The One Idea Turning Real Estate On Its Head

Every so often a story hits my email and I think, yeah that’s interesting. When I got this story though, it blew…my…mind! There in front of me, lurking behind the product promo was a real life David and Goliath battle of Biblical proportions. I was engrossed from that moment. I organised an interview and got stuck into some very intriguing reading.

So what was it that captured my attention? Well it’s the remarkable tale of Andrew Blachut and a business he and his family created called Property Now. Recognising a flaw in the centuries-old real estate industry, Andrew wanted to correct it. Pretty simple, really.

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However, we all know that shaking up an old way of doing things is never easy. Particularly when billions of dollars are at stake and people’s livelihoods are in question. What looked simple in theory has morphed into an epic journey and, according to Andrew, it’s not going to let up anytime soon. “Vested interests… won’t take it lying down. They will destroy or assimilate the concept.” So what’s Andrew done that seems to has gotten these vested interests so riled up?

Once upon a time, a battle was born…

Property Now, Andrew Blachut, agent assiated private sale, Australian real-estateLet’s start at the beginning. Andrew was a real-estate agent. He begins: “After supposedly selling over 300 homes traditionally I had an epiphany and realised I had not sold any of those. Houses sell themselves and as an agent I had just been a handy marketing conduit.”

When I asked him about his idea he went on to say, “I like finding something that’s deeply entrenched and asking WHY? Can this be done better or differently?” So that’s essentially how Andrew Blachut went from a real estate agent to his current occupation as an “entrepreneur and consumer improver (real estate at present)”. Quite a mouthful, but this is quite a story!

Wondering why Andrew would want to shake up a lucrative industry particularly as it was his bread and butter, Andrew honestly revealed “Simply that the vast commission [received by agents] cant’ be vindicated. As a friend once told me ‘a solicitor and an accountant need years of training. A person can become an agent in a week, literally. Houses sell houses. Whoever is involved will get the credit’.”

Andrew acknowledged that credit involves massive sums of money. All of which the Australian real estate industry are determined to keep. Property owners have been handing their hard earned cash to real estate agents for over a century. They don’t want it to change. Why would they?

For over a century, real estate agents have instilled fear in Australian property owners. They explain that their expertise is essential to rent out or sell properties and get the best price. It’s sales, just like selling anything else.

This is the message Andrew wants out. I’m pretty certain the industry as it stands would just love the ground to come up and swallow him whole! They tried to make his concept and business disappear but Andrew, the underdog, has had a few wins up his sleeve and motivated to keep going. He wants us to question if real estate agents are worthy of the commissions they attract. He knows first hand that any property owner who wants to rent or sell can do it and end up with just as much in their pocket, if not more. It’s a lot like selling a car.

Yes there’s paper work involved but accountants can handle all that at a fraction of traditional selling costs. Owners effectively advertise, run inspections and take offers. That’s an agent’s role and is it worthy of thousands of dollars? Andrew doesn’t think so and many property owners are beginning to agree. His business has thousands of satisfied clients.

Andrew had to come up with a new way of private selling and renting. Marketing was the key. How could he get private owners onto those exclusive agent websites?

That’s when the agent-assisted sales method was born. It’s essentially where private owners sell or rent their properties, but get the basics from an agent. They access vital agent exclusive websites get advice, signage and what ever else they need. At $550 to sell a home or $150 to rent out an investment property it sounds like a massive saving to me.

This is the primary reason Andrew and the “mistress of the keyboard”, his supportive wife Joanna, began Property Now and just as importantly, haven’t given up. Andrew acknowledged, “I absolutely knew there would be conflict [when they began] because billions of consumer dollars and people’s careers were at stake”. I don’t believe however they could have anticipated the amount of conflict!

Andrew recalls the future of their business and the concept of agent-assisted sales “completely hinged on an ACCC [Australian Consumer and Competition Commission] intervention at the eleventh hour. During 2010, put in writing our account closure (which would have killed our business). It did this due to agent pressure. The ACCC, which initially said we had no cause/grounds, intervened and backed off.”

Property Now, Andrew Blachut, agent assiated private sale, Australian real-estate

Faced with consistent challenges – including reports to Fair Trading, vital internet marketing account closures, massively inflated advertising rates, internet search engine hacks and even client harassment – Andrew, Joanna and “CEO in waiting”, daughter Coreyna have had to sustain far more than most family businesses could cope with.

When I questioned Andrew about the sacrifices to keep going he offered:

 “We lost a great deal of time, money and especially business momentum. While we experimented, fought and refined things a new player arrived who had few scruples and to whom making a fast buck was more important that creating and stabilizing an emerging industry.”

When I asked if he’d ever a though about giving up, Andrew confessed, “Absolutely everyday for 10 years.” Thankfully, they didn’t.

“I felt the cause was both valid and a natural evolution in the industry.” Andrew went on to provide further motivation. “Also I was desperate in not wanting to be forced back into traditional commission-based selling.”

Andrew is so passionate about his new agent-assisted sales method and giving property owners the opportunity to sell or rent their homes that he has recently written a book detailing exactly how it’s done. I’m a bit jealous. It only took him a month! That’s because he has everything he needed at his fingers tips. He listed to what people wanted and needed and simply supplied it. His book is called Get More For Your Home and it invites property owners to do just that. It’s a great read and Andrew’s battle and personality shine through. I’m not selling a home but I really enjoyed it.

So if you’re interested in how it works and more information about the battle raging on behind one of Australia’s most profitable industries, head to the Property Now website. Here’s a link to their price guide with no hidden extras and all costs quoted upfront. Plus they offer free advice to their clients. It’s truly a breath of fresh air in an industry which has been based on illusion for far too long!


March 22, 2015

5 Of The World’s Most Expensive Watches

When it comes to wrist wear, you want to make a statement and sometimes making a statement costs well… quite a lot of money.

But sometimes you just don’t have that much in your bank account and so have to fawn over lists like the one below, wishing you could slap one of these incredibly expensive watches on your wrist and casually wave your arm in people’s faces to show it off.

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Featuring 867 parts and a hand tuned chime, which goes off 24 hours a day, the Gran Complication watch from A. Lange & Söhne is one of the most complex in the world. However it is deemed practically un-wearable due to its size – the watch is 50mm in diameter and so thick it will probably make your wrist feel pretty heavy over a long period of time. Or you could just click here and pick up a really wearable and really reasonably priced, designer watch.

= $US3.93m / £2.6m / $AUD4.84m

Why have one watch when you can have two in one? The Piaget Emperador Temple watch features one face concealed by a case, which is covered in 688 diamonds. The second face is made from mother of pearl and also features a variety of diamond cuts, including a measly 11 baguette cut diamonds, just 162 brilliant-cut and on the bracelet only 350 baguette cut diamonds. We’d say they held back a little on the amount of bling with this one, you could have squeezed a couple of extra diamonds on the clasp, surely?

= $US4.99m / £3.3m / $AUD6.14

Using pieces of the moon, a Mars meteorite and an asteroid, this watch quickly became one of the most expensive and really justifies the saying ‘out of this world’ (sorry) when describing its construction. Technically, your £4.6m is paying for a set of four watches, which include Tourbillon Mars, Tourbillon Rosetta Stone, Tourbillon Asteroid and Tourbillon Moon, each featuring a piece from outer space. Oh, and you also get your very own model of the solar system, featuring compartments for each of the watches.

= $US6.96m / £4.6m / $AUD8.56m

If you thought using pieces from space in a design wasn’t showy enough then how does over 100 carats of diamonds and 18k of gold in the dial, clasp and bracelet? The Hublot Big Bang apparently took 14 months to complete and used three different carats of diamonds.

Jay Z claims to be one of the brand’s fans, so expect to see him flashing this wrist bling in his next music video – he probably has £5m just lying around in his top drawer at home.

= $US7.56m / £5m / $AUD9.3m

This 24-carat gold, half a kilogramme in weight watch recently auctioned in Geneva for the low price of £13.4m and took its creator Patek Phillipe eight years to make for an American banker in the 1930s.

Featuring a calendar, timer and 950 individual components inside, the watch is a true representation of incredible mechanical engineering and skill. However, the timepiece is apparently cursed, according to the Daily Mail, so you shouldn’t go spending all your millions you have squirrelled away any time soon.

= $US20.26m / £13.4m / $AUD24.93

January 12, 2015

How to Test Drive a Used Car

Buying a used car can be a daunting and risky process. You never know exactly what you’re getting. While the majority of used car dealers are trustworthy and reliable, there are unfortunately some that will do anything in order to make a sale. One way to ensure you are getting the best value for money is to insist on a test drive. Top dealers such as Jennings Motor Group will be more than happy to let you test drive a car before deciding if it is right for you.

Planning your own route

As featured in the Telegraph, whether buying from a private seller or car dealership, it is important to plan your own route. If the seller knows the car has trouble undertaking specific tasks, they will plan a route that avoids highlighting the problems. For example, if the car has worn down suspension components, the seller could avoid a route that features speed bumps. Or they may insist you stick to main roads if they know the steering is quite heavy at lower speeds. Planning your own route will enable you to test the car in a number of situations.

Top things to look out for

When you’re on the test drive, there are a number of factors you should pay attention to. How comfortable are you in the driver’s position? Can you reach the pedals easy enough? It is also important to test out the features of the car such as windscreen wipers, the horn and lights.

While driving, pay attention to the different gears. Is it easy to change into different gears or do they grind? Listen out for any noises too. These are just some of the top things you need to keep an eye on.

Take somebody else with you

It is a good idea to take somebody else along for the ride. They can help you to keep an eye on anything that doesn’t feel/sound right. However, try to avoid taking the whole family with you. They will cause more distraction than anything else and you need to be fully focused on the car.

Don’t talk throughout the drive

It may feel a little awkward, but staying quiet throughout the test drive is actually a clever tactic. As published on About Autos, sellers hate silence as it makes them feel uncomfortable. You can hear every noise that the car makes. It is surprising how quickly they are willing to talk about the cars problems when you stay quiet as you’re driving along.

Test driving a used car is a small, but vital part of the car buying process. You will find that most sellers want to rush the test drive. Try and set a time of at least half an hour and ask if you can do the test drive by yourself. Private sellers will likely be reluctant to let you do this but it is always worth asking. If you follow the tips above you will have a better chance of buying a reliable used car.

November 25, 2014

6 Tips You Can Do Today To Retire Comfortably

There’s no shortage of advice for ways to retire comfortably, yet actually setting yourself up for it can be a different story. For many, the idea of it is pushed to the back of our minds while others a little more prepared. Believe it or not, building wealth to retire financially comfortable is actually simpler than we think. The challenge doesn’t lie in the knowledge – but instead translating that knowledge into results that are meaningful.

Retirement decisions that have an impact on you down the track start early with lifestyle choices that can make your retirement more satisfying. Some want to spend their days playing golf through retirement, relaxing by the pool, traveling around the globe or adventure treks through the mountains. What does a comfortable retirement mean to you? Whether it consists of golf club memberships, living in your dream home or luxury vacations we check out some tips for creating a comfortable retirement.

1. Start thinking about retirement when you start saving

As farfetched as it may sound, it pays to start thinking about your retirement when you get your first start saving. It’s not the easiest thing to do when you’re thinking about your immediate goals but as start to make major financial decisions – a car or home – you should be taking into account how much money you will need for retirement.

Although employees put a percentage away in preparation for this, it’s not always enough for your future needs. The more of your income you set aside for retirement at a young age, the easier it’ll be to retire comfortably. Saving early ensures your retirement benefits from the value of compound interest. Whether you have a pension fund or a self-managed superfund, it does pay to take control of your SMSF investments from the very beginning to ensure your money in growing as quickly as possible. This article from Blueprint Planning provides a great resource about how to manage your super-fund.

2. Have a plan and make goals

The first big mistake people make when it comes to retirement is not having a written plan and retirement strategy for their financial security. The success of your plan results from the small goals and decisions you make each day.

A plan is one thing though – it’s important you create a realistic one with goals that are going to get you there. If you’re currently living a lavish lifestyle drenched in champagne, you’re probably not going to be happy with a beer budget come retirement day.

3. The age you retire matters

How many years do your retirement savings need to provide enough income for? Underestimating life expectancy is another common mistake people can make. Nowadays, it can be safe to assume that at least one spouse will leave to the age of 90 or beyond whereas the life expectancy years twenty years ago was only mid 70’s.

Retirees tend to want to settle down around the age of 62, but there is usually a big difference in the age people say they want to retire to when they actually do.  The decision to retire is sometimes made for superficial reasons, like not being happy in your job. Retiring on impulse isn’t a smart move – it’s much more fulfilling to retire toward a life that excites you rather than running from one that didn’t. Always have an exit strategy before you leave to help you retire comfortably.

4. Make your money hard to reach

When your savings are readily available, it makes it an easy solution to the curve balls life will throw at you. The retirement fund soon becomes an “it’s an emergency fund” and before you know it, there’s not much left for you to rely on. Whilst discipline plays a huge factor in this, even the most self-controlled of us are guilty of digging in to the savings when things get tough.

There’s always going to be a good excuse to do it too. Borrowing from your savings account when you’ve lost your job, just to get you by until you find something else – but, it all adds up. Thus, to be a smart investor (and your retirement fund is an investment) it’s vital to put those dollars into a hard-to-access, tax deferred retirement plan.

5. Don’t forget about insurance

Taking out insurance to protect your retirement plan is about applying risk management principals to your personal finances. Types of insurance that should be considered include life insurance, health insurance and long-term care – and can mean the difference between a comfortable retirement and years of heartache.

Risk management is an essential principal of planning for your retirement to insure away all threats you can’t afford to lose. It can play a major role in estate planning, useful for someone who needs home care and makes a dramatic difference in those retirement years. The alternative is not acceptable – and that’s to put your lifetime of hard work at risk for one mistake, accident or health issue.

6. Get a life – an exciting one

When we think about retirement, most of us think about the money we will need. That’s because all retirement dreams need money – to a degree. But there’s more to a comfortable and happy retirement than just money – what about relationships, health and a life that engages your interest and fulfils you?

Money is the means to a good life, not the end so make sure your plan includes investing time into relationships, your heath and things that nurture and build you. Once your financial goals are in place and your retirement plan filled with motivating interests, you’re bound to be one step closer to a comfortable retirement – in all areas!

By Jayde Ferguson, a freelance writer based in Western Australia. Connect with her on Google+ today.

September 24, 2014

How to Save $6386 a Year by Getting Smart With Your Bills

My guess is you spend more time dwelling on your Facebook status than your financial one… planning your Pinterest board than your interest hoard…linking in than stopping money leaking out.

But it is. And the irony is that technology is making the flow faster.

A growing phenomenon I’ve dubbed Digitally Induced Laziness sees us blithely ignore all the automatic payments that come out of our accounts each month – allowing oh-so-convenient to become oh-so-conned.

Providers of everything from utilities to financial services rely on their bill-DIL existing customers to fund big discounts to entice new ones. You may even find your deal gets slowly worse.

Here is where you’re likely to be losing the most money.

Your mortgage

The big banks are exploiting your electronic inertia big time. The difference between the standard variable rate offered by the Big 4 and the most competitive mortgage on the market has swelled to a shocking 1.42 percentage points. Historically they’ve only skimmed 1 point or so off the top. Today you’ll pay 5.91 per cent versus just 4.49 per cent, which means you could save on the average $300,000 mortgage a massive $75,000 in interest.

Possible saving: $250 a month; $3000 a year. BUT it’s possible to take this total interest saving from $75,000 to $122,644 without paying an additional cent… you simply need to maintain your repayments at their existing level. This means you’ll also clear your debt more than five years early, after which your money is your own. And your big-bank lender may even agree to match this if you threaten to leave.

Your electricity

For all the talk about big increases in the price of electricity, and some areas have seen hikes of four times the rate of inflation in the past five years, you can actually make huge savings. A family can save a big chunk by moving to a better offer; you just need to be wary of contracts that commit you for a period of time as you may end up stuck on an increasingly uncompetitive deal.

Possible saving: $386 a year, says Market researcher Energy Watch.

Your insurances

You could probably be paying 15 per cent less on every single general insurance policy – think car, home and contents. The potential savings could be even higher with risk insurers like life or income protection providers, but because of age or health history it can be trickier to change. You could also save a truckload on your health insurance – and bear in mind that laws designed to keep health insurance competitive dictate that you do not have to re-serve waiting period for hospital cover.

Possible savings: More than $2000 a year.

Your telecommunications

New players are massively shaking things up when it comes to your mobile phone and your data plans. Look into signing up with a new provider as soon as you get off a phone contract; you’ll be stunned by the savings now on offer. Consider also bundling your internet into the deal to save a bucketload more.

Possible saving: Maybe $1000 a year (and that’s assuming you’ve already been tech savvy enough to get on to Voice-over Internet Protocol like Skype  for overseas calls).

Screen time of a different kind could yield big results if you’ve inadvertently become a bill DIL. In fact, swap Instagram for an hour a month for probably an instant grand.

Fess up – how much time do you spend each month dealing with your finances?

Nicole is the founder of and developer of the 12-Step Prosperity Plan, an achievable and even enjoyable blueprint to take Aussies from worry to wealthy. Nicole’s writing has earned her top personal finance awards in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Her career credits include founding and editing The Australian Financial Review’s Smart Investor magazine, and reporting and editing for the magazine arm of the UK’s Financial Times. Author, qualified financial adviser and Fairfax’s Money Matters columnist for the last decade, Nicole is a regular on television and radio. She talks money without the mumbo jumbo. Follow her on Twitter at @NicolePedMcK.

September 30, 2013