Surviving and thriving after a market downturn
If there is anyone who knows how to rise above the rubble and carnage of a market crash, it’s 4825 Realty’s Stephanie Uppman. The managing licensee had to draw down on positivity, resilience and a whole lot of grit when Mount Isa’s resources investment boom collapsed, and mine owner Glencore announced that 224 jobs would go.
At a time where it would’ve been reasonable for Uppman to crumble or quit, she stepped up to the plate and offered a platform of positivity not only for her clients, but for ‘The Isa’ community in general. Here is how she managed to survive, and thrive, after a market downturn.
Stephanie Uppman, licensee and residential sales agent at 4825 Realty, attributes the severity of the downturn to the dependency most Mount Isa residents have on mining as a source of income.
“In Mount Isa, we don’t have a lot of other income sources surrounding us, unlike for example Emerald that has agriculture as a fallback,” says Uppman.
The sales agent explains that the downturn significantly affected her operation of 4825 Realty on several fronts.
“During a mining crisis you lose staff as they may relocate due to their partners losing their employment, sales agents lose their income due to fewer property sales, rents lower and higher vacancy rates which affects your management commission that you need for operating costs and staff wages.”
Despite losing eight of her thirteen staff, Uppman says that the agency survived due to staff adaptability and team support.
“You have staff that need to learn to adapt to tasks that weren’t originally in their job description and you need a good team who are willing to assist each other and help keep each other motivated,” says Uppman.
According to her team, a supportive environment was critical to remaining motivated in the wake of the collapse.
“I approached my staff for their opinion and the collective answer was ‘the team that we’ve created’,” she says.
“They said that the relationship our small group has and the fact we support each other and are there for each other on the bad days is what has kept them going during this time.”
Over the past five years, Uppman has witnessed a loss of confidence amongst landlords and investors. The sales agent says that by drawing on her personal experience, she was able to provide reassurance to clients.
“I personally am an investor and an owner-occupier and I have been more than happy to share my experience with [clients],” she says.
“Informing landlords that I personally am not concerned and am not considering selling any of my homes was a reassurance to many of them.
“The message I wanted to get across to the landlord’s in these conversations was that investments in a mining town can be volatile, but it always seems to bounce back. You just need to be patient and the higher returns can be worth it in the end.”
Uppman says that despite the mainly negative impact the downturn had on the Mount Isa community, the fluctuation provided opportunities to first home buyers and local builders.
“It was the perfect time for renters to get their own home, and that was the majority of the sales we have had over the past few years,” she says.
“The past few years, purchasers were wanting to buy cheaper and renovate themselves.
“Local builders, who had been in town for 30 plus years, could see the potential and took advantage of the great opportunity to increase their portfolios.”
Uppman says the key to 4825 Realty’s survival was fixing their focus on maintaining and managing their rent roll.
“Our main goal over the past few years has been our rent roll, it was all about streamlining our business and efficiencies of our procedures,” she says.
“Every good agent understands that your rent roll is our backbone as the sales market fluctuates constantly and is not dependable.”
Uppman’s agency is now slowly turning their focus back to sales, as positivity returns to the Mount Isa market, with rental vacancies tightening, rents increasing and house prices rising.
“[We] are expecting the second half of 2019 to see an increase in sales and we want to be prepared to match the market demand when it happens,” she says.
“It’s definitely been hard and stressful five years so far, and I believe the next five are going to be just as hard but on the busy, exciting and positive side.”
Uppman says that historically, Mount Isa has experienced downturns in the past, and that confidence and investors always return to the community.
However, she does have some words of advice for buyers and investors considering purchasing in Mount Isa or other mining towns.
“This is not the first downturn and it won’t be the last,” she says.
“Mining towns will generally have a downturn once every 10 years or so. However, most downturns are not as dramatic and not as extended as this one has been for us.
“Buyers and investors looking to invest in a mining town, need to do their background research and be confident and understand fluctuations and the opportunities that can arise in some downturns.”