How to innovate in the real estate market through niche services in the luxury segment.
With over 60 real estate agencies competing for sole mandates across the country, it is near impossible for new agencies to break into the high-end property market.
Julia Finnis-Bedford, owner of Amazing Spaces a film locations company, and Andrew Dewey, managing director of a national property services company, have joined forces to overcome this barrier by expanding the Amazing Spaces offering into a lifestyle property investment division, called Amazing Spaces Lifestyle Investments.
To qualify for the Amazing Spaces Lifestyle Investments portfolio, properties do not necessarily have to be upmarket or “luxury” but have to be unique to capture the new trend in buying after the pandemic.
Dewey explains that being forced to stay at home because of the lockdown and the freedom to work remotely from anywhere in the world have resulted in buyers putting more emphasis on the design and artistic expression of a home, outdoor spaces with views to match, home offices that evoke creativity and features that reflect their distinctive taste.
“For many, a home has now become almost like clothing or cars – an expression of who they are,” Dewey says.
Amazing Spaces Lifestyle Investments was formally launched in June this year, when their website also went live. “We wanted to get all the admin, our staff structure and the website in place before opening up for business,” Finnis-Bedford says.
The launch of a residential real estate agency has been a long time coming for Dewey and Finnis-Bedford, who were both waiting for the right time and the right partner to venture into the residential real estate market.
“Things finally clicked when I met Andrew during an Entrepreneurship Organisation meeting towards the end of last year,” Finnis-Bedford says.
The two make a perfect match: Dewey because he is a principal agent with extensive experience in commercial property and Finnis-Bedford because of her strong network of high-end clients and portfolio of unique spaces, built through her international film locations company Amazing Spaces.
“Amazing Spaces has paired film crews from all over
the globe with the most sublime settings offered by
South African properties since 2000, with many of the clients over the years enquiring about opportunities to purchase location properties,” she says.
The company has so far employed three consultants and someone with a property studies degree to run the office, allowing Finnis-Bedford and Dewey to focus on the business side of things.
“Our property consultants come with experience and tertiary qualifications to add value to thesales process by guiding buyers in a professional manner and helping them to make the most of their investments. With this market segment, it is not enough to just list a property and hope for the best, you have to add some value,” Dewey says.
Where most other companies expect agents to focus on specific regions, their consultants focus on the buyers, and matching these buyers with their “ideal” property.
The company also offers after-sales services via Amazing Spaces to help clients who want to generate additional income through location shoots or holiday rentals, offering an attractive return on investment.
Building the brand
Since its launch, Amazing Spaces Lifestyle Investments have listed ten properties, most of which are in the Western Cape.
Finnis-Bedford says that the company will expand its agent base into Johannesburg, Pretoria, KwaZulu- Natal and other areas as their portfolio grows in these regions. The idea, however, is to keep the company boutique-sized.
Finnis-Bedford points out that most of their clients are from overseas or looking to relocate from Johannesburg to the Western Cape. “South Africa is high in demand thanks to our exquisite landscape and desirable climate, with low interest rates rendering it even more appealing at the moment.”
Most of their marketing is done via traditional channels, such as their website, direct marketing campaigns, social media and online portals in SA and the UK. They also employ a specialist company to help identify and target clients that suit their portfolio.
One of their biggest challenges so far has been to source properties that comply with their mandate criteria.
Says Dewey: “Everybody thinks their home is special, but to qualify for our portfolio the properties should have some historical significance and/or tell a story, be designed by a renowned architect or embody artistic architectural features worth noting and/or be technologically smart. The size of the building, land, and location are also of importance. In essence it must be amazing.”