House hunting has advanced considerably over the last three years. Gone are the days where local flyer drops and property advertisements were the main source of buyers. These days, it is all about digital, from the web where buyers can find a host of properties, do digital walk-throughs and send immediate enquiries directly to agents to digital databases, but does this make show houses and sole mandates obsolete?
Although Propstats for example still lists buyer sources as boards, existing, shared, flyer, press, referral, show house, tele enquiries, walk-ins and the web, it really now comes down to just four important aspects that sellers need to be aware of according to Seeff. These include: searches, sources, show houses and sole mandates.
90% of Property searches now start online. The internet has certainly made it easy to find your dream house in the right price range. Ted Frazer, national marketing manager for Seeff says that property portals such as Private Property and Property 24 offer segmented listings so that buyers can quickly find a selection of properties for sale or rent in their price range and area of choice.
Agency websites also offer a birds-eye view of properties within selected parameters, often with additional information about schools and amenities in an area, he says. Buyers can also subscribe to alerts so that they are notified as soon as listings within their search parameters come online.
That said, web fraud is rife and Frazer cautions that buyers should take care to only pursue listings on legitimate portals and agency websites, whether looking to buy or rent. Always verify the origin of the listing and confirm its legitimacy before you book a viewing. Do not provide personal data or pay over any money unless you have verified that the listing and advertising agent is legitimate, he says.
For a seller, the sources that an agent offer is vital. These include a qualified buyer database and referral network as well as vital promotional tools used by the agency to attract buyers according to Ted Frazer. The best agency brands are unlocking the value of digital to ensure that their sources are extensive, well managed digitally, and available at the fingertips of agents and sellers.
Skilled local area agents tend to know exactly what type of buyers are attracted to the area and property types on offer. They also know where their buyers emanate from and are able to tap into this knowledge and network to find the right buyer and the right price.
Roger Mortlock, an agent with Seeff Southern Suburbs says that while the web generates a lot of enquiries, serious buyers still tend to come from show house viewings which remains a vital consideration for any serious seller.
While you can see a lot of the property in online photographs and video material, there is no substitute for a physical visit. Buyers love show days, says the agent, adding that buyers often come from within the area or are alerted to listings by locals. Contrary to belief, many buyers still drive around their area of choice on a Sunday, and if your home is not on show, you could miss out on a potential sale.
Once the buyer sees the property and the neighbourhood in context, it is often the final sway. A show day gives buyers the opportunity to take their time to do a walk-through and ask questions from the agent. It also provides vital buyer feedback on how they view the property in relation to the asking price which is vital for the marketing efforts. A serious buyer will put in an offer as soon as they have seen the property.
A show house also adds an exciting marketing angle as the agent will promote and communicate this to their database and encourage potential buyers to visit and spread the word. It is absolutely worth the few hours on a Sunday, says Mortlock.
With such a proliferation of online property listings, sellers may think that sole mandates are now obsolete, but not so, says Ross Levin, Director for Seeff Atlantic Seaboard, Waterfront and City Bowl. Almost two thirds of all our sales over the last year, were on sole mandate because it is the best tool for sellers.
When you entrust an agent with a sole mandate, you empower them to unlock a host of marketing activities and reach more buyers. It ensures responsibility and accountability and a single point of contact with constant feedback, says Levin.
A sole mandate means that your agent will focus their marketing and it sets off a domino-effect of marketing activities, from “for-sale” boards to canvassing of buyer databases, digital mailers and listing alerts, advertising and networking with other agents in the group, says Levin. A “for-sale” board for example alerts those who might have had their eye on a particular property or know of somebody looking, the same for digital alerts.
Pauline Hareb, sales manager for Seeff Pinelands and Thornton says that in a tough market, sole mandates are especially important. It is a myth to think that having many agents work on selling your property will bring more buyers. Provided the property has been priced correctly, she says that they sell their sole mandates within six weeks on average while open mandates take two to three times longer.
For Sean Guy, a sectional title expert in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, a property that is the subject of multiple listings or advertisements conveys a negative message. It makes it hard for buyers who are likely to simply skip over such a listing or see it as an opportunity for “bargain hunting” which will simply waste the seller’s time.
Rather, sellers should entrust a local area specialist who can show a track record of sales in the area and who is able to present their credentials including a valid Fidelity Fund Certificate and the backing of a credible real estate brand. Bear in mind that property is a significant financial commitment and buyers want to know that they are dealing with a credible estate agent.