Negotiating Lobola: lessons from the property investors

By Carlo Mariani 

Almost 10 years ago I was blessed to get married to a highly intelligent and very beautiful African woman here in South Africa. And I still remember the trepidation and curiosity of the process of lobola negotiations that various members of our two extended families engaged in. So when a great friend of mine from overseas asked me recently to be one of his family representatives for a lobola in the North-West I felt deeply honoured and excited to experience from a new perspective such a powerful element of the culture of many South Africans.

So what has lobola got to do with investing in property? To fast track your property success you must buy property below market value and to be able to do this you need to be an accomplished negotiator.

These are 4 powerful negotiating lessons I have learnt from lobola:

Lesson #1 –It’s all about the work you do before you do the work

Preparation is key to any negotiation. Our delegation did a lot of work before we even knocked on that door in one of those authentic North-West dorpies. We had rehearsed many aspects of the lobola, including who was going to do what, what our “walk-away” price was, where we had latitude to negotiate and much more.

How well prepared are you when you negotiate the purchase (or the sale) of a Property?.

Here are a few tips:

· Get a solid understand of comparable sales

· Become an area expert to estimate sustainable rents

· Understand short and long-term local supply and demand dynamics

Lesson #2 -Be prepared to pay your Ivulamlomo (“mouth opener”).

Ivulamlomo is the price paid for opening your mouth to express the purpose of your visit to the potential wife’s delegation; it is a key part of the lobola negotiation as it allows negotiations to begin. We paid both with some cash and brought the traditional bottle of brandy and this surely helped a lot to set a positive tone for the rest of the proceedings.

In property your ivulamlomo is often a combination of these three things:

· Are you “pre-approved” for whatever bond you plan to raise to execute the transaction?

· Can you demonstrate with a suitable proof of funds that you have the cash available to complete the deal?

· Have you established and marketed your track record as a trustworthy property investor?

Lesson #3 – Everything seems complex and daunting when you don’t understand something until you get an expert to “show you the way”.

Our lobola team had some seriously experienced family members, both men and women; who have seen it all over the years, from failed lobola negotiations to negotiations that were frustrated by unreasonable uncles and poor planning. These ‘experts’ always behaved confidently though not arrogantly, as they knew the do’s and don’ts of the process and understood when to push and when to back off and gave in to the other team’s demands. Being in the company of such experienced team members allowed me to learn the intricacies of the process without the risk of making expensive mistakes.

Lesson #4 – Celebrate a successful negotiation.

I am proud to report that the lobola was successfully negotiated much to the happiness of both families. The bride and the groom are delighted and their respective families feel united in a way that would have not been possible without this amazing tradition called lobola. At the end of the lobola negotiations, both families hugged and the celebrations started with some joyful singing and dancing. Soon thereafter two sheeps were slaughtered and we had the most delicious livers on the braai and a lot more to eat and drink. What would life be without family and celebrations?

Work hard, negotiate fairly and celebrate your successful negotiations and your new additions to your Property Portfolio.

The big lesson for me to share with all my fellow property fans is that I have come to truly understand the African Proverb “if you want to go fast, go on your own; if you want to go far, go with somebody”. I look forward to seeing you at one of our Property Education Events.

Source: Carlo Mariani, The Property Coach 

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