Cape Town - Inspectors 'out in force' to check estate agents comply with new rules

THE extent to which local estate agents are supporting the City of Cape Town's campaign to curb the unsightly clutter of illegal showhouse directional signage, will become clear this weekend when contractors will be out in force throughout the Metropole to test compliance with the new regulations. In terms of the new system every estate agent and auctioneer was, from 1 July, required to register individually with the municipality for permission to display property marketing boards and directional signs for weekend show houses on Council property.

Each agent was required to pay an annual fee of R551 to register and a further R659 for six permit stickers which they are required to display on their showhouse boards throughout the year.

"Boards belonging to agents who did not meet the extended grace period for the registration deadline will be removed as will boards that do not display the required permit stickers" said Debbie Evans, Development Control Officer in the Environmental Resource Management Directorate.

The fine for the removal of a non-compliant board will range from R66 to R528.

According to Jeanne van Jaarsveldt, operations director of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, while acknowledging the need for some issues still to be ironed with the council, RE/MAX supported the new legislation in principle.

"The key to the successful implementation of the new municipal by-laws is acceptance and compliance by all roleplayers in the Western Cape. This includes corporate accountability of the major real estate brands and at RE/MAX all our broker/owners in the Western Cape will operate within the new parameters."

Van Jaarsveldt adds that while "other real estate players, including some of the bigger ones, have complained about various aspects of the regulations, RE/MAX of Southern Africa can clearly see the merit in the viewpoint of the council".

However, RE/MAX would prefer the existing paper disk permits be replaced with PVC screen-printed versions to ensure durability and professionalism.

RE/MAX also feels that six disks would not be enough as the majority of their sales associates are very high producing estate agents that can have up to four or five houses on show at any given time. Van Jaarsveldt also agrees that the regulations would be difficult to police.

"These challenges will be ironed out between key industry roleplayers like RE/MAX and the City, but in principle we are content that the regulations will be to the benefit of the real estate industry, including home buyers and sellers. We give them our endorsement."

Barak Geffen, executive director of Sotheby's International Realty South Africa, says smaller agencies using "sunshine" show days will suffer most under the new show house board regulations.

"'Sunshine' show days rely solely on the use of strategically placed agency boards and are generally abused by the smaller industry players who don't have the necessary advertising budgets in place to promote properties through visible adverts in the property guides in the newspapers.

"Because larger agencies hold a larger number of show days in any one suburb on any chosen Sunday, they are largely able to comply with board regulations due to their critical mass. Larger agencies also provide direction details in newspaper advertisements, eliminating the need to break regulations.

"I am in agreement with the City Of Cape Town in their clamping down on agencies who opportunistically manipulate the showhouse system by littering their boards throughout suburbs in order to create the perception of a larger organisational footprint.

"Showhouse boards should not be used as a free advertising mechanism," he says.

Geffen agreed with comments made in the press by Gordon's Bay estate agent Peter Venter, who is chairman of the IEASA in the Western Cape.

Venter said the new permit fees and restrictions were penalizing the whole industry for the transgression of a few.

"In my opinion, the City of Cape Town should target those abusing the system," Geffen said

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