Turning the real estate industry on its head
Property360 editor for print and online Vivian Warby meets monthly with Real Estate leaders. Catch her monthly column properTEA with Vivian in the Weekend Argus on Saturdays.
He began in the stationery and gifts business, creating a chain of stores named The Notebook. A customer, a top-selling estate agent in Norwood, Johannesburg one day told him: “Lance if you can sell pens and pencils, you can sell property.”
Lance Cohen took the plunge, put his family into the stationery business and started selling property and the rest is history… “I haven’t looked back for over 35 years,” he says.
For many that might be a tough decision, but not for King David matriculant Cohen, who for decades has been at the sharp end of selling property in Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Now it’s a brave New Year for the father of three applying the principles that saw him rise to estate agent hot shot in Joburg in the 1980s and 90s and in Cape Town for another 20 plus years.
I meet him a few short days after he re-opened his company Lance Real Estate in January and he gave me insight into what it takes to be named an agency’s top performer regionally for 10 years in a row and nationally for nine. “You have to build trust and respect, but even if you have that and you don’t work hard it won’t happen for you,” he says.
In the few hours I spent with Cohen in a luxury nine-bedroomed Camps Bay home he is marketing, he took about eight calls from prospective clients and was setting up viewings – only 10 days after again going solo. It was a bravura performance. He is a top class salesman with great insight of the property market.
“I was ready to get Lance Real Estate going again; a month earlier than anticipated. The family enjoyed a holiday in Mauritius and then boom – it was all systems go,” says the part wild boy, part top achiever and part big heart.
This eclectic mixture is part of the charm that makes Cohen, whose credo is “honesty, trust, respect and hard work”, one of the respected top sellers of luxury properties on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard.
Known for a number of things on the Atlantic seaboard, it is his famous headstands that earned his agency’s tagline: Turning the real estate industry on its head.
He spent the last decade with Seeff where he was awarded for ten straight years in a row Top Performing agent in the region and for nine years in a row Top Performing agent in the country, losing out last year to a colleague in Plettenberg Bay.
Of his only year not to win Top Selling Agent nationally he says: “I became complacent….You can’t do that – you have to stay hungry and always have your A-game on.”
Lance Real Estate had its beginnings in Joburg, where Lance made a fortune selling property in snazzy Norwood.
Eventually he was lured to Cape Town and for the last 10 years at Seeff was virtually peerless. But he says, “It was time to move, despite my incredible run.”
When Cohen arrived at the coast in 1996 he ran his agency from his Clifton home with one PA. Now, 24 years later he is back at it from home with his PA and right-hand man Jason de Costa, doing what he does best – selling luxury homes.
“I love selling; it is what I am. Much of the business I get is repeat clients; I take care of people. That’s the key.”
A realist, Cohen realises he is in a challenging market.
“It’s probably in the worst condition I have seen in my 35 years in the industry. A lack of confidence in suppliers such as Eskom and with a precarious economy, times are tight. But what is bad for one sector – sellers – is good news for buyers. The cliché about the tough getting going certainly applies in the real estate jungle – but that’s the way I love it,” Cohen said.
A pragmatist with a clear understanding of how the industry operates, he agrees it is the lower end of the market that is resilient.
The Atlantic seaboard expert is also highly regarded in Malta and other overseas markets. He has been instrumental in sourcing homes for a number of South Africans seeking to emigrate, or to acquire a second home.
The tough guy from Cyrildene became almost tearful as he spoke of his mother’s influence.
“She was a single mom, but a gem; she looked after me as a kid; I looked after her until her death in 2017. I was born on her birthday – January 15. I visit her grave on that day without fail. I wish she was around to see how some things have turned around.”
He speaks with love about his family, wife Susi with whom he has two sons, and his daughter from a previous marriage. “We are a great unit”.
Many people have a Lance story, but what I found most surprising was how much heart he has. Maybe that part wild boy, part top achiever and part big heart is part of the charm that makes him one the top sellers on the Atlantic seaboard..
As I leave, I turn around and see him on his phone. No doubt making another deal in that high-speed Lance way. property360 wishes you all the luck Lance!
Lance Cohen’s three top tips to agents to remain buoyant in tough markets
1 In tough markets remember sellers want to sell, so they generally are more flexible on price making it more of a chance for buyers.
2 A market constitutes a willing buyer and a willing seller, so if needs be, condition your seller and ask them if they want to sell or want to stay
3 Use every opportunity to list more inventory as a buyers’ market can rapidly become a sellers’ market sentiment changes like swing of a pendulum.
Name: Lance Cohen
Estate Agent: 35 years
Owner: Lance Real Estate
Father of three – daughter Montana, sons Daniel and Jordan
Married to Susi, mother of Daniel and Jordan.
The agent to see for: Luxury homes and apartments Atlantic seaboard
Matriculated: King David Johannesburg,
Grew up: Cyrildene
What it takes to be a top agent: Honesty, trust, respect and hard work.
* Want to have tea with Vivian? Email firstname.lastname@example.org