Web Bytes – 806

19 November 2020 00:00

Web Bytes – 806

This week: Cybersecurity - a thematic review of five key areas; price growth remains resilient, but outlook is uncertain; and property managers evolve into mediators as the rental market battles on.

Low interest rates, correction of house prices and opening-up of economy spurs renewed interest
South Africa - Lightstone
The “feel good” factor is returning to the residential market, although just how quickly it will recover, and to what levels, is still too hard to call. Data does not yet reflect the transactions of the last three months which estate agents have described as “surprisingly brisk”.

However, this welcome activity is taking place against worsening economic circumstances. More than 2m South Africans have lost their jobs as the lockdown, in its most severe form, severely reduced or put an end to business activity not considered essential.

Add to this the emergence of a “second wave” of Covid-19 in the northern hemisphere and it becomes apparent that it is still too early to predict the consequences of what was effectively an unprecedented global economic shutdown to a Black Swan event.

South Africa, though, has come through Covid-19 in better shape than was anticipated. Many sectors of the economy are open or opening, although some businesses have permanently closed down and others are reduced in size. While the high-employment tourism sector remains effectively shut to foreign visitors, its primary source of revenue, other business sectors are fully operational and gathering momentum.

Property Barometer - Price growth resilient; outlook uncertain
South Africa - FNB
The pandemic has not had as chilling an effect as initially expected: prices growth has held up and volumes reached multi-year highs, particularly in middle-priced segments, in contrast to initial expectations.

  • The aggressive reduction in interest rates (and mortgage rates), good pricing and lower transfer duties have momentarily improved mortgage affordability and incentivised renters to buy property. In part, this has contributed to rising flat vacancies and, subsequently, low rental inflation.
  • The impact of the pandemic on labour markets has been disproportionate: low-paying occupations have been more severely affected, and professionals relatively insulated. In part, this explains an uptick in property sales due to financial pressure in lowerpriced segments. In wealthy segments, however, income losses are exacerbated by their exposure to financial markets (mainly via dividends), corporate income (self employment) and rental income.
  • Overall, the impact of the pandemic is more visible in the rental market, relative to the home buying market.

FNB November Property Barometer

Cyber Security - A thematic Review
UK - Solicitors Regulation Authority
On a day-to-day basis, law firms handle financial transactions involving large amounts of money and send and receive sensitive client information. Much of this activity takes place digitally, be it online bank transfers, automated identity checks or simply emailing financial and personal information between law firms and clients.

We have warned the profession about the dangers and need to be vigilant against cybercrime for a number of years. Whether by use of spyware, identity theft, viruses or simply tricking people to reveal sensitive data, cybercriminals are always attempting to find new victims and weaknesses in defences they can exploit.

With Covid-19 meaning millions more people than ever before are working remotely and carrying out both personal and business activities online, the need for everyone to remain extra cybersecurity vigilant is arguably greater than ever. We have already published key support resources including a dedicated Q&A on cyber security as firms and solicitors change the way they work.

Effective cybersecurity is not just a technological issue, or simply about having the latest security software in place. In fact, the biggest vulnerability - and also potentially best defence - most companies will have regarding cybercrime lies in the day-to-day practices and awareness of their people.

We know the majority of solicitor firms are aware of the risks and have developed processes and approaches to try and make sure they don't fall victim to the criminals. But attacks still happen, and even where a firm thought they were secure, some unfortunately are still successful.

And while law firms usually have insurance to protect against financial loss, the cost of cybercrime can be about more than just money. Where clients are involved, even if the money is eventually recovered, the impact and stress of being involved in an incident can be significant. For a firm there can be significant reputational, resource and longer-term financial impacts of being caught up in cybercrime incident.

Property managers evolve into mediators as the rental market battles on
South Africa - PropertyWheel
The role of a property manager continues to evolve. Once thought of as ‘merely’ rent collectors, it has become evident that the role of a good property manager has progressed to encompass that of an asset manager. With the effects of Covid-19 affecting businesses on a global scale, property managers have evolved into mediators.

This is according to Gregg Huntingford, CEO of Spire Property Solutions who says that mediation between landlords and tenants has become a critical tool as part of an essential required to retain tenants who are going through a temporary slump due to the national lockdown.

“Some people may think that property managers as just being that person who knocks on the door once a month to collect a rent cheque from the tenant on behalf of the building owner however, the evolving property manager is taking responsibility of the remediation between the tenant and landlord as part of ensuring the long term success of the property – given the financial impact of vacancies on a building as an asset is key to try to retain tenants in the long term, making allowances for impermanent loss of income.”