THE CHAL­LENGE

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

IN the crowded mar­ket­place of res­i­den­tial prop­erty, Rowena Quinn and Stephen Mccarthy’s com­pany, Hunters Es­tate Agents, has carved out a niche based on in­creased trans­parency, the use of tech­nol­ogy and — per­haps most im­por­tantly — good old­fash­ioned cus­tomer ser­vice.

SET up in 2012 by Rowena Quinn and Stephen Mccarthy, Hunters Es­tate Agents is now one of the fastest-grow­ing es­tate agen­cies in the coun­try. Head­quar­tered on Water­loo Road, Dublin 4, and with ad­di­tional of­fices in the city’s Foxrock, Dalkey and Rath­farn­ham, the com­pany em­ploys 22 staff and has an an­nual turnover of more than €2m.

“We are a bou­tique prop­erty agency that spe­cialises in the res­i­den­tial housing sec­tor,” ex­plains Rowena, the com­pany’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor.

“Our key ar­eas of busi­ness in­clude sales and let­tings, but we also man­age prop­er­ties for own­ers and land­lords. This in­volves look­ing af­ter ev­ery­thing from col­lect­ing rent and reg­is­ter­ing the prop­erty with the PTRB [Pri­vate Res­i­den­tial Te­nan­cies Board], to man­ag­ing re­pairs and main­te­nance is­sues as they arise. In short, we take the has­sle away from the land­lord and be­come the go-between between them and the ten­ant,” she adds.

The com­pany also car­ries out val­u­a­tions for sell­ers so they have an ad­vanced idea of what they can ex­pect to get on the mar­ket.

“We also un­der­take val­u­a­tions for re­ceivers where a build­ing is be­ing sold to re­pay out­stand­ing debts or be­ing sold as part of a sep­a­ra­tion or di­vorce. While sad, this is an im­por­tant el­e­ment of help­ing cou­ples move on with their lives.”

Over the past two years, the com­pany has added two new ser­vice di­vi­sions to the busi­ness, in­clud- ing Hunters In­te­ri­ors and Hunters Buyer Agency.

“Through our in­te­ri­ors divi­sion we now bring spe­cial­ist in­te­rior de­sign ser­vices to clients where we help to pre­pare or stage their prop­erty for sale, thereby en­sur­ing they at­tract the high­est in­ter­est and achieve the best prices.

“This in­volves ev­ery­thing from paint­ing and decor to in­stalling fur­ni­ture and fit-outs, as well as car­ry­ing out im­prove­ments to the gar­dens and grounds,” says Rowena.

The Hunters Buy­ers Agent ser­vice works with po­ten­tial buy­ers to help them source suit­able prop­er­ties with­out all the leg­work.

“Our ex­pe­ri­enced buy­ers carry out all the re­search of on-mar­ket and off-mar­ket prop­er­ties and then gen­er­ate a short­list of prop­er­ties that best suits what the client if look­ing for. They will even ne­go­ti­ate the sale as re­quired,” says Rowena.

Rowena grew up in Kilkenny city, where her fa­ther ran a paint­ing and dec­o­ra­tion store and her grand­mother a drap­ery busi­ness.

“I was al­ways around busi­ness and en­trepreneurs so I’m sure the idea of run­ning my own busi­ness rubbed off on me,” says Rowena. “My par­ents also in­stilled in me the im­por­tance of be­ing in­de­pen­dent and of go­ing af­ter what­ever I wanted in life,” she adds.

Rowena stud­ied arts in NUIG af­ter which she worked in the fam­ily busi­ness for a pe­riod be­fore head­ing to the US here she spent the next three-and-a-half years, ini­tially with an in­te­ri­ors com­pany in Scotts­dale, Ari­zona. Later, she joined Ger­ald Mcaleese, a re­la­tion of for­mer Pres­i­dent Mary Mcaleese, where she helped de­velop the fam­ily chain of restau­rants and bars known as the Kells Group.

Back in Ire­land, she re­turned to study in DIT, Bolton Street, where she qual­i­fied in prop­erty, later be­com­ing a mem­ber of the Ir­ish Auc­tion­eers and Valuers In­sti­tute, the So­ci­ety of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors of Ire­land, and the Royal In­sti­tute of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors.

“For me it wasn’t about get­ting a job, but about find­ing a ca­reer that I was pas­sion­ate about and could progress in,” in­sists Rowena.

Having worked with Daphne Kaye Es­tate Agents in Foxrock and later with Sav­ills in its city cen­tre of­fice, she de­cided that it was time to go out on her own. In 2012, along with her co-founder and ex­pe­ri­enced prop­erty pro­fes­sional Stephen Mccarthy, she set up Hunters Es­tate Agents.

How­ever, start­ing a busi­ness in a sec­tor with strong com­pe­ti­tion and well es­tab­lished in­cum­bents was no small un­der­tak­ing.

“At the time prop­erty busi­nesses were clos­ing down, not start­ing up. No one was buy­ing houses and the peo­ple who were sell­ing were more likely to use one of the big agen­cies than a new brand,” she ad­mits.

“Even find­ing ta­lent was chal­leng­ing with few new prop­erty grad­u­ates and few peo­ple will­ing to take the risk of join­ing a new prop­erty busi­ness dur­ing a re­ces­sion.”

Cre­at­ing brand recog­ni­tion be­came a ma­jor chal­lenge and it would take time for them to get new clients to trust them with the sale of their home. How­ever, they worked hard and asked in­di­vid­ual sell­ers and in­sti­tu­tions to test them out to see what they could do.

“Our prin­ci­ples and or­gan­i­sa­tional cul­ture soon be­came vis­i­ble to our clients — the Three Ps — prepa­ra­tion, pre­sen­ta­tion and price.

“When it comes to prepa­ra­tion, we en­cour­aged our clients to make sure all le­gal doc­u­men­ta­tion was pre­pared in ad­vance. This helped speed up the sales process and re­duce the like­li­hood of a sale fall­ing through. A small in­vest­ment in pre­sen­ta­tion at the out­set helped to sell the house faster and at the best price. Lastly, there’s price: the price needs to be right from the off­set, oth­er­wise you won’t at­tract buy­ers,” ex­plains Rowena.

Their hard work be­gan to pay off. Their sec­ond of­fice in Dalkey opened the fol­low­ing year, fol­lowed by Water­loo Road in 2014 and their most re­cent ad­di­tion, Rath­farn­ham, ear­lier this year.

Cre­at­ing greater ef­fi­ciency and trans­parency within the res­i­den­tial sales process con­tin­ues to be an im­por­tant ob­jec­tive for Rowena. Through her part­ner­ship with Space Prop­erty Group, the com­pany be­came the first res­i­den­tial agency to use proptech to close sales where an on­line bid­ding plat­form now al­lows buy­ers to see ex­actly what other peo­ple are bid­ding.

She is plan­ning to open more of­fices while at the same time keep her fo­cus on main­tain­ing a high qual­ity bou­tique type ser­vice.

“I love what I do and there is no bet­ter feel­ing than hand­ing over a set of keys to a per­son’s new home,” says Rowena. “In a busi­ness con­text though, it’s still all about achiev­ing re­sults and all about get­ting the best deal for our clients”. hunter­s­es­tateagent.ie

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