Countless house inspections, exorbitant fees, and agents with an agenda, it’s little wonder that the process of buying or selling property fills busy people with dread.
But what if the customer was in control? What if the process was simplified?
Following this train of thinking, Julie O’Donohue a former real-estate manager in her 50’s put her own house on the line and recently launched Next Address, a property matchmaking app that directly connects buyers and sellers.
The decision to break out with a new business that challenged the giants in property was a brave one, but already Next Address has made its mark. With 11,000 registered properties and this number growing weekly, there’s little doubt that Next Address will emerge a definitive industry disruptor. The team is also predominantly female.
Julie’s the latest to be featured in our game-changing women’s series. We recently checked in to get the lowdown on her upcoming plans and her thoughts on why the property industry needed a long overdue shake-up.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
I was walking my dog, Tilly and reflecting on a friend’s recent real estate experience as well as my own. There was limited use of technology, the communication channels could have been better and the advertising costs were significant. Australians are actually charged one of the highest marketing and advertising fees in the world!
At the time I was thinking about Next Address, I was creating great websites and using social media to market and promote services. I could see that if you maximised technology, you would be able to offer a smarter, simpler, more cost effective real estate service. I was already using a ride sharing service, using websites to find alternative accommodation, so why couldn’t we apply this thinking to real estate.
I was excited by the idea of efficiencies through the use of great technologies.
How did you get here?
As an ex-real estate agent I’ve always had a passion and interest in property. I felt that the industry was failing to capitalise on technology and not offering a transparent service to property buyers and sellers. A personal real estate experience left me with thinking about how we could change how property is transacted in this country. I wanted to communicate and support buyers more, provide greater transparency, and importantly, provide more accurate property valuations. I felt that both buyers and sellers needed a service where they could feel empowered to buy and sell direct, by giving them the tools and everything they needed to know about buying and selling real estate.
What ‘game’ are you changing and why does it need a shift?
The real estate sector has not changed in over 35-40 years. Back then we paid 2% commission and in 2017 we are still paying the same commission, yet our property prices have increased significantly. There is an opportunity for the industry to adopt new technologies and ways of operating which will both streamline and create greater accountability, and reduce costs for all.
We know that Australia’s inflated property market is overwhelming, and so is the traditional process of buying and selling a home, with many feeling frustrated with high costs, inaccurate property valuations, and a lack of communication. Next Address changes the game by offering a more affordable way of buying and selling property, saves people time and puts the customer in complete control
Who or what inspired you to do this?
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I was born into a small business family, and both my grandfathers were inventors in their own ways. My parents successfully began, operated and then sold two transport companies. My sister runs her own quarter horse training business and stud. So you could say we are all, in our own ways, entrepreneurs. When you are surrounded by family who are not afraid to have a go, you’re naturally inspired to do the same.
What unique skills have you acquired that have helped you get to this point?
I have the ability to recognise where my my own skills lie and where there’s a gap. That’s why I have surrounded myself with people who are more clever than I am, with the specific skillset required to work on the different facets required in our business. I have never been afraid of challenging the status quo, which is probably not so much a skill and more of a belligerent characteristic, but I’m glad I have it.
How does the average day play out for you?
I begin most days with a good brekkie while I check my emails and newsfeeds. I’ll usually read online articles which inspire or educate me about technology, marketing or anything relevant to what we are doing at Next Address.
Most days I work from my home office and I set my daily tasks the night before so I’m ready to go. Not every day, but some days I meditate, especially if I find my mind getting a bit busy. I work through until lunch and I’m fortunate that my husband can often join me at home so we can eat together.
The afternoon is spent focusing on what I need to do to grow my business. Most days I walk my kelpie/staffie cross, Tilly. I love to cook and find this relaxing and it makes me switch off from the day. After dinner, I spend some time working – maybe half an hour. I always read a novel for 20 to 30 minutes before going to sleep and disconnect from technology.
What key things would you say have helped drive your career to date?
I didn’t realise I was as tenacious as I am. I also don’t like to fail or give up. I have a incredibly strong belief in my business, the skills of the Next Address team and the benefits our platform will bring to the community and real estate industry. This is what drives and inspires me every day to continue doing what we do. Having a supportive family who get what I’m doing and believe in my business is also vital. I can’t thank them enough for this.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt about leadership?
Leading people is inspiring, it’s centred around communication, and involves making yourself vulnerable to making and admitting to your own mistakes.
What do you to outside of work to maintain your wellbeing?
I walk, play tennis weekly, and I can still slalom water ski and snow ski. I’m incredibly close to my family with three adult children who I usually see weekly. I eat well, love to laugh, enjoy music and I don’t take myself too seriously.
Have you had mentors, and what have they taught you?
I initially struggled to find great mentors, but now I have a number of them and they inspire me every day. I feel confident that I can reach out to any one of them at any time. They have taught me to be vulnerable and they have also demanded, in a positive way, for me to extend my learnings and capabilities.
What makes you angry?
I am angered by our politicians and the inertia, lack of vision and their inability to plan for the future. As a parent of a gay young man, I have found the last six months and the same-sex marriage survey incredibly frustrating.
What are you doing to inspire more women and girls into leadership?
Next Address is bucking all the rules. We are a team made up of mainly women – younger mums and older mums make up 80 per cent of my team. Our coder, designer, accountant, EA and marketing strategist are all women, and I have two female mentors. To all women who are working in a predominantly male industry, bring it on!