Advice and Opinion

A misconception that estate agents ‘own’ buyers

Estate Agency generic

“There’s a mistaken belief amongst residential property sellers that certain estate agencies possess a ‘database of ready buyers’ that differs significantly to that of their competitors,” says Matthew Alberts, Sales Manager of Alexo Property Brokers.

“This belief is often perpetuated by specific agencies who make this claim as an integral part of their marketing efforts and, whilst this statement may have applied in the past, the advent of the internet and a change in property purchasing habits means it really is no longer the case today,” he states.

“In the early days of commercialised real estate sales, prior to the arrival of internet and email, the foremost way for estate agencies to secure buyers was by way of foot traffic into their offices, press advertising, and later, via showdays,” explains Alberts. “Agents were able to construct a unique database or network of buyers that differed, by some degree, to the databases of their competitors,” he comments.

“Nowadays, ‘time’ is one of our most valued commodities and gone are the days of wandering down a main road hoping to discover your dream property in a shop window,” says Alberts. “Today’s home buyers conduct property searches on their phone, tablet or laptop once they’ve put the kids to bed, or in between meetings at the office; a shift in behaviour that has also resulted in the centralisation of some of the country’s older, more established real estate brands, as these companies no longer realise sufficient value from pedestrian traffic at smaller offices,” he states. “So too, in recent years, the security risks posed by show days coupled with their inconvenience to sellers have forced many people to question their value,” he explains.

“At Alexo Property Brokers, we identified a change in purchasing patterns about 6 years ago. We found that genuine buyers were contacting us more often through our website and online property adverts, and fewer sales were taking place at showdays, from walk-ins, and via press advertising,” he says. “As an agency, we realised that we could protect the privacy of our client’s homes by no longer holding Sunday show days and could also dispense with the newspaper advertising that largely supported these days,” he explains. “Despite these changes we continued to achieve excellent results and, due to saving on marketing costs, were able to offer seller’s lower than industry standard commission rates; a practice that Alexo continues to this day!”

Alberts says that the internet has become a very successful and safe method of marketing a property and that, with the vast leaps in technology over the last decade, buyers now have a wealth of property information at their finger-tips.

“Most buyers, if not all, have access to the internet either by computer or by their cellphone or smart device, and property search portals are generally well advertised and user-friendly,” he comments.

“We know that today’s buyers are online,” states Alberts,”everyone from university students to great-grandparents are increasingly comfortable with the internet,” he says. “This means that if a seller’s property is represented on the major South African property portals, then serious buyers who know how to use Google will be able to find their property,” he says. “Today, online real estate listings portals such as, showcase between 200,000 – 300,000 listings at any one time, with their reach and web traffic now overshadowing every other online property platform in the country,” says Alberts.

”The net result of this is that buyers do not therefore ‘belong’ to any one real estate company but are simply directed to the person or company marketing the property that interests them,” he states. “This change in behaviour has enormous significance for sellers,” stresses Alberts. “It means that a seller no longer needs to appoint more than one estate agency. In fact, in doing so, they could simply be repeating an advert on the same platform, and possibly sending the wrong message to the market,” he says. “Importantly too, the power of the internet now means that sellers are able to appoint an estate agency that they trust with all processes of the marketing and sale of their home; and one that has agreed to charge a reasonable fee, as opposed to appointing the oldest or most established company in the area simply because they ‘have the buyers’.

“As the South African property industry evolves and technological advancements continue, so home owners should continue to question historic claims and processes to ensure that they are making the right choice of estate agent, and that the sale of their property yields the most successful results possible,” concludes Alberts.