August is Women’s Month and The Property Pod is profiling leading women in South Africa’s commercial property sector.
In this episode, I speak to Matseleng Mogodi, the founder and principal of real estate agency Snooks Estates.
Mogodi is a former teacher turned entrepreneur and has been in business and the sector for over 23 years.
It has not been an easy road for Mogodi, with the residential real estate agency arena in South Africa being one of the least transformed, especially from an ownership perspective.
She has certainly shaken things up in the sector in Soweto, where she opened her first branch.
Today she has six branches in greater Johannesburg and over 40 staff. But her dream is to take the Snooks Estates brand nationally through franchising.
Highlights of this special Women’s Month podcast in which Mogodi shares her story appear below.
You can also listen to the full podcast above or download it from iono, Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Alternatively you can watch the video below or on the Moneyweb Youtube channel.
“I was a teacher and I realised during that time  that I wanted more. At the time my father was in the construction business and we were very close. I started working with him after my school time ended.”
“I would go with him and just look at what he did. He was running [a] business from the boot of his car. So I started helping him … It was through [this] that I started to fall in love with meeting new challenges, meeting new people, doing different things, being in business.
“When those clients started selling their properties, they came to me. So then I said, okay, what do I do? Then the real-estate bug got me.”
“I learned about real estate. I studied for that exam. In those days we used to write exams, so I had to study and then write the exam. I passed it and then opened Snooks Estates.”
Mogodi says when she started back in 1997, she didn’t know much about how to run a residential estate agency.
“I came straight from teaching into business. My family had not run a proper business because my father was a building contractor. He was a sole proprietor.”
“When I started I knew that I had to learn, because I couldn’t run the business without having any knowledge or skill about the business. So that’s the main thing that I did … I traded as a sole proprietor for many years.”
What’s behind the name of the company? It’s not an outwardly African name, Snooks Estates?
“No … My father [ran] Snooks Construction, so I started Snooks Estates. That’s where it comes from.”
“Over the years, I have learnt that you can be in a business for as many years as you want; what matters is the growth that you achieved in that time, because somebody can come in five years and they are where I am after 23 years.”
“But what is important about my 23/24 years is that I didn’t join any other real estate company. I had to learn everything. In retrospect I think I could have done things differently by learning through other people. I had to learn and make mistakes. Along the way, I realised that I had people who were really good within the company and I decided that I would rather work with these people because they are there, they are building a bigger business with me.”
“So, instead of looking outside I will look within, and get those people to be the ones that are running the different branches of Snooks Estates …
“The biggest mistake that I made was – as a woman in business, we tend to be more nurturing – around looking at people being great sales people, and not thinking that being a great sales person does not necessarily mean that that person is ready to manage a business.”
Mogodi says naturally the company is “planning towards bigger growth” and even looking at franchising at some stage.
“In each office we have around five to seven agents. But in total today we have about 43 people within Snooks Estates.
“Unfortunately, because of the [Covid-19] pandemic, we’ve had to let go of some [staff], some have dropped off, some are still wanting to come in to join.”
What are some of the other big challenges you faced getting into the industry?
“I think one of our biggest challenges as black estate agents is that when people lose their properties or they’re not able to service their properties, the banks would then allocate those distressed sales to particular estate agencies. I find that, regardless of how much effort we put in to try to be part of that, we are still struggling to be allocated those properties.”
“Just before the lockdown last year was the first time that we were actually engaged as a black-owned company and involved in discussions to also be allocated those properties. We look at the market – we are the busiest in the [Soweto] market – as township estate agents, not just Snooks. There are other estate agencies. But you find companies that are not even based in our areas being allocated those properties, and they come to us to help them sell those properties.”
“Back around 2009/2010, during the recession … one of the things that we did was we started an organisation for black estate agents called the Black Estates Agency Forum. The idea was to bring estate agencies together.
“At the time I think I was the only one – or maybe there were two of us – in the whole of Soweto with proper offices. I realised that it doesn’t help to just have Snooks with an office, because then what about all the other estate agencies? I also get painted with the same brush. Rather than me saying I’m the best, I’ve got an office, I’ve got estate agents, why not work with other estate agencies?”
“We came together and built this organisation. The intention was to say that people have different skills. Let us look at what skills we’ve got, and let’s leverage those skills and become a collective so that we can speak with one voice and be able to communicate with the Estate Agency Affairs Board and tell it exactly what challenges we have in the townships as estate agents.”
“When developers came into Soweto – developments were being built in front of our eyes, but we were not the estate agents [permitted] to sell.”
“That aspect is one of the challenges that we faced as real estate agents in the townships.”
“The other one is [around] the government trying to increase numbers in the real estate industry; they offered these internships for young people – but not all young people. There are a lot of young people in the townships who are not working. So when there’s an opportunity like that, of course, they come on board because of the stipends.”
“So I think to increase the numbers rather than to have quantity they need to do it as quality, and look at who these people coming into the industry are. Do they really want to come in? We’ve seen a lot of young people coming in, being trained, working in our companies, but they are not ready. It’s not really what they want.”
“Around [property] sales, we have big challenges. The Estate Agency Affairs Board [also] wants to increase the numbers and a lot of black people unfortunately don’t register every year. But the board wants the numbers of black estate agents and agencies to increase. There are laws, there are restrictions, but there is no monitoring.
“So today you are finding that the industry is flooded with a lot of estate agents who work from the boots of their cars, who don’t have offices.
“They are one-man shows. Because we are so vast, and some of them are really good salespeople, they’re able to sell property because people don’t really ask ‘Let me see your certificate, if you are registered’. As long as you can show that you can do the job, people just go with that. So we are finding that there are a lot of estate agents who are not qualified, but are doing the work …”
“There are many of those challenges. Sales are impacted because of those kind of things. And then on top of that lockdown came and lockdown just made things worse. But because of the kind of systems that we have and because of the brand and the amount of work that we put into the business, we have been able to hold on and still do a little bit of business.”
What advice would you give women wanting to get into the sector?
“As women wanting to come into the industry a lot of people normally say ‘How do you do it?’ I only realised that when people started asking me how I did it. I had never really thought about it. I just empowered myself with knowledge, because I have to know what I’m doing.”
“So it is critical that you learn, and that you have the right attitude to get into the industry … Men have the advantage that they’re not multitaskers, but women can do so many things. So the only challenge is you being able to plan your things properly and be able to work on the business.”
“Remember, when you are a woman running a business, or any other business person, it is important to understand that you can work inside your business for a certain period; but there has to be a time when you’re working on your business.”
“In that way, whether you are a woman or a man doesn’t really matter. You need to learn to delegate and allow other people to help you, and to leverage on their skills, on their knowledge to be able to grow your business.”
“So real estate is a business where anyone can actually be their own boss. I invite women to get into the industry and become their own bosses and learn and grow and qualify so they can run their own businesses. We need more women in real estate.”