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It’s all about Trust

10th December, 2015
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The fast-paced lifestyle of a Property Consultant

The hectic, flexible working life of a property consultant might not be everyone’s ideal profession – but for some people, specifically the team at Frank Salt’s Sliema Branch – it’s just perfect.

Over a lively and enthusiastic chat around the table in the boardroom expressions like, “every day is different”, “you never know what’s going to walk in through the door next”, and “it’s more than a job, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s fun” were unanimously agreed to. Clearly, this is not the job for those who like to plan their days meticulously or who tend to look up at the clock and think, “I’ll be out of here in an hour” as
5 o’ clock approaches.

I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with what is possibly Malta’s most successful team of property consultants and what became immediately apparent is that success, enthusiasm, passion and a strong team spirit all contribute greatly. Property Consultants work on a commission basis and therefore have to be very motivated and individualistic in pursuing a sale. This can lead to a cut-throat environment steeped in secrecy and territorialism. However, when this drive is harnessed within a work ethic such as that created by Frank Salt, based as it is on trust, shared knowledge, honest dealings with clients, and the creation of a strong and long-lasting Company reputation forged within a family business to which the owner, Mr Salt, gave his name with pride in 1969 – you have a winning formula.

Ultimately, however, a team is only as good as its members – so the focus here is entirely on them.

The Current Property Market in Malta

These are good times for Real Estate business in Malta, of that there can be no doubt. It is also an ‘owner’s market’ with excellent prices being fetched, and with all kinds of property moving constantly in the market.

After the international financial crisis some years ago, resulting in the resistance of banks to provide good rates on savings, many have decided to invest their wealth in property as it offers better returns. Some buyers have gone a step further and invested in properties to let, thereby creating an added income for themselves. The demand for properties to let feeds into the growing economy created by the various service industries which have been established in Malta over the past decade or so. With more people working here on a temporary basis the need to rent a place to live, has created a fruitful market of ‘buy to rent’ properties, which has been flourishing. This, is the perfect sunshine after the financial storm.

However, as the consultants were quick to point out, sales to local Maltese buyers of all types of properties are also on the rise. First time buyers living alone, newly weds, young families – these all need a place in which their dreams can come true. In these situations in Malta it makes financial sense to buy rather than to let a property since the banks offer excellent conditions for first time buyers. But people are always moving and as young families grow they move into the larger houses and villas of those whose children have flown the nest and who are now looking to downsize.

A seamless operation at Frank Salt Real Estate

Demand is higher for all types of property and the market moves fast. At Frank Salt Real Estate the property consultants are kept up to date with the vast range of properties on their books through excellent software which is continually updated in real time. As soon as a property is added or sold, the data is updated and available on each screen in each one of Frank Salt’s branches. Each office works seamlessly integrated with the whole, rather than each one separate and competing among themselves, as other business models suggest.

In addition, the consultants can depend on a hard working Back Office for many important jobs. A good Marketing Department keeps the public informed of new properties and open- houses, it creates a magazine, Property News, which receives wide circulation, and also maintains a detailed website for the company. The Accounts Department also provides invaluable support and up to date knowledge on changing property and finance.

The elements that go into successful property consulting are various. The Company has to supply the structure and the knowledge base for ease of processing. But, ultimately, it is the drive of particular individuals with a high level of enthusiasm, serious listening ability, and intuitive matchmaking skills to be able to pair the vast data in the system to the clients’ wishes and desires.

The relentless demand for property

One of the clearest indications of the expanding market in property, as a result of the island’s positive economic performance is growth. George Vassallo, Manager of the Sliema Branch, is in for a busy time as the offices on Tower Road Sliema are set to double in size in the near future.

“At the moment we are on the look-out for quality properties – of all kinds. The turnover is quick. A property that falls into our books in the morning, especially a rental property, might already carry a promise of sale by the same evening, or within 48 hours. My team moves fast, they have the contacts, the vision, the drive to make things happen. In fact, one of the things they complain about is that they would like to have more properties to sell.”

George Vassallo, in fact, makes it clear that Frank Salt Real Estate is keen to take on more properties – especially high quality residences as the demand is growing and the few there are on the market are snapped up almost immediately. The greater influx of foreign investment is driving the economy and the demand for high-level accommodation is on the increase.

He adds that, “my vision for the future of this branch is to continue to grow with my team. To preserve and channel the positive dynamic that works between them – always with the focus on the client. We aim to earn our clients’ trust, to provide genuine feedback, and to give informed advice on the potential of the properties we sell according to the most recent laws, planning permits and investment guidelines. We look at long-term relationships with our clients always with the aim of building sound and fruitful working relationships for all parties.”

A word from our Sliema branch members:

Dylan Micallef
“I had the opportunity of joining the property business when I was 21. I was a little nervous about dealing with large sums of money so I moved to the UK and into another field for five years. But I was drawn back and luckily was offered a second opportunity, first in Letting then in Sales. I’ve been in property for the last seven years – and now I can’t see myself successfully doing anything else. There is a process of building trust between myself and a client – in many ways the client is the king in the chase – and when the agreement is signed it comes with a huge sense of satisfaction!”

Marianne Cauchi
“I started working in this line thirteen years ago. It came about when I decided to sell my own beauty business and a client of mine, who was herself in property, suggested I try it because, as she said, I am a people person. It is a little frightening at first to work only on commission but as your confidence grows it all works out. Every sale I complete feels like a first one – it’s still exciting and each one is different. You have to get an idea of your client, imagine what they’re looking for, and match it to our database of properties – which is constantly being updated. Perhaps the only problem is that I wish there were even more properties to sell – even if Frank salt already has the most vast database! Properties are moving fast in Malta, it’s very much an owner’s market, and the more there is, the more we are sure to sell. When you enjoy what you do, you won’t go back to anything else.”

Marika Stagno Navarra
“I spent years working in hospitality, specifically in restaurants. However, I was teaching at a Language School when I got a call at Christmas to move into this field. I thought it was a little risky … but it was something I had thought of doing before in my life but didn’t because I felt I needed the security of a regular income. I went for it this time – and now I wish I had made the move many years before. I would actually have made more money not less! One of the unexpected benefits of the job is the many foreign friends I’ve made – so many of the people I’ve found property for have become personal friends of mine and I have continue to be in touch with them over the years. Truly an added benefit.”

Mazen Hathout
“I used to work with a Multinational company before. Always in Sales however – but there came a time when I felt a change was needed, a move to a new industry where I could still build on my skills. One day George, the manager here, walked in and offered me the perfect change. You really never know what’s coming through the door in life! My particular language skills in Arabic and French have provided the office with very useful addition to the services we can offer clients. My English is perfect, and I can now also speak Maltese very well. The influx of foreign investment through residency programmes, through the property requirement that come with new passports, through people establishing business in Malta – all of this has created a fantastic working environment and a huge amount of potential. We are keen to work in this landscape of opportunity.”

Erika Rossignaud
“It’s all about timing! I was working in the Gaming Industry for nine years – in various areas: payments and risk, compliance, and so on. Eventually, I was open for a change and a friend, Philippa Tabone, who is the Letting Manager at Frank Salt and who knows my character well, asked me to join. From Letting I moved into Sales – and here I am – very happy in this slightly crazy working environment! I’ve been able to build on my experience and contacts from my previous job and have found a working life that complements my character and my skills. People choose their Property Consultant on a range issues – and personal contact is worth a lot in this field. I have many foreign buyers and sellers I work with, and also local clients who are personal friends.”

Miguel Azzopardi
“My strength is in sales. I was involved in selling Pharmaceuticals before property – I was worried about moving into property consultancy because of the risky nature of not knowing what you’re going to earn. I thought I’d give it a try for four months – four years have passed and, not only am I still here but it has become an important part of my life. This is a social job, not a nine to five regular existence, and it is people rather than a desk that form the biggest part of your day. The relationship with the client, building trust and understanding their expectations – followed by a sale – produces adrenaline like nothing else! Sometimes I enjoy my week at work more than my weekends! It’s Happy Mondays for me – because this is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle.”

Alan Agius
“I’ve always been in sales – from my own ventures when I was still eighteen till now. I’ve tried out different things, such as catering, and I was also in Real Estate when I was about 25 – and was successful then too, which is why I always intended to come back into property. I have a very strong visual sense – I can see a property and what it can become. I love property – it sets my imagination as well as my enthusiasm going strong. I can see a place and immediately start to think who might be interested in it, who it could work for – and rather than wait, I pro-actively start to get in touch with suitable buyers among my clients and my contacts. Perhaps my only complaint is that we always need more property, especially more quality residences – which I am very good at selling. I’m doing exactly what I like to do, and when you have that in life, you’re happy.”

Rebecca Trapani
“My background is in the beauty business. I worked for seven years in the field – and I loved the job. My strength is working closely with people so when I wanted a change I knew it wasn’t to be a desk job. I can’t imagine doing anything else now. I love meeting people and in this job we can make their dreams come true. Finding people a home to be happy in is very rewarding. It often has a lot to do with matching up people, their expectations, budgets, and lifestyles to the vast range of properties on our books. The more familiar you are with them. The better the match you can make.”

Andrew Tabone
“My background in sales is quite different from this, it’s what I call “aquarium sales” which involves sitting in an office or a showroom waiting for clients to come to you. It’s a hard way to build a career. It was my own sister who saw I wasn’t happy at work anymore and after some pushing from her and some contemplating of my own, I moved into Letting. From there it was George who pulled me into Frank Salt Sales. Now it’s me that does the chasing – finding what my clients are after, providing information and knowledge that will help them feel secure with their decisions – sometimes you are dealing with people’s life-savings and there is no margin of error allowed in such sensitive situations. But when it’s done – it feels amazing! Now I wonder why I left it so late – I’m happy and would never go back into the aquarium – it’s the open road and the different possibilities that each day brings that shape my days now.”

Julian Caruana
“I’ve been in the property business for ten years now and I know I’ve found the profession that works for me. I’ve been given a couple of awards for sales and they were a welcome confirmation of my skills. My previous work experience was in personal training – close to people – but helping them achieve very different goals. At first, like many others, the commission basis of the job put me off, but it’s worked out very well in the long run. I have built up my experience and I believe in teamwork and sharing knowledge and being helpful on the job by working with the teams’ dynamic – as well as putting energy into the demands of clients. I’ve worked on property that appeared on our books in the morning and was gone by the evening, especially rental property. Sometimes this is a fast moving job and you have to follow through – follow the interests of the client but keeping a step ahead to make sure that the deal is right and things are as they should be.”

Fleur Muscat
“I have a different function in this office. As Manager’s Assistant, my role is to link the workings of the team together. I am a sort of lynchpin – they work out of the office and I connect what’s going on within the office. I provide information and contacts and arrange what they need to move towards a sale. My background is in hospitality, I graduated from ITS in Hospitality Management – and management is what this role is about. As I learn their skills though, I am sometimes tempted to move into sales – it’s not the first time it’s happened!”

George Vassallo
“This Sliema Branch was opened ten years ago – and I have managed it since then. I’ve been in property since 1986 and I still really enjoy it. I probably came into it by accident – but it was one of the best accidents of my life! I’ve been involved long enough to have developed a long term view of the industry and with it an understanding of the strength of the reputation of Frank Salt Real Estate. We are not in this for a quick sting, but rather for the long haul. We build on our relationship with our clients, we work with them over the years – first with parents and then their children, for instance. And it’s the same with businesses in various lines. This is a job that gives me great freedom – but which also exerts great demands and holds a lot of responsibility. The Sliema Branch has been successful over the years and was awarded the Best Branch Award a number of times – this is a reflection on my team who are enthusiastic, dependable, knowledgeable – and ultimately fun to work with. They go the extra mile for their clients and this is reflected in our results, time and again. I would go so far as to say that this is possibly the best branch in the industry in Malta.”

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