Consumers the winners as agents lift their game

Estate agents are demanding better training and support from real estate companies to enable them to keep pace with shifts in the corporate environment and deliver better service to increasingly sophisticated homebuyers and sellers.

Top Western Cape agents of the Chas Everitt International property group commented this week that in the current market environment agents have to work much harder to maintain a professional image and to live up to the rising expectations of their clients.

"The industry is definitely no longer a haven for bored housewives or failed car salesmen," says Rika de Ruiter of Chas Everitt's Atlantic Seaboard office. "Agents are getting younger and the industry is attracting increasing numbers of graduates and people with sound corporate experience.
Many of them now view real estate as a good prospect for a long-term career," she says.

Colleague Jacqui Reed adds that agents are also demanding better and specialised training, state-of-the-art technical support and professional recognition. "In fact, everything that professionals in the business world demand.

"The new emphasis on the BEE component of companies and the buying power of the growing black middle class are also occupying the minds of professional agents," she adds.

"Similarly, agents are acutely aware that buyers and sellers are better informed than just a few years ago and they therefore expect strong management structures, national - and not just regional - support, professional marketing input and agent incentives so they can live up to the
demands of these clients."

Chas Everitt International Southern Suburbs franchisee Andre de Villiers says these concerns force agents to critically evaluate their affiliation with estate agency brands and what they offer.

"There has been a marked move towards specialisation in the industry in the past 10 years. A decade ago the biggest difference in real estate brands were logos, corporate colour schemes an d relative size. Now there is a high degree of niche marketing - a trend I predict will gain greater momentum.

The days when an agency tried to be all things to all men are long gone," he says.

"Just as sellers realise the need for a wide range of marketing methods to best expose their property to get the best price, agents too realise that inadequate support from a franchise company will cost them sales mandates and put pressure on their ability to survive in a competitive environment."

Fanie Lategan, principal of the Chas Everitt International Western Seaboard office adds that consumerism and wider access to technology such as the internet, have forced the industry to "lift its game".

"It is no longer adequate to value a property based on the collective thumbsuck of an agent or two. Sellers demand scientific evaluations based on what is currently on offer in the market, what prices properties were recently sold for as compared to listing prices, and what type of property did not sell and why.

"To compete in such a market, agents need a computer system that supports scientific comparative market analyses (CMAs). To conclude just one sale currently requires more than 10 CMAs to different sellers. That is why agents increasingly demand strong computer support and a national marketing structure.

"Franchises unable to provide these basics will simply not survive and good agents will migrate to brands that can offer the necessary support," he predicts.
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