Housing market still stable despite hike in interest rates

Housing market still stable despite hike in interest rates

MAIN IMAGE: Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX; Charl Coetzee, CEO of BetterBond; Samuel Seeff, chairperson of the Seeff Property Group; Dr Andrew Golding, Chief Executive of the Pam Golding Property Group; Rhys Dyer, CEO of ooba Group; Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group

Staff Writer

Interest rates continue to climb following the latest announcement late last week by the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). The repo rate jumps by 25 basis points to 4.25%, leaving the prime lending rate at 7.75%.

This comes as no surprise to Regional Director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Adrian Goslett, who had predicted that interest rates would climb in response to rising inflation and the global instability surrounding the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“Sadly, South Africans will have to tighten their belts over the next few months. Rising fuel and food costs, as well as higher debt repayments resulting from the latest interest rate hike, will undoubtedly put pressure on household budgets,” he explains.

However, according to Goslett, it is not all unwelcome news for the outlook of the country. “The South African housing market poses an appealing option for foreign investors who wish to diversify their portfolios to limit risk in an increasingly risky global economy,” he adds.

For foreign investors, Goslett explains that the South African real estate market offers incredible value for money, especially within the luxury markets. “It would be beneficial to South Africans if more foreigners invest in the local real estate market as this would plough money back into the local economy and help stimulate growth in all related industries at a time when our country needs it most,” Goslett remarks.

While the interest rate hike will mean lower spending power for most local households, the amount of personal debt, in the form of car loans, shopping accounts, and credit card facilities that South Africans carry, is high. Carrying less debt will allow more South Africans the financial flexibility to seize investment opportunities as and when they arise. They can then take on better forms of debt, such as home finance, to invest in assets that appreciate over time. My hope is that this increase might bring with it positive change in consumer behaviours and that this change may come to benefit the local housing market in the long term,” he concluded.

Charl Coetzee, CEO of BetterBond, said although interest rates may fluctuate, the one constant when buying a home is affordability. “Buying a home is a long-term investment, so one always needs to plan. This means calculating the impact of interest rate hikes on your monthly bond repayments so that you start your property journey knowing what you can afford over time,” says Coetzee in reaction to the repo rate increase.

“Inflationary pressures and the global geopolitical impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict are likely to result in steeper interest rate increases this year than was initially forecast,” says Coetzee.

“Recent changes in the interest rate have not dampened buyer activity, especially at the mid to upper end of the market where buyers are more resilient to these shifts,” says Coetzee.

Seeff

The SARB decision to hike the repo rate by 25 basis points was expected and factored into our outlook for the housing market, says Samuel Seeff, chairperson of the Seeff Property Group.

“Although we had hoped for a pause by the Bank to provide some reprieve for homeowners and buyers who are facing rising costs, we believe the market is now aware that the rate is stepping up this year to counter inflation and to normalise it after the dramatic rate cuts in 2020.

“That said, while the market is taking the hikes in its stride and we continue seeing strong activity as we come out of one of the best summer sales seasons, it is no doubt beginning to pinch and households and homebuyers need to adjust.”

Seeff is not expecting any dramatic impact on the housing market. Volumes appear to have tapered from the highs of 2021, as most of the pent-up demand has now been absorbed. Nonetheless, he says the market is still trading above pre-pandemic levels and the outlook remains upbeat.

The interest rate remains an inducement for buyers who can still find favourable bank lending conditions. While there are stock shortages in certain areas, the market remains well-balanced. Seeff says while it is a suitable time to sell, asking prices are coming under pressure, especially in the higher price bands.

The rental market has also stabilised with rental growth finally edging up marginally from the negative outlook seen in the mid-2020 to 2021 period.

Pam Golding

“By increasing the repo rate by a moderate 25bps for the third consecutive MPC meeting, the SA Reserve Bank is endeavouring to normalise interest rates – in line with their stated strategy – amidst a resurgence in inflationary pressures and a tepid economic growth outlook,” says Dr Andrew Golding, Chief Executive of the Pam Golding Property group.

“While an unchanged repo rate would have been preferred, this moderate approach has already been factored in by the housing market.

“Attempting to tighten monetary policy to dampen price pressures but not derail the economic recovery was already challenging, but now the war in Ukraine has brought further uncertainty and financial market turmoil. The war, coupled with the West’s sanctions against Russia, has sent global commodity prices soaring, while surging food and energy prices have forced local analysts to revise their inflation forecasts.

“The latest Thomson Reuters Econometer poll reveals a marked upward adjustment in consensus inflation predictions for 2022 with headline inflation now projected to average 5.5% this year, up from an estimated 5% in last month’s (February 2022) survey. The inflation rate may well breach the upper limit of the Bank’s inflation target range within the next few months, although encouragingly, the consumer inflation remained unchanged at 5.7% in February, slightly below market expectations.

“But it is not only the deterioration in the inflation outlook applying pressure on the SARB to hike rates. Last week, the US Fed hiked interest rates for the first time since 2018 as American inflation soars to a four-decade high. Rising interest rates in the West typically weakens the Rand, as capital flows out of emerging markets. This would normally weigh on the local exchange rate, making imported goods more expensive – which would be particularly serious at a time of soaring international oil prices.”

According to Rhys Dyer, CEO of ooba Group, the announcement of a further hike in the prime lending rate should not deter homebuyers. “The interest rate was at around 10% pre-Covid-19 and is still significantly lower. We are still seeing prominent levels of buying activity in the market and need to keep in mind that these projections were in the pipeline for some time now.

“The fact is: it is still cheaper to buy than to rent and the banks are still granting extremely competitive interest rates to prospective buyers. Once again, we urge buyers to keep financial wellness on the top of their priority list. Make sure that your credit score is in check, repay your bond (and other bills) on time each month and cut back on unnecessary expenditure. Owning a home remains a great investment and an attractive asset class in South Africa.”

Tony Clarke,  Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, said the economy is already under severe pressure.

“We have only just been upgraded from junk status by certain rating agencies, and we have a long way still to go in terms of recovery. Interest rate increases are not just abstract economic influences, they also have a very real impact on the daily lives of South Africans. Given the added financial pressure of rising petrol prices as well as electricity and water tariff hikes, careful financial planning is going to be key for homeowners and consumers.”

Clarke continued by adding that for buyers and investors, property prices remain favourable, still presenting a suitable time to buy. However, now is not the time to push affordability, but it is a great time to buy low and pay off debt faster.

“The same goes for homeowners who need to focus on reducing unnecessary spending and making their bond repayments their financial priority. Putting extra income straight into your home loan can deliver some incredible long-term savings.”

“We’re expecting to see at least 4 different rate hikes for this year and we expect this to be done responsibly and slowly, with small increases of 25 basis points each time, so that it would not put any additional stress on the economy – and the property market should be able to absorb the hit and continue on a positive trajectory,” Clarke explained.

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