Estate agents need to adapt to consumer needs

Private Property South Africa
SA Realtors

Strong business fundamentals and good management are key to meeting the needs of the property market in tough times. So says Linda Erasmus, CEO of Fine & Country South Africa.

She calls for a return to basic business principles and competent, strong leadership to succeed on the consumer’s behalf.

“Old style property marketing is simply not good enough and today’s estate agent has to bring value to the property transaction at a higher level than ever,” she adds.

A recent trip to London highlighted these issues for Erasmus. Upon meeting with the CEO of the Guild of Professional Estate Agents Marcus Whewell, it quickly became apparent to Erasmus that the South African and English property industries are currently facing similar challenges.

“Our countries are experiencing similar difficulties due to the recession. However, English agencies are taking a more pro-active approach as opposed to simply blaming the recession for poor performance and closures.

“Many of their agencies are becoming ‘leaner and meaner’ and applying back-to-basic business principles to remain viable. Likewise, they are sourcing credible, competent managers capable of guiding them through these uncertain times.”

According to Erasmus, resolute management is however, but part of the formula necessary for keeping a real estate agency afloat. Capable employees, realistically priced ‘in-demand’ properties, selectivity in mandates and efficient service infrastructures are also prerequisites she says.

“Sound management has always been an issue and takes on even greater importance when times are tough. Competent real estate managers act as a fulcrum within an agency in that the overall business operations hinge largely on a manager’s actions and guidance.

“For example, a competent manager will be able to identify truly marketable properties and communicate the necessary means by which to sell such properties in the most efficient fashion. Similarly, if the current business model is in need of a change in direction, it’s up to the manager to prescribe these changes and affect them in order to improve overall marketing effectiveness.

“It goes without saying that capable, competent employees who are hard working and committed to the company are worth their weight in gold. Large staff turnover figures are usually indicative of unrest and unhappiness which can translate into problems of professionalism and service.

Well marketed property will always be in demand says Erasmus, albeit to a lesser or greater degree as economic conditions fluctuate.

However, the ability to afford property has come under pressure which in turn is forcing real estate agencies to raise their game.

“Gone are the days when agencies could market properties at over-inflated prices. The bubble has long since burst and those who attempt to sell unrealistically priced properties will soon find themselves out in the cold.

“As for locality, real estate agencies generally need central, high visibility sites to obtain exposure. A central position is also necessary for agencies to service their areas and target market effectively.

“A sound business plan and efficient structures are also imperative to survival. Without clear objectives, an estate agency will soon flounder. Granted some goals might have to be put on the back-burner during the current climate. However the principles of good service and value for money for the home buyer and seller remain fundamental.”

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