Don’t borrow more now if you want to be a home owner

04 July 2018

The weaker Rand, rocketing fuel prices and the steep electricity and municipal tariff increases that are taking effect in many cities and towns this month could delay many families’ hopes of becoming home owners – especially if they start borrowing more to make ends meet.

So says Rudi Botha, CEO of SA’s biggest bond originator BetterBond, who notes: “SA households have come under increasing pressure this year, especially since the VAT increase in April, and in response it seems that many consumers are now taking on more debt again.

“We are concerned that this could easily reverse the gains made over the past 10 years as South Africans worked really hard to pay off their debts, and steadily reduced the household debt-to-income ratio from 86,5% in 2008 to the current 72%. Particularly worrying is the rise in rate of unsecured borrowing, which includes personal and micro loans, credit card balances and overdrafts.”

The latest Reserve Bank statistics reveal that unsecured credit extension in the household sector showed year-on-year growth of 5,3% at the end of May, compared to 3,1% at the end of December. And personal and ‘pay-day’ loans, which make up almost 59% of unsecured credit, showed even faster growth of 5,7% at the end of May, compared to 2,7% in December.

Secured credit extension, which includes home loans, leases and vehicle instalment sales, showed annual growth of 3,9% at the end of May, with household mortgage balances recording year-on-year growth of 3,3%. 

This means, says Botha, that a bigger and bigger percentage of the average consumers’ monthly take-home pay is being used to repay “bad debt” rather than “good debt” such as a home loan. “What is more, this could get worse due to further fuel price hikes and this year’s round of municipal tariff increases, while the stagnant economy is making it difficult for employers to offer wage increases that would improve the situation.

“And prospective buyers whose disposable incomes are diminished by additional debt will find it more difficult over the coming months to qualify for home loans, even though the banks are currently eager to lend to them.”

The reason, he explains, is that the banks don’t only consider the applicant’s income and credit record when deciding whether to approve a home loan, but also look closely at their regular monthly household expenses and existing debt repayment commitments.

“They are obliged to do this, in terms of the National Credit Act, to ensure that borrowers really will be able to afford their monthly bond instalments without getting into financial trouble. But prospective buyers should actually be confident of this themselves, before applying for a bond, and that is one of many reasons to consult a reputable bond originator such as BetterBond as one of the first steps in the home buying process.

“Our experts know exactly what the banks require and can suggest ways for borrowers to improve their financial position and credit profile before applying for a bond. In addition, they can obtain bond pre-qualification for buyers who are ready to enter the market so that they have a clear idea of what they can afford and can concentrate on homes within their price range.

“Then once clients are ready to buy, we can submit their application to multiple lenders and negotiate the most favourable terms and interest rate, which can make a significant difference to the eventual cost of their property, and their long-term financial well-being.”




150G white butter beans
(tinned will do)
250ml cultured sour cream
Oil & butter for frying
2 large onions – sliced
300g button mushrooms
Chopped parsley


- Soak beans in boiling water for 1 hour. Boil with bay leaves, mixed herbs and salt and soft.
- Fry onions gently in the oil and butter and when soft add mushrooms.
- When these have cooled add beans, sour cream and seasonings and lots of parsley.
- Can be served with mashed potatoes, buttered noodles etc. as a main course or simply as a salad.

Kidney (Renal) Disease

Kidney (renal) disease is one of the most common causes of illness in cats but it is not just older cats that are at risk, renal failure can strike at any time and the results can be devastating. As cat owners you need to know the subtle signs that tell us your cat may be in trouble.


The kidneys play an essential part in maintaining your cat’s health by removing waste products from the blood stream, but they are responsible for so much more!

The kidneys produce three important hormones:

I. EPO, which stimulates the bones to make red blood cells.
II. Renin (REE-nin), which regulates blood pressure.
III.The active form of vitamin D, which helps maintain calcium for bones and for normal chemical balance in the body.
The kidneys also regulate the quantities of sodium, phosphorus, and potassium in the bloodstream.

When your cat’s kidneys are compromised its body is thrown into turmoil.

Kidney failure is usually separated into two categories:

 acute renal failure – which usually develops quickly over a week or a month

  With early diagnosis, acute renal failure can be detected and managed’

 chronic renal failure – the gradual deterioration of the kidneys over a prolonged period of time.

 ‘chronic renal failure is an incurable condition that mainly affects older cats'


As kidney failure is a progressive disease, you may not pick up any symptoms in your cat until it is already quite ill. However, you may notice: 

 increased thirst and urination
• Subtle weight loss
 Decreased appetite
  Bad breath – drooling (caused by mouth ulcers)
  Increased sleeping patterns

Your cat may also begin to look scruffy as it grooms itself less.

As you can see the list of symptoms is diverse and can be attributed to many other illnesses. If your cat persistently shows any of these symptoms it would be wise to get her checked out.


The causes can be as varied as the symptoms and often remain unknown.

 Kidney infection
 Advanced dental disease
 Obstructions such as kidney stones or blocked bladder which can cause; Decreased blood or urine flow to the kidneys
 Ingestion of toxic substances, such as antifreeze, pesticides, medications and cleaning chemicals
• Polycystic kidney disease- genetic predisposition to the disease
 Age older than seven years
 Feline infectious Peritonitis (FIP)
 Feeding food high in phosphorus or increased levels of protein can increase the disease’s progression

Your cat may also begin to look scruffy as it grooms itself less.

As you can see the list of symptoms is diverse and can be attributed to many other illnesses. If your cat persistently shows any of these symptoms it would be wise to get her checked out.


The first thing your vet will do after taking a detailed
history is to perform a physical examination. Apart from
evaluating the general condition of your cat, these are some of
the signs your vet will be looking for:

 Low body temperature
 Poor body condition, weight loss, shabby coat
 Excessive skin tenting and dry gums showing dehydration
 Sharp or bad breath, possibly with ulcers in the mouth
 Pale gums
 Evidence of ocular haemorrhage or blindness associated with high blood pressure (hypertension)

It may also be possible for your vet to feel irregularities in the size and shape of the kidneys.

If your vet suspects your cat has kidney disease there are several tests which will help to differentiate the symptoms from other conditions and which will indicate how severe the kidney disease is.

These tests may include:

 Complete blood count (CBC)— to determine if there is  anaemia (too few red blood cells) or an increase in white blood cells which would indicate  infection, stress or inflammation.
 Chemistry profile with electrolytes
 SDMA testing
 Urinalysis with sediment exam—Examining a urine specimen, especially, prior to any treatment, is a simple and economical way to gauge urine quality.
 Urine protein to creatinine ratio test
 Diagnostic imagingX-rays and ultrasound to identify changes in the size, shape, of the kidneys and their plumbing may show a need for emergency treatment.
 Infectious disease testing—Routine testing of all sick cats for feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is advisable.


Once your vet has evaluated your cat he will decide how best to approach the treatment and management of your kitty. Each kidney patient will respond differently to treatment depending on the severity of the kidney disease present.

Acute kidney failure – if diagnosed and treated early enough it is sometimes possible to reverse acute kidney failure. Immediate medical attention is required to limit the amount of permanent damage to the kidneys. Your cat will probably be hospitalized be given intravenous fluid therapy and supportive renal medication. Sadly, there are cases in which the damage to the kidneys is so severe that nothing can be done to help the patient and euthanasia is the kindest option.

Chronic kidney failure - this is commonly seen in older cats (over 7 years) and depending on the general condition of your cat may be treated with supportive medication and fluid therapy.

Good nutrition is of immense importance in the management of the kidney patient. Prescription diets are available that are formulated to assist in the control of kidney disease in cats.

‘high quality medical evidence shows that diet is important to slow chronic kidney disease ‘

‘It’s recommended that all cats 7 years and older get a “senior screening” at their annual check-up in order to determine if your cat has kidney issues.’

Although it is possible to manage most chronic kidney disease patients it remains a difficult condition to control and in the case of acute kidney failure it can leave the owner devastated and the veterinary team feeling helpless. 


47 Kenilworth Road, Cape Town
Telephone: 021-671-5018

Common Poisonous Plants

A luscious garden in your backyard is generally a welcome sanctuary in a busy world. The majority of people, however, are unaware as to how many of their favourite plants, though seemingly innocent, are actually quite poisonous.

Fortunately for us, most plants are only potentially harmful if you eat them and not all of them are lethal. While this fact doesn’t pose a problem to most discerning adults, a brightly coloured berry or flower can be highly attractive to both young children and pets alike, increasing the danger and risk to their young lives.

Here are a few of the common poisonous plants found in South African gardens:

1. Oleander

Photo Credit: 
This fragrant flowering shrub is extremely hardy and drought tolerant.  Although beautiful to behold all the parts of this plant are extremely poisonous, even lethal. If you have small children or pets at home, this plant is probably best removed from your garden.

2. Syringa 

Photo Credit: Anna Anichkova 

Children and dogs alike seem to love the ripe berries of this tree, however, they can make humans and animal violently ill because they contain a high concentration of meliatoxins.

3. Rhubarb

Photo Credit: 

This common food may come as a surprise. While many people enjoy eating the stems of this plant in a variety of desserts, eating the rhubarb leaves can actually be fatal. Ingesting a large amount of the leaves will affect your mouth and throat and can lead to convulsions, internal bleeding and death.

4. Cycads

Photo Credit: Wikipedia 
Cycad seed cones resemble large pineapples and while a dedicated gardener is unlikely to consume these valuable seeds, young children are not as discerning.  The ripe cones expose large brightly coloured seeds which are highly toxic.

5. Elephants ear

Photo Credit: Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden
The sap and root stock of this plant are poisonous. If the sap gets into the eyes they will sting and burn for a few hours. The plant has a particularly unpleasant taste which usually deters children from consuming enough to be dangerous.

6. Delicious Monster

While beautifully adorned on clothing as prints, and inside homes, this plant is common both in the garden and as an indoor plant. Dogs seem to have a particular attraction to it.  Unfortunately, every part of this plant is poisonous and chewing on it will aggravate the mouth making it difficult to swallow.

7. Dieffenbachia

Photo Credit: Karen K Krietemeye via Pinterest 

This plant is another indoor and outdoor favourite. Dieffenbachia is more commonly known as Dumb Cane for the sap from the leaves and stem which can cause the tongue of the victim to swell so much that they are not able to speak!

So how can we ensure the safety of those we love? With the exception of Oleander, education, not elimination, is usually the best way to deal with poisonous plants. Removing all of the toxic plants from your garden would create a safe environment at home (and some very bare garden beds), however, it isn’t the best solution.  Instead, educate your children to refrain from putting berries, flowers or leaves into their mouths.  By educating them you are ensuring their safety when out and about, even when they are not under your supervision.

Norgarb Properties Agent Andre Ter Moshuizen who specialises in the Claremont area, shares some household tips and handy home hints with you every month. Read more of his articles here. []

Andre Ter Moshuizen: 082 602 1367 | |

Relocating and the brain

With the high number of FOR SALE signs going up around Harfield Village lately, what does neuroscience tell us about relocating and the brain?

By Dr Samantha J. Brooks Ph.D.

Looking around Harfield Village of late, one cannot fail to notice that many people are selling up and relocating. It appears to be a seller’s market, which can be exciting. However, it can also be extremely stressful with moving rated as one of the top three stressful life events alongside death of another and divorce.  But what are the brain processes that might underlie this sudden exodus out of the village? Is it something to do with underlying stress-related emotions concerning the country’s potential changing political circumstances?  Or is it rather that Harfield Villagers are one of the top ‘up-and-coming’, ‘moving and shaking’ demographics in Cape Town? Whatever the reasons for the sprouting of for sale signs around the village, how do our brains enable us to make that leap into the unknown, to plan ahead and to secure the best deal on a house at the right time? 

The first step to moving house is the actual decision to move – a brain process that often occurs long before the move actually happens.  What causes this shift in the brain?  Usually, something is evaluated as not quite satisfactory, and the brain often registers this disquiet unconsciously at first.  Or perhaps the shift in the brain is more gradual and related to a positive evaluation, such as keeping an eye on savings for a deposit until there is enough to buy a better house.  Decision-making, regardless of whether it stems from disquiet or positivity, always involves emotion – and according to Daniel Kahneman, a famous behavioural economist and neuroscientist – decisions are either made by thinking fast or slow.  Fast – or hot – cognitions are driven by bottom-up, usually unconscious processes that can lead to impulsive decisions, especially when our prefrontal cortex is overloaded already.  Think about those times you might have made an impulsive purchase at the shopping mall during busy holidays!  Bottom-up, hot, unconscious brain activation may drive us to make decisions we may later regret.  In contrast, more important decisions – such as buying or selling a house – should, according to Daniel Kahneman, be made by slow – or cold – cognitions.  This type of thinking resides in the top part of the brain enabling us to carefully examine our feelings and our planned actions before making the final leap into the unknown.  Top-down cold cognitions are largely conscious, forcing us to stop and carefully deliberate on our actions before deciding.

So then, is it hot or cold cognitions fuelling the exodus and selling of houses in Harfield Village of late?  If people are worried about transformational politics and changes in land reforms, then it could be that hot cognitions are encouraging people to suddenly sell up.  However, Cape Town has one of the fastest evolving housing markets in the world, which allows more people to be aspirational and to get their first step on the housing ladder.  So, just as people are selling, others must be making the decision to buy!  And moving into one of the beautiful houses of various price ranges in Harfield Village doesn’t need slow, cold cognition to know that it is a hot choice for sure!

Dr Samantha Brooks is a neuroscientist at the UCT Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health, and at Uppsala University, Sweden, specialising in the neural correlates of impulse control from eating disorders to addiction.  For more information on neuroscience at UCT and to contact Samantha, see Note: Images royalty free, courtesy of

August in the Garden

We've been able to celebrate wonderful rain this Winter, and here's hoping there's more in store over the coming months. Such a relief to know that our dams and tanks are in better shape. 

 For those keen on planting, August heads towards Spring and the plant list expands as things slowly start warming up. 

Here's the plant list:

Basil, Broad Beans, Beetroot, Butternut, Cape Gooseberry, Cauliflower, Carrots, Chard/Spinach, Celery, Chives, Chilli Pepper, Cucumber, Eggplant, Kale, Kohlrabi, Globe Artichokes, Leek, Leaf Mustard, Lettuce, Onion, Parsley, Parsnip, Peas, Potato, Pumpkin, Radish, Rhubarb, Sweetcorn, Sweet Pepper, Turnip, Tomato, Watercress, Watermelon

 Happy growing!

Controlling your Appetite without Willpower

Are you trying to lose weight but your appetite just won’t play along?  Do you need to rely on willpower to control your appetite and cravings?  It doesn’t have to be this difficult.  If you are relying on willpower to get you through the day chances are you are not controlling your body’s physiology properly and you are thereby setting yourself up for failure.  So how do we need to eat to control the physiology correctly?

Keep it simple with these rules:

1. Breakfast is a non-negotiable
If you’re not eating breakfast the rest of your day will become more difficult to control because the body will try to catch up on these missed nutrients later in the day.  This will manifest as hunger and cravings through the day, large dinner portions or late evening craving and snacking.

2. Eat regularly in the day
There is no one correct rule as to how many meals and snacks we should eat in a day, but the general guideline is to eat every 3-5 hours, according to hunger (see ‘the body’s signals’ below).  Most people do better when they eat smaller meals and snacks more often as it is easier to keep the energy and blood sugar levels constant.  Find the right routine for you, and have snacks on hand for when you do get hungry and a meal is still an hour or 3 away.  Eating regularly, and thereby never getting too hungry, is the key.

3. Ensure your meals contain energy as well as lean protein and/or healthy plant fat
The energy (carbohydrate such as fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables) portion of the meal helps to keep the blood sugar levels constant, but with it you need to add some lean protein (such as fish, chicken, eggs) and/or plant fat (such as avocado, nuts, seeds) so that the energy food will be digested slowly and the energy will be released into the blood slowly.  Protein and fat help to sustain your energy levels for longer.

4. Eat enough, especially in first half of the day
Many people eat too little when they are being ‘good’ and are trying to lose weight.  And although you will lose weight nicely to start with, your body’s metabolism will slow down to adjust for the low energy intake.  This will result in future difficulties in maintaining the weight loss.  When you eat too little your blood sugar levels tend to be on the low side and your body will send out hunger and craving signals.  It is important to eat enough, especially in the first half of the day as this will set you up for better blood sugar control throughout the day.

5. Drink plenty of water
When you don’t drink enough water it is easy to confuse thirst and hunger, leading to a greater consumption of food.  Try to drink plain water, which you can flavour lightly with some lemon pieces, mint leaves, cucumber slices, berries, orange slices etc.  Keep a water bottle with you at all times to cue you to drink regularly.

The Body’s Signals

Hunger is an important and natural signal; a reminder to keep our bodies regularly fuelled.  But where you feel this signal is an indication as to whether you should or should not eat.  If it is the body sending out a signal (empty or hollow feeling in the stomach area), you should have something to eat, but if it comes from the head (a thought or smell or just bored etc.), you need to learn to go do something nurturing instead.

On the other side of hunger is satiety. Satiety is the body’s signal that it is satisfied, that you have had enough to eat.  If you’re not sure what this feels like, start eating more slowly and mindfully.  Mindful eating is when you are present, when you are enjoying each and every bite of the food.  Remember that it takes at least 20 minutes for the brain to register that food has arrived, so eating slowly and mindfully is important as it helps you feel full and satisfied. Your mouth has also spent time enjoying the food, so you won’t go looking for more tasty food later.

Nurture Yourself

Many people eat because of mouth hunger.  This means you are using food to fulfil some of your needs.  It is important to start distinguishing which hungers are real and which can actually be satisfied by doing nice things for yourself.  Write yourself a nurture list i.e. a list of things that you can do when you just want to eat.  Examples include:
1. Sit outside in the warm sunshine
2. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee
3. Read a book or magazine
4. Go for a walk and enjoy nature
5. Do a puzzle or play a game
6. Phone a friend or family member
7. Take a warm bath with some oils or bubble bath (ok, not for Capetonians at the moment!)
8. Listen to your favourite music
9. Lie on the grass and watch the clouds go by
10. Just sit and do absolutely nothing

Once you start looking after yourself properly again (eating in a way to control your physiology, learning hunger and satiety signals and nurturing yourself), your appetite will naturally become more controlled and will not feel like an out of control monster anymore.

Kim Hofmann RD(SA)
Phone: 021 674 4666
Cell: 084 206 2715