All roads lead to home

29.11.2007. Two recent sales by my agency, one via auction and one via Express Sale, give cause for fresh discussion about the relative strengths of different selling methods. The first home, a three-bedroom entry-level property in Kenmore, sold under the hammer for $455,000. It attracted more than 72 people to the auction site in Gilruth St, of which 14 were registered bidders. The excellent price result clearly reflects the growing demand for entry-level buying within 10km of the CBD. The second sale, a prestige property in Jamieson Place, Brookfield, sold for a record-breaking million-dollar-plus price within hours of the first open home inspection. Thanks to expert targeting of the growing market for spacious prestige property just out of the inner-city circle, this home also attracted a large amount of interest, with three buyers talking offers straight away. Why an auction for the Kenmore house? Why Express Sale for prestige in Brookfield? The answer in fact has nothing to do with the properties themselves and everything to do with the needs of the seller and the movement of the market. All real estate agents, whether they admit it or not, have preferences about particular selling methods (and, okay, mine is for Express Sale – an exclusive service of Century 21 that consistently achieves fantastic results), but to exercise this preference at the expense of truly meeting the current market does everyone a disservice. At the end of the day, the most appropriate method for any home is the one that matches the market, is precisely timed and meets the needs of the seller. Handled correctly, any method should deliver a fair and reasonable price result. Still in doubt? Ask an expert!

Gung-ho for SOHO

22-11-2007. Five years ago it was media rooms – now almost everyone wants a functional home office. The rise and rise of telecommuting has put home offices at the top of modern buyers’ wishlists. It’s a trend that has become so pronounced we’re now advising sellers to convert that fourth or fifth bedroom into a home office prior to sale. This year 62.16% of the properties sold through my agency have included a home office, many as a conversion of an old bedroom or rumpus. The market has caught on to the SOHO (small office, home office) phenomenon and is actively meeting demand. Astute property owners are finding ways to incorporate home offices in order to address the fact that telecommuting figures have more than doubled in the last decade. This is beyond a flash-in-the-pan trend – it’s a permanent new market direction. It’s particularly significant in Brisbane where population growth is faster than any other major city in Australia and transport and infrastructure are struggling to cope. Only this month the state’s leading public sector union, QPSU, released figures showing that between 20-30% of Brisbane’s public service workforce is now actively seeking to leave the CBD and harness modern technology to work more flexibly from home. No-one wants to sit in traffic that doesn’t move and increasingly they don’t have to. The SOHO revolution is still most applicable to white-collar professions, whose numbers dominate the demographic make-up of our leafy western suburbs. Indicatively we’re receiving two consistent enquiries from local house-hunters these days – the first is for a home office, the second is for a rainwater tank. Both are important points to note for sellers, builders and renovators.

All roads lead to Kenmore

All roads lead to Kenmore It’s been fantastic to witness a flurry of new listing activity and busy open houses throughout Kenmore this month. Most exciting is the depth and variety of property on offer – there really is something for everyone, including (encouragingly!) first-home buyers. The buzz follows our prediction last month that Kenmore is at the stepping-off point of an upwards property surge, having completed a 6.5-year cycle that saw the median house price increase by 82.26%. According to our research, price growth in Kenmore has accelerated considerably during the past eight months, with the median house price in the suburb moving from $395,500 at the end of 2006 to $451,000 in June 2007 – an increase of 14.03%. Indicatively, a home on 600m2 in Currong St that sold for $310,000 last December recently changed hands for $395,000. Similarly a home in Parkway Place has just sold for $655,000 - $103,000 more than it sold for in November last year. The combination of increasing demand for western suburbs property and a steady decline in the number of homes listed for sale in recent years has contributed to rising prices in Kenmore. Since the peak of 2001, stock levels have dropped from 392 homes sold to just 200 in 2006. In the early part of 2007, more than 128 Kenmore properties have changed hands, indicating a definitive shift in market activity hampered only by a shortage of stock. This month’s momentum is not surprising in cyclical terms. One would expect that the rush of owners who bought into Kenmore back in 2001 are now, or will soon be, looking to downsize or upsize given property’s average propensity to turn over every seven years. This, combined with high demand and a climbing median price, suggests that Kenmore is on the brink of a fresh upswing. Confidence is high, demand is strong and we should see supply follow suit. In short, it’s all happening!

My Favourite Day of the Year!

It was nearly a week ago now, but the memory of my favourite day of the year is still fresh in my mind. Whilst it is absolutely true to say that I love a good family get together, or a relaxing holiday, or an action packed day at work, there’s still one day of every year that tops them all for me – the first day of the first cricket test match of the summer! Many may recoil in horror at the thought of sitting in the same spot for about 8 hours watching a sporting contest that probably distills to a mere 27 minutes of actual “action” (assuming 90, 6 ball overs with each ball lasting an average of 3 seconds), but for me, the colour, the atmosphere, the expectation and the contentment cannot be rivaled. Let me describe my perfect day to try and explain my pleasure. My friend Pete is a member of the Gabba Trust, and as such has a ticket and guest pass which enables “free” entry to the game and seating in the member’s area almost directly behind the stumps at the Vulture Street end of the ground – we sit within metres of the television cameras that aim straight down the pitch and offer viewers at home the joys of the “snick-o-meter” and “hot spots”! Now Pete is not your average friend, he’s the kind of guy you’d want around if you were stranded on a desert island – honest, genuine, intelligent, humorous …. a lot like me really! The great thing about Pete (apart from the free ticket I manage to “score” each year!), though, is that we are comfortable in each other’s company, so we don’t have to make small talk just for the sake of it. We can sit in contented, companionable silence for hours. In fact, we’ve both been known to fall asleep occasionally, wake with a sheepish grin and then continue to enjoy the “action” out in the middle with the banter of the ABC radio commentary team wired into the off ear so we can still communicate with each other should the desire arise. Last Thursday had nothing like the hype, energy and anticipation as last year’s Ash’s test, and was punctuated by periods of rain delays and the like, but that just allowed more time to indulge in those rare joys like reading the paper from start to finish, completing a sudoku or listening to Kerry O’Keefe and the ABC commentary team rambling on for hours about nothing in particular. My “Favourite Day of the Year” was capped off the following morning when one of my team presented me with an autographed copy of Kerry O’Keefe’s latest offering “Turn, turn, turn … please!” – the absolute icing on the cake for another “Favourite Day of the Year”!

The power of the written word

It took some convincing but I’m now a convert – a slavish devotee to the power of expert copywriting in real estate market. Truly this could be the sharpest weapon in the modern real estate agent’s arsenal, lifting response rates by – in our experience – up to 220% per home. In an era when every home can have great photography done, every home can have an expert floorplan created and every home can have a virtual online tour, the key to making a home stand out in a competitive market comes down to the accompanying words. Words capture what nothing else can – the history of the home, its ambience, its lifestyle provisions … the things you can only know by living in a home. And vendors are only too happy to provide all this information – seriously, they love being “interviewed” about their home! For years real estate agents have written property scripts themselves, often reverting to tired old clich├ęs and ‘Renovator’s delight!’-style hyperbole, but they are not journalists and many of us are not wordsmiths. Hiring a professional copywriter, and one who loves and understands property, is an experiment that we have trialled this year with outstanding success. We’ve experienced a doubling and tripling of figures in terms of keen buyers attending open home inspections. In one standout case, a small property in Chapel Hill that had minimal street appeal and therefore not many good photos to choose from attracted an amazing 80 inspections in 10 days – we directly attributed that to the accompanying script prepared by a professional copywriter. As I said, I’m a convert. And I’ve put money behind the concept to affirm that belief. We now have a professional copywriter on board and her brilliant words form part “platinum” marketing package, which is afforded to every property listed regardless of price. Gerard Baden-Clay Principal, Century 21 Westside