The Franchisor: Meet Paul Stevens, CEO of Just Property

BY TAI CHISHAKWE - SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

For tenacious men like Paul Stevens, the CEO of one of the province’s biggest franchises – Just Property, business is thriving. 

His journey has been long and began on a Free State farm that his family still owns today.

“As there were not many good schools in the area, I was sent to a boarding school, St Andrews, in Bloemfontein, at the age of eight and then went to high school at Hilton College in the then-Natal province,” Stevens remembers.

He later attended the then-University of Port Elizabeth, where he studied Psychology before going abroad and spent several years travelling and working.

“On returning to South Africa in 2001, my wife and I decided that there would be no better place in the country to settle and bring up a family than PE.

“Shortly after my return, I bought a photographic franchise business, which I had for a couple of years before selling it. At this point I realised that there were both benefits and pitfalls in owning a franchise business,” he describes.

While he dabbled in the photography business, Stevens says he had always wanted to get into the property market and his chance came when he saw an advert for a Just Letting franchise in 2003.

“After securing and setting up the PE franchise, I went on to buy the Eastern Cape master license two years later.

“In 2009, we consolidated the company and set up our Head Office in Durban while I ran the financial component from PE,” he describes.

“Over the past three years, we brought over the full operations into the PE office and have been running the full franchise Head Office in PE for the past 20 months. We currently have over 100 franchises across South Africa, with one in Namibia.”

Stevens says the business was started as a purely letting company at a time that other Estate Agents did not want to do the hard work associated with running a letting business.

“We took this gap and have established ourselves over the last 15 years as the largest letting company in South Africa and have been awarded international recognition at the International Property Awards in Dubai and London as the top letting agency in South Africa and Africa in 2014 & 2015 and were a runner up for the International award in 2015,” he adds.

When the 2008 recession brought about significant market changes to the entire property industry, and it was during this period that we analysed our business and decided to also start doing property sales due to the fact that all agencies were trading in our rental space and it just made sense to expanded into further real estate offerings such as sales, explains Stevens.

“You might have noticed that we recently went through a rebranding of the company and this was mainly due to the fact that our original branding was limiting and we were always adding additional brands to our franchise offering. So, we have simplified our brand and at the same time put together a whole new vision and strategy for the company.”

He says Just Property is unique as a property franchise as they have built a solid foundation with their letting divisions, which guarantees a form of annuity income with their system that enables their agents to manage the letting process on behalf of their clients.

“With our new strategy, we see ourselves as a wealth creation company and not just a ‘Property Company’ as we are either looking after peoples’ biggest assets or we are trying to educate people into owning a home - as we believe that nothing is more important than owning your own home,” he describes.

“As a franchisor, we believe that we are our franchisees’ ‘business partners’ and this is how we work with them. We need to ensure that we give them all the tools they need, train them and their staff and give them all the support they might need.”

About the future for Just Property, Stevens says it is looking bright.

“We have set some strong foundations upon which we are ready to now build; we see ourselves as being one of the largest real estate brands in the country within the next few years and also branching into the overseas market,” he describes.

“We don’t believe in just creating a great brand but to also play our part in making a difference in the lives of other people.”

He says the property market in the Eastern Cape is promising as well – having shown a house price growth of 7.6% year-on-year according to FNB.

“One of the main reasons for our region to show this type of growth in this economic environment has been the continuous influx of people moving from the surrounding areas into the metro areas. The most active price range is for properties under the R1mil mark with a very large portion of these transactions being first time black buyers,” Stevens explains.

“The rental market in the Eastern Cape, as with most parts of the country, has become very buoyant with growing demand and very little supply. Very few people are able to access finance to purchase their own home due to the strict lending criteria of the banks and therefore they have to resort to renting.

“Since 2007, there has not been significant development and investors have been somewhat more conservative due to the political and economic environment.”

He sees the previous negative sentiment about the province changing while the local property market will remain positive for the rest of the year.

Away from the office, Stevens says he tries to live life to the full by doing everything in moderation.

“My family will always come first, then my personal time and work,” he describes.

“If you do not have a fulfilled family life and are not doing things to stay healthy, you will not be able to function at your optimum.”

Thus, he spends every weekend with his family in St Francis, riding mountain bikes and kite surfing.

“I also enjoy reading and am continuously studying motivational materials, as I believe you should never stop learning and developing oneself to become the greater person we were all born to become.”

To visit the Just Property website, click HERE.