Category Archives: Principal interviews

Principal Interview: Patrick McCarthy, McGrath Real Estate Cronulla, Sylvania and Menai/Illawong

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Pat McCarthy has grown his business from one office in Cronulla to an operation that covers the entire Sutherland Shire. Always challenging himself and his business on ways to grow or do things better, here are Pat’s thoughts on the current state of the real estate market.

Aaron David (AD): Pat, what is your view of the market today?

Pat McCarthy (PM): I think it’s getting harder and harder to run a business as a traditional model or the Ma & Pa corner store operation. We operate over a territory of 80,000 residences and the internet allows that. Traditionally, you would have had 10 offices to handle that size of territory; with the internet, you could probably have one large one. However, we’ll have 4 or 5 offices instead of 10, and maybe in the future that will only be 2 or 3. That’s not from a customer perspective; it’s from the agent’s: they’ll want a base that’s a bit closer to their stock. Although we could handle property anywhere within the Shire from Cronulla, we think we need a few bases for our agents to cover our client and customer needs. Also, as time management for the agents, it’s more effective

AD: What is the biggest challenge facing your business today?

PM: The biggest challenges are always recruitment and productivity. They’re what we’re always thinking about and constantly working on: How do we get the productivity up of our current team and how do we get more good people into our business? There’s no magic answer. It’s a long-term view and it’s constant. There are always a certain amount of people that come in and out of the industry and we have to keep on top of churn. We know that if we wanted to grow by 10 people, we’d have to recruit 14.

AD: What is the biggest opportunity for your business today?

PM: Because it is getting harder to run as a small operator, the opportunity for us is those people that have recognised that it’s too hard or too expensive operate by themselves, and they can come on board with us as a partner in a contracting role. The way we’ve set up our model allows those people to plug in, they can choose us as a partner and we want to be seen as the obvious choice for those people. I’d say 4 or 5 of our key people have come on via that way.

AD: Tell us about growth: acquisition vs. BDM.

PM: We don’t see it as one or the other. We do both. If you get to be as big as we are, you need a good idea of your churn and you need a strategy in place to counter that churn. As we want to continue to grow, we’ve made quite a big investment in that. We’ve got 4 BDMs and are looking at possibly adding another. That’s all because we know our churn could be up to 10%. So if one or two plug the churn then we’ve got two for growth. Combine that with good strategic acquisition and you gain the benefit of the extra cash flow that immediately adds to your business. So I see them going hand in hand.

AD: Let’s talk print advertising vs. internet advertising only. How do you see this issue for businesses in real estate sales?

PM: That’s a very tough one at the moment and it’s tough because from a buying perspective, the internet is more and more effective – and cost effective. But I still think there’s a place for print, so we still run with a combination approach. From a business perspective, you’re brave to go internet-only at the moment. It will probably be the way of the future. However, a combination approach is currently the best way. Although it seems the internet is grabbing market share all the time, there’s still a place for print.

We measure the effectiveness through our open houses, we ask those who come where they first saw the property. We believe there are passive and active buyers in the market. The active buyer is on real estate alerts and gets them every week. They’re active in the marketplace, someone who may buy in the next 1 to 6 months.

Then you get the passive buyers who might flick through the paper whilst having a coffee and think “that looks like something I’m interested in”. They’re not active in the market – trawling through open houses or receiving alerts – but if they see the right thing then they’re looking. Those people might see this in print, then go online to get more information about the property, floor plans and videos. So it works in combination.

What that can do though is make the reporting skewed; if you ask them where they saw the property they might say the internet. However, they may have first seen it in print and then investigated more via the net. When prompted, they remember.

Some of the data out there points to the internet as having captured over 90% of the traffic, but we don’t find that to be true. The acid test for me is what would I do with my own house or my parents’ house if it were to go to market. The answer is, it’s a combination of print and internet. You want all those channels working for you, and if it means one extra buyer on your property, you’d be crazy not to use them.

Principal Interview: Steve Devine, Devine Real Estate

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Our series of principal interviews is about successful principles, independent or franchise, large or small to share their, philosophies, key insights and thoughts about running a successful real estate business and current market conditions and trends; enjoy!

Steve Devine, Devine Real Estate

Since the 1950’s, Devine Real Estate has had it’s roots in Sydney’s Inner West, a market leader, fiercely independent and proud to remain so, here are Steve’s thoughts on the current state of the real estate market.

Q. Chris Mercer (CM): Steve, what is your view of the market today?

A. Steve Devine (SD):

In 27 years I have never seen the market as difficult or tricky as today. In the past there were external factors that could clearly be pointed to for the difficulties of the market, for example the ’87 crash and government policy changes, ’98 Asian bank crisis and the 2008 GFC. The problem at the moment is that without an obvious catalyst for the uncertainty being felt by Vendors and Buyers, it is harder to plan ahead with confidence. The market conditions are unreliable and building momentum is more difficult .

Q. CM: What is the biggest challenge facing your business today?

A. SD: Redefining the business model based on the current conditions of uncertainty. While the nature of the sales agency and property management divisions have not changed the market environment has. Cashflow management is more important than ever. The business owner that takes their eye of their business will suffer. Cash is King in the business today.

Q. CM: What is the biggest opportunity for your business today?

A. SD: With all the trouble, the opportunities for consolidation or acquisition are out in the market. Where you see experience business operators discounting heavily, you know people are hurting and looking for cash flow. Therefore today there are more opportunities to gain efficiencies by merger or acquisition of business than there have been in recent times, especially where the business owner is lacking the confidence to turn the business around, or no longer has the spare capital or cash to do so.

Q. CM: Print advertising vs Internet advertising only. How do you see this issue in real estate sales businesses?

A. SD: Don’t get me started on this? I am a proud professional sales person and I have built up a strong business by successfully marketing property through a range of marketing avenues, and print advertising has been a important part of this. The internet is here to stay and is a great tool, but it is not and will never be the only means of marketing to bring buyers into the frame.

What has happen however, is the vendors have been scared into thinking that the Print Marketing only benefits the Agent and not their interests, the agents who or as I call them, “Saboteurs”, will make a point of conveniently saying to the vendors “look they send out all these Marketing Products to letterboxes and newspaper and 99% of people will throw them away, and any active buyer will go to the internet anyway, which is where I will place your property.” Of course the vendor wants to hear and believe this. What the vendor forgets is that 1% of 30,000 home is 300 interested parties and if 1 of them is coming forward to look to buy your property that wasn’t on the internet, then the marketing has worked properly and as a full service professional agency that rightly, leaves no opportunity to chance, our Agency over many years will get the best buyer in the market to consider your property.

These Saboteurs are quick win, short term thinkers and the internet is their playing field, and it has caused some agents to doubt the benefits of a layered approach to marketing a property. Well I can show from my office stats that the source of enquiries come from our marketing on a much higher percentage than internet only. I feel sorry for the vendors that don’t receive the opportunity to have the most buyers possible submitting offers on their property. The markets rule of supply and demand, is always true, the more demand the higher the price, full stop.

CM: Thanks Steve we really appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us today. And I hope everyone who reads them gains a little insight or clarity for their business.