South Africa’s real estate market has had a tough few years. The socio-political landscape and economic climate have also done little to alleviate the pressure. There are many people stating that the worst is over and that things will start improving soon.
South Africans are looking for safe investments, and property remains one of the safest ways to grow money. It is a buyer’s market that is expected to continue through most of 2019. Those who qualify for finance or who are able to buy for cash will be in a good position to take advantage of the current conditions.
Real estate companies no longer simply rely on traditional selling methods such as hanging ‘for sale’ boards outside houses or advertising in the newspaper. They have had to find more innovative ways to attract new clients. Over the years there have been several companies that overcame the economic challenges and managed to not only sell the most property, but also find nuanced ways of doing so.
These are the top real estate companies that set themselves apart in the property field.
RE/MAX is officially the largest real estate brand in South Africa, outnumbering most of their competitor by nearly 1,000 sales associates (these figures are based on REBOSA membership numbers).
RE/MAX of Southern Africa founded in 1994, is regarded as the pioneer of the RE/MAX international expansion as it was the first country franchise to be sold outside of North America. With over 2,400 agents operating from over 160 offices and licensed in 5 countries in Southern Africa, RE/MAX of Southern Africa is the largest real estate brand in the region.
According to Remax’s Vice President of Communications, Pete Crowe, the balloon and wordmark were upgraded to help agents grow their business, as well as give them an even bigger competitive advantage in digital, social media, and mobile marketing. The company is hoping the refreshed branding will bring in enthusiastic young entrepreneurs.
The biggest group of homebuyers are millennials; in fact, buyers who are 36 years old and younger continue to purchase homes at a higher rate than other age groups. CEO Adrian Goslett says Remax sold more than 29,000 freehold houses to first-time property buyers. Goslett also noted that the average price of a freehold property has increased by around 5.9 percent during 2016. The increase in the freehold property price could be a result of the higher demand for this type of property. The current average price for a freehold property is R1 161 481, which is up from last year’s R1 096 487.
The largest interest is for houses below the R400 000 price mark. This group accounted for more 29 percent of property sales in the first quarter of 2017. Properties priced between R400 000 and R800 000 accounted for around 26.76 percent of total sales. This can be attributed to the demand in affordable housing, and for that reason, it is expected to continue to grow. Properties priced between R800 000 and R1.5 million made up around 23.8 percent of the country’s home sales. Furthermore, homes priced from R1.5 million to R3 million represented a 14.54 percent share of the market, and properties with a price tag above the R3 million mark accounted for just 5.21 percent.
Most of the real estate companies on this list see some of their biggest sales from properties in the Western Cape. For Seeff, this has translated to receiving high volumes of sales in their offices in the province. Real estate agents from Seeff property in Hout Bay say they have had higher than expected sales and rental activity in the last financial year. The Hout Bay and Llandudno property market has topped a record high of R1.2 billion in turnover. Their high value sales include a R32 million home in Hout Bay. The high value mark is a result of the area’s fantastic lifestyle: it is near the beach, offers a street café vibe, and includes nature reserves. Sales for luxury apartments in Cape Town are also high. Seeff represents about 40 percent of the Atlantic Seaboard apartment market. Additionally, they just recently sold around 97 units for an average price of R12.7 million.
In other provinces, the Seeff Richards Bay division is one of the most successful branches in KZN. It receives a total of around 26 percent of real estate sales and rentals in the market. Kwazulu Natal’s Seeff Dolphin Coast received numerous awards at the Annual Seeff KZN Awards. The awards include Private Property Online Excellence Award and Ooba Home Finance Awards in Rands.
There’s been a major growth rate in properties under R5 million. Seeff witnessed that those are the kinds of properties that are able to sell within 30 days; on the other hand, properties under R10 million take a few days more. Profits also increased slightly around 2.52 billion due mostly to sales of redevelopments around CBDs in Gauteng and the Western Cape. PayProp confirms that the Western Cape is now SA’s most expensive province for renting or buying a residential property. In fact, the Western Cape is 75 percent more expensive than SA’s cheapest province, the North West Province.
Like most companies, Rawson saw a peaked interest in property around urban centres like the Western Cape, parts of Gauteng, and Durban North. They credit this to the demand for safe, secure, and low maintenance housing. The company’s Durban branches have recorded a high interest in places like Kloof and Meadow Lane where houses sell for up to R10 million.
Rawson also has a high amount of sales for new developments especially around the Western Cape. For properties around Blaauwberg, Table View, and Parklands, the average price for a home is around R1, 2 million. For places such as Somerset West, the price is much higher. This is because the property in Cape Town has given investors a good return.
More young buyers are entering the market as well, and Rawson seems to be catering to that market. It appears that the company has a high turnover for sales in new developments. Because they have a high emphasis on the sophisticated and fuss-free layout, Rawson seems to highlight the need for fresh new designs. According to Tony Clarke, the Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group, space is becoming more and more of a luxury, and clean designs help create more space. Rawson recommends that potential homeowners and rental homes need to look for houses that offer modern day luxuries like fibre internet connections. It is believed that it is only going to become more essential as time goes by.
Rawson is one company that is looking to attract new young buyers. Their website also offers financial advice specifically for this reason. There is a finance calculator for people to see how much customers will have to pay, and it includes the interest rates in order to show the final amount. The website also offers transfer documents. More importantly, their ability to break down important issues around housing has made them an all-in-one stop for homeowners and people looking to rent homes.
Chas Everitt was named the Most Innovative Brokerage In The World, beating out 500 other companies. This global award was presented at awards gala held in Miami Beach back in 2016 LeadingRE conference week; the gala was attended by some 2500 top real estate professionals from 25 countries. LeadingRE President and CEO Pam O’Connor says that the Most Innovative Brokerage award is given to brokers who make the most extraordinary difference for their company and business community through a major initiative that is new and different, or to those who apply new strategies to an existing challenge. “To stand out among the very best real estate firms in the world reflects an extraordinary commitment to performance and excellence”.
The award was followed by the opening of a Luxury Portfolio division. This division caters to property sales above R10 million. Rory O’Hagan, the CEO of Chas Everitt Luxury Portfolio, says the group has sold R284 million in luxury home sales in Hyde Park, Sandhurst, Melrose, and other sought-after suburbs in Johannesburg alone. This is done by marketing their listings vigorously through the many platforms existing in both SA and internationally, through the affiliation with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World.
There is also an increased demand for luxury cluster homes in areas like Hyde Park, Atholl, and Morningside. In Gauteng, luxury homes that move away from the noise and congestion of traffic have become popular. High-end buyers are also opting for homes that are still opulent, yet offer more security and convenience. This explains some of their big sales including the sale of a R33 million French style house in Constantia Upper Cape Town, and a R35 million property in Zimbali. The division is currently showcasing a R115 million farm in Stellenbosch, a R80 million house in Sandhurst, and a R78 million property they have named “the Mansion in the Sky”.
Just Property rebranded themselves in 2016. Instead of just being seen as a specialist-rentals agency, the company wanted to be recognized as one that offers residential, commercial, and industrial property for rentals, as well as sales. The Chief Executive Officer for Just Property, Paul Stevens, believes that their strong background in lettings is what’s going to give them an added advantage. Just Lettings was trusted by consumers, in addition to being an award winning division of the company. It won the award for the Best Lettings Agency categories at the Arabia and Africa Performance Awards in Dubai in 2017. The objective of the Africa & Arabia Property Awards is to recognize excellence in the property industry worldwide. This is the third consecutive year that the rentals or lettings divisions have walked away with the coveted award. In turn, the company has attributed their success to hard work.
The extras such as rates and levies that are added to home ownership makes letting a popular option. Just Properties says that rental growth is up to just over 6 percent, and the average rental achieved across Just Property’s rental book countrywide is currently R6 550. As expected, the Western Cape has the highest growth in rentals of almost 10 percent. Stevens believes the reason for the high rentals in the Western Cape is due to people moving there for work. People rent property instead of buying it because they don’t want to be rooted in a certain place. Rental markets in the Eastern Cape on Just Properties have also attributed this increase; for example, areas such as Port Elizabeth. Housing in the Eastern Cape is growing as well. Over the last five years, freehold properties have risen to more than 22 percent. The headquarters of Just Property is based in the Eastern Cape, and the big economic investment in the province is believed to benefit the company.
Jawitz Properties is one of South Africa’s oldest residential property companies. In efforts to grow their global footprint in the last financial year, the company ensured that their top properties were listed globally. While they only have offices in South Africa and Mauritius, they have partnered with leading international brands to guarantee maximum exposure for their most exclusive properties.
The company’s partnership with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World has been very lucrative. The partnership has opened the door for them to be part of the largest global network of estate agents and agencies. According to Jawitz, “there are 55 countries around the globe that make up Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, producing more than R4.7 trillion in annual home sales collectively”. This especially speaks to foreign nationals looking into investing in internationally desired areas in Cape Town like the Atlantic Seaboard, City Bowl, Sea Point, and Constantia.
The association has also opened the door for their 600 premier real estate firms and 150,000 sales consultants. In early 2017, Norma Robinson, a Property Consultant from the Sandton branch, celebrated reaching a turnover of R1 billion. She’s been with the company for over 12 years. Janelle Mauritz, a Jawitz Properties Ballito property consultant, received recognition when she represented a property selected to be on the finals of the 2017 HGTV
Ultimate House Hunt. It was one of the only properties listed in South Africa. It is also the fourth consecutive year that HGTV has partnered exclusively with Jawitz. They are showcasing their homes locally as well. In addition, one of Zimbali’s coastal estates was previously featured on the entertainment show, Top Billing; the house has a pricetag of R28 million.
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