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What gives women the edge in real estate

MAIN IMAGE: Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty; Iona Scholtz, principal and owner of Iona Scholtz Properties; Lizette Joubert, franchisee Rawson Properties Paarl and first female chair of Rawson National Franchise Exco

There are many women setting the pace in real estate today whether as the top earners in franchises, holding their own as principals/owners of their own agencies or in sharing their knowledge and experience as professional trainers. In the spirit of Women’s Month some of them share the special traits women bring to achieve success in this tough, competitive industry.

Who better to start with than with Yael Geffen, currently the CEO of one of the country’s biggest real estate franchises, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty? Of course, she had some excellent role models in her own family – thinking of her grandmother, the late Aïda Geffen who founded the Aïda real estate group in 1958 when the residential real estate industry was still very much a ‘boys club’ and mother Sandy Geffen who started Lew Geffen Estates with Yael’s father Lew in 1982 and is still his business partners today.

Asked what she believes makes women stand out as estate agents, Yael says: “I believe women have a more natural ability to share, be transparent and authentic and it is those qualities that most usually help to allay any fears that sellers or buyers may have and to encourage them through the process. I’m in no way saying that men do not possess these qualities, but I do feel that it comes more naturally for women as they are generally more comfortable in a supportive, even nurturing role”.

Yael continues that there are many women to admire in South Africa’s real estate profession, besides the Geffens there are also Pam Golding, Linda Erasmus of Fine and Country and Johannesburg business owners like Adrienne Hirsch and Denise Zaslansky. “What I love about all these women is that they haven’t changed themselves in order to succeed in a male dominated industry,” she says.

Sandy and Yael Geffen

“In my closest circle I really admire my mother Sandy Geffen. Her real estate training is the very heart and soul of our business and I never get bored of watching her train in the flesh. She is also a trustee for Women and Men Against Child Abuse and I have a lot of admiration for her. She is strong, resilient yet somehow able to be gentle,” ends Yael.

Since South Africa became a democracy 25 years ago, more opportunities in the real estate industry opened to women from all ethnic groups in South Africa. Though the latest statistics indicate that there is still a long way to go towards greater representation of the country’s demographic profile, women from the previously disadvantaged groups are increasingly coming to the fore in the industry. Thinking of Amanda Cuba, COO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, Vuyiswa Mutshekwane, CEO of the South African Institute for Black Property Practitioners and Mamodupi Mohlala-Molaudzi CEO of the Estate Agency Affairs Board.

Amanda Cuba; Vuyiswa Mutshekwane; Mamodupi Mohlala-Molaudzi

Capetonian Iona Scholtz is one of the pioneers. More than 30 years ago she began her career ‘cold calling’ (which is knocking on doors to find sellers) on the dusty roads of Grassy Park. “I remember in all kinds of weather I would go door knocking and introducing myself to the house owners … the door knocking, my friendly manner, determination and the supreme grace of God was a huge factor in my start to success in the property industry and was the start of many great relationships,” she recalls. Within six months she was selling 20 houses a month and two years later she followed her husband and fellow agent, Bernie’s advice to start her own company which led to Iona Scholtz Properties. Over the years through the many ups and downs there has been one golden rule for Iona, to keep learning more about the industry so her knowledge stays updated. This year she says she thought she would retire but many of the children of her clients of 30 years ago are now coming to her for advice and asking her to sell their property or referring friends and family to her.

To end her story, Iona says for her the following are important in this business:

  • to always be honest and ethical in your dealings with buyers and sellers and colleagues alike
  • to keep your knowledge updated and to grab every opportunity to learn something new and improve your knowledge of the property industry

Here are some more words of encouragement and inspiration by women who are successful in the industry:

Lizette Joubert, franchisee Rawson Properties Paarl and first female chair of the Rawson National Franchise Exco, says: “Sustained success is all about discipline, patience, dedication and having a positive outlook on life. Knowledge is power. These are fundamentals that got me through 14 years of owning my own rental, commercial and residential franchise. That first-hand experience is invaluable and makes me confident that I can serve my community well and make meaningful contributions to this industry.

“As women we understand the dynamics of a home and therefore can offer so much more advice and guidance to assist sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants.

“To be relevant and competitive in today’s market, we need to be able to deliver more value more effectively than ever before. As such, being open to new ideas and constantly learning about technology or the latest emerging skill has become an essential part in sustaining our professional success.”

Gerlinde Moser; Karryn Cartoulis

Gerlinde Moser, broker/owner of RE/MAX Living and the only recipient of the Luminary of Distinction – awarded to those who have been top earners over the course of their career and have a minimum of 20 years’ service within the RE/MAX network, says: “My advice to other young women starting out their careers is that there are NO FREE LUNCHES. Success comes at a high price, especially in the real estate industry where you stand to earn well above average. Nothing is too far or too difficult for top achievers. To provide good service means thinking about the other and not yourself. Never think about the reward – that comes naturally as a result anyway. For young people, this may not sound sexy or interesting, but it is the philosophy of life and the key to success.”

Karryn Cartooulis, sales associate at RE/MAX Living and the number one earner within the RE/MAX SA network between Jan-June 2019, and the number two earner globally, says: “Treat the client with the utmost integrity all the way through. Your skills and reputation will ultimately gain repeat and referral business through your professional attitude. That’s why you should also never push a sale. You can guide your clients into making an informed decision, but don’t tell the client what will work for them. They know what they need,” Cartoulis advises.

Palesa Kibiego, Pam Golding Properties area specialist for Morningside Sectional Title says: “I love what I do, and am very passionate about working with, and helping people – I get satisfaction when I match the buyer with the right property. As an agent, it is important to be honest in all your dealings with clients and provide them with as much information as possible about the property market so they can make informed decisions. A great agent is also knowledgeable about the area they work in, in my case, it’s also the various sectional title complexes I work in. I maintain good relations with all clients whether they buy or not, and the same with the sellers whether they grant a mandate or not.”

Palesa Kibiego; Madeleine Burger

Madeleine Burger, RealNet Midstream Estates, says: “As women we have always shown that we can succeed in doing anything we set our mind to. Staying positive is a key factor for me. With every new client I believe that we will have a positive outcome, whether it’s a successful sale or building a relationship for the future. I often find that clients who I meet only buy at a much later stage – sometimes even a year later. By building a positive relationship now, I can ensure that the client then returns to me as their preferred estate agent.

“As a woman I also have the instincts to guide a seller to make a property more presentable. I can also create a positive environment for the buyer viewing a house with potential.

“I believe in teamwork as we do not become successful by ourselves. In our office we work as a team of strong women believing in positive thoughts and standing by good values.”

Cheryl van Deventer

Cheryl van Deventer, master agent with Chas Everitt International in Hermanus and a multi-award winner, says: “Being seen as a professional estate agent is half the battle, because sellers and buyers prefer to work with a professional who knows their industry inside and out, and who is ethical and honest. Being a great agent also requires hard work and dedication and absolutely nailing the basic skills, marketing, communication and negotiation. You need to be passionate and driven to offer your sellers and buyers a memorable experience and offer that little bit extra. After-sales service is also critical.

“One must be memorable and have a ‘signature’ that sets you apart from the rest.”

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