Expert in focus - Ben Handler
A passion for property from an early age and a talent for identifying blue chip locations were some of the key driving forces behind Ben Handler’s journey from young property investor to one of the top buyer's agents in Australia.
Ben invested in his first property when he was only 20 years old. Initially, he wanted an investment that would create wealth over time, without having to deal with the volatility of something like the stock market. In his early days, Ben’s key focus was on purchasing the best possible properties within his budget while at the same time allowing him to organically grow his portfolio over time.
Early on I was looking to play the long game. The fact that you could buy an investment property and if you bought it well you could use that equity to buy again. I think the whole notion of leverage was also really attractive to me.
In growing his portfolio in the beginning, Ben realised that location mattered, particularly in a market downturn which would always inevitably occur throughout the various stages of a property cycle.
“I was looking at just buying in blue-chip areas to begin with, so very non-speculative. I was looking for suburbs that were just always in high demand, even if the market dropped. I was looking at what was the worst case scenario. If something happened, let’s say the market dropped by 10%, 15%, 20%, how would the suburb be affected?”
“In terms of properties, I started off with apartments and I was looking for building security. Low strata costs.
“An apartment that just ticked a lot of the boxes. Not too many flights of stairs to go up, good natural light for tenants and I always liked big places with cosmetic renovation opportunities. So being able to do a reno at a very low cost, while being able to appreciate capital growth and also appreciate your rental yield. So small cosmetic renovations was a key thing for me.”
Over time as Ben’s portfolio grew, he also expanded the areas in which he invested in. He started in Sydney and then grew to hold properties all over the country. However, he never waned from his core principles of identifying great locations that always have high levels of demand.
Ben made a savvy decision to move into a full-time career in property as a buyers agent after a trip to the US, where he saw a vastly different real estate model to what we currently have here in Australia.
“I went to the USA and realised that well, over 80% of people in the US have a buyer’s agent. I felt like it was very heavily unweighted toward buyers here in Australia so that’s what really prompted me to get into the field when I was still in my early 20’s.”
“I never understood why buyers consulted and communicated with a real estate agent when the real estate agents work for the vendor and the real estate agent is legally bound to get the vendor the highest price. So I think for me it never stacked up as to why buyers, didn’t have independent representation on their side.
Ben went on to found one of Australia's leading buyer’s agencies, Cohen Handler and has been a driving force behind the growth of the industry here in Australia. However, Ben still sees so much more potential for investors and homebuyers, to use buyer's agents in the future.
As a result, Ben created the Buyer’s Agent Institute, which helps people in Australia start their journey to becoming a buyer's agent. The Buyer’s Agent Institute is an online eLearning platform, which helps people with a passion for property, become a buyer’s agent.
“Buyer’s agents are still in a very infant stage in the lifecycle of the real estate profession. So there’s not a lot of information if you want to become a buyer’s agent. For example, what’s it like and what’s the processes you need to follow and how do you run your business and where do you find your customers?”
“There was nothing available in the marketplace that was helping buyer’s agents or helping people understand whether it was the right career option for them. So the Institute’s fully focused on helping people turn buying property into a career and just upscaling and optimising their skillsets once they become one.”
The process of purchasing property in Australia has been the same for many decades now, but Ben believes that as the industry evolves, there’s huge potential for this new field to continue to grow.
“I think the real estate process has been very monotonous in the sense of you go on realestate.com.au or you go to domain.com.au and you look at a property and you go through that standard journey that you’ve been going through for 30 or 40 years. So I think things are changing now where people have the opportunity to engage a buyer’s agent.”
“I think it’s a very exciting time for people who are passionate about buying property and they want to start monetising their passion. And I think there’s a huge opportunity for people to explore this career opportunity whilst it’s not saturated.”
“There are around 70,000 plus registered real estate agents in Australia versus less than 400 buyer’s agents. So the opportunity in this space is massive.”