THE local property market is reeling from severe effects of the prevailing liquidity crunch and cash crisis, leading to very low sales, a property expert has said.
Oswald Nyakunika, the Estates Agents Council chairman and who is also a managing partner at Knight Frank, told Southern Eye Business yesterday that there is lack of activity in the property market not only in Bulawayo but the whole of Zimbabwe.
Nyakunika attributed the situation to a myriad of challenges bedevilling the country’s economy, top among them the current liquidity squeeze which has seen a number of companies resorting to austere measures, including cutting down on staff.
“The property market is facing challenges largely due to current liquidity and cash crisis. Sales are very slow (and) this is compounded by the fact that there is very insignificant mortgage funding,” he said.
“Majority purchasers are being offered staff loans by their companies.
“Many businesses are closing down and rental payment defaults are on the increase.
“This has resulted in evictions and increase in voids. Our manufacturing sector is almost dead due to external competition.
“Many industrial buildings in Bulawayo stand empty,” he added.
He revealed the high rental default rate in the city was affecting industry and ruled out any rent increases in the short to medium term.
Nyakunika, however, hoped there would be new players offering mortgage finance.
He predicted a significant improvement in the next five years.
“We hope for policy consistency (as) investors do not like uncertainties.
“Property remains the safest investment vehicle,” he said.
Turning to developments around the Bulawayo Centre, whose company is responsible for the refurbishment project, he said the facility was expected to be opened for the public in May.
In January this year Nyakunika revealed that they were still receiving applications from people interested in taking up the space and they expect to start the allocation of office space by April this year.
The project started over a decade ago.
According to the company, this was aimed at providing a one-stop shopping centre for Bulawayo in a bid to change shopping patterns for shoppers who were used to driving from one shop to the other.
The development was in three phases.
The first phase took three years and was completed in 1997.
It comprised of 55 shops on two levels and business suites on three levels.
Thereafter, the company embarked on the second phase of the project which involved the refurbishment and redevelopment of Princess Court into several shops and business suites.
It was initially supposed to be finalised and ready for occupation by December last year.
The suites will be linked to the shopping mall by a flyover across 9th Avenue.
There will be escalators and panoramic lifts to assist circulation of shoppers through the whole centre.