Estate agents must think like entrepreneurs
MAIN IMAGE: Marcél du Toit, CEO Leadhome; Bruce Swain, CEO Leapfrog Property Group; Nondumiso Mthwa, CEO Idwala Property Group
Do you view yourself as an entrepreneur or as an employee? The difference could be critical to your success as a real estate agent.
Real estate in South Africa has a proud tradition of entrepreneurial estate agents who from humble beginnings succeeded in building up their business into a family-owned franchise – some that today count under the leaders in the local real estate industry. A tradition that is being continued today by a new generation of emerging black real estate entrepreneurs.
There are several factors that make an estate agent an entrepreneur says Marcél du Toit, CEO of residential property platform Leadhome:
- They’re in control of their own destiny. “Any business where you’re 100% personally responsible for your failure or success, and you have to run the business itself and acquire your own customers, is entrepreneurship. But when we celebrate South Africa’s great record of entrepreneurship, we rarely recognise estate agents, who work incredibly hard in a high-risk environment,” says Du Toit.
- They take financial risks. Their businesses run on a ‘slow burn’, with three months or more before properties are transferred and they get paid. And they don’t get paid until a deal actually closes: if a deal falls through at the last minute, nobody gets paid a cent.
- They’re multi-skilled experts, who are comfortable in a range of situations. Like entrepreneurs, estate agents must wear many hats from marketing and advertising, client service and financials, matchmaking buyers and sellers, to life coaching as clients navigate milestones such as marriage, growing families or divorce.
Keeping the old, embracing the new
Bruce Swain, CEO of Leapfrog Property Group, agrees that to be successful estate agents need to view themselves as entrepreneurs because that is exactly what they are. “In my experience the agents who are the most successful are the ones who operate with the independence, resilience and problem-solving mindset inherent to entrepreneurs. Having said that, I agree that too many agents still view themselves as employees, but I do believe this is gradually changing in line with market needs and demands.
According to Du Toit the problem is that too many traditional estate agents still don’t view themselves as entrepreneurs. “They see themselves as employees getting commission, and as a result, have become blasé about staying up to date on the most current trends and technology,” he says.
One former traditional estate agent who certainly has the entrepreneurial spirit is Nondumiso Mthwa. She started her career as an estate agent without a car and rose to be the top agent within three months, now fourteen years later she is the CEO of her own real estate agency Idwala Group.
According to Mthwa the challenge for more traditional estate agents is often being slightly rigid towards change rather than embracing it. “Yes, it is important to stick to the basics, and the traditional real estate methods still work. However, an estate agent can become more efficient and effective if they are on par with the current available technologies and trends,” she says.
Even before lockdown proved the necessity of being able to work remotely and have a visible presence online, most mainstream real estate agencies already gave their estate agents access to the known platforms of online advertising and print media, as well as other basic advertising tools.
Mthwa says an employee-minded estate agent will use these mediums and happily earn commission and stop there. However, an entrepreneur-minded estate agent understands that they are running a business within a business. “These are the agents who go the extra mile on their social media platforms advertising and branding themselves as estate agents of choice, they subscribe on extra platforms and portals to enhance their efforts in terms of finding stock, they have their own extra activities over and above those in the office calendar, they keep up with the current trends and technologies. These are the ones who end up being exceptional and outstanding property practitioners.”
“Technology is changing the game for the property entrepreneurs out there. Today’s estate agents are tech-driven, data-driven, and collaborative,” adds Du Toit. However, technology has not removed the need for personalised service in the industry. Buyers and sellers want the easy customer experience and control that technology brings, but still demand the warmth and personal touch that is needed for what’s often the biggest transaction in a customer’s life. For agents, just like entrepreneurs, it’s all about finding the balance.
“Technology enables agents. Using real-time data, agents are better able than ever to match the right buyers to properties, to value properties optimally, and make quick sales. It helps agents to carry out productive, effective tasks, while servicing their clients in an efficient way,” ends Du Toit.