Samuel Seeff is Chairman of the Seeff Property Group and founder of the estate agency.
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Business as usual for property, despite sluggish economy and credit downgrades. While disappointed at the news of the credit downgrades by Standard & Poor and Fitch ratings agencies, it is by no means all doom and gloom for the property market.

Bear in mind that the threat of a downgrade has been looming for the past eighteen months. Although the latest political and economic shifts have been negative, the downgrade has in many ways already been priced into the current trading markets.

In the wake of recent political and economic shifts, it is only natural to speculate what impact - if any – these may have. Where confidence in the real estate sector is in part, driven by consumer sentiment, it is most encouraging to see the recent unified positive stance across the country.

To echo this positive sentiment, the Seeff group for example concluded a record month during March with our overall turnover at the highest in our more than 50 year history. This to a large degree, echoes the real sentiment in the market place.

The mood is certainly not one of ‘doom and gloom’, but is instead indicative of the zero-tolerance and ‘can do’ spirit that we are seeing being displayed from across all sectors.

While not impervious to the economic pressures and trading volumes are down in many areas and across the higher price bands especially, there is a great deal of confidence. We t expect demand to continue unabated for well-priced properties, but it is perhaps a good time to pause and reflect on key aspects going forward.

There will no doubt be financial consequences and although any effects will take time to filter through, buyers and sellers need to be mindful of prevailing conditions.

Sellers need to be mindful of the need for market related pricing. As we have seen with the economic shift over the past year and a half, buyers are becoming more particular about what they will pay. If you are overpricing, then you are likely to lose out.

While still nowhere near a buyers’ market, buyers do now have more room to negotiate, but they need to buy within their means and factor into their planning an ability to absorb potential interest rate hikes and cost increases.

Given that we are likely to benefit from a fairly flat interest rate, buyers are still able to achieve some rate savings and get bigger bonds and that means that it is indeed still a good time to buy. Buyers are also likely to now be in a position to negotiate a better deal.

South African property ranks amongst the best in the world when it comes to capital growth over the last 20 years. It has a history of resilience, having been through a number of down cycles and always bouncing back quite strongly in general. That makes it a pretty good investment on the whole, but as with any investment, there are rules and exceptions.

Property is a long-term investment and while your returns may at times – when the economy is down for example – not be stellar, as you can see from the above, you are investing in a non-movable asset with inherent capital value and your asset will continue growing.

Life continues and there is still plenty of positivity in the market and we see this reflected on a daily basis as buyers, investors and sellers continue going about the daily business of buying and selling. Any economy goes through cycles and regardless of the state of the economy, there are always opportunities. Selling prices and turnover may be affected, but sales still continue.

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