AREC 2012 ROUNDUP (PART 1) -- Future View

This year’s Australian Real Estate Conference (AREC) attracted record numbers to its Gold Coast venue. In this first part of a two part series, Real Estate Business caught up with a number of leading industry professionals and attendees to provide this snapshot of the key messages from this year’s event

AREC ATTRACTED a who’s who of senior industry figures, many of which shared their company’s plans with Real Estate Business, along with some of the issues they believe principals should be focused on in today’s market.

MICHAEL DAVOREN, MANAGING DIRECTOR AT RE/MAX AUSTRALIA, said his company was focused on growing its presence, with events such as the Australian Real Estate Conference (AREC) an ideal forum to promote the brand.

“We’re on the growth path in Australia,” Mr Davoren told Real Estate Business on the sidelines of AREC, where RE/MAX had a booth.

“We’re the largest [real estate group] in the world but not in Australia.”

“We’re here to expose the brand, create relationships and talk to as many people as we can. Everyone you talk to you learn something from, so it’s a great opportunity just to create those relationships. Something may come out of it.”

Mr Davoren said while RE/MAX is strong in Queensland, more growth was required in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

Part of the group’s message revolves around how they’ve evolved the company to suit the Australian market.

“When a company is in 90 countries around the world, you’ve got to understand that it can’t be the same model exactly as what works in the United States. So, we’ve evolved the brand and the structures, and now it’s a matter of getting that message out there.”

Now seven months into his role as managing director, Mr Davoren, who worked for a number of other franchise groups and as president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), said the uniqueness of the RE/MAX model is what has excited him the most.

He said much of his time has been spent developing a really clear strategic plan, and expressing it to current and potential members.

Looking more broadly at the industry, Mr Davoren said an emphasis should be placed on bringing in more fresh talent.

“I speak to a lot of people who own real estate businesses and they tell me they’re not going to employ new people,” he said. “That frightens me.

If we’re not employing new people in the industry today, it worries me that in five or ten years time when a lot of our current real estate agency owners want to sell or exit the industry, there’s going to be a lot of problems.”

ROD WHITE, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER AT YONG REAL ESTATE, said he’s noticed an upswing in industry sentiment.

“Whilst the industry’s been going through a tough time for a couple of years, we feel like we’re coming out of it again,” he said. “It’s time for us to get back into the market place in a strong way.”

Mr White said AREC has allowed his group to build its presence in the market, with most people interested in what the franchise group had to offer.

“[They want to know] what’s your difference, and there are quite a few differences – we have very low fees, a high service level, and quite a few other things – and the other one is about the Chinese connection. That’s a fairly obvious one from the name.”

“Today, I couldn’t picture a better name,” Mr White continued. “We get people enquiring all the time about how they can tap into the name.”

BRADLEY BROWN, DIRECTOR AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AT FLETCHERS, said his group was also using AREC as a springboard for future growth.

“We’re looking right across Australia, and it’s going well so far,” Mr Brown told Real Estate Business. “We’ve got 14 offices, and we started franchising two years ago. We’re a business that’s been operating since 1990, but basically only our own offices until two years ago.”

“The way we’ve created Fletchers is it’s like a business in a box, so it’s very portable,” he continued.

“So, anywhere in Australia that somebody would like to represent us, and they’re the right people, they would have all of the tools necessary to do what they need.”

Mr Brown said having a robust structure and systems were critical in achieving success in real estate.

“I think it’s vital,” he said. “There are so many things required for someone to be successful. Competition has probably never been more fierce. So, when you don’t have to think about reinventing the wheel, you don’t have to think about whether you have the best stuff, the best practice, you’ve just got it, you can focus on what’s dollar productive for you.”

ANDREW COCKS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT RICHARDSON & WRENCH, said the time was ripe for his group of just under 100 offices to expand following a period of internal rebuilding.

“My focus at the moment has been to build and position ourselves for greater expansion in Queensland and NSW, and we’ll look at other opportunities after that,” he said.

“We’re just in the process of opening an office in Narellan [in Sydney’s south west], and there are a number of other offices in Queensland and Sydney that we’ll be opening. So it’s pretty exciting time for us.

“One of the things we’ve spent a lot of time doing is rebuilding the platform from the ground up, and we haven’t really been pushing the recruitment process until a few months ago. It’s really started to pay off, and there will be a number of different offices coming to join the group in the next few months.”

Richardson & Wrench recently conducted a digital brand campaign which yielded strong click through rates and healthy social media interaction levels via Facebook.

Mr Cocks added that the group, which prided itself on being like a family, was careful in who it allowed into the network.

“We go through a fairly structured process to make sure that not only are they happy with Richardson & Wrench and the model we provide them with, but that we’re happy with them,” he said.

“For us, it’s really about focusing on consistency of message, and a delivery of a consistent quality of service to the marketplace,” Mr Cocks continued.

“There needs to be a level of expectation in the marketplace that if you’re dealing with a particular network, that you’re getting a consistent outcome time and time again.”

L. JANUSZ HOOKER, DEPUTY CHAIR AT LJ HOOKER, said AREC allowed staff within the group to get together.

“It’s about bringing the whole extended family together,” he said.

“We’ve got 7,000 people in our network, and it’s very hard to get everyone together. We have our state-based conferences but a lot of people come to AREC, and we can have a big number of LJ Hooker people come together, learn from some of the best in the industry, and more importantly get together in a great environment.

“The power of a network the size of ours is the intellectual property (IP) of the business, and that’s learning from the best of the best.”

Mr Hooker said the group had posted strong growth last year, and was looking to do the same based on a strong investment in their staff.

“Last year in Queensland alone we added 16 offices, which is pretty amazing in the current environment,” he said.

“We’re now investing in our people which we’ve done consistently in the last couple of years. We make sure our training is top notch so we can survive what I still think is going to be a very tough market in the next 12 months, and getting our agents the best tools so they stay motivated and keep the positive momentum that we’ve got within the business, and delivering the customer the best service.”

And it’s this professionalism that Mr Hooker thinks is needed across the industry.

“One thing the whole industry can embrace is lifting up the level of professionalism,” he said.

“What we’re putting in via the LJ Hooker Institute, that aligns with Bond University, lifts up the education standard. We’re giving people a career path in the industry.”

MICHAEL SHEARGOLD, FOUNDER AND CEO OF REAL ESTATE RESULTS NETWORK (RERN), a group that provides training and professional support to more than 30 independent agencies across Australia and New Zealand, said breakthroughs almost always starts with a break with.

“So often people are caught up looking for a breakthrough but aren’t prepared to let go of anything, and Tom (Ferry) reinforced that when he spoke,” Mr Sheargold told Real Estate Business.

“In terms of changing, people often think it is about starting something but in actual fact it is about stopping something.”

In a separate statement, Mr Sheargold said a number of strong independent agencies he worked with highlighted how important it was for real estate companies to be agile and move with the times.

Mr Sheargold, who has conducted more than 6,000 coaching sessions in the past 20 years, said the paradigm has shifted to such an extent that a new methodology must be adopted when buying and selling real estate.

“The results of these incredibly successful independent agencies are testament to the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners when market conditions are altered,” he said.

“Real estate is as much about educating and informing clients as it is achieving results and as such a return to basic common sense and values is re-emerging.”

Mr Sheargold claimed an increasing number of agents and franchisees are leaving the franchise model in favour of independently run businesses owned and managed by families with a strong code of ethics, underpinned by old school values.

“It’s not just about customer service; it’s about building relationships based on trust. The integrity in which these independent agencies conduct their business is netting positive results right across the property spectrum,” claimed Mr Sheargold.

“The thing I am passionate about is, with all my clients I work with from RERN, is helping them do their very best. That’s about two things – number one is improving the reputation of the real estate industry overall. And, secondly, is improving results. I think people work too hard to in this business to earn an average income.”

CHRISTOPHER STEAR, DIRECTOR AT FLETCHERS GOLD COAST SOUTH, told Real Estate Business that AREC helped provide the industry with a “wake up call.”

“Like all conferences like this, there are some terrific take outs that really resonate for some.

“Other people [conference speakers] can show us that our best isn't really our best. It's really easy to have a dinosaur agency. In the climate we live in at the moment, the technology, the instant communication climate, you can become a dinosaur [very quickly].”


“I’m getting back into sales again after being away from it for two years,” she said while at AREC.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been to anything like this. It’s really good to get a cross section of everybody else’s input, and then just take from it what will work with your personally. If you’re motivated, there’s plenty of stuff out there that will work”.


“I do a minimum of two conferences a year, Ray White’s Elite Conference and AREC, and one or two other personal ones,” he said.

“The reason I come here is to learn, and make changes to the business. It gives you a good push and motivation to be able to implement stuff in your business. It’s not about implementing everything, it’s about getting three or five things, then going back to implement them and increase your business.”

Mr Schroeder said one such focus would be video listings, something he had just started in his business.  

“I’m going to set up a YouTube account,” he said. “I’ve been meaning to do that for a while. I’m doing a lot more property videos at the moment.

“We have in-room auctions, and instead of a property slideshow, I did my property video for a particular property, and the response I got after it was great. People came up and said, ‘Billy, that’s what I want for my property’. Another said, ‘I want you to list my house’. It was a fantastic result. Why? Because you’re doing something different.”

ARTHUR KAPELERIS, SALES ASSOCIATE AT RE/MAX PROFILE REAL ESTATE IN BARDON, Brisbane, said Donald Trump’s talk centering on passion, momentum and focus resonated with him.

Moreover, Tom Panos’ presentation – ‘Critical Behaviours of Seven Figure Agents’ – also appealed to him.

“He gave some exceptional examples of what’s important. [This included] what specifically to say, especially in the auction arena that he’s involved in.”

“It really brought out the importance of using dialogue.”

Mr Kapeleris said a challenge he faced was building himself an “ideal day”.

“I think structure is important, and I’m just learning snippets of what’s important, so I’ve got to take that back with me and take a fresh approach.”  

SASHA BOE, MANAGING DIRECTOR AT NSW-BASED REAL ESTATE TRAINING SOLUTIONS, said the best speakers made their material relevant for today’s market.

“Listing and selling doesn’t really change – the principles are the same,” she said. “If you get a speaker talking about managing those conditions, fantastic, you can get something out of that. If you’re talking generic stuff, I don’t think agents need to hear that.

“If you’ve got an agent who’s talking about something that’s happening today, and it’s relevant to an agent, maybe dealing with a hard market – fantastic. Agents are going to get something out of that.”

She added though that it would have been good to see more female presenters at AREC, an opinion shared by a number of attendees.

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