This week, we are joined by top 100 nationwide real estate executive, Kiki Bermudez, from Mint360Property.
We speak about her experience and what she’s seeing in the Coogee and Randwick markets.
Michelle May – Sydney Buyers Agent
Marcus Roberts – Mortgage Broker
Kiki Bermudez – 0420 556 557 or via Kiki Bermudez at Mint360Property
Marcus: Hi and welcome to the Sydney Property Insider Podcast, the show where we talk about things that affect you as a Sydney insider looking to invest or looking to maximize your returns from the Sydney property market.
Marcus: Today, Michelle and I are very thrilled to have leading real estate executive Kiki Bermudez of Mint360property in the eastern suburbs with us. As a bit of a background, Kiki has been an executive for over 10 years with Mint360, and specializes in the eastern suburbs, most notably including Randwick and Coogee. Her background’s incredibly diverse and includes psychology and communications degrees from the University of Iowa before she worked in palliative care for aged and cancer patients in a surgical oncologist ward. Today she is sought out by vendors looking for personalized yet professional service given her experience, empathy and attention to detail, and she was most recently voted number one agent in the suburb of Randwick for 2018 by Rate My Agent as well as nationally in the top 100 agents worldwide, correction, agents nationwide.
Kiki: I love worldwide.
Marcus: Worldwide sounds even better. But nationwide. Nationwide.
Marcus: So, Kiki, thanks so much for being here with us today and welcome.
Kiki: Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much for having me.
Marcus: So, Kiki, we’ve certainly done an intro, but tell us a little bit about how you ended up being a real estate agent Randwick and the surrounds given you’re originally in Iowa, originally in the States and moved over here.
Kiki: Yeah, of course. Well, originally I wanted to be an estate agent actually in America, but being that I set my roots down in Sydney itself, I had lived in the eastern suburbs, loved the eastern suburbs, loved what it had to offer and actually just focussed on getting my license in New South Wales, and then once I got my citizenship or my visa, so to speak, then I went straight into being a real estate agent and the east is where I wanted to land, so Randwick, I felt, had the right vibe for myself.
Michelle: And so, you’ve been there quite a while now, has the area changed since you started working there?
Kiki: It definitely has changed a lot, just even seeing the prices double in a lot of instances if not more than double, but I think the key thing about Randwick in particular is the infrastructure, and Michelle, you would know a lot of people when they invest in real estate they focus on what is the infrastructure that’s there. So Randwick in particular, for example, I don’t know if you know The Spot, it’s a real hub, and they’ve rejuvenated that simply by putting in a car park three to four years ago, so every time you drive through there on a evening it’s hustling, like this bustling. There’s lots of the people there.
Kiki: The ATC, so they Randwick Racecourse, those facilities were upgraded not long ago so it’s a really popular venue, really beautiful place to be, and in terms of I suppose the incoming light rail, which is darling to us all, seeing all that construction, that’s not far away.
Kiki: So a lot of investors focusing in on that area, and I guess with Coogee, recently the Coogee Pavilion, which is a very popular place to go have a drink, look at the ocean, that’s really given more of a posh feel about Coogee in terms of its backpacker reputation, and the Coogee Bay Hotel has had to compete with that, so they’ve lifted their game as well.
Kiki: And Coogee Promenade, it’s all been updated, just finished very recently as well along the beach side so it’s quite beautiful.
Michelle: It’s scrubbed up very well, hasn’t it?
Kiki: It has. It feels like the place to be.
Michelle: Yeah. And are there really specific changes in terms of trends in the area over the last six to 12 months? I mean, obviously, the market has changed from being overheated, almost, to where it is now, much more segmented. Do you think the recent developments in the area have had an impact on pricing, for example?
Kiki: I think it’s helped to hold its value up.
Kiki: Yeah, so I think, again, and from an investor perspective even with the light rail coming in a few years ago and people knew about it, people were buying into the area anticipating the rise, but with the market coming back slightly, and I would say in this area, on average, probably about five to eight percent is what we’ve seen pull back a bit, depending on the actual property. I think the infrastructure, again, just the access to everything has really helped it hold its value and not be as affected as some other areas that are being overbuilt, so to speak. The supply is a lot more in control, in, say Randwick, Coogee, there’s developments around, but not as many, say, Mascot or some of these suburbs out west that are building, building, building with endless land. That, I think, it’s been a bit harder hit, so to speak.
Michelle: And of course you’ve got the university, you’ve got the hospitals, that’s always an underlying demand there from white collar workers who want to either rent or buy in that area. So, I think that doesn’t change, that’s only going to continue for the future.
Kiki: Yeah. I agree. You still have the odd Chinese buyer with cash, and that’s the challenge, bringing that over, of course. That kind of market has softened a touch, especially with new developments, it’s not as it’s not what it was, but a lot of these UNSW students are international students. So their parents are buying a place for a few years and then holding that as an investment. So, you’re right.
Marcus: And even UNSW, you’ve mentioned, driving past the other day, it’s amazing how much it seems to have changed and how much it’s been upgraded over the last few years compared to what it was, I certainly wouldn’t say dingy 15 years ago, but certainly, it has a whole new vibe to when you drive past these days.
Kiki: It’s such a big campus. It’s amazingly big, and it’s beautiful, actually.
Michelle: My daughter does NIDA, drama, and classes on the Sunday morning, and I very often walk around the area, just to get a bit of fresh air. I love looking at the architecture and just the greenery around. It’s really a pleasant place to be even if you’re not studying.
Michelle: So, obviously, you are an experienced real estate agent, and you know the area extremely well. You’ll come up against same competition all the time. What do you think is the main thing or the main things that people should know or ask about when they’re selecting a real estate agent to sell their property?
Kiki: Great question. I think it’s a very good question. I think an agent having local knowledge of the area, and what’s up and coming. Another thing we didn’t touch on, but the Prince of Wales Hospital. It’s going to become a super hospital, and they’ve had a recent acquisition of land adjacent to that, so just knowing when I’m selling houses in the area, a lot of this property, this land that’s being acquired, you have that influx of buyers from that acquisition, so you’re dealing with those buyers and actually knowing what’s going on and to time things appropriately that will affect the price and demand of that client’s house. So local knowledge is huge.
Kiki: I also think that having a support team is critical to giving great service. So, I always say being an American, it gives you that expectation that you will give good service and expect to receive good service, so just making sure that you can accommodate that. I’ve got a really great team to support that. We call them one man band. Sometimes when you’re by yourself it’s tough, because you’ve got to do everything.
Other things we talk through is, of course, negotiation. How does the agent actually go about negotiating with certain people and personality types and getting the best results. So, explaining that process and making sure they have that confidence that you can give them your biggest asset and get a good price, a great price, and that in a challenging market.
Michelle: So your background in psychology, then, and communications ties in perfectly with what you’re doing today. You put all that theory to use every day, I guess.
Kiki: Exactly. A lot of people ask, “Why on earth are you a real estate agent?” And when they think about it, they go, “Wait a minute, this actually makes a lot of sense.”
Michelle: But I think, especially now the market has changed, I think that the agents that will pull through and will continue to have a thriving career out of this is the ones that do have that extra education, because as we all know the level of entry into the industry is very low, as it is for my side of the story, too, as a buyer’s agent. So I think if you have that added education to help you with what you’re doing on a day to day basis will make you succeed long term, I imagine.
Kiki: I agree. 100%. And they’re looking at, I went to a woman’s breakfast the other day, and they’re looking at the president of the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales was discussing about making those requirements much more stringent in terms of making this acknowledged as a professional field. So it is much tougher to be an agent, so that will, in theory, in the future set the bar even higher we hope.
Michelle: Well, let’s hope so, yeah.
Marcus: One of the things you certainly mention is having that local experience. Going back specifically to why a vendor should choose maybe yourself as the real estate agent in charge of helping them get the best price for their property, having that local knowledge is certainly essential. But, one of the things that I know I’ve heard of before is that a lot of vendors, their biggest concern is around price or around the cost of the agents. I could probably negotiate downwards with another agent, but if you put in cost as the primary basis for choosing your agent, ultimately, it’s not necessarily getting the best price for the property, it’s just getting the best cost for the agent, which is completely separate thing, because those vendors might end up being still on market three months, six months down the track, because they’ve just gone with the cheapest or cheap as chips. Do you find that in your experience with the vendors you speak with?
Kiki: Yeah, I think cheapest is not always better. I think it’s very much the journey and the service to get you there, to get that outcome. Oftentimes you find cheaper agents, for example, they have this term in the industry called burn and churn. It’s about, “Well, if I have to charge you less to sell this property, I need to sell twice as many properties as Agent B to get paid just as much.” So they have to take more volume on, and obviously they have not as good of a service.
Kiki: But, it’s all about, I think, making sure that that … It’s amazing clients will think that .1% that they save on the agent or the .3% or whatever it is, when you look at it numerically it’s only a couple of grand or a few grand, and it’s all about what the agent can actually negotiate for you. So if I can show you how I’m going to get you another 50. 100 grand, the cheaper agent often is almost the more expensive agent.
Marcus: Absolutely, and it’s also the opportunity cost of maybe being in the market or having a property on the market for a number of months rather than a number of weeks through a set campaign such maybe an auction.
Marcus: So, if I was to ask you typically how do you determine whether to have a campaign, which is private treaty or through an auction process with your vendors?
Kiki: Yeah. I mean, it’s really interesting, because I think, doing this for 10 years, 10 years ago you would have a lot higher percentage of properties that were private treaty at that time, and now almost everything is auction. I guess how we determine it is what the market actually tends to expect, if that makes sense. And so, in particular for Randwick, Clovelly, Coogee, these suburbs, if we have a private treaty property and we put a price on it, the most consistent questions we receive from buyers are when did it pass in? It’s actually that assumption that everything goes to auction.
Kiki: So, I would say that we sell mostly everything by auction these days, versus the private treaty method, very much because that’s what the market knows and understands, and also the advantages to the client. So there’s really simple things, I mean, there’s a deadline. We’ve got four weeks on the market typically around that time frame, and people, they perform by deadlines. They know they’ve got to give you an offer or get their pre-approval in place. If they don’t, they simply miss out.
Marcus: It’s really transparent as well.
Kiki: It is.
Marcus: So, you’ve got, as you say, you’ve got a set campaign period, you’ve got this many weeks until the actual auction day, you’ve got a number of people that might be interested on week one they’ll come back week two, week three, but then also those people that come in at the end, they know they need to work towards that deadline of okay, “Well, auction’s on the 6th, we need to be there by the 6th. We need to be ready.”
Kiki: Yeah. I’ve heard Michelle mention this before, the unconditional offer. I know she does that well. So, that’s pretty critical. I mean, you’re dealing with the most serious buyers, they’re not mucking about conditionally, they’re ready to go, and then there’s technically … You’ve got a guide, but there’s no set limit on price for the client that’s selling.
Michelle: Yeah. Do you think there will be more private treaties coming to the market now, though, that there is a more of a segmentation in the market? Do you see other agents putting things on fresh as a private treaty yet, or do you think it’ll continue to be the auctions?
Kiki: I that predominantly we’ll continue to be the auctions. I won’t be surprised to see a few more private treaties, because I think clients that tend to go for that option, a few things, they tend to sometimes be overpriced so they’ll test the market to see if they can get their price. They could be of a different school of thought in terms of they’re an older generation who is more familiar with that style and that process, so they’re nervous about what the auction could bring. A lot of kids are very, very nervous about going to auction. People ask the question, “Will they sell prior to auction?” And nine times out of 10, the answer will be yes, provided the price is right and the conditions are right.
Kiki: So, a lot of clients choose, I suppose, auction for the deadline appeal to sell before. So, I think private treaty for those reasons might come about a touch more, but I don’t think it will, I guess, end up being the new way, so to speak.
Michelle: That’s interesting.
Michelle: My next question to you is because I go through a lot of properties obviously as you know, and you’re on the other side of that equation. Now, a lot of properties get styled professionally for inspections. What are the benefits of having a property style? Is it something you recommended, and if you’re looking to sell, do you have a ballpark idea of the costs for that?
Kiki: Yeah. So, definitely recommend properties being styled as opposed to not. It’s becoming very popular, where even clients when they’re owner occupiers, they’ll do a partial style, so they get advice from my stylists and they also will invest money into that to make their house look that much prettier, because a lot of people are time poor and busy these days. On average, a lot of those companies will charge an absolute minimum of a couple thousand, but typically it’s around 3000+ just for a partial style of a property.
Marcus: What’s included in the partial style?
Kiki: Basically it’s painting the picture, making people feel good emotionally by what they see visually. So, for example it will be artwork on the walls. It will be mirrors to bring in more light. It will be scatter cushions, candles, the San Pellegrino on your kitchen bench tops, the white towels-
Michelle: Is it taking away a lot as well? Is it editing out a lot of the personal stuff?
Kiki: Oh, we declutter, declutter, declutter. 100%. So, I mean, they’re already going to move, so we say, “Let’s start early,” so that really helps.
Marcus: I was just thinking, two to three grand, maybe we’ll just get them for our house. Will it remove half of the clutter that’s in there at the moment? Mostly shoes.
Michelle: Yours, I imagine.
Marcus: Yeah, yeah. All three pairs.
Michelle: I always open every cupboard when I go through a property, and sometimes I see the fear in an agent’s eyes when I try and open the cupboard under the stairs. They go, “Please don’t. It’s crammed full of stuff that was originally in the house. But, yeah.
Michelle: So editing out mostly is what they start with, and then they start putting elements back in.
Kiki: Yeah, completely. And even, like someone whose mentioned the closet, my clients will colour code their closets and completely clutter that out, so it looks like you’re shopping. So it’s taking high attention to detail.
Kiki: But I find when you style a property as an agent, I have a lot more access to it, so if someone needs to come out of hours to view the property, it’s a lot easier for me to accommodate that, my team and I to do that, versus a lot of these people are moving because they have young babies and if it’s bed time for the babies, when the clients can actually see it, it’s very difficult. So the accessibility is massive in terms of benefit.
Marcus: That’s a really good point. And it’s one that I certainly have never thought about. But if it’s been styled, it does give you that opportunity knowing that someone’s not necessarily in there at the time being, but you can go on a Tuesday morning at 9 A.M. you can go at a 7:30 Thursday night if that’s when prospective buyers are interested and that’s the only time they can make it.
Kiki: 100%. And that’s a really big benefit.
Michelle: I find, also, that the buyers are getting almost unable to look through a not styled property as well. I recently went through an apartment that had tenants in it. Now, they were hoarders, so the bedrooms were inaccessible. The door was open, but you couldn’t actually step into the room. And there were people walking in and walking straight out again. Because they were like, “I’m not dealing with this.” Now, this apartment sold for 75 grand less than the bank valued it at. I bought it. And my client was over the moon. But initially she said, “Oh, I’m not looking. That looks terrible online,” and I went, “That’s exactly why we’re going.”
Michelle: So it was a deceased estate that people weren’t interested in putting money into styling, but I think they really shot themselves in the foot there. Had they thrown the tenants out, given them the allocated time to move out, painted it, styled it, this was in Elizabeth Bay. They would have gotten a massive amount more at auction. So, I think those bars walking straight in, straight out, they lost an opportunity there-
Kiki: And a lot of buyers, they just can’t see it. We respond very visually to things. We need to see what it looks like. And unless we help paint that picture for them, they walk in, they walk out if it’s not pretty enough.
Michelle: And do you go as far as painting as well and changing floor coverings and things like that?
Michelle: Do you have people you recommend for that kind of thing?
Kiki: Yeah, so we’ve got a great team of tradespeople that are well priced, reliable, nice to deal with and very, very, yeah. They just help accommodate the whole process. So I will literally go in and say, “Okay, this, this, this, this, this,” most of my clients are pretty good and they listen to what I tell them to do. I’m in the eastern suburbs, so it’s great. Occasionally you get people, “Oh, do I have to do that?” They struggle to see the value, but then when I sell it for them and I get them a great price then they thank me later. Even just re-siliconing the vanity, changing the shaving cabinets, the lights all one tone, the floor is fresh carpet, new paint, all these different things make a big difference.
Marcus: The only possible danger I can see is if you’ve lived in that place for 10 years and you’ve seen it at it’s worse, suddenly having it styled you go, “Wow, this is a completely different place. Maybe we need to stay here after all.” It might be a really easy way of getting it, not renovated, but getting it touched up.
Kiki: A lot of people say that. “We should have done this 10 years ago.” Yeah. But in terms of, to answer your question about pricing for stylists, there’s a range of, I guess, usually a couple thousand between different stylists and what they offer, so we have a range of different stylists we use. When some clients are more budget orientated, for example a two-bedroom unit, I would say on average, when it’s budget, probably early $3000 mark, but they factor in time as well. So for example if it’s a top floor unit, it’s going to take their team every mover list longer to move in and to move out. The more mid-range stylists tend to charge anywhere from, say, four to four and a half grand, generally for a two-bedroom unit and then, when you go to Coco Republic, say, they’ll be more five, five and a half in terms of range.
Kiki: And then as you jump up, your three-bedrooms will go probably five and a half, six grand, and then the bigger the space, the more you pay.
Michelle: Sure. Yeah.
Marcus: But again, we’re talking about approximately $5000 for a two to three-bedroom property in the eastern suburbs, which is going to sell for a heck of a lot more than $300,000, $400,000, so the cost of the actual styling versus the return you’re going to get against, in Michelle’s case, $75,000 less than what probably the vendor was expecting for a non-styled property in Elizabeth Bay, that’s a really small investment to make.
Kiki: It’s nothing. It pays dividends if you make the right choices with the right guidance.
Marcus: And for vendors out there or people looking to sell in the coming months, what else would you say they should be aware of that they may not have anticipated, so if they’ve never sold property before and they’re listening to us now and they go, “Okay, so we probably need it styled,” there’s going to be advertising costs, marketing costs, is there anything else that you’d say to people looking at selling in a few months time to start budgeting for the sale?
Kiki: Yeah. I mean, it depends on the method they choose, so for example, if you choose auction, then you’ve got to pay for the auctioneer. That’s something that a lot of people think is a lot more expensive than it actually is. So you pay based on their experience level. For the company we use they range anywhere from $595 to $1100 being the best, and that’s paid whether you sell before or after auction. A lot of buyers will say, “Well, if you save your money on the auctioneer maybe we’re paying them no matter what.”
Marcus: Yeah, so if you do sell prior to auction, you still have-
Kiki: You’re still paying to them.
Marcus: Sure, the auctioneer for their time, because otherwise they can’t have cancellations on Friday afternoon for a Saturday morning.
Kiki: That’s right. So we’ve made a date with them, we’re just not keeping it. A lot of it-
Marcus: Sounds like college.
Kiki: Yeah. Right?
Kiki: Other things to consider, I’ve got a following of loyal buyers, because we issue free strata reports, which is a big deal when people are forking out lots and lots of money to do that and not very many agents do provide that service. So that’s a few hundred dollars for our clients. If you have a house, we do an independent building and pest inspection up front, so depending on the size I’d say that’s probably $400 to $600 on average, and that’s a really great thing, because you can actually see if there are any issues with your home, so how buyers are going to be interpreting the information, and you also have the opportunity to rectify that prior to going to market. So a lot of our clients will make those repairs, so the red flags are few and in between if any for those potential buyers.
Michelle: That’s great, actually. I like that.
Marcus: Yeah, because it’s one less pain point for prospective buyers when they’re going through property, because they have seen four other properties in the morning, and if they’re looking at a unit or apartment and they can get a strata report very easily, very accessible, versus, “Okay, so we’ve seen four. Do we really want to pay for three strata reports or do we want to just focus on just one of those. Just taking two of those prospective properties out of the equation for them right away. So providing that as an additional service can get you know the additional nibbles that you might want from buyers that might otherwise be sort of a six out of 10 or a five out of 10.
Kiki: Yeah, definitely. And we’ve sold many properties where the buyers come the day of, or the day before, and if we had not had that available to them they just wouldn’t have been in the position to make decisions and put their hand up at auction.
Kiki: Yeah. So those are the couple other things. I know every real estate company charges an admin fee as well, which isn’t much, usually a few hundred bucks, but that’s for printing, postage, couriers, just the little variables that all add up with every transaction. And then of course don’t forget your solicitor or your conveyance, so you need to pay for them to prepare the contract for sale of land. It’s not cheap selling property.
Marcus: Absolutely. Kiki, thank you so much for that. That’s a lot of really great information for some listeners as a starting point, especially for Randwick and Coogee and the eastern suburbs, which we haven’t really mentioned yet on the podcast up until now.
Marcus: So, if people do want to get contact with you, what’s the best way for them to do so?
Kiki: Well, I said to Michelle earlier, “Google me. I’m everywhere.” But texting me is the quickest way, because often I’m in appointments and meetings just like this, and you’ll get a much quicker response. So, my number’s online if you’d like to-
Michelle: Do you want to make a mention of it here?
Kiki: Sure. That sounds great.
Michelle: What’s your number, Kiki?
Kiki: Yeah, it’s 0420 556 557.
Michelle: All right. Make sure to text her, because you also do a monthly market update, is that right, in email form?
Kiki: Yes. Yes. So we prepare just locally what’s happening in the east, so your cross buyer numbers, all in and everything that people want to know. A lot of people really like that, you can get access to reports that you would normally have to pay for. So we can subscribe you to that if you’d like more property information.
Michelle: So they can just text you their email address, and you’ll add them to your database.
Kiki: Yes that would be great, and we’ll make contact.
Marcus: Great. Well, thank you so much for that, Kiki. That’s all from us for this week. If you do have any questions either for or myself or for Kiki, please send through to [email protected], that’s [email protected], and we’ll be with you same time, same place next week.
Michelle: Look forward to joining us next week.