In 2008 brothers, Dickson and Philip Swanepoel sat in the living room of their Windhoek flat during the height of the United States subprime mortgage crisis that preceded the global recession.
They conceived a way to revolutionise the Namibian property industry and thus YellowSquare Properties was born. 10 years later, during the height of Namibia’s own economic crisis, YellowSquare Properties is a diamond in its industry, receiving the First Prize at Standard Bank as best Estate Agency of the year 2018.
With over 50 estate agents, YellowSquare Properties is one of Namibia’s biggest Real Estate Agencies, but this came through ten years of hard work and calculated operations, and manager Dickson funnelled the experience he had gained at Pam Golding Properties (PGP) in Stellenbosch, South Africa where he proudly established a successful rental department.
“We realised that there is a gap in the market as
there was no platform or assistance for one-man estate agencies as they had to run a full business, manage trust accounts and also service their clients and received no professional training in the industry. We then started the business to provide this platform including education to improve all the estate agents’ skills in the industry,” Dickson tells TF.
Growth was slow at the beginning but with patience and commitment
the brothers improved the company’s value and education that was offered to the estate agents. Now estate agents want to join YellowSquare Properties as they hear through friends and other estate agents that it is the best Estate Agency to join because of the relevant industry training and the great support platform they can use. So now, when their agents get Standard Bank Silver Millionaires Club awards for giving the bank business worth millions, it is not a surprise, it is expected.
Due to the platform and education offered to the estate agents they have hence become more professional and self-educated and motivated other estate agents to join YellowSquare Properties. This in return has caused their number of estate agents to grow to more than 50 estate agents this year. This education, the brothers believe, was the tipping point for YellowSquare Properties and effective team dynamics keep it going. And they capped of 2018 in style.
“Four of our estate agents won six awards at the FNB and Standard Bank, FNB, Nedbank and Bank Windhoek prize giving this year and YellowSquare Properties received the First Prize at Standard Bank as best Estate Agency of the year.” Early on, Dickson realised that the best way towards prosperity for the company was investing in his real estate agents, and thus he assembled the most diverse group of agents, ranging from all cultures in Namibia and some beyond.
The company keeps abreast with technology and employs the latest techniques to market properties and source clients nationally and
internationally. In fact, technology is another instrumental component of the business’ operational setup. The website www.yellowprop.com is one of their biggest marketing platforms used to acquire most of their clients.
The website attracts more than 6000 visitors per month from all over the world.
A large portion of the company’s marketing budget is spent on the advertisement and branding through several advertising mediums on the internet to attract clients to the website. Thus, having a team that can communicate and relate with a diversity of property buyers and sellers becomes of paramount importance.
“Buying, selling and renting property is one of the most stressful situations during any person’s life and it is easier for clients to trust an estate agent who is of the same culture who they can relate with and who can also speak their language to make the whole process less stressful,” Philip says. The dynamism of two brothers who come from almost two polar opposite career paths has created a ground for success for the company. Dickson has brought his property and contract skills that he learned from Pam Golding as well as computer and marketing skills to the YellowSquare platform to create the best platform for estate agents to use while Philip, an established lawyer, brought his law and business skills to the platform to set up a good foundation for the business. When the brothers spend time together, they are always talking about business and discuss different opportunities as this is a topic that both of them enjoy talking about.
There is a YellowSquare Properties today, don’t be surprised if there is a BlueSquare Financials, or some other business venture, tomorrow. Recently, the brothers also established a sister company called Golden Transfers (www.goldentransfers.com), which in short is a property related business that does member’s transfers of property that is owned by Close Corporations (CC) at a 20% reduced cost to what the attorneys charge in Namibia. This encourages more clients to save costs when they purchase property in CC’s. Of course, with the largest pool of estate agents for a Namibian Agency, and being the responsibility of one man –Dickson, who runs the day to day side of business, there is effort that goes into overseeing such a team in the daily liaisons between buyer, seller and agent while ensuring professionalism, quality service is provided, and all the company’s values are kept.
He gives regular training to the estate agents and uses technology to the company’s advantage to communicate with the estate agents in a group and also gives personal attention and training to the individual agent where he sees training is required. This is an ongoing process that requires a lot of patience and commitment on improving each individual estate agent’s skills.
“Most people that enter the property industry think it is easy and a get rich quick solution, while this is not the case. Only about 10% of estate agents that write the exam and enter the property industry succeed and survive. While only 2% are really successful and make a good income. It is a tough industry and people do not realise how much hard work it takes to become successful in this industry. Estate agents need to be self-motivated and driven to be successful in this industry,” Dickson says. His business mantra is modelled around being a stickler for doing things right. He peruses contracts three times over and keeps himself informed with latest rules that regulate his industry.
“Once you follow these rules as your basic guideline it makes things easier as you know how to guide clients and estate agents according to these rules. I like to encourage and motivate the estate agents as they
all require this throughout the year to stay positive and active in the market. Even the best estate agents require this motivation!” In deed he has to keep up with the industry’s regulations. Afterall, the housing market is one of the most complex industries in Namibia and understanding all of its nuances and technicalities is something economists go and study for years for, but what is clear is that the high demand and limited supply of houses in Windhoek has been pushing prices at an average of 11% per annum since 2007 according to banking reports. This saw Namibia hold the world’s highest property inflation in 2015, beating Dubai.
Earlier this year, however, the Namibian housing market saw a drop in prices for houses for the first time in a decade.
Amidst this, while many have criticised the free market and called for a rent control board, Dickson argues that the biggest advantage in a free market is that the economy will automatically adjust prices due to client’s willingness to pay what they are prepared to pay. “We have seen property sales only going through when prices are lowered up to 30% lower than bank valuations and property rentals only happening when owners lower their rent up to 30% lower than the previous year’s rent that they received. In the current market if you must sell you have to adjust your prices accordingly so that your property offers the best value in its price range.”
Away from his home office, Dickson spends most of his free time with his family and will read books and play some games to relax over weekends. He also loves camping and being in the outdoors where he can drink a cold beer with family and friends on occasion. “For 2019, our vision is to be the number one Real Estate Agency across the nation by expanding our property portfolio further to all corners of Namibia and our focus is to improve the professionalism and education of the estate agents to provide the best results.”
…The Founder also sat down with four of YellowSqaure Properties’ award-winning agents to find out about their recipes for success.
TF: Tell us about your experience working at YellowSquare Properties?
Aina Sheya: When I became an estate agent, YellowSquare is the first and only company I worked for, I have received all the training and mentoring from YellowSquare Properties, to me it’s the best Real Estate company in Namibia.
Beverly von Luttichou: It’s an independent flexible company to work for.
Rina de Bod: YellowSquare is a well-established company with numerous experienced agents, which make it profitable to work with.
Irmgard Hamayulu: Choosing YellowSquare firm is one of the best decisions I have made in my life, it was easy to adopt. I have learned so much and gained so much experience through teamwork, professionalism and learned
to always strive to be the best that I can be. I have met friends, role models and mentors.
TF: Tell us about your personal highlights in the property market for 2018,
including awards received?
Aina: Awards: -Standard Bank (Gold Millionaire Award Winner) 10 Million and above award -Nedbank 5 Million and above award. It was a tough year, but for me the word tough provokes me and create opportunities for me to win, I love challenges.
Beverly: Awards: -FNB 5 to 10 Million award -Bank Windhoek 4 Million and above award. Highlights were the trainings we received in 2018 by implementing the new learnings as well as execution.
Rina: Awards: -FNB 5 to 10 Million award. Although the market was difficult in 2018, it is very rewarding working with previous, loyal clients.
Irmgard: Awards: Standard Bank (Silver Millionaire Award Winner) 7 Million and above award. Every single day in real estate is my highlight, but being the standard Bank Silver award winner was my favourite, I was not expecting it, it was all a dream. It was just a year since I started.
TF: What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about being a real estate agent?
Aina: People think it’s easy to sell properties, and they think we get paid high commission for doing little, but this job required a lot of dedication, it’s not as easy as people think.
Beverly: Majority come into the business not knowing the core fundamentals of the business and think it’s an easy industry as well as quick money.
Rina: Being an estate agent is hard work, and not easy money as people think it is.
Irmgard: When I started, I was told “YOU CAN NEVER MAKE IT AS A PART TIME REAL ESTATE AGENT” honestly, you can make it everywhere, all you need is to prioritise, believe and serve your clients at your best of your capability.