With inventories up and transaction numbers down, the real estate industry is understandably jittery going into the new business year.
But, says Dr Willie Marais, national president of the Institute of Estate Agents (IEASA), agents should be focusing instead on bolstering consumers' confidence, and doing more to help them understand the underlying strength of the SA property market.
"As an industry, we should make it our business to counter all the negative reports on the property market with factual, positive news. There is still a lot of business being conducted in this market and behind every transaction is a consumer 'success story' that other consumers need to see and hear.
"Whether that story is about a next-door neighbour, someone from another suburb or someone from another part of the country, consumers should be taking heed of the many real life examples of people who are doing well in the current market.
"We also need to remember that most people decide to sell or buy a home based on a major event in their life such as a marriage, the birth of a child or a change of job, and that market conditions at any given time generally take a back seat to these individual needs."
And, says Marais, there are other good reasons for agents to be positive about the market, too, including the fact that employment is rising. "Thousands of new jobs have been created in the past two years and there are more to come as the state continues to invest in infrastructure and encourage entrepreneurism.
"This will boost spending power and the demand for housing, as will the fact that the delivery of new rental stock has slowed dramatically. Rentals are already rising as a result and will in the medium term reach a point where it once again makes more sense to consumers to buy than to rent."
Meanwhile, he says, despite several increases, interest rates are still nowhere near the historic highs of the late 1990s - "and people were still buying homes then.
"The point is that a 'bad market' will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if we allow it. So instead of complaining, agents should be actively engaging consumers and helping them to see the real opportunities that do exist in this market - and at the same time laying the groundwork in their businesses, especially in terms of training, in time for the next upturn."