Not-for-profit office opens

A not-for-profit organisation that provides services for the homeless in Melbourne has opened its very own real estate agency to cater to the less fortunate.

For the past 12 years, HomeGround Services has assisted 10,000 people each year to get off the streets and back onto their feet, CEO Heather Holst told Real Estate Business.

“We run social housing support programs, so we get maximum access to social housing supply for the people who come to us for help, but we don’t get enough access to private rentals.

“We’ve been getting better at that for the past few years, but it’s still only in the hundreds. So we thought we could do something even more.”

The business model runs like a typical property management department. However, instead of earning commission from fees, the money earned is reinvested back into the business.

“We have a lot of experience in property and tenancy management, so we thought we should take the next step,” Ms Holst said.

“We’re building our own rent roll. One of our biggest breakthroughs was attracting a principal to work with us on a pro-bono basis, and that’s Philippe Batters.”

Philippe Batters, principal of Williams Batters in South Yarra, is a 40-year veteran of real estate.

While the company caters for landlords who wish to help their community, HomeGround  Real Estate is also aiming to attract well-off investors who can afford to accept lower rents.

“We’re building our rent roll, which includes full-price properties that we take a commission on just like any other real estate agent, but we’re also looking for, and finding, properties that landlords are willing to offer at reduced rents. This is great because we can house people who are not as well off,” Ms Holst said.

Ms Holst said that the initiative is the first step to driving real change nationwide.

“Depending on how well this goes, we’d love to branch out across all the major cities and regional areas,” she said.

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