‘FIELD OF DREAMS’

Lat­i­tude Real Es­tate

Elite Agent - - CONTENTS -

IT TAKES IN­CRED­I­BLE VI­SION to sell the dream of stately homes and high-spec apart­ments while stand­ing in a field amidst graz­ing cows, but for James Hand of Lat­i­tude Real Es­tate in Vic­to­ria it’s a suc­cess story based on knowl­edge, in­no­va­tion and, above all, re­spect for clien­tele. Here James ex­plains to Elite Agent how his in­no­va­tive devel­op­ment firm in­cludes both the val­ues of his fam­ily her­itage and smart use of tech­nol­ogy for fu­ture growth.

THEIR ETHOS OF TRANSPARENCY AND RE­SPECT sees Lat­i­tude com­plete over 120 land sales each month, notch­ing up $142 mil­lion-worth of prop­erty sales in the last quar­ter alone. They are renowned as one of the most suc­cess­ful real es­tate agen­cies in the ‘off the dirt’ arena, with an iden­tity en­trenched in a cen­tury of real es­tate ex­pe­ri­ence and a clear fo­cus on the path ahead.

A STRONG PAST

As a bou­tique, spe­cialised project mar­ket­ing and sales busi­ness, Lat­i­tude draws on the cre­den­tials of two dy­nas­ties in the real es­tate realm – the Hand and Si­monds fam­i­lies. To­gether, they span three gen­er­a­tions and boast over 100 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in real es­tate devel­op­ment, land mar­ket­ing and build­ing res­i­den­tial homes.

James ex­plains that his fa­ther Bob pre­vi­ously owned Oliver Hume Real Es­tate, the largest pri­vately owned real es­tate com­pany in the coun­try, be­fore start­ing Villa­wood prop­er­ties and then Lat­i­tude in 2011. They were joined in 2014 by fa­ther-and-son duo Mark and Rhett Si­monds of Si­monds Homes, who took out a half share in the busi­ness.

Since its in­cep­tion only seven years ago, Lat­i­tude has gone from strength to strength. The com­pany han­dles ev­ery step of the devel­op­ment process – from sourc­ing un­de­vel­oped land right through to se­cur­ing the right devel­oper, cre­at­ing the mar­ket­ing strat­egy and then hand­ing over the keys to clients at com­ple­tion.

They de­scribe them­selves as a “bou­tique oper­a­tion with a per­sonal ap­proach that en­ables each and ev­ery one of the four di­rec­tors to main­tain a ‘hands-on’ role in the busi­ness”.

James’ po­si­tion in­volves run­ning the dayto-day op­er­a­tions of the project mar­ket­ing com­po­nent, and he ex­plains that it was nat­u­ral to fol­low in his fa­ther’s real es­tate foot­steps. “I was al­ways go­ing to do this. I just loved what Bob did and would spend my Satur­days out on sites watch­ing how he did it.”

James brings a vi­sion­ary ap­proach to the Lat­i­tude table, util­is­ing tech­nol­ogy to com­ple­ment the com­pany’s com­mit­ment to cus­tomer ser­vice.

A CLEAR PROCESS

While Bob takes care of ac­quir­ing broad­acre land, James man­ages project mar­ket­ing, with the core ethos of transparency and re­spect for clien­tele.

Lat­i­tude cur­rently han­dles eight projects and will take on an­other two to o three early this year. While e the com­pany of­ten bids for r project mar­ket­ing work with devel­op­ers, sourc­ing un­touched broad­acre land also al­lows Lat­i­tude to ‘feed their own ma­chine’.

“We have par­tic­u­lar re­la­tion­ships where, if we find a broad­acre pad­dock for the devel­oper, we’ll make a hand­shake deal that we’ll get it back at the other end.”

Then the chal­lenge lies in cre­at­ing the vi­sion to sell the land. “If a devel­oper comes to us with 1,000 lots for po­ten­tial sub­di­vi­sion, we usu­ally go away and have a think about what’s driv­ing that mar­ket and hit the ground with a pre­sen­ta­tion of how we’re go­ing to do it.”

This in­volves a com­pre­hen­sive un­der­stand­ing of all as­pects of the project. An in-house graphic de­signer pre­pares the mar­ket­ing i sub­mis­sions, b i ions with fi­nal sub­mis­sions pre­sented in book form.

Should a sub­mis­sion prove suc­cess­ful, the team gets to work on sell­ing the project, and it’s a tar­geted strat­egy re­ly­ing on de­tailed re­port­ing.

“We set sales tar­gets and work back­wards. So long as we’re track­ing to hit the tar­get, we’re sit­ting sweet. If we’re not track­ing to hit a tar­get then we sit down and think about what needs to be done.”

James notes they “re­port on ev­ery­thing” to en­sure they’re hit­ting the mark in the most ef­fec­tive man­ner.

Each project has com­peti­tor, in­quiry and quar­terly re­ports that gauge ev­ery el­e­ment of the sell­ing process. There’s a par­tic­u­lar fo­cus on where sales leads come from to en­sure the mar­ket­ing dol­lar is spent in the right place.

“Is it the news­pa­per, Google or realestate. com.au? We tar­get what works in a heav­ier man­ner. Some ar­eas are more on­line fo­cused for sec­tors like first-home buy­ers. We can hit a lot of first-home buy­ers on Face­book in par­tic­u­lar ar­eas. In other re­gions that doesn’t work.”

When it comes to Face­book, James says it’s a tool that al­lows them to “get se­ri­ously close” to their clien­tele due to the ex­ten­sive data the so­cial me­dia gi­ant has at hand. Mean­while, it’s not the only tech­nol­ogy that Lat­i­tude lever­ages for sales.

A TRANS­PAR­ENT ETHOS

James at­tributes Lat­i­tude’s on­go­ing suc­cess to the trans­par­ent and re­spect­ful way they treat their cus­tomers. “We have strong re­spect for our clien­tele. This is driven into our sales agents from the top – so much so that we have de­signed re­lease strate­gies that are very trans­par­ent and keep the client in con­trol of their pur­chase.”

While other agen­cies use sys­tems like bal­lots for land re­lease events, Lat­i­tude is em­brac­ing tech­nol­ogy. One of their pioneer­ing ini­tia­tives in­volved us­ing on­line tick­et­ing plat­form Eventbrite rather than having peo­ple on site, in com­pe­ti­tion to se­cure a par­cel of land.

“Too many times I see other agen­cies mak­ing peo­ple sleep in their cars or go into a bal­lot. To me this is dis­re­spect­ful to the peo­ple we should be look­ing af­ter most.”

On­line tick­et­ing al­lows Lat­i­tude’s clients to se­cure their land in the com­fort of their own home. Clients then come into the Lat­i­tude of­fice at a later date to sign a con­tract of sale. “It’s no fuss. They’re in and out within half an hour and it’s done on their terms.”

The sys­tem has worked so well that oth­ers in the in­dus­try have fol­lowed suit, while James has plans to bet­ter utilise on­line re­sources in the fu­ture. “We are now de­vel­op­ing our own ex­clu­sive sys­tem with ad­di­tional fea­tures on our own web­site.”

Lat­i­tude is also ac­tively re­search­ing on­line pur­chas­ing for land. “Al­low­ing a per­son to pur­chase a prop­erty on­line would be a fan­tas­tic achieve­ment for our in­dus­try. This would give our clients com­plete con­trol to pur­chase a prop­erty in their own time, not be­ing has­sled by a real es­tate agent, and work­ing around their sched­ule.”

It’s all part of a sell­ing process that keeps the cus­tomer needs front of mind.

“We for­get as an in­dus­try that half a mil­lion dol­lars is a lot of money that some­one is about to trust us with. At Lat­i­tude, we en­sure they know ev­ery­thing about what they’re buy­ing.

“Our clients are build­ing their dream home. We need to make sure that dream sits in their mind whilst we do ev­ery­thing to get that land ready for them to build on. It’s about the story and the ex­pe­ri­ence without the phys­i­cal prod­uct.”

AN EYE TO THE FU­TURE

With 2018 well un­der way, James says he’s ex­cited about the year ahead.

“Our busi­ness is made up of young, en­er­getic and in­no­va­tive peo­ple. We have a clear di­rec­tion into the fu­ture, and em­brac­ing tech­nol­ogy is a huge part of this. In 2018 we will con­tinue to build on ev­ery­thing we have done to date, get­ting big­ger, bet­ter and faster.

“At the end of the day, I would like to think that our clients con­tinue having a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence with us. For me, the end goal is that this then fil­ters on to devel­op­ers and they think, ‘Well, you know what? We can’t af­ford not to sell with Lat­i­tude’ – be­cause we are sit­ting at the fore­front of the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence, we’re re­spon­sive to the mar­ket, we’re ag­ile and we’re quick.” • WORDS: CAS­SAN­DRA CHARLESWORTH IN­TER­VIEW: SA­MAN­THA MCLEAN

“Too many times I see other agen­cies mak­ing peo­ple sleep in their cars or go into a bal­lot.”

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