In episode two of the TBE Podcast, Neil Eliason, Founder of Veza Properties, discusses his background in property, entrepreneurship, and the convenient buying and selling process offered by Veza Properties. He also provides some insight into the property market during COVID-19 and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own business.
From a young age, Neil always knew that he wanted to be in property. He would draw floor plans and reconfigure the furniture in his bedroom. He chose a degree called VSC Property Studies at UCT, which he enjoyed so much that he followed it with an Honours degree.
Each Saturday, Neil would scan the property sections of the newspaper with his father to see what was happening in the market and identify both good and poor deals. This Saturday morning ritual eventually lead them to purchase a small run-down property in Seapoint, Cape Town.
Neil then found himself renovating this property during his Honours year at UCT. It was so successful that it encouraged him to conduct similar successful property flips. Eventually, Neil decided that he should start looking for a job in the industry. After some investigation and speaking to various people, he decided to make a move to Johannesburg.
Neil was attracted to the fast-paced energy of the city and the plethora of networking opportunities, so he booked a one-way ticket to the city of gold. During his time in Johannesburg, he handed out his CV to everyone he met from the property industry, which was how he connected with Mafadi Property Management at the young age of 23.
As a determined young man, his CV reached Mafadi’s desk no less than four times. It was here that he got his first taste in the property management side of the business – and where he felt very out of his depth! However, he was also excited by the industry. Initially, Neil was primarily involved in the development of the Maboneng Precinct and two other property funds. The Asset Manager of one of these funds started his own business covering property acquisition, development and management, and Neil was invited to join the company.
While Neil appreciated the experience, he is an entrepreneur at heart and eventually decided to make his way using the knowledge and experience that he had gained. At first, he met with anyone who would meet with him. These meetings eventually opened up consulting opportunities, one of them being in Denmark.
On his return to South Africa, Neil then re-established contact with Mafadi that had now become one of the biggest affordable property management companies in the country. Neil saw a gap in the market for Mafadi to specialise in the sub-R1 million market in South Africa – although not one of the sexiest of spaces, it was affordable for many people and reflective of the South African market.
In 2020, Neil took up co-working office space with TBE at 150 Rivonia Road, Morningside; where he quickly progressed from a one-man desk to a six-seater and later a 10-seater office for Veza Properties. Mafadi soon followed suit by taking up office space at TBE due to the benefits that Neil had experienced.
Neil explains, “The benefits to taking up office space at TBE appealed to me. There were no setup costs. They provided a professional receptionist to answer all calls, the lease included up-market furniture and Wi-Fi access with conveniently fixed utilities, so it was easy to budget. In addition, there was also secure parking added into the monthly package.” Neil explained that the ability to quickly up or down-scale his business, depending on economic conditions, was also a highlight for him at TBE, especially during Covid times.
Veza Properties has a fundamental understanding of what sellers need to get the right buyers and vice versa. They invest a lot of time with sellers to give extensive advice on what buyers are looking for. Neil compared Veza’s system to the innovative SA banking system in that it is one of the most advanced in the world. Veza learnt a lot from top estate agencies who have been doing this for a very long time. However, because Veza is a young, new and innovative company, they adapted faster to the latest technologies, such as setting up advanced CRM systems for agents to track leads and better analyse data, giving them an edge over their competitors.
Neil also compliments his Sales Agents, whom he says are highly knowledgeable and well-versed in this specific market area. “They constantly strive to fully understand the needs of both buyers and sellers for the best outcome for both parties.”
When asked about his outlook for the residential property market in South Africa, given Covid, Neil responded, “Unfortunately, along with the rest of the economy, a lot of it is struggling, particularly the upper end of the market from R3 million and up. That being said, your sub-R1 million market is thriving at the moment as people are getting the bonds they need, and governments are offering submissions for bonds. Many current buyers are first-time homeowners looking at affordable space, and this sector accounts for about 70% of the market. Furthermore, with interest rates being where they are, a lot of people are looking to buy rather than rent at the moment, which is great for our sector of the market.”
In terms of advice for young individuals looking to start a property business, Neil offers the same given to him by a previous CEO of Redefine Properties when he moved to Johannesburg. “I told him that I wanted to be in property development, to which he replied that if I wanted to be a good property developer, I would need to start with property management.” Neil added, “This stuck with me and is the advice I give to everyone. If you want to be good at anything, you have to start with the basics, and in property, you get the basics from management. This foundation will also help you start a business or buy your first property.”
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