At the height of the most recent housing boom, in 2007, just over 80,000 estate agents were registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board. Four years later, in the aftermath of the global credit crisis and the subsequent recession, SA’s tally of practising estate agents had dwindled to fewer than 30,000. Today, traditional estate agents face a far more serious threat than a temporary housing sales slump: rapidly evolving digitisation. "Technological advancement is completely reimagining the way real estate is being developed, marketed, used and transacted," says Francois Viruly, associate professor in construction economics and management at UCT. Speaking at the annual convention of the SA Property Owners Association in Cape Town last month, Viruly argued that digital advances would fuel disintermediation as online platforms replace traditional services that lack efficiency and flexibility. "Traditional operators will be under increasing pressure to adapt or expire," he said. Viru...

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