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19 May 2005

Chris Hart: Senior economist, Absa
Moneyweb - South Africa
ERIKA VAN DER MERWE: We take a look now at property - definitely amongst the more well read themes on our website - and we talk to Absa treasury economist Chris Hart. Chris, you reminded investors yesterday that South African property remains quite affordable, compared with global prices. With what markets are you comparing us?

CHRIS HART: I think we need to look at firstly our direct competitors, or our major trading partners, and also countries where one's got strong expat relationships. For instance, the UK has strong expat communities here. We've got a strong expat community in the UK. I think the comparison is very appropriate. Same with Australia, same with Canada, and even to a certain extent the US. Our property prices, I believe, are still fairly cheap by international standards. Foreign interest in South African property is one of those issues that bear testimony to that. Also, the debt that South Africans need to hold in order to be in property is lower than most of our competitive countries, which I think is a further indication. And also from the point of view that our income servicing - in other words, the ability to service the actual debt that we have to hold to own property- has also tended to come down in relation to where our competitors are.
Moneyweb

Hand in hand - land office and graft
MalaysiaKini - Malaysia
I totally agree with Raja Nazrin Shah that the delivery systems in government departments need to be continuously improved to attract investment and help eradicate corruption in public administration.

However, land transactions still get delayed at the land offices due to red tape and graft. These two seem work hand in hand. They need the red tape in order to earn some pocket money. This is a disease which is fast permeating the very core of our land administration and transactions.

This has a tremendous effect on our economy. Land transactions now can only be completed after six weeks, provided there are no hiccups. Four to five weeks for the adjudication and another week for registration.
MalaysiaKini

Low-cost housing on golf estates part of radical new plan
Cape Times - South Africa
The City of Cape Town and the national government are to make dramatic and far-reaching changes to the city's low-cost housing plans to fast-track housing delivery.

These include:
* The integration of low-cost housing into affluent golf course communities for workers on the estates.
* The amending of advertising billboard bylaws to allow huge adverts on the Athlone cooling towers, making the towers a part of the N2 Gateway Project.
* The fast-tracking of processes like environmental impact assessments (EIAs) to reduce the time it takes to complete these.
* The appointment of auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers to audit the city housing department's long waiting list.

The measures were announced by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Cape Town Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo yesterday.
Cape Times

PropertyInfo.com delivers efficiency to Florida title searches with SearchManager(TM)
Yahoo Finance - USA
REIData Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Stewart Information Services Corp, has introduced SearchManager, an integrated, interactive Web-based title search application with Florida coverage.

SearchManager provides Web access to all data needed for a thorough title search -- chain of title, Patriot Act database, liens, geospatial, document images and tax records -- plus a user interface that standardizes and simplifies the title search process. Interactive management tools allow users to initiate multiple searches on a subject property, track orders, review, arrange and customize search results, and request document images.

The application integrates data from various counties in a standardized way making it easier and quicker to train staff and adopt the product into daily workflow. "SearchManager makes the whole process more intuitive for the less-experienced examiner," says Robert Alcala, senior vice president of REIData market management. "This standardized system empowers junior examiners to handle more complex cases with organized efficiency
Yahoo Finance

Mortgage lenders told to improve consumer documents
MyFinances.co.uk - UK
Mortgage lenders are being asked to improve the quality of documents for consumers setting out the details of their mortgages.

Key facts documents, which are intended to deliver clear and simple information to consumers, are variable in quality and contain widespread inaccuracies, according to the financial services watchdog.

The Financial Services Authority has written to chief executives of mortgage lenders to offer help in improving the standard of these documents, which include Initial Disclosure Documents and Key Facts Illustrations.

It is asking all mortgage lenders to undertake a review of their documentation so as to provide consumers with clear and comparable information to help them understand the products they are being offered.
MyFinance

Buy-to-let 'not best proposition'
Business Day - South Africa
The South African residential property market is expected to remain relatively strong for the foreseeable future, but some economists say it may be wise for investors not to invest new money in the market at the moment.

Rode & Associates property economist Erwin Rode said he would advise people against investing in the residential property market now if they were buying for letting purposes and not with the intention of occupying the property themselves.

"I would advise investors to look for alternative asset classes."

Rode said there were not many attractive alternatives right now, but worth considering for the longer term were equities and listed property.
Business Day

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