Prop placements has a vital role to play in the property sector, says Cape Peninsula Committee Chairman

After a three month inauguration and trial period, Property Placements, the organisation set up by the Western Cape branch of the Institute of South African Estate Agents to recruit people to the property industry, has now been officially accepted by the Institute as part of its organisation. Anton du Plessis, Chairman of the Western Cape Institute’s Cape Peninsula committee, has said that it has a vital role to play.

The formation of Prop Placements (a shorter version of the original name Property Placements) was suggested by a former Chairman of the Institute, Bill Rawson.

The new division is managed by Kim Ashton, who has had 20 years’ experience in property - everything from an initial secretarial and later PA position at a major estate agency to selling, PR and marketing for conveyancers and the organisation of workshops to get agents started on the new compulsory training courses.

Prop Placements’ goal, said Ashton recently, is to raise the standard of the property profession by finding suitable candidates for the various jobs on offer. Hers’, she said, is the only organisation in South Africa that specialises in placing people in property, the only other similar organisation of which she is aware (ironically with exactly the same name) being in the UK.

“We are looking for people of real worth and ability,” she said, “and it is gratifying to note that many of those applying, particularly young qualified people from university as well as those over the age of 50, have indeed been of a very high calibre.

“A secondary aim is to raise income for the Institute which has seen revenues fall as a result of the 60% drop off in agency numbers during 2009. (Prop Placements’ charges are in line with or slightly lower than those charged by other job placement agencies.)

The response from the industry, said Ashton, has been “encouraging”.

In the first two months in which she was able to get going she placed 12 people and she is now confident that by the end of 2010 she will be finding jobs in property for 20 people per month and have over 50 employer clients on her books. She also plans, down the line, to recruit an assistant able to handle a similar number of placings per month.

“We were fortunate,” said Ashton, “in the timing of our launch: Prop Placements got going just as the property sector began to recover and employers began looking again for new staff after a long period of attrition.”

To date, she added, Prop Placements has fielded over 200 enquiries from the general public interested in working in the property sector.

After an initial discussion, a fairly high proportion of these, she said, will be advised not to seek a career in the property sector. This is because the majority of jobs here are in sales and selling requires a very definite type of personality. It is probably suited to less than 15% of the total population.

Those thought to be promising are put through a personality test and a predictive index survey that indicate where their skills and their shortcomings are likely to lie. This process usually results in a further weeding out of names on the list, but the thoroughness with which the search process is undertaken has, said Ashton, won the admiration of her clients.

Although the vast majority of jobs, Ashton repeated, are in sales, she has also been asked to find people to work as PAs, accountants and administrators, as well as rental agents and even as caretakers. At least one company has called her in to help find new franchise buyers and developers, she said, are now particularly active in recruiting staff because they are beginning to emerge from the hibernation period induced by the tough economic conditions of last year.

Asked if the soon-to-be-compulsory NQF4 and NQF5 training courses for agents and principals are not deterring applicants, Ashton said that there at least 20 months in which to take these examinations and those with previous qualifications or related experience do receive ample recognition for this under the RPL (Recognition for Prior Learning) process. Most new agents, she said, if not qualified, will be guided and monitored for one year by a qualified agent.

What is more, added Ashton, although in property the vast majority of agents survive on commissions, certain of the employers, particularly those in the development field, are now offering three month retainers in recognition of the difficulties a new agent can experience in getting started.

Summing up what had been achieved to date, Bill Rawson said,

“This is one of the most positive and welcome moves made by the Western Cape Institute in its entire history.”

Prop Placements are now organising property career evenings every second Wednesday at their Howard Centre training premises in Pinelands. These can be attended free by any member of the public. At every meeting there will be one or two speakers on a topic specific to real estate, e.g. on the purchase of a franchise, and the Institute will encourage general discussion on careers in property.

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