Setting the benchmark
The number of women in commercial real estate is certainly low compared to other industries but at Burgess Rawson, we are bucking the trend.
From senior management to sales and property management, Burgess Rawson celebrates diversity.
And the talent of our team is being recognised Australia-wide with two of our female team members receiving industry accolades.
Burgess Rawson Melbourne Managing Director Ingrid Filmer was recently awarded a REB Women in Real Estate Award for ‘Principal of the Year’ as well as the coveted ‘Excellence Award’ overall. This wonderful industry recognition concluded a highly successful year for Burgess Rawson. The industry panel of judges was impressed by Ingrid’s leadership during a complex and challenging time, displaying innovation and tenacity.
And the recognition didn’t end there. Childcare specialist Natalie Couper was named finalist in the REB Women in Real Estate Awards for ‘Sales Agent of the Year’. It is well-deserved acknowledgement for Natalie’s persistence during 2020, along with her focus on providing the best results for her clients.
The impact of COVID-19 was felt deeply across Australia. Here, Ingrid and Natalie sit down to discuss how Burgess Rawson adapted.
How did you navigate the challenges and complexities of 2020?
Ingrid: When COVID-19 hit, we had three clear goals: to keep selling; to instil confidence in vendors, investors and clients; and to enable our team to achieve these goals remotely, while juggling the demands of young families and home schooling.
Essentially, it was a case of how to run things ‘business as un-usual’!
How did you adapt your approach to continue selling investments during the COVID pandemic?
Natalie: COVID has certainly provided more challenges than we ever expected.
However, even with the lockdowns, our results remained strong with most of the properties purchased sight unseen. A remarkable effort particularly in Victoria where investors could not even do a drive by of a property.
COVID-19 provided no hurdle for investors wanting to purchase without being able to physically inspect. Nationally we overcame this challenge with detailed videography of each of the assets together with agent virtual walk throughs, allowing the investor to feel connected to the asset.
We are pleased with the way we adapted quickly managing to sell a centre for $7 million that had temporally closed due to a positive COVID case!
This momentum continues with current enquiry levels comparable to those at the peak of the market in 2017. Essential services – particularly childcare investments – are still most coveted. And we are seeing plenty of interest in regional childcare properties as they were less effected during COVID.
There is an additional level of confidence for investors with the ongoing, long-term financial support provided by both State and Federal Governments. As we saw during COVID, Government provided additional funding to families and operators which enabled working parents to continue to work and centres to remain open.
Demand for childcare services will only continue to rise, especially with the anticipated baby boom following 2020 lockdowns!
With lockdown in Melbourne and closed borders throughout Australia, how did you manage the iconic portfolio auction events during this time?
Ingrid: We are renowned for our Portfolio Auctions which are held in Melbourne and Sydney every six weeks. Thankfully, our Sydney team was able to continue their auction events at the Opera House as per normal. However, with the introduction of stage 3 and 4 restrictions in Melbourne, we needed to pivot…and fast.
Adjusting our auction process to meet COVID-19 restrictions and to keep our vendors and investors comfortable and safe was the priority.
In June, we held the first major commercial property auction event in Victoria since COVID-19 restrictions eased. All eyes were on the auction as it was a solid test of the commercial property market.
The auction was held at Crown Casino but looked completely different to our last 135 auction events.
All bidders were required to pre-register and pay a deposit to enable them to bid.
We had a reduced capacity in our auction room so needed to establish additional rooms to accommodate the number of people attending. All seating was positioned at least six feet apart.
Bidding was available in-person, or via phone to our agents.
Of the 15 properties listed at the Portfolio Auction, 13 sold under the hammer or just before auction, translating to a success rate of 87%. Total sales exceeded $46.8 million.
What sets you apart from competitors in the childcare investment space?
Natalie: I eat, sleep and breathe everything childcare!
I don’t just see myself as a selling agent, but someone that gives guidance on all aspects of childcare from development, leasing and sales through to property management.
Childcare is an intricate investment class with several key stakeholders including Federal and State governments. With ongoing, strong bipartisan support, the appetite for this investment class remains high.
In fact, we celebrated a proud milestone in 2020 – in the last ten years, Burgess Rawson has sold 328 freehold centres nationally with a combined value that has now surpassed the $1 billion milestone.
How did the investor market respond?
Ingrid: Despite the pandemic impacting States in different ways, data shows that investors were confident making cross border transactions for quality properties, even without a physical inspection.
Restrictions changed the way we did business. As demand remained high throughout the year, purchasing behaviour adjusted with the use of virtual property inspections and online bidding.
Consequently, the negative sentiment regarding property assets, transaction levels and price stability were proven wrong with 38 per cent of property selling in the last five months of the year.
Investors were introduced to a new rule book during the last financial year with added complexities and challenges.
Burgess Rawson needed to adapt quickly, and we saw this as a great opportunity. We needed to flip the negative market commentary on its head. And we certainly did just that.