Entrepreneur sees gap for 'hybrid' estate agency
Harry Hattingh is the co-founder of Leadhome, a business he calls a "hybrid estate agency, combining the latest technologies with expert agents".
The entrepreneur says he has matched elements of a traditional estate agency with elements of an online estate agency, in a bid to reduce onerous paperwork and administration, while still offering varied marketing and advice from qualified agents.
Hattingh has a legal background and is passionate about the property industry. Leadhome was founded just over three years ago.
Buying and selling
"We use technology to make estate agents more efficient and ensuring the user journey for a seller or a buyer is as smooth as possible. Our agents, and the entire team at Leadhome, work tirelessly to reach an excellent outcome for both the buyer and the seller," Hattingh tells Fin24.
Asked what gap he saw in the market, he says it was the realisation that they could use "the technology of today to build an estate agency for today".
"We aimed to build an agency around the customer, ensuring professional advice and access to information - at a fraction of the cost other estate agencies offer," he explains. "The market is filled with credible and trustworthy brands, but their costs are frequently hefty prices for the customer, so Leadhome is the new alternative."
According to Leadhome's website, between 2010 and 2016, the average price of a South African home increased by 9% per year from R260 000 to R1 060 000.
"Despite this, commission charged by estate agents has remained high at between 5% and 8.5% – translating into an average commission earned of R53 000 to R90 100 excluding VAT). These exorbitant commissions are not an accurate reflection of the effort or costs incurred in selling a property. On top of being overcharged, today’s sellers receive service from their estate agents better suited to the 1980s than 2016," the website argues.
Hattingh says he is the kind of person who likes things to move quickly and with a high level of enthusiasm.
"Although I started my career in law, I realised that it wasn't quite going to quench my thirst for innovation. Leadhome has given us the freedom to innovate in a sector where we can feel the positive impact that our service offering makes on the lives of our clients and team members," he says.
Advice for entrepreneurs
"Being an entrepreneur does mean that there are (sometimes more than a few) things that keep you up at night, but to be honest, I really wouldn't want it any other way."
He says there will always be challenges in any business no matter where it is in its life cycle. "But, in the beginning, as a small operation, our biggest challenge was to keep an emphasis on maintaining a great culture, especially as we scaled," he says.
"Then, as we began to scale, we had to continue to ensure that we kept our clients at the centre of our business philosophy. Today, I'd say that our biggest challenge is to ensure that we remain focused (coffee helps)." His vision is to build the best end-to-end property platform in the industry. "Currently, we're expanding nationally so that we can offer our services in more regions across South Africa. We're also in the process of rolling out a bond origination platform, which focuses on the user experiences and makes it simple to apply to different banks for a bond," says Hattingh.
His advice for other entrepreneurs is to make sure you have a really great idea – an idea that is ten times better than what is already out there.
"Be prepared to do serious amounts of homework to ensure that your vision is financially feasible. Never expect instant success – all good things take time," he advises.