A life before franchising
“Before getting into real estate in January 2005, I was a florist and an events co-ordinator,” says Ananda du Plessis. “My brother-in-law invited me to work as an agent in his RealNet franchise in Centurion.
I loved it and wanted to make a career of it. I worked in the Midstream Estate area and this was where I did my first property transaction. I worked in the area for two years before I met Lynette.”
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Lynette Gregorowski, a former theatre nurse says, “I was selling properties in the Silver Lakes Golf Estate for two years until my family and I moved to Midstream Estate in 2006, where I eventually became a principal for an independent real estate brand, and then I met Ananda.”
Developing a great partnership
Now both residents at Midstream, du Plessis and Gregorowski were introduced through a RealNet franchisee.
“Once we met, we became friends and we’d even tag along with each other when we had clients. We realised we’d make a great business partnership as we share the same values and work ethic, and we trust each other. We’re both experienced and successful in our own right and have our own strengths,” says Gregorowski.
“I was already working in the Midstream territory as an agent for RealNet Centurion from January 2005. RealNet was the obvious choice because of the strong brand and great culture. That was what we were looking for in a business, and with our strengths combined, we’d have an excellent business partnership,” says du Plessis.
Getting (and keeping) the best agents
“During the initial stages we needed estate agents, so we recruited two great agents from other estate agencies and incentivised them with generous commission splits. The method behind our madness was for them to help us gain market share and establishing our brand. We have since revisited our commission splits to be more sustainable over the medium- to long-term.”
“The biggest challenge we faced while building our reputations and business was other estate agents. Competition is fierce because the estate is so desirable;it’s grown from only a handful of houses to about 4 500, and is ever-growing with launches of new areas for development. We’ve invested a lot of time, money and effort into building our business and the brand, focusing on professionalism, good work ethics, service delivery, after-sales service and customer care, as a lot of our business is referral based,” says Gregorowski.
“There are limited marketing opportunities inside the estate as there are numerous restrictions. We use marketing initiatives outside of the estate by means of billboards and ‘On Show’ boards before entering the estate. We have two branded Mini Coopers and are also fortunate to have a shop-front office at the local Midstream shopping centre,” says du Plessis.
“A challenge in our estate is definitely the number of estate agents registered to market property there. It’s very competitive and we always have to keep one step ahead to maintain our market share.”
Highs and lows of real estate
“Last year we had one of our best years to date, breaking our own record in selling properties in Midstream. Yes, the market is inconsistent, but we are fortunate to have established ourselves during the past eight and a half years,” says du Plessis.
“We’ve now grown our team to nine agents and one office manager,” says Gregorowski. “Strict policies and procedures are the success for this all-ladies team – diffusing tension and also helping to motivate, support and encourage the team.”
Going into business
“If we could’ve done one thing differently, it would be to have business premises on the estate right away,” says du Plessis.
“Up to March 2014 we had premises at a small mall nearby the estate. As a close knit community with everything inside, we saw a noticeable difference in sales, brand building and growing our reputation once we leased inside the estate,” says du Plessis.
“Notwithstanding an existing client base, our focus was on starting the business. We only did our first sale in the partnership after six months and we earned our first commission after nine months. From then on we went from strength to strength building our business, recruiting estate agents and selling houses.
“We had the best three years thereafter, even winning ‘RealNet Franchise of the year 2010’. The years that followed exceeded our expectations and we won another ‘Franchise of the year award’ in 2013 and numerous other awards. We recruited some of the best estate agents the estate had to offer and we are very proud of their accomplishments!” says Gregorowski.
Relationship with your franchisor
“I was attracted to RealNet initially because it felt like a family business with everyone there to support you. RealNet has an open door policy and we have a good relationship with our group MD, Jan Davel. We have confidence and peace of mind to always rely on our franchisor for mentorship and assistance, and they’re always available to us,” says du Plessis.
“Even now we still ask for help when we need it, for example we changed from a CC to a PTY and we needed their legal expertise. Now, we find the kind of help we need is with corporate governance, and RealNet is there to help us,” says Gregorowski.
How has your business changed in a ‘captive market’?
We’re saving up finance so we can open another office on the estate and bring on more estate agents with a view to remain the second largest estate agency (after the developers) on the estate. We’ll also broaden our attention to include Southdowns and Irene residential developments,” says du Plessis.
“We are currently expanding our franchise territory and are also looking to increase our rental book. We are always interested in recruiting more top class estate agents and we are very excited for what the future holds!”