Estate agents welcomes Property Charter

Estate agent heavyweights, Seeff Property Services and Herschel Jawitz Properties have welcomed the gazetting of the Property Charter by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies last week, saying it will go some way in promoting transformation in the sector.

Seeff national marketing manager, Ted Frazer, says because the property sector is commission-based it has been difficult for the previously disadvantaged to penetrate the market as agents. This is especially true following the global economic downturn post 2008 and the subsequent slump in the property sector.

Frazer says transformation was “growing healthily” prior to this period but many left the industry across the board for jobs offering a secure income.

Seeff says agencies have been working with the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) in exploring the granting of bursaries and training over a six-month period, for example, for prospective agents or to provide support until they become self-sustaining.

Estate agents generally need about nine months or longer in the field before they start earning commission for accrued sales. They mostly have to rely on their own transport and other resources like cell phones, laptops etc to perform their duties.

Frazer says the industry needs to be proactive in attracting agents to the industry and formulating incentives to make it more attractive. Transformation, he adds, is key to the sector and will change the face of the real estate business as we know it.

Jawitz CEO, Herschel Jawitz, is of the view that estate agents can do more in terms of transformation, but it will require capital and the involvement of agencies like the Southeastern Employment & Training Association (SETA), the EAAB and the Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa, REBOSA.

Jawitz says in this regard SETA has come to the party in awarding bursaries for interns, allowing for the payment of a stipend to assist with expenses and other challenges facing potential agents. He adds the EAAB will have to expand its role as a regulatory body to one that actively works with the industry in driving transformation.

He points out that the dominant estate agents in South Africa are 90% family-owned and run which might present a challenge in bringing on board non-family shareholders into the business. “I don’t think the industry is ready for this yet, but you have to start somewhere. Now that the charter is in place …this industry is going to have to think about these challenges.”

Pam Golding Properties’ CEO, Andrew Golding, says transformation in the residential real estate industry is lacking and that the Human Settlements Ministry should step in here.

“The powers that be …human settlements could create incentives which would make this (transformation) easier but in truth those incentives have not been forthcoming.”

Golding says while the estate agent sector is commission-based, this could change: “Why doesn’t the estate agent industry pay a salary? That isn’t the model. Can it move that way? That remains to be seen. The real estate agencies like ourselves take all the risk like the bricks and mortar, the advertising and everything else. The agents only earn what they sell and it’s always been like that.” Golding says that there is room for a different model to be introduced but there are other challenges that need to be overcome.

One way of dealing with this is to introduce bursary schemes and to provide financial support to new entrants.

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