Bill Malouf is one of the biggest names in real estate in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Bill is the Director and Principal at LJ Hooker Double Bay, and he’s dominated the luxury real estate market for three decades. I’ve learnt a lot from watching him do business over the years, and I’m pleased to count him as a friend and mentor.
We recently had a chat about how the industry has changed over the years and the challenges we’re facing right now.
We’ve known each other for several decades now, Bill. But I’ll never forget the first time we really met when I wanted to get into real estate over 20 years ago and I called you for a job. We met for coffee at the Cosmopolitan down in Double Bay and you left me with the bill, but without a job, right?
Not giving you a job could have been one of the biggest mistakes I ever made in the 35 years I’ve worked in real estate, Jason! I remember I met with you just after I’d already employed someone else. While we were having coffee, my phone rang and I ran off to answer it, and I left you to pay for the coffees. In retrospect, I really do wish I gave you that job.
If only, Bill! I would have loved it at the time. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in real estate over the last 30 years?
The increased competition. The competition between agents is huge today. One of the biggest things I question is the discounting that goes on as agents get more desperate to get listings. I think the deregistration of the commission structure was a mistake, and the deals you hear about today are absurd. All agents should be competing on a level playing field. But increasingly you hear about egos driving “no commission deals” simply to get the exposure and the sale, particularly at the higher end of the market.
COVID-19 certainly made the market tougher last year, with stock levels falling.
Absolutely, but the real estate market has also been shrinking in terms of stock over the past few years – not only last year. It’s a longer term trend. The shrinking size of the Wentworth Courier reflects some of that, and I think this will continue. The problem is that when supply drops, demand is still out there from buyers. People are ready to move, but the options are so limited, so they decide to stay where they are and renovate instead. They don’t want to sell, then rent, because they are worried they won’t be able to find something to buy. Over time it has created an appearance of demand in the marketplace that I don’t think is realistic. And vendors can often have inflated expectations based on this pent up demand. Some agents are worried about losing listings to competitors, so their assessments aren’t always realistic, which then jeopardises the real value of the property. Again, I think this is particularly pronounced at the higher end of the market. Over the years I’ve seen properties quoted in the $50 millions selling for in the mid-$30 millions, and many buyers may have paid for that but didn’t see it because of the original, higher price.
You’ve built an excellent reputation for honesty and integrity with your high profile clients. You’re also famous for telling people how it really is, and seeing the trends and fluctuations in the marketplace, and how it all fits together.
I believe agents need to be more honest and accurate about their assessments, so we get rid of the distrust that still lingers around the real estate industry. Being honest and upfront can lose your work, but I treat myself as honest. You need to be credible. It’s our job to maximise prices but we shouldn’t ruin the credibility of our industry. Our industry still needs to be tidied up on integrity and honesty and there are lots of agents whose knowledge is not detailed and accurate. You need to be able to know the difference between the prices achieved, the individual properties, and why they sell for different prices. You have to have this understanding to get a real market value. But an agent’s loyalty should be to the vendor and not the sale at any level.
Over the years I’ve really enjoyed working with you on properties we’ve co-listed together.
There is no ego when we work together. It’s not about who sold it, it’s the combination of two agents maximising the result for the vendor. We have to share all the info, and work as a team, which puts a focus on communication. We both want to achieve the best result for the vendor. But I always think it’s what people say behind our back about us that is the most important thing. Referral business is the most important thing an agent can have.
I really respect the way you do business, Bill.
It’s 100% mutual. If I get an inquiry about a property in one of your areas that’s out of my price points, I always refer them to you. I know you’ll always act in the vendor’s interest, you’ll have a detailed knowledge of the location and property, and you’re a professional. That’s important to me.
Why do you like Real Estate and why have you stuck with it for so long?
I couldn’t do a job without variety and real estate gives me that. I love the negotiation and I love closing the deal. There’s also the friends I’ve made, and the relationships I’ve built through this industry. Socially, it gives you a broad spectrum of friends and access to knowledge on so many different things. It’s a great feeling and very rewarding. But you can’t take yourself too seriously either.
Thanks for the chat, Bill. Your turn to pay for the coffees.
Photo credit: https://billmalouf.ljhooker.com.au/