A new column in The Real Estate Voice, featuring the experience and opinions of leading industry proponents.
Company or organisation: REIA
Job title: President
What attracted you to the real estate industry (and when)?
I was 19 when I joined the real estate industry and what attracted me to it was that it wasn’t a 9-to-5 desk job. It involved people — and real estate is not so much about the houses, it’s about the people.
What do you love most about the industry?
It’s very much the people involved in the industry and the fact that every day is different.
What do you consider your proudest moment or greatest achievement (in the industry)?
I’ve been fortunate. I’ve had two proud moments/achievements. The first was when I became President of the Real Estate Institute of Tasmania. The second is becoming the President of the national body (REIA) and I’ve been doing that since 2019.
Biggest challenges in the industry? How has the pandemic affected the way people buy, sell and rent property?
Last year was a challenge, obviously, for two main reasons. The first was we had new legislation come into place around tenants. That legislation was entirely understandable because, regardless of whether the pandemic had taken hold, everyone in Australia needs somewhere to live. Thankfully, it looks as though we’ve weathered the storm. The other thing driving the legislation was states that went into prolonged lockdown, especially in Victoria. That created issues, not just in real estate, but in every industry.
Latest real estate/economic trends affecting the nation?
What we’re experiencing, and this is almost right across Australia, is what was being forecast 12 months ago. We were talking value reductions or price drops of 20 to 30 per cent, and that hasn’t happened — in fact, prices are going the other way. But our biggest problem is something to buy; not just for property owners, but also for tenants. The pandemic has forced a lot of people to bite the bullet and move to the regions, which is what they’ve always wanted to do. We just haven’t been building enough homes, particularly in regional parts of Australia. So, that’s creating challenges for some local markets and tenants due to steadily rising rents.
How would you improve the process and incentives for property ownership, from an owner-occupier and investment perspective?
We don’t have a national housing plan and you can’t come up with solutions in one term of government. I’d like to see a national housing plan to get us through the next two decades. The plan could include local government, land supply and how to make it easier for people to build homes. It’s certainly on our radar and is something we’ve been discussing with the Federal Government and Opposition. I think we’re going to have to get the next federal election out of the way and then we can have a proper conversation about it. It is needed, because real estate is very reactive at the moment.
What’s the biggest misconception people have when buying or building a home?
I think the biggest issue having an impact on our market is that there’s an awful lot of people living in big family homes who aren’t going to market, because they feel it will be too difficult to buy something at the other end. This is exacerbating our supply problem. And, again, it gets back to our national housing plan because unless we improve supply, prices are just going to continue to rise and many potential purchasers will continue to be disappointed.
What tips would you give for future-proofing an investment?
In terms of an investment property with a view to being tenanted, I would always buy in a suburb where there’s reasonable population growth. In terms of a property to live in, I think upkeep and maintenance should be top of the list.
What should prospective buyers look for when choosing a property?
At the moment, there are so many buyers missing out on properties, even in Tasmania [where Mr Kelly was “born and bred”, and is based]. In the old days, we had one happy seller and one happy buyer — and life’s great!
Nowadays, we have one happy seller, one happy buyer and probably 20 disappointed potential purchasers. Many of those people have probably missed out on five to 10 properties.
If I were doing the rounds, intending to buy property, I would be attending every single auction that I could on the weekend before to get a real idea of what prices are doing. The other tip would be: don’t be afraid to buy in an area that’s a couple of suburbs out of where you want to be. It’s called the property ladder, isn’t it? Just jump on at the bottom and off you go.
In terms of technology and business interaction, what do you think buying a home will be like in 2030?
The good thing about the pandemic is that it forced a lot of us to move swiftly to technology that was available, but we weren’t using. This includes auction platforms and virtual inspections. I think over the next 10 years, all of that technology will become cheaper and more widely available. But I think the human interaction will remain, because that’s the one thing that technology can’t take out of a real estate transaction.