Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Despite SA’s economic troubles, the local listed-property sector still offers value compared with those of Western and Eastern Europe, say real estate insiders.

Speakers at the South African Property Owners Association annual convention in Cape Town last week said local property professionals were still finding value in the country’s real estate market.

However, political interference in the economy has spooked investors, according to Fortress Income Fund CEO Mark Stevens. Political risk had caused economic havoc.

"We are in a recession and recent ratings downgrades have prompted investors to buy assets offshore. SA’s government needs to stay out of running much of the economy."

It had also been cheaper to develop in parts of Europe where interest rates and funding costs were lower than in SA.

Nedbank senior property analyst Len van Niekerk said more than 60% of JSE-listed property funds’ assets were located offshore.

Stevens said that over the long term, building high-quality assets and managing funds carefully, regardless of the jurisdiction, would be required.

Speakers encouraged large property groups to invest in technology start-ups as a way to enhance their offerings.

"It’s all about improving your tenant’s experience," said Francois Viruly, an associate professor at the department of construction economics and management at the University of Cape Town.

Van Niekerk said many local landlords were recycling properties for other uses.

"Many new property developments and redevelopments are being designed to have residential components supporting them. Tenants are attracted to mixed-use developments that offer office, retail and living space all near each other."

These projects often included new technology, which introduced unique challenges.

"You can put Wi-Fi in malls, for example, and analyse spending patterns, but customers don’t want to be bombarded with spam e-mails. The key will be how to maximise the user experience and enhance returns for the landlord using technology like this," Van Niekerk said.

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