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We are promoting the small developers, getting references from past purchasers that have lived in their developments 5, 10 years. That's the real recommendation when someone says, "I was really happy buying from them. I'll buy off them again.

Episode 23

On the benefits of working within a large scale, corporate real estate franchise, truly understanding your target market and the power of red

David Milton | Managing Director | CBRE Residential Projects Australia

David began his career over 30 years as the founder of Realty Marketing, one of the first independent project marketing firms in Australia. In 2007 he had sold his business to CBRE where he is currently the Managing Director of CBRE Residential Projects. David has accelerated the growth of CBRE Residential Projects from small luxury boutique offerings to major staged projects and mixed-use properties in both the CBD and Sydney regional areas, enabling CBRE Residential Projects to be recognised as the market leader in off-the-plan apartment sales. Under David’s leadership the team at CBRE Residential Projects has grown to exceed 200 employees around the country in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore, with the Sydney office achieving outstanding results with over 3000 sales in 2017 alone.

Throughout his career, David has personally sold, managed and or overseen the sales of $25 billion worth of real estate and is one of the residential project marketing industry’s most highly regarded professionals.

Transcript

Anthony Denman:
Dave, welcome to the Property Marketing Podcast.

David Milton:
That’s quite an introduction. Thank you. I can’t take full credit for that because I’ve got such a good team with me, but thanks for the acknowledgement.

Anthony Denman:
You deserve it, mate. You’ve done a lot of hard yards in this business. And I should say not just welcome to Property Marketing Podcast, but welcome back to Australia. Where have you been?

David Milton:
I went to the States. I’ve got a son that lives in New York, so I met him in Aspen and we had a week skiing, and then a week in Hawaii. And I had one of my other three boys, one travelled with me and then our youngest son came to Hawaii for a week. So we had a really good family holiday.

Anthony Denman:
Oh mate, that sounds awesome.

David Milton:
It was great.

Anthony Denman:
How did the whole COVID thing play out with travelling?

David Milton:
Well, it actually fucked the holiday plans to be truthful. I was originally going to Greece for New Year’s. Do you know Theo Paradisis, one of our clients?

Anthony Denman:
I do.

David Milton:
He’s a good mate of mine and he’s in Greece. So I thought, seeing as I’m going to the States, I’ll take a longer trip because nothing happens over Christmas, New Year. So I planned to have New Year’s in Athens, and I’ve always wanted to go clubbing in Berlin, so I was going to Berlin for five days, four nights. Anyway, COVID has just basically has just started to shut down Germany and I thought, well, that’s out. I was also inspired by Rick Stein. I watched it whilst we were in COVID and I was watching Rick Stein’s Travel. He had a weekend in Berlin and I thought, I want to go to that restaurant and this restaurant.

David Milton:
So anyway, that put an end to that part of the leg. And then it seemed that there’d be trouble flying us flying on through London. So I thought maybe you could get stuck in London and quarantined, so better to reorganize the trip. And I actually had two weeks in Hawaii. I had a week on the way over. And then I did that coastal drive from San Francisco down to LA Highway 1, which was just fantastic. Really enjoyed it.

Anthony Denman:
Wow. Is that 85 countries you’ve now been to? I think the last time we spoke, it was 84.

David Milton:
84. No, I’ve been to the States before, so it’s still included in the 84.

Anthony Denman:
So it’s still only 84.

David Milton:
Still 84. Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Out of all of those 84 countries, which one was the most intriguing?

David Milton:
Intriguing?

Anthony Denman:
Intriguing.

David Milton:
Probably Cuba and probably South Africa.

Anthony Denman:
South Africa. Okay.

David Milton:
I actually lived in South Africa for nearly nine months or so. And then I went back, I was fortunate enough just before COVID to go back for a week to Cape town, which I just think is a spectacular city. Went up into Stellenbosch, a grape growing region. It’s just so beautiful.

Anthony Denman:
So actually been to Cape town and to Joburg. I drove from Cape Town to J-Bay, to Jeffrey’s Bay to go surfing.

David Milton:
I went on a squid boat in Jeffrey’s Bay, catching squid.

Anthony Denman:
No way. Did you really?

David Milton:
Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
What’s so cool about Cuba?

David Milton:
You can see that there’s been this really rich history and obviously, the change with the, whether you want to say liberation or the takeover, whatever, with Fidel Castro, it’s this incredible culture, really mixed race people isolated from the rest of the world, but such a beautiful people, generosity, spirit. A place where everyone’s, I think there’s a little bit of a time warp. You’d be in an afternoon, the bars would open, bands would start playing, people would start singing and dancing. It’s just such a different way of life they seem. I’ll say a lot poorer way of life in some ways, but a really rich life and an island that you’ll say that all the buildings are in decay. But just when you think here we are on the edge of the States on a country, on an island that should be rich and prosperous and it’s not. But by the same token, there’s no crime. It’s all these many different things that you’re seeing.

Anthony Denman:
Actually, Andy Hoyne, who’s a big traveller as well. I asked him the same question and he gave me the same answer.

David Milton:
There’s his photo up here. There’s the Cuban having a cigar.

Anthony Denman:
Oh wow.

David Milton:
There’s so many good things to do. You go to the cigar factories, go to where they make the rum. You go to the boxing studios, gyms. You go dancing every night. The night club’s open at about 1:30 in the morning, so have a sleep in the afternoon.

Anthony Denman:
Sounds awesome. I think it could be an advertisement for the Cuban Tourism Board right there.

David Milton:
Highly recommend it. Just hard to get there.

Anthony Denman:
How different is it to Mudgee?

David Milton:
Oh, very different obviously. I used to think Mudgee was the center of the universe.

Anthony Denman:
What was it like growing up in Mudgee,

David Milton:
It was great. It was fabulous. I think Mudgee is a place… I grew up in a family of five kids and I’m one of five. Mudgee is a really nice country town, very pretty, good climate, but a country lifestyle where you ride your bike down to the pool to have a swim after school, hang around the pool over a weekend. You play lots of sports. You’re active. It’s a really easy going, good lifestyle, I think.

Anthony Denman:
When did you move to the city?

David Milton:
I went overseas in 1989. I went away for a couple of years backpacking and travelling. When I came back in 2001, I moved to the city.

Anthony Denman:
And straight into real estate?

David Milton:
Yeah. Straight into real estate. I came back, the first job I got, I got the sack after four weeks. I think I was still on mental holidays. It was a wake up call for me.

Anthony Denman:
Where were you working?

David Milton:
At Balgowlah.

Anthony Denman:
What doing? General agency?

David Milton:
General agency. And then I started work down at an agency in Brookvale and I was there five years, and then started with Paul Kelly in Realty Marketing. Paul had originally established Home Unit Headquarters, which was probably one of the first project marketing agencies in Sydney 20 years before that and had gone on and done other things and come back to Sydney. So I started there as a partner with the plan or strategy of growing that business and eventually buying out Paul and his other partner, Rod Hills, which I did, and grew that business. And then very fortunately, met with Justin Brown from Colliers and were working on a project or advising clients jointly. And Justin had had an approach from CBRE, and he approached me. He’d left Colliers at the time and wanted to know if I was interested in joining forces to start CBRE.

Anthony Denman:
Well, Justin actually said in his podcast, I had Justin on previously, that you were his most annoying competitor.

David Milton:
Probably pretty right. Good annoying, but annoying. Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Is the feeling mutual?

David Milton:
No, not at all. Justin owned the city. Colliers were the biggest agency in the city and dominated. So it was pretty easy to be annoying towards them.

Anthony Denman:
You guys were pretty competitive. I remember, because I was working with you both, and it’s a shame I didn’t record some of the conversations actually.

David Milton:
Well, I think here we are 15 years later, I think we’ve got the same ethos with looking after clients’ interest, doing the right thing by clients. Our team, our staff and wanting success for our clients. So it’s a great partnership. I should say annoying, probably there’s some similarities in some areas and very fortunately major differences in other, which I think allows us to complement our skills and offer a better offering.

Anthony Denman:
When I was talking to Brownie about that moment, where he rang you and he asked you to participate. Justin said that originally, I think he rang you in the day or the afternoon or something, or the morning, not sure. And you actually said no initially. And then you went away somewhere, god knows where, and obviously thought about it a bit more, and then came back and said, “Yeah, let’s do this.” Can I ask why the hesitation? Do you remember why the hesitation?

David Milton:
Yeah, I can tell you it’s probably a little bit more to it. That what happened was Justin rang me and we caught up at The Oaks for a beer, and we were having a couple of beers and he told me about the approach. I said to him that, well, why would we want to do something with a larger agency, we could do it ourselves? Anyway, Justin went over the benefits of the corporate brand and the support and the value of it, and also the financial offer. Anyway, I told him, “No, I wasn’t interested,” and a couple more beers. And then when I woke up in the morning, I thought that’s a silly idea that I had. So I rang him back and I said, “You haven’t spoken to them yet, have you?” It’s about 7:30 in the morning. He said, “No.” I said, “Don’t.” I said, “I’ve changed my mind.”

Anthony Denman:
Oh God. It’s lucky you’re able to take back something the day after the night before, wasn’t it?

David Milton:
I was hoping he might have thought I’d wake up to myself in the morning anyway.

Anthony Denman:
The amount of things I haven’t been able to take back the day after the night before…

David Milton:
Spoken word and a spent arrow and time wasted. That’s the saying, isn’t it?

Anthony Denman:
Something like that. How was that? Because you’d gone from being king of the castle, master of your own destiny, do what you want when you want. And then all of a sudden, you’re into a part of this huge corporation. How did you find that transition?

David Milton:
It was quite an easy transition, a really good transition. And as you can see from the size of the business today, we had enormous support at the time CBRE was in a merger and acquisition phase, where they bought different businesses. So they were very well set up to bring new business lines in. So we had great support. They were extremely driven to grow market share as well. So I’d say, with the hunger that we had or the drive that we had as individuals, that was probably multiplied when we came into this business further. One of the main reasons we made this move was so that we’d get the support, the branding and the positioning, and that’s what we got. And so the growth of the business accelerated far quicker than what we expected. We had a lot of support from our existing clients.

David Milton:
Both Justin had a lot of very loyal clients and myself. One of the benefits there, there was probably very little crossover that we’d been in different parts of the market. There was only some commonality. So we retained our clients, and then as a result, brought in more. CBRE and their other commercial endeavors had a lot of clients that were doing residential that we weren’t working with, that we were able to be introduced to. There’s always been a very strong emphasis on IT and having the best operating platform and that’s still today. So we’re able to very quickly move ahead and invest capital on operating platforms that we didn’t have as small businesses. The other benefit was we had a database that I think was of a lot of value. With the support from technology, we were able to really grow that database a lot more quickly, capturing all the inquiry, retargeting, remarketing to people, growing interest. Today, that’s still one of our biggest strengths that we sell, 30 to 40% of our properties a year are sold directly to our database.

David Milton:
30, 40% of properties that are bought, are bought off people that are on our database, and they buy early because they made aware of early offerings.

Anthony Denman:
I remember when you were setting that up and I remember the amount of work you put into that every day, after hours. I think that today, like you said, it’s still probably, well, is the number one sales platform.

David Milton:
Yeah. Not probably. Is. Let me just rephrase that. Yes. An ad for me and our business.

Anthony Denman:
Well, it’s true. And you deserve that. There’s no doubt about it. What did you enjoy the most when you came across? Was it the red Porsche or the company credit card?

David Milton:
It’s the red Porsche. A bit of history that I’d always wanted a Porsche. I got the settlement cheque from CBRE, I think on a Tuesday, and I went and bought the Porsche on a Friday.

Anthony Denman:
I remember. I remember that. When you were driving down Challis Avenue on Potts Point, gave me a little wave, little Queens wave from your car. Is it true that you hold the record for the highest lunch bill at CBRE?

David Milton:
I was accused of it. I don’t know if I do or not. I’ve been accused of it. Yes. Highest entertainment one year. But all in the name of growing the business like you do. It’s an industry where you do socialize a lot with clients. So I’ll say I probably hold that honour.

Anthony Denman:
Post COVID, is a long lunch still a thing?

David Milton:
No, it’s not. There’s been major changes in the industry and just generally, it’s the way people work from the beginning. So that’s talking very late 2000s, so that’s talking mid 2000s onwards, and I think there’s been enormous change in culture with the way business operates and the way people relate. And so I think entertainment is still a big part of business, I think it’s not at the level. I think the entertainment’s a lot more focused around what needs to be done in creating better networks. In those times, meeting with clients for more value than just social catch up, if you like.

Anthony Denman:
How about those domain junkets?

David Milton:
Well, I think they’re a junket for those that weren’t invited. That’s what they called it. But I think for the people that attended, it was a proper education program and looking at what’s happening in other parts of the world.

Anthony Denman:
Oh man. Seriously. Okay. I’ve seen one of those videos. Yes. They’re very educational. There’s no doubt about it.

David Milton:
Yeah. They are. It’s a shame that COVID has interrupted some of those events. I think that the people that attended, often got a lot out of it, and it’s a great opportunity to meet with your colleagues in the industry and gain more insights and knowledge and stronger relationships.

Anthony Denman:
I’m just so disappointed I wasn’t invited. Can’t tell you.

David Milton:
They did make the mistake of, they were in Germany. I wasn’t on it, but one of my staff was, was hiring them sports cars to go on the Autobahn, and he ran into a bus.

Anthony Denman:
Without mentioning any names. Just want to say, I’ve done a few projects with you, and something that I’ve really noticed that one of the great insights that I’ve learned from you through those processes is really understanding the mindset of the purchasers. And to be fair, we’ve done it, losing sight of that and getting it wrong, because you’re not really understanding the mindset of the purchasers. Why do you think it is that so many creative agencies and ourselves included, over the years have got that wrong?

David Milton:
With property, you’ve got to look at who the buyer is for the property, for the type of property, for the location. It’s not a case of build it and they will come. It’s about building the right product in line with the target market, or the market audience of that area and property type. So sometimes what happens is, or at times what happens is, groups have views on who they’d like to see buying it rather than who the real buyers are. So the communications are often then geared, if that’s the case, the communications are geared, the marketing is geared at the wrong party. So we’re very conscious. I think one of our strengths is we have a great understanding of the markets we work within because of our experience. Where we working in a new area, we spend a lot of time researching that market before we’ll start to give advice on what should be built, what should be designed or whatever else, or how it should be marketed. So that we do know that market and then the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of that market.

David Milton:
So that when you’re talking the right language or your marketing is appealing to the right audience. It’s a little bit like my original partner and mentor said to me, “When you go fishing, you want to go fishing where the fish are.” I always relate that to the buyers. You’ve got to have a plan and you’ve got to go out at the right time and you’ve got to think about who your market is and target that market. Now, unfortunately, some developers are not experienced in a certain market, so they’ll apply one philosophy that works in one’s area to another, and it doesn’t work. But they think they’ll attract that same buyer and they’re not there. So it really is about knowing your market and having your product right for that market.

Anthony Denman:
Fish where the fish are and use the right bait.

David Milton:
And fish when the fish are fishing, as they say.

Anthony Denman:
When they’re running. Yeah. Do you remember what and when was your very first major off-the-plan property marketing campaign?

David Milton:
Well, it’s probably the qualification of major is a big thing. The first project that I took on, as far as I was concerned, it was major. It was a big change in my career. It was a small project of 18 units here in Ridge Street in North Sydney. It kick started what I was doing in project marketing, because I sold that out and then I got the building next door from another developer, and then a building down the road in Ridge Street from the same developer at the first one. So all of a sudden, we were going. So at those times they were all major, but probably if you look at CBRE’s history, when Justin and I started the business, we worked on the Chatswood Interchange for the previous owners before Galileo bought it. And that’s how we formed a relationship and came to be CBRE.

David Milton:
But that was our first, you’d say major project. I think nearly 450 apartments above the Chatswood Interchange, three buildings at the time. I think about $550 million in total value, which would be probably, well over a billion today. The first building we launched of 200 apartments or 220, we sold out in that day. Exchanged. We had over, I think we had about 500 people wanting the 211. As a result, we fast tracked the marketing to bring on the next two buildings and again, sold out. Broke all sorts of records in Chatswood. It was probably from that period coming out of the early 2000s, was probably first major project was of that success. So it reset the market or reset thinking and developers in that market, that larger projects were now really viable in Sydney where they hadn’t been up for the period as a consequence of the downturn before.

Anthony Denman:
What was the biggest lesson you learned from that experience?

David Milton:
Well, I think the lesson is if you plan right and do set up everything right, things work well. You empower your staff, your team. We a large team, we probably had 20 salespeople working on that marketing or on that offering. We instructed, they took good instruction. They did things correctly. It was really successful because it was such a team effort. I think that’s one thing it’s, going back to your acknowledgement in the beginning, it’s the success only becomes because I’ve got such a great team and such great partners in the business.

Anthony Denman:
I want to talk about that, the building of that team, if you don’t mind. Had this discussion with Justin too. It was about project marketing versus general agency. The difference between the two types of businesses. I asked him what, in his mind, what’s the difference between general agency salespeople and project marketing salespeople? What’s the main difference character trait? And he said, then I thought this was really interesting, that in general agency, you only need to impress a vendor for three to four weeks. But in project marketing, you need to impress a vendor for three to four years. I guess the question is, do you agree with that? Or do you have another point of view on that? Two parts to the question actually. Do you agree with that comment and or can you add another layer to it?

David Milton:
Well, probably I’d say what he means impress the developer, I mean, continue to deliver results. This is what the target is. And not only that, in project marketing, that same developer, because you’ve delivered the results, you’ll gain their business again. So if you look at our business, we have a lot of repeat clients. A lot of clients we’ve done many projects with. I won’t say general agency don’t get the repeat clients, they do. But the turnover in our business, we’re reliant on those good relationships and results to grow a, I’ll say a client base of developers that we continually work with. But there’s many differences in selling general real estate.

David Milton:
The operations of the business are completely different. An agent that’s selling a house or an apartment, highly qualified, highly skilled in their area of expertise. They’re selling an apartment, mostly I would say a lot in Sydney by auction, but they’re selling an apartment over a short time. They’re working with a tight group of people on one property. The key thing is the apartment’s finished. People can walk in and see it. So selling off-the-plan, they can’t. So one where people walk in and realize the dream when they see it. In off-the-plan marketing, I would say people are buying, not a dream that’s not going to happen, but they’re buying into the future. So it’s a very different skill set as a salesperson. I’ll say with that salesperson skill set, they need to know about the development. They need to know the timeframes, the finishes, how it’s being built, who all the parties are to the development, so that the buyers can get a comfort or assurity in what they’re making the right decision.

David Milton:
They need to know if the buyer says, look, this is the type of view I’m looking for. This is the type of room that they can go, this is the floor plan. If you go back to that Chatswood project we spoke about earlier, 450 units have probably 60 or 70 different floor plans within that development. So the knowledge needed across that to be able to make sure that you satisfy fully the buyer’s, the customer’s needs, and be able to give them the right direction is immense.

David Milton:
So I think they’re very different skill sets. We find that our salespeople, we don’t get them engaged in selling individual properties because it’s not their skillset. They’re not that we don’t think they’re the best at it, unless it’s on a project that we’ve sold and they know it intimately like previously. Likewise, I think local agents have really struggled selling off-the-plan. I think the other big issue is that the local agent selling a property gets paid at the time of settlement, which is normally about six weeks after sale. Selling off-the-plan, you get paid part on exchange and the balance on settlement. So it’s also a different financial situation where you’ve got long-term salespeople working with projects because the commission’s longer paid as such.

Anthony Denman:
How do you recruit for that? What do you look for in a good project marketing salesperson?

David Milton:
There’s various qualities. First of all, like I think anyone in sales, you’re looking for people with high levels of drive and enthusiasm. We generally recruit people that who also want to learn. We have a lot of skill sets, a lot of knowledge we can impart to them. We have very good training program for our salespeople. So we look for people that, and also career committed to real estate. If you’re selling something today and it’s not going to settle for two or three years, you’ve got to have that long-term view that you’re going to be here and working. You’re going to be staying with your clients, staying in touch with your clients and having a long-term career.

David Milton:
I also, honesty, integrity. So there’s all these things that are standard things that you say on any job, if you don’t tick the box, you don’t get there. But probably in sales is drive and the ability to learn, that you can understand the projects and the benefits of our projects, that you can sell them. I think you’ve got to be good. In any sales role, easy communicated with, talk to people easily and listen. Probably the biggest thing is listening, not talking,

Anthony Denman:
I’ve spoken to quite a few different developers around the place over the years. When we talk about you, the thing that comes up constantly is that you’re renowned for your vast knowledge of pricing and market parameters. You can walk into a room and reel off the price per square meter for just about any unit in any suburb in Sydney. How do you stay so informed and across that detail?

David Milton:
Well, I stay really informed. We’ve got a lot of jobs ourselves, but I’m always visiting our competitor’s jobs. I’m talking to other developers doing jobs. I’m sourcing information or market knowledge all the time. That’s not just me, that’s our business. All of the directors are doing that. Even to that point, one of the requirements for our salespeople is they visit a competitor’s sales office every week. We’re an outward looking business, what’s happening in the market, not just what we are doing? That’s a salesperson’s requirement as well that they grow their knowledge. So it’s an ingrained principle within our business that you must have that knowledge.

Anthony Denman:
When you visit said sales office, or your people visit said sales offices, how do they handle that? Because they’re competitors, do they mention, or does the other agent know them? How does that work?

David Milton:
Mostly, yes. I think we work in an industry where we’re all colleagues all working together and it’s not you’re in looking for secret sauce, you’re in gaining information. I’d say we have no issue with other agents coming to our sales offices. You’re not giving away price lists or information that’s private to the developer, but seeing what’s there and making inquiries. I think most sales offices I’ve visited, I’ve always got good reception. Some I haven’t, and I don’t know why you wouldn’t get good reception. I think that’s just some people are more, maybe they’re not performing as well as they should be, so they’re fearful of the role, fearful of the competitor.

Anthony Denman:
And a bit insecure.

David Milton:
Insecure, yeah. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re so successful, is we do know that knowledge and the developers can rely upon that knowledge being that they come to us for information, it’s up to date and it’s accurate. It’s right.

Anthony Denman:
So we had a bit of a tough run there for a while I think. Oh God, it started with that Apraa, didn’t it? And then it led to prices and media, and I think eventually there was the cracks in the buildings and then…

David Milton:
Not in our buildings.

Anthony Denman:
No.

David Milton:
We work with good clients, good developers, quality.

Anthony Denman:
And then of course, COVID. Which is, I think in the long run, it’ll turn out to be blessing in disguise. But with the cracks came about some new legislation, and that has potentially made a significant difference to the way in which our industry brings new projects to market. How are you dealing with that?

David Milton:
I think very positively. I think that our clients are clients that welcome the legislation and the changes. What’s happened is there’s been this word developer, and it’s has all sorts of bad and positive connotations and everyone is grouped together. Whereas, a system that recognizes developers that produce good quality buildings that will last their lifetime, should be acknowledged that way. Developers that build poorer quality stock should be called out and the consumers made aware. You’ve seen some people in the industry that are absolute shonks that have taken advantage of the consumer and it’s wrong, because it undermines the whole industry. It undermines everyone in that role; builders, electricians, engineers, everyone. So we need very high standards. I think, again, I’ll promote on this, that CBRE have been very conscious of the quality of developers, highly conscious that we deal with only high quality developers. I think that’s one of the reasons our business has been successful again, because buyers are generally very happy with what they’ve purchased.

Anthony Denman:
How does it though affect the process? It’s a lot more detailed, isn’t it?

David Milton:
A lot more now, because in particular with the internet that have so many things are posted online. So I think the beauty of it is buyers have so much information at their hand. And now, there’s going to be a rating system, which I think in some ways unfortunately, will disadvantage some very capable developers because smaller developers just won’t have the portfolio to meet the rating system. We are promoting the small developers, getting references from past purchasers that have lived in their developments 5, 10 years. That’s the real recommendation when someone says, “I was really happy buying from them. I’ll buy off them again.”

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. What a great idea. It’s a great idea. What about locking in design early? How has that affected things? Having to get all your hydraulics and everything sorted at the very early stage, because it can’t change.

David Milton:
Look, I’m not a builder, but I think it’s going to add significantly to the cost or I know it is talking to our clients, the cost of new apartments and delivery. I think some of it’s over onerous, I think there’s too much. There was a stage where there needed to be much more emphasis on early design and getting the design generally aligned that it can be built as it’s approved. But now I think it’s over onerous. It’s going to cause bottlenecks, it’s going to cause extra cost. The result will be, there’ll be lesser stock in the market and the product will be a new year it will be more expensive.

Anthony Denman:
How is it? How is the market at the moment?

David Milton:
I’m very confident about the market in 2022 and I’ll say in 2023, for that matter. What we’ve seen is enormous growth in prices in houses. House values have absolutely exploded. They might level out, they’re not coming back. The units haven’t grown at that rate and they’re a much more affordable alternative for housing now. And in many cases, not just the alternative, the only choice, because if you’re limited by budget and wanting to live in an area that’s there’s no new land, you should be buying a good quality apartment. That’s what’s starting to happen. So I also think what’s happened with the broader picture is with COVID, there’s been an exit of international students, there’s been no travel, there’s been no foreign investment. There’s been a lot less development than what there’s ever been.

David Milton:
At the same time, we’ve had low interest rates that’s brought a lot of first home buyers into the market, a lot of property buyers. So the pool of rental property has been diminished. There hasn’t been the supply of new stock. When we start to get immigration again, we’re going to find we have a real shortage of property and there’s no doubt. That’s what’s been forecast in government departments, in the property industry. You can’t just say I’ll turn on a tap and build something quickly. A DA for approval takes 12 months at the earliest. Some of these approvals are two and three years, four years in the making. And then the building can be anywhere from 15 months, depending on the size of the project, to three years. So to start to meet supply comes in when borders open, we won’t be meeting the supply for that demand until another five or six years.

David Milton:
So unfortunately, there’s going to be enormous pressure on rental values. Those that can afford it the least are going to be paying higher rents. That’ll bring back investors because there’ll be better returns on property. There’s going be inflation, which with inflation assets, growing price. So I think we’re going to have a return of investors in the market, and we’re going to continue to have a lot of own occupiers moving into the market as a result of low interest rates. A lot of people downsizing, because they’re realizing such good gains out of their home. They’re able to buy an apartment, buy a farm or a beach house, have a different lifestyle, work from home.

David Milton:
So I think we’re in for a really busy period. In January, we’ve probably had the highest level of sales, I’d say, in any January of the 15 years I’ve worked at CBRE. We did 80, it was 83 sales and that’s unconditional. Plus, we took another 40 odd deposits still pending, rolling over. Normally in January, it’s a dead month. You’ll do 20, 30, 40 sales.

Anthony Denman:
That’s great news mate. I was hoping that. I’ve always felt that that was the case, because we’ve had such a tough time. Could I, Justin, sorry. I keep coming back to Justin. I really enjoyed talking to him, as I always do. He mentioned something, actually a movie that I hadn’t seen when he mentioned it, which was Ford Vs Ferrari. He used that as an analogy of just pushing yourself too hard. The needle on the red line for a long period of time, eventually something’s going to give. It was good because I actually watched the move after I spoke to him and I was like, I get what you mean. That was a really good analogy.

Anthony Denman:
Just wondering about you and your team and you said busiest January you ever had since you’ve been there, and gearing up for another really busy period. How do you feel about that? How do you manage your energy around that? What you guys do is fucking hard. Like you said, it’s a lot of understanding that goes on, and then juggling. Have a lot of balls in the air over a very short, these short bursts. That’s just one short burst after the next short burst after the next short burst. How do you manage that? How do you manage your energy levels around that, and how do you manage your team’s energy levels around that?

David Milton:
Well, look, it’s a pretty big question. I think the first thing is, is salespeople are more enthusiastic when they’re making sales. The energy grows as you get more success in sales. How we manage it is we have an extremely good and capable support team, and they’re seeing new people within our business. It’s the whole picture of sales. It’s not just the person at the making the sale on the weekend, showing the buyer. It’s the administrative side that manages the contract, everything happens efficiently. It’s the marketing side where the team makes sure our advertising everything’s working, our database, marketing is working, our accounts are working. I’ve got the most capable team. I’m so pleased and proud of them. I come to work and I go, I don’t have anyone that says, no, this is too much for us. They all say we can do this. And they know we can.

David Milton:
When we work to, I’ll say you start… The beauty of our business is, your work is always forward. So we’re planning all the time to look at our workload and go, make sure we have the right resource and the capabilities that we can deliver. They’re major projects. It’s not like someone is selling a house that doesn’t sell at auction. They say, “Oh, we’ll live here for the next three years or six months or whatever.” If we fail for a developer, their project falls over. So it’s a very focused, professional, committed effort that we have to deliver. So again, if you go back to say, well, what’s our knowledge? How do we use that? How do we make sure that we give the best advice that we’re bringing the right project to market? And then that we’ve got the right resources and the right sales team. That answer I’ll say, is a bit longer maybe than what you expected, but it’s only touching at the edges.

Anthony Denman:
No, it’s not at all. I think it’s a massive challenge. How do you handle the stop start nature of it? One minute you’re about to launch and the next minute it’s on hold for two years, or even not going to proceed for whatever reason.

David Milton:
Well, we’ve been through that period with delays with COVID. I think because it’s COVID, every business has had the same circumstance. So it’s a global national. It’s an effect that everyone’s in the middle of it, so you manage it the best you can. It’s caused a lot of frustration and it’s an angst like in any business, but we’ve managed it. I think very fortunately, that the team that we started with in COVID, I think we’ve got within our Sydney office, we’ve probably got four, there’s only four staff that aren’t here today.

Anthony Denman:
Okay.

David Milton:
We’ve worked with our team and it’s been stop, start, stop, start. It’s been really frustrating. Our clients have seen that, but we’ve done the best that we can for our clients and I think that they’ve acknowledged that. Or I’ll say they do acknowledge that. We’re still working with them in getting more work. I think that it’s been extremely… Like your business, your marketing all of a sudden has downed tools.

Anthony Denman:
I know. Right.

David Milton:
We’re all affected by it. You laying bricks and all of a sudden you can’t go to site. Or probably fortunately with construction, there’s been more continuous work, but you can see there’s been very little advertising, media buying this. It’s affected everyone in the world, this, and I can’t say we’re different from it. So we’ve dealt with the issues as best we can.

Anthony Denman:
Speaking of being different, I reckon that redhead people in Australia, they’re total… It’s just nicknames for redhead people. Okay. So what have we got? We’ve got bluey. I’m assuming you’ve probably copped these. I’m not sure. Right.

David Milton:
I was called bluey till about 11 years old.

Anthony Denman:
Okay. Bluey, ginger.

David Milton:
Ginger. Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Blood nut. This is my personal favourite, fanta pants.

David Milton:
No, I haven’t heard that one. Tomatoe.

Anthony Denman:
Okay. Didn’t know that one. Okay. So redhead people are generally popularly stereotyped as being emotional, volatile, quick to anger. I remember I was playing footy. You never really wanted to target the redhead with a bad haircut. So, along with blonde women too, I think, have the same stereotype. It seems that they’ve been unfairly labeled as a result of their hair color. I reckon the reason is there’s not a lot of them. Do you agree with that? Do you think redhead people are unfairly treated in Australia?

David Milton:
No, but I think we are back now. We’re cool again. The ranga’s are back, let me tell you. We don’t go gray. I think probably we’re more noticed.

Anthony Denman:
You’re even more noticed. Has it seriously? Do you think it’s given you extra motivation at all in your life?

David Milton:
I think not necessarily. I think that we’ve all got what we’re born with and there it is. But I’m a proud ranga. So there you go. Red’s my favorite colour.

Anthony Denman:
I was going to ask. That was my question because you do…

David Milton:
Unfortunately, with the red hair goes fair skin. If you could just take a tablet that you could be a tanned redhead. Now, there is a few in Italy, I believe, but certainly, we didn’t inherit that here in Australia from the Irish and the Scottish.

Anthony Denman:
Because that was…

David Milton:
That’s the downside, that you can’t lay in the sun for too long.

Anthony Denman:
I know.

David Milton:
But the motivation probably comes you got to be doing something, because you can’t be out there at the beach baking yourself.

Anthony Denman:
Very good. Very good. I was going to ask you if that’s why you like the color red so much. There you go.

David Milton:
There you go.

Anthony Denman:
There you go. Red Porsches and red highlights in your advertising and everything.

David Milton:
That red slash, yes.

Anthony Denman:
Make that fucking…

David Milton:
That’s because It works.

Anthony Denman:
Make that fucking thing red.

David Milton:
That’s right. That’s exactly…

Anthony Denman:
Just Anthony, make it red. It does stand out though, I must say. It does cut through.

David Milton:
It does. It does.

Anthony Denman:
The Panchen Lama.

David Milton:
That’s another story.

Anthony Denman:
Panchen Lama. One of the most important figures in the Gelug tradition, with its spiritual authority second only to the Dalai Lama. Actually, responsible for seeking out the next Dalai Lama. Is it true that you actually met and stayed and was personally blessed by the Panchen Lama in Tibet?

David Milton:
Yes. It was actually it was in China, but I’d traveled through Tibet. Very fortunately, I was very fortunate to have an invitation from a Chinese client of mine and good friend, to travel in Tibet with him on a Pilgrimage. He’s a Buddhist and he was a student of the Panchen Lama. As a result, I did which I wasn’t expecting. We ended up staying in the monastery with the Panchen Lama. Stayed there three nights and ate with him and he gave me a special blessing. And then when I returned to China, to Xi’an about 12 months later, he was actually staying there. And I met with him for dinner again, again with my close friend. And again, I got another special blessing, so I’m very fortunate in that regard. I’ve been very fortunate with some of the travel that I’ve done as a result of meeting with some of my clients.

Anthony Denman:
That’s insane. Do you feel blessed?

David Milton:
Every day.

Anthony Denman:
To your purpose? Why do you still continue to get out of bed and do what you do every day?

David Milton:
I love it. I like my work. I like my team. I like the work that I do. I lead a reasonably expensive lifestyle, so I’ve got to make money.

Anthony Denman:
What do you love most about it?

David Milton:
It’s a fun environment. Look, it’s such a big question to say as one single answer. We’re adding to people’s lives and the work side, but the work is dynamic. You’re seeing things built. You’re not the developer, but you’re part of the process and a meaningful part. You’re developing staff that go on and have great careers. It’s a fulfilling job. That’s what I like about it. I think if you have maintain high standards in this industry, there’s just so much opportunity to do so well.

Anthony Denman:
Do you have any aspirations to retire?

David Milton:
Yeah. I’d like to be a racing car driver, Anthony. I think that opportunity might have passed.

Anthony Denman:
Do you think you’ll do this till the day you die?

David Milton:
I’ll do something till the day I die, hopefully. Hopefully I’ll do something else. I’ll get an epiphany and go, what’s the next stage of life? I intend to be doing this for a little while. Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
I hope so. I hope so, because it’s so much fun having you around. This chat has been so much fun too, mate. I know how busy you are and I really appreciate you finding the time to do this mate. It’s much appreciated.

David Milton:
It’s a pleasure. And thank you and I’m very pleased to be part of it, Anthony. I know we get past this COVID and we’ll catch up. We haven’t seen one another for two years I think.

Anthony Denman:
It’s been a while, apart from on the TV screen now for sure.

David Milton:
That’s the very sad part that we connect, but we don’t connect so much socially. So it’ll be good to see you again too. Thank you, and thanks very much for the invitation.

Anthony Denman:
Cool. Thanks mate.

David Milton:
See you buddy. Keep well hey.

About Us

The Property Marketing Podcast is an original podcast hosted by Anthony Denman, co-founder of Our Agency. In each episode Anthony talks to Australia’s most experienced property professionals, unearthing their tips and providing insights on how to create the most successful place, property, corporate & personal brands possible.

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