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REAL ADVICE: Part 3: Estate agents tell all

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Hear the in’s and out’s of working within the Atlantic Seaboard luxury apartment market from Seeff’s Adrian Mauerberger.

Mauerberger’s differentiating factor? Brutal honesty, using the knowledge that he’s acquired selling apartments in the area since 2007.

Q: How did you get into the real estate business?

I graduated from UCT in October 2003 with a Business Science Honours degree in Marketing and majoring in Economics. In December 2003, I started at a newly-established boutique agency where they served cappuccinos and drove around in branded minis. They had set the trend for the shift in the way in which property was being marketed—it had almost taken real estate marketing into the technological age.

I had no real history with or interest in real estate at this stage. It was the marketing side that drew me. My interest was to learn and create methods to create brand loyalty and customer retention.

Q: How about your start with Seeff?

After four further years of working in a large property organisation, which caters to the needs of the entire country, my focus was on the top-end of the market as well as off-plan developments along the Atlantic Seaboard, learning the ropes. I joined Seeff in 2007 selling entry level apartments. There weren’t really barriers to entry like there are today.

How the barriers to entry have increased recently. Video: Abbie Wolf

Since 2008, I’ve been working in the luxury apartment segment of the market in Bantry Bay, Fresnaye, Sea Point, Three Anchor Bay and Green Point. It’s my job to know every apartment and every building: When it sold, how it sold, who sold it, who bought it, what price, etc.

Knowing that quantity of detail is fiercely impressive to sellers. It is also helpful in establishing the marketing price to ultimate close a deal at the best possible price in a reasonable period of time.

Mauerberger (right) alongside his team members, Cecily Sher and Bryan Ginsburg. Picture: Seeff Property Group

Q: About that customer retention, how do you sustain those relationships?

It’s about networking within your community, being the go-to person. Because let me assure you that the calls don’t stop at 5pm. They go on all night and they start early in the morning, on weekends and public holidays … there is no break.

I speak to the same clients that I’ve spoken to for 14 years, constantly giving them an update on the market and their properties. It’s advising them and being
honest–giving them advice you would give your own loved ones.

Q: You wouldn’t think a salesperson would be brutally honest.

That is what has probably been our unique selling point–that level of honesty. The market is tough. If we say don’t sell now if you don’t need to, we’re not saying it because we don’t feel like marketing the property for you. It’s because we are giving you the best advice. We would rather advise you to hold on to the property, even help you secure a tenant.

Unless, of course, your motivation is significant enough which would include “the four D’s of real estate”: death, departure, divorce or debt. And the fifth one I like to add – date. If you can’t determine a date that you need to sell by, don’t sell. Certainly not in this market.

Pitching for a mandate takes years of experience – make sure the agent gives you all the information relating to the market and the macroeconomic environment, says Mauerberger. Video: Abbie Wolf

Q: About this market, how has the Atlantic Seaboard been performing post-election?

The micro climate of the Atlantic Seaboard remains relatively sheltered from major-economic and political interference. If you look at the 2008/2009 worldwide recession, the Atlantic Seaboard wasn’t hit very badly, however there was certainly an impact on the rest of South Africa’s residential real estate market. We managed to maintain a growth rate (however small) year on year.

And yes the market is significantly quieter now than it was two years ago. The market took a quick downturn. There is further economic instability. But we must be aware that we are small fry in comparison to the other countries where astronomical pricing is the norm. Our issues sort of diminish in comparison. The market will turn as it has every time. It’s purely troughs and peaks as you know.

Q: Working in the Atlantic Seaboard, what’s the foreign buying market like?

The foreign market in South Africa is significantly lower than is usually thought. Usually they’re expats of sorts or they have family or they have a significant reason to come here. It’s a long haul destination so there has to be a reason.

Sometimes overseas holidaymakers will come to the Cape, love the city and say that they would like to have a property here. They find us. We take them out; however the second they get on that plane the deal’s over because their mind is back in their hometown.

Q: What’s the biggest deal you’ve ever done?

Last year we sold the same apartment in Bantry Bay twice. Once in February for just over R53.8 million and then again six months later for a significant return to the seller. We continue to set and maintain price and R/sqm record sales year after year in Bantry Bay.

Q: Tips for buyers considering the Atlantic Seaboard?

As long as you can see the ocean you buy. Make sure you face the right direction where you get early morning and early afternoon sun – in the Atlantic Seaboard that’s North/ North-East. Also make ensure you’re protected from the wind.

Q: If you had a smaller amount of money between R1m and R1.5m, where would you invest and why?

Buy the worst apartment in the best area. Yeah. If it means buying a storeroom in Sea Point because that’s all you can afford, or a 38 metre squared studio, buy it, but make sure it’s in the best area.

If you buy in an area where there has been absolutely no growth then you’re not doing well. Your ultimate aim for investing in real estate is for capital growth and that is what the Atlantic Seaboard has always offered.

Q: What’s the best part of the job that keeps you going every day?

When a seller or buyer turns around and says, ‘that was a fantastic experience. Thank you for everything.’

Real estate is potentially their biggest asset. Facilitating the process and making it the best experience they’ve had is the ultimate form of satisfaction.

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