After opening Locate Property earlier this year, Suzana Wade already has 60 doors under management and plans to double that by the end of the year with a recipe of passion, honesty and excellent communication.
It might seem like a strange analogy, but to Suzana Wade, property management is just like baking a cake.
You’ve got to have the right ingredients or the cake won’t rise.
For Ms Wade, who opened Locate Property in Brisbane in March, those ingredients are a healthy dose of honesty, a splash of strong morals, excellent communication and a liberal dash of passion.
Having real estate, sales and property management coursing through your blood doesn’t hurt either.
“I just want to change the industry, I really do,” Ms Wade said.
“So many landlords have so many people tell them so much rubbish, and it’s really sad listening to it.
“Anyone can buy a rent roll, but it’s keeping it that’s the challenge.
“That’s the bottom line. People stay with you because of ethics, morals and honesty.”
Off to a flying start
Since opening in March, Ms Wade’s business has expanded to 60 doors under management and has grown so quickly that she’s already a year ahead of her business plan and about to move to a bigger office, on Wynnum Rd, Tingalpa.
“It’s going to have a Hamptons style makeover,” Ms Wade said of the new office.
“I don’t want it to be like a McDonald’s because I feel a lot of other offices are just all the same and are just about the transactions.
“I’ve had clients say they’ve chosen me because I’m real, I sit and listen, and I’m passionate.”
But Ms Wade hasn’t always been in real estate.
Before joining the fold as a BDM six years ago, she worked as the state and national manager for cosmetics company Clarins.
After that, she came on board as Stefan Ackerie’s operations manager, running 45 of his hair salons in Sydney and Brisbane.
Initially employed in a visual merchandising role, Ms Wade used her experience at Clarins to start analysing how the salons could perform better.
“One of the managers complained about me and said, ‘Our new visual merchandiser is asking for figures, and she’s causing me grief. Why is she doing that?’” Ms Wade recalled.
“He (Stefan) rang me from Hong Kong and asked, ‘What are you doing?’
“I told him that his salons should be making more money, and then that was that, he made me operations manager.”
REAL ESTATE COMES CALLING
After leading a hectic life and juggling a busy schedule, Ms Wade said she joined a Brisbane agency as a BDM six years ago, despite thinking she’d never work in real estate.
“Someone told me there was a BDM role for a real estate agency, and I said, ’Gosh, that’d be the last thing I’m doing’,” Ms Wade said.
“But, yep, I ended up being a BDM and doing the whole plan, including budgets, business plans, sales and property management.
“Then Harcourts heard about me and said they wanted me to work for them at one of their offices.
“I said, ‘I’m not interested in doing sales’. So, yep, I ended up being a sales agent for them, and I became the number two auction lister for Queensland.”
Ms Wade also took on BDM work with Harcourts and later joined Aurora when the brand opened up in Bulimba, which is the equivalent of Sydney’s Double Bay area.
“They said, ‘We want you to take over market share’,” she said.
“I did that in about a month – took over market share.
“We got to number one in the area … I brought on 150 properties.”
Improving the customer experience
Ms Wade is a firm believer in ‘selling’ being in your blood and not something you can ‘teach’.
She said her time as a BDM and working in sales stood her in good stead for opening Locate Property.
One of the key reasons Ms Wade decided to go out on her own was to tailor and streamline the customer service experience.
She wanted to ensure the same level of service was offered to landlords and tenants throughout the property management journey.
“I found it very challenging because once I did a handover to a property manager, they wouldn’t give the clients the service that I would give,” Ms Wade explained.
“That broke me.”
Now, Ms Wade prides herself on clients always being able to contact her, on giving the highest level of service throughout the process and ensuring communication is straightforward and clear every time.
One of the tools she uses to do this is the Managed App platform.
Started in 2018, Managed App offers automated payments, daily workflows, a rent roll CRM, cloud storage, digital ingoing, outgoing and routine inspections, a marketplace of vetted tradespeople and in-app communications.
“The landlord can go onto the portal and see what’s happening,” Ms Wade said.
“They can see any maintenance that has been requested and where it’s up to, they can get text messages, and they get rent dispersed weekly.
“That really helps with a mortgage.”
Sales marketing for rentals
Another area Ms Wade said she applies high standards to is marketing a property.
She is committed to presenting properties with quality photography, and for high-end homes, she also styles them, just as you would a sales property.
“You want to dangle that carrot in front of them (tenants),” Ms Wade said.
“You want them in the property, you want them to walk around, touch, feel and smell the home and become emotionally attached.”
Just as it is across a lot of Australia, the Brisbane market is tight, and Ms Wade can’t help but be a little disappointed in those that win clients by cutting their management fees.
She feels it undervalues the hard work BDMs and property managers do, and she cautions landlords that you ‘get what you pay for’.
“If you want chuck steak, then take the chuck steak, but if you want eye fillet, then you get eye fillet,” she said.
“At the end of the day, I explain that the difference between a 5 per cent (management fee) and 8 per cent is about $5 or $6 a week.
“Isn’t it better to have one of the best in Brisbane looking after your property or would you prefer someone who looks at it as just another transaction?”
Ms Wade said her arrears are currently sitting at zero and she pre-qualifies all prospective tenants to ensure they are a great fit for the property.
“I love what I do, and I want my clients to know that I care for them,” she stated.
What the future holds
By the end of this year, Ms Wade said she hopes to grow her business to about 120 doors under management.
But rather than buy a rent roll, she said she wants numbers to grow organically.
“I built the salons and market share by word of mouth and it’s the best way,” Ms Wade said.
Ms Wade is also about to employ a full-time property manager, who she will train and entrench with the standards and work ethic she maintains herself.
One of the things she is most focused on and proud of is that she’s learnt every part of property management over the years and has worked alongside her property managers in the trenches.
“When you’re passionate about something you can’t go wrong,” she said.