The property industry needs radical change

Khanyisile Nkosi

Khanyisile Nkosi

Portia Tau-Sekati, chief executive of the National Association of Real Estate Agencies (Narea), is not happy about the small number of blacks in the property industry.

Her concern has led to her coming up with an aggressive strategy to reverse the situation.

Tau-Sekati has been at the helm of Narea since 2006. She says there is an urgent need to transform the industry.

Of the 92000 estate agents registered with the regulating body, the Estate Agency Affairs Board, only eight percent are black - five percent Africans, one percent coloureds and two percent Asians.

Narea was formed three years ago to look after the interests of the industry.

Tau-Sekati says Narea has a mandate to grow the number of black agents and is expected to increase it to 25percent by 2012.

"That is still not enough. People in the driver's seat should aim for more than 25percent to make a real impact," she says.

She believes there are many reasons for the small number of blacks in the industry. "History and cultural differences have played a big part," Tau-Sekati says.

She adds that black people, being low income earners historically, have not been able to buy houses. The white-dominated property industry has focused on middle-to-high income groups, but affordable housing and an emerging black middle class has seen black agents entering the market.

Tau-Sekati says: "Affordable housing is driving the market. It is becoming the new big thing for property and is growing at 20percent to 40percent, while middle-to-high income housing is growing at fourpercent to six percent."

Tau-Sekati, who has extensive experience in marketing and has worked in the US as part of a team that drove strategies on global brands, says part of her plan to get blacks into the industry includes running workshops where key industry players will provide information on how to enter the sector and run sustainable businesses.

Getting existing black real estate agents to remain in the game is her priority.

Tau-Sekati says Narea is providing black agents with information and resources to grow and sustain their businesses.

The medium-term plan includes getting unemployed graduates into the industry.

"They will work in a practising agency for a year before they are registered," she explains.

The long-term plan is to introduce high school pupils and school-leavers to the programme. Pupils will shadow agents during school holidays to learn about the industry.

"The aim is to introduce the industry as a career of choice," Tau-Sekati says.

She says the industry makes about R11 billion in profits every year, making it the most profitable industry after mining.

"The property industry has everything that many people are looking for. People want flexibility and comfort. They want to earn well, and be able to do important things such as fetching their kids from school and so on.

"I cannot stress enough the opportunities that exist in property, especially for black people, but it won't be for too long," Tau-Sekati warns.