Who's Who in Property

New online portal, callowner aims to cut out the middleman in the property market

Sean Brimacombe, director of callowner, believes the time is right for a different way of doing business in the property sector.

The digital revolution has reached the Durban property sector, completely refreshing the way that people have done business for decades.

Callowner, a newly launched KwaZulu-Natal property portal, allows buyers and sellers, as well as those looking to lease or rent properties, to transact directly. By selling or leasing their properties themselves, they will cut out the middleman and potentially save themselves hundreds of thousands of Rands in commission.

“On a property valued at between R1-million and R2-million, you could save enough to buy a small car,” says Sean Brimacombe.

Brimacombe and fellow entrepreneur and property investor, Jonathan Pittaway, began working on callowner about a year ago.“We wanted to help people avoid many of the pitfalls that we’ve encountered when buying and selling properties. I have handled sales myself and, what most people don’t realize, is that concluding a deal yourself is quite easy,” says Pittaway.

Listing a property with callowner requires sellers to pay a small upfront listing fee of R1 200. For that, they can list a property on the website and compile their own online brochure. Callowner delivers eye-catching boards which can be displayed outside properties. These include the number of the property owner so that an interested passer-by can make contact directly.

Pittaway points out that renting or selling your own property enables sellers to take full ownership of the process and manage it to suit them. They can establish a direct relationship with a prospective buyer, saving time and enjoying the convenience of arranging viewings to fit in with busy schedules.

“Callowwner was designed to combine the flexibility and connectivity of the internet with the one-on-one personal service offered by the property owner,” he explains.

That convenience extends to prospective buyers. By logging on to www.callowner.co.za, a passer-by can also use a smart phone or tablet to find out more about a property. callowner will also sort the properties registered on the website according to the requirements and location entered by someone looking to buy or rent a property.

Currently, about 80 per cent of those shopping for new homes do so online but are forced back into an outdated and long-winded way of doing business because they do not know that they can close a deal themselves with a minimum of fuss.

callowner also provides practical back-up. Sellers can download guides to selling and leasing as well as sale and lease agreements. The founders of callowner have created a network of professionals who are on hand to help cut through the red tape and guide those on all sides of the property spectrum through the entire process. For example, sellers require the professional services of conveyancers to facilitate the sale of a property under laws designed to safeguard the interests of all parties.

Brimacombe says that by dealing direct, both buyers and sellers have a lot more leeway to arrive at a figure that suits them both. During tough economic times, even the smallest saving goes a long way. By negotiating a deal that suits two instead of three parties, both extract value, he points out.

The property market is usually one of the first to reflect an economic downturn as was seen during the 2008 global recession. A number of key factors are expected to put pressure on the property market this year with the increase in house prices lagging behind inflation at around 4 per cent.

Analyses of the property market (published by ABSA, First National Bank and bond originator Ooba), point to house prices actually dropping in real terms on the back of a weak rand and high inflation. Further interest rate hikes which have been predicted for the rest of the year are expected to put further pressure on the property market. All the more reason to deal direct and save on commission, says callowner.