I've been through two of these ceremonies now -- the event where your 6 year old leaves "little" school and says goodbye to their teachers and friends before moving on to Grade 1. It is a weighty moment, especially as they will be asked the question, "What do you want to become when you are all grown up?". Some answers are predictable : teachers, veterinarians, doctors and so on. Others are more off the wall, like having a toy factory or becoming a football star. I've even heard one little guy say that he'd like to work for his friend who is the aspiring owner of the toy factory. Kids are awesome.
But one answer I've never heard. No-one has ever said : "Good evening. My name is Katie. When I grow up, I'd like to become...*drum-roll*...an estate agent".
Before you smack me on the back of the head with a for sale sign, conduct your own research. Poll the man on the street for his opinion. The fact of the matter is that this vocation, at least in the minds of the general public, is teetering on the edge of non-professional status.
I'm not trying to rub salt into the wounds of an already beleaguered industry. To the contrary, I am campaigning for the return of credibility to the profession. The stereotypes might be enduring, but there are thousands of ethical, highly-skilled, experienced individuals and companies who have the ability to redefine our understanding of the trade.
The past few years have been tumultuous, to say the least, with droves of disillusioned brokers leaving the industry. In 2007 there were around 80 000 registered estate agents in South Africa. According to statistics from Lightstone Property Solutions, this number dropped to approximately 30 000 by 2011. The global recession and the ensuing crisis within the real estate market undoubtedly fuelled the call to abandon ship. Predictably, the twin icebergs of dwindling housing demand and lack of consumer confidence caused the hatches to be battened down.
The introduction of regulatory legislation, such as the National Credit Act (NCA) and later the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), redefined the way that real estate brokers conduct business. Compounded by scandals surrounding the mismanagement of funds and the subsequent raising of minimum qualification levels, already limping agencies were all but put out of their misery.
The good news
But the greatest challenges hold the greatest opportunity. Right now, conditions are perfect for agents who have weathered the storm to strategically, and practically, reinvent the way they do business. And, in the process, win back the hearts of consumers.
The key? Add true value. But I'm rushing ahead.
Over the next few weeks we'll be discussing what would it could look like, this better future. Which qualities, values, technologies and business models will define the agency of tomorrow?
One final thought : At the end of 2015 I'll have another opportunity to listen to a group of little people's dreams for the future. Who knows, maybe they will surprise us?
PS: As always, your comments, shares and tweets are welcome. Or whatever else it is the kids are doing these days!