Affa Acho

German building technology brings relief to Namibia

Namibia could see a relief in the unprecedented housing shortage in the country with the opening this week of a German production facility near the capital, Windhoek, that is to build low-cost houses at a mind-blowing minimal cost using Polycare concrete technology, where a start-up price for a standard two-bedroomed house could cost between R250,000 and R300,000.

Polycare’s CEO, Dr Gerald Dust, and his Namibian partners will start production in Namibia seeking to address the housing shortage here using Polycare technology, which uses building material consisting of dry, mineral raw materials bound together with a mixture of reactive resins and hardeners instead of the usual cement and water in traditional concrete.

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The modular assembly system was developed as a concept for simple housing solutions and is considered low-cost, strong, durable and environmentally friendly with reusable concrete blocks mainly consisting of sand.

Unlike the traditional way of building a house with specialised civil engineering applications, such as abrasion resistant pipes, Polycare uses inexpensive polyester resin, requiring less resin than conventional polymer concrete.

The opening of the Polycare facility this week in Brakwater, some 5 kilometres from Windhoek, could not have come at a better time when just last week the Namibian President Hage Geingob reiterated his call for local authorities to get rid of informal settlements by implementing the resolutions passed at Namibia’s Second National Land Conference held in October 2018.

The President said the situation in informal settlements constituted a national humanitarian crisis, which resulted in government declaring it as a human disaster for human settlement.

“We should address to get rid of informal settlements. We have a crisis where human beings are in conditions that are unbearable,” said Geingob. Namibia’s Second National Land Conference made resolutions to include the right to housing as a human right in the Constitution, increase government expenditure on housing from the current 0.1% to at least 10% of the gross domestic product, that government subsidise residents with ultra-low income through local authority and that government acquire farms adjacent to urban areas to resettle people from those towns.

The conference further resolved that 300,000 housing units be built over the next seven years, municipalities build social housing units for the rental market and allow the sale of partially serviced land (sewerage and water).

Namibia struggles with the supply of housing with a backlog of 300,000 housing units, according to the most recent official estimate from the National Development Plan 4 (NDP4) review.

Namibia is rated among countries with the highest house price increase in the world with an inefficient land delivery system, limited availability of serviced land and mismatch between supply and demand. A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published in February 2018 titled ‘Housing in Namibia: Rights, Challenges and Opportunities’, made recommendations to the government to allocate more funding to the housing sector and urban land development, review the allocations for housing initiatives with a view to prioritising the servicing of land rather than the construction of houses.

“In turn, housing initiatives should focus on low-income groups. National budgets for housing need to be administered in a more transparent manner, especially at regional and local levels, to improve accountability,” read the report.

The Namibia Inter-censal Demographic Survey (NIDS) indicates that 26.6% of households in Namibia reside in shacks since 2016 due to rapid urbanisation and unprecedented population growth.

The value of a small low-cost house that is around 35 square metres was estimated at around R280,000 to R300,000, according to the IPPR study.

With the German building technology, Namibia could get rid of the sprouting shantytowns and provide decent housing to the citizens.

In an interview during the Invest in Namibia Conference in November 2016, where the company built a two-bedroomed model house 45 square metres big for display, Dust said President Geingob and other stakeholders wanted them to bring the technology to Namibia as soon as possible.

Dust said before he started the low-cost housing initiative, he visited Haiti during the devastating earthquake of 2010 and that is how he found a way to help people in devastating natural disasters, which sparked the idea of building houses for the homeless.

He added that their vision was to empower people and the Polycare technology can bring relief to people and the way governments tackle housing shortage in their own countries.

The construction work is started by preparing a sand bed, setting the base plates and then connecting the base plates with steel straps.

Then the base straps are laid with the sand bed and the process is repeated until a complete house stands on its own.

Polycare houses are designed with future expansion in mind and can be moved to another place or be extended

According to Dust, the Polycare’s polymer concrete is significantly more expensive to produce than the cost of producing a tonne of cement concrete, but the final building is still cheaper.

The Minister of Economy, Science and Digital Society of the German Free State of Thuringia, Wolfgang Tiefensee, visited the plant this week, accompanied by a delegation from Thuringian companies and academic institutions, where he also praised the efforts of the partnership between the two countries.

Tiefensee held talks with Namibian Minister for Urban and Rural Development, Peya Mushelenga and the Minister of Higher Education, Training and Innovation, Dr Itah Kandji-Murangi, among others, where he presented opportunities for joint business and training projects and co-operation between Thuringia and Namibia.



UK house prices fall in January as Brexit puts off buyers

House prices in the UK fell 2.9% in January from December and the annual growth rate slowed sharply as Brexit fears put off buyers, according to Halifax, one of Britain’s biggest mortgage lenders.

Halifax said the monthly drop took the average house price down to £223,691 and came after a 2.5% rise in December. It is the biggest monthly drop since last April, when prices declined 3.1%. Analysts cautioned that the monthly house price changes tend to be volatile.

In the three months to January, house prices were 0.8% higher than in the same three months a year earlier. This is down from the 1.3% annual growth rate recorded in the three months to December.

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Russell Galley, the managing director of Halifax, said: “Attention will no doubt be drawn towards the monthly fall of 2.9% from December to January, the second time in three years that we have seen a drop as a new year starts. However, the bigger picture is actually that house prices have seen next to no movement over the last year, with annual growth of just 0.8%.

“There’s no doubt that the next year will be important for the housing market, with much of the immediate focus on what impact Brexit may have. However, more fundamentally it is key underlying factors of supply and demand that will ultimately shape the market.”

Other surveys and the official data point to a slowing UK market, with prices declining in London and parts of the south-east because of Brexit uncertainty, stamp duty changes and a lack of affordable properties.

Mark Harris, the chief executive of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “Flat growth is probably the best we can hope for, given the current tricky political situation we find ourselves in. Brexit has caused a slowdown in purchase activity as would-be buyers sit on their hands, waiting for the outcome before committing to something as major as buying a new home.” He noted that many lenders had reduced their mortgage rates to pull in customers.

Jeremy Leaf, a north London estate agent, said interest from buyers was “very patchy” and did “not expect any significant improvement at least until the odds on a Brexit deal improve”.

Hansen Lu, a property economist at consultancy Capital Economics, thinks a house price collapse is unlikely, even if the UK departs the EU without an agreement. “We therefore expect annual house price growth to bump along at its current rate, ending 2019 at 1%.

“That is assuming the UK exits the EU with a deal. If the UK exits without a deal, house price growth would be even slower, or even fall gently. But a correction in prices would still be unlikely.”


DAMAC chairman calls bottom for Dubai property market, sees value in Brexit

A major Emirati property developer believes Dubai’s property market has bottomed out — but says there remain at least two more tough years ahead before a full rebound.

“2018 has been a difficult year, prices have come down, sales have come down, and I think ’19 and ’20 are going to be also not easy years,” Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Dubai real estate heavyweight DAMAC Properties told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble. “I think we are at the bottom, from a price point of view, but it will take at least two years to absorb the supply.”

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The UAE’s commercial hub has suffered a bruising year, with Dubai’s stock market the worst-performing in the Middle East and record drops in property sales. Property sector analysts say the city has been overbuilding, and with weak demand for all the newly built homes and apartments, property prices have been tanking. Residential prices in the emirate of 3 million have fallen by some 15 percent since 2014.

A report published last November predicted a continued slide for the sector in 2019, as supply is expected to double or even triple while demand remains subdued.

Sajwani described a “beautiful five years of growth” at the start of the decade that saw prices going up, and emphasized his belief that the city would stage a comeback.

“Dubai is very resilient, from the long-term growth. It’s always going to go through the cycle,” he said. “As a free capital economy, you know, people are going to overbuild, and then going to catch up. And the leader is very open-minded,” Sajwani added, referencing the leader of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.

“He doesn’t want to restrict the supply or the demand. He says, ‘Let the supply-demand naturally take its place. No point of control(ling) the supply — let everybody manage as a normal economy’.”

DAMAC, with an annual turnover of some $2 billion, was the first Middle Eastern real estate company to list on the London Stock Exchange. The company reported its worst quarter of booked sales last April-June with a 46 percent fall in profits. Still, the company’s leadership predicts a cyclical recovery and has plans to continue expansion in the Middle East, Africa, the U.S. and in Europe in particular.

Sajwani predicted similar levels for profits in 2019 and 2020, but stressed that the company’s focus now is on streamlining costs and finding opportunities to grow in overseas markets. London is a bright spot on the chairman’s radar — and not in spite of Brexit, but because of it, thanks to a dramatic drop in the value of the pound.

“We like London, we have experience in London,” he said, describing a 50-storey tower slated to be completed at the end of next year. “We see, in Brexit issues, a great opportunity, as (the) price is going to correct, the pound has come down really drastically, and we’re waiting for an opportunity to invest in London, and we want to go in a big way in London.”

And Sajwani described interest in a number of real estate sub-sectors, pointing to mixed-use property, luxury apartments, office buildings, and retail. “So we’re looking at property from all the angles, and we’re willing to write a big check and go in a big way in London. We believe in London,” he added.


Is 2019 the year that will unveil Kenya’s property market recession?

Real estate is usually considered as a safe investment haven that offers capital security and guaranteed profits. This misguided view has led thousands of people across the world to lose money and assets after choosing to invest in this market ignoring the most important factor of profitability, risk.

The property market as any other market is based on a risk-return trade off model and the word secure and guaranteed do not exist in the vocabulary of professional real estate players or advisors. Higher risk is associated with greater probability of higher return and lower risk with a greater probability of smaller return. This trade off, which an investor faces while considering investment decisions, is called the risk-return trade off. It determines the type of risks that an investor is ready to take as well as the level of expected returns.

Some people claim that real estate market is safer than other markets or asset classes. Usually they like to compare real estate market with the stock market or the forex market as a much safer option. Truth is that, the focus should be more about risk than safety. It is not about how safe a project or an investment is, but the level of risk involved. There are several types of risk. The most popular in the investment spectrum are the systematic or market risk, the systemic risk and the specific risk. All of them can play a key role in the success or failure of a project. Some of them can be hedged, others cannot. Here are some of the risks:

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Specific risk: As its name implies, relates to risks that are very specific to a property or project. It is unique to the asset and independent from one property to another hence is a risk which, when combined with other assets in a portfolio, can be diversified.

Systemic risk: Is generally used in reference to an event that can trigger a collapse in a certain industry or economy. Systemic risk is the possibility that an event at the company level could trigger severe instability or collapse an entire industry or economy. Systemic risk was a major contributor to the financial crisis of 2008. Companies considered to be a systemic risk are called “too big to fail’.

Systematic or Market risk: This is the risk inherent to the entire market or market segment. Systematic risk, also known as undiversifiable risk, volatility or market risk, affects the overall market, not just a particular project, sector, stock or industry. This type of risk is both unpredictable and impossible to completely avoid.

Idiosyncratic Risk: It is specific to a particular property. The more the risk the more the return. Construction, for example, will add risk to a project because it limits the capacity for collecting rents during this time. And when developing a parcel from the ground up, investors take on more types of risks than just the construction risk. There’s also entitlement risk – the chance that government agencies with jurisdiction over a project won’t issue the required approvals to allow the project to proceed; environmental risks that range from soil contamination to pollution; riparian land laws, budget overruns and more, such as political and workforce risks.

Location is another idiosyncratic risk factor. Trends change quite fast especially for new upcoming trendy areas which in a short time can change from trendy to an indifferent place with low or no demand. Idiosyncratic risks are defined as risks that are specific to the asset and the asset’s business plan.

Liquidity Risk is one of the main, key risks of the real estate market. Taking into consideration the depth of the market and how one will exit the investment needs to be considered before buying. An investor can expect dozens of buyers to show up at the bidding table in a popular location such as Westlands, and believes that this will continue to be the trend regardless of market conditions. However, a property located in a less popular location will not have nearly the same number of market participants, making it easy to get into the investment, but difficult to get out. In the real world, market conditions do change and the market dynamics even in popular areas often face exactly the same liquidity challenges especially when there is a lot of construction activity increasing supply while demand is oppressed.

Replacement cost risk: As demand for space in the market drives lease rates and prices higher in older properties, it’s only a matter of time before those lease rates and sales prices justify new construction and increase supply risk. In several cases a new building makes your investment property obsolete because there’s a better facility with comparable rents in the same area. This will cause prices to drop as the investor will not be able to raise rents and will have to offer a lower rent in order to compete with the new properties. This will finally lead to lower occupancy rates.

Evaluating this situation calls for understanding a property’s replacement cost to know if it is economically feasible for a new building to come along and steal away those tenants. To figure out replacement cost, consider a property’s asset class, location and sub-market in that location. This helps investors know if rent can rise high enough to make new construction viable. For instance, if a 20-year-old apartment building is able to lease apartments at a rate that would justify new construction, competition may very well come along in the form of newly built offerings. It may not be possible to raise rents or maintain occupancy in the older building.

Leverage Risk. The more debt on an investment, the more risky it is and the more investors should demand in return. Leverage is a force multiplier: It can move a project along quickly and increase returns if things are going well, but if a project’s loans are under stress – typically when its return on assets isn’t enough to cover interest payments – investors tend to lose quickly and a lot.

As a rule of thumb, total leverage should not exceed 75%, including any type of debt. In economies where finance is expensive this percentage has to be considerably lower. Returns should be generated primarily from the performance of the real estate – not through excessive use of leverage – and it’s critical that investors understand this point.

Often, property investors don’t realize how important it is to quantify leverage, so they end up in overleveraged investments. Investors should ask about how much leverage is used to capitalize an asset, and ensure they are receiving a return commensurate with the risk. The cost of finance/debt is also critical as higher borrowing costs increase seriously the risk.

Risk is a critical factor in real estate. It is a complex topic and comes in many forms, making it difficult to identify much less quantify and manage. In a pragmatic sense, risk can be defined rather simply as the difference between expectations and realizations. That is, it is a measure of the uncertainty surrounding a current or future event or state of nature. It is the uncertainty that something will not be as it seems today, or that some prediction or assumption about what will occur in the future turns out to be wrong.

Risk is inherent in real estate due to its temporal nature: uncertainty is inherent in anything marked with the passage of time. Real estate risk is more complicated than other asset classes due to: 1) inefficiency, behavioral nature and dual Space-Time, Money-Time dimensions of the market, and 2) the capital-intensive, durable and vulnerable nature of individual assets to external forces. These external forces make real estate vulnerable to unknown forces that can create windfalls (i.e., unexpectedly high returns) or wipeouts (i.e., erosion of capital and exposure to residual risks).

In private equity real estate, the fact that we buy physical assets gives many investors a level of comfort. That several times is misleading investors to make wrong irrational decisions based on wrong assumptions regarding the safety feeling against a specific project. There are many risks involved in real estate investing that have to be considered in conjunction with the expected value of the investment. It is important for investors to be able to quantify risk in order to ensure that the investment matches their needs, goals and tolerance.

This is not easy. It requires deep and very specialized knowledge. Investment and property experts use sophisticated risk models and the deep knowledge and research of the markets to account for the many variables involved in evaluating the potential returns and risks of a new property. Usually the average buyer or investor simply neglects the potential risks and proceeds to the market or investment based on the general belief that nothing can go wrong when investing in real estate.

Kenya is now becoming a good example of people who ignore the basic rules of investing, rush into irrational decisions and invest in the property market simply based on rumors and expectations without considering the risks or the probability of losses. Since the property market started to rise slowly in 2009, we have seen a completely irrational price increase creating an obvious bubble. The market started to slow down at the end of 2013, went through a period of stagnancy during the election period and now 2019 seems to be the year, which will unveil the property market recession.

Despite the efforts of the Kenya Bankers Association who a few years ago established the House Price Index, there is not sufficient information. Most people make decisions based on inaccurate data. There is no government-clearing house that unambiguously monitors and reports on the real estate market conditions and transaction activity. Thus, the data on lease rates, transaction prices, occupancy levels, operating expenses and other economic factors are based on private, self-report bases. While vendors try to verify data, there is no way to determine the veracity of data mandating decision-makers to rely good faith efforts to ensure accuracy. To that end, the “know thy data” axiom takes on added importance. That is, a decision-maker should understand how data are compiled and the checks and balances that are put in place to avoid biases and subjective reporting driven by some underlying self-interest.

The inaccurate provided data together with lack of understanding of market fundamentals is usually creating bubbles after a short temporary period of growth and profits. Real estate is a distinct asset class with a number of distinguishing features that differentiate it from other assets or industries. It is also a complex asset, in which the product is in a constant state of evolution brought about by changes in the static, environmental and linkages elements of the product. At the same time, the drivers of value emanating from the spatial, capital and regulatory side of the equation tend to converge over the long term, but due to market inefficiencies are in a dynamic state of imbalance.

Finally, real estate is a behavioral science, wherein individual, companies and entities acting in their own best interest make decisions, with varying levels of social consciousness. Given these dynamics, a major risk in real estate is the failure to understand the asset class by players both within the industry and those who set the rules and make other decisions that have a material impact on the market. Since real estate investments are forward looking, decision makers, buyers, sellers  and investors must depend on an understanding of market dynamics as well as a crystal ball that can help predict future market conditions over an appropriate planning horizon.

In the beginning of 2019 all market reports point to the same direction. The Real Estate Market in Kenya is going down. Even those who blamed the last elections and the interest rate cap for a temporary slowdown now realize that the problem is deeper and it is based on the market fundamentals. All available data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, the Kenya Bankers Association, The Central Bank of Kenya as well as local and international private entities and organizations who analyze the market display a market that is not sustainable at these levels with a slowdown in demand for property amid growing supply.

The currently nonexistent financial sector of the property market is sealing with the most obvious way the weakness of the property market sector. Banks kept a quite safe attitude during the period of the market boom issuing a limited number of mortgages while they carefully supported via finance developers. Today the only numbers that keep increasing with an impressive ratio are the Non-Performing Loans related to the property markets and loan defaults. According to CBK latest annual report commercial banks in Kenya recorded Sh63 billion in non-performing loans in the last financial year. The value of bad loans was more than 80% of the profit before tax made cumulatively by commercial banks, with the ratio of non-performing loans doubling from 6% three years ago to 12%. CBK data indicates non-performing loans went up from Sh234.6 billion in June 2017 to Sh298.4 billion recorded as at June 2018 with the manufacturing, trade and real estate sectors leading in the losses. The report indicated that for the real estate sector NPLs increased by Sh14.4 billion, which equals to over 48+% as a result of slow uptake of developed housing units and property market slowdown.

This NPL increase is marking clearly that real estate is not the only sector that is facing challenges. Most of the economic sectors are under pressure and are not performing well creating a negative environment and fading out future expectations.

Market and political risk remain key factors affecting the real estate market.

For 2019 the property market outlook will be dominated by the economic developments, the effect of property demolitions and the fragile legal environment over ownership rights, an excessive property market slowdown and the beginning of a long recession which will unveil the real dynamics of the property market which are far below the average expectations. The risk trade off in investments comes always with a premium.

Those who made rational decisions have nothing to worry about as they know how to take losses same as they know how to enjoy profits. The rest who rushed into irrational decisions have to get prepared for the upcoming market developments and try to minimize their risk exposure. Follow up with the markets and revaluate your position and strategy.

Always remember: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you think you know for sure that just ain’t so.” 


Fashola urges QSRBN to maintain high standards

The Federal Government has urged the leadership of the Quantity Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (QSRBN) to maintain high standards devoid of compromise and fraudulent activities in the practice of their profession.

Speaking at the 2019”Annual Assembly of Registered Quantity Surveyors and Induction of newly registered quantity surveyors and Practicing Firms in Abuja, Minister of Power, Works, and Housing, Babatunde Fashola said that the challenges associated with the provision, renewal and replacement of critical public infrastructure assets in Nigeria require the involvement of construction industry professionals, especially quantity surveyors.

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He observed that the high cost of construction projects requires the skills and knowledge of quantity surveyors to address in promoting resource optimization and value maximization.

Fashola said, there is so much that government wants to provide for the nation in the area of infrastructure with limited funds, competent quantity surveyors are needed to ensure that projects are executed at minimal costs.

He noted that with the emphasis placed on investment in infrastructure under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari, quantity surveyors are a highly relevant group of professionals with their unique training as cost experts in the construction industry.

He said: ‘’Alongside accelerated delivery of new infrastructure, the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has identified the maintenance of infrastructure as of equal priority. It is our belief that improved maintenance of our public buildings, roads and other infrastructure will enable government derive maximum value from these facilities, deliver improved public services quality, ‘stimulate economic growth, create jobs and generally improve the quality of life of its citizens’’.

Fashola stated that the ministry has developed the National Public Buildings Maintenance Policy which received the approval of the Federal Executive Council about a month ago, adding that “while this policy is focused on public buildings in the Federal Government, it is easily adaptable by other infrastructure assets at all levels of government that are also faced with public assets maintenance deficiencies. The quantity surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria is one of the relevant stakeholders to which an invitation was extended for the review of the draft Policy before it was presented for FEC approval’’.

Also speaking, President of the board, Murtala Aliyu observed that over 3,500 surveyors have been licensed to practice quantity surveying in Nigeria, adding that though the number is increasing impressively, it is far from adequate considering the nations population and economic growth rate.

He said, ‘’Of course quality matters and we should be as much concerned about quality as we should be about our numbers. The Board has also moved from an office with a single desk to a well run secretariat, thanks to the efforts of the previous boards’’.

He however observed that clients’ demand are changing while the boundary between various professions is narrowing by the day with character of projects being redefined.

According to him, ‘the emerging situation will affect our training patterns and course curriculums and contents which will in turn affect how we channel resources to manage these changes in our schools, offices and industries.

Property Values Up 200% In 20 Years

A review of the property market’s behaviour over two decades showed that most cities experienced significant gains over the period, but also revealed that the best regions for growth in a given five-year period are typically the weaker areas for growth over the following five years.

Cameron Kusher, CoreLogic research analyst, reported that national dwelling values increased by 197.4% over the past 20 years, with the combined capital cities recording stronger total value growth (212.4%) than the combined regional markets (150.3%).

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Melbourne’s price gain of 274.6% was the highest increase in terms of value over the period, while Darwin’s value only grew by 38.4%, making it the lowest gain.

Across the rest of the country, growth has been strongest in regional New South Wales (185.6%) and weakest in regional Western Australia (77.5%). Darwin and regional WA were the only two major regions of the country where values have not doubled over the past 20 years.

The report found that the five years to January 2004 was the strongest five-year period for value growth within the past 20 years, with national dwelling values climbing by 80.2%. During the same period, capital city value growth was greatest in Canberra (110.9%) and weakest in Darwin (-3.9%). The next weakest growth in capital city values was recorded in Perth(63.5%).

Market prices in regional WA (24.4%) and regional NT (28.9%) only rose slightly compared to the remaining areas where strong growth was apparent. Values in regional NSW doubled at 108.8%.

Over the five years to January 2009, national dwelling values rose by 14.9%. Perth (52.3%) and Hobart (57.1%) were the cities with the strongest value growth within the period. Sydney values fell by 4.6%, marking the weakest value growth among capital city markets during the time.

In regional markets, regional WA values were up by a whopping 80.9%, thanks to the mining boom. Notably, regional NSW, which recorded the strongest value growth over the previous five years, was the weakest market during this period. Values in the area fell by 3.4%.

The five years to January 2014 were significant inasmuch as the global financial crisis had just passed and the mining boom ended. Values across the nation rose 20.3% during these five years.

“The growth in values over the period was almost entirely driven by the combined capital cities (25.3%) with very little value growth across the combined regional markets (4.8%),” Kusher said.

Across the capital cities, value growth in Sydney (36.5%) and Melbourne (32.3%) was much stronger compared to the rest of the areas. Brisbane (5%), on the other hand, posted the weakest growth. Regionally, values dropped by 2% over the five years in regional Queensland, while regional Northern Territory (30.2%) had the greatest increase in values over the period.

During the most recent five years, national dwelling values have increased by 19.4%. Drops were observed on Perth (-15.6%) and Darwin (-24.4%), while Hobart (35.1%) has experienced the strongest value growth.

In the regional markets, values have fallen in regional SA (-1.1%), regional WA (-22.6%) and regional NT (-7.3%), while regional NSW has recorded the largest value increase (28.2%).


Chinese investors are spending billions on Thai property despite a turbulent political scene

Chinese investors have continued pouring their money into Thailand’s property sector even as the kingdom barrels toward an uncertain national election.

That underscores the Southeast Asian nation’s enduring popularity with the Chinese — tourists from Asia’s top economy have for years seen Thailand as a top spot for holidays. According to recent data from online Chinese real estate portal, Thailand was its most popular country when it comes to inquiries from potential real estate buyers in 2018 — climbing up from the sixth spot in 2016.

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Thailand will hold general elections on March 24, but Juwai CEO Carrie Law said the company hasn’t seen “a link between the Thai election and Chinese property buying.”

“While the election is momentous for Thailand, most of the buyers we work with are unconcerned about the outcome,” she told CNBC.

Thailand’s economy has been powering ahead since its 2014 coup, reaching 3.9 percent GDP growth in 2017. That was its best in five years, but that growth is expected to slow a bit this year due to weaker global growth,the World Bank projected.

Even though that recent coup was the second in less than a decade, the political upheaval did little to cool Thailand’s huge property increases.

In fact, Sansiri — one of Thailand’s biggest developers — set up its international business unit in 2014 after seeing growing interest from foreign buyers, said Nanmanas Jiwattanakul, the company’s assistant executive vice president of international business development.

Chinese buyers make up 70 percent of Sansiri’s international sales, she said.

The development — not spurred by any marketing efforts — prompted the developer to set up showrooms in Thailand and overseas catering to such investors, she told CNBC.

“We started to drive (international sales) and also because we started seeing a number of foreign buyers in Thailand,” said Nanmanas.

Foreign buyers have not been deterred by the country’s political limbo over the last five years as the Thai economy, business processes and policies have showed consistency and resilience despite numerous government changes, Nanmanas added.

Thai property prices have roughly doubled in the last decade, so investors see the country as good place to grow their wealth, Nanmanas said. Still, she added, it’s more than just financial calculus leading people to purchase property in Thailand, they’re also buying holiday or retirement homes.

Thailand was the fourth-most-popular country for Chinese property investment in 2018, according to Juwai. With $2.3 billion coming in from Chinese sources, the Southeast Asian nation ranked behind only the U.S. ($30 billion), Hong Kong ($16 billion) and Australia ($14 billion.)

That helped Sansiri record whatits chief operation officer called  the company’s “best year ever” in 2018. The property firm saw its highest sales from international markets ever, as such revenues jumped 51 percent from 2017 to reach 14 billion Thai baht ($446 million,) the executive told a press conference last week.

Even so, Sansiri CFO Wanchak Buranasiri said the company has set a “conservative (spending) target” in 2019 due to political uncertainty this year.

New government to improve investors’ moods

The impact of Thailand’s elections on its market and economy  

The upcoming Thai election has already been marked by unexpected developments, including a member of the king’s family entering the race for the prime minister position.

Still, the end result of the race is likely to improve overall investor sentiment in Thailand, according to Kasem Prunratanamala, head of research at CIMB Securities in Bangkok.

He told CNBC that’s because processes that were stalled during the period of military rule, such as trade deal talks with the European Union, are expected to resume after a democratically elected government takes office.

Foreign direct investment from major investors mainland China and Hong Kong is also likely to increase due to Beijing’s trade dispute with the U.S., Kasem added.

Source: CNBC

Kenya: Rulings that supported equal right to property

Eight years ago, Lady Justice Mary Kasango ruled that married daughters had a right to inherit their parents’ property.

The judge made the ruling in a succession case where Consolata Ntibuka challenged her brother’s decision to evict her from land left behind by her father on the grounds that she was married.

“It does not matter whether a daughter of the deceased was married or not when considering whether she is entitled to inherit her parent’s estate,” held the judge in a decision that was rendered first under the new constitution.

In 2005, Lady Justice Martha Koome reaffirmed provisions of the Law of Succession Act that daughters, just like sons, have an equal right to inherit their parents’ property.

“The law does not distinguish the deceased’s children on the basis of their gender or marital status,” Justice Koome said.

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Similarly, former Deputy Chief Justice Kalpana Rawal made a decision that affirmed daughters’ right to their father’s wealth.

In her decision, Justice Rawal dismissed the application of a Maasai custom that allegedly blocked daughters from inheriting family property.


The case involved daughters of the late Maasai tycoon Lerionka Ole Ntutu, who died without leaving a will on distribution of his estate.

In their suit papers, the daughters complained of plans by their brothers to exclude them from inheriting their father’s property on the strength of custom.

After hearing both sides in the case, Justice Rawal held that the custom shouldn’t be applied at all.

“Any tenet of customary law, which would abrogate the right of daughters to inherit the estate of a father, cannot be applied,” Justice Rawal ruled.

Appeal Court, too, was not left behind when it comes to pronouncing itself on the issue of whether a married daughter should be allowed to inherit her father’s property.

For example, judge Philip Waki made a ruling in which he strongly indicated that customs that lock daughters out of succession have no place in today’s society.

In a case that pitted Rono versus Rono, Justice Waki held that marriage should never be a ground for locking daughters out.

“Arguments that daughters would get married are not a determining factor on distribution of the net estate of a deceased,” Justice Waki ordered.

Justice Waki said courts had a duty to exercise discretion judiciously when it came to distributing estates in dispute.


Buhari says his govt’s economic policies are making desired impact

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday in Lagos said his administration’s economic policies are making the desired impact, evidenced by steady growth in the economy in the last three years.

Speaking at a town hall meeting with the Business community in Lagos, President Buhari said he had kept his promise to boost the economy, through blocking leakages in government finances, increasing capital expenditure and inflows, and implementing the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), among others.

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‘‘I firmly believe that our economic policies are beginning to make the desired impact. Economic growth has resumed and is continuing to improve.

‘‘Growth was higher in 2017 than in 2016, data even from external sources show that it will be higher in 2018 than in 2017. I am confident that as we stay the course, it will be better still at the end of 2019.

‘‘Inflation is coming down steadily, there is stability in the exchange rate and foreign exchange is readily available for genuine business. Foreign reserves are adequate and growing; capital inflows have increased and the trade balance is positive.

‘‘We are paying off debts that were not even publicly acknowledged before now, including those owed to States, the electricity sector, oil marketers, exporters, backlog of salaries of workers and pensioners, amongst others,’’ he said.

The president who met with representatives of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises shortly before attending the APC presidential campaign rally in Lagos, said he is a strong believer in the importance of investing in infrastructure to promote development.

‘‘I am happy that the results of the priority we have placed on this sector are beginning to show.

‘‘Our commitment is reflected in the resources that we are providing for infrastructure. In 2016 and 2017, capital expenditure was up to N2.7 trillion while over N800 billion has been released under the current budget.

‘‘This has been complemented by the inception of the $650 million Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund which will focus initially on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Second Niger Bridge, the Abuja-Kano expressway and the Mambilla hydropower plant,’’ he said.

The president also highlighted completed and ongoing projects in the transport and aviation sector, expressing delight that the rail projects are generating excitement across the country because it would help local businesses to grow.

‘‘The Abuja-Kaduna railway is up and running. The Itakpe-Warri line is being test-run before going commercial. The completed portion of the Abuja light rail project is facilitating movement to the airport.

‘‘The Lagos-Ibadan railway is nearing completion with people already taking test rides on the completed portions. We are determined to work at the same pace on the Coastal Railway Line and the line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.

‘‘We completed the repairs to the runway in Abuja in record time, and just a few weeks ago, I commissioned the Baro Inland Port. All these achievements will help Nigerian businesses to grow,’’ he said.

On future plans to sustain the positive economic outlook, the President said the Federal Government would raise more revenue to boost the economic fundamentals and increase the level and quality of government services in support of the private sector.

‘‘I recently inaugurated a Technical Advisory Committee to identify new sources of revenue in this regard. This is also to ensure that Government at all levels have the resources to pay the new national wage, which we are indeed committed to paying.

‘‘Our economic fundamentals are strong and, in the next four years by the grace of God, we are determined to stay the course in terms of partnerships with the private sector; support to the real sector; helping small businesses, providing infrastructure and an enabling business environment,’’ he said.

The President told members of the private sector that his administration has also stimulated growth in the economy by adopting and implementing new strategies to deal with the security situation in the country and tackle rampant corruption.

‘‘When this Government came into office, our three priorities were to increase the level of security across the country, tackle rampant corruption and improve the economy. These three factors are interconnected.

‘‘Without peace and stability, there will never be economic growth and development.”

The administration’s view on improving the economy, the President said, focused on a bottom to top approach.

‘‘We focused on developing the rural economy which we hope will result in growth that is inclusive. Boko Haram and the militants in the Niger Delta started their aggressive operations during the years of high oil prices and GDP growth.

‘‘These young and misguided youths did not benefit from the various statistics and indicators of prosperity we were celebrating in the past decade. No wonder they were recruited to cause violence and mayhem in their localities.

‘‘These three priorities, if addressed, will completely transform Nigeria to a diversified, inclusive and competitive economy. But this is not an overnight transition. We are not only transforming systems and processes, but we are also changing hearts and minds.

‘‘We have recaptured and held lost territories. Yes, we still have pockets of insurgency, but our sovereign integrity is intact,’’ he said

America’s 10 worst states to live in

Far be it for us to dent your home state pride, but the fact is that there are ways to objectively measure quality of life, and some states do not measure up as well as others. Our Quality of Life category in America’s Top States for Business, worth 300 out 2,500 total points, looks at factors such as violent crime rates, area attractions, health care, and environmental quality, based on our Top States methodology and sources. These are the 10 worst states to live in this year.

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10. New Mexico

This state calls itself the Land of Enchantment. But by the numbers, that borders on false advertising. In 2016, the most recent full year of statistics available from the FBI, New Mexico recorded the second-highest violent-crime rate in the country and the highest rate of property crime. In the first quarter of 2018, the Albuquerque Police Department reported a 50 percent increase in homicides from the year before. New Mexico had the fourth-highest rate of drug deaths in the United States last year, and more than 22 percent of its children live in poverty.

2018 Quality of Life score: 113 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Crime, health

Strengths: Attractions, air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 9th worst (tie)

9. (tie) Mississippi

One of this state’s most famous natives was Elvis Presley, who was known to have a penchant for peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches. Too many Mississippians appear to be following his example. Mississippi has the second-highest obesity rate in the nation. Mississippi had the nation’s highest cardiovascular death rate in 2017 and the second-highest rate of cancer deaths. Also last year, Gallup found Mississippi had among the highest levels of economic anxiety in the nation. The Magnolia State takes its nickname from a sturdy, robust tree that is abundant in the state. Mississippians might want to look around themselves for some inspiration.

2018 Quality of Life score: 111 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Health, inclusiveness

Strengths: Low crime, air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 7th worst

9. (tie) South Carolina

Today it is known as the Palmetto State and tourists flock to its 187 miles of coastline, historic sites and a fixture of cultures. But the state loses points due to a high crime rate. In addition, South Carolina is one of America’s unhealthiest states, with one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the nation.

2018 Quality of Life score: 111 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Health, high crime

Strengths: Attractions, air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 15th worst

7. Oklahoma

Oklahoma has the fourth-highest rate of on-the-job deaths in the nation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state also has a high obesity rate. Regular exercise does loads to improve general well-being and quality of life, yet only about half of Oklahomans report that they exercise frequently, or at all.

2018 Quality of Life score: 106 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Health, high crime, lack of inclusiveness

Strength: Air quality

6. Missouri

Missouri has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation. In 2017 the state reported 600 murders, an 11 percent increase from the year before. Missouri could also stand to show some more inclusiveness. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the state lacks protections against discrimination for LGBT people, as well as discrimination laws related to employment, including protections for age and marital status.

2018 Quality of Life score: 101 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: High crime, health, lack of inclusiveness

Strength: Air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 5th worst

5. Indiana

The Crossroads of America is not known for its tolerance of the cross-section of Americans who live and work there. After intense outcry from business leaders and others, the state in 2015 adjusted the deeply controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act soon after it was signed into law by then-governor Mike Pence. The changes, also approved by Pence, helped ease fears that the law could be used to justify discrimination. But Indiana still lacks explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, age or marital status.

2018 Quality of Life score: 100 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Lack of inclusiveness, health

Strength: Attractions

2017 Quality of Life rank: 6th worst

4. Tennessee

With the fifth-highest violent-crime rate in the nation, the Volunteer State could still use some people to step up and start a neighborhood watch program. They might also want to volunteer for a smoking cessation program to help address the state’s alarmingly high rate of premature deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for every 100,000 people in Tennessee, nearly 9,500 people die before the age of 75. That is more than 30 percent higher than the national rate. And with no statewide antidiscrimination protections based on marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity, the state could stand to be more welcoming.

2018 Quality of Life score: 96 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Crime, health, lack of inclusiveness

Strengths: Attractions, air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 9th worst

3. Alabama

Alabama has one of the highest crime rates in the nation, the lowest concentration of mental health providers and no statewide protections against discrimination of any sort. Even so, Alabamans — or as some prefer, Alabamians — are feeling a bit better about their lot in life this year versus one year ago, with nearly two-thirds telling Gallup they feel “active and productive.” That helps the state improve on its last-place ranking in this category last year, even though Alabamans don’t exactly practice what they preach: Fewer than half say they exercise frequently.

2018 Quality of Life score: 87 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: High crime, health, lack of inclusiveness

Strength: Air quality

2017 Quality of life rank: Worst in the nation

2. Louisiana

How’s Bayou? Not so good in Louisiana, one of the fattest states in the country, with the highest rate of infectious disease, according to the United Health Foundation. The state suffers from high crime and pollution, plus a fair amount of economic anxiety, scoring just 1 out of 25 on Gallup’s 2017 Economic Confidence Index. And despite anything you might have heard or seen on Bourbon Street, the state lags in inclusiveness, with no protections against discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity.

2018 Quality of Life score: 82 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Health, high crime

Strength: Attractions

2017 Quality of Life rank: 2nd worst

1. Arkansas

Arkansas calls itself the Land of Opportunity, but some might beg to differ. While the state does provide protections against discrimination based on race, sex, religion and national origin, it lacks such protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status and age. And it is one of only three states that bars localities from enacting wider protections of their own. According to the most recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16 percent of Arkansans reported frequent mental distress. That is the second-highest rate in the nation.

2018 Quality of Life score: 81 out of 300 points (Grade: F)

Weaknesses: Lack of inclusiveness, health, high crime

Strength: Air quality

2017 Quality of Life rank: 4th worst

Source: CNBC

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