Many of us closed off the year anxiously monitoring the ruling party's executive committee election. For the large part it's important for us to show an active interest in the direction our country is moving in, in the other sense we desire a Government that is transparent and has the best interests of its people at heart. The economy certainly experienced quite a number of dramatic shifts during 2017 and some markets were effected, be it positively or negatively. Harcourts for one experienced defiant growth, showing that many South Africans remain active in an uncertain economy.
What does 2018 hold? It is always difficult making predictions, as there are an enormous amount of factors to take into consideration. With both external and internal elements influencing the markets, forecasting cycles is purely based on interpretation of data.
Taking the trends we're already moving toward into consideration - digital and technological evolution is a major focus point of the property market. We've seen the portals incorporate virtual reality, video functionality and drone capabilities to ensure more detailed data for clients, at Harcourts we're equally dedicated to the advancement of more accurate visual representation of homes. We've also monitored how digital marketing has majorly influenced client and agent interaction, and this is certainly going to intensify during this year. Another technological point being incorporated into the property market internationally and locally is digital funding models - like cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding real estate. This will surely be hot topics throughout the year.
Another point to take note of are the knock on affects of the political climate in South Africa. Often the negative reactions to short term economic changes are only felt the following year. On this point I am very hopeful that there will be more stability in the political messaging from Government, as well as less major ministerial suprises, however this is difficult to predict. Consumers might be in a price pinch for a little while longer, but the market already seems to be gaining momentum. Property outweighs a lot of the immediate reactions due to its long term nature, however the commercial and rental markets might react more sharply to any more surprises.
An element of change in markets across the board which Harcourts is very excited by and spent a lot of time developing and improving is the corporate shift of focus back to client service. The internet has spun the wheel of change into the favour of the client, where it should be, and the prominence of consumer ratings platforms has forced corporate entities to be held accountable for their actions. It is shift that has had to happen. When services are dedicated to impeccable client experiences the bar gets raised and the dynamic in the relationship is strengthened. This is where Harcourts lives.
These are only a few interests I touched on, and there are many other market elements going to progress throughout the year. All in all, we're focused on continuing our incredible growth cycle and maintaining our rapid evolution and client focus.
Harcourts Africa Chief Executive Officer