EPMEPM: Case Studies

Sarah Ferré: McGrath Property Management Leichhardt

ARPM 2016 speaker and Senior Property Manager Sarah Ferré started in real estate straight out of high school in 2006, even though she had been accepted into the University of NSW to complete a combined Arts and Media degree. Deferring that, she is now back at university to study Law, and will be admitted to the Supreme Court in September 2016.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your role at McGrath Leichhardt.
I have worked in the real estate industry for the past 10 years. I’m a senior portfolio manager, managing approximately 350 properties with the assistance of a very talented property manager, without whom I couldn’t do my job. I am also the team leader of McGrath Leichhardt. On a personal level, I love to keep active and exercise three or four times per week. I’m also happily married to a full-time DJ.

How did you get your start in real estate?
I started in real estate straight out of high school in 2006. I had been accepted into the University of NSW to complete a combined Arts and Media degree; however, I decided it wasn’t right for me at that time and made the decision to defer.

The first job that I applied for and secured was a receptionist position at a real estate office in Sydney’s Inner West. Within a year I had completed my Certificate of Registration and started in property management – I immediately saw a career in it.

What prompted you to study law, and how has it helped you as a property manager?
After a trip overseas in 2010 where I spent a lot of time with my uncle, who is a barrister, and my cousin, who’s a criminal defence lawyer, I decided I needed to go back to university. I found their stories of cases and trials intriguing, as the outcome was often not what I thought it would be.

I sat down and thought about the aspects of my job that I loved the most and got the biggest thrill from, and I kept coming back to the Tribunal. After investigating further I discovered that in order to work at the Tribunal you need to be a specialist in your field and a lawyer – this was the deciding factor for me.

I enrolled at the University of Sydney to study Law at the end of 2010 and was accepted. I have completed my degree and I am due to be admitted to the Supreme Court in September. Having the added knowledge has made me look at property management in a different way – it isn’t as black and white as we are led to believe. I now interpret the legislation differently and I approach all conflict situations from a different angle, with the focus being on mediation and alternative dispute resolution.

How is the market in your local area right now?
The market is traditionally quieter over the winter months. Many of our executive rentals are taking a small hit, with some rents coming in lower than where they were 12 months or so ago. While our mid-range properties are still leasing relatively quickly, we are finding slightly longer days on market.

Who or what inspires you?
Oprah! I saw her last year, which was a highlight for me. One of my mantras is now ‘What would Oprah do?’

In your briefcase right now is…
Camera, paper and pens (three – you never know when one will run out), business cards, laminated privacy statement, ‘thank you’ notes, lip gloss, perfume and mascara.

What apps do you use most at the moment on your iPhone/iPad?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say Facebook and Instagram! However, I love Houzz at the moment – we will be renovating our apartment in Leichhardt next year so I am constantly on the app getting new ideas. Rest Mobile is a godsend as well! I didn’t realise how often I rely on it when out of the office!

What is your top tip for good client communication?
Update your clients, even if you don’t have an update for them. Clients just want to know that you haven’t forgotten about them. A daily call, email or even text to let them know that you’re still working on the issue is enough to appease them until you actually have a proper update for them. Picking up the phone is also so important. With email and text being the preferred contact for so many people, communication can be misconstrued in writing. Call them – they will appreciate it and the relationship will be stronger as a result.

Is there something you couldn’t live without?
This is tough. There are a few things I couldn’t live without. The correct answer should be my husband… but I also couldn’t live without Chilli Kettle Chips. Or Cadbury Crunchie. Or wine.

What advice would you give someone starting out in property management?
It gets better! Starting out can be daunting, because you are likely taking over a portfolio from someone else; in more cases than not you will probably have disgruntled clients who don’t like having a change in property manager. Stay focused, remain assertive and set yourself realistic goals that you can tick off as you progress. It is such a rewarding job in the long term.

Do you have any words to live by, or a favourite quote?
This quote got me through my degree and I find that it applies in so many aspects of my life: ‘Short-term pain for long-term gain’. An uncle said that to me during my first year of law school and it became my mantra!

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