A number of significant market developments are reshaping the real estate agency landscape. Most notably, legislation has irrevocably changed the rules of the game, while the drive towards greater professionalism has significantly raised the bar, and a tougher market requires innovative new approaches and a renewed focus on specialisation. Simultaneously, technology is creating a whole new playing field, which is also becoming increasingly globalised. “While 2011 is unlikely to produce any spectacular recovery in the property industry, rather continuing the slow and steady recovery which started late in 2009, it will most certainly be an exciting and challenging time for real estate professionals,” says Peter Gilmour, Chairman of RE/MAX of Southern Africa. “The many new developments and trends in the industry are transforming the real estate profession. Consumers can expect to see estate agents employing new and innovative methods in a tougher market while harnessing technology and expertise in specialised niches to provide a professional service. All of this is playing out against the background of a well-regulated and increasingly globalised industry that is increasingly characterised by greater prudence among lenders, buyers, sellers and tenants.” Gilmour notes that professionalism will be one of the most distinguishing features of 2011. “By the end of 2011, all established estate agents will have completed the Recognition of Prior Learning, as one option to attain the new legislated qualifications. This means that those estate agents with years of industry knowledge and experience will be recognised as the professionals they are, with qualifications commensurate to their expertise and skill. Higher standards also apply to new entrants into the industry, in line with international trends. As such, property buyers and sellers can rest assured that a registered estate agent in this new dispensation is a qualified professional, able to provide expert advice and reliable, trustworthy expertise.“At the same time, consumers can expect that the new real estate business model will focus on delivering excellent service and providing personalised attention to the specific needs of each property consumer. In line with this, a trend towards greater specialisation is becoming more evident. Estate agents are increasingly specialising in specific areas and niche markets, to provide property consumers with valuable area or niche specific information that allow them to make informed decisions,” adds Gilmour. On the global stage, advances in information, telecommunications and transport technology have created a modern, interconnected global property market in which events in one local property market spills over into other markets. Global real estate standards and methodologies are being adopted locally, as the mobility and internationalisation of the labour force increase in response to cross-border property investments, international property development projects and multinational real estate ventures. “As such, strong international links and global resources will become an ever-more important differentiator among estate agents, both for those looking to buy or sell property in the local market which is increasingly affected by global development, and those who have set their sights on distant shores,” comments Gilmour. The advances in technology that are driving globalisation have also revolutionised the way progressive estate agents operate. New technologies have reduced the cost and raised the efficiency of property searches and comparisons, while adding an incredible level of detail to the information available. While ensuring a new level of convenience and value-added service, well-applied technology elevates the role of the estate agent to that of a highly attentive and proactive personal advisor, interacting with property buyers and sellers at a more professional level to provide the in-depth insight, tailored personal attention and crucial expertise that technology cannot provide.“The reality is that the property market and its people have changed irrevocably, and it will become more evident than ever before in 2011. In light of this, those estate agencies unwilling to embrace this new estate agency business model may find it challenging to survive in this radically new playing field,” concludes Gilmour.
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