Extending the Kingdom in KZN

2007-11-20 00:00

Charles and Liz Nhliziyo run their property company Kingdom Estates from offices in the Durban suburb of Glenwood and in Pinetown. It is a business that gives witness both to their entrepreneurial instincts and their personal values.

Both originally hail from Zimbabwe (although Liz was born in Soweto, leaving at the age of two with her South African mother and Zimbabwean father) and came to South Africa in 1998. Charles was in banking.

Liz's field was marketing, which saw her working for Beacon Sweets, Smith and Nephew and being in at the start of Durban's uShaka Marine World. “There's nothing quite like being part of the beginning of a new brand,” she says. “What with uShaka Marine World and then getting Kingdom Estates off the ground there was quite a lot of adrenalin!”

Going into the property industry started out as something of an experiment, says Charles. “I started as an agent with ProProp in Pinetown - although totally different from banking, in some respects banking had given me a feel for commerce and realty is part of that. But it was really a step of faith. And faith is what really drives us.

“God's hand was upon me at that time, he showered his blessings on me,” says Charles. Those blessings included frequent awards as a top-selling agent. “That gave me the encouragement to take it a step further - to start out on my own.”

Charles and Liz discussed the move and Charles decided to take on a ProProp franchise in Durban's Central Berea. In 2003 that was a brave move. “It was a hard time for sales,” recalls Charles. “The market was going the same way as now. But we made it work.”

The next logical step was to launch a totally new business and Liz resigned from uShaka Marine World so they could create it together. “I needed her muscle,” says Charles. Together they started Kingdom Estates. “We are born-again Christians,” says Liz. “We believe we are working for God's kingdom, we saw it as fitting to call our business Kingdom.”

Charles says that the name helps them to keep their focus. “We are about serving people, that is the focus of our original vision. The word Kingdom encompasses everything, it's what we are.”

In creating the Kingdom brand Liz acknowledges they set about targeting an obvious gap in the market. “One could clearly see there were no black agencies. I don't want to label ourselves ‘black', but language is an issue and a house is a top value item; we saw ourselves being able to talk one-on-one with black people in their own language, whereas they often find it threatening and intimidating to deal with a white agent. However, we envisaged targeting a particular client base and in fact our clientele is a whole mix.”

When Kingdom Estates opened in August 2004 they concentrated on flats and townhouses. “We were training the agents ourselves and we wanted to build up their confidence,” says Charles.

Now Kingdom Estates has moved into general property and opened an agency in Pinetown. However, Charles concedes, like 2003 this is not a great time for the property industry. “It's a buyers' market at the moment,” he says. “Which means it takes a little longer for buyers to make up their minds, which means there is more property on the market. This slows down sales.”

But there is more to Kingdom Estates than buying and selling property. Charles and Liz are now branching out into property development, starting with a low-cost housing project. “It's very much a pilot project at the moment,” says Charles. “But we have four houses we will have finished by December before going further.

“In the suburbs the entry level right now is about R550 000 to R650 000 for a three-bedroom house. That's expensive for young people at the entry level into the market. Their only choice is to build for themselves or to buy something cheap. We want to offer a solution to that, so that they can purchase a good basic home for R300 000 to R400 000.

“We want to address an imbalance,” says Charles. “We want to address the low end of the market. This also comes out of our love of God and our love of people - the whole idea is to give people something of value.”

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