It is smack on the button nine ’o clock in the trendy, elevated, suburb of Lovemore Heights as I leave my car to enter the home of South Africa’s number one estate agent.
I linger for a moment to take in the breathtaking views of Port Elizabeth, framed by the glistening ocean to the east and south, and I get a sense of how it must feel to be on top of the world – Kobie Potgieter’s world.
But the latest winner of the Nedbank Property Professional Awards – the “Oscars” of the real estate industry – has neither time nor inclination to bask in personal glory. According to her, the recognition would have meant little had it not been achieved in service of her clients.
“It might sound like a cliché, but in our industry service is everything,” she says after the exchanging of pleasantries.
Dressed in a crisp cream business suit, Potgieter is a picture of poise and professionalism. Yet, her easygoing nature and warm smile immediately puts me at ease – and I suspect the same to be true for potential clients.
“It is important to listen to your clients – really listen,” she emphasizes the word to make her point. “How can you match someone to a property if you don’t understand his needs?” she asks rhetorically and I find myself nodding in agreement.
“Remember, houses don’t sell themselves – in any type of market. You have to be able to assess the buyer, but so much more than that.
“Knowledge is power too; in our industry and any other. It is essential to know the market, your stock and trends.”
She pauses for a moment, seemingly pondering her next statement. “The correct price is also pivotal. It is imperative to reassess pricing continually as the market fluctuates.”
So what does this latest accolade mean to her?
“I still can’t believe it! It is a huge coup for me, my clients and for the local property industry.
“To be able to compete as equals with the national players prove that we no longer need to see ourselves as the stepchild of the industry.
“We (Nelson Mandela Bay) have become a key player and I believe our role will become even larger. If we play our cards right, we will definitely reap the rewards.
“The sluggish market must be seen as an opportunity for growth,” she offers the insight that has catapulted her to the top. “Now is the time to get investors to buy into our region.
“We have more industrial land available close to harbours than any other city in the country, which makes us very attractive to manufacturing investors in particular.
“Remember, commercial and industrial investment will stimulate the residential sector. “If we can secure capital buy-in now, we could again see phenomenal growth like we did in 2004 as soon as the market stabilises.”
With her finger firmly on the property pulse, Potgieter predicts the market will follow the current downward trend for the next eight to twelve months. “This should be followed by a year of nominal growth, which should set the stage for a return to better times.”
It is clear that her passion for the industry is manifesting itself through her success. At a time when many estate agents are battling to keep their heads above the murky property waters, this mother of two is at the top of her game.
“At the moment I sell an average of twelve (properties) per month,” she answers my next question, just as her mother-in-law arrives with homemade cookies and a hug.
Back to business, Potgieter says that even in this lethargic market her agency – Remax Independent – has only shown a four percent decline in year-on-year sales. “In real terms, this translates to a huge growth in market share.”
As a former educator, her nurturing nature is evident in the way she views her role among her peers. “I want to be approachable,” she sums it up.
She tucks an errant auburn lock behind her ear before continuing on a more serious note. “My personal mandate is to improve the industry as a whole. As its public face, my image is the image of the industry.”
Personally, I feel the industry couldn’t be in better hands.
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