50 years of Laing+Simmons: Bart Doff looks back
Tue April 11, 2017
Over the past 50 years of Laing+Simmons, our team has been fortunate enough to have some incredibly talented members, with few exemplifying that as much as Bart Doff. As Principal at Laing+Simmons Double Bay, Bart has been part of the L+S family for almost 40 years. For 30 of those years, he was the office's top sales person, recording over a billion dollars in personal sales for the five years ending in 2003.
So, how has the property market changed under Bart's watch? How did he get to where he is today? And how has Laing+Simmons developed over the years?
We sat down with him to find out.
Laing+Simmons only had one office in Kings Cross in 1979 when Bart was offered a job.
Bart's journey to the world of real estate was quite different to that of most agents. After graduating with a degree in civil and mining engineering, he was recruited by Anglo American and sent to South Africa to work as an engineer in the gold mining industry. After seven years, Bart decided that it was time for a change and returned to Sydney. After coming home, Bart pursued his love of squash as a professional, while also coaching a range of players including the property developer Ian Hayson. Through Ian, Bart was put in touch with one of the founders of Laing+Simmons, Spencer Simmons, who had established the company in 1967 with Doug Laing.
Still a relatively young business, Laing+Simmons only had one office in Kings Cross in 1979 when Bart was offered a job, but he vividly recalls the hustle and bustle of his first experience in real estate.
"It was a really busy office, there were 13 or 14 sales people, along with a sales manager, and I didn't know what I was doing," he said. "I winged it to start with, staying late and working for longer than everybody else and within six or seven months I was the leading sales person."
With this huge success, Bart's thoughts quickly turned to an office of his own, initially thinking that he'd stay in the Kings Cross area. Spencer Simmons however, had a different idea.
"Spencer mentioned that they were thinking of franchising and asked if I would consider one. And I said, yes, I'll take Double Bay!" remembers Bart.
Laing+Simmons Double Bay
Bart was drawn to Double Bay for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he grew up in the Eastern Suburbs and knows the area well. From a more practical perspective, he also recognised that if he was going to sell real estate, he may as well do it at the top end of the market.
While Bart believes that a good agent should be able to sell a house regardless of it's list price, he does recall some of the challenges that came with building an office from scratch. In the days before CoreLogic RP Data it was much harder to estimate value and confirm information about a property, but the same hard work that had served him well in Kings Cross paid off, with the Laing+Simmons Double Bay office becoming a roaring success.
"At that point in Double Bay there were a few really big agents who dominated the market, so it was hard to get listings. When I walked into a property I had nobody to bounce ideas off, and no idea if it was worth $300,000, $600,000 or $900,000. I decided to try and win clients based on the fact that I would work harder than anybody else. Often I'd be staying in the office until 10 at night making calls. It was a matter of getting my name out, and after a while I had people recommending me and getting repeat business. There are people who think real estate's easy, but it all comes down to how much you're willing to put in and how well you get on with people."
While the market may have changed a lot, Bart still believes that the basic lessons that served him well in Double Bay are critical for agents, regardless of the types of property they are selling.
In the 1980s, auctions were only just beginning to come into the market, and a lot of buyers were quite scared of the concept.
Boosting the auction system
One of the biggest impacts that Bart has had during his career has been the way he's embraced and pushed auctions as a great way to sell property. Back in the 1980s, auctions were only just beginning to come into the market, and a lot of buyers were quite scared of the concept. In an attempt to push the process, Spencer Simmons told Bart that for every vendor he signed up to an auction, he'd get $100.
Within the first week, Bart signed up 10 different sellers for auctions, on the basis that Laing+Simmons would subsidise marketing costs. This experience, and subsequent success that he'd seen at auctions led Bart to believe auctions were the best way to sell property, and helped to kick start the Laing+Simmons auction system as we know it today, helping vendors get the very best prices for their properties.
Today, Bart is less involved with the day-to-day running of Laing+Simmons Double Bay, but he's still deeply aware of the different factors at play in his favoured suburb, and continues to have a keen interest in the goings on in greater Sydney's real estate market. He's been an enormous part of the Laing+Simmons story, and we can only hope to have many more agents like him in the future.
For more information on all things Sydney property, contact Laing+Simmons today.