Picture: From left, Nadine Jocum, Samuel Seeff (chairman Seeff Property Group) and Pola Jocum
For more than 40 years Pola Jocum has been the face of real estate in Camps Bay on the Atlantic Seaboard. Her property sales amount to billions of rands. Now in her eighties, she has no plans to retire yet. What is her secret?
Industrious. Dedicated. Pola is considered by many as an icon in local real estate. She is one of the most awarded agents in the Seeff Property Group. In recognition of her outstanding service a small party in celebration of her 30th anniversary with the group was hosted earlier this month at The Bay Hotel.
“Pola is the consummate professional, unbelievably dedicated and committed to Seeff, the industry and above all, clients (buyers and sellers alike). She never rests on her laurels and always looks at how she can improve her skills and service,” says Samuel Seeff, chairman of the Seeff Property Group.
Now in her eighties, this former model and skin care consultant, says she still has no plans to retire. “The job keeps me in touch with people and it was a comfort and ‘companion’ to me for many years while my husband was so ill with Alzheimer’s disease.” Property Professional asked her about her secret to remain so passionate after more than four decades in the real estate business.
Pola Jocum as a young model and now
It began with the sale of her first house
Pola’s career in real estate began in late 1989. “I had reached the age in modelling when I had to consider what will be the next step in my career,” she says. Prior to that she had lived many lives. She is a qualified speech and drama teacher, has lectured about motivation for personal improvement, professional appearance and conduct at various insurance companies and worked as a skin care consultant for Justine since their inception. When she was approached about joining a real estate company, she says it immediately appealed to her because it is mostly about people and families and helping them with the biggest financial decision they will make.
She had decided to start with her new career in 1990 but was suddenly called upon to help out with buyers who wanted to view six properties. “I had no training or knowledge of Camps Bay or the properties, except for the last property that the clients viewed. Getting to the last property, I cheekily told the clients that this would be the property that they would buy, and so they did. And that was my introduction to property and my first sale,” she remembers.
That particular property, being 25 Athol Road, has been sold three times by Pola.
In 1990, the average selling price for a house in Camps Bay was just R33,000. She remembers that they had one on the market for R90,000 which was totally overpriced. Today, the entry price for Camps Bay is around R9 million but most homes are priced upwards of R14 million. Despite the Covid-19 lockdown and economic decline she says there are excellent interest in the market. She and her daughter Nadine, also her business partner, has just sold a beach bungalow for R18 million.
In a career spanning more than four decades Pola’s dedication and hard work – she once sold 40 properties in Camps Bay in one year – has paid of not only in successfully concluding property sales worth billions of rands but also in gaining the respect of a tough industry.
- She is the only estate agent who won a 10-day case in the Supreme Court on a commission dispute on the basis of proving ‘effective cause of sale’.
- She has also won the Nedbank award for top estate agents in South Africa.
- During her 25 years with Seeff she was awarded numerous times as a highest achiever and has won the Seeff Chairman’s Award. The last couple of years she and her daughter, Nadine, who is her business partner, has consistently been award winners.
Pola and Nadine Jocum
Mother and daughter partnership
About being in a business partnership with her mon, Nadine Jocum says she is fortunate to have had the best ‘boot camp’ training that taught her many valuable lessons:
- I learnt from her that a successful sales deal must be a “win-win” for seller and purchaser. In a negotiation, each must feel that they have gained more or given up less. As an agent, you use all your experience in negotiation to assist the seller and purchaser to this “win-win” scenario.
- She also taught me to listen more and talk less because he/she who speaks first, is on the backfoot.
- A sales deal is never dead – my mom once revived a deal at midnight!
- If you must question if it is good business ethics, do not do it. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer and seller, understand their emotions and body language. To every seller, their home is their castle, point out strengths and weaknesses in a sensitive way.
They are known as long-standing area specialists which means that they get a lot of referral business. “The best compliment from a buyer is to call you when they want to sell their property, even if it is 10-20 years later or when they recommend you to others,” adds Nadine.
What’s Pola’s secret?
“I’m a seminar junkie and will attend every training session there is. When you stop learning or stop evolving, you die because the industry moves so fast. I’ve never been happy to be an ordinary estate agent. I have to be at the top,” says Pola.
“If you don’t eat it, sleep it, and work it 24/7 you aren’t at the top anymore. More than anything else, it’s passion. If you do it for the commission, people feel it. If you feel that it’s your mission, you will establish trust and succeed. As an agent, you need to understand that you’re dealing with people. Buying property is often the biggest decision a family can make, which has tremendous repercussions if you don’t care and are just chasing a commission,” she continues.
Pola’s advice to young women agents
“You can never take your eye off the ball. You have to constantly adapt or be innovative or you “die” in this industry. Know your area, the properties and target customers. Build up credibility and a great reputation. My reputation allows me to recommend a property to a buyer because it is a good buy, not because I need the pay cheque, that is very important.
“Know that it is a 24/7 job and that it will impact your family commitments if you have children for example. Learn to work around that. To be successful, you have to eat, sleep and dream the job!”
As mentioned, Pola says for the time being, she has no retirement in mind. “When I no longer add value to clients, it will signal that it is time to retire. I work with my daughter, Nadine, and together we form a complimentary team,” she says.