Empowering women in South Africa’s real estate market: where there’s a will, there’s a way

Stian De Witt
1 September 2023
4 min read

In recognising the rising influence of women in South Africa's real estate market, we delve into the intricacies of property ownership by shedding light on the obstacles and prospects women encounter. We further explore women's proactive engagement in estate planning to assist in ensuring the safeguarding of their real estate investments and thoughtful provisions for their loved ones.

Women have become influential property buyers

According to Lightstone, “By end July 2022, women accounted for, individually or in partnership, 57% (3 896 595) of the total volume of properties in the market (6 868 778), while this accounted for 54% (R3 440 billion) of the total value (R6 414 billion) of residential properties registered at the Deeds Office.” In recent years, the South African real estate landscape has witnessed a notable and transformative surge in the prominence of women as property buyers. This trend is a reflection of evolving societal dynamics, increased financial independence and a growing emphasis on gender equality. Research also suggests that women buyers are leaning towards more expensive properties. This tells us that women are rising up in the property market and the historical gender gap (in purchasing property) has changed, making women influential property buyers in South Africa.

Challenges and opportunities for women in real estate

One of the biggest challenges women face when it comes to buying property is the gender pay gap. According to the United Association of SA (UASA), the gender pay gap in South Africa has stagnated in the region of 23% and 35%. Even though government has implemented different pieces of legislation that aim to stop gender discrimination at work, the projection of closing the pay gap in 99.5 years has increased to 135.6 years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It goes without saying that if women are still earning less than men, they are forced to navigate through financial barriers, gender bias, and legal complexities to own a home of their own. According to the latest General Household Report by Stats SA, 41% of households are headed by women. With the number of South African women who are heads of households increasing, women are facing the challenges, navigating through them and still buying property to provide a safe place for their families. This is encouraging and should be celebrated because a home is a valuable asset.

The significance of estate planning in property ownership

People often have misconceptions about estate planning, thinking that they need a lot of money and assets to validate the planning of their estate. They also often think that estate planning is for people who are closer to retirement age. These misconceptions can have devastating repercussions for loved ones – especially small children. Estate planning is a process that will help you protect your assets and make sure your wishes are honoured when you are no longer around to take care of your family. It should be done as soon as you start earning a salary and have a bank account. Even if you don’t have major assets, estate planning will ease the administrative process of winding up an estate, resulting in fewer delays when family members are struggling financially.

According to statistics from the Master of the High Court of South Africa (2022), less than 15% of South Africans have a valid will in place when they die. Property is one of the biggest and most valuable assets that you can own and it will form part of your estate together with your policies, retirement fund savings, immovable and movable property (personal assets), as well as your debts and liabilities. If you own property as a woman, the importance of estate planning and the role of a will in securing your real estate investments and assets, cannot be underestimated.

Empowering financial security through estate planning

Estate planning empowers women to take control of their financial futures and make informed decisions about their property and assets. Following are three of the most important benefits of having a comprehensive estate plan that includes provisions for real estate and wealth distribution:

  • Tax and estate expenses are reduced: through the careful structuring of an estate plan, you can reduce the amount of tax and the costs your loved ones will need to carry as your estate is wound up. With lower costs and taxes, they will inherit more money.
  • Your last wishes are carried out: an estate plan ensures that your wishes are honoured and your assets are distributed accordingly, giving your family financial security at a time that they need it most, and without unnecessary delays.
  • You protect the financial security of your children: if you have named their guardians in your will, with instructions for money to go into a beneficiary fund of your choice, your young children’s financial future will be protected.

Overcoming barriers to estate planning

Statistics South Africa estimated (in 2022) that the life expectancy at birth for males is 60.0 years, while for females it is 65.6. These statistics highlight the fact that women will often outlive their partners, leaving the bulk of the estate planning to them to deal with on their own. As a result, it is important to understand and overcome these four common barriers that women often face:

  • Lack of (financial) confidence: many women may feel overwhelmed or fearful to start the process because they don’t know what will be required of them. It doesn’t need to be a complicated process, especially if you have a professional assisting you. They will prompt you on what is needed to get a valid will in place.
  • It costs too much money: there are many financial services companies that will help you with your will free of charge. Their costs only kick in once you have passed away because they will charge fees for the winding up of your estate. Even if you don’t have a will, those fees will be charged by the person or company who gets appointed to wind up your estate.
  • Age and lack of wealth: as mentioned previously, estate planning is necessary regardless of your age and your level of wealth.
  • It takes too long to finalise: while some estates are more complicated than others, if you have a professional person assisting you, it really shouldn’t be a long, drawn-out process. Put aside time in your diary to get it done and stick to your commitment.

Whether you are single, married, divorced, a homemaker, an entrepreneur or a high-powered executive, you need to plan for the inevitable – whether it happens today or in 50 years’ time.

Using the services of a professional estate planner

Choosing a professional estate planner can be overwhelming in itself. Most banks, financial services companies, legal firms and financial advisors offer professional estate planning services. If you don’t already have a personal or family financial advisor, getting one to assist you with your estate planning may start important conversations about your overall financial health. If you use the services of a professional estate planner, they will help you to navigate the legal and financial complexities involved. They deal with a wide variety of estates, ranging from basic and small to multigenerational and complicated. Using their expertise and experience, they can make a seemingly complex task seem quick and pain-free for you. If you need help with drawing up your will, get in touch with us, and one of our experienced NMG financial advisors can assist you with all aspects of estate planning.

T&Cs apply. NMG Consultants and Actuaries (Pty) LTD is an authorised financial services provider FSP 12968


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