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First National Bowral bounces back after losing everything in a fire

When a fire in Bowral took out 13 businesses, including the First National Real Estate Bowral office, principal Allan Falvey knew he was going to have to dig deep to find a way to rebuild his business.

Two and half years on, the business has made a remarkable recovery after they lost everything and have now acquired well-known local agency, Home & Hearth Real Estate, as they move from recovery to growth.

Mr Falvey said it was hard to bounce back after losing everything, but the support of First National and the local community had made it possible.

“I must admit we’ve had a bit of good luck and some bad,” Mr Falvey said.

“A fire in Bowral took out 13 businesses including ours – it started in a restaurant out the back.

“We lost absolutely everything.”

The fire happened in June 2021, right at the peak of the housing boom that saw Sydney-siders buying up in Bowral, and right across the Southern Highlands, as they tried to escape the State Government-imposed Covid lockdowns.

Mr Falvey said the strong market helped, but they had to band together and scramble to make it happen.

He said after the fire, the whole team moved into the board room of a local conveyancer and got straight back to work.

“There were only six of us at the time, but you can imagine it was pretty small and we were all crammed into a 5m by 3m board room,” he said.

“It was a really interesting time, but looking back on it now, it really did build a lot of camaraderie for the team and that’s what it’s all about down here.

“It’s very much about empowering the individuals and giving them the flexibility to work their own way.”

Last year a new partnership agreement with Reece Woods marked the start of a new growth phase for First National Bowral, and now the acquisition of Home & Hearth Real Estate cements the agency’s progress.

Mr Falvey said the business was now well and truly back on track, the team had grown to eight people and moving into the two-storey Home & Hearth Real Estate building, on Bong Bong St, would be a great moment given what they have had to overcome.

The purchase came on the back of local principal Di Dixon retiring from Home & Hearth Real Estate, which came at the perfect time for First National Bowral who were looking to grow.

Sales agent, Hayley Sneddon, who is Di Dixon’s daughter and who previously worked for First National, will also come on board and provide invaluable experience and local market knowledge.

“The acquisition increases our presence in the Southern Highlands as a serious player,” Mr Falvey said.

He said 95 per cent of sales in Bowral were made to Sydney buyers, so he wanted to grow and keep leveraging the First National brand.

“We’re focused on being the agent of choice in the Southern Highlands,” Mr Falvey said.

“We want people to come to us because they recognise the level of service that we offer.

“For the past two years in a row, we’ve won the Southern Highlands Local Business Awards for Best Real Estate Agency.

“The third is coming up later on this year and we’re hoping, fingers crossed, that we can make it a hat trick.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.