Image: (from left) Paul O'Brien, Linda Walsh and Cameron Holt.
Linda Walsh is the AVID Property Group General Manager of Marketing and Sales. With over 20 years’ experience in sales and marketing in the property industry, Linda works to drive the strategic and operational sales and marketing direction for the AVID Property Group business nationally.
Q. What sparked your interest in the property development industry?
I started my career in property during the 90s, working in sales. After working for luxury brand La Prairie as an Account Manager, I realised my favourite part of sales was customer service; selling and building relationships with clients.
I wanted transfer my sales skills into a new industry, which was exciting and I was ambitious, soaking up the industry, learning from a great bunch of smart sales and marketing people while having a brilliant product to sell. I worked with AVJennings when the brand was at its peak as a contract homebuilder.
It was a good company, where many cut our teeth in property. What I learned in those days remains relevant today; AVJ was definitely ahead of its time.
This is a really interesting question and there are multiple answers depending upon which life-stage you consider. I’ve broken this down into three areas that I find the most interesting:
ABS says that Australia’s population will grow at an average annual rate of 1.4 per cent over the next ten years, which is around 330,000 people per year. The interesting fact here and one that developers can’t ignore is the proportion of Australia’s population aged over 65 years will almost double to around 25 per cent over the next couple of decades.
Communities or master planned development designs will have to face up to the ageing population as a real core segment, view them as an untapped opportunity and provide housing and lifestyle solutions that support the needs and wants of today’s baby boomer home owner and worker.
AVID Property Group's Bloomdale Sales Centre.
Bernard Salt says that Boomers aged 60 and over are imagining a continuation of work in a self-employed mode, meaning almost everything is done by smart phone. Running a consulting business from suburbia requires not just mobile coverage but high speed broadband. Therefore, developers will need to provide this infrastructure as a baseline.
Housing will also be far more “wired” – we will remote control our homes and everything will be managed by a hand held device or smart phone. Electric cars will be more prevalent and houses will need to adapt to this. Sustainable solutions around home, garden and living will be the competitive advantage.
Customer service has typically been very basic in property. I see the sophistication of service delivery in the ensuing decade. It is about ensuring the sense of belonging, creating a club like atmosphere, rewarding customers and providing value added services to address different lifestyle needs. Hand holding and creating a VIP approach with rewards on purchase will create a sense of belonging and provide differentiation.
Q. What are the biggest trends for master planned residential communities currently?
Possibly the biggest trend is creating a sense of place through “place making” and although it has been around for a while it is more evident today. Place making is creating an emotional connection with the address, residents and their interactions within the community. This includes creating shared spaces such as thriving café and restaurant hubs, outdoor cinemas and holding events.
Networking with neighbours is another emerging trend that will continue to grow and refine, by connecting social groups with like-minded individuals in the form of yoga groups, mums and bubs, cyclist or walking groups. This can influence the design of the master plan through the need to designate pathways that connect to existing routes and amenities.
There has also been a trend towards smaller homes and lots that allow far more affordable solutions to those entering the market or downsizing. Smaller is now a real offering, however design quality and energy efficient housing is still very much demanded. Small or compact housing should be “salt and peppered” throughout a variety of housing types to suit a variety of life stages.
AVID's 'Savana' development.
The neighbourhood place is of equal importance to the apartment’s design, as it not only brings value to the owners but also to the location, driving greater participation from the broader community.
Q. What has been the biggest change to the industry since you began working in property?
The global financial crisis came as a surprise and made us highly aware that we were part of a global market, which brought rapid uncertainty and low consumer confidence. It brought the industry to its knees – markets changed in terms of business lending and residential lending, banks became highly conservative and governments had to change their role.
Housing affordability is another big one. When I began working in NSW the median house price was around the $200,000 mark, while now it sits at $1,000,000.
Buyers are also much savvier about buying homes and gaining finance than they were 20 years ago. Interest rates were at seven per cent when I started and now they are under two per cent as developers try to provide a differentiation to the market place.
However, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that it is still unlikely that the Australian Institute of Company Director’s target of 30per cent of board seats to be filled by women by 2019 will come to fruition.
I do think quotas are essential to the gender imbalance, and there is an imbalance, with the property industry having 13 per cent females versus 87 per cent males in senior management.
Unconscious bias does exist but on a positive note, the property industries associations like PCA with Male Champions of Change and UDIA’s Diversity charter, highlights the need to elevate and continue discussions around this very important topic. I’m hopeful of change and I’ll do what I can to affect it in my small corner.