Steeple: the virtual real estate broker

If you’re thinking about selling your house, give Steeple a look. Launched earlier this month, the online estate agency service for South Africans keeps commissions low by cutting out flesh-and-blood estate agents.

Sellers send their property details and photos to Steeple and show potential buyers around themselves. Steeple will value the property, market it on online property websites, arrange viewings, obtain feedback, negotiate with buyers, and project-manage the sale — all without visiting your home.

The startup has been operating in test-mode since March and claims to have already sold a number of properties.

David de Waal, a chartered accountant and Steeple’s founder, believes that Steeple offers both lower costs and better service than old-school estate agencies: “As a seller, you are no longer stuck between a rock and a hard place when trying to sell your house. We charge lower fees than conventional agents but in most cases provide more online exposure for your property than they do, so we expect to find you more potential buyers. Selling a property privately is admittedly still the cheapest way but it can be scary and because your marketing options are limited you may be going grey – all fifty shades of it – before you ever sell.”

Most of the established estate agencies in South Africa generally charge a commission of around 5 – 7.5% plus VAT. The chairman of Seeff, Samuel Seeff, has been quoted as saying that the company abides by the 7.5% standard industry commission and that, in general, top performing agencies are unlikely to accept brokerage rates much lower than 5% plus VAT.

In contrast, Steeple’s current commission is 2.95%, with a minimum fee of R29 000. On the sale of a R1 million home, for example, a seller using Steeple could save R33 200 (assuming a conventional commission of 5.5% plus VAT). These savings are multiplied as the price of the property increases.

Steeple is similar to the UK-based House Network, which claims to have sold over 6500 properties over the past eight years.

Steeple does not believe in old-style sole mandates that inhibit freedom of choice and a client can cancel at any time. De Waal adds, “A Steeple client is welcome to use conventional agents at the same time as using us although those agents will only duplicate, in part, our own online marketing efforts – and at a higher fee.”



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