We knew there had to be a better way
Between us, we have close to a century’s experience in real estate. In our past incarnation, we have been described as among Australia’s most successful top-end real estate agents and auctioneers.
Why, then, did we create another side and then cross over to it? Why become Australia’s first buyers’ advocates?
We had been helping a number of people with purchases, and they’d tell their friends and it began to snowball. People were begging us to do it.
It became plain that buyers’ advocacy was a service which took a lot of the uncertainty out of buying and was saving some people a great deal of money. After some hard thinking and a trip to the US (where buyers’ agents are the norm), we decided that if we were to properly represent buyers, that’s all we should do.
”Buyers advocate David Morrell said deliberate bait advertising was common. He said Consumer Affairs Victoria has failed to rein in agents who flouted laws…”TheAge
Overnight, we had changed sides. It was now us vs. the agents – the poacher had invented the gamekeeper.
How could that work? Wouldn’t the agents refuse to deal with us?
Well … no. The lesser agents might think of us as their worst nightmare, but even they know we’re representing real buyers and not competing with them for listings or threatening their commissions. They can’t afford not to deal with us.
That gives us, among other advantages, access to agents’ “hidden” listings; while our greater knowledge of vendors and markets allows us to take control of auctions and negotiations.
We know all the games and we put a stop to them.
It was time someone did.
“I was a mess. It seemed impossible.”
Christopher Koren is a licensed real estate agent who in 25 years in the industry has been the director of a number of successful agencies, a renowned auctioneer and, with David Morrell, the pioneer of buyers’ advocacy in Australia.
His knowledge of the auction process is encyclopedic. Chris is frequently sought for comment in print, radio and television.
Chris has secured hundreds of properties, often for the most exacting purchasers, and has been a major catalyst for the ethical reform of the real estate industry in Australia.
David Morrell is a licensed real estate agent with 30 years in the industry. He owned his first real estate agency when he was just 21 years old. With Chris Koren, he pioneered buyers’ advocacy in Australia.
David has probably purchased more houses than anyone else in Australia (and he has bought them in every corner of our great land). He is a sought-after speaker and is widely quoted in the media. He is the author of the best-selling Real Estate Myths Exploded
After 20 years as a licensed agent, Karen Price was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the collision of interests of agents and their clients. Too often, they’re not aligned.
“Representing buyers is a much happier place to be. Being at Morrell and Koren is the only place to be.”
Karen initially worked as an “apprentice” advocate under David and Chris (“the best tutors in Australia”) and saw just about every way a home could be found, the ins and outs of negotiation and bidding and, most of all, how to help clients decide what they really need – where the real-life value is for them.
Now she’s flying solo – and establishing a reputation as the most professional female advocate in Australia; with a record level of transactions.
The biggest buzz? “Being there when a client moves in and you can just tell that they’ve made the right decision. That it’s going to be a great place for them to live.”
We have bought a staggering variety of houses, apartments, development sites, bathing boxes…
Here is some of what we have learned.
1. Impossible-to-find properties can be found.
10 years ago, auctions were it. Today, around half the houses we buy are not even listed by agents. Especially at the top end, vendors avoid the hassles of agent selling. They don’t want parades of strangers tramping through their houses. Now much of our time is spent is uncovering the gems in the hidden market.
2. ‘Live’ where you’re thinking of buying.
Is this the right house for the way you live? Is the floor plan workable? Is the garden? Is the district? If not, moving day will be a terrible awakening. Use your imagination. ‘Live’ in the house, in your mind, from morning ’til night. How well is the kitchen laid out? Will there be a crush in the bathroom? How will you get to work, shops, schools? Is the garden pleasure or pain?
”Buyers advocate Chris Koren, who was at the auction, said an agency that quoted wrongly to the tune of $1 million “… should be selling shoes not property…”
3. When the “Wow!” fades.
You need Wow! If you’re not in love with a house within a few minutes of walking inside, walk out. But Wow! can mislead if it persuades you to overlook more fundamental needs. In restaurant terms, “Wow!” is the aroma of a fabulous sauce. Think again about the steps suggested in 2. and make sure the whole meal lives up to your first impression.
4. Price. How much is too much?
Too much is more than replacement value, more than comparable properties are selling for in comparable areas or more than you want to pay. Too much is, in negotiation, the figure an estate agent will suggest. Too much is $1 more than a vendor would have been prepared to accept. How can you find out what’s too much? Checking with competing local agents, who probably know the property, can provide clues. Buying local market reports (providing you’re comparing apples with apples) can be a big help. Keeping a close eye on similar properties in similar streets will, in time, give you a reasonably accurate feel for what’s right.
5. Avoid fumbled catches.
You can go through everything it takes to find exactly what you are looking for only to lose it to another buyer at the last moment. Fair enough if that’s someone with deeper pockets at an auction. But if it’s a private sale or post-auction negotiation and a price you would have paid, you may just be left wondering. You could blame the agent, but chances are that if you had known more, you would have succeeded.
6. Stress. You don’t need it.
Homework helps lower the stress. When you know more than other buyers, when you have the funds and the strategy, that will add confidence. But (plug coming), a lot of clients hire us simply because they know we will cure their stress. We’re not emotionally involved. We won’t be snowed. That can be a huge relief. (End of plug.)
7. Finding value at the top end
(Another plug; but if you are spending the money needed to play at these heights, you need to know this.) You have no doubt heard that the market decides how much a house is worth. You may not have heard that, at the top end, Morrell & Koren is the major force in that market. We are involved in a huge proportion of upper-end sales. We know precisely what’s available and how much will secure it.
8. Investment. Get rich deliberately.
We have seen too many people rush out of the latest seminar and into their biggest mistake. We also work with many investors who are in for the long haul. They do the research, they understand the market, its highs and lows, the strengths and weaknesses of different districts, building styles, financial arrangements, regulatory environments … and then they wait. Patience is more than virtuous; it is profitable.
9. Shock! Horror! Real estate agents are not always reliable sources of information!
The games played by agents are the stuff of legends. The dummy bids still lurking in bushes and being plucked out of the air, the phantom buyers who are now haunting private sale and post-auction negotiations, the underquoting, underquoting, underquoting…
Agents will help themselves to as much of your money as they are able. If you cannot assure them that once you have bought you will in turn give them your old house to sell, they may try to prevent you buying at all. (The only thing better than this commission is this commission added to the next.) And beware the estate agent who would be your friend. If he or she is such an excellent person and you have so much in common, you can have a great friendship – starting just after settlement day.
10. Impulse is not your friend.
People are emotional. You are emotional. People buy houses for the wrong reasons and only realise the dimensions of their mistake the day they move in. Floor plans that don’t flow, rooms smaller than they remember, neighbours from hell. ‘Perfect’ houses which need masses of money. You need someone to advise you; who sees the faults as well as the promise. Someone who can save you from you.
11. The perils of exhaustion.
The people who have been looking for so long they have become desperate. Their expectations have slipped along with their judgement. They have been on the treadmill of too, too, too many open-for-inspections and too, too, too much disappointment. That’s you? Take a break. Or get help.
12. “I saw it. I bought it. Trouble.”
“I was driving past the auction. I just stopped and bought it.” Please, don’t (see 10.) There are the lifestyle considerations (see 2.). There’s the inspection you need to find the rising damp, the rotten stumps, the dangerous wiring … All the terrors that add up to a lemon. Don’t. Just don’t.
13. Judging good buyers’ advocates.
They can point to years of successful experience in real estate – in markets relevant to where you are looking. They know all the tricks. They have confidence in their abilities. They publish their fees. They don’t ask for retainers. (Why would they if confident of success?) Satisfaction guarantee? Yes. They won’t charge until you are happy.
14. Buying at the top end.
The very top is a different world. It’s more private. At the very top end most of the action happens without an estate agent being involved. Open-for-inspections are rare. Negotiations are often between solicitors. If you are not a frequent swimmer in these waters, you are well advised to get help. And see 7.