1. CONSOLIDATE. STRENGTHEN YOUR HOME BASE AND ACKNOWLEDGE THE MARKET
When business is challenging, it’s time to examine what’s required to remain competitive – to ensure your social media presence is effective, your offices function optimally and that you remain proactive in the community in which you operate. It is a good time for innovation and smart housekeeping.
“A challenging economy and a tricky market” is how Tyson Properties MD Chris Tyson described the economic landscape as the doors to 2017 groaned shut. Yet, “Our 2016/7 financial year was our best year ever,” says Tyson. “We grew by 47%. And we wouldn’t be opening more offices if we weren’t expecting further growth.”
During the 2008 downturn, Tyson explored opportunities a disturbing market presented to refi ne his group vision, upskill and provide tools, and think out of the box. Today he’s creating a division dedicated to full after-sales service. “This will take aftersales service to the next level by ensuring everything runs smoothly from sale to transfer and beyond. We have a lot of first-time buyers who need help from start to finish.” Tyson believes strong after-sales service will enable clients to form strong relationships, something he believes is important when it comes to ensuring that clients return.
2. LEARN HOW TO OWN TECHNOLOGY AND MAKE IT WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS
“Real estate is a long-standing, traditional industry. Like any old industry it risks missing out if it doesn’t keep pace with the consumers it serves,” says Private Property CEO Simon Bray. “Property shoppers are ordinary people like you and I. They use WhatsApp more than they pick up the phone, they expect instant responses to e-mail, they can’t understand why something as ‘simple’ as viewing a property shouldn’t be possible 24/7.
“This demand for immediacy is obvious, but if it isn’t met, it will really prevent the industry from growing – 2018 is likely to be the tipping point where tech moves from the hands of the early adopters to the mass market, from ancillary service to core competency, and where real estate technology finally takes centre stage.”
“True disruption of the home-selling process may yet come to the real estate industry,” says Chas Everitt International Property Group CEO Berry Everitt. “But for the time being, it is people who sell real estate with the help of technology, not the other way round.” He says training, experience and access to excellent advertising and marketing resources are what any agent needs to achieve great results.
Harcourts International has just launched the Harcourts App Store. South Africa operations manager Anton Jansen van Vuuren says: “We are one of the first real estate companies, globally, to take advantage of and build our own member-facing app store on Apple’s Developer Enterprise Program. Built with Apple’s iOS operating system, the store is an enterprise application through which Harcourt’s team members can access, download, update and install its proprietary mobile applications eOne, eOpen and eCampaign, which were custom built and developed in-house.”
Another innovation comes from The Jawitz Properties Western Seaboard franchise – Virtual Reality (VR) show days. The contemporary VR consoles in their digital showroom offer sole mandate sellers the opportunity to have their property marketed through VR.
CEO of Pam Golding Properties Andrew Golding says the company is investing more time and spend into digital media. “According to Google, 90% of home buyers search online during their home-buying process, and real-estate related searches on Google have grown 25.3% over the past four years.
“Specifically, we are looking at the real estate journey across digital channels from how people ‘shop’ for their next house to how we support and enhance – and speed up – the buying and selling process via the use of digital tools and mediums.”
3. LEGISLATION, TRAINING AND REGULATIONS
The Property Sector code, BEE compliance, the Property Practitioners Bill and the blurred lines around qualifications promise to make 2018 challenging for agents and agencies. Smaller agencies may consider it expedient to outsource, but most brands have chosen specialised in-house practitioners. Make sure you’re up to date on these issues:
• The new 2017 Property Sector Code has transformation as one of its pillars. Its stringent checklist could make it more difficult for many agencies to qualify for a BEE certificate. (See Matthew Hattingh’s feature in this Property Professional Jan/Feb 2018 issue)
• Industry insiders say the Property Practitioners Bill could stifle the industry and drown agencies in red tape. It brings a host of other professionals under the same property net. (See Property Professional Nov/Dec 2017)
• Qualifications stand-off. As things stand, estate agent qualifications (NQF4) will no longer be applicable from June 2018. Agents who have qualified will retain their qualification, but novices (and agencies busy recruiting new agents) face a problem. (See Property Professional Nov/Dec 2017)
“The best social media strategy for estate agents is one that involves knowledge-sharing and community-building” Samantha Wright, digital marketing consultant, The Words Agency.
4. GROW FREE SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS BUT DON’T IGNORE PRINT IN YOUR MARKETING
There are so many free social media tools, but rather than bombard consumers indiscriminately, cherry pick. “The best social media strategy for estate agents is one that involves knowledge-sharing and community-building,” says digital marketing consultant at The Words Agency Samantha Wright. This is opposed to merely posting ads or using hard-sell tactics to reach clients online. “When the time comes to purchase a property, potential clients will be more likely to come to you first.”
Wright says key to success is “going where your potential customers are”. “Understand your market – a young university leader looking for their first property is more likely to spend time on Facebook and Twitter than newspaper ads. If they don’t know about you, they can’t do business with you.”
Research shows Facebook users aren’t using the platform to search for property, but rather to socialise and potentially follow news sites and other sites of interest. “They’re far more interested in informative articles instead of pictures of properties that could be 1,000km away,” says Uniprop Real Estate co-director Marius Honiball. Wright says Facebook and LinkedIn are the best platforms for sharing knowledge.
But don’t ignore the value of print in your marketing. The Realtors Land Institute’s Summer 2017 Terra Firma magazine reports that amid the digital revolution, newspapers and magazines continue to deliver, and so does print advertising. “A wealth of research shows that the printed-and-published-on-paper word still resonates today, extending to favourable demographics, longer interaction times, greater trust and other indicators that make a positive environment for advertisers.
“The combination of print and digital often make an ideal partnership, particularly in real estate marketing, where print advertising introduces a property and piques interest, even among people who may not be actively looking, and digital draws prospects in further with virtual tours, slide shows and all the important specs. With readers, the right demographics and environment in place, today’s advertisers use print to capture attention and craft the right image and digital to drill down the details.
The authors say that in addition to capturing the attention of people who are looking for real estate and those who originally were not, print ads elevate the brand identity of the brokerage and sales agent. Citing research conducted by various news publications, they conclude that one does not replace the other, but they can coexist and work symbiotically.
“Real estate marketers have more tools than ever to sell a piece of land, and print complements a broader campaign that might begin with an online 3D showcase.”
5. WHEN SHOULD AN AGENCY FRANCHISE?
Shaun Ping of Jawitz Properties franchise team says there’s never been a better time to become a franchise owner. “Property has its cycles. Agencies in the market since pre-2006/7 know how tough our property market can be, and simultaneously, how successful. Starting
a franchise allows you to mitigate many risks including political instability, lower foreign investment, and post-recession performance, which has reduced sales and lowered profit margins. Franchising allows for greater market share and aligns you with a brand that has knowledge, experience and existing infrastructure.
“According to The Franchise Association of South Africa, 80% of franchisees surveyed felt positive about their businesses and would recommend their brand of franchise to others.”
Tyson Properties had expanded to 10 offices within its first two years when the credit crunch hit in 2008. “We took a decision to take some of the offices back and support them until the market improved. That was a good move for us and allowed us to position ourselves well in the marketplace for when things improved – which they did,” Tyson recalls.
Most real estate companies either follow a franchise model or a branch model. Tyson Properties has combined the two, retaining the major shareholdings in the branches it establishes in city centres.
6. SECTIONAL TITLE UNITS ARE THE STAND-OUT PROPERTY CATEGORY
RE/MAX CEO Adrian Goslett says sectional title units performed admirably in 2017 and will pick up significantly in 2018 from an already high base.RE/MAX CEO Adrian Goslett says sectional title units performed admirably in 2017 and will pick up significantly in 2018 from an already high base.
“People have moved away from home expenses, particularly those associated with freehold properties. I see 2018 reflecting a similar trend with people moving to sectional title-type homes on transport routes, with the associated cost savings.”
Pam Golding Properties CEO Andrew Golding concurs: “House price inflation in the sectional title housing segment is still outperforming full title, with the gap between the two widening.
“According to the most recent Pam Golding Properties Index, the sectional title house priceindex rose by 5.27% year on year in Q3 2017, while the full title house price index showed aslower 2.95% year on year growth rate in Q3. Nationally, price growth of small sectional titleunits (two bedrooms and smaller) is increasing faster than that of freestanding homes, with an inflation of just more than 10% this year.”
Golding says a longer-term trend is that developers are responding to the growing demand for sectional title properties. An increasing portion of all building plans passed are for apartments.
Words: Anne Schauffer