Elite AgentFeature Interviews

Hungry, humble and smart: how Upstate gives customers a five-star experience

At Upstate in Sydney's Northern Beaches, they don’t dress like real estate agents, they don’t talk like real estate agents, and they certainly don’t work in a traditional real estate office. But as Cassandra Charlesworth discovered, this point of difference is carefully crafted to truly cater to the modern customer.

When experienced agents Pete Mosedale and Lachlan Yeates decided to start their own real estate brand, it wasn’t a move they took lightly.

For 15 years they had enjoyed the comforts of a franchise system, appreciated the support provided, and valued the strength of a network.

“It was the right time in the market,” Pete explains.

“Our business was mature enough.

“We had a large enough client base and market share.

“We felt we had the potential to be the best in the field by ourselves.

“As 42-year-old business partners, it was also a case of now or never.

“We wanted to put our mark on the wall.”

Almost exactly a year ago, Upstate opened its doors to the public.

Its vibe is casual, its conversation is real and its ethos is to provide vendors, landlords and tenants the best real estate experience possible.

“The Northern Beaches is a lifestyleoriented market, and our aim at Upstate is to resonate with our customers,” Pete says.

Two years of planning went into the creation of Upstate.

During that time Pete and Lachlan narrowed their business down to three main areas of focus: staffing, management and listings.

“We built a system to address each,” Pete continues.

“We needed a website that was userfriendly and offered an easy experience.

“We wanted a brand that resonated.

“We wanted a platform that would help our agents become a brand within our brand, and we wanted our sales department to feed property management.”

A full year was spent planning the brand.

They did market research, spent hundreds of hours on SWOTs and identifying the problem they were trying to solve.

“We consistently asked what’s different and then we formulated ‘Points of Brilliance’,” Pete says.

Upstate’s ‘Points of Brilliance’ encompass every way their brand is different to others in their market.

It ranges from having an office that is entirely paperless, to using smart speakers with dedicated playlists at every open home.

It also extends to the way agents dress and how they speak with clientele.

“Our agents wear smart-casual because that’s more likely to put people at ease,” Pete says.

“An agent done up in an expensive New York suit doesn’t resonate with people here who live and breathe board shorts and sneakers.

“When we talk to customers, we don’t use ‘real estate’ speak.

“I am our type of customer and quite frankly jargon just smacks of insincerity.”

Meanwhile, Pete and Lachlan designed a multi-million dollar office that Pete likens to a 1,000sq m work of art.

“There are breakout rooms, and sleep pods, and it’s an inspiring place to work,” he says.

“Our view was that it was important to value our staff because we’re better together as a collective.”

Those staff are selected on three criteria: hungry, humble, and smart.

Pete notes you can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude.

He says the industry is changing too quickly to be caught up in what people achieved in the past.

In return, training is ongoing and the focus is on building an agent’s brand.

“They are a brand within a brand, so we spend a lot of time and effort working to build their individual profile,” Pete says.

Upstate also offers a slightly different perspective on the role a real estate business plays.

Within the state-of-the art office are standard departments like residential sales, commercial sales, property management and projects, but there are also concierge services and access to mortgage brokers.

It’s all about offering a one-stop solution for customers at every stage of the property journey.

Importantly, sales and property management work together closely, with Pete noting Upstate is acutely aware of the ongoing business of rentals.

“We are a property management-first business,” he says.

“We understand the value of property management and our sales department is set up to feed it.”

Simona Safar heads up property management at Upstate, with 2,000 commercial and residential properties and a team of 20 staff under her watchful gaze.

It’s clear from the get-go this is a girl who relishes Upstate’s point of difference.

It’s equally clear she is a go-getter in a field that has typically been undervalued.

When Simona talks property management, she speaks of her staff as “customer service junkies” who are driven by a desire to make as many people as possible smile each day.

She too hires on the Upstate mantra of “hungry, humble and smart”, with the primary criteria being her team members are decent human beings.

Training is ongoing, motivation is at the ready, and when you run in Simona’s pack, she’s keen to know what motivates you in a bid to nurture talent.

Simona’s equally eager to offer her team five-star experiences that they can then repeat with Upstate’s clients.

“If they’ve never had five-star service, how can they know how to offer it?” she reasons.

“We take our team for team building events that offer this type of experience.

“Then they know what it feels like and can evoke it.

“It’s also a big thank you to let them know their work doesn’t go unnoticed.”

So, what does five-star service in property management look like?

Simona says it’s about becoming a landlord’s trusted advisor.

It’s about offering seamless service and it’s about picking up the phone to have important conversations about a landlord’s property plans for the future.

“We offer an end-to-end service,” Simona explains.

“We have a lot of different facets to our business, like project management, concierge and a resident mortgage broker.

“So if a landlord’s considering renovating, we can connect them with finance and also tradespeople.”

To facilitate the five-star experience, landlords and tenants are given access to an app.

This app notifies landlords immediately when tenants put in a maintenance request.

Quotes are also provided for repairs, and landlords can select the best option at the push of a button.

They’re then updated on the date repairs will take place and when they’ve been completed.

In the interim, tenants can also see the date the landlord received a request, when the tradespeople will be attending, and the type of work that will be done.

“Tenants, landlords and the property manager can see everything relating to them,” Simona explains.

“It provides complete transparency and avoids those cringeworthy phone calls.”

She notes the result is positive conversations between all parties.

As Upstate readies to celebrate its first anniversary, Pete reflects that the business has exceeded expectations.

“We came in during a choppy year in the industry and we entered with our chest out,” he says.

“We met and exceeded our business plan and the take-up has been well received in our market.”

Pete also readily acknowledges the value of his previous franchise experience and a business pedigree that extends far beyond that.

Over the years, he and Lachlan have acquired a number of smaller agencies – one of which was first established in 1922.

He says it’s humbling to think that as the Upstate brand celebrates their first year of success, they’ll also be marking almost 100 years of continued presence in the Northern Beaches.

“That forms our pedigree and our heritage,” he says.

“But we are evolving to meet the future.”

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