Buying or building your first home is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, so it’s crucial that you get it right.
Move Homes is one of the newest names in Western Australia’s home-building industry, and it aims to help you do just that. As part of The Prime Group (one of WA’s most established building companies), it draws on its wealth of knowledge and experience to make the process of purchasing a home easier for each client, whether it’s their first home or their fifth.
The company’s core values of honesty, integrity, and professionalism is leading to many an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) availing of their services, and given how Move Homes has been actively supporting many events in the Filipino community, it appears that the admiration is mutual.
Today, we sit down with Mr. Mark Antoniades, the General Manager of Move Homes, Marketing and Sales, and talk about how the company operates, what Filipinos should consider when buying their first home, and a universal love for the noodle dish that is pancit.
You’re part of a company that’s built thousands of homes for Australians all over the country. Can we ask you what the story is behind it, and how you came to work for Move Homes?
Move Homes is a brand within the Prime Group Australia that primarily assists first-time home buyers to build a new home. Prime originated in Perth, Western Australia in the 1960’s, and is a national and diverse property and construction company with operations in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Our company offers a diverse range of products in Sales & Marketing, Property Development, Residential & Commercial Construction, Property Investments, Farming and Agriculture.
I joined Prime back in March 2016, foremost because I liked how they derived most of their business from referrals and repeat business. Prime wanted to launch a new brand specifically targeting first-time home buyers. That’s been my clientele, specifically within the Filipino community, over the past nine years.
I joined Prime as the Marketing and Sales General Manager for Move Homes. Initially, my focus was on developing the brand. My tasks included coming up with a large range of exciting new designs, an extensive list of quality inclusions, input into our pricing in order to be competitive in the industry, our new website, corporate brochure and other marketing materials and yeah, basically working on the set-up stage of Move Homes.
I’ve been in the property industry for around nine years and have worked with several building companies over this period. During this period, over 95% of my clients have been Filipinos. Because most of my clients are derived from referrals and repeat business, I always worked hard to ensure that the building companies I partnered with provided the best possible service, communication, products and outcomes to all my clients. Sadly though, whilst I did have many happy clients, there were also some unhappy clients. Ultimately, all of these companies let me down within a relatively short period of time. It was a matter of over-promising and under-delivering.
Towards the end of 2015, I decided, “Look, I’ve had enough of working in the building industry and I’m fed up with these companies not delivering according to my expectations and those of my clients.” I met someone who then convinced me to meet with Joe Passione, The Prime Group’s Owner and Managing Director. He is also a well-respected Italian businessman in Western Australia and around Australia. In addition to that, I was told that Prime derives most of their business from referrals and repeat business, so it could be the ideal fit for my Filipino clients.
To cut a long story short, after several meetings with Prime and Joe, I decided to join the company. I thought, “Well, finally, I seem to have found a company that conducts its business the way I have been doing it, and it appears to be the ideal fit for my clients.”
Move Homes caters to a lot of first-time home buyers. What do people look for when buying their first home?
Location is usually the number 1 consideration. Is the property in a good area where we can expect good growth in the property’s value over time? Within that location itself, is the property close to a school, to shops, or to public transport? Within the Filipino community, many of the wives are a little anxious about driving if they are still relatively new arrivals, and so, proximity to these services is very important.
When it comes to the house itself, it’s more about what they can afford rather than about building the biggest and most expensive house. Filipinos are generally very realistic, and have reasonable expectations. If the house can only be a simple 3-bedroom home, well, so be it.
How did you manage to get so many Filipino customers?
Many people do tend to focus on the physical side of things. They are like, “Oh, we want this nice, big house and we must have this and that.” The bigger, the better sort of thing.
With many Filipinos, I find it a little bit different. It is more about trusting the person they’re dealing with and that person taking the time to explain things clearly to them. Good relationships, good communication, and honesty are often more important than the size of a property and all the flashy things in a house.
When I met my first Filipino clients eight years ago, they were very impressed because I took the time to get to know them and to explain things very clearly to them. I didn’t push them or rush them into doing things. I didn’t force them to do this or do that.
And because I was patient with them, they felt comfortable with me. From that point, they started referring all their friends and their friends started referring all their friends, and that’s how my Filipino clientele grew.
Speaking of Filipinos, we see you sponsoring a lot of their events in Australia. Do you have a lot of Filipino friends?
Yeah, because I’ve been involved in the Filipino community for eight years now.
I have accumulated a large network of Filipino friends and contacts over the past nine years. Whenever we support many Filipino initiatives and their various organizations, we collect their names and contact details. We then contact these people to offer our services. I have thousands of Filipino contacts, and I wouldn’t know them all personally, but yeah, I do know a significant number of Filipinos. I definitely have more close friends among the Filipinos than other nationalities in Western Australia.
I heard you learned quite a few Tagalog phrases in your years of dealing with Filipinos. Care to share a few words?
My goal is to someday speak Tagalog fluently. One of the ladies who works with me teaches Tagalog here in Perth, so I have no excuse! I’ve picked up some of the common terminology like Magandang Umaga, Magandang Tanghali, Magandang Hapon, Magandang Gabi, Walang Anuman, Walang Problema, Kumusta, Ingat- most of the greetings, that sort of thing.
That’s actually quite good. Now, let’s talk about food. What’s your favorite Filipino dish?
That’s a hard one. I know what Filipinos really enjoy. I think the big winner here is the lechon. They really like that. Or is it adobo?
I like the one with the noodles. What do they call it? Pancit? It might be that. It’s a very fine sort of noodle mixed with vegetables and meat or chicken.
I do find that some Filipino food is an acquired taste, but I’ve been eating it for many years so I’m always game to try some new things.
Since you’ve been fully immersed in Filipino culture for nearly a decade, what do you appreciate most about the Filipino community in Australia?
It’s the genuine love that they have for their families. I don’t know any Filipino working here in Western Australia who doesn’t send money back to their families in the Philippines. Whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it for their families. Whenever I see them, they go, “Mark, we’re getting this property in Australia because it’s for our children. We came here to give them an opportunity.”
And they don’t just give to their immediate families, but to their extended families and friends as well.
Also, Filipinos are generally very appreciative of what you do for them. For example, if I help someone and they manage to buy or build a house, I’m always invited to the house blessing when they get their keys. You go into their house and they’re just so thankful and so grateful. They’re very giving, very loving, very respectful, and very inviting people. I’ve gone to so many Filipino’s homes on appointments, and they just want to feed you and look after you and they appreciate how you’ve come all the way to their houses to sit down with them and help them.
It’s their genuine appreciation for you wanting to help them, and you also see it when they refer their friends to you. You could just be talking about the financing before even discussing about the house, and they’ll already be referring people: “Oh, Mark, you should talk to my friend, s/he’s also looking to get a house…”
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Filipino migrants who are seeking to make their home away from home in Australia today?
Of course, getting your first home in Australia is expensive. You need to spend anywhere between AU$400,000-450,000 for the average property here in Western Australia. With that money you can probably buy three or four houses back in the Philippines.
So, they come here and both the husband and wife have to work in order to be able to borrow money to buy a house. It’s not easy, but it’s their dream. That’s what they live for. They know renting is a waste of money, so they want to have their own house like back in the Philippines.
They work hard and they’ve got a very good work ethic, but you need job security to secure a loan. In Western Australia, things have been tough here for the past few years due to the decline in the mining industry. A lot of Filipinos have lost their jobs, and a lot of them want to build a house, but they don’t know if they’ll have a job in two or three months. They have come to Australia to provide a future for their family, however, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future due to the current state of the economy.
In light of all these challenges, how has the Filipino homeowners’ market changed in past decade?
When I arrived in Western Australia from South Africa 19 years ago, the market in Perth was very buoyant. People have been out there buying, and the economy was doing very well mainly due to the booming mining industry. Over the past decade or so, around 1,000-1,500 people were migrating into the state every week, either from other states in Australia or from around the world.
Due to the downturn in the mining industry over the past few years, many people have lost their jobs or have been fearful of losing their jobs. This anxiety over job security has had a significant impact on the property market and many people have held off from committing to buying a house.
Over the past few years, the local government has been trying to stimulate the economy and to create more jobs through various initiatives.
In December 2016, the local government announced that effective 1 January 2017, the first home buyers grant (assistance for people building a new home) would be increased from AU$10,000 to AU$15,000. The expectation is that this will encourage more people to build a new house. This, in turn, will boost the building industry and create more jobs. I’ve noticed since this announcement that there has been a little bit more interest and inquiries in building new houses. I’m quite optimistic that 2017 will be a better year than the previous few years.
Lastly, do you have any words of advice for our Filipino readers who are looking to buy or build their first home?
You need to be very careful in who you’re dealing with when you buy or build a house. There are a lot of people who appear to want to do the right thing by you and promise you the world and then under-deliver.
Many Filipinos are very trusting and very gentle people, and so, can very easily be taken advantage of. I have come across so many who have handed over a deposit for a property, only to lose it later. So many have also committed to something they are also not happy with, only because they felt they were pushed into making a decision too quickly.
Don’t let people push you or rush you into making a decision. Make sure that you start with the finance and understand all your available options. Take time to decide on the location you are happy with and the house you want to build.
Get expert advice from experienced people who know about finance and property. Don’t just listen to friends or family. I even tell people, don’t just listen to what I’m saying. Yes, I’ve got experience, but by all means, go and verify what I say with someone else.
Do your homework, do your research. Take your time and make the right decisions. Be realistic as well, and don’t commit to something you might regret later.
In a nutshell, just be careful. There are people out there who will want to take advantage of you, especially in a tough economic climate.