'Agents must focus on buyers now"

It's no longer a privilege to get a mandate and estate agents should rather be concentrating their efforts on finding and nurturing buyers.

"The seller profile has changed completely since the boom days," says Lew Geffen, chairman of Sotheby's International Realty in SA "and since the August interest rate rise, there has really been no need to worry about getting mandates because stock has been pouring in.

"There are many homeowners, it seems, who were already overextended before the rate increase and now can simply not keep up with the increased bond repayments - especially if they go up again as expected in October."

He says the market has done a complete about-turn since 2004 /05 when agents were fighting for mandates and buyers were tussling over limited stock. "Gone are the days when agents with little more than a pointer board and a cellphone could easily make a sale.

"Now agents must battle it out to find buyers for their clients' properties - and this is where the skill and experience of the seasoned agent becomes apparent."

Indeed, homeowners who must sell now should be looking out specifically for agents who have been through tough markets before - not those who have only known the good times in real estate - and for companies that have the infrastructure and established networks to locate and deliver buyers.

Meanwhile, Geffen says it is worth noting that the market has not ground to a complete halt. Qualified properties are selling with the help of experienced agents and there is growing demand from BEE buyers in the middle and upper price brackets.

"As a result there is less stock in these sectors than one might expect given the current market circumstances, and fortunately the 'black diamond' demand looks set to keep growing. In fact, we expect it to grow so fast that it will overtake demand from white buyers in Johannesburg's wealthy suburbs within the next 10 years."
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