A vibrant property market in Wollongong during COVID-19 has resulted in many real estate agents expanding their teams.
With many people outside the city seeing The Gong as a great place to live or have a weekender there has never been a better time to work in the industry in the local market.
One business that saw the trend early and predicted 2020 would be such an important time of property market growth in the city's history was Stone Real Estate.
Since the Illawarra office opened and then moved into lower Crown Street Mall three years ago the size of the team has tripled from 11 to 35.
As market momentum continues in 2021 directors Paul Piacentin and Michael Schlegal have lured two new experienced, high performing agents to the Stone team as a part of a controlled growth strategy with a strong focus on valuing clients and customers by supporting industry leaders.
"As much as they give value to their clients we need to give value to these agents," Mr Piacentin said.
Sarah Ward and Jeremy Hodder eagerly accepted the opportunity to part of the professional culture at Stone Real Estate and their reputation is already bringing in more quality listings.
Mr Hodder said he joined the team a fortnight ago because he liked the leadership, culture and support it could provide him.
"The thing I like about this office is it provides a good platform for to me to operate and provide a good service to customers. I am coming from being a principle. I saw a really good opportunity to come here and just get back to doing what I love, which is selling and not having to worry about day to day running of the business."
Ms Ward said she was previously in a smaller agency and saw an opportunity to work in a larger business that could help her to grow.
"I wanted to put more staff on in my own team and I needed the support to be able to do that with the systems and processes of an established business."
Mr Piacentin and Mr Schlegel have more than 20 years experience working together. They first became business partners in 2005 and then directors of Stone Real Estate Wollongong four years ago.
Despite more than 50 years experience between them they have never seen such a strong market and can only see it continue with the interest the city is attracting for its modern progressive lifestyle and scenic location.
Mr Piacentin said the market is so hot and Wollongong is in such high demand that purchasers are more competitive than ever in trying to outbid each other.
"The market has changed as well. Years ago we started high and came low with pricing. But now we start more with guides and ranges because the market has such buoyancy. That is driving the price," he said.
Mr Schlegel said COVID-19 initially created some nerves among people wanting to sell and they initially held off putting their property on the market.
"There wasn't as many people wanting to sell but there were more buyers," he said.
That meant there was more demand than supply.
Mr Piacentin said the Stone Real Estate team predicted that might happen at the start of the pandemic and implemented a growth plan that involved expanding its team.
"We actually employed during COVID and grew and grew. We noticed 2019 was a tough market because you had the Royal Commission and the election. But coming off the back of that we just got busier and busier and busier."
Record low interest rates have also helped.
Mr Schlegel said his business partner's eye for talent had helped the agency recruit well with people such as operations manager Deanna Bannerman and sales manager David Scioscia adding more value and experience to the team.
Stone Real Estate is finding demand is across the board for homes and units. And despite the number apartment buildings going up and cranes around the city everything is selling off the plan. Investors, owner occupiers and people after a weekender are all in the market.
"There are a lot more people coming from Sydney wanting to invest in Wollongong," Mr Schlegel said.
"And there are more people coming from Melbourne and Canberra. Wollongong has all of a sudden become a focal point. The city is seen as one of those places people think they should invest in and get a good return."
Its location, lifestyle, setting and the change in working habits have all contributed to that.
Wollongong's relatively clear run through COVID-19 has also helped. And more people living in all the new units in the CBD is creating a more active, vibrant city.
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