Thanks for dropping by Safe Investing South Africa. I am on a journey to build wealth my way. For any questions or comments, feel free to contact me.

24 Aug 2013


I just asked a group of women on facebook about their side hustles. I was so inspired by all these hard working women. Some are in direct marketing building their sales businesses, some are rocking a second job/ future business, one is selling chicken and eggs and one is completing her self catering apartment/ studio. This all inspired the rest of us. Everyone is awakening to the reality that no job is secure, and that diversification of income is necessary.
Side hustles and Outsourcing
My own side hustles story goes:
For more than 4 years I lived in a foreign country, set to build on my side income to be my main income. I had no salary and my goal was to grow my side income to reach the last salary I received from my job. This would enable me to choose whether to go back to work or continue doing what I love doing. The plan was to have a location independent kind of work like freelance writing. For one year I buried myself in writing from morning to morning. I slept for 5 hours max. I got burned out and worried that I wont enjoy the new country I was in if I carried on with the hard work and no leisure. I decided to outsource some of my work (I am a lazy person in general). A company in another country started writing for me together with SA journalism students and a freelance editor worked on the imperfections. I pretty much freed most of my time to do missionary and charity work and talks in conferences, and coffee dates and church activities, and social networking, and leisurely writing only on what I like.

My main side income when I had a job was in real estates, followed by my writing. With me that far I had to hire a property manager to take care of the real estate part of my busy life. I now had outsourced almost all my life. I didn’t even take my son to school, because I felt I needed time to think about ways to grow my side income. Everyday I woke up to think, think and think some more... My thoughts got clearer and clearer every single day. I decided to go back to school for 2 years, which I did on block weeks to do Masters in Real Estate. Though unnecessary but also tying in with the goal of growing my side income.

I renovated my rental properties to increase the rental worked. My writing side hustles started working for me and I re-invested the income where it can work and earn me monthly income... it worked. Four years went by and my extra income reached my final take home salary of 4 years prior. I had to choose whether I go back to the workplace or I continue chilling with my daughter at home. My friends were scared for me, my family was scared for me, I was scared for myself, my husband was a very proud man and pretty much told me to “do whatever you want to do”. I went back to work just to see how I feel about it. I was now more confident to shove in my terms into my new job like reducing the travel. And I realised that I still like the kind of work that I have been doing in the past, quite a bit. I will be honest, the main reason I went back to work is to grow my side income further through investments in order to reach double my current salary. I thought and still think I won't last very long at work but I decided to at least try it. If I enjoy it, I will stick around for another two years.

This is no magic, anyone can do what I am doing. I am humbled by the love and support and the inspiring women who are working hard all around me. I am writing this to inspire the women who are starting on their side hustles to keep on working hard. It's one of the few ways to fast track one's financial independence. All my side income is re-invested to build more income. Most importantly, when I invest money, I never feel deprived of anything because God has already provided me with everything I need. The rest is just unnecessary frills that are great to have. And my lifestyle has enabled me to give to the less fortunate more each year. I am really grateful. I may not be rich but I am very content.

How about you my friend? What side hustles are you busy with?

21 Aug 2013


A few weeks ago I wrote an update on my deceased estate transaction. I had basically thrown a towel as this transaction is approaching a full year in existence. I actually sent a "thanks but no thanks" type of email to the lawyers when they sent me this:
Dear Mrs... Thank you for your email of the 20th of July. You are quite correct to say that this has been a tough transaction but we have reached the stage where the transfer documents have now been forwarded to Cape Town for registration in the Deeds Office. We anticipate registration to occur towards the end of August. 
Yours faithfully
Ok, it seems that we are finally putting this matter to rest. We are to pay the remainder of the money beginning of September. What I found interesting though is the email from the lawyer that reads:
Dear Mrs...
As we are expecting registration early September 2013 please let us have the purchase price iro the above-mentioned transaction.
Please note that there has been a delay caused by FNB losing the original Title Deed and Bond which has to be simultaneously cancelled with registration of transfer.
Awaiting to hearing from you shortly.
Then the bank delays this process further. But really, it doesn't matter much. I still think the transaction was worth the wait. I managed to lock the price for the whole year. I only paid the lawyers fees in the year and kept my money in the money market account for the year.

What is exciting me the most is the fact that I will do a small development in this property. I may add a few two bedroom units in the land. Lets hope the municipality wont give me problems. if they do, I may have to re-sell the property. It would hurt to do that because even my parents went to see it. They really loved it.

Well, that's my deceased estate transaction update. Will I ever buy from a deceased estate again? I don't know. I actually doubt it. Would you consider buying from a deceased estate?


The right way to go about reaching financial independence for me was only through understanding my “WHY”. For me, it is to be able to take control of my life. I don’t want to stay in the job that I don’t want because I have to. That's why we chose to owe no one anything but love, and it works wonders for us. We worked hard and sacrificed fancy material stuff earlier on to leave an inheritance for our children and started building our own tools to give to the poor. I have a small scholarship to give other people's kids a solid high quality education. This is all based on the wisdom found in the Proverbs.
Reaching Financial Independence - image
Establish your own WHY and shape your life to respond to it.

What is Financial Independence?
“Financial independence is a term generally used to describe the state of having sufficient personal wealth to live, without having to work actively for basic necessities. For financially independent people, their assets generate income that is greater than their expenses.” Wikipaedia

A high salary doesn't count, unless it is used to acquire assets that make more money. It is all about asset ownership. Assets are what enable us to create jobs, reach out to the poor, and have control over our time. A job is not a permanent solution to one's financial woes. You may lose your job in an instant. It is much wiser to get R500,000 per year from an asset than R1Million from a job because your asset is likely to be with you and your children and if well taken care of, with your children's grandchildren.

Measuring your Way to Reaching Financial Independence

Financial independence is about the ability to live comfortably without needing a job. To measure your wealth, think about the number of years you can manage without your next salary. If you are able to cover all your expenses without a monthly salary, congratulations, you have arrived. There are two ways of doing this

You either boost your income or lower your monthly expenses. The easiest is lowering expenses. This is not easy, but it is very possible. In just over 10 years of us working towards this with only our salaries, we reached the point where we can do without our jobs in an unfortunate event of us losing them. We managed to collect assets that earn us a stable income that covers more than just our basic expenses. This is how we did that:

Real Estate
Most of our monthly income is from our rental properties. These alone can cover our current basic needs. It is definitely not easy collecting assets like property in South Africa. Don't be intimidated, however. Push harder, save like crazy, and start your own wealth building journey. We also paid up all our properties by investing the rental income back into the mortgages/ homeloans. It was worth it. Without a homeloan currently, that means lower monthly expenses.

Living Below your Means
It's a no brainer, earning R20,000 and having your living expenses at R20,000 is doing your retirement plan disservice. Most of us spend more than we earn. In some instances, a beggar in the street with R500 net worth is doing far better. Living on 50% of your income is a general rule of thumb. I know couples that live on one salary. Earlier on, we invested about half of our income in real estate and lived on the other 50%. That was not very easy but with time it was automatic. Even the 50% was a lot. I suspect that we will do even better than this. I think living on 40% in our current financial state is attainable.

Paying yourself First
It has been mentioned over and over again but the concept of paying yourself first will never get out of fashion. I am guilty of loving nice clothes, shoes and bags. Most people don't know how badly I love nice stuff including nice cars. I go to an extent of reading car magazines. I love cars. But I obviously can't own everything I love now, can I? The fact that I know I can afford them and will eventually own the one I really love is enough to keep me going. I just think a car installment would pain me at the moment. I doubt if I will ever be OK with it. So I try to hold my horses and keep pushing my old car. In the meantime, I'll keep investing in my car fund until its overgrown.

I've been trying to quicken our way to reaching financial independence through this method for a while now. What works for me is transferring the money immediately it reaches my account into my investment accounts. Part goes to stocks, part to property when I have a mortgage, part to my money market account, etc. Its only after this that I start spending the remainder. After spending on all the basics, I make it a point I get my monthly facial and massage. Even with spending 50% and below, I manage to sneak in my beauty spa visit. It is very important for my sanity.

Interest, Stocks and Dividends
Our emergency fund obviously gets some interest of just below 5% in the current low interest rates. The stocks we have earn us some growth and dividends. These are very small amounts but every little bit counts. I must add that with diversifying in mind, all our rental income goes to stocks now.

Side Income
I have a small income from my online writings. This alone can pay for my son's school. I am grateful for this very small amount of money. Especially because I love writing and I only do it about once a week currently. I am too busy with a lot of stuff in my life at the moment. I would prefer more writing.

I also want to sell stuff online at a comfortable pace. I will stock things I love to collect and re-sell them. That includes antiques and art.

How about you? Is there any thing you are currently doing to fast track reaching financial independence?

28 Jul 2013


Indeed, assets are for income. My friend visited last night to drop her son who had a sleep over with my boy. This girl inspires me so so much. She drives an old car and is very busy. She left her posh job to work on her consulting business. When that was slow she started a catering business, which delivers dinners to people’s homes. She has different menus from Monday to Friday. She later added take away lunches.
assets are for income
Last time we had coffee which stretched up to lunch and late afternoon snack, we talked about business. She was quite busy renovating and extending her house at the time. So yesterday she mentioned that her house is now too big for them and she decided to rent it out. Her prospective tenant is a business that will live in the first floor and operate in the ground floor of the house. My friend will get R50,000 in rental and has found a home for her family in a nice neighbourhood. She will be paying R8,000 per month for the smaller house. Off course she is still busy with the lunch/ dinner delivery business and is moving on to build another commercial property in the neighbouring town.

She says, when her friends were buying nice cars, she was busy buying land. I can totally relate. She has hectares and hectares of land in various cities, land by the ocean, land in tourist attraction areas, land for commercial property, etc. She has started with her second construction project. I was totally humbled by her zeal and courage. Something about girls like this (who drive very old cars and work hard) inspires me. When she started renovating her house, it was for her own comfort. Off course she later wondered why she had such underutilised asset. Assets are assets because of their potential to earn money, right? YES, assets are for income. That’s why a house you live in doesn’t add much to your wealth. Even if you sell it, you will still need to buy or rent a home.

I wish I didn’t love huge spaces the way that I do. What I take from my smart friend is that, you can delay the luxury a bit whilst you start collecting assets. Most people have confidently judged the frugal saying “you need to live a little”. The same people who “live a little too large” are not sleeping at night thinking about the tricks to carve their way out of paying debt. A wise man told me that we are only in the 1%, which means, the 99 percent of the people don’t get this. I don’t know about you but I love being in the 1%. This story is so similar to one of my friend in Namibia. I will ask her to narrate it herself. She quit her job and is now a real estate businesswoman I have come to respect. I am so blessed to be surrounded by such girls in my life.

This makes me think because, like I mentioned in my previous posts, we are searching for our next home. We are a family that loves space. I am thinking very hard about this. What about you dear friend? Do you believe that Assets are for Income? Would you let your home for rental and downgrade? Would you move to a smaller town to cut the costs?

24 Jul 2013


I promised to write on how to pay a homeloan quicker in the post on how to consolidate debt using a mortgage yesterday. This is part of our Dealing with Debt series. This is kind of how we paid our last bond and the previous six quick. I know, I know, I am contradicting myself here, but if you are not in the business of property, you are better off in a paid up house. Debt is draining.
We are now searching for a house AGAIN. Our previous home is now a rental property. The challenge that I have is that, I have quite a bit of stuff that needs space. I have exercise equipment that are now too much for the place. Don't ask if I use them regularly or not please. But in my case, I feel having them stops me from signing another gym contract. I used to have a gym contract all the time, until I decided to buy my own equipment. Anyway, back to our topic on "how to pay a homeloan quicker".

Most of our homeloans in South Africa are a standard 20 years. Mine was 30 years, other people choose a 15 year term. Those terms mean nothing but the maximum term because we are lucky to never be restricted to that term. We sign those terms and decide if we really want to stick to the term or shorten it. I will make an example using a R500,000 house like our yesterday example. It's much easier to follow the logic of figures when you have calculations in front of you.

Make Monthly Extra Payments
Even a R100 extra in your homeloan makes a huge difference. I will use R500 and R1000 in my examples.
R500,000 homeloan; at current 8.5% prime rate; 20 year term
You pay R500 extra every month and pay your bond up in 15.5 years. You see how R500 sheds 5 years off your repayments. If you pay R1000 extra you'll pay your bond in just below 13 years. Remember yesterday we worked on R2000, which results in paying up your loan in less than 10 years. If your bond is R1Million, you may just double the figures. Extra payments are worth that sacrifice.

Pay your Bonus to Homeloan
Those who have a 13th cheque in their jobs can put most or all of it into the homeloan. Lets say instead of the R1000 per month, you put the R12,000 once every year into the bond. You will end up paying your bond in 13 years or so. This is what I did, on top of monthly extra payments. I paid my first property in 4 years. It was very tough to do that, but the income from renting it out later was SWEET.

Refinance and Negotiate Interest Rates
Most people never negotiate anything with their banks. Its time you start. If you have a clean credit record you may go see them and ask that they lower your interest rate after a few years. The worst case scenario is them refusing. If they do refuse, you can always switch to a bank that is interested to your business at a lower rate. Lets say you get 1% rate cut. This lowers your payments by more than R300. If you pay that R300 back to the bond, you shave 3 years off your bond. Can you see how even that little helps?

There is more tricks and tips on how to pay a homeloan quicker. These are the simpler methods.

Other articles on Dealing with Debt series:
Paying up your Debt
Paying your Debt using your Homeloan

image credit

23 Jul 2013


Try paying debt using a homeloan if you are disciplined enough. This is the second installment on my series on Dealing with Debt which I started yesterday. I have used an existing homeloan to pay up debt. We paid Mr's car using our mortgage once. It was a great move and saved us a lot of money in interest. The best part of this move was that, we paid the original car installment into the bond and ended up paying the loan in a fraction of the time.
 One amazing tool that people neglect is their homeloan. Your mortgage is likely charged at a prime lending interest rate and most likely below prime rate. Whilst other debts are above prime rate. Credit card and store cards can be above 20%, a car and personal loans closer to 20%. Remember that prime interest rate is 8.5% currently.

This is all a figures game which your bank plays too well. If you can pay below prime for your debts, why not. If you have a homeloan that you've had for a while and the value of your home has gone up, you can have the bank give you an access bond. You can even ask for a lower interest rate whilst at it. Or even change banks to get a lower rate, but that's the story for tomorrow. The bank may increase your homeloan to the current value of the house so you can access the extra cash in it. Like I said yesterday THIS IS FOR VERY DISCIPLINED PEOPLE because you are now starting another 20 years of loan.

Lets use a "paying debt using a homeloan" example:
Lets assume you owe R50000 in the combination of your debts (consumer debt, credit cards, personal loans, etc). The average rate for all of them is 20%. You pay about R2000 per month to service this debt. R500 here, R300 there, etc. At that 20% interest rate you will take about 33 months to pay all that debt (hope my spreadsheet is accurate). That's almost 3 years of parting with R2000.

An alternative is getting the access bond on your house and pay all your debt. And then, pay the R2000 extra into the homeloan. Remember that your bond payment may increase, though unlikely if you had it for a while. But you will pay the R2000 extra into the homeloan, because that's the R2000 that you would be throwing in the water anyway.

Assuming that the house is worth R500,000 at 8.5%, then your monthly installment is R4,339.12. You'll pay your mortgage in 20 years and part with a total of R1,041,388 in that period. At least your income will be increasing over time hopefully.

Now add the R2000 to the equation. Paying R2000 to your homeloan can save you more than half the interest you will pay over the term of your loan. You end up paying your homeloan in 9.5 years instead of 20. And then part with R 734,675 instead of R 1,041,388. Paying a homeloan quicker can be so sweet and effortless.

See how you can use the R2000 that you throw into the bin all these years. Debt will ALWAYS be an enemy, unless you use it to get income. What do you think of this concept of paying debt using a homeloan?

image credit 

22 Jul 2013


I decided to start a series on Dealing with Debt, because of questions I get lately. There are two very popular ways of paying debt.
Firstly, you have to list ALL your debt with interest rates charged. Credit cards, personal loans, store cards, car loans, etc. You have to know the interest rates you are charged in each account. The rates will be in your account statements.

NB: You are not buying any clothes, not dining out, not going on holidays, not buying lunch or coffee, not indulging on luxuries whatsoever for a few months at least. You are not going to die, I promise. It took me and hubby and our kids at least 10 years to take our first proper holiday outside family visits. We now go on a holiday all the time.

For ease of this demonstration I will give an example of a hypothetical case:
Edgars R1000 (R200 minimum payment required), Woolworths R3000 (R400 minimum payment), then credit card R5000 (R600 minimum payment), then personal loan R15,000 (R800), then your car R120,000, etc.

The Snowball Method: Made popular by Dave Ramsey. It is not a smart way but most people stick to it. It’s more psychological than cheap/ smart. One pays the smallest debt first.

Pay minimum required by all the companies you owe and whatever money you have left before luxuries like restaurants and buying the next pair of shoes, goes to the Edgars account. OK, say you manage to have R300 left (after paying the R200 instalment). You pay the R200+R300 and in 2 months you are done with Edgars.

Next is Woolworths. Remember you now have the R500 extra, which was going to Edgars in the past two months. You continue paying the minimum you had to pay to all accounts. Pay the R400 instalment to Woolworths and then add that extra R500. You will be done with the Woolworths account in probably 4 months. That’s 6 months of no’s so possible and EASY. By this time you WON’T want those luxuries anymore, but if you want them so badly you may take a small amount and go out for a cheap meal, but absolutely no holiday and no new clothes, no furniture and Edgars and Woolworths cards are cut into pieces and thrown in the bin.

Now you have an extra R900 which was previously going to Edgars and Woolies. Pay that to the credit card adding to minimum required (R600). In a short 4 months you will be out of the credit card debt. And sitting with an extra R1500 (Edgars, Woolies, Credit Card). You’ll probably finish your personal loan in another 10 months or less. You do this until you are free of the consumer debt.

The cheaper way to pay debt: You save on interest
Same as above but instead of small debt you start with the HIGHEST interest rate debt first. Leave the car out and deal with all your consumer debt first. Cars are too expensive in South Africa. Then attack that car loan if you want out of that too. But you will also need to build some emergency fund in the process.

Next, we will look at how you can use your homeloan to pay up debt. Probably the cheapest way of dealing with debt if one can. That one is for disciplined people.


A reader asked me:
"Do you have any advice on where to save money and get good interest?"
It depends on how much money we are talking about and what the money is for. There are a number of facilities and tools in South Africa that help one earn high interest.

  1. I would put a small amount that I might need for an emergency in a Money Market account. I wrote about the money market accounts here... Money market accounts are relatively low interest but it is risk free, you can't lose any of your money. All banks have a money market account about 4-5% interest at the current low interest rates. I promise you, you will struggle to get that in the developed countries.
  2. I would put money I don’t necessarily need for the medium to long term in the Index Fund like satrix. See my demonstration on satrix here... There is some risk as the money is in the stock exchange. So you may lose your money. Its unlikely and has never happened in the medium term. Your money is available when you need it. It depends on the fund you choose but a fund like SatrixIndi has managed more than 30% per year in the past few years and about 40% in growth in some of the years. That is a lot of growth.
  3. I would go riskier and buy into individual companies in the stock exchange if I have a sizeable amount. Remember you can lose the money in the stock exchange. You also need to know what you are doing to invest by yourself. It is possible but takes time and education (reading and listening). So if you are not clued up, get experts or even better stick to an index fund.
  4. If you have a huge sum of money and you are like in your 40s-50s, think about bonds. Interest is not bad but your money is locked for a specific number of years like 3 or 5 years. Why did I mention the age? The bonds are completely safe. I think when you are younger, you can afford a little risk in your life because you have time to recover what you lost. 
 For a balanced portfolio you need a bit of each of the tools listed above, plus other assets like Gold, property, etc. I just cannot give advise on where to save money without knowing your specific situation. Especially not knowing what the money is for. Feel free to ask more questions using the comment form below.

21 Jul 2013


Back in October 2012 I wrote about my deceased estate transaction. Only yesterday, I emailed the lawyers that I have lost interest in the deal. Who can blame me. I started this investment process in September 2012 and its now almost August 2013. The lawyers mentioned the challenge they have with the wrong municipal bill amounts and their difficulties rectifying them.
my deceased estate transaction
Anyway, I just got an email from a reader by the name of Jason.
"do you have a continuation on your story? email it to me."
I will email Jason. In any case, this is the story:
Lawyers did their long tango dance. Like I mentioned in my initial post, I was not going to be bothered by how long this transaction takes. The problem I have now is the fact that this project is still outstanding. Something about an incomplete project drains the energy out of me. I feel so drained each time I think of it. Can I be blamed? Its almost a year, anyone would be bound to crack, right?

This is my second try at the deceased estate transaction, and the experience is similar to the first one. I don't know if I will try my hands in the third one. Never say never though. I will wait to hear from the lawyers tomorrow. I feel relieved already. The seller (daughter of the deceased) is the one who kept me hoping. We finally got introduced, talked on whatsapp and facebook. And then I got my emotions entangled because I was all of a sudden dealing with someone I thought I knew. So I hung in there. I don't know if holding on to this deal was a great thing. If I cut my losses earlier, I would have moved on to another deal, I suspect. That may have ended up being a good or bad thing, depending on the deal I go to. Now that I couldn't go to another deal, I managed to focus more on the stocks. I feel its been a great move.

There it is folks. My deceased estate transaction seems to have fallen through again. Thanks for asking Jason.
If you also have a question/ request for me, feel free to leave me a note by filling the form at the Contact Page. No one will see your details. I love responding to emails.

20 Jul 2013

Monthly Spending and Budget Report-June 2013

To those new in this blog, This is my personal finance journal where I track my monthly spending. My goal for 2013 is to spend 60% and invest 40% of our income to help me (and hubby) to retire comfortably in our early 40s.

I spent a few months renovating one duplex. It took long because we it is not available to let anyway for another few months. Last month (May) we managed to live on 21% of our income. We hit a small ditch in June with 52% of income in expenditure. We are still smiling from ear to ear for having paid up our last mortgage.

Our June 2013 monthly spending and budget report:

Real Estate33% 9% Target is 25%, GREAT .
Personal Income 46% 86% We are working on growing other income streams to bring this lower.
Interest/ Dividends 2% 1% Our emergency fund interest.
Online Income 19% 5%
Other 0% 0%
Interest on my Emergency Fund is 4.65%, which is below the inflation rate.

Real Estate 34% 10% Still due to renovations.
Transportation 0% 0%
Online 0% 0%
Internet/ Phones 1% 1%
Consumer 4% 4% Includes food
Credit Card, Cash & Fees 0% 2%
Giving 7% 3% This should be at around 10-12%. It will even out during the scholarship payment months.
Life Insurance 1% 1% Fixed
Invested 48% 79% We paid most of it into the stocks. I no longer top my Just Invest (Nedbank) savings up.
We lived on just above 50% of our income in June (comparing to 20% in May). Our Net Worth impressively well.

  1. MAIN GOAL: net worth growth by at least 25%.-- 23% so far.
  2. BUDGETING: invest at least 40% of income.-- 50.8% so far.  
  3. EMERGENCY FUND: 3 months worth of living expenses.-- DONE.
  4. GIVING: give of more than 10% of income.--5% so far.
  5. REAL ESTATE: Construct at least 4 flats/ increase the rental income by 30% .-- not yet.
  6. MORTGAGE: Pay up our home .-- DONE.
  7. STOCKS AND DIVIDENDS: Get at least R12,000 in dividends.-- not yet.
  8. EXTRA INCOME: Online income to R8000 per month by December 2013.-- +/-R3700 April.

4 Jul 2013


For someone who has done some post graduate qualification in real estate investing, I kind of suck at applying some basic principles in property investing. Here's the thing: the Mr and I are not fond of owing anyone including the bank. So naturally we have always put the majority of our income into paying up some property. It sounds amazing but at some common sense level it is stupid. Why on earth do we throw money in the "air" sort of, over and over again. This is my take on and against paying up a homeloan:
against paying up a homeloan
Seriously, the only advantage of property investing is LEVERAGE. I don't know any financially sound reason why someone with "cash in hand" would choose to buy and fully own a property right away. Forget that I wrote about paying up my own homeloan here, here, and here. And contradicted my original and sober position against paying up a homeloan. We did end up paying up our last homeloan in June 2013 which is exciting. But this is not really a great/ advisable move, but a "PEACE OF MIND" kind of a move. We do hate debt and are happier without.

NB: If you are not particularly good with your finances, paying up your homeloan is probably your best option. The paragraphs below are for people who would invest the money that would have been extra payments on their mortgage.

A homeloan is sort of risk diversification. Think about it, you own only part of your home and the bank owns the rest. Recently a SISA reader was scared of the state of affairs in the country and its impact on investing in property. Leverage is a great solution to that fear in my opinion. For 20 to 30 years, you are a co-owner of your property.  Should something go bad in the sector, you have only part of the investment to worry about. What bothers me with the property ownership is its lack of liquidity. You will always have a lag in your actions. But I am grateful for investing in property at the time that we did. Its the best place to start investing... at least for us it was.

In our last case for instance, we paid up our 30 year homeloan in 6 years. We saved hundreds of thousands of rands in interest. That is great right! The interest rates we last paid were 6.9% per year. That's how much we are now saving by being mortgage free. Think of what the same amount (extra payments to bond) would have achieved in our retirement accounts. Our mortgage was from January 2007. We established that we saved between 8 and 10%, because our interest rates are not fixed. I wont invest anytime in calculating the actual amount, so lets say we saved 9% in interest.

Now lets look at a completely passive return on investment we forfeited. If we went the SATRIX route (because we were clueless on individual stocks at the time, and had two satrix accounts). It seems I can only get up to 5 years charts in their website.
Oh well Satrix FINI managed to get a whooping 17.7% per year in the 5 years whilst INDI got 30.8% per year. This is what we would have achieved by skipping the mortgage payment and focusing on investing in one of the two satrix investment accounts.

Well since we didn't go with the profitable plan, we are still appreciating the fact that we won't pay any mortgage this month. I think we will go on a mini holiday using that money. Something a bit out of character and extravagant. And then go get a much cheaper access bond on that account and withdraw it to try and invest it wisely. And maybe this family will let me use some of it to buy me a nicer car seeing that my car fund is not ready yet and our other car is in a "please replace me" state.

Whats your take on and against paying up a homeloan?
image credit


Yes, you read right, we got a personal loan for a week or so. I don't ever want to be in a tight corner that we found ourselves in about two weeks ago. We needed money within 24 hours. Our emergency fund is in the 24 hour notice just invest account. We were out of the country and therefore counldnt access the money that belongs to us. What a stressful two days we had.
how we got a personal loan
 We tried to look at our other options. We have an access bond in one of our rental properties. We have used this account before. The Mr calls his bank relationship manager. And banks being banks, they say nope, we cant access our money. Reason being that we need to submit insurance papers, etc. This was never a requirement before. And this property is a sectional title townhouse.

We were stuck in that kind of rut. We couldnt use the money in our emergency fund account and we couldnt use the money in our access bond. As the Mr and bank relationship manager were exchanging calls, the guy mentioned a personal loan. We never think of such expensive solutions, honestly. More than R100k in personal loans is just too scary, but this was our only option. That's how we got a personal loan.

I never knew that one can apply for a personal loan so easily and get approved so quick. In a few hours of faxing the forms we were approved. It this even legal? Reading 13.5% per month in interest nearly gave me a heart attack. Imagine how paying 17%, 21%, etc in credit card debt feels. I would live in eternal guilt and self condemnation. If you have credit card and/or any consumer debt, do yourself and your family a favour by paying them up very fast.

Fast forward to a few days, up to a week later. We then manage to get the funds to pay up the loan. Guess what it did cost us... more than a thousand rands. This is for a few days of us having the R150k in our possession. Remember that I have just above R300,000 in the emergency fund. At 4.65% per month, I get below R1300 per month in interest. That's more like what R150,000 cost me in a week. Banks are not stupid, I want to own one... one can dream right. I guess buying bank stocks counts as part ownership, right?

I don't regret our decision to get a personal loan. How about you? What would you have done?

26 Jun 2013


My own home is a modest house but what I hope is a warm and welcoming home. There are a few things that I never compromise on in my house, and they mostly have to do with the interiors and maintenance.
Home inflation and my own home - image
When we were in our late twenties (yes we were already married before thirty) we bought our first freestanding house. This was an exciting move from an apartment. It felt like a dream, really. So much land (1300 square metre land), a swimming pool, a huge garden flat, an orchard at the back with various fruit trees, lemon and lime trees everywhere in the front garden plus a few rose bushes we grew. We could fit ten cars inside our gate easily. And I loved our sit-in kitchen.

We quickly got so overwhelmed with the cost of maintaining this giant. Remember that at this point we had never needed nor owned a spade, let alone a lawn mower. We couldn't afford a gardener and a pool guy. We realised that we had no use for the big granny flat and never thought we could rent it out. The orchard needed some work like weeding, mowing, pruning, etc. Doing that was very difficult because we had no proper tools. The swimming pool needed too much maintenance too and its pump was not working. We bought a lot of stuff to keep the place in shape but quickly gave up on it and moved to a townhouse. We were just not ready to take on such a huge responsibility.

Townhouse life was great. Most people complain about Home Owners Association (HOA) fees and rules. Rules are always annoying when one doesn't understand the logic behind them. The costs associated with owning a freestanding, full title house seem higher than the levies to me. I also include the time factor as a cost here, should I choose to perform those tasks myself. First of all, in the sectional title setting one owns only the interior of the house, with right of usage to the common property like garden, patio and garage, etc. No, you don't own those. I wrote about differences between full title and sectional title here. Paying a thousand rands plus in levies was just worth it to us. No mowing of lawns, and no worrying about the breaking driveways either. All we were doing was planting pretty flowers in a small garden. We missed our fruit trees desperately and managed to get a lemon tree for the kitchen side garden. Every Tuesday, garden services were there, without fail. Listening to the lawnmower and edge trimmer whilst in bed felt like sheer luxury. Life was pretty good. The automated outsourcing was beautiful.

Moving from there was to be to a similar set up. We needed a bigger space as kids were growing. Whilst some say its riskier to live in an estate, like I mentioned in the post here, I feel more at peace in my small house within the gated community. Off course we had this itch to get a huge garden again because we are South Africans. Every time we thought of why we need a bigger house and garden, we realised that it was not for good reasons. The challenge was when I visited my friends with huge gardens and swimming pools, and huge entertainment areas. So I went back to search for my own home a year or so back. And then two things happened.

One: I watched too much "Country House Rescue" on the home channel. How expensive it is to take care of a big home. Kids get to inherit this responsibility, as they want to keep these mansions within the family. I know, I cant afford such luxurious homes, but still... Images of the past, when I did a stint of real estate agency flashed back. I got into huge South African homes that took a staff of four to take care of. I still think its crazy to have ten garages.
Two: Then one blogger wrote about how horridly uncomfortable most huge houses look inside. The guy went to the extent of pasting two bedrooms from a huge house and one from a house half the size. His argument is that, the size of the house is some form of a show off for most people, which sucks the funds off the owners that they can't make the interiors comfortable. I've always questioned the 6 or more en-suite kind of houses for small families because I suspect that some bathrooms are never used for the whole year. It could be my jealousy talking.

This is me settling in my very humble home with pride. I will never compromise on a comfortable interior space in my own home. Forget the size of the house, I want a warm house in winter and cool one in summer. I cannot justify nor afford heating a ten bedroom mansion.

23 Jun 2013


Thanks Gerald for an email on property investing in South Africa. 
Hi! Sorry, I have no idea what your name is despite going though your site with
eyes wide open.

I've been thinking of starting up a blog quite soon on personal finance and
found yours quite inspiring. I'm also interested in property and have
recently purchased an off plan apartment in a good area as my first

I'm currently based in Johannesburg and was curious about your outlook on property in South Africa, what you think will happen to the property prices in SA should our esteemed government continue on their current course and in general, the future of SA in the property market (such as saturation and overvaluation of
property in JHB). Don't really know where you're based but wouldn't mind
just talking about prospects and possible investment vehicles.

Thanks for the stimulating blog, really enjoyed the information and your
general openness regarding finances!
Sorry Gerald, I blog almost anonymously. I have tried to give myself a name Sisa, which is shortened blog name. I am looking forward to following your blog. I haven't met many South African personal finance bloggers. I also congratulate you on your apartment. The area will always be important.

The economic part of your question is easier to answer because we can always consult our statistics and bank indices. Below is the house price index by the FNB. It shows some 5% growth in house prices in nominal terms.
FNB Average Price Inflation - property investing in South Africa
However, in real terms, the price inflation was in the negatives (-0.6%). Well, since I suspect that you are planning to hold onto your property for a while, you shouldn't be shaken by that. Over time, SA property values have had an upward trend. The challenges are on tenant issues, maintenance costs and home owners association fees. Rental rates usually follow the value trends. I have noticed with my own properties that there is no shortage of tenants. I think that has a lot to do with the National Credit Act and Regulations (NCA and NCR). Most people don't qualify for homeloans and are forced to rent. Its important to note that this high quantity of tenants is not necessarily of a high quality. There is a lot of dodgy tenants out there.

[ Let me point out that when adding commercial property in this picture, we attained 15.2% total return in 2012, according to SAPOA/IPD South Africa Annual Property Index. This is commercial property, which has started to improve to its per-recession returns. Meanwhile, listed property recorded more than 20% returns last year.]

The one fact is that real estate investing is never passive. It takes a bit of work from you, whether you have a property manager or not. You actively look out for your investment. Make sure your apartment is of high value, well maintained, well insured, well looked after, rental rate is just right, etc. You have to make it your business and pay attention.

Another important fact is that, your investment is not liquid. You cant act quick and dispose of your investment when things go wrong. This is every investor's fear. I have thought about selling everything several times but got back to the choice of sticking it out. Its mainly because real estate is a passion to me. But the risks will always be there. One reason I have kept going is the power of leverage which is unique with real estate investing. If one can build wealth using the bank's money, it makes it very attractive.

Looking at the political climate: BIG sigh. An optimist in me thinks that our investments are safe. But in reality, we don't know. I sometimes think paying up my properties was not very wise. I now carry the risk alone. It would be better to carry it with another party, like the bank. But I must say the net income is much better without the mortgages.

Other Investment Vehicles for South Africans
I had to work towards DIVERSIFICATION to reduce the impact of risk. I intensified on my stocks, which I must say was scary earlier on in my life. I encourage people to start with index funds like satrix to start warming up to the idea of stocks. Check their website ( My very young son has some SatrixIndi stocks. The past year saw that particular fund grow by 39%. That's a great deal.

I am hopefully adding some bonds by the end of 2013 or beginning 2014 too. This is low risk and therefore lower return. The interest rates we enjoy in SA are not seen in most countries. I know when we factor inflation, those rates are in the negative in some cases. I also stash my cash in the money market.

Nedbank's Just Invest that I use is at 4.65% at the moment. That's the money market kind of account. All SA banks have the money market account.

Some people invest in coins, gold, fine arts, etc. I never got into those but  some people claim to get high appreciation from them. Whatever I collect is not for investment purposes. I never even factor my household goods like furniture and art in my net worth.


Ever since we became a crazy family, we have been living on 50 percent of our income or below. Before getting impressed know this... it was never planned. This was because of my real estate craze. We just had to pay two mortgages at any given time. Usually me with a smaller one and Mr with a bigger one. Or him with a smaller one and a car and me with a bigger one. Money was quite tight earlier on because of that. Strangely, I cant remember us having an argument about money ever. We were very aware of where our money was going, which helped. I did buy more stuff than I need but there was not much money hanging around for more of that. More than 50% of our income was tied in investments.
living on 50 percent of your income - image
We are not special in any way. We are an ordinary family of four just like most families. Think about it 50 percent of your income is probably all you need to survive too. If you can be honest with yourself, take out all the debt payments, and take a fresh look at your monthly income, you are likely to be shocked. Your 50% or more could be eaten by debt and its interest. Lets look at a hypothetical middle class budget or spending pattern:
Homeloan R10000
Cars R15000
Fuel & Car Maintenance R5000
Food R4000
School  Fees R5000
Consumer Accounts R3000
Credit Card R2000
Personal Loan R1500
Dining out & Leisure R1200

The assumption is that we have a two income family with two kids earning a combined R45,000 after deductions and medical insurance. See how they spend R46,7k from their R45k income. It happens all the time because this couple is sinking every month without bothering to take note. Look at what is actually debt in their budget. 10000+15000+3000+2000+1500=R31500. That's the whole 70% of their income on servicing debt. That should be craziness in anyone’s standards.
Many people argue that one can’t live without debt because they need a car and a house. That’s not true but for the sake of this example we will entertain that. How about getting a modest 3 bedroom townhouse and reduce that mortgage to R8000 per month and buy two used smaller but safe cars at R8000 per month for both.  Even better, save a higher deposit and slash that car payment to R5000 for both. Nothing stops them from driving their cars for longer whilst they save for the next car. This sanity of relying on banks to finance one's existence is very expensive. South African interest rates are too high. They are great for saving and horrid for spending. I often wonder why people still choose to pay interest on their credit cards.

Try living on 50 percent of your income. Its easier than you think. Automate your investments and savings and see how easy it is to adjust living on the other half. 

Have a great week. Happy investing!

21 Jun 2013

Monthly Spending and Budget Report-May 2013

To those new in this blog, This is my personal finance journal where I track my monthly spending. My goal for 2013 is to spend 60% and invest 40% of our income to help me (and hubby) to retire comfortably in our early 40s.

Like I mentioned last month, the costs of the renovations reflect in May expenditure. We lived above 100% of our income in April. Yes, we had a shortage. The bulk of our money went to the renovations. Meaning, its an investment rather than consumption. We are back on track with 21% expenditure. We had to squeeze ourselves to pay up the mortgage off course. Its been a tough year.

Our May 2013 monthly spending and budget report:

Real Estate9%
Target is 25% .
Personal Income 86% 56% We are working on growing other income streams to bring this lower.
Interest/ Dividends 1% 6% Our emergency fund interest.
Online Income 5% 0%
Other 0% 0%
Interest on my Emergency Fund is 4.65%, which is below the inflation rate.

Real Estate 10% 10% Still due to renovations.
Transportation 0% 0%
Online 0% 4%
Internet/ Phones 1% 1%
Consumer 4% 6% Includes food
Credit Card, Cash & Fees 2% 1%
Giving 3% 3% This should be at around 10-12%. It will even out during the scholarship payment months.
Life Insurance 1% 1% Fixed
Invested 79% 51% We paid most of it into our homeloan. I no longer top my Just Invest (Nedbank) savings up.
We lived on just above 20% of our income in May (comparing to 134% in April). Our Net Worth grew well.

  1. MAIN GOAL: net worth growth by at least 25%.-- 16% so far.
  2. BUDGETING: invest at least 40% of income.-- 48% so far.  
  3. EMERGENCY FUND: 3 months worth of living expenses.-- DONE.
  4. GIVING: give of more than 10% of income.--5% so far.
  5. REAL ESTATE: Construct at least 4 flats/ increase the rental income by 30% .-- not yet.
  6. MORTGAGE: Pay up our home .-- not yet.
  7. STOCKS AND DIVIDENDS: Get at least R12,000 in dividends.-- not yet.
  8. EXTRA INCOME: Online income to R8000 per month by December 2013.-- +/-R3700 April.

4 Jun 2013


Paying the homeloan quicker is not necessary, not even economically sound but satisfying. 6 short years ago we were knee deep between two bonds. Oh well, it was not that bad. The second property was a rental one and our investment property was working together to kill the principal amount. But those were not easy times.
Paying the homeloan quicker
Fast forward to today, my bank statement reads, R2678. Meaning that, for the very first time in 12 years I have no bond, almost. I've been referring to my mortgage as my ONLY debt and from month end I will be debt free. Before throwing a congratulations my way, be rest assured, this will definitely not be for very long. I will definitely be creating some profitable debt in a few months. I just want to savour the moment and enjoy the feeling just a bit.

What this means is that I will have just a bit more disposable income because there will be no money taken by the bank from my account. I feel extremely blessed. We will also be able to pay more attention to other investments.

Remember I am one of those people who are against paying the homeloan quicker than required. I got over that and when the Mr was on my case about killing this debt I was game. Its not very easy taking savings to put into a bond. I don't know if I will do it ever again, or even if I would advise someone to it. But the feeling of being debt free is priceless. Even if its for 6 months or less. I may even take my family on a holiday, get some proper "debt free" closet boost and go earlier for my spa treatment.

Our Journey to Paying the Homeloan Quicker
If you are interested to know how we did it, here's how. We took our savings and dropped a huge percentage into the bond. We then added extra payments towards the mortgage every month. Extra payments were probably the hardest because it was quite a large amount. We also got extra strict on expenditure. I keep telling people that I can do with a bit of frugality. I really am not frugal. My main thing is creating extra income. It doesn't even have to be passive income. I am happier when I am a bit more productive than an average Joe...err Jane.

What Next
High on the agenda is getting a bigger investment. It could be a commercial property or something more passive. The Mr thinks I can maybe have a store or something. I think waking up to go to the shop every morning is not something I would enjoy. A few days a week maybe but not daily. Some things are just not for everyone. I would much rather have an online business. But being in SA, online businesses are not as big as in the western economies. Whenever I make some move, you'll be the first to know.

What have you been up to? Are you winning your own financial battles? What is your take on paying the homeloan quicker than your mortgage term?

3 Jun 2013


What an amazing facebook inbox I got from someone I never met. Teaching kids about money is never easy, I guess.
Except I started quite early that my son thought of it as a game. You get money, save some, use a little and be happy. When he turned 10 I taught him about the JSE and Satrix and he thought is a great idea to try that. But then, when he gets a R10 note he asks me to throw it in the stocks. He is yet to get a grasp of this. But I am very impressed with him. Naturally, I shared this story with women and mothers in one forum of people who don't want their kids to fall on the same financial disaster trap. One mother was kind enough to give me feedback as follows:

Hi SISA, I am so grateful for all your financial advise on teaching kids about money, its value and how to save it. I was owing my 14 year old son R200 for house chores and I decided to open an account for him at Nedbank. I put R100 into an investment account and another R100 into a savings account for him. I went ahead and told him that even R20 saved in his bank account will help towards his Varsity time savings and for buying stuff for himself later on. Thanks you very much for that wisdom.
 I love getting such feedback. When I started teaching my own child about personal finance I explained the value of compound interest. It changed how he looks at money forever. One mistake we make is underestimating the intelligence of a 4 year old. I also gave my son a reason to save. He was talking about owning a car at the time. I told him that he can save some of his money to buy his own car when he turns 18. That was a challenge and you don't dare a 4 year old boy.

His Satrix Indi has been doing extremely well. Its been a few months. I think three or slightly less. And my boy raked between 6 and 8% growth in this short space of time. Even when the JSE caught some flu, his index fund was just shaken a bit.

The best way to teach kids about money is leading by example. Be what you want to see in your kids. If you teach them that expensive and fashionable clothing makes a person, they will grow with that. If you, yourself throw money around and try to impress your peers, you are setting your son for a personal finance failure. Its never too late to start with children. They are like sponges and ready to absorb everything that comes their way. Keep the topic interesting and give rewards.

For every rand my boy saves he gets a rand from his mama. The more he saves the higher the match. He is quite lucky to get money gifts from family and our friends for his birthday. He saves most of it. It helps that he is such a cheap boy.

In your own house, are you teaching kids about money? What do you do to encourage your kids, grand-kids, nieces or nephews to save? 

1 Jun 2013


I don’t know where to start. My life is quite hectic. We lived in the construction site for two weeks. After leaving the construction site slash townhouse being renovated it was all dust and no kitchen, no second bathroom and no shower frame. But I had to leave the good but slow handyman behind sweating it. It took me too many trials to finally get a trustworthy handyman. I feel very blessed.
Shower during renovations
 The kitchen design looks amazing. The kitchen company is delivering the wood today. And they promised to have the kitchen working on Wednesday. I just cant wait. Everything is done through the email exchange and whatsapp at this point. Photos, more photos, then approval, then more stuff that we forgot to buy. It never ends.
Shower during renovations

Some people ask why I go all out with finishes in the rental property. I understand their concerns because this is the very property that the poorly managed tenants trashed. But all my properties have to be at a certain standard. My property investment business is my true passion and the reflection of myself. I am not going to put tenants in a place I can’t live in myself. And that has paid dividends. I haven’t had much vacancies and had mostly long term tenants. On the plus side, my rental income will get a boost.
New kitchen for rental unit
Now that I am more relaxed in a dust free house, I am managing the renovations digitally. Its not ideal but I have lots of other stuff to do. Besides, I missed my stove and oven so badly. I am not good with dining out. This is the kitchen design I want for the rental unit. The kitchen company delivered the wood in the townhouse yesterday already. They will fit it next week. I just cant wait to go visit the place by mid June. Everything looks perfect from the photos taken by my sister and handyman.

Thats it people. Thats what I've been up to.
PS. We probably have finished paying up our only mortgage and our ONLY debt. Ecstatic doesn't even begin to describe how I feel.

23 May 2013

Monthly Spending and Budget Report-April 2013

To those new in this blog, This is my personal finance journal where I track my monthly spending. My goal for 2013 is to spend 60% and invest 40% of our income to help me (and hubby) to retire comfortably in our early 40s.

How hectic the renovations of one rental unit kept us. I couldn't escape to sneak more posts. The costs of the renovations reflect in our April expenditure and will hit hard on our May one again. We lived on an impressive 40% of our income in March. We stuck below our target budget of 60% spending and 40% investing. This month took us above 100% spending. I wish it was a joke.

Our April 2013 monthly spending and budget report:

Real Estate37
Target is 25% .
Personal Income 56% 82% We are working on growing other income streams to bring this lower and thus diversify risk.
Interest/ Dividends 6% 1% Our emergency fund interest and dividends were good.
Online Income 0% 0% Next month.
Other 0% 0%
Interest on my Emergency Fund is 4.65%, which is below the inflation rate. I took some money to the stocks in January. If the Governor and the Reserve Bank cut rates, I will be very sad.

Real Estate 32% 10% Renovations.
Transportation 0% 0% Paid mostly with cash left over from last month.
Online 4% 2% Freelancers paid
Internet/ Phones 1% 1%
Consumer 6% 10% Includes food
Credit Card, Cash & Fees 1% 7% We used the Mr's credit card and paid it off over 50 days spread.
Giving 3% 3% This should be at around 10-12%. It will even out during the scholarship payment months.
Life Insurance 1% 1% Fixed
Invested 51% 61% We didn't pay more into our homeloan like we usually do. This is only automated unit trusts and a small amount on the stocks. I no longer top my Just Invest (Nedbank) savings up.
We lived on just below 134% of our income in April (comparing to 40% in March). Our Net Worth grew by a tiny margin. For which I am grateful.

  1. MAIN GOAL: net worth growth by at least 25%.-- 12% so far.
  2. BUDGETING: invest at least 40% of income.-- 73% so far.  
  3. EMERGENCY FUND: 3 months worth of living expenses.-- DONE.
  4. GIVING: give of more than 10% of income.--5% so far.
  5. REAL ESTATE: Construct at least 4 flats/ increase the rental income by 30% .-- not yet.
  6. MORTGAGE: Pay up our home .-- not yet.
  7. STOCKS AND DIVIDENDS: Get at least R12,000 in dividends.-- not yet.
  8. EXTRA INCOME: Online income to R8000 per month by December 2013.-- +/-R3700 April.

25 Apr 2013


I don't make any money with this blog. Maybe not yet. What gives me joy is when someone says it has changed their lives and made them better at taking care of their finances. I got such an email this week. Such emails keep me going, honestly.

Hi there. Thank you for your blog - hubby and me have decided to start learning all there is to know on investing etc. We are not so young anymore (I'm 35,and hubby 40) and due to bad financial decisions in the past we need to start planning for the future ASAP. We have so much to learn as we never bought property before and investing in unit trusts, etc is very new to us! But I am on every site I can find on investing, wealth growing tips etc - one have to educate herself in order to make good (better!) financial decisions. I still want to read on some of your articles. Just wanted to thank you for putting it out there - so we newcomers can learn!
 I wish you all the best in what you are doing S. Its never too lat to start. The best part of this personal finance journey is the beginning and consistency. Never give up on your dream of financial independence. It DOES get easier with time.
And thank you for making my day.

You too can ask me questions or send comments by clicking here.


Before dwelling on a few of many landlord mistakes I made throughout my property investing journey, I want to apologise for the silence. I am so busy with the remodel/ renovations of a rental duplex. I am crazy excited about the whole renovation, like a kid in the candy store. We live on site, which MrSISA and son find to be inconvenient. Meanwhile, I feel like an adventurer in the bush. This is the closest I can get to camping. We have no kitchen and I cook with a hot plate just like I did at varsity. And we are not restaurant people because I am extremely particular with what I eat. The renovations are quite pricey but the returns are worth it in my opinion. We are re-doing both bathrooms, the kitchen, the patio and all floors. I am planning to give the staircase and all bedroom closets a facelift by a lick of paint and changing the handles.
Duplex Renovations

Back to bad landlord mistakes I made.

I am now busy undoing what I paid for only two years ago. I got a highly experienced guy to renovate this very duplex in my absence. I didn't know the guy but my friend did. So naturally I had my friend hire and manage the guy and the project. A lot of bad decisions were taken (not that I would have made better decisions). This guy knows how to do a great job but decided to do a VERY shady job in the place. The tiling was below mediocre. I had to chase him away with my money and a job half done. I couldn't risk having a lot more work to undo. For two years I had this duplex off the market and used it as a holiday home because we had no time to take care of it and needed the place where it is. So we decided to have a working holiday in it for two weeks to have it properly fixed. That's the reason we live with all this dust and clutter. Yes, we could have gone to live in the hotel, but I don't see any sense in that expense.

The landlord mistake I made is renovating from a distance without a proper brief, contract and plan. That cost me a lot of money and a friendship. No use crying over spilt milk, I have to fold my sleeves and work.

When getting a tenant for a smaller duplex, I went all emotional when a single mother was desperately in need of the place. She had a decent salary but I ignored her trail of problems. One landlord mentioned how single mothers are a huge pain. I disagreed with her and still do. I think, like the rest of us, single mothers are not the same. But unfortunately for me, this woman was in a serious financial situation. She started having excuses after excuses. Needless to say we agreed to part ways. She left with some of my money. But all I wanted at the time was my apartment back to collect rentals. This was the first ever time that I had someone miss a rental payment in my 11 or so years as a landlord.

The mistake I made was to do a rush job at screening the prospective tenants, after doing a great job of marketing the place. I sometimes forget that this is business and not an emotional venture. This tenant obviously had her priorities crooked. She had a great job and was by no means a charity case. I need to toughen up a bit.

My property manager has been with me from the beginning. He is OK for me. I have written about him here before. I tend to trust him to take the right decisions. My motto is that "if things break, please fix them immediately. I don't want the tenants to suffer. Don't try to get hold of me when a tenant has no stove." Indeed my property manager does just that, except, he fixed one stove 3 times. The cost of fixing this stove was close to the cost of a new one. Fortunately for me, I managed to find out that the stove broke again before he had a guy fix it. I called him and politely asked him to buy a new stove. Happy tenants stay longer.

The mistake was that I failed to micro manage my manager. It does sound odd but there is nothing passive about property investing. You will always be hands on. But my manager is great in many other ways.

Similar to the mistake above, I assumed that my manager understood the property laws. I am lucky in that, I decided to do a Masters in Real Estate and have a good understanding of South African property laws in general. This is definitely not necessary for one to be a property investor. I just have an interest in real estate. When stuff that belongs to the body corporate broke, my manager went ahead and fixed them. I have been pointing him to the Sectional Title Act and I must say its been a learning curve for both of us. I realise that most real estate practitioners know zilch about the SA real estate laws. Its horrifying. So a landlord has a responsibility to learn about the laws that govern his investments.

When I was on to buy property number 3, a charming real estate agent told me all there is to know about the property in question. It didn't hurt that she was a pretty French girl. She was climbing up and down the stairs in an impressive way. Except, most of the details were WRONG. She mentioned 160 square metres when the property was 126. She enticed me with the spot to put a swimming pool when its actually against the Sectional Title Act and the space in question has some servitude conditions. Off course I had an apartment already but knew nothing about the Act and servitude.

What gives me comfort is that I would have bought the place even if I was told the truth. Just DON'T take your estate agent's word. It may be very dangerous. Do your own research.

I can go on and on and on. These are only a few of the landlord mistakes that I made in my property investing journey. I have grown from each of them and forward I move.