Estate agents have to raise the service bar
It is becoming a business imperative for estate agents to raise their level of service and professionalism - especially to homebuyers - if they want to stay ahead of the game in a cooler property market.

This according to Gerhard Kotzé, CEO of the ERA South Africa property group, who says that the slower growth in property prices, higher interest rates and the squeeze on credit availability, have made it essential for estate agents to "up their game".

And he says a key issue going forward will be for estate agents to market selectively. "It's going to be vital to consider the wants of the property buyer and shortlist properties that are the closest fit.

"The idea of carting buyers from house to house in the hope that something will click, even if it doesn't meet the buyers' specs, has never been acceptable, but a good selection of prospective properties to achieve a match is currently even more important because buyers are in the driving seat."

He says that there is also a need to reinforce all the old adages of property marketing: correct pricing, careful preparation of a property for showing, fully understanding the selling points of a home and thorough groundwork in terms of administration and communication.

Kotzé notes that the latter is particularly important in respect of managing a house buying "chain"; a term that refers to a number of buyers and sellers being involved in a series of dependent transactions.

"Typically in South Africa, the sale of one property is 'subject to' the sale of the buyers' property which, in turn, is dependent on another buyer selling his home and so on - and estate agents need to ensure that the links in the chain are as secure as possible by always pre-qualifying buyers, for example."

Kotzé says that another vital factor is, of course, correct marketing:

"Placing slapdash adverts thrown together with poor wording and sloppy sales information simply won't cut it in today's market.

"At the end of the day it all comes down to the selection by the seller of the right estate agent and the old maxim that 'if you choose your agent well, your property will sell'. In fact this applies doubly in tighter market conditions and it is clear to me that only the best estate agents will survive the current conditions."

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