Opinion: The FNB panic in a tea cup

Nov 15, 2018 | Features

Simon Smith, director at Harcourts

Don’t get stuck in the past, we may all need to change dramatically, and the real estate agent of the near future may be very different.

Change comes to every industry, also the real estate industry, the key thing for estate agents is to remain relevant and deliver value to their clients – then they will always have a place in the industry writes Simon Smith, director at Harcourts.

Following the outcry in the real estate industry over FNB’s new feature on their banking app allowing their customers to privately list and sell their homes, Smith wrote the following comment on Facebook (shared here with his permission).

I have watched with great interest over the last week or so as the real estate industry has reacted to FNB’s announcement that it was launching an application which would effectively cut estate agents out of the sales process. There was a lot of anger from the industry towards FNB and then there was the internal squabbling between parties within the real estate industry with people claiming that there were all sorts of hidden agenda’s which involved directors and shareholders of the various real estate franchise brands and the Private Property portal as well as the relationship between Private Property and FNB.

I agree with virtually every point of view, I agree that FNB should not have used the feed from Private Property to take our intellectual property, I do, however, have no problem with FNB launching their app and even wanting to offer a service to their clients where they can sell their property privately. They are a business and have the right to launch whatever products and services they want to. I agree with and applaud the industry leaders who met with FNB to try and iron out a solution, I agree with the sceptics and their point of view that there needs to be more transparency with regards to all of these issues.

However, having said all of the above, change comes to every industry and the real estate industry is not exempt. These days change happens quickly and is upon us before we know it. What I do believe is that each person in the real estate industry need to make sure that they too can react quickly to change and the key is that as long as we remain relevant and we deliver value to our customers, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does, we will always have our place in the industry.

So, I am of the firm belief that although we should not ignore what is happening around us, we should all spend far less time focusing on what other players in our industry are doing and instead focus most of our time and energy on coming up with our future business models that ensure that we remain valuable and relevant.

Don’t get stuck in the past, we may all need to change dramatically, and the real estate agent of the near future may be very different. Let’s however not be afraid, rather leap forward and embrace the changes and look for innovative ways to ensure our longevity, sustainability and success in the future.

Smith has been in the real estate industry since 2003. Other leaders in the industry has made similar comments regarding the role of estate agents in this increasingly digital age.

Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of Pam Golding Property group: “There’s no question that technology is going to play an ever-increasing role in the residential real estate world. But I think at the same time, what appears to be apparent, is that the role of estate agents as the trusted advisor utilising technology as it evolves, continues to be extremely important and is in fact an imperative part of the real estate transaction.

“The modern agent is no longer able to simply provide a functional service if they are to provide justifiable value for their commission. Today’s professional property consultant needs to, among a range of other skills, provide insight, wisdom and personal value way beyond the basic contractual needs of a transaction. Certainly, the role of technology can serve to better enable efficiency and communication, but its limits are tested.

“It all boils down to trust and the need for a trusted advisor. And that is what a real estate agent provides and which technology will never provide.”

Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa: “One rule remains constant throughout life: you get what you pay for. Online agencies are only able to offer their services at the lower price because they know that they are not offering the same value of a traditional real estate agent. The traditional model will not become redundant unless online agencies progress to the point where they are able to offer the same personalised attention and area-specific expertise as the traditional model affords.

“No matter how technology advances, any service that takes away hassle for both the buyer and the seller or offers specialised knowledge and advice that no online portal can replicate will continue to survive in the modern economy.”

You are welcome to share your comments and thoughts on matters relating to the real estate industry. Email editor@propertyprofessional.co.za.