Game-changer Grant Smee bucks the trend with Leadhome | Everything Property

Game-changer Grant Smee bucks the trend with Leadhome

Leadhome Grant Smee property interview

Leadhome CEO, Grant Smee, speaks to Jane Mayne about how Leadhome empowers their clients using data-driven insights.

Pioneering real estate agency Leadhome combines technology and human expertise to simplify the home-selling process. The agency bridges the gap between buyers and sellers, aiming for optimal pricing without inflating market values. Leadhome CEO Grant Smee chatted to JANE MAYNE about how he gets such exceptional results.

You’re something of a market disruptor in the industry – have you always been ahead of the curve in your endeavours?

It’s not something I purposefully do. I would attribute it to thinking differently. I’ve always found success with the ‘how can we do this better/differently’ approach, and that has served me well in my career. Sometimes industries and businesses can get stale, which is when they are ripe for a revamp.

You studied accounting, completing a B.Com with the intention of qualifying as a Chartered Accountant – what prompted you to move to property?

I studied accounting and quickly realised it wasn’t a good fit for me. So, as any youngster should, I headed for the hills and went to the UK to work, explore the world, and gain experience. The property market drew me in, as I was intrigued by the possibilities it held. Noticing a need for a South African-flavoured property management business in the UK, I partnered with a colleague, and we seized the opportunity.

As CEO of Only Realty and Leadhome – where’s the synergy?

Only Realty is a traditional property sales agency with an out-of-the-box approach, while Leadhome is an innovative agency with foundational traditional traits. Leadhome appealed to me as a step in the right direction when considering buyer trends, the need for transparency, and breaking away from stereotypes. This is something we strive to achieve at Only Realty, albeit within a more traditional setup. Both businesses complement and ‘learn’ from each other, enhancing their strengths and encouraging growth.

Leadhome stats indicate you’re selling a home every five hours, making that 31% faster than the industry average – how are you getting such great results?

I believe our ‘fixed-fee, no drama’ approach is a game-changer for many buyers and sellers in the property market. Clients appreciate the transparency and simplicity of an upfront fee and a streamlined process. They also value WhatsApp conversations, online listings, intelligent search and sell (using AI to match buyers with suitable properties), access to information, and quick turnaround times. I’ve noted strong favour from the market for agents who embrace technology and step away from traditional tactics.

And clients also get substantial savings per transaction?

Yes, that’s a significant part of the appeal, but I believe that being transparent about costs upfront is what truly seals the deal, especially for clients who have been caught off guard by accumulating fees in previous transactions.

You’re reasonably new to Cape Town  – are you mainly covering the Northern suburbs?

We’ve only really tested the waters in Cape Town with Leadhome, as we often find Cape Town is a little slower in pace at embracing new concepts. Not that the market doesn’t embrace it; it’s just that the uptake can be sluggish. So yes, we thought we’d temper our arrival and are currently servicing  Brackenfell, Kuilsriver, Parow and Bergvliet areas, with great response.

What kind of experience can clients expect via a Leadhome sale?

Clients like WhatsApp conversations, online listings, intelligent search and sell (using AI to match buyers with suitable properties), access to information, and quick turnaround times. We mustn’t forget that the customer is no fool. As professional service providers, we must be completely in tune with our clients and decipher their preferred way of doing things. The new generation, for instance, will certainly not answer a phone call, may take a few days to get back to your WhatsApp message (blue tick and all), and will sign the document via their phone. On the flip side, Generation X will be happy leaving you a 5-minute voice note and coming into your office, expecting a cappuccino while they sign the document.

What’s your view of current residential property prices – and, Cape Town’s notable 141% increase over the last 23 years?

We cannot ignore the semigration effect and what that has done to property prices in the Western Cape, not only Cape Town. Although the rest of the country has success nodes and areas, demand has driven the increase in these areas through the need for confidence in municipal administration, service delivery, and infrastructure. Don’t get me wrong, the market in Gauteng is still churning, but turnaround sales and per square metre values cannot compete with the Western Cape.

How would you describe your business leadership style?

I hold a very high standard and am attracted to employees who get the job done without needing to be managed. I also like to add a bit of fun to the workplace and, wherever possible, find a way not to take things too seriously.

I believe in supporting and guiding rather than managing, and those who are successful in our group are the ones who embrace getting things done to the best of their ability. In saying that, I also acknowledge and thrive on drawing from others. I recognise the wealth of knowledge and experience my partners and other business leaders bring to the table.

How is proptech is transforming the market, and what’s the impact in the selling/buying process?

The real estate sector has been accused of being slow in adopting tech tools, and most transactions still occur through agents and property brokers. However, as technology has advanced, it has equipped property professionals with sharper tools to assist their trading. AI has implications for commercial and residential real estate, and while it may pose a threat to the traditional approach of estate agents, it also opens up new opportunities for those who can adapt.

Chatbots screening clients, automated scheduled property maintenance, rent collection systems, and other tools will reduce the work previously required by human hands. This should be viewed as a major benefit to the agent and client. There are really smart tools out there to assist the industry, alleviate tedious tasks, and create space for driven individuals to spend time on growth and improvements or on more creative tasks.

The bottom line… expect and embrace AI as it becomes a reality, enhancing the real estate sector.

Any lessons learned over years working in the industry?

The business is extremely time-intensive, making it challenging to strike a balance between family commitments and business obligations. Personally, my greatest challenge lies in finding this balance. Meanwhile, our agents face the task of managing client needs alongside their own family commitments, often during weekends.

Make sure you find a balance, and always find the fun.

We have an unofficial company motto, “Be Unsh!t”, which speaks to this. No matter what you are doing, big or small, make sure you’re doing it as well as you can.

The last few years have seen Only Realty focus on growth through acquisition – please expand?

Over the past three years, we have successfully acquired 12 varying-sized real estate companies. These acquisitions range from smaller firms with modest property management portfolios to larger entities boasting extensive agent teams and substantial rental and sales transactions. This is our growth strategy, and over the forthcoming five years, we will continue to hunt for promising acquisition opportunities in South Africa and international attractive jurisdictions while also focusing on consolidating and improving our current portfolio of businesses. This will involve refining our systems and processes, leveraging centralised cost structures, and reinvesting in our agents—the ultimate clients—empowering them to deliver exceptional service and experiences to their clients.


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