CENTURY 21 readies for market upturn

International property marketing group CENTURY 21, the worlds largest, celebrates its second anniversary in South Africa with the news that it has weathered the economic downturn well and is now gearing for the market’s upturn.
MD Colleen Gray says the strategy going forward is multi-faceted. “We already cover the whole spectrum of the market from luxury homes to the affordable. The plan now is to further strengthen our presence at the lower end of the market where growth is expected to be strong going forward based on housing backlogs and the banks’ willingness to provide finance.
“Consolidating and growing our franchise base is also key. In terms of our national footprint we have actually expanded during the worst of the property market recession, as opposed to the attrition that has been reported throughout the industry and reduced the number of agents by more than half.”
This attrition, coupled with the new demands on estate agents in terms of continued professional education, means the numbers of estate agents are not likely to swell disproportionately again, she says, and the survivors will arguably be the hard core of professionals, which is good for consumers.   
“We now have an established track record which is reflected in consumer and franchisee confidence in the brand and we have positioned ourselves strategically in markets such as lifestyle estates that are beginning to show signs of a recovery.
“Moreover our international referrals network, derived from over 8500 offices in 69 countries, has proved invaluable in generating buyers from as far afield as Russia, America and Belgium. In South Africa itself we are looking to increase the number of our offices significantly over the next 18 months as the market strengthens.
“And recognising that the market is not ideal for ‘start-ups’ right now, we are focussing on existing independents. On that basis our affordable franchise offering is totally relevant and we are specifically targeting previously disadvantaged South Africans as potential franchisees with a particularly attractive package.”
Meanwhile, Gray says, CENTURY 21 has detected a distinct pick up in the market as a result of recent rates cuts. Although the easier lending promised by the banks has yet to filter through, show day turnouts have increased, volumes are up and prices have stabilised. There is definitely the sniff of a recovery in the air.”          


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