When Peggy Willcox and her partner Sean decided to go it alone and open Mooney Real Estate, they knew they wanted to take a different approach. Eighteen months later, EPM finds out how well their ethos of accessibility, transparency and compassion is working.
When they launched their new business, the focus would be the Penrith rental market and Peggy’s mission would be to provide a compassionate service where tenants were valued, appreciated and treated with the same respect as buyers.
Her philosophy included openness, transparency and good communication with tenants and landlords alike.
A strong believer in local community, Peggy forged links with people through neighbourhood Facebook groups where she offered tips and advice on common rental queries, making a name for herself in the process.
The stories of people moving in without hot water or toilets that flushed, only to have their calls and emails go unanswered, horrified her. But they also instilled a commitment to assist.
She provided letters, step-by-step guidance and information about their rights, all pro bono, while building an agency that could change the perception of what a real estate agent could be.
Her ethos of accessibility extended right through to the layout of her office, which was designed to be open-plan and visible from the counter, ensuring property managers were readily available to talk with clients when the need arose.
For Peggy, it was about shifting the attitude and focus at a time when there are increasing numbers of tenants in Australia’s capital cities, many of whom are renting longer as they save for larger house deposits.
Eighteen short months later, Peggy’s push to create an agency ‘with heart’ has been a resounding success. Her rental role now extends to 200 properties, all acquired organically through word of mouth and a commitment to client service.
And this service includes an innovative approach to assisting tenants in very real need of a helping hand.
One of the major sectors Mooney Real Estate supports is women fleeing domestic violence.
“We help women get a start,” Peggy explains.
“Often they come to us with no records. Meanwhile, we have properties that may be hard to tenant, so we pair these together and help women step back into the rental market.”
Peggy notes she is completely open with landlords and honest about the situation involved. She uses the government assistance available to ensure there is minimum risk to property owners.
Due to this ongoing transparency and the build-up of trust, landlords are more than willing to take her word when she recommends a tenant with no previous record.
“Now quite a few of these girls have gone on to become the best tenants we have. With a good record under their belts they stay with us, and continue to rent through us.”
The focus on communication also allows tenants and landlords to feel they can walk in at any time, or pick up the phone to have a conversation. And she encourages her tenants to be clear and open if they are in financial distress.
“We are a young business so appreciate cashflow can be challenging.”
“As long as our tenants are upfront, communicate and stick to a payment plan, we work with them to achieve a win-win for all.”
The result has seen minimal issues within the past 18 months. Only three matters have ever been to the Tribunal and Mooney Real Estate has won three times.
“Life is so much easier because it’s about respect,” Peggy says.
Peggy’s impressive and increasing rent roll is a big achievement for only 18 months in her own business, and indicates the belief in treating buyers, sellers, and landlords equally has paid off.
It’s an even greater achievement when you consider Peggy had only two years’ industry experience under her belt when she and Sean established Mooney Real Estate, selling their own house to finance the business.
Initially, real estate had offered a way for Peggy to balance work with caring for two young children. Her job as an accountant with ING, and a long commute between Sydney and Penrith, wasn’t going to cut it. In 2014, she undertook the training to become a real estate agent and started working her way up.
When she made the move to set up her own agency, Peggy was determined her business would concentrate on providing a valuable service for all involved.
She also wanted to be known for respecting her property managers, who often live in the shadow of sales teams. And her human approach is reaping rewards, with word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied landlords and, more surprisingly, tenants, generating a four-fold increase in their rent roll in nine months. She dubs her approach an ethical focus on rental.
With a commitment to servicing each person involved in her business, Peggy is generating the type of loyalty that she hopes will see former tenants return when they’re ready to buy a home.
At Mooney, Peggy is the only sales agent; the rest of her team work in property management. “Our focus has always been the rent roll base of the business. Any sales are a bonus on the top,” she says.
Despite some initial doubts about whether her personality was cut out for the industry, Peggy has learned that forging your own path is the best way to discover your business’ niche.