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Real estate farewells industry icon Bart Doff

Tributes are flowing in for long-time Laing+Simmons Double Bay principal and industry icon Bart Doff, who has passed away.

Mr Doff, 75, has been described by industry counterparts as an extreme professional who was driven, focused, professional and had a strength of presence every time he entered a room.

Over more than 40 years Bart was one of the hardest-working, successful agents, specialising in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and opening Laing+Simmons Double Bay on 1 July 1981.

On behalf of the Laing+ Simmons network, Chief Executive Officer Leanne Pilkington paid tribute to Mr Doff.

“Bart was one of the original high-profile agents – a legend that sold some of the most expensive and exclusive property in the country,” she said.

“But he was also a very humble man and an enigmatic leader.

“Personally, he taught me a lot about focus, determination and how to approach a negotiation.

“It was a privilege to have him be part of the Laing+Simmons group for so long.”

But real estate wasn’t Mr Doff’s first calling in life.

Equipped with a degree in civil engineering, Mr Doff joined Anglo American and went to South Africa to work as an engineer in the gold mining industry.

He spent seven years there and when he returned home to Sydney he played and coached players in squash, including property developer Ian Hayson.

It was through Ian that he met Spencer Simmons, who founded Laing+Simmons with Doug Lain in 1967.

In a profile piece on the Laing+Simmons website to mark its 50th anniversary in 2017, Bart said the network had just one Potts Point office when he was offered a job in 1979.

“It was a really busy office, there were 13 or 13 salespeople, along with a sales manager, and I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said.

“I winged it to start with, staying late and working for longer than everybody else and within six or seven months I was the leading salesperson.”

It was a taste of things to come and when Mr Simmons mentioned franchising, Mr Doff jumped at the chance to open an office at Double Bay.

In the Laing+Simmons 50th anniversary article, Mr Doff recalled how it was hard to get listings when he first started at Double Bay, with well established agents dominating the market.

“I decided to try and win clients based on the fact that I would work harder than anybody else,” he said at the time.

“Often I’d be staying in the office until 10 at night making calls. It was a matter of getting my name out and after a while I had people recommending me and getting repeat business.”

Over the years, Laing+Simmons Double Bay grew to become one of Australia’s most awarded and best-performing real estate businesses.

At the same time, Mr Doff’s steady rise saw him become one of the highest profile agents, not only in Sydney, but the country. 

He was a go-to agent in the eastern suburbs and consistently listed and sold some of the city’s most high-profile, high value properties.

Mr Doff was also well known for helping establish auctions as a successful sale method in the 1980s.

Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty Managing Director Michael Pallier worked for Mr Doff between 1998 and 2001 and said their “fantastic friendship” continued until the end.

“I really respected him,” Mr Pallier said.

“When I worked for him I would say, family came first for Bart, then work came a close second and exercise and sport came a close third.

“He was a fitness fanatic and he actually said to me years ago, ‘If I didn’t have to come to work, I’d spend eight hours a day exercising’.”

When it came to real estate, Mr Pallier said Mr Doff was focused and disciplined.

“He was a very successful agent in his day, he really was the number one agent doing the biggest and the best properties in Sydney, one after another, after another,” Mr Pallier said.

“Bart was very well connected. He didn’t say a lot, he wasn’t a big talker, but he was a great listener. 

“And when he did speak, you listened to him.”

Mr Pallier said Mr Doff taught him many things, but perhaps the one that had the biggest impact on him was time management.

“He was so good with time management because he was a focused man,” he said.

“He was a very controlled person and I never saw him raise his voice.”

To this day, the Doff family name remains on the Laing+Simmons Double Bay door, with Mr Doff’s son Danny a principal of the business. 

“He just loved his family,” Mr Pallier said.

Other tributes from agents and contacts in the Double Bay area include:

Bill Malouf, Director, Highland Double Bay

“Bart and I got together after Ron Pillinger passed away because Bart and I were always competing for similar properties.

“Rather than fight each other, we actually teamed up together on a number of properties where we were both called in and we worked on them together.

“I found my time with Bart doing that over the years, to create both our identities, was very successful for both of us. He was a pleasure to work with and he had a lot of real estate knowledge on real value.

“We enjoyed a number of years, probably six to eight years, doing things of that nature. It was a very successful enterprise for us and it increased our value from an expertise point of view and recognition from the public’s point of view.

“We had a very good relationship and I’d like to add my sincere sympathies from my office and my family to Bart’s family. We’ve lost an icon.”

Brad Caldwell-Eyles, Managing Director, 1st City Real Estate Group

“Bart’s name is synonymous with premium Sydney real estate. You cannot make a historical list of ‘top shelf’ agents without him.

“He was supremely connected and maintained a real strength of presence whenever he entered a room. 

“Bart was all about business. He knew every premium property across the east. His product and people knowledge was exemplary. He was also singularly determined, focused and driven.

“If I had to provide three words to describe the Bart Doff I knew; they would be, driven, informed and connected. I would love to have a rolodex like his.

“Many of today’s leading agents owe their careers to Bart. The Doff dynasty lives on through his family’s continuing property endeavours across the eastern suburbs.”

Craig Pontey, Founder, Ray White Double Bay

“Bart was a fierce competitor, an extreme professional and a great leader of his team. He showed great mentorship to his people and achieved many record sales in his career.

“His energy and enthusiasm for real estate was first class. He will be sadly missed by all.

“Our sincerest condolences to the Doff family.”

Claudio Encina, High performance real estate coach

“I made the move in 2000 to Ray White Double Bay and there were a few people in that marketplace that really inspired me and one of them was Bart.

“That’s for a number of reasons – he was a very fit man, he dressed immaculately and I always saw him as a gentleman in control. He was always very calm and in control, and I loved that about him.

“If there was a sage of the marketplace of Double Bay, I would say it was Ron Pillinger and Bart. I did compete with him in the arena of Double Bay and he was very hard to beat because of his experience, his credibility and his results in the area.

“I did lose my fair share of listings against Bart but I respected him for the man that he was because it also inspired me to be like him.”

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.