PROFILE: Pola Jocum, real estate veteran
For 40 years this veteran has navigated bull and bear property markets in an industry that has had its fair share of fly-by-nighters
Seeff Atlantic seaboard estate agent Pola Jocum sold her first property in Camps Bay for R65,000 in October 1979. She has since resold the same house in Atholl Road three times, most recently in 2015 for a cool R15m.
It’s a clear signal of how Cape Town’s most prestigious residential addresses have jumped in value over time and why the saying still rings true that "location, location, location" is what matters most in a property.
The real estate veteran recently celebrated 40 years in the industry, of which the most recent 30 were with Seeff Property Group.
She clearly remembers her first sale. Back then she was a well-known ramp and photographic model and the mother of two, but decided to change to a new career. She says: "I was pushing 40 and thought it was time to get out of modelling. So I accepted the offer of a job as a trainee agent for Steer Properties. I was only supposed to start in January 1980, but got an unexpected call a few months earlier asking whether I would stand in for another agent to show six properties to a client.
"I had no training, so I just winged it," she says.
Jocum happened to know the last house on the list, as it was only a few doors away from where she lived, high up in Atholl Road. It has Lion’s Head as its backdrop. "So I cheekily told the client the Atholl Road property would be the house for them. They ended up buying it for R65,000."
Jocum earned R300 in commission from that transaction. Forty years on, she’s notched up property sales worth more than R1bn in Camps Bay. Her daughter, Nadine Jocum, has since joined her in the business.
Now in her 80s, Jocum has lost none of her tenacity. She’s a regular recipient of Seeff’s award for being the highest sales achiever, and still enjoys the thrill of closing a deal. She recently sold a property in upmarket Rontree Avenue for R20m, which is believed to be one of the top sales prices fetched in Cape Town so far this year.
Jocum ascribes her longevity in the real estate industry, which has had its share of fly-by-nighters, to her passion for service excellence and the reward that comes from helping families achieve their home-ownership dreams.
"It’s not like selling toilet paper," she says. "Buying a house is an important purchase that can have serious repercussions. So you need to be careful that you don’t sell the wrong property to someone. If you do, it can cause a divorce."
Jocum has no plans to hang up her hat any time soon. "I don’t like the word ‘retire’. I will only think about what to do next when I no longer have fun or I can’t add value for buyers and sellers."
Meanwhile, she is confident that the top end of the market will bounce back from the knock it has taken on the back of Covid-19. She says sales volumes and prices in the upper end of Cape Town’s housing market were already under pressure pre-pandemic. So Covid-19 couldn’t have come at a worse time. "But I have seen many bull and bear markets over the years. There will be a recovery."
However, Jocum cautions sellers to become more realistic in their asking prices. She says the reality that sellers need to face is that they won’t attract buyers in the current market if properties are not correctly priced. That’s especially true for the upper price range from R20m plus, where hardly any homes have changed hands in the past six months in the Mother City.
Jocum says most Atlantic seaboard sellers are still overpricing their properties by at least 30%. She says: "There are plenty of buyers, but it has become all about value. Everyone’s looking for a bargain."
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