Existing homes have already been built, so agents can see what they are selling and can bring qualified buyers into the property for actual viewing. With off-plan sales, the property is not yet built so agents can only show their clients a plan of the property. They need to rely on 3D renderings and virtual walkthroughs to give clients a visual guide to what the finished property would look like.
Katya Varga, Pam Golding Properties assistant area and projects manager in Stellenbosch and Somerset West, says off-plan estate agents are essentially selling a dream of what a home will be, tailored to clients’ preferences and taking into account finishes and fittings which are available from the developer.
“Agents selling off-plan must be able to paint the picture for their clients, and walk the fine line of not over-selling,” she says.
“Estate agents selling off-plan must have knowledge of the developments as well as the know-how to show and talk through architectural plans of the property,” says Craig Mott, Western Cape Regional Sales and Commercial Manager for the Rawson Property Group .
“The differences also extend to finishes. With existing homes, agents can show buyers what fittings and finishes are already in the home. With off-plan sales, buyers may have some creative input depending on the nature of the development and what type of fixtures and finishes are available from the developer.”
Contracts for selling off-plan properties are different to those for existing properties, so agents will need to understand the specific contracts they are using. Mott says developers may need to provide agents with guidance or training when it comes to filling out paperwork with potential buyers.
• With new developments, transfer costs are usually included in the purchase price, whereas existing home sales can attract transfer duty and other conveyancing costs in addition to the purchase price.
• If a building loan is required for an off-plan property, agents would need to know how the particular building loan works. Banks will generally approve loans for home building, but payments will be released in stages as construction progresses.
With existing properties, agents need to check that the properties they are marketing are structurally sound and should take time to find out from the sellers what maintenance and repairs need to be carried out.
With off-plan sales, construction and fittings are brand new and shouldn’t require any major maintenance for the first few years of ownership. Newly built homes typically come with guarantees to protect against defective workmanship and materials.
Agents need to research the developer to make sure the developer is registered with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC). They also need to ensure that the developer is well-established, reliable, provides quality products, and takes accountability if things go wrong.
“Both agents and buyers can look at past developments or projects to give them an idea of the quality of workmanship,” says Mott.
“Agents must thoroughly vet the developer and understand where funding for the project is coming from, and if there are pre-sale requirements. Often with big developments, the developer will require a certain number of homes to be sold before starting work on the project. Agents need to be clear on the pre-sales requirements or else they could find themselves putting in a lot of time, effort and money with no reward if the project does not meet the targets and fails to take off.”
Varga says agents will need to understand the property plans they’re working with and have a sound understanding of the product. “Unless a showhouse has already been built, they will need to rely on the plans, 3D renderings, and virtual walkthroughs to sell off-plan.”
Agents need to be familiar with their products and need to know exactly what they are selling. This includes:
• Types of properties in the development.
• Home sizes.
• Fixtures and finishes.
• Lifestyle facilities such as gyms, tennis courts, communal braais, and pool areas.
• Expected construction dates.
Mott says that some buyers don’t know exactly what they want and may need advice and guidance from agents. “So it’s helpful if agents have a basic understanding of interior design to make recommendations. For example, choosing neutral colour palates for interiors and pieces of furniture to complement a specific area.
“It would also be helpful if agents could recommend the service of a local interior designer or a home depot in the area for buyers that prefer DIY solutions.”
“Make sure you set aside a decent marketing budget for marketing collateral,” says Mott. “Marketing plays a crucial part in showcasing development property, securing buyer interest, and closing sales. When selling off-plan it’s important to use the right type of visual aids in your marketing campaigns, advertising, and social media.”
Videos and virtual tours are being used extensively due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These tools are helping to enable buyers to understand what they’re investing in, which ultimately leads to successful sales. These are often expensive to create so agents need to factor in these costs when planning budgets.
Another important point is to determine who is responsible for the marketing budget - agents or developers or both.
“When marketing multiple plots the sales process is far easier and quicker when everything is in place,” says Mott.
• Make sure you have knowledgeable staff on hand and representation at the site - a must on show days.
• Make sure boards marketing the development are visible.
• Make sure you have a decent bond registration partner who has pre-approval from the major banks and that the banks have valued the property correctly.
Do agents earn commission on developments?
There are different structures, depending on the developer, say Varga and Mott.
If an agency has been contracted by the developer to sell units in a development, then agents will earn a commission. If a developer employs an agent to sell units exclusively then a salary may be applicable.
Is it easier to earn a good living selling off-plan?
This depends on the development, say Mott and Varga. With good products that are priced correctly and sell out fast - within a few months - agents stand a chance of earning a really good commission.
In some cases, commission rates can be lower on developments compared to existing properties because agents generally get bulk units in one go. If the development is stagnant then it may take longer to sell. This also links in with agents’ skill levels and whether or not they understand the product enough to market it well to get sales flowing through faster.
Do most agents work on both types of sales?
With the sale of developments, agents may have to wait longer for commission payments.
“Agents wait until transfer to be paid for their sales, and in new sectional title developments this can take up to three years,” says Varga.
Mott and Varga agree that it is common - and recommended - that estate agents sell existing homes and off-plan projects because the sale of existing homes can help with cash flow and day-to-day expenses.