Property is usually the most expensive asset an individual will purchase in their lifetime, so it makes perfect sense to get independent and professional advice.
The challenges of buying property remotely when based overseas as a foreign buyer, or an expat, are even more acute. Rich Harvey, Buyers’ Agent and CEO of propertybuyer.com.au, created a unique real estate buying service to help local buyers, overseas buyers and expats find the ideal property for their individual requirements. Propertybuyer assists residential home buyers, property investors, commercial buyers and developers find an exact match for their specific needs.
Buyers Agents (also known as “Buyers’ Advocates”) are licenced real estate professionals that work exclusively for the buyer as their independent advisor. They don’t “sell” the property; instead they actively search across various markets and property types to locate, evaluate, negotiate and secure the most suitable property options and just charge a fee for a successful purchase.
Business World Wide recently awarded Rich Harvey, Founder and CEO of propertybuyer, with two awards:
- “Best International Real Estate Agency Australia”
- “Best CEO in Australia’s Real Estate Industry”.
We recently caught up with Rich to talk about the company’s approach to buying property, his recent successes in the industry and how he has overcome significant challenges this year.
What motivated you to start up a Buyers’ Agency?
I was always interested in property from an early age in my career. I would regularly read the Financial Review “Rich list” and noted that many of the wealthiest people had property related businesses. I created Propertybuyer out of a desire to champion the cause of the buyer, improve industry standards and offer buyers totally independent advice, not tied to developer or vendor commission. We aim to protect the buyer, empower them with unbiased property information, useful insights and negotiate hard to achieve the best possible price and terms.
Part of my motivation came from seeing my brother getting a dud deal when he bought an “off the plan” property on the Gold Coast. He didn’t seek independent advice and got sucked into the typical spruiker sales process and ended up with an overpriced property in an area with poor growth prospects.
I started the company in 2001 and originally just serviced home buyers and property investors. In the last 10 years we have expanded our clientele to cover commercial property buyers and developers seeking sites, and now offer property management services.
What is the value proposition that you offer to your clients?
The key benefits that we provide are:
- Helping clients create a clear strategy and realistic “buyers brief”.
- Providing access to “off market listings” – properties that are not advertised.
- Providing independent research on the best suburbs with good prospects for capital growth and yield.
- Saving time – Typically we find the ideal property within 30 to 60 days of engagement.
- Negotiating the lowest possible price – protecting clients from paying too much and making an emotional decision!
- Giving accurate appraisals and excellent local knowledge,
- Avoiding stressful auction situations
- Providing referrals to finance brokers, pest and building inspectors, solicitors, tax advisors, accountants, property managers, foreign exchange dealers, and many more.
- Having a professional guide throughout the entire buying process.
What are the biggest challenges when buying from overseas?
Obviously one of the biggest challenges when trying to buy property from overseas is conducting inspections and getting a feel of the property. Understanding local market conditions and knowing what price to pay are also two critical factors. We act as the eyes and ears on the ground for our clients and uncover all the hidden issues. For example, photos don’t tell the whole story, as a house could be overshadowed by a large electricity stanchion that’s been photoshopped out of the agent’s listing.
Then there are also the local council regulations, the tax implications and the logistics of trying to buy at auction or private treaty negotiations.
For our expat and foreign buyers, we provide a detailed suburb analysis of the target areas and a list of the most recent comparable sales, so that clients then have a benchmark from which to compare the properties they are looking at buying. In addition, we provide videos and additional photos and can even live stream from our mobile phone when we are at inspections, to give our overseas buyers a bird’s eye view of the property of interest.
What are the principles that drive your business?
When I started propertybuyer I had the vision of being recognised as Australia’s leading buyers’ agency. We have five key company values that underpin everything we do:
Commitment: Putting clients’ interest first.
Excellence: Attention to detail and complete due diligence.
Integrity: Complete loyalty to our buyers (no conflict of interest).
Teamwork: Supporting and encouraging each other.
Enthusiasm: We have fun and enjoy what we do.
How do you consistently win awards and accolades?
There’s no real secret to winning awards consistently, except for providing consistent, sustained and outstanding service. Many people are cynical about professional services but delivering service enthusiastically and cheerfully and going the extra mile can make all the difference. When clients trust you and you have built a sound reputation, it’s much easier to deliver great service.
I have also volunteered my time to improve professional standards in the buyers’ agent industry, acting as the President of the Real Estate Buyers Agent Association of Australia (REBAA) and also Chairman of the Buyers’ Agent Chapter of the REINSW for almost 10 years. I’ve also raised significant money for charities including the St Vincent’s CEO Sleepout for the homelessness and Kids with Cancer.
How has Covid-19 impacted on your business and how have you responded?
This year has been very tough for our business, however we have a very resilient and reliable team and have supported each other through the rough patch. We have given advice to our clients without fear or favour and giving accurate and timely advice has made all the difference. Buying property during times of uncertainty and recession is challenging for buyers as they fear the unknown. But those that have stayed the course and bought, were able to get excellent prices. Our market is now starting to stabilise and even rebound after the Covid lockdown.
What property trends has Covid-19 brought about in the property market?
Covid-19 has accelerated many existing trends. Working from home has become the norm, and home buyers are looking for an additional study or extra space at home from which to run their business. We’ve also seen the trend of “feathering the nest” – ie owners upgrading their home to make it more attractive.
We have also seen the trend of the “exodus to lifestyle”, i.e. buying properties in regional areas within one to three hours of the capital cities that are on the coast, or tree lined country areas, that have great natural appeal. Commercial property valuations in the CBD have declined but conversely suburban office space has risen.
What’s one key piece of advice you would give about buying property?
Many prospective buyers try to find the perfect time to buy. Buying while there is uncertainty from recession, financial crises, pandemics, and the like takes fortitude. But I can tell you from many decades of experience that one of the best times to buy is when everyone is looking the other way. Procrastination and fear hold many people back but doing your research and buying selectively with good advice means you cover the major risk factors. To get in touch with one of our Buyers’ Agents, please go to our website www.propertybuyer.com.au