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REAL ADVICE: Part 2: Estate agents tell all

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World-traveller, mom and Sea Point market specialist. Lyonelle Venter, Jawitz property consultant, shares her journey to the Atlantic Seaboard, tips for buyers and how to avoid commission breath.

Q: How does an Australian end up in Cape Town real estate?

 I left Australia to travel the Europe and was based in London. I just kind of fell into the industry in the letting department at a large established brand. Initially I was blown away by the homes and lifestyles in central London.

I met my South African husband working for the same company in London. After moving to Cape Town and having two kids, I started at Jawitz Properties.

Venter brought the art of negotiation and contractual law knowledge from her time in London to the Sea Point market. Video: Abbie Wolf

Q: So how did the transition to the Sea Point market in 2009 go?

I just got back to basics—picking up the phone introducing myself to people and doing the hard work.

Q:What’s the key to all those calls?

You’ve just got to be an authentic person and comfortable with building relationships so that people trust you. If you can do that, you’re a winner. An agent can make the most phone calls in the office, but if the quality of  those calls is poor, you don’t get anywhere.

Q: What’s the hardest part of your job?

Finding balance and self-care. In tough markets agents fall into the trap of having what I refer to as “commission breath”—a desperate need to make a  deal. Managing angst in down markets requires self-care, remembering to  breathe while plodding with the activities.

Sometimes you actually need to take some time out for yourself too and it’s tough to take that step in this business because it’s so easy to fall from the top, but really hard to get back up there again.

Venter with her two sons, Max, 13, and Benjamin, 11. Picture: Supplied by Lyonelle Venter

Q: Any advice for buyers?

The best advice I can give to buyers in this market is to get themselves prepared financially, pre-qualified and in a position to make a strong offer when they find the right home. Markets can turn over night and you need to be geared to make a quick decision.

Also, whatever they fall in love with, one must have a fundamental understanding of the runnings behind the scheme. Every agent should be able to provide the latest financials, minutes from the last annual general meeting (AGM) and the conduct rules for the building.

Otherwise they can get caught out in special levies. For example, if you read the AGM minutes you might see that there’s a problem going on with the lift.

You’d be surprised how many agents actually don’t offer that information. For me, the first thing I do when I get a listing is track it all down and keep it on file. Everybody who shows interest gets a pack.

Q: How do you stay motivated in tough economic times?

Regardless of whether the economy’s good or bad, it’s always tough in real estate. There’s never a perfect market, or equal supply of buyers and sellers. So we’re in real estate we’re always adapting, evolving and shifting gears, but we’ll never find the equal. It’s just about being level headed and resilient.

Q: Any industry horror stories?

This one time in London, I left my keys on the outside of a flat door and it suddenly slammed shut. I actually locked myself inside. It was such a long time ago, cell phones weren’t attached to you like they are now, I think it was in my car. So I had to yell to neighbours and eventually got myself out.


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