12 August, 2016 / Category: Other
Infolio Property Advisors present the last interview in our ‘Meet Infolio’s Clients’ series: candid, entertaining editorial-style pieces which allow you to learn about the Infolio experience direct from our clients. Our final subjects are talented writers Andrew and Meaghan, who invited us into their beautiful residence to discuss their search for a forever family home – taking them on a circuitous journey from a position of being buyer advocate cynics to seeing great value in the opportunities an advocate provided – despite being seasoned property market veterans themselves. Don’t think an advocate is essential to finding a hidden gem in the property market? Read on!
Infolio: Please share your recent property journey with us.
Meaghan: We had a place in Ripponlea that we sold. When we sold it, we looked for a bit to try and find something we wanted. We couldn’t find something we fancied.
Andrew: We also didn’t want to have the pressure of finding something immediately. When we sold, we sold to a developer offmarket. We were savvy about offmarket sales, but we didn’t want to race out and buy the first thing we saw because we’d sold our property to someone who needed it. We thought we’d rent something for a year and fortunately a friend of ours had just renovated this house. They were moving to LA for a year or two, and so we said ‘Cool! We’ll look after it for you.’
M: So we moved into a freshly renovated house.
Infolio: Why did you decide to use Infolio? How did your relationship with them come to be?
M: Part of the problem for us is that this is such a lovely house in a beautiful location. So it set the bar very high for our new property. It’s kind of nice in that we haven’t been living in a horrible rental for a year, but the problem is that when we started looking around at places that had been renovated we’d thing ‘gee, that’s not very nice’. We’ve been spoiled.
A: Or we’d think the street is too busy.
M: Our son goes to school just two blocks away from our home, so it was pretty hard to find something that measured up to this. We were fairly nightmarish when we first spoke to Lauren. We were very specific about everything. We were like ‘We’re not going to go beyond street ‘x’ and we’re not going to live on a busy street’. So consequently, when we were looking for ourselves we were becoming frustrated. We also learned from friends who had recently sold their own property offmarket, just how large the amount of offmarket real estate transactions were. It’s been a surprise.
A: Especially for houses which look as though they would do really well on the live market, or at auction.
M: It’s a surprise to discover this secret market, and so the idea of being paired with someone who can zero in on exactly what we’re looking for rather than wasting countless hours looking for property really appealed.
A: There’s frustration to deal with too. We spent a lot of time looking, and we bid on three houses before we were put in touch with Infolio. The process was frustrating because the properties would invariably go for much more than the agents were quoting. There would be so many people at the auction that your heart sank the moment you got there – you felt you didn’t really have a chance. We found ourselves in a position that we bid on one or two houses where we were going to have to spend a fortune renovating. We were half-dreading buying those ones! There was a combination of frustration and just being a bit time-poor. Although we were following the markets weekly, attending the auctions and speaking to agents – we never felt like we were on top of everything.
M: The way properties are listed sometimes vary, too. Sometimes properties are described as St Kilda East rather than Elsternwick – so that was always frustrating.
Infolio: Do you think changes to property quoting laws might improve buyers’ ability to negotiate?
A: Not in the least. All the auctioneer or agent has to say is that the vendor wouldn’t tell us their reserve until the day of or the day before auction. Quoting or pricing discussions had beforehand between agents and vendors are pretty much meaningless.
M: When we sold a prior property, we didn’t tell the agent what we were willing to sell for until we were mid-auction. I think that is where the vast gulf of misunderstanding between the market and the public. Agents have to talk up vendors to get them to agree to sell, and then they have to talk vendors back down to eventually sell the property. If an agent is slightly less optimistic in their quote to the vendor than the four agents coming after them, they won’t get the business.
A: We were trying to buy when we were watching property go for a lot more than we thought it should have – there was a 20 – 30% jump in local prices from the time we sold to the time that we bought.
M: It was almost like hysteria.
A: In this area in particular, it felt like everybody wanted to buy right now. I couldn’t believe the prices that some of these properties were going for. Somebody else really wanted them.
M: That was really frustrating. I keep a good eye on real estate values and we’re usually pretty good at estimating what properties might sell for. But there were prices occurring that were just nuts. To have guidance from Lauren – to tell us if a price was extraordinary and that someone had paid far too much for it – was really helpful.
Infolio: Did you know that you needed an advocate?
A: Mates of ours had used advocates before. They rave about the process. I was always a bit dubious about it. To my mind, I couldn’t see the value in having an advocate.
Infolio: What did you think they did?
A: I think part of that was a misunderstanding of the process. I felt they could possibly negotiate for you – I didn’t understand the search process or the offmarket process.
M: You think to yourself ‘If I’m looking out for property, and I’m happy to go and bid and I’m not incompetent – what is an advocate bringing?’ In terms of the efficiency with which Lauren went through all the new listings,we weren’t bothered to look at or think about properties not worth considering. We might ask about a property that had just come onto the market and Lauren would say ‘Oh no, that’s not for you: it doesn’t have x, y, z.’ Or ‘I’ve seen that one – it doesn’t fit your brief because ….’. By eliminating the things that were useless, Lauren saved us so much time. Having our friend confirm the value of the advocate process was definitely useful.
A: That, and the clarification of how the process worked was helpful too. Our broker, Martin from Aviser Finance, referred us to Infolio. We had a couple of chats with Lauren where I still wasn’t convinced – but she didn’t push. She was able to spell out the whole process really articulately. When we met her, I felt that she would have an understanding of what we were looking for – and that we wouldn’t have to explain ourselves again and again. She got what we were looking for immediately. It put our minds at rest.
M: It was also a developing process. There were a couple of properties she drew our attention to early on in the process that weren’t a great match. I could see her then adapting her approach to the properties we were presented with. It became really focused. There were two properties which we were considering – the first fell through because of some agent nonsense – but we were philosophical about the process. We felt that we missed the first one because a better one was out there waiting for us – which was absolutely true!
A: We kept looking at property while we engaged Infolio, and would occasionally suggest properties to Lauren. She would know the property immediately, and explain to us why it hadn’t made the cut. Sometimes she had even already seen these properties, judging them inappropriate and not presenting them to us. Lauren would always come back with other options. She was ahead of the game at times when we thought she had missed out on telling us about new properties that had come to the market.
Infolio: How long did it take to purchase your property?
A: It was a very fast process – it was about six weeks.
Infolio: In that period of Infolio refining the properties they presented to you, did your own expectations about the property you might purchase change?
M: It did probably – initially I thought we’d want something that had already been renovated – probably because we like being here so much. But the more we looked, and the more renovated properties we saw, the more I saw the problems of moving into someone else’s idea of what they wanted in a home. I started to think that I was ready to buy something with a fabulous framework upon which we could build a home that would suit the vision we have for our family.
Infolio: That’s a really big change.
M: It was.
A: We did put an offer in on a renovated property – but all of those renovated properties were compromises too.
M: They all required something to be done, anyway.
A: I think I was more open to things that weren’t quite right when we started the process. As we went through the process, our ideas refined – but because Lauren was able to show us stuff that was exactly what we were looking for, I went ‘I’m not going to settle for less now, until I see the one we really want!’ When we saw the one we really wanted, we had to go really hard and fast. To not get it would have been devastating.
Infolio: The property you’ve purchased – does it need to be renovated?
M: It’s a two-storey freestanding 1920s – 30s house. The bones of it are fabulous – just fabulous. It has a well-built 1970s extension with a dodgy little kitchen and family room which is well built but ugly. Ultimately, we want to extend it. But to move in, it just needs to have the floor finished, the walls painted, wardrobes put in and the bathroom updated.
A: The other thing about the process of being in someone else’s house for a year gave us a really good idea of what living in a contemporary renovation is like. To feel what it’s like to live in a big open plan extension – what the pros and cons of that are. Our kids’ needs will change very quickly too – so we’d like to live in this new house for just a little while before renovating.
Infolio: The negotiation for the property – how did that happen?
M: It was an offmarket sale.
A: That was the other thing that was really impressive. It was certainly worthy of comment – just how many houses were selling offmarket in that period. To my mind, if an advocate is bringing houses to you that are offmarket then immediately it changes the landscape for you as a buyer, as you don’t have access to those properties in any way whatsoever.
M: The negotiation was very complicated, because the vendors were not in accord. It was a very fraught negotiation.
A: It was a lot longer than making an offer and waiting a few days.
M: It was not a particularly straightforward negotiation. Lauren handled it extremely well and looked after what they required to make the deal, and made sure that we were informed and able to do the things we needed to secure the sale. She handled it wonderfully and sensitively. It was an absolute pleasure.
A: There’s every possibility that if we had found that property without Lauren, that we wouldn’t have made it through that fraught process. We’d have lost patience with it all, or just not trusted in the process. But Lauren was able to say ‘Now is not the time to push. Now is the time to wait for a response.’ Or ‘Now is the time to push a little harder’. So, I guess her familiarity with the process and the personalities involved meant we got through the process mentally intact. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster when you’ve submitted an offer and there’s no response. Are they taking it? Are they not? Are we moving? Do we keep looking or not? Because it was several weeks before we got firm answers and a signature, there were other properties that we had interest in during this period. Lauren’s advice was bang-on too. She’d say ‘I don’t think that house is as good as the one you’re interested in buying’ or ‘Actually, I think you should look at that one just in case.’ It was a balancing act.
M: It was quite stressful the weekend that the vendors signed off on it. That Sunday there was a house for auction that we were very keen on. And we were very nervous because we thought if we lost the one we eventually bought – but we also lost our second choice – we’d be very upset. It’s an emotional situation which Lauren understands. She negotiated our emotional responses very well, too. She was supportive.
Infolio: Did she encourage you not to give up?
M: Oh yes.
M: People who are selling are selling part of themselves – and you’re buying the idea of your future. So it’s a highly emotional process. Particularly when you’re dealing with estate agents – there are some agents that I feel great affection for, they’re great, fun people. But in terms of trusting them when they’re trying to sell you a house? It’s much harder.
A: Well, agents are not representing you. They’re working for the vendor. If you understand this, then you can really appreciate why you need someone representing you.
Infolio: So now you’re moving in – how do you feel?
M: So excited!
A: Unbelievably excited. When we started looking we were open to the fact that we might find a house that would only suit us for five or ten years. And we were keen to find something close to the school for the kids. We’ve been through the process of driving the kids to school every day for the last six or seven years. There’s so much lost time in that. Their lives are centred around the school and so we decided that this time, the house had to be walking distance to the school. We were open to the idea that if we couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for – but that the house would suit us for five or seven years – that would be okay. But the house we’ve found is one that will last for life.