Service, rather than selling the key

RECORD agent numbers, major strides in technology and rising expectations among consumers are at the root of a shift away from sales and towards service in South Africa’s real estate industry.

That’s according to Terry Brookes, chairman of the National Referral Network (NRN), who says customer service is fast becoming the key to success in an industry where practitioner numbers have more than doubled in the last two years.

With more than 60 000 registered estate agents now vying for market share, as reported recently by the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAB), buyers and sellers have carte blanche when it comes to choosing who they want to entrust with their business, he says.

And while buyers still regularly entrust the sales of their properties to agents who come in with the highest valuations, there is a growing contingent of consumers who are placing integrity and good service at the top of their lists when it comes to their real estate transactions.

“As an industry, we are finding that our success is coming increasingly from repeat business and personal recommendations,” says Brookes.

“Buyers and sellers want to be treated with respect by agents who are prepared to go the extra mile, who can offer them professional advice and who will be upfront with them at all times.

“While the sale is important, it’s part of a process that starts and ends with good service.”

Rather than seeing this trend as an impediment, Brookes believes it’s an opportunity for the industry to flourish on the back of accurate pricing, good marketing and enhanced levels of professionalism.

But not all agents are created equal, he warns, which makes it critical for consumers to do their homework prior to selecting someone to handle their real estate transactions.

His advice when choosing an agent is to start by asking to see references, much like one would do in a job interview.

In South Africa, all real estate practitioners are legally required to be registered with the EAAB and in possession of an up-to-date fidelity fund certificate.

He then suggests checking the company’s credentials.

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