Estate agency industry slow to transform

In 2009, the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB) addressed transformation concerns in the sector, noting: “The vast majority of estate agency practitioners and enterprises remain overwhelmingly white.”

At that time, the board’s records indicated that approximately 8% of the 50 000 registered estate agents were black. “This compares with the 4% of black estate agents registered at the end of 2007. While progress is apparent this is from a very low base,” the EAAB said.

The EAAB said at the time that it was confident the Property Sector Transformation Charter target of a minimum of 35% black estate agents by 2012 will be met.

In 2016, the Mail & Guardian tackled the apparent lack of transformation in the sector in the wake of the racist comments made by former estate agent Penny Sparrow.

The recent conviction of former real estate agent Vicki Momberg, who was sentenced to an effective two years in prison for her 2016 racist tirade, also put the sector’s transformative capacity in dispute.


“From the barriers to entry faced by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in becoming estate agents — a profession perceived to be lily-white — to the difficulties black people face when trying to buy or rent a home, the problems are manifold,” reads the M&G article.

In the article the EAAB chief executive Bryan Chaplog said that the number of estate agents whom the board classes as previously disadvantaged or black has grown from slightly more than 1 000 in 2005 to 6 337 in the 2015 calendar year — equating to about 17% of the nationwide total of more than 36 700 licensed agents.

But more recent figures indicated by Real Estate Business Owners of South Africa (Rebosa) chief executive Jan le Roux in 2017 paint a different picture.

Le Roux told Property24 that, according to available statistics, around “5% of estate agents registered with the EAAB are black — the residential sales market is undoubtedly dominated by white agents”.

Rebosa and the EEAB have previously been at loggerheads on a number of issues, one of them being the problem of transformation in the sector.

The EAAB is the official statutory regulating authority for the estate agency industry, and every estate agent must, by law, be registered with it. Rebosa, on the other hand, is a professional organisation which supports its members, and membership is voluntary.

Le Roux said that the EAAB’s costs and compliance requirements are prohibitive and that the industry has work to do in this regard, a task frustrated by the structure of the estate agents industry; remuneration is entirely commission-based, which presents a challenge to any entrant into the market, he said.

The EAAB disputed Rebosa’s figures, saying their statistics indicate that of the 38 901 Fidelity Fund Certificates issued about 23% are black.

EAAB spokesperson Bongani Mlangeni conceded to the M&G that “the world of real estate in general and of estate agency in particular is volatile, complex and rapidly evolving”.

Mlangeni explained that the process of becoming an estate agent in South Africa requires often burdensome financial investment in education and training to ensure compliance with the mandatory requirements of a professional estate agent.

He added that it is for this reason that the EAAB is looking at establishing an incubation programme for previously disadvantaged individuals entering the sector.

“The sole purpose of the incubation programme is to assist these individuals with complying to the requirements which also require some financial contribution,” Mlangeni.

In 2012 the EAAB made a similar move to transform the industry when it launched its One Learner, One Agency programme, which was aimed at encouraging the placement of young black people in established estate agencies. But Le Roux said that the programme “left much to be desired”.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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