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My father called myself, my three brothers, into the office, I'll never forget these words, and he said to us, "You do not own your name, I own your name and I'm lending it to you so you do not tarnish it.

Episode 8

On knowing your market, building credibility and playing manilla poker.

Bill Malouf | Director & Principal | L.J.Hooker Double Bay

Today’s episode features Bill Malouf. Bill is a legend in the property category. Acknowledged as the clear market leader in selling waterfront properties and prestige holdings, Bill Malouf has held the No.1 position within the LJ Hooker Network for almost two decades. Specialising in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and consistently setting new sales records, Bill’s high-profile client base and landmark success stories encompass almost every one of Australia’s most prestigious locations. Bill is proud of his unbeatable track record in selling prestige property. A leader in his field with undeniable marketing flair, tenacity and professionalism, his illustrious 32 years of selling world class real estate provides a solid basis for his finely tuned negotiating skills. In this episode – Bill shares his thoughts on the the advantages of knowing your market, building credibility and playing his favourite card game – manilla poker.

Transcript

Anthony Denman:
Bill, welcome to the property marketing podcast.

Bill Malouf:
Thank you.

Anthony Denman:
How does the son of a publican in Coonabarabran become the number one real estate agent in Sydney’s posh eastern suburbs.

Bill Malouf:
Good question. We’re originally from Coonabarabran. I went to school at Camden Town.

Anthony Denman:
Because that’s a small country town in Western New South Wales.

Bill Malouf:
We’re in log milling industry and also the hotel industry.

Anthony Denman:
So, you’re father…

Bill Malouf:
I mean I was too you to realize but I also know I was born in Sydney and that’s where we started our early days, and then my parents got into the hotel industry independently from the family business. And we went from Wangee to Liverpool, from Liverpool to Strathfield. And we had hotels out at Blacktown, the student prince at Camperdown. So my early years at 18 and 19, and 16, and 17…

Anthony Denman:
So your father was a very successful entrepreneur publican?

Bill Malouf:
Yup, and then we moved from Strathfield, my parents moved to the eastern suburbs.

Anthony Denman:
So how old were you then?

Bill Malouf:
I was at boarding school at that stage, so we’d originally done our schooling at Campbelltown because my mother didn’t want us growing up on the premises of a hotel, so I was at boarding school at the age of four, very early.

Anthony Denman:
How old?

Bill Malouf:
Four years old.

Anthony Denman:
Four years old?

Bill Malouf:
I was at a boarding school in Campbelltown. St John’s College Campbelltown.

Anthony Denman:
No way.

Bill Malouf:
So from there we’d moved to Strathfield, and my mother thought now it’s time to bring the boys home, and there were four brothers.

Anthony Denman:
Sorry can I just ask a question. Is it true that you were expelled from St Pat’s High School in Strathfield?

Bill Malouf:
Yes, it was. After 12 months.

Anthony Denman:
What did you do?

Bill Malouf:
I did a couple of things. I actually put a signboard up on the football oval and holiday period, “For Sale”, as a prank.

Anthony Denman:
Did you get any inquiry?

Bill Malouf:
We got some inquiry. I also got into a lot of trouble over it, and I also had a problem with the lack of regimentation. So I never made school on time. I either told them that the buses were early or the buses were late, or I wanted to be regimented. And after 12 months, then I got into a few unfortunate fisticuffs problems.

Anthony Denman:
Were you a bit of a brawler then?

Bill Malouf:
I was a bit of a brawler back in those days, unfortunately, and I spent a lot of time in the headmaster’s office and they just told me the school wasn’t suitable for me and to look elsewhere in 2nd form.

Anthony Denman:
I love that story about the For Sale sign.

Bill Malouf:
True story.

Anthony Denman:
So is that because it was just in your mind?

Bill Malouf:
It was just in my mind, I thought it was a great something funny to do.

Anthony Denman:
You weren’t fascinated in Real Estate.

Bill Malouf:
Absolutely not. I never expected to ever leave the hotel industry, because I grew up in it.

Anthony Denman:
Because you were a bit of a late bloomer, weren’t you? How old were you when you got into real estate?

Bill Malouf:
35.

Anthony Denman:
35, wow.

Bill Malouf:
1986.

Anthony Denman:
That’s amazing, and what lead to that was being the brawler that you are?

Bill Malouf:
I had a nasty incident. In a number of conferences that I’ve done, I explained it. My wife was never very keen on the hotel industry, and we had a hotel out in Auburn. And the one late afternoon, a gentleman, one of my clients or customers in the public bar said, “I fear for my life. I think these guys are going to attack me when I walk to the Auburn station.” Which was 250 meters down from the Royal Hotel at Auburn and he asked me if I would escort him to this station, and I said, “Do you really need that?” He said, “Yeah I do.I said, that I’m worried that I’m going to get attacked.”

Bill Malouf:
So stupid me, said, “All right. I’m going to walk you to the station.” I said to a couple of the footballers in our football club, “Just stand at the public bar door, and keep an eye on that nothing actually happens.” And unfortunately we got three quarters of the way down the street, and out the inside of the entrances to a number of shops which were set back from the main street, six guys ran out and started attacking this guy.

Bill Malouf:
So I had to get involved, and unfortunately one of these guys pulled a knife out of a leg of a chair, and was going to stab me in the middle of the stomach. I didn’t see the knife. I was concentrating on his head, and one of my guys saw him.

Anthony Denman:
Or your fist was concentrated on his head.

Bill Malouf:
Unfortunately. I was very lucky, one of the customers ran down and got hold of him just before the knife was about to go through my stomach, and my wife heard about the fight, and told me I had to make a decision, either the hotel industry or something else. She was not happy about the altercation in any shape or form. In those days you didn’t have security. We looked after our trouble ourselves. So one of my roles in the early days was to clean up the hotels that we had. To clear out the rubbish and get a very orderd client base, and we did this at Blacktown. I did this at the Crow’s Nest. I did this at the Maroubra hotel, and also out at the Royal Hotel in Auburn.

Anthony Denman:
Wow, those are some rough areas. Did you have any kids at that point?

Bill Malouf:
We did. We had four children, and we did have young children at that stage, and that was another reason that it upset my wife extremely.

Anthony Denman:
That’s right, it should. So why real estate?

Bill Malouf:
Because when I decided to have a change, and I can actually put the responsibility on a guy called Micheal Sanchez.

Anthony Denman:
Micheal Sanchez. Is he still around?

Bill Malouf:
No, he’s in Queensland now, but many years ago he had a real estate practice in Sanchez and Smith in Maroubra. I used to run a betting club for the football at the Maroubra hotel, and all the boys would come around on a Thursday and a Friday, and fill in the betting card. And there’d be a big party at the end of the year, and somebody would make 1000/2000 at the end of the year based on their football bets, and Mike was one of these guys.

Anthony Denman:
So you were a bookie too?

Bill Malouf:
No, I wasn’t a bookie. It was just a social club thing that I organized and Micheal Sanchez said to me on several occasions, “If you ever leave the hotel industry, you should go into real estate.” I never ever forgot it but I had no inclination to change careers.

Anthony Denman:
Why? Did he see something in you?

Bill Malouf:
Just with the way I was handling clients with the social club and the things that I did, he must’ve seen something there, and he said to me, he pulled me aside and said, “Why don’t you come and work for me?” I said, “No, I would never leave the hotel industry or the family business.” I woke up this particular morning after the trouble. I was 35 and said to my wife I’ll have a career change. And she said, “What the hell are you going to do?” I said, “I’ll sell real estate.” And so I beg your pardon, and I rang Micheal. This is exactly what happened. Mike actually remembered and said, “There’s a desk at my office whenever you’re ready.”

Anthony Denman:
Was this in Maroubra?

Bill Malouf:
This was in Maroubra.

Anthony Denman:
Which is now classified as the eastern suburbs, but it wasn’t classified as the east..

Bill Malouf:
Classified East as is, no. I came home and to my family’s surprise, I turned around and said to my father I’m making a career change. Let’s lease out the Hotel at Auburn. I’m going into real estate and he was absolutely shocked. And he said, “Well where?” I don’t know. Maroubra at this stage but I want to think about it. And I rang Micheal and said, “Look, I need to think about this seriously because if I make a change it will be a one change only.”

Bill Malouf:
And I then actually started to have interviews with the agencies in Double Bay, and I knew a number of the boys that were working in Hookers..

Anthony Denman:
Why, because this is really interesting to me and I’m sure to listeners as well?

Bill Malouf:
Why real estate?

Anthony Denman:
No. Well, yeah. I do want to know that, and maybe we’ll come back to that, but more interestingly I think why Double Bay, why the eastern suburbs? Now I think I already know the answer to that.

Bill Malouf:
I think you know the answer to that.

Anthony Denman:
I think know the answer to that question.

Bill Malouf:
Okay, and what do you think?

Anthony Denman:
Well, because it’s the most expensive real estate in Australia.

Bill Malouf:
Well, you answered it. If you want to be successful go to the most expensive area in the country, and I wanted to be successful. We also had, we grew up at later stages at Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, that where we had the family home.

Anthony Denman:
So you had some contacts?

Bill Malouf:
So I had contacts there.

Anthony Denman:
That’s also really interesting to me, is do you have to grow up in an area to be successful?

Bill Malouf:
Well, you’ve got to pick an area that you think you want to be successful in, and if I was going to pick an area, and I didn’t want to make a change in my life three years, or four years down the track, and start again. So my argument was that if can’t succeed in Double Bay, I’m not going to succeed in Maroubra.

Anthony Denman:
Okay.

Bill Malouf:
It’s as simple as that.

Anthony Denman:
And that makes a lot of sense. So you’re talking about success right? So is it fair to say that you could be the number one agent in Coonabarabran and you could list x amount of homes per year, but unfortunately the price of those properties is in the low to mid $100 000 range?

Bill Malouf:
$500 000, $300 000, it takes the same amount of time to sell a $300 000 or a $500 000 house as it does for for me to sell a four or five million, at the early stages, three million dollar house, but the rewards…

Anthony Denman:
The financial rewards?

Bill Malouf:
Correct are in the three million dollar return.

Anthony Denman:
So do you think if you were selling a $300 000 dollar federation home in Coonabarabran, if you can imagine yourself doing that, do you think you would do it the same way?

Bill Malouf:
I don’t think I would ever change my principles and what my parents had taught me. You’ve got to remember that we also did developing. We did the Greater Union pitches, the theatre site and a subdivision so Newcastle. We also did unit developments in Strathfield and my father was a very hands on parent, that we used to listen to his negotiations, and my old man could sell anything to anybody. He was a John Deere tractor, even with the hotel agency, and it’s still in the American office, that Lou Malouf’s territory is not to be touched by anybody else.

Anthony Denman:
No way. So he was a salesman as well?

Bill Malouf:
Well, yeah.

Anthony Denman:
He was selling to cow cockies, he’s selling.

Bill Malouf:
Correct, when we were in the lumber industry in the, he used to also have a spare parts dealership for all the John Deere tractors.

Anthony Denman:
Okay, so Malouf is a?

Bill Malouf:
Lebanese descendant. Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
So did he grow up in Australia, or was he?

Bill Malouf:
Yes, he is. We’re third generation.

Anthony Denman:
Third generation Lebanese Australians.

Bill Malouf:
So ourselves, our father, his father, all grew up in Australia.

Anthony Denman:
And do you think, because there is that notion of successful horse trading in the Lebanese background, instinctual?

Bill Malouf:
Without a doubt. It’s instinctive. It’s part of my make up.

Anthony Denman:
Because I want to know can that stuff be taught?

Bill Malouf:
Yes, it can.

Anthony Denman:
How do you teach that?

Bill Malouf:
Without a doubt. You’ve got to start with the basics. If you haven’t got the basics to start with, I learnt when I was 16. My father called myself, my three brothers, into the office, I’ll never forget these words, and he said to us, “You do not own your name, I own your name and I’m lending it to you so you do not tarnish it.” I’ve never ever forgotten it.

Anthony Denman:
Nice. Did you tell your son that?

Bill Malouf:
Absolutely, both of my, my four children. Two boys and two girls, exactly what he told me, when they got to their teenage years, I said it exactly. He also told me, “A handshake is your bond, your word is your bond. There’s a shortcut to life and there’s the right way to do things.” And he instilled that in all of my three brothers at a very, very early age, that your success will be determined on the way you handle and deliver to other people, and if you make a promise, you honor the promise. Whether you decided I’ve made a bad decision here, you get yourself out of that but you do not break your promises.

Anthony Denman:
So if I could talk to you again about that, because again, I think that’s really interesting, the issue of integrity and honesty in the real estate sales process.

Bill Malouf:
It’s really important. I think it’s important.

Anthony Denman:
If we can talk about, the notion, if you go back 15/20 years, we talk about some of the conditioning practices that were going on. An example of that might be the house is worth five, you walk in and you tell the vendor you think it’s worth seven. Through the course of the auction program you say it’s only worth three because we didn’t realize this door didn’t open a particular way, whatever, but then come auction day you get them back to the five and they think you’re the bee’s knees. Now, that was a pretty common practice. Were you ever involved in doing stuff like that?

Bill Malouf:
No. In 32 years, not once. Look, it’s not, and I tell this story but I’ll answer you very simply, that if we know our research on the property market, wherever you’re specializing in, you should have a reasonable idea on the value of something. You’ve then got to allow for the emotion of the buyers, because they’re the ones at the end of the day, so what is the point of telling somebody that their property is worth seven million dollars when on your paperwork you’ve got seven written but you really believe it’s worth five million. You really think those people, even though you might make a sale at 4.8 or 5.2, and this is where I’ll correct you. They won’t think that you’ve had a successful campaign on their property. They’ll be disillusioned.

Anthony Denman:
They’ve got longer memories.

Bill Malouf:
Of course, they’ve got longer memories. Look you’ve got to treat this industry, and unfortunately I think still there needs to be a big clean up in our industry, that our job is to go out and work out what we think based on the market today, and then sit down with your vendors and tell them. They’re going to have high expectations, but as long as my paperwork can be within an area of what I think, and then I go out to maximize. I’ve always believed my job is to create a record on every property that I handle, because why? When the other guy that leads it wants to bring it back to sale they’ve got to come back to me because I’m the only guy that’s going to get them out. Our responsibility is to one person only. It’s not to purchasers, it’s to the seller, and my reputation will expand based on the results that I get the people I represent. So it’s what they say about me behind my back, three months and six months later, will determine whether I’ve got successful career.

Bill Malouf:
So why lie? Why go out and tell somebody their property is worth seven million, when it’s actually worth five million or four and a half, or five and a quarter? Where’s the value add in that? There is none, because you’re going to look somebody in the face three weeks later, and I can assure you their property value hasn’t changed in that three week auction campaign from seven million down to five million. So your personal respect, your personal credibility as far as I’m concerned is through the toilet.

Anthony Denman:
You’re talking about knowledge, and through the course of these interviews it’s come up a fair bit. It seems to me that that really can make or break a successful agent, that is the knowledge. The market knowledge, like know what a property is worth. What sort of money you think you can get for that piece of real estate. How do you, do you have a routine?

Bill Malouf:
Yeah, I do. Well the return is very simple, to make sure, and the marketplace that I work in, wherever it may be, if that’s for somebody at three to five million, or it’s somebody that does 10 to 15, or it’s somebody that does waterfronts, my predominant part of the market is the top end of the marketplace, I know every sale that’s transpired.

Anthony Denman:
How?

Bill Malouf:
Through the other agents that have sold something at a similar level. I started with a scrapbook. That scrapbook listed every property when I started here with every sale between zero and two or three million dollars. I would follow the auction. I would then look at the result and in that scrapbook, if it was a unit, I’d determine whether it was a ground floor unit or a penthouse, or whether it was a walk up.

Anthony Denman:
Do you still have that scrapbook?

Bill Malouf:
I don’t now, but I did for the first seven years of me doing this. But I’d make sure I know what is transacted in what street.

Anthony Denman:
What did that scrapbook look like? Was it just a?

Bill Malouf:
It was a bible. It was a scrapbook with a photograph of the agent that was selling the particular property and I would go and look at that property. I had an opinion on what I thought it was worth, then I went to the auction, I wrote down what it sold for. I wrote down the condition of the property.

Anthony Denman:
This was before that information was in the public realm.

Bill Malouf:
Correct. So I did my research.

Anthony Denman:
Product knowledge, so how do you do it today?

Bill Malouf:
Same way. Well, at the top end now I think I’ve got a fairly strong experienced knowledge on what is trading in the last…

Anthony Denman:
Just by your own sales?

Bill Malouf:
By my own sales and by competitor’s sales at the same level. I mean I know how many waterfronts are in the eastern suburbs, which is 325 between here and Kirribilli. Kirribilli, I know what is transacted. I know what’s on the market and who’s asking for it. I know the Tennis Court sales in Victoria road. I know there’s currently one there that the guy’s expecting in excess of 25 to 30 million. I know what the last three or four transactions on that street. It was 18.6, 21 million and 20 million. You’ve got to have this knowledge, and you need to go and look at these properties, and look at what the pluses and the negatives of these properties are.

Anthony Denman:
Is that what wins you an appraisal? Does business come to you now or do you have to?

Bill Malouf:
All my business now is referral.

Anthony Denman:
Great.

Bill Malouf:
And that’s what your aim should be. Initially you door knock. Initially you go and sit with people. Initially you send out listing letters. We all did that. I did that. Without a doubt, I would pick a street or an area, and I was like a Jehovah’s Witness. I knocked on every door. I introduced myself, and I used to find out the ladies that were 60, and 70, and 80 years old, that were still living in that original house knew more about what was going on in that street than anybody else. She could tell me that the walls coming up, or these people are deciding, she tell me what, and I used to sit and have coffee with these people.

Bill Malouf:
And hairdressing salons, there’s a wealth of information that comes out of those hairdressing salons.

Anthony Denman:
It’s why you’ve got such beautiful hairdo.

Bill Malouf:
So these are the things, but it’s your product knowledge. Without a doubt. There are four major ingredients in this; it’s your credibility, your honesty, your product knowledge and a very interesting last one is your accessibility. What I find, even today, and I’ve been doing this 32 years, you as an individual who’s thinking of selling, go and ring agents at 6:00, 7:00, and 8:00 at night and I guarantee you will get out of 70% of those agents an answering service. If you are lucky, you might get a phone call back in the next three or four days. I don’t turn my phone off.

Anthony Denman:
Ever?

Bill Malouf:
I take my phone on holidays.

Anthony Denman:
Really?

Bill Malouf:
I get calls at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. I get calls at my own home now at 1:00 the morning.

Anthony Denman:
1:00 or 2:00 in the morning?

Bill Malouf:
And I will answer that phone.

Anthony Denman:
I should test you.

Bill Malouf:
Go ahead and test me, and I even tell my clients, the people that I’m doing proposals for, I say do me a favor…

Anthony Denman:
You wouldn’t get many calls at…

Bill Malouf:
Ask my wife.

Anthony Denman:
Really?

Bill Malouf:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
What are they, just people who just?

Bill Malouf:
You get idiots that ring up late at night, but then you do get inquiries that come in to ask you to text. I saw this on my way home at 9:00 at night from work, and they ring, I answer the phone. Or they text me, “Can you give me the information?” I actually ring them back. They say, “No, all you needed to do is text.” I said, “No, I believe in the personal contact.”

Bill Malouf:
I can find out more information with a personal response than what I’m going to get out of a text response.

Anthony Denman:
And that’s something that to this day…

Bill Malouf:
Has never changed.

Anthony Denman:
…with all your success, that you don’t feel like you could do without?

Bill Malouf:
Nope. Not for a moment. Look, we are supposed to be… I’ll give you two examples. You go to a restaurant and I went to one not so long ago. Friends asked us out to this particular restaurant at Leicharddt. Went and had dinner, the service was great. Food was excellent. We had a great night. I came home. I can guarantee you that within the next week, I then took five other people to that restaurant because I had such a great night. Now, I don’t know the owner of that restaurant from a bee’s knees but what I’m doing is because of the service the quality of the food that I enjoyed, I was taking new clients to this restaurant that never knew that it existed and that is only done based on the service that I got. Do you think real estate practice is any different? We rely on the response of the people that we do work for, and I’ve always said to people when I sit with them this is about me walking the line in a partnership with you and your wife, or your parents, to get you the best result that I can.

Bill Malouf:
And however long that will take, I will be there by your side. And the reason I want your business is because I want your family, your uncle, your aunts and anybody that you know in your social circle of friends. So why would I damage that relationship by over quoting on the value of their property? I’ve got to give them an honest, and then they will make up their decision whether they want to engage me, but I will justify what I’ve told them and also say that I can’t allow for the emotional side of the purchaser, but I will never tell you to take an offer that I don’t consider as in your best interest, and you’re never going to sell the house unless you’re 100% happy.

Bill Malouf:
And I think, if you look back at my history and what I’ve created in results, other people would not have got those results, and that’s why I take what I do so seriously. Because, in 80% of the cases in real estate, this is the most expensive asset that these people will own, and if they’ve been smart enough, 10 years, to buy in that street and renovate that house, they’re entitled to the maximum uplift that they can get, and my responsibility is to make sure they get that uplift, and it hasn’t changed.

Anthony Denman:
No, it’s very compelling. Like if I had a property right now, I’d list it with you.

Bill Malouf:
But isn’t that your responsibility. Tell me where there’s any…

Anthony Denman:
No, and you truly believe it. I can tell.

Bill Malouf:
100%.

Anthony Denman:
And instilling that in your son David now, who’s coming through the ranks?

Bill Malouf:
Absolutely, who’s doing very, very well. He’s got a client base, and it’s referral.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. Same thing.

Bill Malouf:
In any talks that I have given over the last 10 or 15 years, it has been to agents and said, “If you are in this industry for 10 years and you are still letterbox dropping, and you are still making 200 phone calls a day, apart from the fact that all you are doing is staying in direct contact with the history of business that you’ve developed over that 10 years, you’re doing something seriously wrong.”

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Bill Malouf:
You should be now relying on referral business. Lawyer,s accountants, and people that you have previously worked for, for those friends because those friends will go to the people and say look, “What was experience like with Bill Malouf at Hookers?” So the only person that can do me damage are the previous vendors I’ve worked for.

Anthony Denman:
It’s an opportunity for a good segue here, which is Bill Malouf at Hookers. So you’re part of the LJ Hooker Group. That’s interesting because I haven’t been down here for a while and I was looking for the shop, and I actually tried to come in the back way as I used to, so I came around the front and I saw the R&W sign, looked at Richardon & Wrench. The same branding that it has everywhere else. The Ray White branding, nice and clear. Got the street signage out, and then I’m looking for your office and it’s just a beautifully considered interior and exterior design exercise. I’m sitting in your boardroom now. You’ve got plush carpet, beautiful textured walls, we’ve got a big screen TV. We’ve got a sheer curtain, looks like a parquetry ceiling, and walls, and you have to look really hard just to even see any LJ Hooker branding.

Anthony Denman:
So yeah, it’s almost like you’ve taken, because the LJ Hooker brand, if you go to any other LJ Hooker franchise in Australia, it looks completely different.

Bill Malouf:
Yeah. It does. Well, a lot of the credit goes to Mark. My business partner, because we decided success breeds success we would hope, and I think you’ve got to have a successful presence in your office because you also see a lot of clients that actually come to your workplace.

Anthony Denman:
But isn’t there, just in terms of the franchise or franchisee agreement with Hookers, isn’t there a stipulation somewhere in there that the shop has to look a particular way?

Bill Malouf:
No, not anymore. That has now changed. It used to be the yellow and black. Now, they’ve left it a lot more independent and a lot more professional, and that’s what we’ve done here.

Anthony Denman:
So you can essentially do whatever you want to do?

Bill Malouf:
Yes.

Anthony Denman:
And is that because of you and Mark?

Bill Malouf:
I don’t know whether it’s because of me and Mark, but that’s what we decided to do, and we had permission from head office to do so, and we’ve now got an open plan working environment both for the property management and the sales, because we want peoples to build the sales people in the office. When they see activity working, and they see that we have a bell here, that every time there’s a sale, someone makes a sale and rings the bell, and makes enthusiastic people want to drive more and driver harder for themselves.

Anthony Denman:
Make a sale ring the bell, or secure a listing and ring the bell?

Bill Malouf:
No. Make a sale and ring the bell.

Anthony Denman:
So, is there any, what I’m getting at here is I want to understand the value in the LJ Hooker brand?

Bill Malouf:
For me to stay?

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Bill Malouf:
Okay, Hookers have been very good to me over the 32 years I’ve been here. They stuck by me in the early days, and we grew together, and I’m very loyal. I mean, yes, could I branch out and call it Bill Malouf Real Estates today because I’ve already got my established client base, but I still think there’s a value in the company. I think there are some referrals that we get because they’ve had a successful campaign with Hookers previously. It was very important when I first started to get with one of the major four or five brands, and I’ve continued that relationship and I won’t change.

Anthony Denman:
Why was it in the early days?

Bill Malouf:
Because nobody knew me, at all. Even though I had to create my own personal environment and success, nobody knew who the hell I was, but they did know who was Hookers, they did know who was Richardson and Wrench, they did know who Laing & Simmons were, so that helped develop. And once I developed into that relationship, I didn’t want, I’ve had opportunities to break it. I’ve had other firms come in.

Anthony Denman:
I can imagine, but you could’ve also created your own.

Bill Malouf:
I’ve also had international firms. I could but I believe in loyalty. I believe in loyalty in staff, and I believe in loyalty to the brand.

Anthony Denman:
Have you had, because there’s been a few groups, a few offices. In fact, I saw Daniel Baron’s name out there today, and we haven’t seen Daniel for years, and he’s a high profile. how’s that been for you in terms of, well I should maybe take a step back, I guess going from being a successful individual real estate agent who could sell ice to Eskimos to running your own business?

Bill Malouf:
Well, you’ve got to realize where your strengths are and where your weaknesses are, and if you are a very good salesman you generally might not be a good office manager. Right, which is costing you sales. So you look at your strengths. The reason I also joined with Mark is, Mark is also very good at backend and also projects, and I wanted to build a very large rent role, and I wanted security for my son going in the future, who’s an excellent salesperson. So you look for where your strengths are, you look at where your weaknesses are, and then you’ve got to bring others in to counteract on those weaknesses at the time.

Anthony Denman:
We had to stop the interview briefly for Bill to take a phone call from a potential purchaser, and that in itself is really quite fascinating. It’s worth about 16/17 million. Buyer’s concerned, a lot of people will get a chuckle out of this, they had two lifts to get up to the apartment. So one from the car park and one to go to the top level. Doing it tough in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, let me tell you.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, so that was really interesting just to hear that, but then also Bill talked about a whole lot of nuances right down to the fact that you knew the details about the neighbour upstairs and how many kids he had, and what he does for a living and that sort of stuff. That sort of knowledge is…

Bill Malouf:
And what else had sold to make this property worth it.

Anthony Denman:
And to give it it’s value, absolutely, and he did an incredibly good job of that. Does it have a waterfront jetty?

Bill Malouf:
It has a jetty…

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, you can only get to it via an IRB, which is a rubber ducky sort of thing.

Bill Malouf:
It’s not a permanent one.

Anthony Denman:
And you know all of that stuff because you’ve got a boat and we might get into that a little bit later on. So what is the most expensive property that you’ve ever sold?

Bill Malouf:
The most expensive property that I should’ve sold was that I did have an offer for a house in Point Piper for $118 million, which would’ve been my record.

Anthony Denman:
It would’ve been the record, wouldn’t it?

Bill Malouf:
Yeah. But it think a transaction that I did a number of years ago, if you gross both of them up, I sold a property for $44 million and at the same time I could only do the deal if I got the guy out of his property, and within a two week period I did a double exchange. One at $44 and one at $23.

Anthony Denman:
Wow, within two weeks.

Bill Malouf:
Within two weeks. The deal that I’d done was the waterfront sale. It had to be on the condition that I got rid of his in a two week period. So three weeks, so I’d already established the result on the waterfront, now I had to get him out of his house in Bellevue Hill, and they were both simultaneous exchange.

Anthony Denman:
And how did you manage that?

Bill Malouf:
Because I knew who I would have as a buyer for the house in Bellevue Hill, and I already had this guy convinced on the waterfront in Point Piper.

Anthony Denman:
You’re so confident.

Bill Malouf:
Because they were simultaneous exchanges with simultaneous settlement.

Anthony Denman:
Homes of this value, do you ever send them to auction?

Bill Malouf:
I don’t.

Anthony Denman:
You don’t.

Bill Malouf:
And I have reasons for that. I don’t believe that people at this level want to be seen in an auction room bidding for a property. They’re either CEOs of companies or they’re people that hold senior position in public companies, and they don’t want shareholders to know what they’re paying, and they don’t want to compete in an auction room, and I don’t think you’ll end up getting two or three people to bid on these styles of properties, so you usually only find one person. So how do you manipulate that person into an auction room under the laws? You can’t.

Bill Malouf:
So I believe the only way to negotiate at these levels is to take the responsibility away from the purchaser to see his competition, and deal directly with me under an expression of interest campaign which I believe works very successfully. The difference in price can anywhere from one million to five million in what you end up selling that property for, and that one to five, or one to six, can be the difference between a sale or no sale. But why would somebody want to pay you for example if the highest bid in a room was $50 million, why would then somebody else walk up to you and say well here’s $50 million, or $53 million, or $54 million, they don’t want to go any higher than their competition, so I create the competition with expression of interest campaign which is 95% of what I do.

Anthony Denman:
Is it always EOIs, not private treaty per se? I mean how do you?

Bill Malouf:
Some of them are private but most of them of expression of interest campaigns.

Anthony Denman:
So you’re really just inviting a negotiation aren’t you?

Bill Malouf:
Well, it’s got to be a negotiation. I’ve got to look at what these people have previously looked at, what they previously made offers on, and how far I honestly believe they will go to on a particular property.

Anthony Denman:
What does a really tough negotiation, what does that look like for you?

Bill Malouf:
I’m actually in the middle of one at the present moment.

Anthony Denman:
Is that the one you just took the phone call on?

Bill Malouf:
Correct.

Anthony Denman:
I was just going to say, because this has been really interesting to me, because I turned up at the office and you’re talking to some gentleman, and I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation. It was about whether or not he could get his boat into this jetty, and you’re having that conversation.

Bill Malouf:
Well, you’ve got to deal with the shortcomings for them, and how serious they are on a property, and then your responsibility is to the vendor. It’s not to the purchaser, and then I have a price in my mind that I think it’s worth every day of the week, and I’m not going to drop that expectation. Right? But then it’s a case of how far will that person go to secure that property, and if you honestly believe when you’ve got him to his maximum level, is there anyone else that you would have previously spoken to that will go past that point, or no they won’t. And if you don’t honestly believe there is anyone else that will go past it, then it’s time to sit down with the vendor, but not before.

Anthony Denman:
Okay, so in the course of me being here for a few hours, so I’ve seen you negotiate with two prospective purchasers, will you sit down and take those discussions back to the vendor at any point in time?

Bill Malouf:
Not at this stage, no.

Anthony Denman:
Because they’re not close enough?

Bill Malouf:
As you’ve just heard, as I believe one of these should have an inspection in a week from now, so that gives me to concrete my expectations.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Bill Malouf:
Right, and that’s what I’m after, is my expectations for my client. And that’s what I’ve said to you at the very beginning of all this, this is a game of trust to. Somebody has just given you their most expensive asset, and my client doesn’t even live here anymore. He’s overseas so there’s got to be a lot of trust there, that what I did and what I represented for him has pushed that property to its maximum level, and that’s what I want to protect from my point of view. That when talks to his friends and we do a successful deal, and don’t care how long it takes to get done, that he realizes in his own mind that I got the best job done. That’s where my next referral comes from.

Anthony Denman:
And I’ve got to say in term of substantiating the price, and just listening to you talk to those prospective buyers, it all comes back to your intimate knowledge of the market.

Bill Malouf:
Knowledge of the market, you can’t second guess this market.

Anthony Denman:
Put comparables up there.

Bill Malouf:
You’ve got to know the internal square meterage. You’ve got to know the difference between one that you set at, you heard say that there’s been a sale at $20 million, it doesn’t look at the Opera house harbor bridge. Here we are at a $16 million potential, yes it does look at it. Yes, that one was bigger but this one’s got a stronger advantage of the gun barrel view of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge it’s upon, and it’s absolute waterfront, and it can’t be replaced.

Anthony Denman:
In terms of what you can do in terms of modifications, you talked about potentially adding 70 square meters, and all that knowledge.

Bill Malouf:
All that adds value to the property.And the fact that a block of land that I sold before Christmas at $22 million, even justifies that expectation.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, totally. 100%.

Bill Malouf:
You’ve got to deal in facts.

Anthony Denman:
You do.

Bill Malouf:
As soon as a purchaser believes that you told them a fib, you’ve just lost all credibility.

Anthony Denman:
That’s the most expensive. Do you remember the least expensive home that you, you probably would have to go back a few years?

Bill Malouf:
I remember when I started here in 1986, I remember I was looking at properties at Dover Heights that were only $300 000 and $400 000. How the market has changed, and you’ve got to crawl before you can walk, so I started there. I started there door knocking, sitting with little old ladies having coffee to establish my credibility and my reputation. And that’s important, your reputation as perceived not by you, but as your reputation is perceived by the marketplace.

Anthony Denman:
So you look like you’re having a lot of fun still. You love it don’t you?

Bill Malouf:
I love the negotiations.

Anthony Denman:
That’s what I was going to ask. What’s your favorite part about this business?

Bill Malouf:
The negotiation.

Anthony Denman:
The cut and thrust.

Bill Malouf:
The cut, the thrust and the closing of a deal. I’m dealing with people that are a hell of a lot smarter than I’ll ever be. Now, it’s only fact. They’re CEOs of public companies, they’re people that have been highly successful. They’re people with a serious amount of money, and at the end of the day unless they meet me on my terms, on behalf of my client, it ain’t going to happen, and to get that across the line you get a hell of a lot of satisfaction.

Anthony Denman:
It gives you a kick.

Bill Malouf:
Absolutely it gives you a kick.

Anthony Denman:
When you’re not selling real estate, how do you get your kicks?

Bill Malouf:
Well, it’s common knowledge that my love is the water.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, talk about that.

Bill Malouf:
As much time as I can spend on the water I do.

Anthony Denman:
Do you live in the eastern suburbs?

Bill Malouf:
Yeah, I live in Vaucluse, and I do spend a lot of time on my boat at the Royal Motor Yacht Club. That’s my relaxation.

Anthony Denman:
What sort of boat is it?

Bill Malouf:
It’s a cruiser.

Anthony Denman:
Well, it had to be a pretty big one given your success. I’ve heard, when we used to knock about years ago, you’d talk about these card games.

Bill Malouf:
Yeah, I still play cards.

Anthony Denman:
It’s these card games, can you tell me about what sort of a card game it’s like?

Bill Malouf:
It’s a like a real estate transaction. There’s a lot of bluff but at the end of the day if you haven’t got the cards you’re going to lose the hand.

Anthony Denman:
So what are playing?

Bill Malouf:
I play Manila.

Anthony Denman:
Manila, poker?

Bill Malouf:
Yeah, it’s a poker game, and we play it on the water and we play it in a room that we have.

Anthony Denman:
And who’s we?

Bill Malouf:
A number of individuals that get together. There’s eight or nine of us that play cards.

Anthony Denman:
And roughly what would an average hand be worth?

Bill Malouf:
We’ll leave that.

Anthony Denman:
Come on. Okay, well let’s put it this way, what’s the biggest hand that you’ve won?

Bill Malouf:
We’ll leave that. Look it’s a comfortable game. I would never risk my financial future for my kids or my family playing a card game. I mean I know of games that are worth $200 000.

Anthony Denman:
A hand?

Bill Malouf:
Yeah, some of the hands are a quarter of a million. Will I play in that game? No I won’t.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, okay.

Bill Malouf:
And I do cards as a release. I do not play cards to think that it’s there my livelihood. It’s with a group of guys who I enjoy their company.

Anthony Denman:
And have a few drinks.

Bill Malouf:
And have a few drink and a chat, and compete, and it’s enjoyable.

Anthony Denman:
It’s money you can afford to lose.

Bill Malouf:
It’s I can afford to lose. I can walk out of the door and not drive the car to the gap, and just end my life, and that’s what social activity’s about. It’s a release.

Anthony Denman:
You’ll have to invite me, not, to one of those games. Hopefully, I haven’t played manilla poker in years. Jesus, but I’m supposed to talk about project marketing. You never really got into that did you? That’s mostly Mark now, is it?

Bill Malouf:
I’ve done a few early projects, like buildings of six and seven, and eight. But we do have an area now that’s quite large in our business because Mark’s specialized in that project marketing range. We’re doing a number of buildings. In fact, we’re probably going to have over a 100 unit. So they’re going to come up this year, that he’ll be handling. David’s done project marketing and so has Allan Waitsman

Anthony Denman:
Okay. Do you think that, although they’re both real estate disciplines, do you think that they’re the same?

Bill Malouf:
I don’t think it. Look, you’re selling a development off the plan or on completion. Off the plan is a little more difficult. You’ve got to understand where the purchasers are. You’ve got to understand their financial position and probably organize finance for them. So there are slight differences in the marketing of that, because 90% of what I do is 100% completed. So you can see, feel and touch. Whereas the project side, you go also sell a dream.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, but they do seem to me like two very different disciplines.

Bill Malouf:
They are up to a point. I mean, if you said to me, “Could you go straight in and do a block of 10 or 20, 100 units?” Absolutely, no doubt. It’s about reading the purchasers and the purchasers’ limitations, and what their capacity is, and what finance they’ll need, and to understand what their needs are. You don’t show people needs that they don’t want, you show people needs that they need.

Anthony Denman:
There’s a lot more legwork upfront, isn’t there?

Bill Malouf:
Yes, there is.

Anthony Denman:
As opposed to just…

Bill Malouf:
Whereas mine’s, I consider the area I work a lot easier.

Anthony Denman:
Two deals like that in the space of two weeks.

Bill Malouf:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Which is a completely different experience I suppose. Where are we? January, late January 2020, and how’s the market?

Bill Malouf:
I think we’re in for an interesting market this year. I haven’t made my mind up completely. I think it’ll be like last year. I don’t think the availability of stock is out there. It hasn’t presented itself at this stage.

Anthony Denman:
Because last year was tough.

Bill Malouf:
Very tough. Last year was a tough market because the stock wasn’t available. The Wentworth Courier in my opinion was about 45/48% down on what it was in previous years. So the Wentworth Courier builds itself to 350 to 400 pages, in those October, November, August, September periods after the June, July layoff, when people go away and come back. Well, you only had the maximum at the top of the market, about 150/156 pages, which a hell of a lot of real estate that wasn’t around.

Anthony Denman:
So I can’t believe that you’re still talking about the Wentworth Courier.

Bill Malouf:
I still talk about it because I believe in it, strongly. Always have, always will.

Anthony Denman:
So what about the new digital marketing landscape?

Bill Malouf:
That’s all fine and dandy, but if you’ve got property in the eastern suburbs and you’re not in the Wentworth Courier, it’s a mistake. Not so much units, but definitely the prestige housing market.

Anthony Denman:
And why is that?

Bill Malouf:
Because a lot of people are not talking to agents with what they’re actually looking for until the actually see it, in the Wentworth Courier, or on the net. So they don’t want to be pestered by agents every week saying you’re about to upgrade or you want to go into the next level. They’ll respond to an ad.

Anthony Denman:
In terms of inquiry, you’re still getting significant inquiry from the local newspaper?

Bill Malouf:
Yes, without a doubt. Well, I can’t tell you that 80% of what I’ve sold on the Wolseley Road, and on prestige real estate has also come out of enquiry from the net or Wentworth Courier.

Anthony Denman:
So when you say the net, you mean like REA, realestate.com.

Bill Malouf:
Yeah, realestate.com, the main, without a doubt.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, so it’s that old adage that you fish where the fish are.

Bill Malouf:
You can’t sell a secret.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah.

Bill Malouf:
So the only way you can, it’s just the same as you going fishing, you don’t know where the fish are unless somebody else says on the radio says, “We’ve hit a really brilliant spot. There is a hell of a lot of tuna running here.” So, where do the boats go? All to where the tuna spot is activated there. Otherwise, you can drive up and down the coastline for eight hours and not get a fish. It’s a fact.

Anthony Denman:
It’s always been the same way.

Bill Malouf:
Where the currents are running, which is the hot, which is the cold current, where are the fish being activated. Real estate’s exactly the same. If the property’s not out there, if it’s not being exposed to the marketplace, how do the buyers know it exists?

Anthony Denman:
Do you have a point of view on social media, Facebook? That sort of stuff. Instagram.

Bill Malouf:
Up to a point. I think that there are some players in the marketplace that are over exposing themselves about how good they are, and what they’re doing. I’m a great believer in flying under the radar, and letting your successes determine what the public think about you. I do believe that you’ve got to be out there. I’ve always had a strong relationship with Sydney Morning Herald domain section, and as long as my vendors have no objection. A sale has taken place and they don’t really object to that, but if people ask for their privacy, you’ve got to respect that.

Anthony Denman:
I think we’ve pretty much covered everything. I’d like to thank you so much for taking the time.

Bill Malouf:
It’s an absolute pleasure.

Anthony Denman:
Doing phone calls in between, negotiation in between, which has been awesome. How do people, if they want to, how do people get in touch with you?

Bill Malouf:
It’s very easy. My phone, as I said to you earlier, my phone is always on. My mobile is 0411428354. I do a number of bits of mentoring with people that ring me up and say, “Listen, can I just have a talk to you.” I’m happy to give back.

Anthony Denman:
Wow, that’s fantastic. Certainly, if I was an aspiring, young real estate agent, I’d be absolutely giving you a call. Thanks again mate.

Bill Malouf:
Absolute pleasure. Good to see you again.

Anthony Denman:
I look forward to that invitation to that card game.

Bill Malouf:
Not a problem, then bring the deeds to your car when you come.

Anthony Denman:
Very good.

Bill Malouf:
Thanks Ant.

Anthony Denman:
Bye.