Real estate agents can work again!

Real estate agents can work again!

MAIN IMAGE: Vuyiswa Mutshekwane, chairperson National Property Practitioners Council (NPPC); Samuel Seeff, chairman Seeff Property Group; Tony Clarke, MD Rawson Property Group; Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO RE/MAX Southern Africa

The Covid-19 crisis united South Africa’s real estate sector as never before in our history and the hard work has paid off – on Monday 1 June all property professionals may once again go outside to sell properties on condition of adhering to strict safety protocols to keep them and the buyers and sellers safe from infection with the novel coronavirus.

Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on Thursday 28 May announced the regulations that will apply during Alert Level 3 from 1 June. According to these most businesses and other institutions in the public and economic sector may return to work with only a few exceptions such as those in personal care services. This means that all property professionals may leave their homes for work purposes again come 1 June subject to adherence to strict health and safety protocols.

The new regulations stipulate the strict health and safety requirements that all businesses that are reopening will have to adhere to. They include the following:

  • All industries, businesses and entities must have a designated Covid-19 compliance officer
  • Every business must have a plan for the phased return of their employees to the workplace
  • Employees 60 years and older and/or with co-morbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, cancer should work from home if they can
  • Adhere to social distancing measures and health protocols such as mandatory wearing of face masks, using hand sanitizers, daily screening of employees etc
  • Evictions remain prohibited with certain exceptions as granted by the courts
  • Short-term leases for leisure purposes remain prohibited

Find the Rebosa Covid-19 Workplace Readiness Guidelines here

Paying tribute to the sector’s lobbyists

The fact that the entire real estate sector may return to work during Alert Level 3, subject to adherence to government’s strict safety and hygiene protocols, is in line with government’s stated objective to reopen the country’s economy as quickly and safely as possible to alleviate the devastating impact from loss of jobs and income due to the efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. However, it would not be amiss to pay tribute to the hard work and tireless efforts put in by many in the property sector to bring relief to thousands of property professionals who couldn’t earn an income for the past two months as a result of the lockdown.

The exclusion of residential estate agents sparked an unprecedented united effort from the entire property sector to lobby on behalf of the thousands of property professionals unable to earn an income from the sale of property. The sector’s new representative body, the National Property Practitioners Council (NPPC), under the leadership of Vuyiswa Mutshekwane, as their first order of business made a written submission to government on 27 April to reclassify real estate services as a Level 4 industry.

Commenting on the latest welcome news, Mutshekwane in a statement welcomed the announcement and said they are pleased that the National Coronavirus Command Council had heard their concerns and given the real estate sector the greenlight to resume operations. “As the largest national industry trade association we are deeply committed to ensuring and prioritising the health and safety of property practitioners, customers and suppliers’ as we navigate new ways of working to fully safeguard livelihoods, restore operations and support the country’s economy.  Accordingly, we are convinced that, with the measures we have recommended, the real estate sector is equipped for a safe return to work,” says Mutshekwane.

She adds that the NPPC, through its various member organisations have developed a comprehensive set of health and safety guidelines for the real estate sector. Principals and practitioners have been encouraged to adopt these guidelines and create their own Standard Operating Procedures for all employees returning to work. Protocols have also been developed for property viewings together with client consent forms and tracking and tracing procedures in line with international best practice.

“The real estate transaction process requires a relatively low level of human interaction compared to other sectors which will be permitted to operate at level 3. We have carefully assessed the risk of transmission for the real estate sector and believe that the proposed interventions will go a long way to mitigating the spread of Covid-19,” ends Mutshekwane.

Industry leaders such as Samuel Seeff, Tony Clarke, Adrian Goslett, Richard Gray and Herschel Jawitz, all directors of Rebosa, played an instrumental role in lobbying government to reopen not only the real estate sector, but also the entire value chain of real estate services.

The Rawson Property Group’s contributions include the formulation of proposed workplace plans and viewing safety protocols now adopted as the official stance by the Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa (Rebosa). Rawson’s managing director Tony Clarke himself was also responsible for a widely-shared open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, which has assisted in opening an ongoing dialogue with key decision-makers.

“Real estate is such a huge contributor to the South African economy, and the source of countless jobs, both directly and indirectly,” says Clarke. “We felt it was our duty to bring these facts and figures to the attention of the ‘powers that be’, and make sure they fully understood the repercussions of not allowing real estate to operate – safely, of course.”

Goslett actively lobbied for the reconsideration of the Level 3 restrictions and wrote to DHS minister Lindiwe Sisulu asking that residential real estate be allowed to open since gardening and pool services are allowed. Says Goslett: “This is good news for the real estate industry and the country as a whole. After weeks and weeks, late nights and early mornings by many people in the industry, we have managed to finally open a door. We need to make sure we capitalise on this opportunity safely. There is still much to do, which is why we sent out a Covid-19 Workplace Plan template to all our offices earlier this week, together with recommended safety procedures and material to be used for display purposes when conducting business. It was stated in the speech that every office must have a plan available for inspection and that every person affiliated to the company must be made aware and understand the contents of the plan. It is imperative that protocols are followed strictly to ensure the safety of our clients, our colleagues and our agents.”

Seeff’s role included getting a vital impact study done by Associate Professor, François Viruly of the Urban Real Estate Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. This study provides landmark information on the size of the residential real estate sector and its economic contribution as well as the value chain supported by real estate transactions and the multiplier factor of about 1.9.

Rebosa CE Jan le Roux expressed his appreciation for the efforts made by saying that the Rebosa directors worked as a team during this crisis updating each other on developments as they happened. “I would especially like to thank Samuel Seeff of Seeff, Tony Clarke of Rawson’s and Adrian Goslett of RE/MAX for the extra lengths they went to, to knock on every door possible and to make the most of every presented opportunity to state the case for the industry. The results speak for itself.”

The Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) via it’s CEO Mamodupi Mohlala also voiced support for the reopening of the property sector which left thousands of estate agents not only unable to earn an income from commission but also unable to access financial relief because they don’t contribute to UIF. The efforts by the real estate sector were also supported by industry representative bodies from the legal profession, valuators, mortgage brokers and banking sector who all made submissions to government for the reopening of the entire real estate value chain.

Seeff says he has his doubts whether the reopening of the real estate sector could really be attributed to all these excellent lobbying efforts. “It is ultimately a stroke of luck to be part of the opening of the economy by President Cyril Ramaphosa,” he says. Be that as it may, what can be agreed with Seeff is that the reopening of the real estate sector in Level 3 means this: “Estate agents can move quickly to do what they do best, market and sell houses and fill rental properties.”

Showing 11 comments
  • Adriaan (Entegral)
    Reply

    REBOSA can high-five themselves through the property professional propaganda machine, but I have to agree with Samuel: more a stroke of luck that real estate and others can operate again. I’m sure government read every open letter of the thousands of business owners on their knees…they didn’t even mention the word ‘real estate’ once in any of their announcements? That said, kudos to all the others not mentioned here for putting in the time and making their voices heard. Kudos to the agents on the ground who pushed through without any government assistance. There is a lot of change happening in the industry and I’m looking forward towards a more tech driven environment. Now go sell!

  • Ian Badenhorst
    Reply

    I thank the lobbyists who worked hard to consult with the Government leaders.
    HOWEVER, the punch-line quoted as the story heading is misleading.
    The Heading should be accurately advising the industry and public of which part of the estate industry is back to work. Such being property sales.

    The exclusion of property letting under Point 3 of Table 2 separates each of the areas of activity that is excluded from economic activity, which is ‘short-term home sharing/ letting/leasing or rental for leisure purposes.’ .
    Therefore not all of the Estate Agency Industry is back to work.

    My opinion is that any publication representing the industry should correctly report on matters affecting the industry and the public who are its clients and avoid confusion because of failing to give full disclosure.

    In conclusion, I am disappointed that the property renting and leasing activity in the industry was not permitted for economic activity; Given that there is little difference to interaction with the public on property sales and that of property Rentals. Both activities bring buyers or renters in contact with the agent which also calls for property visits and inspections by them all.

    How was this logic formed?

  • Cindy Purchase
    Reply

    Thankyou for all your hard work.
    We are so relieved to be going back on Monday to active work.

  • Bulelwa Nqambi
    Reply

    Good morning

    Thank you for your job well done. I was patiently waiting to hear something about the property industry re opening in Level 3 but in vain.

    The clarity i need is that are we allowed to view with clients from other provinces as the regulations still stands of movement from province to province?

    There is also screening of employees that needs to be done everyday, in the case of working from home so how do you make sure that you are not affected/

    Kind Regards
    Bulelwa Nqambi

    • Helene Meissenheimer
      Reply

      Hi Bulelwa, those are excellent questions. We’ll follow up on that and see if we can obtain some answers from legal experts. Answers will be shared in next week’s Property Professional newsletter and on the website. All the best, Editor

  • Johan Gouws
    Reply

    Each and every agent from Keller Williams are thankful for the efforts the industry leaders have put in to get us back into business. While many mails have been sent and discussions held and obvious rules and regulations are to apply, it was the collective effort of a few that has made the difference. Thank you very much

  • Hans Snyman
    Reply

    Well done NPPC. No can you please sort out the EAAB.

  • Ruvashnee Ramadar
    Reply

    Well done and thank you to each person that helped to open our doors.
    We hope and pray that every agent is safe while trying to earn their salary. Let’s always remember we can’t place value on our lives. Good luck South African estate agents and stay safe.

  • Louis
    Reply

    EAAB TO BE SORTED OUT PLEASE THEY ARE JUST NOT UP TO STANDARD (SHOCKING) WHEN THEY COLLECT THE FEE FOR THE FIDILITY FUND CERTIFICATES AND DON’T ISSUE THEM AND IN ADDITION CLOSE DOWN THE SMALL COMPANIES FOR SMALL THINGS SUCH AS FINANCIALS THAT ARE HANDED IN LATE DUE TO BOOKKEEPERS NOT COMPLETING THE DOC;S ON TIME AND SENDING THEM IN TO EAAB.(SHOCKING THAT THEY JUST GET AWAY WITH THIS AND NOTHING IS DONE ABOUT THIS, AND ALSO NOBODY WHO WILL TAKE THE ISSUE AND FOLLOWUP ON IT SO AS TO HELP WITH THE UNFAIRNESS OF IT ALL ,

  • Niki
    Reply

    I think that the renting/leasing/letting for leisure refers to hotels, B&Bs etc and not to property agents who work with rentals. If i am incorrect please let me know. The other question is do we need a permit to be on the roads?
    Please advise soonest.
    Thanks Niki

  • Ivan Steenkamp
    Reply

    It is good to notice the return of Real Estate agents under Level 3 on 1 June 2020, but the Real Estate Training Providers are still in limbo.

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