It all started with an email. A company I had never heard of was asking if I would consider traveling to South Africa to speak at a conference they were hosting. Without thinking much about it I responded yes. A few more emails back and forth and the next thing I knew I was making my first international speaking appearance in Africa!
Logistics are a bit daunting for a trip to Africa. From LAX I would fly to London, Heathrow (about 11 hours), have a few hours lay over and then another flight to Johannesburg (about 11 hours). So basically, it is a 24 plus hour voyage one way. Yikes!
My visit was a huge success and worth every minute investing in flying half way around the world. I was afforded opportunities I couldn’t even imagine and gained insights that I will carry with me always.
First, let me share a bit about the company that made this all happen- Private Property. They are a property search portal on the surface but so much more when you learn about their mission. South Africa has a complicated history and home ownership is not easily within the grasp of most. Government has not been particularly effective at bringing change in this regard. There are very complicated issues like land reform, access to capital and racial divides.
One of the comments that resonated and I heard from multiple people was:
“It’s hard to make it in a capitalist economy if you don’t have access to capital.”
I had the pleasure hearing several state dignitaries and even a former Prime Minister of South Africa speak with passion and commitment on the South African culture and future of home ownership. Getting everyone access to capital is a big focus of the future South Africa.
Despite our many differences, I found many similarities between the real estate professionals in South Africa and those of us in the US and Canada. They are trying to figure out how to better leverage technology, they are engaged in social marketing, they are navigating different business models, they debate franchise versus independent and struggle with how to work more efficiently. Similar themes that we discuss everyday.
I was surprised by how remarkably in tune with the US market they are. They wanted to know about iBuyers, what we thought of Compass and eXp, how virtual brokerages worked and what’s the best way to build a team.
Here are some fast facts I learned about real estate in South Africa:
- There are approximately 33,000 agents. Almost 80% of them are white.
- There are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa.
- Of the top 30 poorest counties in the world, 27 of them are on the continent of Africa. South Africa however, is not one of those 27. Yet, poverty remains a huge issue for Africa.
- Africa has the largest area of undeveloped land in the world. As other continents run out of land and populations grow, Africa can accommodate future growth.
- Standard mortgage rates in South Africa are around 10%.
I was able to make some time to see some of the local landmarks and go on a real African safari. Here’s a video of some of the highlights.