Anyone writing the history of the residential property sector in South Africa, said Wayne Albutt, Regional Sales Manager for the Rawson Property Group in the Western Cape, will find himself having to recognize that a major change – perhaps the biggest ever – took place in the industry in the 2004 to 2014 era.
“The really big change of the last decade,” said Albutt, “has been in the calibre and qualifications of South Africa’s estate agents. In all South African estate agencies it is now recognised that this type of work can no longer be seen as part-time or fill in. It requires wholesale commitment.”
A decade ago, said Albutt, it was very unusual for people with MBAs, BComs, business, property management and other tertiary qualifications to sign on as estate agents. Now, especially in the larger and more successful groups, it is happening all the time.
“We must never underestimate how effective the introduction by the Estate Agency Affairs Board’s compulsory educational qualifications for all agents has been; despite the postponement of full compulsory implementation. It is not an exaggeration to say that in recent years the higher educational qualification requirements have weeded out many of the less committed and less professional estate agents, with the result that today’s agents, I believe, are probably the most professional and competent that South Africa has yet seen.”
One reason why a big upgrade in estate agents’ qualifications was necessary, added Albutt, was that in the last decade there had been a proliferation of financial, property and general legislation, which made it absolutely imperative that the agent understands fully how to protect his clients from the many pitfalls and dangers that lie ahead for those who are ignorant in these matters — which could also implicate the agent themselves.
Albutt said that, along with the improved professionalism of estate agents, there has also been a huge increase in the average client’s knowledge of property matters. This, he said, makes clients particularly conscious of any agent’s lack of knowledge regarding the property sector.
“In a good client-agent relationship,” said Albutt, “a level of trust will be established between the two parties fairly early on. The client will come to rely on the agent’s interpretation of the current facts, his market knowledge, his sales and negotiating skills and will trust him to deliver the best solution. If at any stage it becomes apparent to the client that the agent does not know his facts, that trust will go out of the window.”
Clients wishing to assess the professional abilities of an estate agent before making a commitment to any one in particular, said Albutt, should consider some of the following criteria and answers to the following questions;
· Will the agent introduce only financially qualified buyers to your property?
· Can the agent show that he has a firm, up-to-date grasp of both the neighbourhood property prices and trends that could have an effect on the property’s sale or rental?
· Can the agent give you a comprehensive, written marketing plan, based on a thorough and comparative market analysis?
· Does the agent’s company offer on-going training on all matters, including the legislation and financial issues surrounding property deals?
“Questions of this type,” said Albutt, “help establish just how proficient and how well equipped the agent is to serve and satisfy your real estate requirements – and the good news, I am glad to say, is that today there are far more agents capable of responding positively in this way. Today’s agent will generally have come through comprehensive training and experience and the chances are high that they are far more competent than those in the industry 10 or 15 years ago.”