Increased competition and bond switching set to shake up the SA property market

As interest rates remain stable against the backdrop of a challenging economic climate, banks are being pushed to innovate and offer more competitive home loan terms to attract customers. This environment has given rise to a practice widely adopted in the UK but is yet to reach a tipping point in South Africa: bond switching.

Clive Bredenkamp, IT Executive at Proptech specialist e4, explains the potential shifts: “The property market is inherently sensitive to interest rate changes. While the rates are currently only marginally higher than in 2019, the market’s response to the current interest rate has been disproportionately severe due to the very low rates we experienced during the pandemic. However, with new players entering the market and offering up to a 1% discount on interest rates, increased competition could disrupt property transactions.”

This comes at a time when the South African Reserve Bank has maintained a steady approach to interest rates, with a drop in consumer inflation prompting predictions of a hold on rate cuts until at least May or potentially Q3. Bredenkamp says that the current economic conditions have nevertheless made it essential for banks to reevaluate their loan models, balancing caution with the need to meet their targets.

The local property market could be on the cusp of change, driven by the need for new and creative offerings to rejuvenate a sluggish market. “The potential for innovative financing solutions to breathe new life into the market is becoming increasingly apparent.  Lenders can adapt by introducing dynamic offers that shift consumer perspectives and behaviours, including more flexible loan terms, lower interest rates, and customised lending solutions tailored to individual financial needs,” says Bredenkamp.

One of the more attractive aspects of the evolving market is the opportunity for consumers to reduce the interest on their home loans through switching their existing bond from one lender to another. “A reduction of 1% in the interest rate can significantly affect both the monthly payment and the total amount paid over the life of the loan,” notes Bredenkamp. This factor plays a crucial role in consumer decision-making, especially considering the long-term financial commitments involved in property ownership.

The UK market is a robust example of how bond switching can enhance competitive rates among lenders. It is uncommon for homeowners in the UK to stay with an original lender for the entire term of their mortgage. Instead, they switch to other lenders up to three or four times over the life of the loan to capitalise on better offers, which are facilitated by agile back-end processes.

“The technology required to enable the seamless transition between lenders is already in place. e4’s BondSwitching solution allows banks to securely deliver bond instructions to third-party vendors. Utilising state-of-the-art public and private key encryption, e4 ensures the integrity and non-reputability of these transactions. With over 20 years of leading the digital transformation in the proptech sector, e4 has innovated at every step of the property transfer value chain, from customer acquisition to transaction processing. Although the the property transfer process was built to transact in very traditional ways, digital innovation continues to evolve and disrupt the process,” notes Bredenkamp.

The introduction of competitive offerings and increased lender agility could reshape how properties are bought and financed in South Africa. “For banks and consumers alike, the ability to adapt quickly will be synonymous with success,” he adds.

“Bond switching represents not just a financial strategy but a broader shift towards a more flexible and consumer-friendly property market. This shift can empower consumers, enhance lender competitiveness, and ultimately, invigorate the entire property ecosystem,” says Bredenkamp.

e4 is a technology company specialising in digitalisation. By understanding the complexity of a digital journey, e4 partners with its clients to provide innovative solutions that suits their unique needs. Using an omni-channel platform approach, e4 offers a range of digitally-inspired services as well as solutions. Working across financial services, data and the legal sector, e4 understands the intricate requirements in these sectors, and uses its expertise to assist clients in effectively managing their businesses through digitalisation.