One door closes, another door opens. So goes the old adage about change, and never is it more appropriate than at this time of year. The festive season prompts revelry and reflection in equal measure, giving us an opportunity to celebrate our achievements, to acknowledge our shortcomings and to prepare ourselves for the challenges ahead.
2016 was a difficult year for all of us. The economy performed indifferently, with inflation riding slightly above 6% for most of the year. Buckling under the impact of one of the most severe droughts in decades, food price inflation went into double digits. Repo rates hikes in January and March put pressure on householders already struggling to make ends meet.
All of this placed a particular strain on lower and middle-income households. Research on the property market showed that households were attempting to make ends meet through cashing in policies and investments, and reducing their payments to the bare minimum permissible. Smaller properties were increasingly sought by buyers.
These were not happy circumstances.
On the other hand, there were encouraging indicators of South Africa’s resilience. Rising employment numbers – though only a start on what we ultimately require – are an eminently positive sign. Equally importantly, South Africa was able to stave off the widely-feared downgrades by the international credit ratings agencies. That we avoided the disruption to the economy that a “junk” rating would have meant should give us cause to heave collective sigh of relief.
And in the midst of its challenges, there was good news for the property market. Construction activity, although falling modestly behind that registered in 2015, has been maintained at a respectable level. The rental market has remained relatively buoyant – with the Western Cape showing a particular strength here.
The increasing innovation within the property industry in all its elements – whether the application of green technology to housing, or the use of new technologies in the advertising and sales – continue to make for a dynamic and exiting experience for all. All indications are that this is the wave of the future, offering enormous opportunities to agents and clients alike.
And South Africans remain committed to their home ownership dreams. This is an aspiration ingrained into our culture, and as agents we are always humbled by the depth of this passion and the lengths to which our clients will go to secure and protect it.
In the current environment, assisting our clients in fulfilling their dreams is both a matter of professional responsibility and personal satisfaction. Building property value is our vocation.
As we approach 2017, with its many challenges and infinite opportunities, we pledge to strive ever more energetically to be worthy of our clients’ and colleagues’ trust and respect.
We thank each and every one you in our extended Harcourts family – staff and clients – for your efforts and loyalty in the year that is now drawing to a close. And we wish each and every one of you, and those dear to you, a wonderful festive season, a joyous end to this year, and an optimistic start to the next.
Denis Quayle, Principal: Harcourts Maynard Burgoyne