Estate agents should challenge perceptions of their industry

The poor public perception of estate agents was a hangover from the distant past, not the present and one that every estate agent should vigorously challenge, according to Jan le Roux, chairman of the 22-year-old PA Group, which is the country’s largest grouping of estate agents.

Le Roux, one of the industry’s champion’s of improved professionalism and the most strident for re-instatement of the estate agent’s compulsory examination, believes the industry in general is not doing enough to promote its surge in professional achievements, which in his view were among the highest of any real estate industry in the world.

In the past four years the mainstream industry entered the technological age after minimal resistance with greater zest than its sister industries in the rest of the world, with the exception of the world’s leader in this field, the United States market. A measure of its eagerness in the take-up of technology came from today’s agent now operating from a plethora of sophisticated locally written software programs instead of the imported product a few years ago.

Many of these local programs embraced full estate agency management systems and group networking and were capable of instantaneously servicing a client’s needs a continent away. This was best illustrated by the dedication given to website marketing by the country’s smallest of local estate agencies.

“Just two years ago estate agents used the promise of listing homes on the web as a marketing tool in being awarded mandates, now today sellers automatically assume their home will be listed on the Internet.” But the pleasing aspect of the trend for le Roux is that US estate agents absorbed the trend also as a cost saving measure to cut back on print advertising costs, which has not happened here.

He believed the industry should be further recognised for its swift adoption and propagation of mortgage origination – by far the greatest consumer benefit in recent years – and its successful absorption of property related legislation that even the legal profession was under some pressure to assimilate.

But probably the single biggest achievement for which the local industry deserves public acknowledgement is its unification, which while spawned by competition had been ultimately driven by the need to improve client services. Franchising, national licensing operations and referral works, most involving global partnerships had changed the professional mindset not just of the industry’s leading brands, but of the smallest estate agencies.

And while it was difficult to measure the current level of industry professionalism some benchmark could be given the comparison by the success of the US-owned RE/MAX Southern Africa, which produced the best growth performance worldwide within a group that was represented in 57 countries. Two of its South African operations had featured among the best performing offices within the 5 700-office groups. (RE/MAX Traders, a MyProperty Client, was awarded Broker/Owners of the Year and best multi-office amongs others.)

Other measurable assessments were that of the larger South African groups being courted and linking up with some of Britain’s major players.

However, while the industry’s professionalism had improved, there were still small pockets of bad practice, which Le Roux believed could be eliminated by appropriate regulation starting with the re-instatement of a compulsory examination and on-going education.

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