The Upshot Podcast – Episode 3: Matt Scafidi
Host: Ben Williams, Head of Investor Relations at Homely
Guest: Matt Scafidi – Founder & Director of Abode Advocacy Group
The Upshot by Homely invites you into honest conversations with the entrepreneurs, challengers and longstanding legends shaping the real estate industry today.
Matt Scafidi has worked his way to becoming a household name in the Mitcham area over the last decade. Starting a new career in real estate in his late thirties, Matt took up his first real estate sales job at Woodards, then moved on to partner with Noel Jones, Jellis Craig and eventually open his own business on the other side of the industry – Abode Advocacy Group in 2022.
Matt is an active member of his community as well as an ambassador for the 100 Words mental health charity.
Matt’s take on current property news
Despite the headlines, the property market remains competitive – for buyers and for agents.
You’ve got some really good insight into the property market from a sell side but now you’re working on the buy side as well with your advocacy business. How are you finding the property market at the moment?
The market is challenging for a number of reasons at the moment but we’ve got a historically low supply. So listings are just very, very hard to get at the moment for agents.
And to be honest, I feel better being on the other side than having to compete with everybody on that side at the moment, because I was talking to someone the other day and we mentioned this when we spoke that he was competing against twelve other agents for one listing.
That’s a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of effort from a lot of people. And only one person can be successful there. So, they’re talking about fees of .8% and everything else. And it’s just not sustainable.
What we are seeing is that due to these low stock levels from the buying side, we’re seeing that a lot of clients now see value in the proposition that we offer them, and the services we offer – and we’ve really been inundated, because they’re just getting frustrated as buyers.
As I said, there’s low stock. When they’re going to auction, they’re going over by $100,000-200,000. That’s not because it’s been a great result as such. A lot of the time, it’s perhaps a little bit cheeky on the quoting and all that sort of thing.
Our job is to navigate our clients through that and make sure they don’t waste unnecessary energy on property they’re just never going to be able to afford.
So it’s an interesting time, but with international borders and everything opening, I do feel that there’s going to be a little bit of normalisation in the next sort of three to six months, and stock levels will come up, buyers sort of levels will even up, and then all of a sudden that pricing will just normalise that little bit and flatten out. I don’t think it’s going to drop off the edge of the cliff, but it’s going to be easier for buyers.
With demand still high, are stock levels set to pick up soon?
So do you think the stock levels are going to pick up? I’m speaking to a lot of agents out there in the marketplace and it’s a pretty consistent theme across the board – bad market, no one wants to sell. Do you think it’s going to pick up?
All I can say, Ben, is it should – because I’m telling the vendor advocacy clients that we’re talking to at the moment, that they want to be on the market sooner rather than later because they want to make the absolute most of these low stock levels because the low stock level is driving the price.
So unfortunately, what the real estate market has done on a constant cycle over the time I’ve been in real estate is – its a very sheep-like and herd mentality. The conversations that I’m having with potential sellers and the conversations I’m having with agents is that everybody’s just sitting there waiting for Easter, waiting for ANZAC Day, waiting for the school holidays to finish.
And I think what we’re going to see in that May, June, July quarter, is a lot of stock coming onto the market that has been holding back. And I think there will be a lot of vendors at that time that are going to be saying, ‘well, where’s all the buyers gone?’ And ‘where’s the good pricing gone?’ – and they will have missed the boat.
And in this real estate market, as you know, whether you’re buying or whether you’re selling, you can miss the boat by waiting too long.
Are you seeing a lot of willingness to sell off-market and pre-campaign? Or are vendors pushing for the full campaign with an auction-ending?
What about off-markets? I know that sometimes owners want to take the properties to auction because ‘the sky’s the limit’ with the auction process.
Are you finding that a lot of vendors that you’re dealing with are open to selling beforehand? Are they more motivated now to sell beforehand or do they want to run the campaign through?
At the moment, vendors are getting a bit nervous. If everything isn’t absolutely flying along with numbers to write for inspections, repeat inspections, section 32 requests and everything else, they are getting that little bit nervy and there are quite a lot of properties transacting prior to auction.
In fact, here at Abode, we have only bought properties at auction this year. So far with clients that have engaged just on our bidding service only, our full buying clients, we haven’t bought at auction as yet. We’ve bought either before market, we’ve bought afterwards, or we’ve made the process come forward a lot more quickly – seen it the first week and put an offer in, and that’s been good enough to get it done with client. That’s the vendors I mentioned, who are just that little bit nervy at the moment.
From quick success to a life-changing brush with cancel culture, Matt Scafidi’s real estate career to date.
A summary of Matt’s career in real estate and beyond
Now, we want to understand your career to date, because I know that it’s been fairly extensive and you’ve transitioned from the sales side of things to both, the vendor advocacy, but also the buyer advocacy side of things. Can you give us a brief rundown on your career to date?
I got into it late. I was 36 years of age. I’d been in a packaging selling role for quite a number of years, for about 13 years. Always harboured a want to be in real estate. At the time, my wife was having her second baby, we were building a house, so she wasn’t working. So we thought it’d be a great time to go to commission only and give it a crack. So she said, ‘get it done in 12 months’, well, I didn’t need to be back selling boxes again.
So, for me there was no plan B. I was basically the old story about the guy burning the boats, so there were no boats to return to. That’s pretty much what I did.
I was lucky enough to start at Woodard’s Real Estate in Blackburn. I was there for just over three years, learned a hell of a lot in that time and got my career up and running – focusing on the Mitcham area. I went into that office and I said, “right, the City of Whitehorse, what suburb was the least sales that we made last year?” And it was Mitcham – and I was moving to Mitcham.
So I thought, “well, that’s a sign. I’m not going to upset too many people in the office if I focus on that.” So I did that. And that led me from there to transition over to Noel Jones who offered me a partnership in a business which we did in July 2013.
So Noel Jones Mitcham began. It was a start-up business that was doing really good numbers, very quickly. We were working very very hard, but we were having a lot of fun doing that as well.
And then later on after about eight years, we merged with Jellis Craig in Blackburn to create Jellis Craig Whitehorse.
Has prospecting changed over the last decade? Is the name of the game still volume, or has social media changed things?
You would have seen the industry change a lot over that time. When you started you would have been making thousands of phone calls I would imagine. Do you see things have changed in terms of the prospecting side of things for agents these days? Is it more social media based or is it really just simply a volume business?
I don’t think many things have changed in a long time, Ben, to be completely frank. I think that it’s always about going back to basics. The more people you talk to, the more people that know you, the more chance you’ve got of actually having a really good business.
And social media is going to help you, with all those sorts of things. I focus on the community a lot, doing sponsorship and as much charity work and everything as possible.
I felt that that was a good way to immerse myself in the community, and have myself known. And then when they were ready, they could reach out at that time. But still, at the end of the day, lots of calls to be made in real estate. There always will be. I can’t ever see it changing too much.
I think that human connections after COVID and everything else that we’ve had, people crave it. And look, there’s a lot of really good stuff happening in the AI side of things and everything else but at the end of the day, it requires somebody to pick up a phone, talk to somebody, book a meeting and get face-to-face.
Yeah, very good point. I know that there’s a lot of technology out there that claims to change the world and assist property managers and sales agents in doing all their tasks and those sorts of things, but you’ve absolutely nailed it. Ultimately, this is a service-based industry. People want to hear from you, they want to have that connection. So without that, you’re not going to go very far.
Did you find success early in your career, or did it take time to build traction in your market?
Did you have good success initially, or did it take you a bit of time to get traction in your marketplace?
I didn’t have enough time to allow myself too much time to get things going and I had to hit the ground running. As I said, I had a second child on the way, my wife not working, and we were building a home. There were lots of bills to pay. So it wasn’t all about the money for me, but it was certainly a motivator. I just had to get in earlier, and stay later.
I had a really, really supportive wife in Tanya, especially for those first two to three years. We sat in front of the TV, stuffing envelopes and all that sort of thing. She was really, really supportive of me having early starts, and late nights, and she allowed me to build the business in that timeframe.
So, there was no going back to packaging for me. I didn’t have a plan B, so I just had to make this work. So, yeah, we had a pretty good start early to get that momentum going.
There’s nothing like a mortgage and a bit of financial pressure to keep you motivated and focused. So it’s a credit to you.
What sparked your advocacy for mental health?
You’re a big advocate for mental health, we’ve spoken about this a little bit off the air. What sparked this? What was the main driver for you to sort of venture down this path and be an advocate for it?
Well, a lot of people sort of asked me that question over time. And I think they’re expecting an answer that I had friends that had committed suicide or something like that. That wasn’t the case. I did know of some people, but not directly as such.
I just felt that it was a space that didn’t get enough airtime. I was invited along to 100 Words for their first event in Hawthorne on Glenferrie. I went along to that, and came away with a couple of mates and we said, ‘we need to bring something like this to Mitcham’. And that’s what we did.
We got onto 100 Words, to Craig Turton there, and we said, ‘what can we do?’ And he said, ‘well, you can do an event yourself.’ We did that in September 2019.
We had 160 men gather at Mitcham Social in Mitcham and we had a great night in the sense of sharing. There were some sad moments, of course, but it started a conversation. I think that that’s what sort of drove me towards it, was getting that conversation started, having the stigma lifted, you know, that everybody, not just men, but everybody should be able to feel comfortable in being able to say that they’re not okay.
I feel that a lot of people still think that people “play the mental health card”, which is rubbish – because anybody that’s been down that path knows that you don’t ‘play that card’ unless it’s there.
It’s a very interesting topic these days. I know that earlier on, all men, for example, were asked just to get on with it, or there was just an acceptance that they would just keep it to themselves. But certainly, of late, I’ve noticed that a lot more people, particularly men, are open to having conversations. And it’s very, very powerful to get it all out, and discuss your feelings, and it’s certainly a lot better for it. that space.
You were subject to an instance of cancel culture and a ‘pile-on effect’ in 2021, tell us about that and how you navigated that difficult time both in business and personally.
Now speaking of mental health, in 2021, you had some challenges in your own career and I’ll get you to run through what happened and the result of this – as well as the impact that had on you generally from a personal standpoint, a business standpoint and some of the things that you put in place to get through that.
It was a difficult time. It’s one of those things that you look back on and I still think to myself, ‘I don’t understand quite how it all happened and blew up like that’.
But I simply asked a question on a private Facebook forum, whether we were coming out of lockdown and I wanted to know whether a barbell I was considering buying was made in Australia or whether it was made in China. Simple as that.
And it wasn’t that I had any issue with China, anything at all. If I had said America, Switzerland, whatever, I’m sure it would have been fine. Unfortunately, in real estate, you sort of switch off from the news and all that sort of stuff, because you don’t want negativity. You’ve got to always be sort of pushing positivity – so perhaps I didn’t realise the general discussions about China going on at the time. But I wanted to support Australia at that time.
I wanted to support local businesses. I didn’t care where you were from, or what God you prayed to, as long as you were a local business, That’s what I wanted to do coming out of three months of lockdown. Anyway, that was taken and put onto WeChat by someone – I still don’t know.
And it went viral. It was a Sunday night that I made the post and by Monday there were stirrings and then Tuesday it just was like wildfire. It just went crazy – the Herald Sun wanted to know about it.
So it was there that the company I was with stood me down whilst they worked out what they were going to do. I’d hold no grudges there at all. At the end of the day, they made the decision that they felt was right for them, myself, and the brand at that time.
I had a sea of hate come towards me at that time like I’d never seen and I’m sure I never will again. You know, horrible, horrible things that were shared and said and threatened. And it really, really affected me. It affects me now just as I’m talking about it. It does still affect me to this day at times.
And it was that first sort of 24 to 48 hours was just a nightmare. It really was. I woke up every morning hoping that would all go away.
So I had to shut down social media, I just spoke to nobody and communicated with nobody at that time. But you know what the positive thing to come out of it was, that after about that first sort of 48 hours, it started to turn the other way. And because the Herald Sun picked up the story and it went on the Sky News, and a Facebook page and it was just crazy.
I couldn’t believe it. I was suffering from anxiety at that time and panic attacks and it was really really tough on my wife, my kids, my family and my friends. It was just a horrible horrible time, so you know but the support that did come back made it bearable I suppose at the time and in where it gets a lot of flack at times.
Seeing and embracing the good side of the real estate industry and making the decision to stay in real estate.
We saw the Four Corners report recently…In an industry that does get that criticism and reputation at times, I really saw the good side of the industry at that time. I would have received, I think, in the order of sort of 2,000 messages over that next sort of 48-hour period after the first 48, of positivity, of support, of people just offering things, they could offer but they were prepared to offer so that part of it was was refreshing and I appreciate everybody that reached out at that time and a lot of people at Homely were the same and reached out at that time as well, so I really really appreciated that.
It was a time where I had to then make a decision on what I was going to do going forward, like did I want to leave the industry completely and do something else – because I didn’t want my name, my mobile number, all those sorts of things out in the public domain again.
It was a crazy time, but, I was told by a very smart person that was with me that whole journey from start to finish, not to make any big decisions when you’re having that sort of moment in your life.
So I didn’t, and I got to a point where I thought, ‘right, no decisions to be made just yet.” All I knew was that I needed to step away from the business I was in and do something else. But I wasn’t quite sure at that time ‘what’.
It’s quite extraordinary that you make a Facebook post, unintentionally…it seems like you were just making a comment, and within a very short period of time your life was completely flipped upside down and a career that you’d worked very, very hard on was basically taken away from you in a really short period of time.
I can’t even imagine what you went through and I would hope that people that went for the jugular in this situation can at least reflect on that and say, ‘you know, maybe we need to think about what that person was going through’, because obviously, you went through hell.
What role has resilience played in your career and business since that incident? Did you want to just give up?
You’ve managed to get to the other side of it and you’ve started up a new business now that focuses on advocacy.
In terms of resilience, was there a stage where you just wanted to get out of real estate altogether and just give up? What was your thought process following this event?
Firstly, I just like to say that there are two sides to every story. There are probably three really when you really think about it. And the people that were going for the jugular, I think that in retrospect, they probably feel, or I hope they would feel a little bit different now.
Nobody reached out to me and asked me for my side of the story at that time. They had their version and that’s what they ran with, but that’s okay. I’ve moved on from all that. And the way I see the world now is a lot different.
If I see something on a current affair or the news or whatever, I always take a step back and just think to myself, ‘let’s just walk a mile in this person’s shoes’. And it’s probably a lot different to what is actually being reported.
So it’s changed me a lot. But, in relation to real estate, I was a bit lost there for a while, for sure, and didn’t feel that I could do it. I just had to get through what I had to get through first and then make the bigger decisions afterwards I suppose.
Deciding to stay in real estate and pivot to advocacy
And that’s what led me down the path of talking to people that I respected and loved – and you know I mentioned Tanya before… I have to put it out there and just say that I might not have been here today without those people. So, what it taught me was that you have to keep your circle really, really small and you’ve got to make sure that you know there’s all the highlight reels on social media and everything else that goes on, but at the end of the day what’s important is the people that you have around you, your family, your friends.
You shouldn’t be defined by what you do for a living. And that’s what I took away from it all. So when I sat down and spoke to Tanya – Tanya has always been a sounding board for me – she just said to me, ‘Listen, you shouldn’t be giving up 15 years of hard work and effort and time and experience. And it would be sad for you. clients and everything else if you were to leave now.’
She said, “So, perhaps just do something that focuses solely on the things that you enjoy. Fly a little bit more under the radar and just work with people that know you like you trust you.”
And that’s what headed me down the advocacy path and working with buyers and selling for people which has really given me something that I look forward to every day. I get up and I enjoy what I do and we have fun.
After getting through difficult times and thinking about what you really want, do you view success differently now?
In terms of your career, do you view success differently? I mean, is this just a job to you or how do you view your career?
Yeah, it’s that’s a really good question then because, you know, it’s certainly changed my thoughts on that. Since everything occurred. I want to make sure going forward that I have a life of good balance and life balance gets thrown around all the time, work-life balance, etc. All the time we can work from our car, we can work from home, we can work here.
I want to be really, really flexible on that. I only want to deal with people that, a good people as well, because at the end of the day, you know, that’s where things get to in real estate.
You start to find that when you focus on the right people, you have really good clients who even pay more than your ‘not so good’ clients that are shopping around 12 different agents, for the cheapest fee. So, now we’ve got a really, really good, solid business in the sense of transparency and ease – we have our fees on our website so anyone can see what we’re charging, all that sort of thing.
How have you changed your ways of business after these learnings?
We run very, very transparently and we want to make sure that we come from a place of caring and, but most importantly, to have fun along the way, have fun with our clients, have fun with the business, have fun with the agents that we’re working with and we only want to deal with those good people that there are so many of in this industry – and as I said, I think the industry gets a bit of a bad rap at times from just a minority of people.
My ethos on success these days is not how much I’ve written, or how much I’ve taken home, but it’s how I’ve helped people the most.
You feel is with those people that leave you amazing Google reviews and you read those and you think “we’ve actually made a small change in their life for the positive”, – because not everybody has to buy or sell a property for good reasons, remember. Sometimes it can be bad reasons as well. So, we just want to be able to help people through that process and, I suppose, navigate it. There are a lot of mistakes that can be made, a lot of traps put in place and we just want to be able to help people through.
What advice would you give to someone struggling in real estate right now?
Matt, what advice would you give to someone that’s having a tough time in the industry? Whether they’re new starters, or just getting into the space, what would you say to them in order to get through some pretty challenging times with this tricky market? On the sales side of things.
Well, I started just in the middle of the global financial crisis. So I remember speaking to my Mum at the time and she said, “I can’t believe you’re leaving a job that’s paying you this amount. That’s got a company car, that’s got security, that’s got everything in place for you to go into an industry that you get in commission only. And it’s the GFC right now.”
And my response to her was that if I was if I had enough grit to get through that market and survive, then I was going to be able to get through any market.
A lot of the time, it’s the self-speak that gets you down in this industry. And that’s why I mentioned before that I really did switch off a lot from, you know, world events, politics, all that, because it can really get you down.
If you watch the Reserve Bank announcement every single month, well guess what? It’s reasonably negative. But what we do know is that keeping going is all about keeping positive as you can.
Anyone that doesn’t know Chris Helder, you should get to know him. He’s got a book called ‘Useful Beliefs’, and you’ve got to have useful beliefs around how you’re going about your business. It’s not going to happen straight away. It’s going to be lots of letters that are sent out, it’s going to be lots of phone calls that are made, it’s going to be lots of people met before you start to feel some traction.
What I see way too often Ben, is people leave the industry just at the time they are on the brink of breaking through to success.
Have you seen that cartoon where the guy’s mining through the mineshaft and he’s this far from the diamonds and everything on the other side and he gives up and he goes? He’s come all this way and he gives up with just this little space to go. That’s what a lot of agents will do in this industry. It is a tough industry but it’s very satisfying once you do. So once you break through, you’ve got pretty much a bulletproof business.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a GFC, doesn’t matter whether it’s COVID, it doesn’t matter. You should still be able to get through. I mean, you look at the market that happened throughout COVID, and people would have been, the people that are talking to themselves negatively, they wouldn’t have done too well, but there were so many that did so well
And you know, I was talking about the Titanic. It takes forever to turn. You want to be nimble in this business. You want to be able to shift and change at really, in a really short space of time to be able to grasp the opportunity that’s in front of you. And it’s a great opportunity, this industry. It’s provided so much to me. And that’s why in the end, when I sort of thought about everything, it was something I didn’t feel that I wanted to leave behind completely. So I still wanted to be involved and give back.
What advice would you give right now to buyers, vendors and agents in the market?
That was very good. I think we’re just going to finish up with a couple of really quick-fire questions for you The first one is if you were giving advice to buyers Vendors and agents in the current market. What would be the one bit of advice for each of those parties?
Matt’s advice for buyers in the current market
Buyers, I would be saying be ready. Get your finance together. Be clear on what you can and can’t do. Because at the moment, things that are blowing deals up are conditions that aren’t favourable to vendors. So subject to finance, subject to building pest inspections, you know, and settlement terms that don’t suit them. If you can be flexible on your in-order, you deposit in order, and that’s all ready to go, then we can get a building pest inspection potentially nice and early and not include that in the actual offer. You’re going to have a better opportunity securing the very low stock levels that are out there at the moment.
Matt’s advice for vendors in the current market
In regards to vendors, my advice to vendors would be to get onto the market as quickly as you possibly can right now. Because if you wait, you will come across other vendors that are also sitting on their hands. And I’ve actually written a blog about this on our website.
They’re sitting on their hands, waiting for other things to occur and happen. Whereas we are seeing really, really good results coming through at the moment for properties that have been presented well. That’s the other tip I’d give vendors. Please don’t bring your home to market with all the work required to do to get it up to a particular standard.
Take the time, get it prepared, and get it done properly so when a buyer walks through, they’re not discounting your home based on a few little items that need to be looked after and done.
Matt’s advice for agents in the current market
Agents right now, what I would be suggesting is that you need to be building your relationships right now. You need to be talking to your whole database. You need to be getting on the phone and seeing what their take is on the current market and sharing yours at the same time, adding value and giving people an actual relationship as well.
Because once things get busy again, they’re not going to hear from you as much, but now is a great opportunity to really hit those phones, talk to your potential clients, but also talk to your past clients as well and see where they’re at, see if you can help their family and friends also. It’s a great time when things are a little bit quiet to be hitting the phones.
What would you do with $1 million right now?
advice and certainly with the gamut of skills that you’ve acquired over your career that is going to be very powerful to a lot of people that are listening so thank you for that. Final question for you and this will be a good one for you because obviously you work with a lot of buyers and you’re looking to purchase properties out in the marketplace. I’ve got a million dollars I give it to you what are you doing with it in the current market?
market, what we’re probably doing is we are trying to find something for you and investment-wise, we’re probably steering clear at a million-dollar mark, we’re probably steering clear of apartments right now, even though there are some, you know, we have bought a number of apartments for people.
But if you’re looking for capital appreciation moving forward, if you’re looking for great rentability, you think about this right now is that if you buy an investment property right now for a million dollars, you’re going to get good because we’re going to come out of this market and it’s going to continue to go and rise. So you’re actually buying, I would think pretty much at the bottom of the curve. And that’s the thing. They don’t ring the bell at the bottom, but you only know when you’re going back up the top that you’re at the bottom.
So I think that now would be a great time to be buying. I think that if you found something that had, you know, good accommodation, you’re going to get a really, really good return because right around the country, you know, for example, we’re putting out to their holiday lets.
They sent a whole heap of letters out for their holiday lets saying, would you consider full-time letting of your property and taking it away from holiday letting? That’s how desperate people are in the country right now to be getting a rental property. So you’re not going to be without a tenant. So it’s rock solid. Whereas you look at the million dollars put into the stock market right now, it’s quite volatile and keeps changing and moving the time.
So I would be doing that and making sure of course you get a buyer’s advocate on board to be able to help you secure that property at the best possible price with the least stress saving you time and hopefully getting you something that’s going to pay back in spades in years to come.
You can find Matt:
On the Abode Advocacy Group website: https://abodeadvocacygroup.com.au/
On socials: https://www.instagram.com/abode.advocacy.group/