Is WhatsApp changing real estate?

Is WhatsApp changing real estate?

MAIN IMAGE: Heather van der Spuy, co-owner and principal of Steer International Properties, Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa and Richard Gray, CEO Harcourts Africa.

Whether it’s for updates on a family reunion, the exam schedule from your child’s teacher or updates on when potential buyers will be viewing a home – for millions of people WhatsApp has become the preferred communication platform. Is it changing how real estate does business?

Two years ago an estate agency in London estimated that around 80% of the offers they received were made over WhatsApp rather than the traditional telephone call – they said especially among Millennials this was the popular choice.

The same agency continued that although nothing beats face to face conversation – as tone of voice can get lost in written words and messages can be misconstrued – the positives about Whatsapp include that is a faster form of communication, it is recorded, which helps to avoid confusion about what was said and what wasn’t. It is also a great organisational tool, for instance, to help set up viewing times, confirm or cancel appointments, etc.

Read more: How WhatsApp is changing the way we buy and sell homes

The prevalence of WhatsApp groups everywhere from workplace to family and friends to church or sports clubs seems to indicate that this method of communication is equally popular here although perhaps not just yet to conclude such an important transaction as buying or selling a home.

Heather van der Spuy, co-owner and principal of Steer International Properties in Cape Town, says although she recently completed two sales via Whatsapp with international clients, she finds that local clients prefer to use email. She does use Whatsapp a lot in her daily communication with clients such to confirm appointments. “I find it’s a great way of keeping a record of a conversation plus its user friendly,” says Van der Spuy.

Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa, says it is still rather difficult to trace the exact ROI that digital and social platforms have on the real estate industry due to the journey a buyer or seller takes from awareness to action.

A buyer or seller visiting a property website has already gone through the customer journey and is at the end of the funnel closer to taking action, where-as that same client’s journey might have started with awareness on social media. However, there is no doubt that digital marketing is vital in today’s property industry and they are seeing a monthly incline in the activity and direct social actions taken by the customer.

there is no doubt that digital marketing is vital in today’s property industry…”

“We believe agents might not be using this platform (Whatsapp) to its fullest potential as yet for direct marketing, but in terms of client interaction it has definitely increased the enquiries. A client can now drop an agent a quick message requesting advice as this is a less intrusive way of communicating. They might not be ready to take action, but it is critically important that we offer clients a source of information. Fifteen years ago a client would pick up a phone, call an agent and get the information they need – today they turn to Google, social media, recommendations from friends and more” says Hutchison.

“We encourage our agents to ask a client how they came across them in order to be able to gather more accurate statistics on the impact of social media. A client showing up at a showhouse, might have only known about it through a Facebook advert, thus listing the source as show day is not enough in today’s extensive marketing toolbox.

“Accurately tracked & traced, we can say that over the past 12 months, clients who we have come from social media as the root source have been 12% of total leads on buyers and 7% on sellers,” concludes Hutchison.

Richard Gray, CEO Harcourts South Africa,  says they’re also seeing an increased demand by clients to communicate with their agents and staff in real time which has resulted in a growing expectancy for instant feedback. This means that phone communication applications, such as WhatsApp, are fast becoming the primary communication tool for clients.

“These applications have also become part of the marketing process as many sellers and landlords expect the agent to harness their database to effectively market the client’s property to an instantaneous audience, and rightly so,” Gray continues.

“The integration and feeding of saved contacts and social media connections to a singular mobile device has propelled client service into the spotlight and the necessity for agents to be trained and educated on continuous feedback and prompt customer service.”

The integration and feeding of saved contacts and social media connections to a singular mobile device has propelled client service into the spotlight and the necessity for agents to be trained and educated on continuous feedback and prompt customer service. Estimates from four of their offices across the Cape Peninsula, which includes the rental division, indicate that 70% of communication with clients is done via Whatsapp and 20% of offers are confirmed via this platform.

Gray says many of their agents are now introducing WhatsApp marketing plans into their mandate strategies. There are many advantages to these applications:
* They are very user friendly when sending media such as videos, photographs and embedded links to inquiring clients, which make them perfect for real estate communication.
* The WhatsApp status allows agents to market homes to a growing mobile database without contacting prospective buyers individually. This strategy is becoming very popular on multiple platforms as a subtle non-invasive arm of a real estate marketing plan.

“With WhatsApp being owned by Facebook and Instagram it is no wonder this tool has the ability to cross pollinate communication and diversify it into a multi-pronged communication force,” ends Gray.

What about Facebook and Instagram? Have you picked up different preferences for methods of communication? Email your thoughts to

Showing 3 comments
  • Marie van Rensburg

    WhatsApp has definitely become the way to communicate to clients in Real Estate! Works for me!

  • Marcus Margot

    WhataApp and FaceBook are both powerful tools we use extensively in the marketing, communication and closing of deals. I am positive in the near future we will find even more realtime communication advantages of WhatsApp in the Real Estate industry.

  • Denoon Sampson

    WhatsApp Sales of Immovable Property – during the Corona Lockdown

    Whilst people remain at home under the Government lockdown, they might be tempted to buy and sell, lease and rent properties online, on a do-it-yourself basis: without having face to face meetings and also without inspecting the property. Typically, a tenant may decide to purchase the property, he already rents from his landlord.

    So then the obvious question is: is a contract for the sale of land by means of WhatsApp, SMS and email, valid and watertight? No! It will not be valid and binding.

    Sale of Immovable Property and Sectional title must be in writing and signed by all parties.

    The Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 (Schedule 1 and
    Schedule 2) explicitly reinforces the provisions of the Alienation of Land Act 1981; which still requires that all contracts for the sale of immovable property must be contained in a document, which is signed by the parties thereto.

    So therefore, any exchange of online messages purporting to be an agreement for the sale of land or sectional title apartment, will be completely null and void; because the agreement has not been reduced to writing and signed by both parties.

    ASubject to a final contract document, signed by both parties@.

    However, there is nothing to prevent negotiating by email or WhatsApp, with a view to concluding a finally signed contract document.

    One must avoid contradictory proposals, vagueness and backtracks. Therefore, it is very wise to label each electronic message with the heading: ASubject to a final contract document, signed by both parties.”

    So one would expect to see signed Offers to Purchase documents, being scanned from house to house to create a valid sale.

    Offer to Purchase: “Subject to physical inspection and approval.”

    If a purchaser wants to purchase; but wants to postpone his subsequent inspection and approval of the property, we recommend inserting this clause.

    “Subject to the suspensive condition that the purchaser is able to physically inspect the property and submits his/her written approval of the purchase, to the seller, within 10 calendar days, after the Corona Lockdown has been withdrawn.”

    Other Contracts can be concluded online

    Incidentally, the above legislation provides that other contracts concluded online will be valid and binding on the parties. The only proviso; is that each message must contain an Aelectronic signature@ which essentially is cyber data attached to other data intended by the user to be his signature.

    So a lease concluded by an exchange of online messages will be valid. Of course, the content must be comprehensive and specific, to avoid disputes. Also, a rental agreement reached by discussions and an oral agreement is valid and binding.

    Transfers and bonds being delayed by the Lockdown.

    What are the rights of seller and purchaser, whose registration of transfer and payment of the selling price has been unexpectedly delayed? In the past, the courts have adjudicated on conveyancing delays, where these delays could not be avoided.

    The courts have always held that where both parties could not have foreseen a delay, beyond their control, the resultant delay would not be deemed to be un-reasonable. (Young v Land Values and Nel v Cloete). The law has always held that property transfers should be registered within a reasonable time, after the sale agreement was signed. And therefore a short Lockdown would not be regarded as an unreasonable delay.

    Most conveyancing Firms and Home Loan offices are continuing to work remotely from home during the Lockdown. We have been told to expect that new Home Loan Mortgage Bond instructions will continue to be downloaded and must be attended to remotely.

    So a lot of work is being done to work up the files, in preparation for sign-up by the parties, once the Lockdown has been withdrawn.

    In conclusion, most conveyancers should be available to assist with offers to purchase agreements and will actually process the paperwork whilst the Lockdown is in place.

    Denoon Sampson
    082 775 84 84

    Denoon Sampson practised insurance litigation at Deneys Reitz now known as Norton Rose and conveyancing for E Oppenheimer and Sons, Anglo American, SA Permanent Building Society and many others at Weber Wentzel and EFK Tucker. He was a founder member of Sampson Okes Higgins, which became Denoon Sampson Ndlovu and is a consultant to The Standard Bank on its Electronic Payments and Guarantee process. His firm is currently ranked the ‘Number 1’ top performing conveyancer by First National Bank Limited.

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