There’s a well-known French saying that goes like: “With every misfortune comes good fortune”. Every industry faces challenges that must be overcome to survive and prosper. The property industry is no different, and it has certainly had its fair share of challenges. This thriving industry was first battered by the drought which started six years ago. The entire local economy was affected, with doomsday talk of Day Zero, the day when all taps would run dry.
Drought followed by Pandemic
This three-year drought proved a real blow for all businesses, not least in the property sector. By 2018, rains had returned, and businesses gradually started to return to solvency. However, by early 2020, new storm clouds were gathering on the horizon with talk of a dreaded virus. In March 2020, just when Capetonians thought the water crisis was safely behind them, Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic. Lockdown followed almost immediately. While the property sector may have weathered the drought, this pandemic threatened to sink the entire local and global economy. Property turned from a seller’s to a buyer’s market virtually overnight and a struggle to survive ensued.
Innovation as a Survival Strategy
As the Covid storm raged, the property industry, including buyers and sellers, battened down the hatches, and all sectors did their best to ride out the storm. Job losses, reduced incomes, and lower salaries became the norm. What ensued, was the paralysis of the housing market and related sectors, affecting homeowners, landlords, tenants, lawyers, deeds office and the banks. The rug had been pulled from beneath everyone’s feet, leaving virtually no room for manoeuvrability.
Misfortune turns to Good Fortune
One example of how to turn misfortune into good fortune. He knew that no aid would be forthcoming, as with the water crisis. Given his limited resources, and negligible overdraft facilities, he realised a survival strategy had to be devised. The most important component of his enterprise was his personnel, including several family members. He suspended all outstanding office rental and other payments but opted to keep paying wages and salaries for as long as he could.
With sales non-existent, Harold was forced to reduce his worker’s incomes and consolidate his other businesses such as his restaurant. With a limited overdraft and short-term liquidity, the challenges were clear. Communication was key, and Harold conducted meetings and negotiations with various landlords regarding rentals. He realised they were all in the same boat, and through regular communication, they granted him leeway, allowing him to continue his operations for the duration of the lockdown.
A Break in the Clouds
When the first major lockdown began to ease, Harold’s several websites and property portals started to receive a stream of enquiries from prospective buyers requesting viewings and information. Like the Chinese characters, he realised that crisis and opportunity were two sides of the same coin. After an urgent Zoom management meeting, the Jawitz team decided to segment their stock into two basic categories.
- Urgent sellers
- Empty homes where sellers were not in residence or had already emigrated, presented no health risks. In this case, agents would unlock the home, remain in the car allowing potential buyers to view the property in safety. Before locking up and leaving, the home would be filmed to create a virtual showhouse to show other potential buyers.
Despite the Covid limitations, he knew that their future survival would be assured, provided his team grasped the opportunity for future sales. Members of his team pooled their talents, promoting sales, and using a creative combination of promotional tools. These included websites, high-level photography, drone technology, and virtual video tours of the properties on offer. Given the Internet’s global reach, another benefit of virtual videography and digital marketing was that overseas buyers with capital began to respond. These buyers could see that this area of the Cape was a treasure trove of natural beauty, offering good value, especially with international currencies. Increased market share and rising sales were proof that this strategy was working.