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Tuesday May 19, 2009

Chas Everitt opens in Zimbabwe

With multiple currency trading having become legal and Zimbabwe property prices starting to correct themselves, the Chas Everitt International property group has announced the 1 June opening of an office in the country’s capital city, Harare.

The owner of the new franchise is Charles Mbanje, whose property industry experience spans almost 20 years and several African countries. During this time Mbanje held senior positions such as associate partner at international property firm Knight Frank and MD of Innscor Africa Ltd.

The legalisation of multiple currency trading has proven a boon in that inflated property prices are now re-adjusting, he says. “Property prices in Zimbabwe were blown out of proportion due to excessive speculative behaviour and hyper-inflation; now prices are correcting themselves and there is a greater degree of transparency in transactions.

“For many years sales were made in secret. Today there are far fewer underhand deals as more properties come on to the market and buyers become more informed, thus whittling down the chances of price distortion and overpayment. As a result, Harare’s market has now become a buyers market.”

And such circumstances, says Mbanje, create good opportunities for a new agency that has fresh ideas, is proactive and has strong values. “The fact that we have chosen a strong, well known, professional brand to align ourselves with makes our entry into the market that much easier.

“In spite of the lack of mortgages and reliable utilities, sales are still being done and we expect to own a good share of the market. This will not just be a Zimbabwean business with an international name but a truly world-class business with best-in-class practices that are tried and tested”.

The franchise will be managed, he notes, by Privilege Aseda and his wife Gugu. Both are accomplished real estate agents who have worked under the Chas Everitt umbrella in SA for many years and are now re-locating to Zimbabwe in a franchise-initiated transfer of skills and knowledge.

A rental division will be established in the agency as there is currently high demand for this type of accommodation from Zimbabweans returning home and foreign aid and contract workers who are streaming in to help repair the country’s economy and infrastructure. Currently rentals range from US$500 to $1000 a month for a good, three-bedroom house in Harare.

Indeed, most Zimbabwe property prices are now quoted in US dollars. A one-acre stand in a good location in Harare costs between $30 000 and $40 000, while homes in the southern and western suburbs of the city cost between $50 000 and $75 000 and asking prices in the northern suburbs start at around $250 000.

The current buyer mix, says Mbanje, includes local and overseas-based Zimbabweans, and SA and other foreigners looking to invest in Zimbabwe. Bolstering their interest is the fact that there no restrictions on foreign ownership of property in Zimbabwe.

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