Century 21 adds South Africa to its world belt

Bill Hunt (left) and Century 21 SA owner - Duncan Gray
Century 21, the world’s most recognised real estate brand and largest residential real estate sales organisation, has announced its launch in South Africa.

Century 21, founded in Orange County, USA, in 1971 and owned by New York Stock Exchange listed Cendant Corporation, has entered the R180 billion per annum South African residential property industry as part of its global expansion and marketing plan. Over the past 35 years, it has increased its US market share, while establishing international operations in 45 countries in the Middle East, the Pacific Rim, Latin America, Asia and Europe.
Bill Hunt, Senior Vice President, International Service and Operations, said Century 21 expected South Africa to become one of its major success stories. Others are Japan, which has its sights set on its 1000th office after 17 years and France where it is market leader with 811 offices after 15 years. In China, where there were no real estate agents five years ago, there are now over 600 offices with 800 as a near term target.

“Century 21 will no doubt gain market ascendancy in South Africa. Sheer market force and the natural momentum of the brand will ultimately bring the brand to the fore across all market segments and income classes,” he said.

Century 21 identifies global master franchisees that acquire exclusive franchising rights for an entire country or region. They then sell franchises locally while overseeing the development of the brand in a specific area.

Century 21 South Africa, which is owned by chief executive Duncan Gray and a number of large corporates, marks its first foray into sub-Saharan Africa.

Gray said Century 21 had been attracted to South Africa by its strong currency, stable economy, low inflation and interest rates and the unique international investor opportunities presented by the leisure market (game parks, golf estate and coastal properties) as well as a burgeoning local emerging market for residential property.

“Century 21 was also motivated by the role it could play in supporting entrepreneurship in property in previously disadvantaged communities. Despite its size and proven ability to service middle and high ends of property markets throughout the world, the group is firmly committed to establishing a meaningful profile in low to medium income communities.

“The main thrust will be increased entrepreneurial development. Employment creation will take place at a secondary level, but is nevertheless important due to the economic multiplier effect. Technology and skills transfer is a major plus.”

Gray said 60 percent of all enquiries so far had picked up on the fact that this is not a local operator trying to become international, but an international company investing its know how in the South African market – which was a two-way street.

He added that Century 21 had a unique operating platform that combined powerful international branding with service delivery and groundbreaking approaches to marketing and franchisee support. A variety of first world technologies – Century 21 South Africa will be using internationally trade marked tools applications – and web-based applications play a key differentiating role in data tracking, creating seamless transactions for both buyers and world-class training and professional development.

Gray said now that Century 21 South Africa had been officially introduced, the focus would now be on establishing franchises, starting with Gauteng before fanning out to other provinces. “In terms of the strongly held Century 21 belief, we will avoid the ‘spray and pray’ approach. We will concentrate on one geographic area before moving on with full systems support. However, if a significant property group or operation were to announce its interest in converting to a Century 21 franchise, we would respond without hesitation,” he said.

Gray said he has set a minimum target or 33 franchises this year – a number he intends doubling a year later. Although he does not discount a rapid growth surge within this period, he said he would prefer to focus on establishing high quality franchises. A conservative overall target is 100 offices in five years or 400 within 10 years. A five year plan to expand into the rest of Africa is also on the table.
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