Monthly Archives: September 2015

Property Management: Strategies For Maintaining A Healthy Work-Life Balance

Helena Fantela, Harcourts North Geelong, Victoria, Lorenne Lovell, Harcourts Huon, Tasmania and Sarah Street, Harcourts Burnie, Tasmania all sat on our panel at the Harcourts Australian National Conference and shared with us the basics of Property Management, their coping strategies, growth strategies and some of the best systems to ensure you stay at the top of the game. Here are some of the highlights that will help any property manager in any Harcourts office in the world!



How do you cope balancing your time while managing a career in property management, studying for your real estate certificate and running the family home?


Working in property management is always a challenge, but throw in three children, a needy husband, outside work commitments and studying part-time and you are bound to never be bored! It is always a juggling act, but you fast learn to prioritise your life! My work desk always looks like it has been hit by a cyclone, but in my mind it is organised chaos – my house on the other hand, is always neat and tidy so two different ends of the spectrum.

I start work 45 mins before the office opens every day so I draw a list up every morning of what I need to achieve that day – as with everything, there are days when the list is not completed, but if you have at least managed to undertake the most important things on that list then you have made some kind of headway. Up until recently I have had lunch at my desk every day, eating while typing, but now I ensure that I take at least half an hour away from the office, even to just get some fresh air.


How do you manage the demanding expectations from clients to be contactable 24/7 and wanting instant responses to emails and phone calls?


As we are all aware, property management is a highly demanding and stressful job at times, and it has taken me a long time to realise that any issues aren’t my issues personally. Once I managed to change my mindset, the stress that I placed upon myself has eased considerably. We all have to move with the times and offer a property management service outside normal traditional office hours of 9 to 5, Harcourts Huon hold open homes after hours and on weekends.



What are the advantages of being a Harcourts property manager?


The biggest would have to be the Harcourts Tasmania support, we can call any property manager from any office, we can call our corporate State Property Manager Kylie Smart 24/7 and at times I have even called our CEO Tony Morrison. Everyone is happy to help when and wherever they can.

The Harcourts apps and technology are fantastic resources. We value all the training that we are offered from National Conference to state property management training, especially the twice yearly regional forums where we get the opportunity as property managers, to sit and speak as a small group of surrounding offices, to share and bounce ideas off each other as one brand to show united strength in our systems.

Turning A Simple Van Into Community Goodwill

Harcourts Taranaki and Harcourts Cooper & Co both had the innovative idea to get out into their local communities where they could make a difference whilst raising their profile. The answer came in the form of a community van.

For Harcourts Taranaki, the van was to be used as a means for fund-raising by selling coffee at local school events, and charity and club fund-raisers.

According to Harcourts Taranaki business owner, John Christensen, the van provided them with a great opportunity to engage and connect with their local community whilst raising their profile, but warns an initiative like this needs to be driven with purpose.

“We found that this was a good concept, but it needed someone to drive it in terms of getting it out there and using it a little bit more. It certainly had its benefits, like providing promotion of our business, but not as much as expected”, says John.

Despite the lack of engagement initially, the Harcourts Taranaki office decided to turn a negative into a positive, donating the van to the Little Fighters Charitable Trust after holding a competition to give away the van.

The lesson?

Great ideas still need time and dedication in order to get the response you’re looking for, but don’t let a setback dampen your community involvement.

For Harcourts Cooper & Co, their coffee&cone van is still up and running, and an important part of their community engagement program.

“The idea of an ice-cream truck actually came about at a Business Planning session and it grew from there”, says Harcourts Cooper & Co Sponsorship Manager, Jaci Stevenson.

But the initial idea wasn’t without its early challenges.

“The first step was to try and find a suitable vehicle, which turned out to be quite a drama. After three months of looking at rusted old Bedfords to fairly new Mercedes vans, I was at a meeting with St Johns Ambulance, who we also support, and was telling them about the difficulties and they were looking at me as if I was a complete idiot,” laughs Jaci.

“One of them kindly put me out of my misery and said, “you know we have decommissioned ambulances that would be perfect, don’t you?” So once I got over the embarrassment, we went out to their headquarters and they showed us the ones available, and we were off!”

Jaci says some of the quotes she received to fit the van out had her gasping for breath they were so expensive, until she found a reasonable solution by chance.

“I found a guy who understood what we were trying to do and what we were hoping to achieve in giving back to the community, and he quoted me a price that was half the cost of everyone else so he became my best friend just like that,” says Jaci.

The lesson?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network when launching a community or charitable initiative as you’ll be surprised how much people are willing to help.

Initially the Cooper & Co team were looking at a traditional ice-cream-style truck, but Jaci found that ice-cream machines proved costly and needed almost constant cleaning. So they settled on old traditional rolled ice-cream from tubs.

“Tip-Top have been very kind, helping us with the loan of freezers, a good deal of the ice-cream and the cone sleeves and they help us out in other ways for other events we sponsor.

“We also decided that while having an ice-cream truck was great it was really only practical for the summer months so we decided that we would add coffee to the mix and that way we could be active fairly consistently throughout the year.

“I tried a few coffee brands and then decided that I had nothing to lose by contacting my favourite coffee brand, so I got in touch with Atomic Coffee and thankfully they had the same philosophy as our other suppliers about getting involved in the community”, says Jaci.

The lesson?

You have nothing to lose in reaching out to brands and organisations you’d like to partner with, and if they share the same charitable philosophy as your brand, you can make a great team!

Business partners too pitched in, helping with everything from the cost of a generator, to the design and decoration of the truck.

“After a month or so we realised that we could make more money for the charities we were supporting if we had EFTPOS so our wonderful banking partner provided us with a mobile EFTPOS terminal that we now use for lots of sponsored events and at this stage we are as set up as we can be”, says Jaci.

So how is the coffee&cone van actually used to build community engagement?

“It is made available to any local community event. We have been to school fairs, sporting events, movie nights, market days, Anzac Day celebrations, the Shore to Shore Fun Run (where we sold over 300 coffees in an hour or so), Capetown to Cairo (a South African Festival held in Browns Bay where we sold over 600 ice-creams) and Cooper & Co property auctions.

“Our agents will invite clients, potential clients and their database to come along and see how an auction works and grab a free coffee or ice-cream while they are there. It is a great way to connect with their database for a valid reason and we have quite a few agents who will have us at most of their auctions – some clients specifically ask for coffee&cone to be there”, says Jaci.

Jaci believes this initiative is without a doubt one of the most visible means Cooper & Co have of connecting with their local community.

“We are seen at so many events that we now have people asking us for business cards so they can get in touch for their next community event. To have people coming to us rather than the other way around is fantastic. We have people who invite our agents to appraise their properties because they saw us at the auction down the road, or they saw us at the local school fair, or they saw us at their local rugby game. People see us out and about and supporting the community and we almost automatically become one of their chosen brands to consider when it comes to selling.

“I’ve had people come and chat with me when we are at events who tell me which Harcourts Cooper & Co agent they’ve just sold through and that they chose that agent and branch because of all the different things they see we are doing within the community – so not just with coffee&cone but with all the sponsorships we do”, says Jaci.

Being seen to be giving back to the community is one of the most powerful tools a company can have.


Whilst there has been a very real benefit for the Cooper & Co team, who are now top of mind for many in the community simply through the success of the coffee&cone van, it’s charity that comes first, with the van having given back around $12,500 in product or funding to the community.

The lesson?

Aim to give back first, and recognition will follow.

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Property Management: Strategies For Keeping Your Team Motivated

Helena Fantela, Harcourts North Geelong, Victoria, Lorenne Lovell, Harcourts Huon, Tasmania and Sarah Street, Harcourts Burnie, Tasmania all sat on our panel at the Harcourts Australian National Conference and shared with us the basics of Property Management, their coping strategies, growth strategies and some of the best systems to ensure you stay at the top of the game. Here are some of the highlights that will help any property manager in any Harcourts office in the world!


Property Management is a stressful job. How do you keep the team happy, motivated, balanced and in control?


The team environment and office culture needs to be very positive in order for us to deliver the best service. Our culture is based around helping each other. Although everyone has their own portfolios it’s important for them to feel like they are supported as part of one team. We have office achievement awards, incentives where we take the team to a day spa. We have a life coach that motivates and does one on one sessions. We encourage the staff with their personal development and to attend training.



Lorenne, How does your office stay connected as one team and how often do you have staff meetings?


Every Monday morning we have a complete team staff meeting, sharing ideas and catching up on referrals, appraisals, listings etc. that have occurred during the past week. There are also other commission and financial incentives between departments ensuring that staff are rewarded for referrals that lead to sales and/or rental listings. The Property Management team have monthly meetings with the business owners to review our PM stats, set KPIs, achieved targets and track our performance against our department business plan. Our office has also implemented employee of the month and of the year, based around the Harcourts Values and voted on by our colleagues.

Buying A Newly Renovated Property

Buying A Newly Renovated Property? Things You Need To Ask…

Why do some buyers opt to purchase ‘fixer-uppers?’

Many buyers see the benefit in buying a home that has recently had a makeover, especially if they are short of time or cash to spend on property maintenance. These buyers would much prefer to buy a property with all-new fittings and fixtures and minimal to-do list.

As property prices rise, so does the number of people buying “fixer-upper” homes, not to live in, but to renovate and modernise as quickly as possible and then resell at a profit.

They make their money by purchasing homes that are in need of repair or updating for less than the average market value for the area, revamping them and then putting them back on the market, hopefully to sell at somewhat more than the average local price.

What should you look out for if buying a newly renovated property?

A newly renovated house is an attractive prospect, as many buyers see the benefit in buying a home that has recently had a makeover, especially if they are short of time or cash to spend on property maintenance.

These buyers would much prefer to buy a property with all-new fittings and fixtures and a minimal to-do list, even if it does come at something of a premium initially.

However, that does not mean you should let the smell of fresh paint and the gleam of new tiles go to your head. As with all property purchases, you will need to do some homework and make sure that the improvements you will be paying for are real and not just cosmetic fixes.

For example, you may see what looks like a new kitchen, but it is possible that the seller just put in a new sink, cupboards and countertops without changing any of the original wiring or plumbing, and if the house was actually built 50 years ago, that could be a serious problem for you later on.

How can you be sure the renovation has been done soundly?

You should ask the real estate sales consultant exactly what major work the seller says has done, and you may want to see a copy of any certificates of compliance that are legally required as well.

Similarly, you need to establish whether any structural changes have been made, like taking out a wall to “open up” the living areas and create a more modern layout, and if these have been signed off by an engineer or architect.

And, of course, you should check for any cracks, leaks or damp patches that could signal foundation or roof problems, as these can also be expensive and tricky to fix.

The property will most likely be empty, so you should also take the opportunity to ‘test drive’ it, and gauge the renovator’s workmanship by turning on taps to check for water pressure, flushing the toilets, checking that all the stove plates work, flipping the light switches, and opening and closing windows, doors and cupboards.

In most instances, everything will work really well, but if you do find small problems, the seller should be willing to fix them immediately in order to secure a sale. After all, for a renovator, every month that a finished house goes unsold equals holding costs that diminish their potential profit.

You shouldn’t hesitate to negotiate and make sure the property really will be move-in-ready, and that you will be able to enjoy your lovely new home without any worries.