Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Power of Teamwork!

On Wednesday, State Government executives visited our Head Office in Norwood. This was part of a half day tour they were doing to gain insight on how businesses are delivering exceptional customer service to their clients.

While preparing for this presentation, it became very evident to Suzannah and I just how many areas of our customer service excellence come back to the philosophy of teamwork. 

The interesting thing was, this wasn't the first time during the week that I had been thinking about the power of teamwork and just how much it has an impact on results. 

Seeing the Power's impressive win against Geelong on Sunday put the importance of teamwork at the front of my mind. I believe the outcome of this game was inevitable from the moment Port Adelaide presented as a united team, linking arms for the National Anthem. This was a statement of an extremely strong and cohesive team and from this moment, it was clear to me they would win the match… well before their comfortable lead at three quarter time.

There is a famous saying used a lot on the sporting fields: "A champion team will always beat a team of champions."  Reflecting on the week, this statement couldn't be more true, for the Port Adelaide Football Club and for our team at Toop&Toop. 

In our presentation to the State Government executives it was no coincidence that everything relating to our customer service kept coming back to our team...

Teamwork is imbedded in our culture and our company structure allows us to make teamwork a reality and an everyday practice.

We are unique in the real estate industry and we are set apart in South Australia as we are the only real estate company that has 100% ownership of all seven of our offices. This may seem like an insignificant fact, but it is the reason we can deliver the best possible customer service and results to our clients. 

With over 140 staff who believe in the same values, work from the same systems, and who share and access the same contacts and databases, we can deliver a level of service to our clients that no other agency can. 

Like professional sporting teams, our team from across all seven offices meet every week. We train together, we showcase our clients' properties, ask opinions, share knowledge and learn from each other.  All of this makes us a stronger unified team and, like Port Adelaide, we truly believe it is this team approach and philosophy that is driving the great results we are achieving for our clients. 

Genevieve Toop

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We are out about you?

It seems you never really know with any certainty when the best time to jump back into the property market may be, but if you do nothing, then expect nothing in return.

Suzannah took the big plunge and purchased her first residential property last week. After attending auctions and missing out, she finally got one. Now she's just as nervous as she is excited. Suz has been running around this week sorting out her finance, insurance and preparing for settlement.

'Post Purchase Blues' where the doubt and bittersweet emotions kick in, need to be experienced to be fully understood. These feelings are swiftly followed by the flashes of 'What if?'. What if unemployment jumps? What if interest rates skyrocket?  What if I can't afford the repayments? What if property values fall and don't rise? What if the state is actually financially crippled? Holden, Roxby, closures, bankruptcies, and the list of 'what ifs' become overwhelming. When I was sick they called this 'catastrophising'. Well life will just pass you by if you don't take it on, so I say, go for it Suz!

And there is more happening in the Toop family: Over the Easter break Sylvia was back in the field, this time as a buyer, looking to buy something really cheap to add to our personal portfolio. If you were down at the Fleurieu you may have run into her....I was in lock up finishing off my book 'The Business of Landlord'!

Genevieve spent the weekend working in her new garden with her partner Tom, putting up their new shed and fence. Backyard Blitz has nothing on the Toop family at the moment. We are all backing ourselves and investing in South Australia and 'our own back yard'.

While the rest of my family is getting stuck into their projects, I hope to have my book about being a landlord launched around the end of the financial year. Toop&Toop have over a billion dollars worth of client properties under management and having been Hall of Famed and continually winning the 'best management' REISA awards, I feel passionate about sharing my 38 years of experience in property with anyone who is interested. It has been an enormous task and while I am not convinced I am an author (nor is Sylvia), I'm giving it a red-hot go.

It has been really tough trying to put the knowledge and experience of so many years down on paper. Even if the book is a flop, I will take comfort knowing that I have downloaded my thoughts – here's hoping it reads ok when it goes to print!

There's always more to learn and things are still changing. As part of my ongoing learning I'm flying to Shanghai on Monday with 20 other principals from around Australia to attend the Shanghai Real Estate Expo. I am one of just two from South Australia attending with the who's who in property, so I am feeling honoured to have been invited.

In Shanghai we will get first hand, up close and personal briefings as to where the property market is heading, what part China and the Asian markets will play and learn how best to ensure South Australia is well placed to share in any benefits that flow from it.

For those of you interested in property I'll report back any profound news, but for is clear from our actions and not just our words, we are digging in here at home in South Australia and we are proud to be doing so.

Whether the market is into the next upswing cycle or not, we are here for the long term because we personally love property. The Toop family and Team Toop really are passionate, not just about property, but also about South Australia.

The Toop Team is mixing with the best in the world and proud of it.  Stay tuned and if you want a copy of my book when I finally finish it, let me know.

Loving property...

Anthony Toop

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Investors... Power in numbers.

The market is definitely running hot, some sectors more than others and motivated buyers seem to be everywhere. Unfortunately for me, the investor/first home owner space is one of these and it's also a market I'm currently looking to buy in. I was out and about looking at property last weekend and buyers were swarming. Properties in a great location, in the $450,000 to $550,000 range are going well over reserve at auction. 15.4% of activity in the Adelaide market are first home buyers and 38.7% are investors. It's no wonder the competition is so tough out there, and from what I'm seeing, it's the properties requiring a full makeover that are attracting a lot of attention.

Last weekend's efforts got me thinking about my approach and what stacks up...

When looking to purchase an investment property, updated bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms with built in robes go a long way to add value to your bottom line. Tenants see value in these features and it will show in your returns.

After hunting around and missing out on a few properties that not only sold for well over the auction reserve but also required large maintenance works such as roofing, flooring and painting... I have to ask: At what point does the new build become a better option than the 'renovators delight'?

When looking at what to buy, you need to consider not just the purchase price and expected capital expense of the renovation, but also the downtime taken to complete the repairs and how this will affect the rental return. This is a trap some investors can fall into when considering the character home that 'needs work'. I'm as guilty of this as anyone.

Looking at property and working to fix them up is embedded in my DNA and I can't help being drawn to the bluestone cottages and the sandstone villas. This emotional tie is something I am struggling with… "The property has great potential but can I really afford it, knowing I will need to spend in excess of $50,000 just so it's ready to meet the rental market?"

Being objective in the residential property industry is an important discipline and one I am reminding myself to adhere to daily. So before you buy, make sure you look at all your options - whether it's a new build and suitable for a tenant right away or an older character home - and compare them. It's important to know what you're in for either way.

So, it's back to the drawing board for me and to try hard not to get (too) swept up in the emotion. I do love the process and the intensity, but I'm happy to be reminded it's also about the numbers.

Suzannah Toop

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Technology... Helping people or replacing people?

We live in a world where technology is at the forefront of everything we do. These days children operate iPhones and buy apps before they even learn how to talk.

Embracing technology is a must for any business but from our 28 years of innovating, developing and embracing technology, we've learnt that just because something becomes possible, it isn't always the right thing to do for your business or for your clients.

One of the most popular tools over the last 5 years for real estate agents has been Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. Recently, CRM technology has leapfrogged older models and the new capabilities of these systems have never before been seen in this industry.

It is really exciting but at the same time it is quite daunting. One of the features of these systems is that it is incredibly easy to mass communicate to consumers on a 'personal' level. A great tool used in the right way, however in the market place you can already see this functionality being abused and consumers are the ones paying the price…

The amount of 'personalised' letters, texts and emails I receive is phenomenal. I only have to go as far as my letterbox to see what our competitors are up to. Despite the fact they are providing me with meaningless information I haven't asked for, the communications have clearly been sent out in bulk with no real individual 'human' thought process. I am sure if these agents actually understood who they were communicating with, they wouldn't be 'keeping me up to date with the market' - I'm their competitor, and I know what the market is doing.

Some businesses are taking this a step further and it's now reached the point where consumers are getting upset. I have no doubt this avalanche of information and marketing has been the driver in the introduction of the new Privacy Laws and additional protocols.

Recently, two previous Toop&Toop clients have told us stories of receiving 'happy anniversary cards' from our competitors–people they had never even met. One was congratulating them on purchasing their home '4 years ago'… and they didn't even make the purchase with that company!

Last week, a client of ours received a letter offering to keep them informed about a sale on their street.  To their surprise the competitor's letter was offering to keep our client in the loop of the sale of their OWN home – a home they had already listed with Toop&Toop! Not surprisingly they were really annoyed at receiving this letter and in the process of trying to impress, the competitor agent lost all credibility with our client.

To me, this has crossed the line between being helpful and being intrusive!

Just because real estate agents have new communication tools at their fingertips, doesn't mean they should always use those tools.

To me, real estate is not a competition as to who can send out the most letters to the most people, it's all about communicating and talking to people, forming relationships and helping people get the best results possible. 

So, are we helping people or simply replacing people? With the amazing emerging technology delivering new ways of communicating, our team will be freed up to help more people by becoming more accessible, better organised and have more communication power than ever anticipated.

Technology in the right hands can redefine the real estate profession, for the better!

Genevieve Toop

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Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Proud to be South Australian...with everyday heroes.

Sitting in brand new seats in OUR brand new stadium last Saturday with 50,000 other South Australians brought a tear to my eye, especially seeing a full house with a roaring crowd. Adelaide Oval has finally opened for business, and I just loved every minute of the first game's atmosphere!

I was overwhelmed with pride knowing that I had played a very small part in this day, while many of my mates have paid a big price personally to make this stadium a reality.

This week's InsideStory is dedicated to each of the key players who have had a role behind the scenes, away from the media attention and public view. I know we won't see your names over any of the new sections or bars throughout the Adelaide Oval and there are very few who would even know your names, however the personal price you have paid has been high. You know who you are and we should all be extremely proud that we have unsung South Australians in our community like you. You are the real heroes.

The benefits of our new Adelaide Oval were seen from the early stages and have affected us all differently. Gen and her partner Tom returned from London shortly after I got sick and Tom began working with the construction team at the Adelaide Oval. The stadium provided him with an opportunity to build not only an icon, but also a life back in South Australia.

Adelaide Oval means something special to so many of us and represents a new and vibrant future for all South Australians. I'll never forget the feeling of excitement and anticipation of the first bounce at last week's showdown, two elite South Australian AFL teams...everyone passionate and in harmony and all hopefully feeling proud to be South Australian.

As a Power supporter, naturally I finished the day on a high but that wasn't what last Saturday was really about to me. It was about being born and bred here in South Australia and proud of it.

Toop&Toop recently won the Nation's best Real Estate Office of 2014 for our Hyde Park office. This win meant that we have now been named BEST AGENCY in Australia for all three agency categories of Small (Stirling), Medium (Hyde Park) and Large (Norwood). We are so proud that Toop&Toop are the only agency in Australia ever to achieve this. South Australia is punching so far above its weight in the real estate industry it's incredible! 

With world-class sports teams and facilities, combined with our drive to compete against massive odds, I think South Australians have been reminded once again (especially with the opening on the Adelaide Oval) that we hold the right to hold our heads high and feel extremely proud! We are achieving great things in this beautiful state.

Anthony Toop

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