“‘Put it on Gumtree,’ has become a favourite South African saying. Since our launch in this country in 2005, we’ve helped millions of people buy and sell millions of things. We’re a place everyone trusts, a familiar space that’s easy to navigate, and a classified site that just works.” – www.gumtree.co.za
Gumtree is a website filled with classifieds and adverts, with excellent search tools to receive specific search results. This network of classifieds is available to the public free of charge. Users can post/respond to adverts for various products and services (which can include brand new goods, second-hand goods, services, job vacancies, pets and events). One of the major uses of Gumtree is that of scouring for property to either purchase or rent at (hopefully) lower costs. Is Gumtree, however, really a good alternative for a Specialist Estate Agency?
Gumtree, now covering multiple cities across numerous countries (like the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, France, Poland, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and more), was founded by Michael Pennington and Simon Crookall in March, 2000. The initial website was used for local London classified adverts to help connect people who were in need of either selling or acquiring accommodation, employment and social networking.
However, since May, 2005, Gumtree belongs to eBay’s internal classified group, Kijiji. The amount for which Kijiji purchased Gumtree was not disclosed, but Gumtree was already available in numerous countries (including the UK, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Hong Kong) by the time of acquisition, so it can be assumed that the amount was quite decent.
Like every decision in life, especially when looking for your next home, one should always turn to a Pros and Cons list. Lists are always useful when taking on any endeavour where risks are afoot, especially when hunting properties via Gumtree:
Gumtree Property Pros:
“Although we’re an international brand, our ads are totally local. Maybe the best part? It’s free. So whether you’re looking for a car or a hairdresser, a job or a house, don’t look anywhere else… You can access Gumtree on your mobile, as well as online.” – www.gumtree.co.za
- It’s easy to join and simplified for first-time users.
- It is a free advertising platform for anyone looking to sell a product or service.
- It has a wide variety of not only properties, but goods and services classifieds as well, all on one platform.
- Search results are localised, and can be made more precise with various available search tools.
- You are immediately put in contact with the seller of the product, via Gumtree, with no middleman issues.
- There’s less waiting, as Gumtree is an excellent platform for quick transactions, and quick money, due to its vast amount of users.
Gumtree Property Cons:
Gumtree has been re-titled, “Scamtree”, by some users who have been on the receiving end of a fraudulent transaction. The main con of Gumtree, as it serves only as the platform for buyers and sellers to connect and not the transactions themself, is that they cannot take responsibility for users who are scammed.
With Gumtree, as with almost any classified advertising platform, you run the risk of being exposed to scams or mistakes, like:
- Paying deposits for services or properties that don’t even exist.
- False advertising, resulting in not receiving the advertised property as seen in the photos, but perhaps a rundown or different property altogether.
- Giving out personal information to criminals who pose as Gumtree buyers or sellers.
- Making a purchase with no safety of refund/warranty/guarantee for failed purchases, as Gumtree only acts as a Classifieds Advertising platform.
- Being attacked, mugged or killed when meeting a potential (dangerous/criminal) buyer or seller, as Gumtree does not do security checks on users.
- Feeling constantly paranoid about possible “fraudulent” transactions, even though the suspiciously keen seller/buyer may just be an innocent person trying to strike a deal.
Although Gumtree seems like an excellent and easily-accessible source to find products, and it is, more caution should be taken when making property transactions. Property sales and rentals are not simple once-off transactions, because more personal information, money (deposits) and trust is required. Therefore, rather try to use professional, recognised and registered Specialist Real Estate Agencies that can alleviate risks by:
- Doing security and credit checks on potential buyers, sellers and tenants.
- Adhering to a Code of Conduct which is regulated by the Estate Agency Affairs Board, resulting in fair and honest services.
- Knowing the local property markets and asking related prices.
- Following proper administration for documenting and legal security.
- Maintaining constant professional communications with buyer, seller and/or tenant.
General Online Safety Tips:
If you are planning on using the internet to hunt for property, then be sure to still remain vigilant and follow good security measures, like:
- Always trust your instincts. If the transaction or buyer/seller gives you a bad feeling, rather move on to another advert or website.
- Avoid unknown buyers/sellers by ensuring you know their; Full Name, Telephone Number, Place of Work and all the relevant Contact Details. (Remember to verify these details by calling or asking to see utility bills).
- Avoid possible attacks and always take a friend/s on meetings/viewings with potential buyers/sellers.
- Avoid show boating by not taking any valuables along to any meetings/viewings.
- Avoid any alternative methods of payment, use Electronic Transfers (EFTs) wherever possible in order to have transactional proof.
- Avoid all holding deposits when dealing with any online property transaction.
- Avoid apathetic sales and always take a friend who has experience with property sales that will be able to inspect the property inside and out, give you a true estimation of the quality, as well as identify the relevant paper-work required for the transaction (like the need for a Lease Agreement, or Deed, or Clearance Certificate, etc.).
- Avoid staying silent as a victim, always report to the authorities and share how you have been scammed to create awareness and to ensure that other users can be more vigilant with their transactions.
The Internet is a platform for all kinds of scams, fraud, hacking, theft, infringement, invasion of privacy, etc. It would be very unfair to shun Gumtree merely because they cannot guarantee 100% scam/danger-free transactions. Although, you can always deal with trusted Real Estate Specialists to ensure the additional security.
For those looking for accommodation (whether rental or to purchase) in the Vaal area, Gauteng, you can also contact Go!Letting or Opportunity Residential if Gumtree is a little too risky for you. For those interested in obtaining better online marketing strategies, contact Online Marketing Guys.