Advice and Opinion

Be your own estate agent, says CallOwner

Many South Africans don’t know that they can sell or let their properties without the unnecessarily expensive services of an estate agent.

According to Sean Brimacombe, managing director of recently launched KwaZulu-Natal online property portal CallOwner, far too many property owners have been duped into believing that the only way to legally sell a property is through an estate agent.

“In reality, selling a property is no more difficult than selling a car, a boat or a bicycle. But, because a home is usually someone’s largest investment, it can be a very emotional process. That’s probably why property owners have been falsely led to believe that selling a home is an extremely complicated process that cannot be concluded without the intervention of a third party,” says Brimacombe.

“Listing a property with CallOwner requires sellers to pay a once off small upfront listing fee of just R1 200. Lots of people cannot believe that there are no strings attached and no extra fees to be paid to CallOwner once a sale has been concluded,” Brimacombe explains.

Brimacombe and CallOwner co-director, Jonathan Pittaway, decided it was time to debunk the myths and empower buyers and sellers, landlords and tenants. Currently, about 80 per cent of those shopping for new homes to buy or let do so online. They concluded that an online business that could directly link buyers and sellers, landlords and prospective tenants would streamline the process, eliminate unnecessary costs and hand the negotiating power back to the real decision makers.

Brimacombe says that by dealing direct, both buyers and sellers have a lot more leeway to arrive at a figure that suits them both. By negotiating a deal that suits two instead of three parties, both extract value.

“We joke that, on a property valued at between R1-million and R2-million, you could save enough on the commission to buy a small car. For a seller, that could be the deposit on his next purchase or the amount needed to upgrade a bathroom or a kitchen in a new house,” he says.

A recent sale that fell through because a potential buyer could not get bank approval for a loan that covered a high commission convinced the CallOwner partners that they were on the right track.

“The difference between approval and refusal amounted to the commission price. For the buyer, that also potentially amounts to nearly a years’ worth of bond repayments”, Brimacombe points out.

He says that those wanting to sell, buy, lease or rent properties need to look at whether they are getting true value for the substantial amounts paid to third parties. They also need to identify and evaluate whether additional payments are necessary.

Some – such as VAT on properties worth over R2 million, electricity and insect clearance certificates – are unavoidable for the seller.

While the seller elects the conveyancing attorney, it is the purchaser who actually pays the costs of this conveyance who facilitates and registers the sale of a property in compliance with laws designed to safeguard the interests of all parties.

The biggest expense and the one that can be avoided is commission which can amount to as much as seven percent of the sale price.

For the R1 195 fee, sellers can list a property on the CallOwner website and compile their own online brochure. In addition, CallOwner delivers eye-catching boards for display outside properties. These include the personalised contact details of the property owner / seller so that an interested passer-by can make contact directly. There is no further payment once a sale or lease has been concluded.

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.