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When it comes to the selling, buying or leasing of industrial, retail, commercial, office, hospitality or agricultural premises, Ashleigh Meyers is your girl. The co-founder and principal commercial property broker of LU JACK (Pty) Ltd dishes on everything you need to know to make it in the property game…

Just do it

“Girls are intimidated to join the property world and I don’t blame them – I was too. The position also makes you a commission-earner, which is risky, especially when you’re starting your first job,” says Ashleigh. “When I graduated, I joined a local commercial property brokerage and registered with the EAAB (Estate Agency Affairs Board). At that point, you can operate immediately.”

Find a committed Principal Agent to work under

“Every agency has to have a Principal Real Estate Agent to operate legally and all the company’s agents are registered under their name,” explains Ashleigh. “When deciding on which agency to join, make sure you pick an inspiring and helpful Principal. They will guide you throughout your property career; alternatively, they’ll set you up with a suitable partner to teach you,” she adds.

Here’s how to qualify as a real estate intern

1/ “When you join an agency and register as an agent with the EAAB, you are officially an intern real estate agent.”

2/ “You can do deals and earn commissions immediately thanks to your valid FFC (Fidelity Fund Certificate), which your agency will organise for you once they register you under the company’s Principal Agent.”

3/ “It’s compulsory to complete a 1-year internship at your chosen agency and NQF 4 training. After that, you need to submit a portfolio of evidence that includes tasks and a logbook to the EAAB. This is proof of your internship and showcases what you’ve learnt. Some people get exempt from NQF 4 training if they have enough credits from university, but you don’t need a degree to become an agent.”

4/ “Once your internship period and logbook have been approved, you are eligible to write the PDE 4 exam. Once you pass this paper, you become a Full Status Real Estate Agent. You can then go on to do NQF 5 training and write your PDE 5 exam to become a Principal Real Estate Agent. Becoming a Principal Agent is not compulsory, unless you want to own and operate your own agency and have agents work under you.”

This online material can really help you

1/ “The EAAB website has material that will explain all the requirements to become an agent, along with codes of conduct and other guides.”

2/ “Networking is key in this business and I attend regular events. [I also] have an annual membership with the SA Women’s Property Network. They provide an awesome platform to communicate with other women in the commercial property industry and get educated through online material and events.”

3/ “When I have questions of my own, I visit a Facebook Group called Property Practitioners. [The group’s users include thousands of] property practitioners who share real-life experiences that are relevant and useful in our industry.”

4/ “GetSmarter and UCT also offer an insightful online course about Property Development and another on Commercial Brokering and Law Practice. I’ve done both and enjoyed the experience and flexibility of online learning.”

Why more women need to get involved in property

“With the original structure of so many industries having been designed by men, I’d love to see more women getting involved across the board,” says Ashleigh. She cites the example of public restrooms in old commercial buildings that were built decades ago. “You’ll notice the same number of toilets for both men and women. This is why women wait hopelessly too long in bathroom queues! It’s because female architects were not consulted. A women’s input is invaluable in a scenario like this and it shows that there is a need for our expertise.”

The fact that today we have more female architects than ever before shows the potential for growth in the sector. “Once you can prove yourself as a hard worker who is good at what they do, ‘gender’ falls away. At this point, nobody cares if you are a man or a woman – they [just] want the job done right. First time round.”

How to succeed as a commission earner

“As a commission earner, you need to be disciplined and a huge self-motivator,” says Ashleigh. “You also need to budget your money wisely each month, so if you have an off-month, you’ve got money in the bank to push you through. It’s risky to rely on commission as your sole income, but I’ve learnt that this is the type of business where what you put in, you get out.”

Then be open to performing every role in the business. “One day you might own your own company and you need to know how everything works and how it’s supposed to be done. Make sure you can do everyone’s job,” she says.

The average real estate agent works approximately four hours a day in South Africa – one of the reasons for Ashleigh’s drive to become one of the youngest principal real estate agents in SA!

Lessons Ashleigh would teach her 21-year-old self

1/ Save your money.

“People hire prematurely to get work done that they don’t enjoy. They also spend too much money on overheads they can’t afford or don’t need. As a start-up, you need to be prudent and save every cent. Currently, [with] the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses need cashflow more than ever before to survive. No one could have called the global lockdowns and pandemic crisis. Always be prepared.”

2/ You don’t need a degree to be successful in your field.

“Most of my role models have no formal education and spent many years upskilling and becoming the master of their craft. Don’t compare yourself at the beginning of your career with those who have much more experience, because soon you will be at their level and hopefully teaching them a thing or two!”

3/ Always put your time and energy into things you’re good at.

“Outsource and delegate the stuff you aren’t good at. Throughout my career, I’ve wasted time getting frustrated when I wasn’t well-skilled in a certain department. If you aren’t a numbers girl, that’s fine. Get someone to help you with the numbers and reduce stress. People love helping, so have the guts to ask for help! [Throughout my career] those I’ve asked for help are flattered and more than willing to teach me something.”

Some final pearls of wisdom: “Stop making excuses and ‘out-work’ your peers, regardless of gender. Get a mentor who supports female entrepreneurs and surround yourself with people who want you to thrive. You are not alone. No one achieves anything great in isolation. Learn to love your team and your mentors.”

Connect with Ashleigh

“I love connecting with like-minded individuals and learning something new,” says Ashleigh. “You’ll find SA property updates on my LinkedIn page, plus opinion pieces. We can chat more there about all things property.”

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