3D auction success gives SA property market glimmer of hope

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High Street Auctions director and lead auctioneer Joff van Reenen.
High Street Auctions director and lead auctioneer Joff van Reenen.

A hundred bidders from three continents − North America, Europe and Africa − participated in SA’s first 3D virtual property auction last week, giving the sector hope amid the devastating impact of COVID-19, which has stalled real estate deals .

The auction was the first of its kind in the country, as the property sector is transitioning from a traditionally interaction-heavy industry to online as the effects of COVID-19 are forcing businesses to reinvent the way they operate.

High Street Auctions, which hosted the virtual live-streamed auction, says the event injected a massive shot of confidence in the sector, as real estate transactions worth tens of millions were concluded.

All bidding for the properties was done via digital channels, including mobile app input and Zoom, off the back of hi-tech, detailed 3D virtual property tours ahead of the sale.

The company says 100 bidders from the US, the UK and SA participated in the first fully digital multi-property virtual auction last Thursday.

Thousands of people remotely viewed the auction on various devices, channelled via the company Web site, YouTube, the High Street mobile app, Zoom and streams on social media.

“Our Web site traffic numbers are through the roof with thousands of visitors taking virtual tours of the properties we’ve just auctioned, as well as those going under the hammer in the next live stream virtual sale on Tuesday, 9 June,” says High Street Auctions director and lead auctioneer, Joff van Reenen.

“In fact, we sold a lodge in the world-famous Mabula Game Reserve in Bela-Bela to an American in the US, who after a round of fierce bidding, bought it for just over R2.5 million on the strength of his 3D property tour. He’s never been there and with the COVID-19 restrictions clearly couldn’t travel to view it in person when it came to market.”

According to Van Reenen, real estate transactions worth tens of millions of rands were successfully concluded in the 90-minute virtual sale, “demonstrating local and international confidence in the SA property market, as well as that a seamless transition to live stream virtual sales was not only possible in this country, but worth the sizeable technology investments made by High Street Auctions to safeguard its client service offering”.

Mabula Game Reserve in Bela-Bela was sold to an American in the US.
Mabula Game Reserve in Bela-Bela was sold to an American in the US.

The company says through its digital investments, it was able to showcase every seller’s property – whether residential, commercial or industrial – in a full 3D, 360-degree virtual walkthrough format on its Web site, allowing potential buyers to examine walls, floors, ceilings and fixtures at their leisure from the comfort of their homes or offices.

Van Reenen says from a real estate perspective, there is clearly still national and international investment confidence in the market and in the broader economy if buyers are not only prepared but eager to invest millions in fixed assets in the current climate.

He explains: “What it says is there will be a period of price correction and different trends will emerge in line with what is now being called ‘the new normal’, but that’s not necessarily a negative.

“Sellers and the property industry need to adjust their thinking to opportunities rather than immediate obstacles because change – good or bad and even in this admittedly weird world in which we currently exist – is merely a shift of the market scales, but history shows us that balance always returns.”

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