The Disability Sector Needs More Buyer’s Agents

by Ben Handler

October 13, 2020

Ben Handler:
Welcome to the Buyer’s Agent Institute Show. The purpose of the show is to bring awareness to buyer’s agents to bring awareness around the career opportunities that the buyer’s agent sector is providing people to bring awareness around the value that buyer’s agents bring to help people buying property. The goal of the show is to strip back and dive into the remarkable journeys and stories of buyer’s agents who are paving the way forward in one of the fastest growing sectors in real estate in Australia. Right now. Our guest today is Chris Skurrie based in Northern New South Wales all the way in Newcastle. Chris has a remarkable story. Chris has over 20 years experience in investing in property personally for himself, not just an investment related style of acquisition but also in primary residence purchases. Chris has also got decades of experience working specifically in the disability sector, focusing on mental health, focusing on disability support and in the accommodation services arena.

Ben Handler:
Chris obviously has such a strong passion for property and buying investment properties that he has looked at that and also assessed his passion in the disability space and looked at integrating the two and he is now formed his buyer’s agent business called C and M Property Partners. I’m really excited to dive into Chris’s journey and I look forward to speaking with him today. Welcome Chris. Thanks for having me. We can do a virtual handshake. So Chris, I, I remember when we spoke 15 months ago and you mentioned to me that you worked in the disability sector. I want to take the opportunity now just to obviously dive into that a bit deeper to actually understand how did you land in that space and why did you go that go there?

Chris Skurrie:
Yeah, I guess I’m Ben. I’ve always had a passion for helping people. And when I first entered in the disability, so there was, because I had a a passion for wanting to be working with people and helping them to succeed in whatever it is that they’re doing. So why, why I first moved into the disability, I was because I grew up in a, in an area that was sort of a low socioeconomic area. And there was lots of people. My first exposure to disability was a couple of people in the school actually as a younger child and I really connected with them quite well. So that really drove me to get a better understanding of how to communicate and how to support people with disabilities. So that encouraged me to want to support people with disabilities in the early stages of my life. And so I became a teacher’s aid in a, in a special school to start off with. And then I moved slowly, progressively through accommodation, supporting mental health and also supporting people in sort of a case management coordination role. And over the last, I would have to say the last 10 to 15 years I’ve been working for non-government and government organizations. Really, I guess helping people to become more independent in their own home.

Ben Handler:
It’s amazing. Yeah. I really respect and admire the work that you do. And obviously I’m not in that space, but I do also hear that there’s a massive shortage of supply of stock for disabled people to move into. There’s all these service providers that want to find stock. So there’s a bit of a budding heads going on there. What’s your view on all this?

Chris Skurrie:
Yeah, since the NDIS has commenced a few years ago or about five, six years ago now, there was a real competitiveness with providers wanting to, I guess get more clients and so they can continue to, to be fun to providers. One of the challenges is for providers to have the expertise around disability and the real estate market. So engaging with agents and understand the, the rental process. So a lot of service providers find it really difficult to, I guess, sell to real estate agents that the benefits of actually having a person with a disability in their own home. You know, there’s longterm tenancy, there’s support for the individual. So as a, as a landlord you really have quite good security with having people with disabilities in your home, having a support agency to support them. And most commonly because it’s so hard for providers to secure accommodation, they tend to prefer to lease. So and they are also prepared to usually pay that little bit extra rent to secure the property. So as a vendor, as a landlord, it’s, it’s really quite a good good investment as well.

Ben Handler:
Especially now with obviously investors are concerned around tenant security Australia wide right now. And I mean indice obviously is National Disability Insurance cheme. For anyone listening who’s obviously not familiar, but I guess if someone is looking to buy an investment property going through NDIS and finding a tenant through obviously the disability space is going to provide that security and the yield is high. What, what type of yields are you looking at?

Chris Skurrie:
Oh, it depends on the title of I guess properties. So there’s the specialist disability accommodation, which that, that can range from, you know, anywhere between 10 to 20% property yields. However, there’s some associated risks around that too, if you, if you’re not with the right service and right provider. So there’s that’s a thing to be mindful of. But I think, you know, on average, if it’s the general property market, you can get around 6% returns. And so I think that’s, that’s, that’s a pretty good return. They net or gross, that’s net. Yeah. So it’s, it’s, you know, it’s good returns. I think other thing is to keep in mind is that there’s so many people in hospitals that are needing to get out of hospital and covert is a prime example of that where there’s a big push to get people out of hospitals because it actually costs the government about state governments around 10,000 or a thousand dollars a day to keep a person in hospital.

Chris Skurrie:
So hospitals are very motivated to get their patients out of hospital. And so that’s where there’s a real big push to, to support people with high physical support needs in, in the public space as well. It’s amazing. And talking about capital growth to these properties, what does that look like? Yeah, so I think, you know as a buyer’s agent, I still focus, my primary focus is focusing on buying for individuals in areas that still have good growth in the area. So my primary focus is about getting the same as I would for any property band, you know, like really focusing on growth around sort of a good yields and also, you know, looking at areas that are closest sort of, you know, transport and and schools and shops and so forth. So in terms of growth, it’s, I’m looking around about the five, 6% markers as a minimum sort of, you know yearly growth.

Ben Handler:
Are you looking at purchasing this type of stock, the disability stock for your clients down the track? I mean, is that, is that an intention?

Chris Skurrie:
That’s my goal. At the moment I’m just buying for general investors and first home buyers. My goal and intention is to work with the sector the disability sector and also investors to primarily focus invest in, in the disability space as well. Yeah. And I’ve, you’ve been investing for 20 odd years. Why did you start getting, obviously you would have been a young guy. Yeah, I was 19 years of age 19. So what drove you to start doing that? At that age? I had some motivation where my, my parents told me not to buy a house. So 19 years of age I was your typical 19 year old was a bit defiant. And chose to take the leap of building my own.

Chris Skurrie:
First home I was working four jobs in the disability sector actually and really passion, passion, diploma and home. So that sort of drove me to, to purchase my own home and later on I decided to to rent that out. And more recently, a couple of years ago we bought that for 150,000 and sold a 540,000. So I bought that for 150, 19 years ago. 20 years ago. Wow. And we were, yeah, we sold that for 540. So it’s been a capital growth. Good, good growth. Yeah. In between Melbourne and Geelong. So it’s always a really good location, so. Okay. Excellent. So are you buying a, have you got a national style of business model at the moment? I’m focusing on new South Wales and obviously I’m from Victoria, so that’s a, that’s a space that I’m very comfortable in investing. So they’re, they’re the two probably main areas that I’m focusing on at the moment.

Ben Handler:
Yeah. So talk to me about CNM Property Partners. That is a investment slash owner occupier style buyer’s agent business. Is that correct?

Chris Skurrie:
Yep. So it’s a, it’s a business where I am supporting first home, first home buyers but also investors to, to purchase their first or second or property to build on their portfolio.

Ben Handler:
Yeah. How has the journey been? So you obviously, I remember we spoke around 15 months ago, you came to start your business. You bet you’d be at your buyer’s agent business. You’ve started that business. Are you loving it? Are you finding anything challenging? Maybe just, I’d love to hear, I mean, I, so your experience around it all.

Chris Skurrie:
Yeah. I’m Ben, I think I’ve spoken to you a couple of times about my recent experience. It really gives me a good adrenaline and buzz when I have the opportunity to work with, with a buyer to similar to working in the disability. So do you really get to know what a person’s needs is and what their goals and aspirations are. And to be able to successfully assist that person through the property buying journey is a great feeling. I’ve so far been able to assist people to gain $50,000 in the equity upfront with their first purchase. Yeah, I had a of a home buyer recently that was going to make an emotional purchase of an extra spending, an extra 50,000 on their property. Just because I loved the property and I was able to save them $50,000 on that purchase as well. So it’s a really good feeling to be able to to educate people on the way and support people through the buying process when they, they don’t really have that sort of understanding of the property sector.

Ben Handler:
Um, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s it is a very fulfilling experience servicing a client. Obviously if you’re getting that $50,000 equity uplift. And I guess I want it to be more into when you obviously get into servicing the disobey the disability sector to find them homes, it seems like that’s going to bring a whole new energy to the experience because as, as as we mentioned earlier, like there, there is clearly an issue with finding stock and finding homes for the disabled people to live in. So when you transition into that, I mean that’s, I foresee that being a whole all another world for you.

Chris Skurrie:
Yeah, absolutely. I think the other opportunity in that space is actually supporting families and individuals to have home ownership, which is probably a first in Australia. Firstly in Australia, it’s never really been done. So I’m really looking at focusing on my energy to supporting people to have a shared equity approach with family. So then the longterm for family members is that they know that their family member has secure housing. They own their own home as well. So that’s, that’s my longterm focus as well. Not just working with services but also working with individuals and their families to, to have home ownership, which is a, a big opportunity. Moving forward. How does the property management work in that space for, it’s the same style of management fees? So usually, usually it’s, depending on if it’s specialist disability accommodation.

Chris Skurrie:
So you might have an organization that is managing that property on behalf of the owner. And for, for general sort of property management with, with the service providers they would normally utilize a general real estate agent to do that. My focus is actually working towards being able to specialize also in managing the property moving forward. So because I have an understanding of that relationship work with providers as well. So, well, I mean just with your background being obviously 20 years also in the disability space, like this is going to be the same. This seems like this natural progression for you to integrate the buyer’s agent model. You’ve obviously got a lot of experience buying property. I think you’ve got around seven, six properties. Correct? Yeah. And I mean, and then integrating that into the disability space because there’s, there’s, it’s, there’s such a demand for someone to come in there or people to come in into this space and put together deals and project, manage the process and make it smooth and efficient and seamless for the client.

Ben Handler:
Yeah. You’re based in U S you’re based in Newcastle, so the model that you’re running now, are you operating in specific States or is it primarily in New South Wales?

Chris Skurrie:
Primarily new South Wales. I am looking to work with a service in Victoria at the moment in Geelong. And they specialize in doing the specialist housing side of things, had been working with them in collaboration across, they’ve actually built 26 odd properties across Australia, so they’re very experienced in that space as well. So yeah, moving forward, Miami seems to work nationally as well moving this model forward as well.

Ben Handler:
Excellent. And your buyer’s agent business, that seems to have, from what I’ve seen that’s growing quickly, did you expect it to to accelerate this fast?
Chris Skurrie:
No. especially in the last few months Ben it’s been I was, I was a little bit slow to start off with, but in the last few months it’s really progressed and using the strategies that the buyer’s Institute has, has provided to me, you know, with connecting with various different networks has really helped me to to, to get more buyers and, and assist them through the buying process.

Chris Skurrie:
So it’s been I can’t highly recommend that the buyer’s agent Institute course, it’s just, it’s given me so many tools along the way. I think the most important thing is if you put in the effort upfront you can really start to see the results.

Ben Handler:
Yeah. And if it only one thing that we all can control, right? Yup. I appreciate the feedback and I think as, as I say to a lot of people, jump on their show, like starting any new business is challenging. The entrepreneurial ride is always up and down. What do you do to, I mean, you, obviously you’re, you’re working, you’re doing this as on the side. How are you managing stress? What you, what are you, what are you doing in downtime? Like you have any hobbies, what, what’s happening in your other side of your life?

Chris Skurrie:
Yeah, I guess, you know, my family is pretty important to me, so I spend a fair bit of time with my family.

Ben Handler:
I do try and try and take time out to do some relaxation. I’m not a very sporty person. But really I guess connecting with people is something that I really enjoy. So spending time with family and and others is really important to me. But yeah, I guess I come back to my passion around property. I just said something that I really love doing, but I think it’s so important to, to have a balance of maintain your lifestyle as well. It’s really important.

Ben Handler:
So how did people react when you, I guess, announced to you or let’s call it you a circle that you, where you started your business, CNM Property Partners. How did people respond today?

Chris Skurrie:
They thought I was a little bit crazy. Been working in a government organization at a senior executive level.

Ben Handler:
We’ve quite good security as you can imagine. So my family and friends have said, you know, you’re crazy for if you’re doing what you’re doing. But now they’re actually starting to see some results and they’re, I think they’re saying to people, be more positive around that. And seeing that, that I can actually achieve. So I think that just goes to show you know, when you’ve got some negative initial negative negativity around you being able to just push through that and commit, commit to your focus in your goal is so important.

Ben Handler:
Do you think a lot of people just random question get deterred by, let’s just say someone has this idea of let’s say starting a business, it could be advisors, your business or whatever it is, and then they, the people around them in their network have negative, would just maybe don’t believe in them or you know, have, have their own, their own say, which isn’t, for example, positive.

Ben Handler:
Do you think that deters a lot of people from actually giving it a go?

Chris Skurrie:
I think it does. Ben. I think, you know, like even for myself to start off with, I was really, can I actually do this? You know do I have to support her? I mean to be able to do this. But what I did is I surround me myself with positive people. Even outside of my normal inner circle network so I can interviews, you know, local business networking group. That has really helped me around the business side of things because I’m not a business person. So that’s a whole new concept for me. So being able to connect, you know, with accountants, financial advisors business people that have had success is really important. I agree. I try and always hang around people who are like minded in terms of mindset like myself.

Ben Handler:
But I do think it’s important outside to have a group of people that you know, you can just connect with and communicate with and they, they bring you up and they all come from maybe different backgrounds. They bring different perspectives to the table. That’s always, I really resonate with that. Why did you, you mean obviously you didn’t potentially believe maybe that you could do this. Why did you do it? Like what was the real motivating factor for you? Actually, obviously you, you work for a government very secure, probably especially now drink over the most secure. I know you started your business pre covert. However, I want to understand like why did you really start the buyer’s agent business? What was driving you?

Chris Skurrie:
Yeah, I think my, my passion for property. I’ve always loved property. I think having the flexibility to work, you know, my hours is really important to me.

Ben Handler:
Having a family. So, and especially at times like now it’s, it’s a perfect opportunity where I can actually spend time with my kids and help them through schooling and so forth. So for me it was more about, you know, doing something that I really loved. I love what I do in terms of working for the, in the disability sector. But really I guess my, my ultimate passion is combining both of those passions that property and the disabilities together. So this is a perfect opportunity for me to really focus on making myself happy and helping others as well. So that’s, that’s why I really drove to me looking at a business model that could really help me to, to combine both of my passions.

Ben Handler:
Yeah. I’m really excited for you. I think at this next journey for you is going to be really exciting.

Ben Handler:
I know I’m going to be watching it because with my limited understanding around what’s going on the disability space, it’s not something that I focus on, but I do know that it’s very under supported. There needs to be a lot more people on the ground, like yourself helping people buy property. There needs to be a lot more focus put on it. And with your like extensive experience in that space for 20 years, combined with what you have done for yourself, building your own portfolio and what you’re doing now to help others under your new buyer’s agent business. It’s just the perfect mix and it seems like ticking the box in terms of a fulfillment box and happiness box, it seems like it’s going to be an incredible journey for you.

Chris Skurrie:
Absolutely. And I think Ben, the other thing is too, there’s, there isn’t really a service type out like this out there like this.

Chris Skurrie:
There’s the disability sector, they have their expertise, expertise in the disability sector and there’s buyer’s agents that have expertise in buying property. So to be able to support people with a disability, to buy their own home to support their family members and also help providers to really achieve independence for people with disabilities is what I’m really excited about.

Ben Handler:
That’s awesome. Where would you like to see the disability space in the next, let’s say, five years in regards to housing? Like where, what would be an ideal style of a vision outcome that you’d love to say? Where it’s up to?

Chris Skurrie:
I think most importantly been finding out what individuals themselves see as being a home to them. You know, there’s always been these group home models where people with disabilities have had to fit with him. Particular homes with people that they don’t really like or don’t know.

Chris Skurrie:
My, I think the opportunity here is to really connect both the disability market and the real estate market to see the benefits of actually renting property or or home ownership for people with disabilities. And so I see in the next five years there’s going to be a real shift in different models of accommodation moving forward and, and different types of innovation that the government will have to move towards to really support more people with disabilities in, in becoming more independent. So that’s, that’s what I like to see.

Ben Handler:
Yeah. Really inspired by the work you’re doing. I’m definitely going to be watching you. It was awesome to have you here. Where can people who are watching this find you?

Chris Skurrie:
Um on my websites, C&M Property Partners or I’m on Facebook_PropertyPartners. I appreciate your time. It was awesome connecting and I’m super excited as I said, to see where the future takes you in this space.

Chris Skurrie:
Thanks Ben.

Ben Handler:
That’s been awesome. Coming in and having the opportunity to speak session was awesome. I’m really inspired by seeing Chris’s journey unfold. I spoke to him 15 months ago and hearing his journey, how he built a portfolio of six. He was working in the disability space. He wanted to turn buying property into a career and he’s now activated that he servicing clients. You heard some of his stories and then he’s got this intention now to move more into the space of servicing the disability space specifically for his buyer’s agent business. And for those of you that are listening, you may want to look at this as a strategy, as a potential investment vehicle moving forward, and you can look into the national disability insurance game if you’re unfamiliar with it NDIS and just read about it and see if it’s something that could interest you. The yields are very attractive. The net yields for tenant security’s. Obviously, there’s a big tick there, especially right now during COVID. So I hope you found today useful. Checkout Chris at C&M property partners. Check out him out. You can go any social channels as well. See you next week.

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