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REAL ADVICE: Part 4: Estate agents tell all

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The top piece of advice for buyers and sellers from Susan Watts, broker/manager at Re/Max Living City Bowl: it’s better safe than sorry—always double check email banking details and agent certification.

Watts has spent her entire career at Re/Max, starting as a junior manager in 2007 and rising the ranks of partner and broker/manager at the City Bowl office.

Q: What does being a broker/manager entail?

So the agents have their clients, and I get to interact with the clients sometimes. But the agents are generally my clients.

I assess the financials, look at systems management and where we can streamline things. You’ve got your daily logistical nightmares like broken printers. Then the marketing side, which is constantly changing with so many different target markets reading newspapers, on Instagram and Facebook.

And the industry is changing so fast – you need to look at how you change your systems to adapt. For instance the new Rental Act, new Property Practitioners Bill and recent amendments to the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (FICA) all mean we need to adapt.

Q: How will this recent legislation affect the average buyer and seller?

FICA entails quite a bit of documentation. It’s there for good reason- to weed out people that may be trying to use the real estate industry to launder money.

I hope the Property Practitioners Bill assists in ensuring people who are not licensed correctly can’t trade. There’s a lot of that at the moment.

Q: How can agents be trading without a license?

There’s no protection for the client if there’s a client working with one of these agents or one of these firms that don’t hold a licence. The agent has to hold a certificate with the current year—so if you’re you’re in 2019 and they produce a 2017 certificate that is a problem. Clients can ask to see a certificate, same as a traffic cop can ask for a driver’s licence. If you don’t have a driver’s licence you shouldn’t be driving, it’s the same with a real estate.

Watts stresses the importance of checking agent certification, thereby ensuring Estate Agency Affairs Board protection. Video: Abbie Wolf

Q: Any other tips for sellers when picking an agent?

It’s generally the agent promising you the world who isn’t able to give you that. You want somebody who is going to take the time to do the research on what’s happening in the area and give you a realistic plan.

Q: How about tips for buyers currently looking for a property?

Don’t be shy, ask for as much information as possible. I’m finding buyers are looking superficially. They look at a property, love it and put in an offer. Check the financials for the body corporate check and read the minutes of the last annual general meeting (AGM).

Sometimes buyers work on emotional decision. They’re almost too scared to ask because they love the property and don’t want to find something wrong with it.

The other thing for buyers is don’t be shy to put in a low offer. If the property is on for three million you fall in love, but can only afford two million, put in two million.

Don’t be worried that you’re going to offend the seller. It’s a business decision, the seller just says no if they don’t like the offer. If you don’t get it accepted, move on to the next property.

Q: Any real estate horror stories?

There is a huge amount of internet fraud going on at the moment. They specifically target real estate because there’s so much money being transferred between companies.

The client receives an email with banking details. Somebody in the line of communication intercepts that email and changes the bank account details and the money disappears.

Watts explains step-by-step on how clients can take matters into their own hands by checking banking verification. Video: Abbie Wolf

Q: How is this post-election market?

Everything’s very much the same as before the election, but there’s definitely a lot more activity, which generates sales—more buyers looking, more leads off the Internet, more call ins—just an increase in general activity and positive sentiment in South Africa.

Q: How about foreign buyer activity?

We actually have a lot more foreign buyers than last year, it’s great to see so much interest in the country. The Re/Max brand is recognised in over 100 countries internationally, so there’s automatically that trust.

We have buyers from Portugal, the Netherlands, America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria as well. We speak 10 or 11 languages across all our agents, with 12 fluent German speakers alone.

Q: Where would you invest if you had between R1 and R1.5 million?

The City Bowl is difficult, there are very few properties in that price range. You will be able to pick up a little bachelor flat. One at the moment is on for just below R1 million. I think that will be snapped up quite quickly.

You could find something small in Woodstock. I have a personal affinity to the Woodstock and Observatory area. It’s a really nice integrated suburb: fun, vibey, young, a lot of different kinds of people.


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