#57 | Buying Sites with Jacob Butler of Hunter Gather Buyers Agents

Jacob Butler is a buyers’ agent and the founder of premium agency Hunter Gather. With a proven track record in the real estate industry, he worked in both sales and buyers’ advocacy for leading agencies including Ray White and Cohen Handler before founding Hunter Gather.

In this episode Jessica and Jacob discuss:

  • Jacob’s journey to becoming a buyers agent.
  • Living in Papua New Guinea.
  • 30-40% of HG’s business being repeat clients or referrals from past clients.
  • The increase in property developers reaching out for unique sites.
  • The influx of interstate buyers and local buyers mixed with low stock.
  • Jacob’s top tips for buying property in the current market.

Speakers: Jessica Reynolds, Jacob Butler

 

Jacob Butler:

Before I was in property, I’d be out on the weekend looking at open homes, working out what I could do to renovate houses, you know, keeping my finger on the pulse with what was happening in the market. I think gone are the days where developers can come in and just whack down a 30 day DD or a 45 day DD on a very simple purchase. If they want to be serious, they need to.

Jessica Reynolds:

Hi there. Welcome to the Creating Australia podcast. My name is Jessica Reynolds and I’m a private town planner and business owner based in Brisbane, Queensland. I’m passionate about engaging with the amazing people that make the property and development industry what it is today. In creating Australia, I want to learn from experts in the industry and share their knowledge and wisdom with you.

 

In each episode, we’ll talk with different people and unpack their past experiences and innovative ideas for the future. Join me now for an episode of Creating Australia, where we dive into the industry exploring local stories, projects, businesses, people, ideas, and more. Welcome to today’s episode of the Creating Australia podcast. I’m your host Jessica Reynolds, and today I’ve got Jacob Butler with me. Jacob Butler is a buyer’s agent for Hunter Gather. Welcome Jacob.

Jacob Butler:

Thanks Jess. Thanks for having me.

Jessica Reynolds:

No problem. I actually have been working with you for quite a while now. You call me up every now and then for a, a few minutes for maybe some quick town planning advice, and I always end up making you talk to me for about 20 minutes. So I figured it was about time to have you on the podcast because you know, might as well record it.

Jacob Butler:

Happy to help.

Jessica Reynolds:

So as a buyer’s agent, I’m assuming you are a real estate agent first. Maybe, maybe not? Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to where you’ve got to like in Hunter Gather?

Jacob Butler:

Sure. So I have been a buyer’s agent now for over three years. Prior to being a buyer’s agent, I was a sales agent. I actually think it’s a point of difference in the market. There’s probably not a great deal of buyer’s agents that have actually had the real estate experience prior. So it’s probably only about maybe three or four buyers agents in Brisbane that I can think of that also share the same experience.

Jessica Reynolds:

That shocks me. Yeah, I didn’t think that would be the case at all.

Jacob Butler:

Most people just come into it completely fresh or, you know, they’ve enjoyed looking at property and they think, you know what? I like houses. I like looking at realestate.com for you. Maybe I can just do this for people. But they haven’t actually come with real estate experience, either that or they’ve just gone and done a course. And then entered straight into it.

Jessica Reynolds:

Cool. So you, why did you go into real estate in the first place? Was is it because you love property or did you just like?

Jacob Butler:

No, I think I was one of those people I’d, I’d been genuinely interested in property for a really, really long time and found that, you know, even before I was in property, I’d be out on the weekend looking at open homes, working out what I could do to renovate houses, you know, keeping my finger on the pulse with what was happening in the market. I originally was about to get into real estate and then ended up getting called up to go work in Papa New Guinea. And was in Papa New Guinea for three years.

Jessica Reynolds:

What? Doing what?

Jacob Butler:

Most of the role was centered around facilities management, and property management. So I was running a residential facility up there. We had about 300 people living on site. So we did everything from generate all our own power and water.

 

And we had restaurant, bar, housekeeping, short-term accommodation, long-term accommodation. So quite a varied and challenging role. But then made the move come back to Australia, and get involved in the property and got involved in the residential side.

 

And I think, you know, had I had known what buyer agents were a thing at the time, would I have gone straight into it? Maybe. But I do genuinely think that the experience that I had from the sales side, I think made a positive impact in being a buyer’s agent as well. And I can see things from both sides of the fence.

 

I understand the process from the real estate agent side of things, you know, especially when we’re talking about things like auctions, because I’ve run auctions, that’s how I used to sell property. So I know what they’re doing, I know why they’re doing it.

 

I know what goes into the psyche of a vendor, and can really help add value in that situation. And I think that the agents that I deal with can appreciate that too. Because I’m not just green, I’m actually adding value.

Jessica Reynolds:

So do you ever use your auction voice?

Jacob Butler:

Look, there are a few auctioneers in Brisbane and I don’t think they turn their auction voice off. I wasn’t an auctioneer, but I did run auctions for the properties I sold. No, there’s no rolling R’s. I can’t do the preamble or whatever it is that they do.

Jessica Reynolds:

Kind of disappointing, but very cool about hearing about Papa New Guinea. I didn’t know that.

Jacob Butler:

Yeah, that’s, I actually lived in Papa New Guinea when I was younger as well, so I’ve had family up there for a really long time.

Jessica Reynolds:

Wow. And so, oh, okay. I just didn’t know.

Jacob Butler:

It’s another world. P and G is another world in general.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah. How do you even go from, that’s so culturally different to then, I guess, and you’ve always been in Brisbane then, so Brisbane, Papua New Guinea or?

Jacob Butler:

Yeah, so lived in Papua New Guinea when I was younger. Then we moved to Indonesia and then from Indonesia went to school on the Sunshine Coast. And when I finished school, moved to Brisbane straight after. Yeah. And then I think when I was 20, I went back up and worked in P and G for a year. Back to Australia, studied and then was in Brisbane and then had that opportunity to go back to P and G.

 

So I was up there for three years. So having grown up in P and G, having family there, you know, we stick up on the school holidays and things all the time. And I think that’s one of the advantages I had when working up there was that a lot of what we did in P and G was managing the cultural aspects of the job.

 

You know, there’s a lot of different cultures inside of P and G. There’s something like 800 native languages spoken up there and everybody’s got a different way of doing things. So part of my job is to try to bring people together and make it all work.

Jessica Reynolds:

So basically what you do as a buyer’s agent.

Jacob Butler:

Yeah. Bring everybody together, get everybody’s ideas, and make it happen.

Jessica Reynolds:

That’s really cool. So why would somebody use a buyer’s agent rather than just going and finding their own property, I guess, or just using a real estate agent? Like what is that difference between a real estate agent and a buyer agent if you could put it in, you know, a sentence or two?

Jacob Butler:

Yeah, sure. So when somebody’s selling a property, you know, 99% of the time they use a sales agent to help them through that process. What we’ve found is that buyers in the market are generally underrepresented. They don’t actually have somebody on their side advocating for them. So our jobs essentially to level the playing field, give more power back to the buyer through the process.

 

We do that by A, getting access to more property, understanding the true value of property, understanding their agents and how they work. And also being trained in how to negotiate, you know, essentially the sales agent’s got a trained negotiator working for them. Why shouldn’t the buyer have the same?

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Jessica Reynolds:

I don’t know.

Jacob Butler:

That’s essentially where we exist, level the playing field, give more power back to the buyer and to help navigate that process.

Jessica Reynolds:

And so what areas do you specialize in as far as being a buyer’s agent? I assume you niche down.

Jacob Butler:

Yeah, so whilst we are buying, I guess across Brisbane, and we do buy things on the Sunshine Coast as well, if I had to say, you know, there’s a core area of expertise, it would be what I call the inner East or inner south of Brisbane. So everything from Bulimba, Hawthorne, Camp Hill, Cooper, Norman Park, Seven Hills, Tarik, Indy Holland Park, those sorts of areas. That’s where we probably buying 70, 80% of the stuff that we buy.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah. Is that based on your clientele?

Jacob Butler:

Yeah. It’s based on the clientele. It’s also, I guess I’ve lived in the area for a long time, was a sales in those same areas prior to being a buyers agent as well. I’ve formed what I’d like to think are good relationships with people in those areas as well. So when there are people looking to buy in those areas and they’re struggling to buy, yeah, they reach out.

Jessica Reynolds:

So if I was looking in say Bulimba, I would then look for you rather than being like, I need a buyer’s agent and then you taking me there?

Jacob Butler:

Correct. I’d say probably depends, but somewhere between 30 to 40% of the business that I do is referral from past clients or even repeat clients. So, you know, if I’ve bought for somebody and bought a house in Coorperoo, naturally when they’re talking with their friends and they’re like, oh, you know, how did you find your house?

 

We got it off market. I need a buyer’s agent. You know, it, those conversations start to come from that. And having done it now for over three years which is sort of, it’s been building over time as well.

Jessica Reynolds:

So repeat clients in three years, are they moving because they’re upgrading or are they just buying more and more?

Jacob Butler:

There are repeat clients that are, I guess investors buying multiple properties. I have had developers buying multiple properties. I’ve also had developers buy a property and then we buy their principle price of residence as well. So yeah, even in the last 12 months, there’s been a couple of purchases we’ve done for clients. We’ve, you know, bought multiple times in the last 12 months for certain clients.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah, no, you definitely you’ve touched on there that you are doing work for some developers and obviously, you know, knowing that you contact me every now and then you’re quite a savvy buyer’s agent. And not everybody understands town planning as well as you do. You seem to know exactly when you need a town planner and when you don’t. You don’t harass me with the, I don’t know, I guess the questions that really shouldn’t be coming my way. You always ask the questions when they do need to be answered.

Jacob Butler:

We try to stay really informed and I guess know the general principles around what’s okay and what’s not. But at the same time, I don’t pretend to be a town planner. Likewise, I don’t pretend to be a solicitor as well. You know, if we’ve got clauses that need to be inserted in the contracts, I don’t make them up. I go to the solicitor and get the right information.

 

You know, people are paying us for the knowledge and value that we can provide, but just as we are being brought in to add value for other people, we know when to refer that out to others as well, you know, for other professional services.

Jessica Reynolds:

Definitely. I think that’s wise, especially as a town planner. I know that too.

Jacob Butler:

Yeah, and just answering your question with the developers as well. So I’d say 80% of what we buy is primary residence property. The other part is a mix between 20% of, you know, it fluctuates with investment and development stock. What we have seen an increase in, in the last probably six to 12 months, is more developers reaching out for more unique sites.

 

And not just your standard splitters or your single knockdowns, but also looking for larger things like you know, eight plus lot subdivisions, childcare center sites, medical center sites, you know, at larger scale. What I call probably more commercial developments. And because of that we’ve now put on the dedicated person inside our team to service that as well.

Jessica Reynolds:

So why would developers be reaching out now or more often? Is it because there’s low stock? Is it because they’re growing their capacity? Why would a developer?

Jacob Butler:

It’s a combination of the two. So definitely stock is low across the board. So you know, when someone’s a developer and they’re not a mom and dad developer, you know, they don’t have a day job and they’re doing development on the side. Finding property to develop is their bread and butter. So if they can’t find stock to develop, well then they don’t make money.

 

So we’ve seen developers come to us in the past where, you know, they want to be doing four sites a year and they’ve only found one profitable one in the last 12 months. Well if they’re not doing enough volume, they’re not making money. So in those instances, they’ve come to us to help, well, get help to actually find sites.

 

So they’re really good at building. They might be a builder and doing that part of it, but what they don’t have is the relationships and the access to property that we do.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah. No, that’s really cool. That was really well articulated actually. I wasn’t really sure why. because my understanding is a lot of developers go and source their sites. But obviously in this current market, I’d imagine it’s quite difficult. Like what are you seeing? What have you been seeing over the last six months?

Jacob Butler:

The really interesting thing is a lot of developers assume that they’ve got great relationships with agents because you know, agents do call them from time to time, but the reality is they’re not getting access to everything in the market. A good example of that is a local developer that I just bought for recently, very active in the inner east.

 

I know he’s contacting agents all the time as well, but probably just doesn’t have the same access and level of connection with the agents that I do. The property that I ended up finding for him was in Camp Hill, 600 square meter lot. Knocked down and the agent that we found that through was an agent on the north side. So there’s no way that he would’ve found that on his own.

 

So essentially we are making sure we leave no stone unturned when we’re searching for things. And if he was just doing it on his own, he’s got his projects to worry about. He can’t be on the ground calling agents every single day or out there door knocking and finding opportunities.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah. No, that’s really cool. Very cool. I like it. So what are you seeing in the property market outside of that? Obviously we’ve touched on developers. 80% of your work is more those single residential. What are you actually seeing happening in Brisbane? Do you have people coming interstate more or is it local buyers that are just needing more help to stay in the area?

Jacob Butler:

So yes to both. The short answer with that is that we are seeing more interstate inquiry and more buyers looking to relocate from interstate. We look at, I guess net migration from Sydney and Melbourne is quite high. That being said though I recently looked back at all the purchases we’ve made in the last 12 months for clients, and 92% of our buyers have been local buying local.

 

So yes, there’s an increase in demand from interstate buyers, but local buyers are also struggling too. Partly because there are more interstate buyers also coming in, but also there’s just low stock. And I think a lot of people last year during Covid went, you know what, if we’re gonna be stuck at home, we want a bigger yard, or we want a nicer house, you know, they’ve thought about their priorities and thought about what they want.

 

Also, we’ve also seen a lot of people that had saved money to go on holidays or have weddings or do those sorts of things, have that little bit of extra cash that they now want to splurge on, you know, upgrading the house instead. So I think that’s one of the drivers behind it too. Okay.

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Jessica Reynolds:

Thanks for that. So I’m gonna ask you two questions that are sort of similar. But basically what is your hot tip for people wanting to get into the property market, other than using a buyer’s agent? Yeah, that can’t be your answer.

Jacob Butler:

No, no. Very self-serving. No, look, I think there’s a lot of things that buyers can do in general to help themselves. Certainly doing their research is a really big part of it. We see buyers all the time where they don’t do enough research into what things are actually worth, and essentially come into it, either low balling things all the time and then just constantly missing property.

 

Sometimes it’s just understanding what things are actually worth. Like everybody wants a bargain, but there’s no point coming in so low, that you’re just constantly missing property. You know, a couple of examples recently I’ve got a current client that we’re looking for and he just sold his property and it’s a very early ones property.

 

I’m talking around the 1.1 mark, but the difference between the lowest offer and the highest offer was $300,000. So there’s no way in hell that, that person coming in and offering, you know, 800,000 on a property that’s worth one point, one’s gonna get it. So if they’re serious about buying, they need to understand where the value really lies.

 

And also getting serious about their offers. So getting their finance approved ahead of time, understanding how to do due diligence, not putting in lengthy clauses around things because vendors want certain teachers as much as buyers do. So when there’s two offers on the table, let’s say, you know, both offers are $700,000, one’s got a 14 day finance clause and one’s got a seven, well they’re gonna take that one with a seven.

 

Likewise, they might have two offers on the table. One’s 710,000 with a 21 day finance clause and one’s 700,000 with a seven day finance clause, nine times out of 10, they take the 700,000. They take less money for certainty. So if buyers have got their act together, they can generally do better with their offers as well.

Jessica Reynolds:

No, that’s cool. And what about development sites? So I guess that’s good for both developers and for Home purchases, but would there be additional advice for?

Jacob Butler:

The advice is the same, but really around doing your due diligence. So developers are generally more savvy around property prices than some of your average buyers. But getting that understanding as to what you can do with it. And again, not putting in lengthy due diligence clauses as well.

 

I think gone are the days where developers can come in and just whack down a 30 day DD or a 45 day DD on a very simple purchase. If they want to be serious. They need to have really good understanding as to what’s achievable. Have a town planner that they can talk to.

 

So when they’re ready to make an offer, they can do, you know I guess a pre-purchase advice. Like, I’ve come to you for the same as well. So we’re going, here’s the site that we are looking at. What are the parameters? Does it work? Obviously there’s things that need to be worked out in the future, but can we do in general what we are looking to do?

 

If so, well then we don’t need to put in a 21 day DD clause. Let’s just make our offer really attractive with regards to price and terms so that we can secure it. And coincidentally, the particular property I’ve got in mind that we did purchase where I came to, we got that pre lodgment advice.

 

Our offer was exactly the same as the other developer that was trying to buy the site. The difference was we did a seven day DD clause, they did a 21 day DD clause. They also put in a really low deposit amount, whereas we put in a high deposit.

 

So, you know, we were comfortable that once we were unconditional with the purchase, we were gonna put the deposit forward. But it gave security to the vendor. But also having the shorter DD clause meant that they went, you know what, these guys are really serious. They know this stuff. I’ve got confidence that they’re gonna go forward with it.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah, no, that’s really good advice. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard that elsewhere. No, that’s very valuable. So my last question for today is, what would be your ultimate development project? If you had no constraints, it’s something that you are gonna put your name on the door, what would it be? Who would you be serving? Would it be for you? Would it be for other people? Would it be for a type of demographic? You know, what would this project be, your ultimate?

Jacob Butler:

That’s a really tricky question. I think that there’s a few, and I haven’t gone in depth and, and studied what some of these guys are doing, but certainly there’s a couple of developers out of Melbourne, like Tim Gerner, Jonathan Hallanan, I think it is from BPM. You know, I think they’re creating really great products.

 

So they’re not small scale developers. These guys on the island, you know, doing high rises. But they did start small. They started doing duplexes and then scaled their way up from there. But the thing that I think is exciting about that is, I guess you’re having that ability to put a stamp on what’s going on in the industry.

 

Probably somebody, if we bring it back to Brisbane, who’s doing that really, really well, is Aria. People always hear me raving about the product at Aria. But I think in the market, you know, we talk about high rise developments or large apartment living, there’s different tiers of developers and there’s different tiers of product that are out there in the market.

 

And I think somebody like Aria is actually putting a really quality product out there in terms of the finish of the actual apartments themselves, but also the amenity that’s going in there. And if you look at some of the projects they’ve now got going like I think it’s Tree House and an Urban Village. Like they’ve got some really amazing things that have come out of it as well. So yeah.

Jessica Reynolds:

Tree House will be really cool.

Jacob Butler:

I think that that’s ideal eventually, we were worrying about the buying at this point in time.

Jessica Reynolds:

It’s alright. It’s just something.

Jacob Butler:

One step at a time.

Jessica Reynolds:

Okay. So if somebody wants to contact you, how do they contact you?

Jacob Butler:

Yeah, so multiple ways to get in touch, but probably the easiest is to check out our website and if they want to organize a time to catch up, there’s stacks of links on there in terms of being able to book a time. It’s probably the simplest because it’s got direct access to my calendar and they can book a time that works with them.

 

Generally when we speak with somebody for the first time you know, it might just be a very quick five to 10 minute phone call. I can get a pretty good feel straight away whether I think somebody needs our help or not. Likewise if I feel like I can add value or not you know. If I don’t feel like I can actually add value to what they’re doing, it doesn’t really work for anyone.

 

So we can quickly rule that out. If I feel like we can, then we organize a time to catch up either in person or, or a little bit lengthier and just go through things in a bit more detail and explain how buyers agents work. Because buyer’s agents are not for everyone. But I like to try to give as much information as possible so people can work that out for themselves.

Jessica Reynolds:

Yeah, that’s great. And I definitely encourage everyone to go to your website, which is www.huntergather.com.au. I really like it. It’s really aesthetically pleasing. Everyone should just look at it for that at least. Oh, thank you for your time today.

Jacob Butler:

Thank you.

Jessica Reynolds:

Thanks for joining me on today’s episode of Creating Australia. Don’t forget to subscribe and join us on our socials to keep updated on our latest content. On Creating Australia, I love talking about everything to do with people, property, and development. So if you have something you’d like me to explore, let me know by searching, Creating Australia on Instagram or searching Jessica Reynolds on LinkedIn.