Local real estate agency George Rennie & Co turned 110 on March 10.
The man at the head of this real estate giant, which has literally changed the landscape of Benoni and many other parts of the East Rand, is Errol van Heerden (81), who took over as CEO in 1989.
“We are celebrating 110 years not only of business, but also of goodwill and friendship and giving to those who have been less fortunate,” van Heerden said of this milestone in an interview with the City Times in their offices in Main Road, Farrarmere, recently.
The company is the largest real estate agency established in Benoni and holds the record of having developed or managed the bulk of all new development on the East Rand for many decades.
Van Heerden’s eyes light up with excitement as he recalls the real estate scene on the East Rand – and especially Benoni – in its prime.
“Benoni was without a doubt the Jewel of the East and he attracted investors. Property became in high demand and it was a time when it was relatively easy for the average person to get a deposit to buy a home, ”he said.
“I have developed very good relationships with bank managers, city officials and others who could help drive development forward.
“A bank manager and I would often come to an agreement on how many bonds he could give me over a lunch at a local restaurant – the deal would be made there and I could leave and announce the right one.” news to buyers.
“It was a way of doing business, which lent itself to the exciting times in which we lived; when people wanted an address in Benoni and we could give it to them affordably and without much paperwork.
The company was founded by George Rennie, a lieutenant colonel, who came from Scotland to South Africa in 1899, where he began his military career and served as a soldier in the South African War (1899-1902) .
Rennie was elected to Benoni City Council on October 26, 1910 and held that post for six years. He was elected mayor for three terms, the last being from 1924 to 1925, when the Prince of Wales visited Benoni.
He opened a real estate agency called George Rennie & Co in a building at 49 Prince’s Avenue, but when World War I broke out, Rennie volunteered to go on active duty and went to France as a commanding officer. .
At that time he was mayor-elect of Benoni (1913 to 1914), so left his things for the young Morris Nestadt, the new “office boy”, to run.
Van Heerden joined the company in 1969 at the age of 30 and remembers working in the trunk of his car and being a strong and fit young man, full of energy and ready to take on the world.
“I certainly hired a board or two in my day,” he recalls. “I was excited about the development and the potential for growth in some areas was huge, which at times made the vision of the board frustrating,” he said.
“Nonetheless, I quickly made a name for myself and became a trusted real estate agent in areas where niche developments were booked and sometimes ended up selling the majority of stalls on a weekend – in areas like Alphen Park, for example.
The company has also, over the decades, made a significant contribution to the rise of townships.
Van Heerden speaks fondly of the trusting relationships they have established with these communities and how their developments have changed the lives of the people who live there.
“The company has been a major force in the development and marketing of residential, commercial / industrial and commercial projects,” explained van Heerden.
“Over the years, management has built a great team of professional business advisors who know their product and the people of the East Rand.
George Rennie has helped develop at least 8,500 stands in Benoni and Brakpan, including Lakefield Property, Morehill Extension Two, Dalpark Extensions Five, Six and 11, Goedeburg, Cloverdene Extension One, Hillcrest in Putfontein and Benoni Small Farms.
They have successfully executed the development and marketing of at least 4,300 booths in Daveyton Extension Two, Vosloorus Extension Two, Klipspruit in Soweto, Etwatwa, Katlehong and Geluksdal.
The Company’s portfolio of residential sectional property management is also extensive, as are the commercial developments undertaken.
Gerry Keijer joined George Rennie in 1989 and soon after became a director. He oversees a broad portfolio of community section title and owner association programs.
“We have been the main players in the development of Benoni Plaza, Crystal Park, Apex Industrial, Hillcrest in Putfontein, Morehill Extension Eight and Leachville,” said van Heerden.
“The unique developments of which we are extremely proud are the Benoni Country Club, Mayfield, the Benoni Lake Club and the Lakefield Square Shopping Center.”
Van Heerden said the company is grateful to the East Rand businesses who have continued to support them and for their goodwill and friendship.
“A special thank you to the community of Benoni for remaining faithful to us through the great changes we have undergone in South Africa,” he concluded.
(Not pictured: Taylor Fergusson).
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