil cool in summer and helps prevent erosion caused by rain and wind.

Rather water less frequently but generously. Shallow watering causes roots to stay near the soil surface. Deeply rooted plants are more resilient to drought. Brief daily watering will be less beneficial than moistening the soil well  to a depth of 12 cm  once or twice a week.

The best time to water is early morning, as a lot of water is lost by evaporation during the heat of the day. Avoid moistening foliage at night, as that may lead to fungal diseases.

Lawns have their own special watering needs. Discuss the amount of water your type of lawn needs with an expert at your local nursery.

Irrigation systems can be a great aid to make watering the garden easy, but then it must preferably installed by someone who is knowledgeable about the requirements posed by the type of soil in your garden and needs of the plants you chose. If it is automated, a sensor to keep it from switching on during rainy periods, is imperative to prevent overwatering.

Water sensibly,  and enjoy your garden!




Damage deposits - when, how and if...

The repayment of the deposit at the end of a lease term is often a bone of contention.  Tenants sometimes do not want to pay the last month's rent - claiming that the deposit can be applied for it.  This is not the purpose of the deposit, which is also referred to as  a damage deposit or security deposit. With regards to applying the deposit for the last month's rent, it is interesting that in some other countries the last month's rent is payable upfront together with the deposit and first month's rent.

Deposit is defined as "a sum of money paid in relation to a rented item to ensure it is returned in good condition". This is usually an amount equal to a month's rent or two months'rent.  In terms of the Rental Housing Act the deposit  must be invested in an interest-bearing account with a financial institution, and the interest accrues to the tenant. 

When a tenant moves into a property, an inspection of the property is done and recorded. This can be done in writing only, but ideally a  photographic record should be done as well. The purpose of this is to record the condition of the property when the tenant takes occupancy. When the tenant moves out,  an inspection is done again to ascertain if any damage beyond normal wear and tear was caused to the property during the tenant's occupation. In short, a tenant is expected to hand a property back to the landlord in the same condition as it was received.

The Rental Housing Act stipulates:

"On the expiration of the lease, the landlord may apply such deposit and interest towards the payment of all amounts for which the tenant is liable under the said lease, including the reasonable cost of repairing damage to the dwelling during the lease period and the cost of replacing lost keys and the balance of the deposit and interest, if any, must then be refunded to the tenant by the landlord not later than 14 days of restoration of the dwelling to the landlord. "

Ideally a tenant will see to it that any damages are repaired before the moving-out inspection takes place. It will make life easier for the landlord or agent, and obviously it will speed up the repayment of the deposit. To have carpets cleaned, walls painted, broken windows repaired, lost keys replaced and the garden cleaned up, take a lot of time to organise. Contractors can not always do the job immediately, which also causes a delay. A tenant who is in a hurry to get back his deposit, should make sure that the property is spic and span when the inspection is done!

If no amounts are owing to the landlord, the deposit must be refunded within 7 days.

A practical problem arises because the amount outstanding for water and electricity is often not available when the deposit needs to be finalised and refunded. The only solution is to refund the deposit, but to retain an amount to cover the outstanding monies.

It is also important to note that failure by the tenant to inspect the dwelling with the landlord or his appointed agent despite being requested to do so, allows the landlord to do such an inspection  on his own within 7 days after expiry of the lease, and the deposit then only needs to be refunded within 21 days after the expiry of the lease.

If the landlord or his appointed agent fails to inspect the property, it is seen as an acknowledgement by the landlord that the property is in a good state, and the tenant must be refunded the full deposit.


Compulsary (by law) for sectional title

A sectional title complex must be established and run in terms of the Sectional Title's Act of 1986, and the amendments to the Act made thereafter. A complete copy of the Act can be downloaded at

In terms of the Act, the following is a given:

  • When you own a unit in a sectional title complex, you automatically become a member of the body corporate. You own your section in the complex, but is also co-owner of the communal property such as the parking area.
  • The most important funtion of a body corporate is to establish a fund to cover expenses relating to the communal property and municipal services. This fund is called the levy fund. Each member's contribution to the levy fund is calculated according to the unit's participation quota. The participation quota is the total floor area of a section,  expressed as a percentage of the total floor area of all the sections in the scheme.
  • The Act determines that the body corporate must have a bank account. Management rules 25 through 45 of Annexure 8 specifically deal with the financial responsibilities of the body corporate. Apart from having a bank account  and keeping proper books of account, the books of the body corporate must also  be audited annually. When there are less than 10 units, an accounting officer may carry out the "audit". 
  • The Act stipulates that every complex must have both management rules and conduct rules (formerly house rules) to regulate the relationship between owners in the scheme.  If the rules had not been amended or replaced by the body corporate, the management or conduct rules found in Annexure 8 and Annexuare 9 to the Act, automatically apply. A legal procedure must be followed to amend the rules - more about that in a future article. Owners in a complex have a duty to know and understand the rules, and also to make sure that their tenants, employees and guests comply with the rules. Ignorance of the rules is no excuse.
  • The AGM or Annual General meeting must be held within four months of the end of each financial year. Owners must be given 14 days' notice of the meeting. Matters addressed at the AGM include consideration of the financial statements, approval of replacement values for insurance purposes,  approval of income and expenditure statements, determination of the monthly levy and election of trustees.  Ideally all owners should attend the AGM to protect their interests in the complex.  The quorum for the meeting is calculated in terms of the total number of units in the complex. In the next newletter more about how many members of a body corporate constitute a quorum. 


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