Dear Mr President, please let us work!

Dear Mr President, please let us work!

MAIN IMAGE: Liane Ellis, principal Ellis Real Estate.

The Deeds Office is open, but more than 45 000 estate agents must remain confined to their homes during Alert Level 4 of the continuing nationwide lockdown. In this letter, Liane Ellis, principal of a small estate agency, Ellis Real Estate, implore the President and government to pay urgent attention to the plight of the real estate sector.

Dear Mr President, I wish to bring your attention to the plight of estate agents in South Africa.

Estate agents’ only source of income is dependent on property sales and rentals, with 90 – 95% of agencies depending solely on property sales commission (professional fees).

Earning professional fees on property sales, which is only payable to estate agents upon the successful registration of the property into the name of the new owner/s, is a lengthy process and far from being guaranteed. Many factors may influence both the time it takes to register the transfer and whether or not the transfer is successfully completed. These factors may include the time it takes to obtain mortgage bonds for the purchasers, clearance certificates from town councils, SARS transfer duty receipts, clearance from body corporates and the like, deeds office operations, etc.

During the lockdown period, in which estate agents were unable to generate any income or secure new potential contracts of sale, any existing transactions which had been in the “pipeline” to be registered, were also delayed due to the fact that the relevant parties involved in the registration of properties (bond originators, attorneys, town council, managing agents, SARS, deed office staff) were also in lockdown, thus leaving estate agents without any income whatsoever.

When ± 45,000 (legit) estate agents do not have any income, it has a huge ripple effect on their families, their employees (cleaners, gardeners, admin workers, landlords), their creditors, their health providers, etc, etc. Without estate agents, bond originators, bank loan consultants, conveyancing attorneys, managing agents, etc also have no income. Again, it impacts not only the livelihood of these people, but also that of their families and employees. A huge ripple effect.

Whilst the government’s Covid-19 Relief Fund assistance is commendable, 99.9% of estate agents /agencies did not qualify for the relief assistance, as most of them were not registered with the Unemployment Insurance Fund (persons that earn commission only, do not contribute to the fund).

Those who did qualify and did request assistance at the beginning of April 2020, have not had any outcome or relief from the fund (month-end was yesterday already). Those who tried to claim TERS-benefits for their salaries workers from UIF, sent various e-mails to the COVID-19 department with all their documents included, even registered all on the TERS/UIF webpage, but have had NO feedback to date despite having sent various e-mails to follow up on any progress. Their workers have had NO payments from the COVID-19 TERS Benefit and everyone is in dire straits. Even those who tried getting financial TERS assistance from their banks have not had any funds paid to them as yet.

In short, MANY households dependent on the income of estate agents are in dire straits, not being able to pay their monthly commitments, their staff or even buy enough food for their families. Even if they are lucky enough to get the R350 per month social grant, it is just not enough to feed a family.

Many estate agents have requested that financial aid be granted to the industry’s legitimate agents (those paying their annual Fidelity Fund registrations/renewals, their CPD monies, etc) from the EAAB’s Fidelity Fund, but have been informed that the Estate Agency Affairs Act does not make provision for such disaster management aid / financial assistance to agents.

Mr President, as you are well aware, these are abnormal circumstances and desperate times. Surely, if government is able to convene and work out the details of a national state of disaster, which brought forth the relief funding for the nation, it is able to, with your wisdom and insight, your business sense, to amend the law to assist real estate agents / agencies during this difficult time. I am sure you can see and understand the need for such amendment.

We as real estate agents commend the NPPC’s (National Property Practitioners’ Council) proposal, asking you to allow all property practitioners to start working during Alert Level 4 of the lockdown, but we now have a financial deficit. Please urgently look into all possibilities to assist us financially asap.

We really need to get the economy going very urgently. Statistics indicate that world- wide deaths from other diseases by far exceed that of COVID-19 deaths. Please refer to what the economist Mike Schussler wrote about the situation. Maybe we need a shift in our priorities to save our economy and our people from dying of hunger.

I honestly pray that God will give you wisdom in this matter and that you will be able to assist our industry very urgently.

Lastly, Mr President, please know that I do not wish to criticize you and your advisors, but how will you be able to ensure that the millions allocated to local governments will not once again be misused by corrupt officials?

May God bless you, Mr President, South Africa and in specific all the property practitioners in South Africa. End.

(Liane Ellis sent the original letter on 1 May 2020 as a follow-up to a previous email she sent in April 2020 to the President’s office as well as several ministers. She hasn’t had any response to date on either. Editor)

About the author: Liane Ellis is the principal agent of Ellis Real Estate and has been in real estate since 2012. She also acts as the treasurer of the Multi Listing Services Gauteng North (MLS).

Showing 19 comments
  • Irma Stark

    How can nurseries be open and what do they sell that is essential? We work with clients that needs to register their property, others that need to get to a rental property regarding different circumstances.
    We work with single clients and there are no big groups or large social interactions at all. Please reconsider.

  • Twana Roets

    Thank you for this letter to the President. I agree 100%, we have tried to keep our agency going, have done a few listings and sales, all subject to viewing but nobody is allowed to travel.

    Hopefully we will be able to work within the next week or two.

    • Carolien


  • Eleanor Horn AgentNet

    Well put Leane!
    Thanks for your contribution to help get us working again. I hope a positive outcome is possible.

  • Fiona Crago

    Well said Liane.
    Hopefully you will receive a response this time….
    Take Care
    Fiona Crago Real Estate Ballito

  • Peter Varrie

    Excellent letter from both Jan le Roux and Liane Ellis. Let us hope for some good news this evening

  • JennyGriffithd

    We are desperate to get back to work to enable our clients to get into their homes they have purchased and some have rented. We also need to earn some money to feed our children and our staff.

  • denise huxham

    We are no different to all other sectors. This is not about me it is about the greater good for the country. Do you propose that we be allowed to go from home to home with clients, each being a risk to the other? There is no person or sector not heavily impacted by this anywhere in the world.

    • Claudia

      Dear Denise, we are at/causing minimal risk showing homes to clients if done in a responsible manner. Provided the client and agent wear a mask, sanitize before entering the home and don’t touch anything how is this more risky than going to the hardware store? It goes without saying that this would not apply to high risk households. Would love to hear your thoughts on the matter….

  • Magda Davel

    The big challenge is moving from one property to another. There were leases in place, with specific dates for all parties to move, also sales agreements with definite dates to take occupation, before the restrictions were brought into place. Somewhere in between surely something can be worked out and implemented for that to be done. Think of all the financial problems that the parties are left with. And arranging to show a property to a potential buyer, making use of all the measures to be in place, is far less dangerous than what is going on in the shopping malls at present.

    • Marvelous Mahlangu

      Well said. I fully support all the letters that has been sent. We have responsibilities to our staff, who are fully dependent on us to feed their families.
      Well done

  • Fanie Etsebeth

    Thanks for your input Liane. The agents need to work to support their families! If the agents can not work they will lose all their belongings that they have built up over their entire life! Many people work in different jobs. Please allow 45,000 estate agents to work and also serve the community! We live from commission and don’t receive monthly salaries!

  • Barbara Grobbelaar

    Liane, thank you for your effort in trying to assist us. I believe that there are means to ensure the safety of our clients , should we be able to start working. For those who prefer not to operate – that is there choice, but I believe that the majority of agents are in desperate need to earn a living..

  • Vicky Pieters

    I don’t know where to start. When there is no income there are huge financial problems. Once we can start work again it will take us at least another 3 months after that before money will be in our account provided we get immediate offers on property for sale. Only real estate agents can tell that this is not the easiest task. Buyers are picky and take their time. In the mean time we have demanding financial commitments. What do we use for money to meet our commitments? How will we recover if we are blacklisted? We are self-employed which is already a burden when trying to apply for credit. The whole situation is cruel and merciless.

  • Vicky Pieters

    More so, apparently people can move if they have proof that registration was before lockdown. What about the chain reaction which we normally have, the one party’s property registered before lockdown but the other party could not lodge in time. This is a situation where the buyer has full right to move in but the seller cannot move. Must he sit on the street until further notice? I am totally frustrated.

  • Emjay Mathabathe

    Well put Liane. Maybe the emphasis from the comments should be more on how will we operate without spreading the virus. This will be what the President wants to hear. The fact of the matter is that a lot of sectors are affected by this COVID19 and not only Property Practitioners. We must not mention things like “why this and that is opened and mot us”. Two wrongs never make a right. The President and his team must know that we use internet where our clients see whatever they desire to buy. We are able visually communicate with our clients either threw Skype or telephone(with no personal contact). Buyers are aware that we are in this lockdown and they might not be able to have access to physically view the desired house as this could be a risk of infecting the Sellers( this could be arranged between Sellers and Buyers ito of sanitation, not touching anything in the house, mouth musk’s etc). The application forms are sent to the banks, conveyances, bond originators electronically etc. With all these facts, the risk is minimized.

  • daniel christen

    Dear Mr Ramaphosa
    Prohibiting estate agents from working, not only affects them and any associated people/professions but most South Africans, whether directly or indirectly. The real estate industry is a foundation for most aspects of the economy.
    Few industries can show such positive knock-on effects … yes, with the sale of a property there are agent’s commissions applicable but there are also attorney’s fees, transfer duties, Deeds Office levies, VAT, CGT, removal firms, electrical, beetle, plumbing & other specialized contractors fees, renovations, painters, builders, garden services, surveyors, municipal service providers, gardeners, domestic staff, DIY, hardware stores & building supplies, fencing & security firms, …. Each of these even if not solely dependent on property transactions, creates employment and generates a large percentage of their income from the real estate industry and in so doing, contribute to the fiscus, their employees salaries, SARS, PAYE, UIF, medical aids … the links continue into tourism, support of local businesses, retail, restaurants, schools, churches and the entire society becomes connected and dependent on the real estate “snowball”.
    Love them or hate them, the estate agency industry is a cornerstone and probably the easiest to control in terms of social distancing. The distressing part is the lack of vocal support or concern by the EAAB for the plight of the STAKEHOLDERS… and that is where the problem lies!.. overpaid, incompetence.
    Sincerely Daniel Christen

  • Erna van Vuuren

    I fully agree, its a low risk buisiness sector and it will financially help SARS and all the commission earning Real Estate Agents to provide to their families.

  • SM Bell

    The SA government is also on the losing end during this time of lockdown. Huge amounts of money usually flow into SARS coffers in the form of transfer duty. On many levels, it is crucial to reopen the real estate industry.

    As has already been said, for an estate agent to take a prospective buyer to view a property it can and will be done with the utmost caution: mandatory wearing of face masks, the use of hand sanitisers before entering the seller’s home, keeping safe distances from one another, and not touching anything. The same will be expected of the seller when inviting a prospective buyer and the estate agent into his or her home.

    If shoppers can enter a department store where dozens of people mingle, why not be allowed to view a seller’s home under much safer and more favourable conditons?

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