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Property industry's reaction to Budget 2018

21 Feb 2018

Here's what some of SA’s estate agency groups have to say about today's National Budget 2018, its impact on homeowners and the property market...

National Budget geared to instil confidence, says Pam Golding Properties

Given the hand they were dealt, government has performed a delicate balancing act which it is hoped will serve to reignite confidence in investment in South Africa, regain our global credibility and satisfy the credit ratings agencies, says Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group.

“Speaking from a property perspective, this is a market which is fuelled by sentiment, and as a consequence, a Budget which satisfies the above criteria – on the back of the election of President Ramaphosa – is expected to go a long way towards reaffirming investor confidence in real estate.

“South Africans continue to demonstrate an increasing appetite for homeownership which is to be encouraged as it helps provide security of tenure and financial security for the future.”

Dr Golding says an interesting aspect of the Budget Speech is the proposal that some 195 000 government-owned properties,  with an estimated value of over R40 billion, would either be better used or sold in the short to medium term, which could unlock revenue as well as opportunities for property development and redevelopment.

“And while we await further detail, the commitment to drive both urban and township development and stimulate faster and more inclusive growth augurs well for infrastructural investment and the facilitation and expansion of economic hubs, especially along key transport corridors.

“Also positive is the allocation of R6 billion for purposes which include drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment.”

Adds Dr Golding: “While the increase in VAT from 14% to 15% is unpalatable and erodes consumer disposable income – particularly among lower income earners, it was anticipated and is hoped will go a long way towards offsetting the Budget deficit. Welcome news for lower and middle-income earners is the adjustment of the bottom three personal income tax brackets for inflation.

“It is true, however, that the 52c a litre increase in levies on fuel will impact across the economy, as rising transport costs have an inflationary, ripple effect.

“While growth forecasts for our economy appear increasingly positive, it will become evident in the coming days and weeks as to how the credit ratings agencies will respond to the Budget.”

Overall it was a far more balanced budget speech than initially expected, says Harcourts South Africa

“Overall it was a far more balanced budget speech than initially expected, with a focus on rebuilding, which is in line with the newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa's messaging. However, Finance Minister Gigaba's announcement that there will be an increase in VAT from 14% to 15%, the first time VAT has been increased since 1993, will undoubtedly have a direct impact on the property market. VAT is payable on the transaction of a home purchase and in some cases included in the price of the home. Although one percent seems like a very slight increase, transactions like high value commercial properties or development investments might feel the increase far more than that of the middle to lower end of the market.

“There is no doubt Government is experiencing shortfalls in their budget and lending might tighten up, therefore accumulation of funds has to originate from taxes.

“South Africans experiencing a price pinch with rising food costs, fuel costs and tax hikes might continue to be under financial pressure as more increases can be expected. This was noted in the speech as a 22c/litre increase in the general fuel levy, and a 30c/litre rise in the Road Accident Fund (RAF) levy was announced.

“South Africans will also be paying 52 cents more per litre for fuel from April 4. The effect of these tax hikes impacts the man on the street in a direct manner, and this might have an effect on the rental market on the lower end.”

Rising tax burden on a shrinking base worrying for economy and property, says Seeff 

It was always going to be a tough budget given that Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba, already signalled during his mini-budget late last year that there was a significant fiscal deficit that needed to be funded. And, with a sluggish, albeit improving economy, this could only come from higher taxes. 

Samuel Seeff, chairman of the Seeff Property Group says that while an improved economic outlook is welcome news, rising taxes for working households is simply unsustainable for an economy that needs to accelerate to address the challenges in the country. 

Seeff says that it is critical for tax payers to know that their hard-earned tax money is spent where it is intended. The country can no longer afford the disaster that is the State Owned Enterprises because it has brought us to the brink of financial ruin. “The bloated cabinet and state expenditure needs to be brought under control with some urgency.” 

By taxing the very people who are growing the economy, you are making it very difficult for business owners and entrepreneurs to feel positive about investing further into the economy. Uncertainty about property ownership is also concerning, he says. 

“Although the succession of Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC and SA President has seen the mood in the country turn increasingly positive and his SONA 2018 address has sent the right messages, we need to see this translate into action, says Seeff. We need a return to economic and political stability so that investors can feel confident about investing and growing the economy.”

The effect of weak confidence has been evident in the property market, he adds. “Since last year there has been an accelerating decline in activity, especially at the upper end of the price scale, being above R8 million in Gauteng and above R18 million in the Cape. Those who do not need to sell or buy, are preferring to hold back. This means fewer transactions and a decline in transfer duty paid to government.” 

Seeff says that while the year has started on a more positive note, people need to see that the government and economic mismanagement is being addressed and need reassurance that their investments and property will be safe. Remember, he adds, the property sector is a vital contributor to the economy, jobs and prosperity, but it needs a good economy to thrive.

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