Andrew Thompson. Picture: Supplied
Andrew Thompson. Picture: Supplied

Andrew Thompson isn’t the first disrupter hoping to shake up SA’s residential real estate industry, which is something of an old boys’ club. And he won’t be the last.

But unlike local start-ups such as Leadhome and PropertyFox that are already challenging traditional business models and commission structures, Thompson has the backing of one of the world’s fastest-growing proptech companies — Nasdaq-listed eXp World Holdings.

With a market cap of about $7bn, it is the parent of real estate brokerage firm eXp Realty, which has more than 46,000 agents across the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, India, Mexico, Portugal, France, Puerto Rico and Brazil.

In August last year, eXp Realty expanded its network to SA and Thompson was appointed to head the group’s local operations.

No stranger to the SA property scene, Thompson has worked as sales director for developer eLan Property Group on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast for more than a decade. More recently, he was the principal of a Keller Williams Realty agency in Umhlanga. He comes from Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, where his family has deep roots. Thompson’s alma mater is Kingswood College, where both his parents taught and his grandfather, the late Springbok rugby player Jack Slater, was headmaster.

In just six months, Thompson has built a network of more than 100 eXp Realty SA agents across all nine provinces. His aim is to become one of SA’s top three brands by agent count within the next two years. That means eXp Realty SA will be taking on the big guns, including Pam Golding Properties, RE/MAX and Seeff, whose agent tallies range from 1,500 to 3,000.

Thompson concedes the company’s growth target is ambitious but believes it can be done with eXp Realty’s "visionary" operating model, which will bring "an entirely new dimension to SA’s residential property landscape". Unlike real estate brokerages that operate from buildings in specific areas, eXp Realty’s operations are entirely virtual, enabling agents to live and work without physical boundaries from anywhere in the world.

Thompson says the company’s business platform is supported by sophisticated technology and various applications that are easy to use and free agents "to do what they do well, which is sell property". Its cloud-based office model allows agents across the globe to talk to each other via virtual workshops, auditoriums and meeting rooms.

"It’s all about speeding up transactional processes and providing agents with the tools to do their job more efficiently. That, ultimately, means agents get paid faster," says Thompson.

The company also challenges the traditional split sales commission structure, which tends to favour agency principals and can leave estate agents with a relatively small slice of the earnings pie. Thompson says eXp Realty’s business is way more agent-centric. "It’s relatively cheap to join our business, and our system allows agents to earn close to 100% of the commission."

He explains the only overhead cost an eXp Realty SA agent incurs is a fixed monthly fee of R800. That includes access to the company’s cloud-based technology, and a subscription to Lightstone Property’s valuation and deeds search system.

Commissions are split 75/25 in the agent’s favour. However, high-achieving agents can pocket more than 75% of the commission as the company’s portion of the commission generated by each agent is capped at R150,000 a year. The company also gives agents the opportunity to participate in a unique revenue-sharing scheme and equity allocations in the group’s Nasdaq-listed shares.

Thompson believes few other real estate brands can compete with eXp Realty’s offering. He says: "These huge wealth creation incentives will help us lure the best agents in SA."

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