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AREAs finalists credit leadership and innovation for success

Putting property managers first, pushing the boundaries of innovation and the banding together of a leadership team are among the features finalists in the AREAs have credited for their success.

South Australia’s Ouwens Casserly Real Estate, along with TOOP+TOOP Real Estate and Victoria’s LongView have all been named finalists in the Annual REA Excellence Awards Residential Agency of the Year.

First established in 2016, the AREAs celebrate the success of property industry professionals and their outstanding performance in supporting Australians through every aspect of their property journey.

The awards include submission-based categories as well as top campaign and agent awards, powered by realestate.com.au and realcommercial.com.au data. This year’s awards consist of more than 40 categories, with a focus on innovation, service, marketing, wellbeing and community.

For Adelaide’s Ouwens Casserly being named a finalist is recognition for the entire team, which pulled together while directors Alex Ouwens and Luke Holden were taking time away from the business while their children battled cancer.

Fellow director Nathan Casserly said thankfully both children had recently been given the “green light” on their health.

“As an agency we stepped up because our directors, sadly, were away from the business because both of their children were diagnosed with cancer within a couple of months of each other,” he said.

“So as an organisation, and as a leadership team, we had to step up.

Alex Ouwens, his middle child, who was five at the time, was diagnosed and Alex has only just returned to the business after 18 months out.

“Our sales director Luke Holden, he was out for 12 months after his boy, who was 10, was diagnosed with cancer.” 

Nathan Casserly

Mr Casserly said the tragic circumstances had shone a light on the fact the agency relied on just a few leaders and had provided the catalyst needed to change that.

“We had a challenge around leadership with key personnel being out but we still had a very good, successful year,” he said.

“Awards can recognise when your business is in full flight and has maximum momentum in a really strong market, we’ve all experienced recognition in those times, but it’s a testament to your business, your people and your culture when you have challenging times like that and in a turning market as well.

“We moved from having a business with one or two key leaders to one with a leadership team that supports and leads our business.

“We learnt the hard way that when you rely on one or two leaders then when those one or two leaders aren’t there for a while the business is stretched.

“Now we have a CEO, a chief operating officer and an executive leadership team that supports our people.”

Mr Casserly said in the coming 12 months the team would also receive much more coaching, mentoring and one-on-one support.

LongView Co-founder and Executive Chair Evan Thornley said he was “gobsmacked” his property management and investment focused agency was a finalist in the Residential Agency of the Year award.

“I assumed that they would only focus on sales agencies because that’s always been the focus of our industry,” he said.

“So we’re very honoured that they’ve seen what we’re doing in property management, which is a central part of our industry but tends to be much lower profile, and it is being recognised.”

Evan Thornley

Mr Thornley said since opening seven years ago, LongView had focused on providing the best in customer service by ensuring team members were happy, well and fulfilled in their roles.

“There is no road to client satisfaction that doesn’t drive through staff satisfaction first,” he said.

“Being in property management has got harder and harder with increased regulation, a lot of pressures on businesses and the churn of staff that have left the industry is enormous.

“What we’ve focused on, since we began, was to be the place where the best property managers want to work.

“I like to think we’ve become that and that’s then reflected in our client service and our client feedback.”

Mr Thornley said LongView had grown to look after 4300 properties and had businesses in multiple states.

He said the agency was able to achieve high team retention rates through the use of a “pod structure”.

“The first thing is to not expect a property manager to manage every element of what we call end-to-end property,” Mr Thornley said.

“We have a pod structure where we have specialists that do different parts of the work.

“Our property managers don’t work weekends, we have a field team that does the opens on the weekends.

“We have an admin team in the Philippines that does that separately. I think we’ve got the only VCAT specialist in Victoria who does all the VCAT appeals for our clients and is a specialist in that area.

“We have a whole technology support team. We have pods for junior property/property management assistants, through to property managers and senior property managers, through to team leaders.

“We regard it as a team sport, whereas almost everybody else traditionally sees property management as one property manager that has to be good at 17 different skills.”

Mr Thornley said LongView also had a team of data scientists that enabled them to provide their clients with the very best advice.

TOOP+TOOP Owner Genevieve Toop said the agency was “thrilled” to be named as a finalist in the Residential Agency of the Year award.

“This recognition is a testament to our team’s unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional service and outstanding results to our clients,” she said.

We are proud that our innovative approach has been recognised as leading the industry, and we are grateful for the opportunity to showcase our commitment to innovation and customer service on the national stage, alongside the best in the country.”

Genevieve Toop

Ms Toop said the agency’s commitment to innovation and setting the standard in the industry led to the introduction of several new strategies in 2022.

“TOOP+TOOP’s commitment to innovation and excellence led us to implement three key initiatives last year: regular mystery shopping for unbiased feedback, cutting-edge AI technology to improve our agents’ productivity, and predictive AI to help us better serve our clients,” she said.

“These initiatives have already made a significant difference in our business and contributed to our nomination for the Residential Agency of the Year award.”

Ms Toop said it would mean a lot to her and fellow owner Bronte Manuel if the agency were to win the award.

“It would recognise all of our team’s hard work and dedication over the past year,” she said.

“As finalists last year, we have continued to push ourselves to innovate and find even more ways we can provide exceptional service to our clients. 

“Winning this award would be a testament to the commitment and passion of our entire team. 

“With the pace of innovation already taking place in 2023, we have no doubt it would motivate us to continue to raise the bar on our thinking and what’s possible even more next year.”

Find the full list of AREAs awards and finalists at: theareas.com.au/finalists.

Winners will be announced at a national event on Thursday 27 April.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.