Conveyancers support property owners and sellers during COVID-19
… and beyond16th Jul 2020
Property buyers and sellers are facing uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic. Buyers who are accustomed to a regular salary cheque are concerned that they will no longer qualify for a home loan, as many consumers face the dire reality of a salary cut, retrenchment, or shorter working hours. All these events can result in a substantial reduction of income.
Already financial institutions have indicated that they will review all approved but not yet registered home loan applications. And self-employed home buyers are left with little or no income during and post lockdown. One financial institution approved only 8 % of the home loans received in March; their May and June approval rates are expected to be even lower. Sellers are concerned that their properties may remain on the market for a longer period of time, or that cash property buyers will offer them lower, ‘cheeky’ offers on their properties. In such a climate of uncertainty and economic hardship, how does a seller refuse such a lower offer? How does a buyer obtain the necessary finances to fund their new home?
Collective experience and national footprint
,Rather than to try to do it all on our own and re-invent the wheel, we called on conveyancing firms and asked them to pool their services, knowledge and resources to assist home buyers, property owners and sellers,’ say Meyer de Waal, Chris Fick and Charlene Nolte Joubert, the three attorneys who launched this initiative. So far 14 conveyancing firms responded to collaborate.
Covering a national footprint with offices in the Western Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Northern Cape and KZN, the combined legal skills and years of experience form the basis of the educational information disseminated, and assistance provided.
In addition, we invited other industry stakeholders to help with online training and education for attorney’s firms, as well as service providers that specialise in debt and affordability negotiation and improvement, home ownership education and assistance with government subsidies for first time buyers.
We all have our own independent legal firms, but we realised that we have to tap into the collective years of property and legal experience, as well as utilise the national footprint of our association of skilled conveyancing attorneys working in unison, says De Waal of MDW INC Attorneys of Cape Town.
‘The availability of online meeting facilities such as Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams has enabled us to reach out to property buyers and sellers with speed and ease,’ says De Waal.
The first session for property buyers
The first information session was hosted with a special focus on FLISP government subsidies for first time buyers. The session was so well received that, within 24 hours, we had 147 subscribers for a Zoom online information session that could only host 100.
To make our lives easier, we set up a booking system through the online platform Quicket, which offers free online registration. This enabled us to distribute the invites to our database.
‘Conducting the session online saved us time in administration, and it was easy to manage the subscription,’ says Anele Matakane of FLISP Services, who co-hosted the FLISP information session.
Flisp government subsidies are available to all first-time home buyers who earn between R3,501 and R22,000 per month, based on total gross household income. To apply, the home buyer must have an already approved home loan, must be a first-time home owner, and must be a South African Citizen with dependents. Click here for a FLISP subsidy calculator.
The second session
The second free information session with special focus on Rent2uy and alternative finance solutions was oversubscribed in two hours after the invites were distributed.
When we realised the huge demand for our sessions, we opened up the 100 Zoom capacity and the result was 319 subscribers. As the demand exceeded the capacity, we scheduled a repeat of the Rent2buy session for those who could not attend the first session, says De Waal.
Rent2buy Finance is an alternative solution for home buyers who aim to secure a home now and fix the purchase price, but only pay the full purchase price two years later. Rent2buy Finance is available in the price range R400,000 to R1.8 million, and is available in Cape Town Metro, Gauteng and Bloemfontein. Click here to view a short Rent2buy video
More information sessions lined up
‘Now that we realise the demand and how easy it is to host and facilitate such information sessions, we have reached out to other stakeholders in the property industry to collaborate,’ says Charlene Nolte-Joubert of Henkes, Joubert Barry Attorneys.
‘We did some research and found that home buyers are often trapped in obscenely high interest rates on an existing home loan, and end up paying thousands of rands extra on their monthly repayment,’ continued Charlene.
One information session will focus, explore and advise home owners on this topic, following on a recent interview on DStv Home Channel – All About Property with Cornelius Koopman.
Debt repayment negotiation
‘Considering that many aspiring property buyers and existing home owners will face debt and budget challenges, we teamed up with a reputable debt and budget repair specialist group to aid those who may encounter problems in negotiating their debt commitments,’ says de Waal.
The next information session aimed at consumers who are interested in learning about how to negotiate with their credit providers in order to reduce their monthly debt repayments was also fully subscribed in a few hours, demonstrating the dire need of consumers. Click here for more information on how to deal with your creditors during and post COVID-19.
According to Slot the need for financial guidance during the COVID-19 Pandemic period is massive: ‘We are delighted to collaborate with Meyer de Waal and the association of attorneys. Our focus is to aid the consumer, being a property buyer or an existing home owner. We do a proper analysis of the income and spending behaviour, and a full debt exposure assessment.’
He added: ‘In the spending review we compare spending with the spending norm for consumers in South Africa. We then assist with a proper budget plan and identify potential solutions to improve cash flow management. Where required we can negotiate lower payment instalments with credit providers. We aim to assist consumer,s not to damage their credit profiles during the COVID-19 period. A damaged credit profile may take years to repair, and keep a property buyer away from owning a home’.
More property finance solutions workshops planned
We have already teamed up with Housing Investment Partners – (HIP Housing), who recently announced that they raised their home loan amounts from R650,000 to R950,000, says De Waal. An information session is also scheduled to explore all types of property finance available.
Online education for home buyers combined with financial literacy
The online home ownership educational modules developed with a leading financial institution as well as a property group with some 11,000 tenants is also made available to all property buyers. Research show that 50 % of property buyers are first time buyers.
These online educational videos form the basis of the journey that every first-time buyer need to follow.
The aim is to ensure that such a home buyer has a proper understanding of his or her ability to raise a home loan, what government FLISP subsidy the buyer can qualify for, how to find a property to buy and then, if the home loan application is declined, conduct a proper due diligence on the condition of the property and improve a low or bad credit score.
‘The online home ownership material of Consumer Housing Education was recently incorporated into a financial literacy programme that will ensure that the property buyer will be a well-educated home buyer when buying a property, which will be most likely the biggest investment one will make,’ says Patrick Ngondweni, MD of MyBudgetFitness, which focuses on education for first time home buyers.
Helpline for property owners – debt relief campaign
With all the tools, experience and skills available through this collaboration, a helpline is set up for property owners who face difficulty in repaying their home loan instalments and other credit instalments during and post COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Relief is available through government and related institutions, but no institution or organisation provides immediate and personal assistance to the individual who faces the dilemma of being unable to pay credit agreements.
A helpline debt relief campaign is available to distressed home owners with a mortgage to pay, as well as every person ‘out there’ who is stressed out, with overdue payments for credit agreements looming. Every attorney in the association can make use of this service and offer such to their clients.
Help line for property sellers
‘In tough economic times like these, it makes even more sense to sell your property via our network of attorneys,’ says Izak Strauss, a practising attorney in Kimberley and member of the Attorney Realtor Hub with 157 listed properties for sale. ‘Firstly because less commission is payable selling a property through your own attorney, with a result that the property price is much lower, accordingly the property can sell faster. As a seller you get more money for your property and as a buyer, you get more property for your money. And, secondly, you have our full legal support throughout the various stages of the transaction, combined this translates into peace of mind, much more value and less commission.’
‘Buying a property “voetstoots” can be the biggest risk a home buyer can take,’ says Eric Bell of Inspect-a-Home. The home inspection report services that we offer forms part of the services to home buyers and the collaboration of attorneys.
Virtual reality tours
With the continuous strides made in communications technology, a versatile range of tools has become available to minimise personal contact but ensure the property industry can still function.
‘The availability of virtual reality tours, hosted through a collaboration with a leading service provider in the VRT industry, enables a property buyer to view properties on the market remotely without leaving the comfort of his or her home,’ says Wimpie Ferreira.
The Attorney Realtor Hub was one of the first to explore this new technology a few years ago, offering the comfort of virtual reality tour to their property sellers and buyers.
Executive scheme management (body corporates HOAs)
Oosthuysen Att Inc t/a OPROPSA Attorneys specialises in executive scheme management. They will provide sound advice when buying into a body corporate or a homeowners association.
Their team of property professionals is backed by experience attorneys to assist you with the sale or purchase of your property. Do you want to rent out your property or are you looking to rent a property? We will give you the professional assistance to make sure that all your rights as landlord or tenants are protected.
Online document vault – access to your legal documents and files online
It became apparent to us during the lockdown period that many of our clients were unable to obtain access to their own office, and unable to get access to their files. The online legal document vault provides access to legal and personal documents and files online.
Customers can download an app or Mobi shortcut on their phones, or any electronic device, and have 24/7 access to their current and past transactions. ‘The customer can view a host of their documents such as property transaction reconciliations, property compliance certificates (beetle and electrical compliance certificates), last will and testaments, lease agreements, trust agreements and resolutions – all online,’ says De Waal.
Property Lawyers are natural mediators as they resolve disputes on a daily basis in their conveyancing practices. Some disputes will require the assistance of a trained mediator, who will use specialised skills and processes in order to achieve a satisfactory outcome. With the introduction of High Court Rule 41A, which came into effect on 9 March 2020, mediation will now form an integral part of all High Court litigation.
Mediation has now been placed in the spotlight, and both the public and attorneys have a keen interest in this process. However, private mediation, outside the court process, has been part and parcel of the South African legal landscape for more than 30 years.
‘With most courts and court processes halted by the COVID-19 lockdown, mediation has become the go-to process to address and resolve disputes,’ says Chris Fick of Chris Fick and Associates, who is also a founding member of AIM (Association of Independent Mediators) and Attorney Realtor Hub.
Already the mediation process is an agile, cost effective and highly efficient process. With legal professionals and the general public turning to online processes to assist them with their work, and to keep in contact with clients and colleagues, it also became apparent very early on that mediation can be done very effectively by using online platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. All disputes, but specifically all property disputes, can be addressed and resolved by making use of mediation.
AIM will be presenting a number of webinars in which the process as well as the benefits of mediation will be introduced to all our colleagues, interested property owners, buyers and sellers.
The webinars will indicate how online processes can be used effectively to resolve disputes in a satisfactory manner, while saving time and money for all parties concerned. Mediation is not always an easy process, but it is highly successful and cost-effective, and can resolve disputes in a matter of days, instead of years.
If anyone is interested in joining one or more of these webinars, please email Chris at email@example.com.
Education for attorney firms and their employees
To provide continuous education for our employees, leading training companies in the legal environment were identified. These companies can provide beneficial training to attorneys and their employees. These educational companies were able to switch from classroom-based training to online training modules during the lockdown period, and already our attorneys and staff staying at home have benefitted from such online courses.
‘We collaborate with these companies constantly to provide ongoing training for our attorneys and employees,’ says Fick.
Contact us below for more information:
Meyer de Waal | firstname.lastname@example.org, 083 653 6975
Chris Fick | email@example.com
Charlene Nolte Joubert | firstname.lastname@example.org
Attorney Realtor Hub | www.attorneyrealtorhub.co.za