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SA Deeds Office Open, But Property Sales Stalled

Updated: May 14, 2020

Just over a month ago, South Africans around the country praised President Ramaphosa for taking swift action to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The country had just over 1,000 coronavirus cases when the president enforced a strict lockdown on 27 March that included bans on the sale of alcohol and cigarettes, jogging and walking dogs.

Today, South Africa sits at just over 7,000 coronavirus cases and 138 deaths. The United States is currently at 1.2 million confirmed cases and 70,000 deaths.

The numbers speak for themselves. Compared to other countries around the world, South Africa has done a fantastic job of flattening the curve.

However, because of this, many South Africans are pushing for things to go “back to normal.” While there will arguably be a new normal for a while- one that includes the wearing of masks and remaining 6 feet apart from others- there is a solid argument for reopening the economy.

As a small business owner and real estate investor, I would be lying if I said that the lockdown wasn’t tough on business. I am anxiously awaiting the opening of the economy, as many are.

So, when Ramaphosa announced his five-phase plan to reopen the economy- his “risk-adjusted strategy”- I was excited to say the least. On 30 April, the country shifted from level five- the highest lockdown level- to a less strict level four. However, even under level four, much of the country was to remain closed.

At first, deeds offices were listed under level three. This meant that it could be weeks before the deeds office reopened. However, groups like The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) petitioned for deeds offices to reopen sooner and they were successful. The Deeds Office was allowed to open on May 1 as part of the fourth stage.

While this was good news for realtors and real estate investors, there was a catch. Many other offices- particularly those that help process rates clearance certificates- will either remain closed under stage four or function with limited capabilities. This means that even with the deeds office being open, we may not be able to help our clients in the ways we would like to.

So what does this mean?

It means we must remain patient and do what we can. Use this time to shift your business online, improve your work-life balance, learn new softwares, expand your industry knowledge- the list could go on. The more we all do our part to help stop the spread of the virus, the sooner our economy will open and we can discover our new normal!