22 August

Some exceptional women have made their way up the ladder in the real estate business.

The role of women in real estate has changed dramatically over the past few decades and women are moving into more senior roles. The result is a growing number of women with their own agencies who are flourishing in the real estate industry.

When Linda Erasmus, CEO of Fine & Country, started her real estate business over 30 years ago, it was still a man’s world and a tough place for a woman to thrive. She didn’t let that hold her back and has therefore achieved staggering success.

Linda initially embarked on her career when her husband, the sole breadwinner, required months of recovery after life-threatening heart surgery and couldn’t work. As a young mother with three children and a sick husband to support, Linda vowed that she would never feel so helpless again and took up the challenge to assist with the household finances.

Linda says, “During my husband’s illness we stayed at a colleague’s house. His wife was a real estate agent and my first introduction to real estate as a business was through this lovely caring family. This was where the seed was sowed.”

When Linda first started out she sold 52 properties in one year. This was an achievement in itself, yet the real achievement, according to her, she explains, was that “all those clients enjoyed and respected my professional service and they all returned to be future clients.

“I always believed that you have to be able to manage another person’s business into success first and foremost, before thinking of starting your own business. I was, therefore, fortunate that I was ready when the next big opportunity came along.

“As a leader, I believe in brand building as it allows for an umbrella that is supported by more than one strong person. All leaders are followers and all followers have to be able to lead as well. Throughout my career, I never planned to be the boss. I simply ensured that I was the best I could be and put all my enthusiasm and energy behind the brand that I endorsed.

“The biggest opportunity came shortly after I decided to sell all three franchises that I owned while on sabbatical. The sabbatical was short-lived as the opportunity to introduce Fine & Country to the South African market soon appeared on the horizon.

“I have come to live my life in a man’s world as far as business is concerned. If you want to be successful in a man’s world, you need to be focused, straight to the point and stick to the basics and the truth. You need to be streetwise, not too hard, not too soft and keep a little touch of femininity. The truth is that although women make great estate agents, they still have a long way to go in terms of dominating at the highest levels. As you ascend the ranks, there is no place for tears and too much emotion. The old cliché that cowboys don’t cry relates well to women in business at the highest pinnacle.

“The biggest step forward for any woman is to be fearless. All men in the boardroom are as scared as you to make the wrong decision. Respect will overcome arrogance in a boardroom and the proof of the pudding remains in the eating.”

Women have the ability to outperform men

According to Spencer Rascoff, the CEO of Zillow Talk, quoting Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate, a New York Times bestseller, gender does matter. Zillow’s data suggest if you want to buy a home, look for a female real estate agent.

“The difference between the genders is incredibly small, but it is statistically significant. When we look at selling a home, women sell for higher prices and sell faster. In our minds, that makes them the victors in this battle of the sexes.” (Zillow Talk, page 154)

Women tend to be more meticulous. They have a natural skill to look at properties in detail, and decide how to make the most out of the deal appropriately. They also give sharp attention to clutter, design and colour; and their nurturing nature leads to them being more passionate when sending birthday cards and keeping in touch with clients.
Therefore, it is not surprising that female real estate agents are becoming more popular in the real estate market.

Women in real estate today

Women currently dominate the residential real estate market, especially in sales, but men still hold the majority of top positions and a much smaller percentage of women fill middle management positions. However, one must not forget to mention great ladies, such as Aida Geffen and Pam Golding who paved the way for women in real estate.
Linda would like to see more women filling these middle management positions in future. She says, “They are the unsung heroes in the industry; the women behind the great CEOs, the women who head up single franchises and real estate businesses.”
Linda explains, “Moving up in the hierarchy from a sales consultant to management is where the playing field becomes more competitive. As a woman, you have to work much harder to be considered in management positions and you cannot be only one step ahead; you have to stay five steps ahead to make it so obvious that no one can argue about how good you are.”

Exciting times await women in real estate

There are still inequalities, but the gap is closing, slowly but surely. Women are increasingly becoming more prominent. Women have shown that they can perform at the same level as men, can hold their own in leadership positions and can inspire by example.

Linda concludes with a famous quote from Nelson Mandela at his investiture at Clark University in Atlanta, Georgia on 10 July 1993, “We accept that language, culture and religion are important indicators of identity.” She adds, “I would urge women in the workplace to stand for something. If you do not stand for something, you will fall for everything. Manipulation to improve your own position may last a short time, but standing tall for great principles will last you a lifetime.

“If you travel the world, you soon realize how badly women were treated in many countries and if you do business in many other countries, you also realize how many men still treat a woman’s opinion as secondary.

“If we want to have a better life for our children, it can only happen through a united voice of women in the world today. Without the women in South Africa, the struggle against apartheid would have been a lost cause – this alone shows the strength of women as a support group. Let us unite to save the world.”
Now that’s some advice to live by.

Do you have a favourite woman in real estate that’s been an inspiration to you and your career? Let’s share success stories.

Linda Erasmus is Chief Executive Officer of Fine & Country sub-Saharan Africa.

Readers can contact her on 082 322 0079 or lindaerasmus@fineandcountry.com or visit www.fineandcountry.com

Rosemary Hare Public Relations
P O Box 12521

Fine & Country International Realty
29 Autumn Street
Please contact Rosemary Hare on 082 459 6226 or rose@rosehare.co.za for more information.