Adding value One solution at a time | Everything Property

Adding value One solution at a time


A R1 trillion industry, grossly underserviced and for varying reasons, complex in nature. It is the business of residential juristic entities, mainly Sectional Title Bodies Corporate, Homeowners’ Associations and Share Block companies. ZDFin, a specialist property finance business, with founder and CEO Michael Schaefer at the helm, brings a wealth of experience to a space where few specialists play.

Schaefer, a former executive director and shareholder of the country’s largest residential property administration company, Trafalgar, a business started by his father over 60 years ago, saw an opportunity in the market to better cater for schemes requiring smart financial solutions (be it fixed term project loans, levy finance, professional and legal management and support or a combination of each), that  in the long-term, lead to financial savings and value creation (or conversely arresting value erosion), while ensuring maximum value and enjoyment of one’s property. 

Based out of Jozi, ZDFin operates nationally and due to the consistent growth over the past two years and increasing demand, a Cape Town office is on the cards for early in the new year. “No one knows the true number of residential schemes, but it is estimated there are in excess of 100,000 residential  schemes in SA, with the minority of these being serviced by recognised property management companies,” says Schaefer

The Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act was signed into law in October 2016, this simplifying, yet arguably complicating, the lives of body corporate members. Regulations in the legislation make it mandatory for every scheme to have a maintenance repair and replacement plan, covering a rollng 10-year period and to be approved by the owners at the annual general meeting (AGM). It must also detail projected works and provide the computation for the levies required to fund it. The challenge is that definitive plans are often not practically affordable, nor the levies required to fund them, available. 

The upshot of the Act is that finally there is some more concrete legislative direction to the computation of levies, something grossly amiss prior to October 2016.  Sectional title schemes have to reassess levy contributions and critically, build up separate funds for reserve spend – on top of day-to-day expenses.  This has created significant challenges  for many trustees / members who have little or no experience in maintenance plans and how to finance them.

With the combined specialist knowledge and experience of property law, finance and building engineering, the team at ZDFin is able to bridge the gap for community schemes. It provides finance, expert guidance and action plans to address maintenance challenges whilst meeting legal obligations. Says Schaefer: “There is no guarantee that Trustees, many of whom are well-meaning volunteers, either have the skill or will get the support and advice to make the best financial decisions for the property. 

There is seldom any argument among trustees (now more accountable as a result of the legislation), that money has to be spent on long-term maintenance, but the burning questions are what projects to prioritise and how to fund them. 

“The legislation is good. Sound-building management is at the bedrock of our democracy. If buildings aren’t managed properly they can deteriorate very quickly.  Sectional title owners have to be guided through the legislation and separate short-term and long-term expenditure priorities, but often they struggle to accurately assess these and aren’t able to finance the budgets sustainably. The financing of long-term maintenance will increasingly impact property prices.

“From my years in property management, I believe that members deserve effective management, including professional maintenance, not driven by penny-wise and pound-foolish decision-making. This is the space where ZDfin is able to really make its mark.”


Key to the ZDFin offering is how we tailor-make solutions with one or a combination of financial or management products, to maximise the smooth running of community residential schemes. These could include project finance, specialist collections, levy and/or debtor finance or Executive Managing Agent (EMA) services.

With 50 years of cumulative levy finance and property management experience, ZDFin’s in-house team of professionals and a tried and trusted network of external service providers, have the skill set, expertise and capacity to transform a community scheme, with smart financial and practical solutions for a growing list of management problems. 

“For most people, their property is their single largest investment, and even for a small scheme, the asset value is extensive. I liken it to a company being run by a board elected on popularity with nobody in charge. Every sectional title scheme is a business and should be run responsibly and with due diligence.  This is where appointing an EMA, would make a lot of sense.”

For many schemes calling in assistance is a last resort, but Schaefer emphasises the importance of appointing an EMA sooner, rather than later.  “We know that there is a limited understanding of what a difference an EMA could make to a scheme and more particularly to the Owners. We have seen that once we have the opportunity to explain the benefits of appointing an EMA and show our track-record…Owners ‘get it’.”


ZDfin works hand in hand with the scheme’s appointed Managing Agent (MA), best practice being a third party appointed managing agent, which Schaefer believes ‘is critical’.  “While theoretically and legally the same party could perform both the EMA and MA roles, we believe it is best  to have these distinctly critical functions performed by separate parties, to ensure a healthy segregation; especially knowing that one reports to the other ie. the managing agent reports to the EMA.” 

Schaefer says that “being an EMA is not just a job for us at ZDFin – it’s our passion. We’re  invested in whatever scheme we take on and have the results to show for it.  In over 60% of schemes where we act as the EMA, they are self-financing within the first three months, this ignoring the intangible arrest in erosion of value and conversely value creation in the underlying asset base.” 

An audit of five of the EMA’s ZDFin has recently taken on, revealed that: 

  • In 80%, statutory obligations surrounding staff employment, were not met 
  • In 100%, there had been zero adherence to occupational health and safety legislation 
  • Only 20% were SARS compliant 
  • 40% were grossly overinsured with insurance valuations not having been conducted as per legal directive
  • Most had either de facto exclusive use areas (EUA) and/ or illegal extensions that needed to be addressed  
  • The majority had arrears collection issues

“There are undoubtedly horses for courses and one size definitely doesn’t fit all. That is the beauty of the host of services and solutions ZDFin offers.  We will tailor-make the solution to suit YOUR scheme.”

For more information about ZDFin and what we can can do for your Sectional Title Body Corporate, Home Owners’ Association or Share Block company contact us on: Tel:  +27 (0)10 020 3228 email:

ZDFin – Sectional Title Finance for Body Corporates | Home Owners Associations | Community Schemes

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