An improvement in property market conditions may sound counterintuitive, given the depressed state of the economy, rising unemployment and weak household balance sheets. But it seems home buying sentiment has in recent months been buoyed by banks adopting more lenient lending criteria. This has supported the entry of first-time buyers, in particular, to the market.

Rudi Botha, CEO of mortgage originator BetterBond, says there is no doubt that banks are vying more aggressively for a slice of SA’s R980bn mortgage lending market. He says competition among lenders has increased markedly since Absa announced its intention earlier this year to claw back the market share it lost while under the control of London-based Barclays...

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