Property Portal Watch has recently learned of Real Estate Institute of Western Australia's (REIWA) Executive Manager, Charlie Gunningham, upcoming departure from the company. We caught up with Gunningham, asked him about the change in his professional life and what is up ahead for him.
PPT: How long have you been with REIWA?
CG: Three years. It’s flown by. I honestly thought I’d be here much longer than this, and part of me says “hey your job is not over yet!” but then again I suppose I leave something on the table for the next person. It was not an easy decision to leave REIWA. I am as passionate about reiwa.com as I have ever been, and no one will be prouder than me of the continued success that is to come for the portal. But I have done 14 years with the real estate industry and a change in industry is a real attraction, a change of company, a private company, a great new opportunity to apply my skills in a new (but related) arena.
PPT: What prompted your departure from REIWA?
CG: I was lured away rather than spat out!
I did promise REIWA I would do at least two years there, and I have more than done that. I did not know what a member based, not for profit association would be like, and it has been a fascinating and enjoyable three years. The attraction of the new position was all consuming.
I compare it very much to my decision to leave the UK for Singapore in 1989, or leave Singapore for Perth in 1997, or leave teaching to set up a dotcom in 1999 – all HUGE decisions, not made lightly I can tell you. I have had 5 jobs in 27 years, so I don’t hop around. When I am in, I am all in. But I thought it through, bashed it around for a month or so, and obviously talked it through with my wife Lisa and a few close friends, my brother, etc. They were all very supportive.
One of the things I will miss of course are the great people at REIWA, notably some who I have worked with since early aussiehome.com days – so that’s 12 years in some cases. Very, very difficult to tell them I was leaving; but everyone took it really well (it came as a shock) and congratulated me, and wished me well. [My last day at REIWA is April 17th. ]
PPT: When was the decision to leave the company made?
CG: Three weeks ago. The CEO of REIWA was actually away for a few days, so I told him first a few days later (giving over a month’s notice), and then the team the next day, individually.
PPT: Where - if you can disclose this information - are you going to? or elaborate what your plans are, going forward?
CG: Sure, happy to. I am going to Business News (renaming from the current ‘WA Business News’) which is a WA-based subscription business newspaper. They have an excellent reputation in the business/community over here, are innovative, positive and vibrant. I supposed I am looking forward to a new industry and the opportunity to assist in developing their digital products and be a part of their future. I have long admired them (in the sense of being a subscriber and reader and attended many of their excellent events). I know some of the senior staff and really look forward to working alongside them. The position is a totally new. I suppose what they need is someone with actual hard won practical business/online experience to help guide them from a print-based present to a digital-based future, building on the excellent foundation they currently have. I can’t wait to get in there and roll up my sleeves.
PPT: How do you view the WA property market today, and what do you foresee in the next two years?
CG: REIWA’s never been in the job of the prediction game. One of the things REIWA does really well (better than anyone) is to pronounce on what is currently happening in the market or explaining what has just happened. REIWA has the latest and best real time data on the property market. (Where it is heading is anyone’s guess). And at the moment, we are seeing a considerable uptick in the market, especially since January 2013. Although the light came on a bit last year, this year so far it has burned even brighter it would seem. Total stock of available properties for sale in Perth metro has fallen from an over supplied market a year ago of 14,200 to a tighter/understocked market of 8,400 today. Equilibrium would be around 12,000. Perth metro (median) house prices have hit an all time record of $510,000 in the most recent (March) quarter. The rental market ran hot last year and has eased a little with median rents at $470/week and 3,200 properties on the market (same week last year 2,350). Obviously, the market is considerably large and spread over a wide area so some areas would be running hot with others being quite cold, and looking into the market more at different price brackets you see different levels of activity. So generalizations are just that, generalizations.
This is not REIWA speaking this is me (!), but if you are to ask me – I have always been positive about the WA economy, and this spreads into property. I think I read a stat that 65% of all new job creations in Australia last year were in WA. Considering we only have a tenth of the population, that is amazing. 1,000 people move to Perth every week. Every week. They have to live somewhere. The roads are getting busier, prices (of everything) have certainly risen, and yes some people are making amazing money. Former MBA friends of mine, now in senior positions in Oil & Gas or mining tell me that you could not turn off this boom if you wanted to. There a dozens of major (think double digit billion dollar) projects coming on stream right now which each a 20+ year life. Things are only going to get busier, prices are only going to go higher, you would imagine… but that’s just the old Economics teacher coming out in me, I could be totally wrong, and it all end in tears tomorrow (but I think not!).
PPT: What are some of the achievements you are particularly proud of during your time with REIWA?
CG: I hope I have been able to effect a few changes that are now embedded and will survive. And it’s a team game of course – I have not been able to do anything on my own. The 2 CEO’s I have worked under have been wonderfully supportive and forward-thinking; the entire executive team, and my reiwa.com and Member Services teams. All fantastic.
With them, I have been proud of the improvements we have made to reiwa.com – the coolest multi-purpose search (mixing suburb, region, keyword, ID, postcode all in one easy to use box) on any property site in my humble opinion. Anyone reading this – have a play on the home page search box to see what I mean. The site is humming and alive and has some unique features on it. Our ‘Best in WA’ campaign is a clever concept and going great guns for us.
I am proud of the 50% increase in unique visitors since I arrived in May 2010, and the increase in subscribers, depth revenue purchases, web development income – all at record levels. These things have not been easy to do. Everyone has worked hard.
I am glad to see NPS scores embedded in the culture, such that we really care about what our members think of us, and part of how we are (all) remunerated is determined by NPS (something I brought here and has been embraced by the current CEO and Council).
I am proud (my rivals will hate me for this) that in the latest Nielsen published traffic reports for WA, reiwa.com’s traffic has grown 21% in the past year and my main 2 rival sites have seen their traffic fall 4% and 18% over the same period. You can’t argue with that!
PPT: Are there any regrets on your behalf...ie: plans you had in mind for the company which you wish you had achieved?
CG: I came to REIWA to make reiwa.com the #1 property portal in the State. You might get laughed at for even suggesting that in other States, but with reiwa.com you really do have that possibility. There was a time when it was #1. It can be again. The members want it (and they, remember, effectively OWN the site too), and they are so willing us to do it.
The only regret I have is I do not leave with reiwa.com being the clear number 1 site for property in WA (yet). It is clearly now on that path though. Again, it’s patchy – for some subscribers we DO deliver them more traffic/leads than anyone else, for others we are roughty the same as our main rival site(s), for others nowhere near as many. There is still work to be done.
PPT: Who will be “filling your shoes” at REIWA?
CG: Don’t know! It’s quite a specific skill to fill I suppose – a mix of sales/business executive, online/IT knowledge and intrapreneur. I have a few people in mind, and some of them might be readers of PPW, so I hope they apply! Others who are reading this and thinking “I’d like to do that” – I encourage them to look at the job spec on Seek (enter ‘REIWA’ and you’ll get the job ad).
As I say, reiwa.com is on the right path, has huge potential upside and everything is firing away at record levels (traffic, subscribers, income, leads). A wonderful for the right person to pick it up and move it forward. (God, did I say “move it forward”?, sorry about that!)
After school teaching for 13 years (3 jobs on 3 different continents) Charlie did an MBA at UWA and came out the other side setting up aussiehome.com, a Perth-based real estate business, with another MBA graduate in 1999. After experiencing all the highs and lows of a start up in a new field, the business was acquired by REIWA in 2010. Charlie and all the aussiehome staff came across to REIWA, bringing all their clients with them. 3 years on, and Charlie is now moving on.
Originally from the UK, via Singapore, Charlie has been living and working in Perth for 16 years, as he is leaving REIWA to become the GM of Digital at Business News, a well established Perth-based business newspaper, data and events business.