When Michael Davoren started in real estate, there were no mobile phones, no online marketplaces, and franchising was only really just beginning to take shape.
Now, as owner and chairman of RE/MAX Australia, Michael is celebrating 50 years in an industry he loves.
“Using two-way radios – I’m sure no agent from the ’70s would forget that,” he says.
“You never knew who was going to be on the line. There was certainly no finesse to our communications.”
In the beginning
Michael got his start in real estate as a fresh-faced 21-year-old, joining his father, James Patrick (Jim) Davoren, at JP Davoren Real Estate in the Gold Coast suburb of Southport in September 1972.
“Real estate has always been a huge part of my life,” he notes.
“I guess you could say I was born into it.”
Back then, franchising was just starting to crawl, and most real estate businesses were independents, while prospecting included chatting with folk you met on the street.
And it was learning these early philosophies from his father that set the course for Michael’s career.
“My father’s great success in the business of real estate came from the basis of forging relationships, which has stuck with me throughout my career,” Michael says.
“Most days, I’d walk with him 200m up the road and back to the post office, and he would constantly stop to talk with people. I used to get so frustrated.”
A temporary career change
By 1978 Michael felt it was time for what turned out to be a short-lived career change, and he and his brother, Barney, bought the Fitzroy Hotel in Nanango.
They ran the hotel for four years, and Michael remained involved with real estate through property developments, before deciding to return to the profession full-time.
By then, in 1982, his father had retired, so Michael opened Country Life Realty in Nanango with business partner Rod Morgan, who was a local developer.
By the mid-1980s, franchising had taken off, and Raine & Horne Queensland Franchise Director Ken Jackson approached Michael to become their chief auctioneer.
A short stint at Nationwide Australia as their chief auctioneer followed, before Michael returned to Raine & Horne.
“In the late ’80s, I wanted to be the best auctioneer in Australia and thought I needed to move to Sydney,” Michael recalls.
“I was approached by Nationwide Australia to be chief auctioneer.”
Moving to New Zealand
In 1992 Michael joined LJ Hooker Queensland and served two years as Real Estate Institute of Queensland president before heading across the ditch as LJ Hooker managing director in New Zealand for two years.
In 2000, he returned to Australia to take up the Brisbane-based position of franchise director Australia and New Zealand, while also serving two years as president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia.
In the mid-2000s Michael left LJ Hooker to start his own business, RE Concepts, where he delivered training, mentoring, consultancy and auction services, including developing the online auction concept.
“I got a call out of the blue in 2011,” Michael says.
“It was a recruitment agency. Then things moved very quickly and two men from RE/MAX headquarters in the US visited me.
“By the time I got back to Brisbane from the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, I was the managing director for RE/MAX Australia.”
RE/MAX ownership in his sights
A savvy businessman, Michael told the RE/MAX big wigs he wasn’t just interested in being an employee but wanted equity in the agency.
“I took over as managing director on November 1, 2011, and it was only three or four months later, when I met the CEO of RE/MAX Global and various Board members at the company’s massive conference in Las Vegas, that they talked ownership, which was finalised nine months later on December 1, 2012,” he says.
Over the years, a lot has happened at RE/MAX in Australia and New Zealand, including Joel Davoren joining the corporate team in 2013, before becoming a director the following year.
In 2015 Keith Walker discontinued his relationship with RE/MAX to explore other ventures, and in 2016, Josh Davoren joined the corporate team before becoming a director alongside Michael, Joel and Chris Chapman two years later.
The next chapter
Michael says 2020, the year COVID-19 hit, was a memorable one, not just because the pandemic struck, but because a clear succession path was delineated.
In June 2020, Michael became RE/MAX Australia board chairman, Joel became managing director, Josh became director of operations, and Chris retained the finance directorship.
“The 12 months prior had been massive for RE/MAX Australia,” Michael notes.
“We had the transfer of the RE/MAX New Zealand master franchise to local ownership there and the merger of Western Australia’s RE/MAX offices with RE/MAX Australia, unifying RE/MAX across the nation.
“My three co-directors led the network to embrace the Precinct platform, a key milestone in our digital transformation, along with several sophisticated digital tools.
“Much of this occurred as RE/MAX Australia navigated the network through COVID-19, with Joel, Chris and Josh really steering this.
“In doing so, they gained the absolute respect, confidence, and admiration of the network, which eased my decision to pass RE/MAX Australia over to their management while I took on the role of chairman.”
Michael says about four years ago, he had started focusing on what the RE/MAX business needed to do to stay current and propel itself forward.
One benefit of the COVID-19 pandemic was that Michael worked at home in Maleny, on the Sunshine Coast, and this distance proved critical.
“It let me sit back and really see what was going on,” he says.
“The need for communication, responsive systems and the pace of change so the ability to be agile were critical. As were relationships – my dad had it right all those years ago.”
The biggest changes in real estate
Over the years, Michael says he’s seen a lot of changes, but the three that stand out the most include education, technology and systems.
“Look at the blowout in training, and real estate training as a profession itself,” he says.
“We had the advent of realestate.com.au and other digital platforms.
“As real estate franchise groups became more powerful, they developed their own websites and training, and not all supported their real estate institutes. Some saw them more aligned to property management than sales.”
Michael says he’s often asked how he knew what moves or changes to make over the years and when the right time was to make them.
But he insists there’s no magic bullet or one right way to do things.
“The truth is, not all my decisions were right or made at the right time,” Michael reflects.
“It was a matter of learning from my own mistakes and the mistakes of others, as well as from those right decisions I made, which I’m grateful were sometimes instinctive or intuitive.”
Michael says real estate has never been “just a job” and his advice to young agents is to work hard, be professional and embrace education.
“Every agent must be a professional agent,” Michael says.
“The average and below don’t usually survive and certainly never thrive.
“Education is the pathway to agent success: education that teaches what the consumer wants and how to deliver that.”