Pri­vate prop­erty Es­tate agents — the new gate­keep­ers

But prop­erty in­dus­try op­ti­mistic over Cyril Ramaphosa’s vic­tory

Sunday Times - - Business Times - By RAY NDLOVU [email protected]­day­

When prop­erty doyenne Pam Gold­ing be­gan her busi­ness in the 1970s she had no cap­i­tal and found her­self in an in­dus­try largely dom­i­nated by men.

The phe­nom­e­nal rise of her real es­tate busi­ness, which has ex­panded into an in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tion, has been hailed as an in­spi­ra­tional story of a woman suc­ceed­ing against the odds.

But Xoliswa Tini, the founder of Xoliswa Tini Prop­er­ties in East Lon­don, has found it hard to break into the in­dus­try — partly be­cause she is not only a woman, but a black one. When she started out in 2003, she found the real es­tate in­dus­try still dom­i­nated by men — mainly white men. It had lit­tle room for new play­ers, es­pe­cially black en­trepreneurs.

Tini said gen­er­ally it was dif­fi­cult for black peo­ple to get into the in­dus­try with­out fi­nan­cial sup­port.

Dif­fi­cult to break in

“When I started, none of the ex­ist­ing fran­chisees would ever take me, be­cause I did not have ex­pe­ri­ence,” she told Busi­ness Times.

“The real es­tate mar­ket is closed and you are sat down in the cor­ner. The more es­tab­lished agen­cies don’t give you the depth to grow in the in­dus­try.”

Tini was in­spired by Gold­ing, who died last month aged 90. She wants to be a role model for black women and to be “their own Pam Gold­ing”.

She said: “I won­dered in 1999 why there weren’t any black es­tate agency own­ers; we were in the new South Africa, but there was not even one black owner.

“I thought to my­self, Pam Gold­ing is a woman and she did it in a male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try. So I de­cided to be the Pam Gold­ing for our black peo­ple.”

Black-owned fran­chise

Tini has grand plans for the fu­ture, in­clud­ing fran­chises later this year in Port El­iz­a­beth, Pre­to­ria and Jo­han­nes­burg.

Views dif­fer on why the in­dus­try has been slow to trans­form racially.

Her­schel Jawitz, CEO of Jawitz Prop­er­ties, said the slow pace of change was due to volatile mar­ket cy­cles that made life dif­fi­cult for new en­trants.

“I think that this chal­lenge is am­pli­fied be­cause the in­dus­try is dom­i­nated by small fam­ily busi­nesses and not the large brands. These busi­nesses typ­i­cally don’t have the re­sources to im­ple­ment a trans­for­ma­tion plan,” said Jawitz.

Where’s next meal com­ing from?

Ted Frazer, the na­tional mar­ket­ing man­ager at Se­eff Prop­er­ties, ac­knowl­edged that trans­for­ma­tion had been rel­a­tively slow but said this was due to the in­dus­try’s un­pre­dictable na­ture as an in­come stream rather than to bad in­tent.

“Be­cause it is a per­for­mance- and com­mis­sion-based pro­fes­sion, monthly in­come is not guar­an­teed. For many peo­ple this is a chal­lenge, es­pe­cially when the prop­erty mar­ket is not per­form­ing well, as has been the case over the past few years,” Frazer said.

He said many agents had left the pro­fes­sion af­ter the 2007-08 re­ces­sion to look for more sta­ble em­ploy­ment.

An­other is­sue in the in­dus­try is the preva­lence of dodgy op­er­a­tors.

Nikita Si­gaba, act­ing CEO of the Es­tate Agency Af­fairs Board, said that in the past fi­nan­cial year the board had pros­e­cuted more than 120 es­tate agents for con­tra­ven­tions.

Il­le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers

“Of this num­ber more than half were pros­e­cuted for il­le­gal trad­ing, although this num­ber is not a com­plete re­flec­tion of the prob­lem of il­le­gal prac­ti­tion­ers we be­lieve are out there,” Si­gaba said.

Ac­cord­ing to the EAAB’s 2016-17 an­nual re­port, the num­ber of reg­is­tered es­tate agents in South Africa in March last year was 41 241, up from 38 503 the pre­vi­ous year. Whites outnumbered peo­ple of other race groups by more than four to one.

The board’s lat­est re­port said there had been “acts of racism, dis­crim­i­na­tion and in­tol­er­ance com­mit­ted by es­tate agents which were, un­for­tu­nately, preva­lent . . . Such rep­re­hen­si­ble acts . . . bring the es­tate agency pro­fes­sion as a whole into dis­re­pute.”

Work­ing to end bias

Jawitz said: “I think the in­dus­try is mov­ing for­ward in try­ing to en­sure that racial bias is re­moved both within the in­dus­try and in the mar­ket.

“These ini­tia­tives ex­tend be­yond racial bias to in­clude re­li­gious, gen­der, cul­ture or any other bias.”

Af­ter the eco­nomic slow­down of the past year, in­dus­try ex­perts hope that Jacob Zuma’s re­place­ment by Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa will breathe new life into the mar­ket.

Jan le Roux, CEO of Real Es­tate Busi­ness Own­ers of South Africa, said de­spite the chal­lenge of trans­for­ma­tion, which was fur­ther slowed by stricter reg­u­la­tions and new ed­u­ca­tion and reg­is­tra­tion re­quire­ments, the out­look was pos­i­tive.

Poised for growth

“The prop­erty in­dus­try is poised for growth, but we may face a pe­riod of rel­a­tive un­cer­tainty un­til the elec­tion. The pro­jected growth fig­ures look bet­ter and the in­ter­est rate may well come down, all of which is good,” Le Roux said.

“The whole de­bate around ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion is, how­ever, creat­ing un­cer­tainty and I don’t be­lieve the un­cer­tainty will be re­solved any time soon.

“Un­til then buy­ers’ con­fi­dence in the prop­erty mar­ket may re­main in­hib­ited. Spo­radic land-grab ini­tia­tives are not help­ing,” he said.

So I de­cided to be the Pam Gold­ing for our black peo­ple

Xoliswa Tini

Busi­ness owner

These ini­tia­tives ex­tend be­yond racial bias Her­schel Jawitz Jawitz Prop­er­ties CEO

Land re­form warn­ing

Neil Gopal, CEO of the South African Prop­erty Own­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents the com­mer­cial prop­erty sec­tor, also ex­pressed op­ti­mism but said cau­tion was needed in deal­ing with land re­form.

“In­vestors re­quire cer­tainty and this mat­ter should not be used as a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball to ap­pease vot­ers ahead of the 2019 elec­tions,” he said.

Parcels of land that were be­ing pre­pared for devel­op­ment, which would cre­ate job op­por­tu­ni­ties, were be­ing “in­vaded”, he said. “We are of the view that these so-called in­va­sions are or­ches­trated . . . to the detri­ment of the peo­ple who de­serve bet­ter.”

Pic­ture: Alon Skuy

Af­ter a pro­longed lean pe­riod, the real es­tate in­dus­try sees hope for the mar­ket in the elec­tion of Cyril Ramaphosa, but there are con­cerns over the im­pact of land ex­pro­pri­a­tion.

Xoliswa Tini

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