Weekly property review: Smaller agencies thrive in busy trading environment

Property editor Linda Rowley, 13/03/2024

Hughes Pastoral’s Tumbar Station in Central Queensland was transacted through a boutique scale property agency

THEY often say bigger is better, but in the world of rural property sales and marketing, some of the smaller, more specialised agencies are singing a different tune – competing on the basis of speed, efficiency and industry knowledge.

This week’s property review showcases some independent agencies in Queensland and the Northern Territory, making their mark and competing hard against the bigger agency operators.

The common view was that where major national agency branch networks were once a key foundation to effective property marketing, individuals with a laptop and decent internet access could now reach much the same potential buyer audience.

Russell Wolff, Vohland Real Estate

With almost 30 years under his belt, rural property specialist Russell Wolff recently left the Elders Rural Real Estate team in Queensland to join Vohland Real Estate.

Russell Wolff alongside his Robinson helicopter

Mr Wolff, who started his career with Ray White Rural, has lived in Central Queensland for more than 40 years and has been involved in property transactions across Queensland and the Northern Territory’s Top End.

“I love people and property, and the new direction is giving me the flexibility I was seeking.”

Mr Wolff believes a person, not a brand, sells a farming or grazing property.

“I have a personal connection with the land. My family owned country in the Arcadia Valley which we sold, so I understand how producers feel when they are taking similar steps.”

“This experience gives me the opportunity to sit down and talk with them like a mate, as well as an agent who can sell their asset,” he said.

Mr Wolff said it can take time to sell a property and working with a smaller agency meant no one was rushing to finalise a sale.

“My bread and butter are family farms and every reason for selling is different. Sometimes the circumstances can be extremely difficult, so it is important to gain the trust of the seller and act sensitively.”

Mr Wolff said he was not competing against larger agencies.

“I have sold significant places like the ones they are marketing, but at the end of the day, I make my living from selling family farms. Boutique agencies have a strong local following because they have connections with local people, local businesses and local communities.”

Andrew Gray, AG Land & Livestock

Darwin-based rural property real estate and agribusiness investment identity Andrew Gray has spent the last 40 years servicing the Northern Territory and the Kimberley.

Three years ago, he established AG Land & Livestock after having previously worked for Elders, Wesfarmers and Landmark.

Andrew Gray

Mr Gray said by establishing his own agency, he was keen to put his personal stamp on how to offer and deliver services to clients.

“Irrespective of the brand and/or the name, individuals still provide a service to the clientele and it is my firm view that people deal with people. Regardless of who Andrew Gray works with, I hope people trust my reputation, honesty and local knowledge,” he said.

Mr Gray said he had been humbled by and favoured with strong support from the local rural and pastoral community.

“I have received tremendous support which vindicates my view that people deal with people. The NT is my home – it is an enormous physical area, but a small number of people, and I am well connected.”

He said a boutique agency had its ups and downs.

“I may not have a big network of people working for me but what I offer is a personalised service. I am nimble and can move quickly because I am here on the ground.”

Mr Gray said every agent was advertising on the same platforms.

“Whether that be LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Beef Central, interested parties anywhere in the world can look at my listings just as easily as anyone else’s website.”

Mr Gray disagreed with the view that larger agencies may have greater international reach.

“I have sold to many overseas groups and am currently dealing with one at the moment.”

Mr Gray said he received referrals from all sorts of people.

“It might be a solicitor in Sydney that I have previously dealt with, a Brisbane accountancy firm or an NT government agency. Sellers conduct their due diligence before they pick up the phone in the same way I would if I was selling my home.”

He said bells and whistles may attract far more attention, but at the end of the day, each agent had to perform.

“Sometimes that is overlooked by the market. I may not resonate with boardrooms who need to justify their decisions with shareholders, however I am speaking with, and acting for plenty of high net individuals.”

Matt Kennedy, Kennedy Rural

Georgetown-based Matthew Kennedy established Kennedy Rural in 2013 after working on cattle stations, as a stock and station agent, and for Landmark and Ray White Rural.

“I was done working for corporates, the red tape, the frustrations with senior management and the franchise fees. When you set up your own agency and run it yourself, you reap the rewards and profits.”

Mr Kennedy believes he can offer clients better service.

“Most buyers prefer to deal with a local agent who is knowledgeable about the local area, has more time and offers attention to detail.”

“More often than not, the owner of the business is servicing the client, not an employee or corporate who is five times removed from the bloke who actually runs the show.”

Mr Kennedy said smaller agencies usually offered a livestock marketing business and this gave agents leads into potential property listings.

“Not only are we familiar with local properties, we know what the owners have being doing during their tenure, numbers they have been running, cattle condition and any issues.”

In terms of exposure, he believes smaller agencies do a better job than the corporates.

“Social media is a level playing field in terms of advertising, but we constantly update our internet listings on our website and on Facebook.”

Luke Westaway, Stockplace Marketing

Luke Westaway, James Coates and Ashley Naclerio left their stock and station agency corporate roles nine years ago and formed Stockplace Marketing to offer clients a more personalised service.

Luke Westaway Stockplace Marketing

Based in Richmond and Cloncurry, Stockplace markets rural property and livestock in Queensland’s north, far north and north-west.

Mr Westaway believes a smaller agency can carve its own success with flexibility and adaptability.

“We can tailor solutions, quickly adopt new trends and market needs, offer personalised attention to clients, foster strong relationships and provide a high level of individual customer service with reduced overhead costs that we pass back to the client and the community.”

He said the agency had built a team with the right people.

“It consists of well trained and experienced livestock and property professionals with experience in business, corporate, animal production, IT, graphic design, video production and marketing.”

Mr Westaway said all have long-term relationships with local people and the local community.

“As established residents, we have an in-depth knowledge of the region and can provide insights and services that are relevant to our clients.”

Mr Westaway said a less complex organisational structure eliminates administrative holdups and has less staff turnover.

“While many corporate organisations are guided by office hours, Stockplace Marketing offers more flexible hours. The well-informed team can answer queries while others are on a job or out of phone range.”

Mr Westaway said the internet contributes to equalising opportunities for a small local business to compete effectively.

“We can engage with clients and market our business through several cost-effective platforms giving us the opportunity to reach a wider market.”

Wally Cooper, RPL

In 2016, after selling the 68,000ha Jericho aggregation Tumbar, Wally Cooper and his wife Sally decided to form RPL (Rural Property & Livestock).

Mr Cooper, who cut his teeth jackarooing before managing properties across Queensland, said he had a unique understanding of what clients are looking for when it comes to buying and selling a property.

“I am able to relate to the day-to-day experiences they face because I am a producer myself and run a family property west of Longreach.”

“I understand the business of owning and running parcels of land, including the highs and lows that come with the property and livestock markets, as well as seasonal weather fluctuations,” he said.

Mr Cooper said as a result of conducting multiple transactions across Queensland and the NT, RPL offered vast knowledge, history and a point of versatility.

Mr Cooper holds both a fixed wing licence and a commercial helicopter licence allowing him to be flexible, nimble and fast moving.

“In what would normally take a week, flying clients (as part of the service) to inspect properties in the NT and Queensland, can be done in just a few days.”

Mr Cooper said RPL takes a planned and measured approach.

“It is important to consider the nuances of agricultural businesses and work in partnership with clients by organising the best deals possible with the most suitable vendors and purchasers – whether it be private corporates, emerging natural capital, or private family operators.”

Mr Cooper said RPL used a marketing firm to ramp up and refresh the Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn profile of the business.








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