Apartments & Developments is pleased to present our Industry Leaders Series – helping property professionals and engaged buyers navigate the current climate.
Luke Berry is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Thirdi Group – is a diversified property development and investment company with an impressive track record in successfully creating large-scale residential, commercial and seniors living projects throughout Australia.
On top of being responsible for the implementation of all sales and marketing activities at Thirdi, Luke is a sought after keynote speaker on the Australian property market at a range of property education events and a regular contributor to Apartments & Developments, Your Investment Property, ‘BRW’ and many other industry publications.
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Read video transcript below:
Q. What insight does Thirdi have into how the Australian market may fare under the current conditions?
A. Thirdi is very lucky; you know, over the last 15 years; we have built really strong relationships with local advisors, consultants. We tap into those regular to get their view on the market and also; because we fund with International Partners, we've got a lot of Intel coming down from those International markets.
So we take all of those, and we cross-reference everyone's opinion, and we form opinions of ourselves. And what we're doing is we're taking that Intel and we're targeting specific buyers, specific products, property types, to try and build a type of development that we believe is going to perform well at post of COVID-19 recovery.
Thirdi has always been a big part of our strategy in selling, and I feel that we may be in a little bit of ahead of the bell curve when COVID struck; we've got our own platform called ARTI; which stands for Augmented & Reality Thirdi; and it's something we're quite proud of, where we've built our own web-based platform for our clients to visit.
You can do virtual views; you can do 3D reviews of floor plans; you can have a virtual tour of our property. So, you know that type of investment was key and we did that a few years ago.
And what we're seeing is; our clients are actually spending more time on those digital assets, getting familiar with our property, and so forth; and when you combine that with the traditional way, we've got an amazing team that does a lot of videoing;
So this beautiful display or prototype property right now is from our Gentry Alexandria projects, and we've actually put together a video to give someone a tour. So we've got clients. I know we just saw one or two a young girl, who is in London; she's coming home and she used that video to get familiar and formalize her opinion.
So using those texts, using that digital experience has really helped us maintain the engagement with clients during this Corona crisis.
Q. Do you think the industry will end up benefiting into the future due to the measures that are needing to be put in place now?
A. I think the Corona Cloud as horrible as it, it does have a silver lining; where it really forced down industries to look at itself to find out better ways to work with their clients.
It's made us look at ourselves; and say right, how can we give our clients the best experience possible with video with the restrictions in place? You can't have open displays with a lot of people walking through.
So I think that you'll see a lot of people pop-up, lot of companies, and individuals. You will see some leaders of thought about how you can actually operate and use some of the learnings we picked up through the crisis; to make it a better experience for people buying off the plan or buying you new homes and apartment-style project.
Q. What are your perspectives on how the market is faring so far with the COVID-19 pandemic?
A. I suppose COVID has definitely brought some challenges to us and our sales program.
I do feel fairly lucky, and I think my team put a lot of effort in before the Corona crisis struck, and we've had this wonderful momentum of people engage with our product, and an example would be; I'm sitting in our Gentry prototype and before COVID; we actually were building up engagement with our clients to come to inspect this when it finished, and I think it actually opened officially a week after all the restrictions were put in place.
But we've been averaging 10 to 15 appointments a week, and all the hard work was done beforehand. So I think from a market point of view; we're being very careful on the properties we're looking at buying next; and in terms of our current projects; we are just working hard with our engaged database, working with some smart people in the media to get qualified leads and you know, we're doing okay; so I think a bit of luck, with hard work, will be able to navigate through Corona and slingshot out of the mess.
Q. What long-term effects do you think the pandemic will have on the property market and buyer behaviours both immediately and into the future?
A. It is no doubt that the pandemics going to change consumer behaviour of our property. Let's face it, people have been locked up for up to six weeks. You know, if you're in a shoebox that's in the southwest corner with no balcony. That's not going to be very appealing to someone that's maybe in a northeast corner with some amazing amenity in a rooftop garden.
So I think our designs going to evolve because of the pandemic to make sure that, we compensate for people that may not have the best outlook; so that if you ever locked in a place for a period of time, you want to live there; and that's important if you are the owner, or someone's going to rent your investment property.
Q. Do you think that we may see another property boom off the back of this crisis?
A. I don't know if booms going to be the right word to use, but we are tracking that there's going to be an enormous focus and investment infrastructure. Whenever there's a crisis; and if you look way back in the past, what follows these downturns, is a government-driven investment, and government-driven incentive.
So we're watching that closely because we believe that our industry which is such a large economic driver; governments will want to spend money combining that with private enterprise.
So will that be a boom? Maybe not like we saw in the past, but they will be definite opportunities for people like me to go and build strategic property in strategic areas and do quite well; and for people to go and buy beautiful new homes and investment properties in areas where people are going to live work and play. We're tracking that closely, to make sure that we're ready for it.
Q. What innovative technologies have you embraced that will help Thirdi stay connected with the modern buyer under the current circumstances and into the future?
A. Tech can be such a funny thing; it's evolving so fast and it's hard to keep up, but a couple of recent things that we've invested in is; we've got our own Thirdi chatbot and we're very proud of that.
So that sits on our listings, on our websites, so someone sitting on the couch at 7:30 p.m, and they want that immediate gratification of an answer our little chatbot pops up; and we've rationalized the question tree so someone on a journey to find out everything from; are pets allowed or strata fees, and so forth. That's something we're quite proud of.
Q. How have you and other developers adapted to the restrictions that are currently in place - particularly when it comes to private display suite viewings or virtual inspections?
A. Obviously, when coronavirus became a health crisis, we had to protect our staff and the people that were visiting our prototypes or displays. So straight away, we had laser checks for temperature, we've got hand sanitizer in nearly every room and we've asked our guests to wear a face mask because our staff wears them as well. So that was a priority for us.
Q. Are you implementing any ongoing changes in the design and construction of your developments to suit the needs of the modern buyer?
A. I think that the COVID crisis has really given us an opportunity to review what we're doing, and how we're doing it.
You know; from a design point of view; we always chase excellence anyway, but this COVID crisis has highlighted to me how important space is, and how important design is; that integration with indoor and outdoor living; making sure we get lots of natural light, lots of cross ventilation, and so forth.
So I can tell you from our point of view, all our chats with Architects, Interior designers are about maximizing those things going forward. So that's being something that's being the point of mind for us, in our projects.
Q. In terms of types of buyers, in which category are you seeing the highest level of buyer confidence at the moment?
A. Right now, we're engaging with the most active buyer in the marketplace. And that's the cased up downsizer. And that's something that we don't see changing for the foreseeable future, all our products like this beautiful Terrace in Alexandria Sydney and our properties in Piemonte;Majority of our enquiry is coming from older downsizes, looking at selling their family home, and downsizing to something that's easily managed; well located, well-connected; and has got great amenities.
Q. Are you still seeing interest from international buyers in the Australian market?
A. What's been really interesting during the COVID crisis; is that there is a percentage of international buyers, interested in there what we caught Trophy Hunters or Sophisticated Investors; and the reason they're targeting us and our projects is the Australian dollar is so low.
So there is a percentage of international buyers that are looking at this crisis and playing the Arbitrage on trying to come into our Market and pick up a property for perhaps less than what they would pay with; simply because the exchange rates are low.
In terms of that investor-driven market; for foreign investors wanting to own a piece of land in Australia. Unfortunately, that's really dropped away for us. And we're not seeing much activity at all in that space.
Q. Would you say that the record-low interest rates and improved lending conditions may bolster the property market to weather this current storm?
A. Yes, I think the government and the banks they've got a job to do to pull the right leaves at the right time; and I think that with interest rates as low as they are if there is any government assistance for first home buyers and so forth.
When you combine all those things; it's going to really help our Market recover. It's going to help developers continue to invest, continue to build; so that we don't end up with another housing shortage in the years to come.
Q: What advice can you give to others in the industry, as well as prospective apartment buyers who may be hesitant to commit under the current circumstances?
A. In terms of apartment buyers and buying that dream home; don't wait. If it fits within your budget and it's somewhere that you're going to live in for a number of years. Don’t let the COVID crisis that's going to be around for the next few months dictate your terms; if it makes sense to you, you can afford it, I always say buy; because you going to live in it for 5 to 10 years. Let's face it and let's hope that COVID will be a distant memory by then anyway.