More estate agents than ever vying for a slice of the shrinking Cape Town pie

With almost 40 estate agencies currently listing properties for sale in the Kenilworth area, it is even more critical than ever that sellers carefully consider the options when appointing an agency to sell their homes.

According to Marc Plastow of Lew Geffen Sotheby's International Realty in the Southern Suburbs, there were 38 companies advertising properties last month, but he says the total number of companies operating in the area could well be higher, as they may not have had stock at the time.

"There has been a marked increase in the number of real estate agencies and agents in the area over the last 12 months, possibly even doubling since the beginning of 2018.

"Some are well-established agencies and others are small unknown brands or new businesses, all vying for a slice of the pie in a decidedly buyer's market."

Plastow says there are a number of reasons for this sudden jump in agencies and operators, including the fact that some agents have started their own businesses in order to increase their share of commission and to have freedom to operate wherever they like. 

"Another reason is that, as smaller companies have lower overheads, they can pass the saving on to the customer. However, this is often a catch-22 as, without the support and back office staff larger agencies have in place, service can be considerably slower.

"And in a slow, depressed market when properties are taking much longer to sell than usual, time is of the essence and not a luxury that anyone can afford."

He says that customer appreciation of the value offered by the support systems that larger agencies offer is evidenced by the fact that the top-performing companies with the lion's share of the market in the area are all well-established agencies.

"It's not only the wealth of experience, area knowledge and long history that these companies have within a suburb, they also have large buyer/seller databases and extensive referral channels.

"And as all these are key factors which contribute significantly to their volume of sales and quality of service, higher overheads certainly do not preclude them from offering competitive commission rates."

What sellers should know when choosing an agent

Claude McKirby, Southern Suburbs Co-Principal for the group says that it's vital that sellers do their due diligence in seeking out the agent who best fits their needs - and that they shouldn't be afraid to ask questions to establish credentials and level of experience.

"Firstly, it's important to verify that the agent and the affiliated agency have a valid licence, a Fidelity Fund Certificate, to conduct business.

"Thereafter, an estate agent's knowledge of the home buying process and the local market is key, so ask questions like the length of time they have been in the industry, recent sales history and about their familiarity with the law pertaining to property transactions.

"Especially important is their knowledge and understanding of the market in your area as this is essential for them to be able to give an accurate property evaluation which is the first, but possibly most critical, step the process.

"It not only determines the final sale price achieved but also the length of time a home spends on the market, which is especially important if the seller is buying another home subject to the sale of his current property."

He adds that it's important for sellers to bear in mind that the longer properties remain on the market, the less likely they are to sell for full value and that statistically, they are most likely to fetch full value within the first three to six months of being listed.

"Service doesn't end at good communication skills and social niceties," says McKirby, "it should encompass everything necessary to achieving the best possible price for the seller, including effective negotiation skills.

"This demands an understanding of both parties' wants and needs, remaining flexible with a number of options, foreseeing (counter) offers and using the power of persuasion to encourage clients to respond to offers."

"Stick to brands you know and get recommendations from your friends who have had success with an agency or agent," advises Plastow.

"And don't be discouraged from working with interns as they are constantly undergoing training and therefore have a fresh understanding of the latest trends or changes within the industry.

"They are closely mentored by top professionals throughout their internship - and they often bring important skills from other industries as interns are seldom school-leavers and most are graduates with experience in their fields."

"There's a huge difference between an agent who lists a property and waits for the phone to ring and one who is qualified, experienced and proactive - and is able to fight in your corner no matter what the situation," say McKirby.

14 Jan 2020
Author Lew Geffen Sotheby's International Realty
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