What a tough property market has taught me - estate agency boss

The Leapfrog Property Group launched in June 2007 to much scepticism from the real estate industry. Two years on and finding themselves in the middle of a tough property market the group continues to expand and confound its critics.

Leapfrog was founded by former CEO and non-executive chairman of the PA Group, Jan le Roux and Bruce Swain, ex CEO of REMAX South Africa. The company is South Africa's first fully black majority owned residential real estate group. It is 70% owned by New Deal trust and its trustees are former Scorpions head Bulelani Ngcuka and chairman, Jan le Roux.

I contacted Gavin Wright, owner of two Leapfrog franchises, and questioned him on his experiences since buying the franchise.

What was your experience in property before buying the leapfrog franchises?
I was an independent sales consultant with Remax Living in the City Bowl for five years. At the time of moving across to Leapfrog I was the top sales consultant with Remax in the Western Cape and 5th in South Africa.

When did you buy your franchises?
I bought the franchises in July 2007 - we have two - the City Bowl one from Woodstock through to the Waterfront and the Atlantic Sea Board one from Three Anchor Bay to Clifton.

What made you leave an established brand for a new one?
The new brand offered a fresh and innovative approach to real estate - a new and "alive" brand that cares about its people and is committed to transformation within the real estate industry. This is a new brand but has exceptional national leadership and experience in the form of Bruce Swain and Jan Le Roux.

Has it worked for you?
It has worked well for me; I have my own business, I am within a brand that cares for me and supports me and my team in our functioning. I am with a company that is committed to being innovative and service oriented, where we put the client first.

How have people responded to the quirky brand?
The general public is positive about the brand and often comments on the quirkiness of it. They enjoy the fresh client/customer oriented approach. Agents were skeptical at first but when they realised all the innovative systems within leapfrog that support the agents and reward them for being driven and loyal they are approaching us to "come across" more and more.

How important is the brand in running a successful real estate business.
The brand is very important as well as the national footprint and referral system - you need it if you intend to provide the seller and buyer with a comprehensive marketing service for their property requirements.

Did you get any opposition at first from people who didn't know the brand?
The only "opposition" has been from other agents, however we have not had any clients or property owners show any negativity or resistance.

Do you have any plans to buy more franchises?
We would not consider it at this stage as a franchise is one thing but operating and providing an excellent service is another matter all together. You need to know and understand an area as well - you cannot simply have a franchise and go out and provide a comprehensive and professional real estate service without market and area knowledge.

How have market conditions affected your business?
The market has been tough and the levels of confidence have been low - this has of course affected our business but it has also taught us to streamline and operate more efficiently.

We have to date had a 100% bond approval rate via our bond originator partners - we use Ashley at Betterbond who is prepared to work with the clients ahead of them buying / putting in an offer.

On the listing side we have various tools that leapfrog provides us, which have assisted us to advise our clients when it comes to pricing their properties. Over priced properties simply don't sell, they have to be correctly priced and pitched at the correct level within the market

Do you see an improvement in current market conditions?
There is an improvement in activity levels within the market - there is more confidence but at the same time buyers are doing their homework and sellers are having to be careful that their properties are correctly priced and marketed so as to "enjoy a sale."

Article by: Barry Washkansky - www.realestateweb.co.za