KIWI REAL ESTATE TYCOON LOOKS AHEAD
New Zealand Real Estate’s loss is South America Gain
Argentina – Brazil – Chile – Paraguay – Peru – Uruguay
The Kiwi, New Zealand’s flightless, myopic national bird, is so shy and elusive that most New Zealanders have never seen one as it never leaves the remote forest floors where it lives a solitary, nocturnal life and they are so few in number it’s one of the world’s rarest birds.
You’ll never see a Kiwi itself outside of New Zealand but on occasion it is possible to sight its namesake, a New Zealander, who will be one of the small number of ‘Kiwis’ from those remote isles who’ve ventured overseas to live and work in the vastness of South America.
When and why New Zealanders got the nickname Kiwi is an enduring mystery as their personalities are diametrically opposed on the whole to the bird’s retiring, elusive nature but for all that it is a name New Zealanders proudly wear in the wider world.
One such Kiwi is Buenos Aires real estate tycoon Geoffrey McRae whose, unlike the national bird of his homeland, gregarious nature, capacity for innovation and hard work has made him a leading figure in South American real estate after his earlier careers as a farmer in New Zealand’s Southland region and then as one of the most successful real estate agents in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.
On a visit to South America in 2003 Geoffrey recognised lucrative opportunities in the region’s huge real estate market which he saw was moribund and ripe for innovation.
In 2006 Geoffrey brought to South America the practical approach and work ethic he’d acquired in farming, professional skills honed in Auckland’s thriving real estate market and a thirst for new challenges and established ‘Gateway to South America’ (GTSA) in Buenos Aires.
Geoffrey chose Buenos Aires as GTSA’s base as it is, in his own words; “one of, if not the most, technically advanced, dynamic and beautiful cities in South America in which to live”.
In business development terms Buenos Aires’ location makes it the perfect hub for travel to the other countries in the region where Geoffrey has expanded GTSA’s operations, especially into agribusiness sectors.
After ten years GTSA is now the leading multinational real estate agency in South America and operates in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay selling residential property and agribusinesses (beef & dairy farms, horticulture & cropping holdings, forestry developments etc.).
When Geoffrey arrived in South America its real estate markets were, and sadly still are to a large extent, bedevilled by a lack of professionalism.
Most South American real estate agents are part-time amateurs who moonlight from other careers and their lack of experience and training impacts negatively on the market which has led to a pervasive lack of trust in agents on the part of both vendors and buyers.
Another negative influence on the real estate market Geoffrey has had to contend with is that there are traditionally very few funding options available to buyers who must have cash available as mortgages are almost unknown in South America and if, in very rare cases, buyers have access to funding it is prohibitively expensive.
Geoffrey says that part of the reason GTSA has emerged as South America’s most effective real estate company is that he ensures his agents are fully-trained professionals as well as working with both buyers and vendors to resolve financing issues and it’s in this way he’s built the trust that’s fundamental for any successful real estate company.
Aside from a high degree of professionalism GTSA’s business model operates on the premise that marketing and highly-refined selling techniques are of equal importance and this innovative approach combined with intensive agent sales-training which has set GTSA apart from their markedly less successful competitors.
By concentrating GTSA’s marketing strategies solely on South America and by exploiting the strengths of the Internet Geoffrey has ensured GTSA’s ranking now dominates Google search results in a way which is impossible for the real estate franchises which operate in other hemispheres and even globally.
GTSA’s marketing funnel utilizes every available Internet tool including Content Marketing, multilingual Direct Mail, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and Video Marketing to reach prospective buyers.
Geoffrey knows from experience that comprehensive marketing is crucial in achieving quick sales as opposed to the customary long sale times and GTSA can demonstrate to vendors on a comparative basis that the sales they’ve achieved of properties with extensive marketing have been achieved far more quickly than is normally the case in the South American market.
That more vendors are understanding the correlation between marketing and a prompt sale has been a major breakthrough for GTSA as the connection is not widely understood in South America where the common misapprehension is that a buyer will be someone known personally to either to the vendor or their agent.
A personal connection between the parties in a sale was a dominant feature of the real estate industry in the past but the advent of Internet marketing has turned this norm on its head.
Internet marketing reaches a far deeper pool of prospective buyers than traditional media and signage advertising and nowadays the best-qualified buyer is invariably someone completely unknown to the vendor or agent (95% of GTSA’s sales in recent years have been made to buyers with no connection to the vendor or agent).
Perhaps the most important of Geoffrey’s innovations in sales techniques has been the development of ‘VendeRapido’ (‘SellFast’) which is a sales tool designed specifically for the South American real estate market and which combines GTSA’s dominant Internet marketing with a tender/option process that’s proven to quickly identify buyers and determine the terms and conditions that can allow a sale to proceed.
Once VendeRapido identifies the key enablers which will allow a prospective sale to proceed GTSA works closely, including advising on how to most advantageously structure the financial arrangements, with both buyer and vendor to close the sale and which has proven to be a far more successful method of selling real estate in South America than traditional methods have ever been.
In both showing properties and in closing sales Geoffrey has found that the most effective sales team is one that combines both locals and foreigners and he’s ensured GTSA’s sales team reflects this dynamic.
Local agents have a unique knowledge and cultural sensitivity which allows them to relate easily to their countryman buyers while their foreign counterparts have a more cosmopolitan, international approach which allow them to more effectively engage with overseas buyers although both must equally be able to adapt readily to evolving regulatory regimes and Internet technologies.
Having built GTSA into a market-leader in South American real estate Geoffrey is now planning to strengthen its leadership and streamline its management by selling a half-share of the business, in each of the country markets GTSA operates in, to suitably-qualified, ambitious young real estate professionals with a view that they will assume full ownership and control of the businesses in the future.
The young professionals Geoffrey is looking for must share his client-focused service philosophy and understand the need for constant innovation and mastery of new technologies to maintain and build-on GTSA’s market-leadership.
Geoffrey is adamant GTSA will only retain its position as a market leader by putting the client first, through innovation and an insistence on scrupulous dealing all of which he’s confident the new generation of real estate professionals can achieve.
Once GTSA’s continuing success is assured with the appointment of new equity partners Geoffrey says he will finally have time for even more difficult challenges than those he faced in becoming a real estate tycoon; namely “perfecting his Spanish, playing Polo with more flare and dancing Tango like a true Argentino”.
If GTSA’s success is an example of Geoffrey’s ability to surmount challenges it will not be too long before this South American Kiwi is as loquacious, voluble and fluent in Spanish as any Latino, dashing around Polo fields with Prince William of Wales and cutting a swathe through Buenos Aires’ most elegant Tango salons!
Editor’s Note: The Kiwi will not be such a rare bird in South America after 1 December 2015 when Air New Zealand starts thrice-weekly direct flights to Buenos Aires from Auckland. Forward bookings indicate there’ll soon be a great many Kiwis enjoying Buenos Aires’ and the Southern Cone’s multitudinous attractions and perhaps even buying real estate in which case I am sure their fellow Kiwi Geoffrey McRae & GTSA will be more than pleased to assist them.
Thomas Stewart Manning
Governing Director, Manning Group Limited