The 2013 Winter Edition of From the Boardroom is now available!

EAC From the Boardroom Winter 2013

This edition features a pictorial on the NSW Heat of the Australasian Real Estate Institutes’ Auctioneering Championships, hosted by Estate Agents Co-operative Ltd.

Other articles include:

Dale Whittaker puts his opinion out there on real estate market conditions.

David Crombie provides an overview on future developments.

Geoff Hunter reports on the pending National Licensing of Property Occupations.

Damien McDonald shares 7 Essential Real Estate Marketing Tips.

The From the Boardroom publication is exclusive to EAC Members.


In the Pipeline – What’s Happening at EAC

Talking to agents across the state there seems to be a shortage of listings now in many areas and while some agents are experiencing financial difficulty others have experienced some of their best trading performance in many years.

Things here at EAC are a hub of activity as usual and I am busy working with the managers on implementing some of the changes discussed at the recent Board Planning
Day. Our current focus is on operational efficiencies in order to keep our fees down and the revamping of our services to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of Members.

In January Peter Bushby (President) and Amanda Lynch (CEO) of the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) attended the EAC Board Meeting to talk to the Board and Management team about the benefits of becoming an affiliate member of the REIA. As a result of the presentation the EAC Board resolved to accept the invitation and in February we announced our appointment to the REIA Affiliates’ Council.

In late February I attended the first Affiliates’ Council meeting of which First National and The Professionals are also part of and I have to say that I found the meeting very beneficial. As part of the new relationship Dale Whittaker and I attended the REIA Awards for Excellence at Parliament House in Canberra on the 14th March.

Discussions are now taking place with the REIA for EAC to assist and jointly run the NSW Finals of the Australasian Real Estate Institutes’ Auctioneering Championships. This event will take place on the 25th June 2013 and information will be distributed shortly.

While the relationship with the REIA provides us with a voice at a national level we continue to build on our relationship with government at a state level and to this end Dale Whittaker and I attended a function to celebrate Honourable Anthony Roberts’, Minister
of Fair Trading and Member for Lane Cove, 10 years in parliament where we had the opportunity to discuss EAC’s views on National Licencing and other industry matters with the Minister.

On the National Licencing front NOLA is pushing ahead with its aim to introduce uniform occupational and professional licensing in the property occupations in 2013. EAC is not opposed to National Licensing as a concept but does not agree with the proposed model which lowers professional standards and the level of consumer protection. We continue to work with the State Government and the REIA to make sure that the views of our members and the industry are put forward for consideration.

With we now have over 60,000 listings on the site and traffic continues to grow. The content sharing arrangement with is now in place and we have recently put an upload to Nestoria in place for offices that are
on our Pro and Elite Packages which will provide an enhanced level of consumer exposure for their office and listings on We are now in the final stages of development for the new site which will contain many new features.

In March we had the EAC Board Meeting in Dubbo followed by a function where we invited the Principals from offices in Dubbo and the surrounding areas to meet the EAC Board. At the meeting we did a short presentation followed by a feedback session where we asked the agents what they thought were some of the challenges that their offices and the industry faced and how EAC could assist. It was a successful function and was well
received by the agents. We will be running similar meetings in others areas during the year.

In the meantime if you have any feedback please feel free to call me or comment below.

In the Pipeline – What’s Happening at EAC

Welcome to 2013 and to the first edition of From the Boardroom for the year.

With the move to our new offices behind us, we are back into getting on with business and many of the changes that we implemented as part of the move are already delivering results in the way of reduced operating costs. We are constantly looking at ways we can do things better to improve our services without having to increase our subscription fees and prices. One of the biggest changes the Industry may face this year is in regard to National Licencing, as yet there have been no further developments in this regard since we made our submission. EAC continues to consult with government and other industry bodies to try to ensure that interests of Members and the Industry are protected. To view the submissions made by the various industry bodies, franchise groups and real estate practioners visit NOLA .

On the 14th December 2012, the Property, Stock and Business Agents Amendment (Professional Indemnity Insurance) Regulation 2012 was published. This long anticipated legislation requires that all licensees must be insured under a policy of Professional Indemnity Insurance in respect to the licensee or the licensee’s employer. This new regulation commenced on 1 January 2013 but will not take effect until 1 July 2013 in order to provide sufficient time for licensees to obtain suitable coverage. To obtain a quote or to check your current level of coverage contact EAC’s preferred insurance advisor’s, OAMPS Insurance Brokers on (02) 42268700 and don’t forget to mention that you are an EAC Member.

There have been several developments in regard to All of the listings on realestateworld. are now being uploaded to and we will soon be doing the same with in a content sharing arrangement which will see listings from this site uploaded to as well.

We have also now released a mobile friendly version of the site that consumers will be directed to. Work continues on the development of a new site and we are working towards a release date in the next couple of months. In December we had two bumper editions of the publication with the Illawarra achieving 100 pages and the Far North Coast and Mid North Coast being not too far behind with 92 pages. While the focus these days is on the online world, Members continue to obtain very cost-effective print advertising though the support of what is their publication.

We have also now released our Agent Mobile web sites for Members. With the amount of real estate searches now taking place on mobile devices, a mobile friendly version of your website needs to form part of your online marketing strategy.

On the Red Square front, there have been several enhancements including updates to Red Square Mobile. One of the latest editions to Red Square is NSW Telephone Data, the phone data is checked against the ADMA Do Not Call Register and is updated every 30 days. For those Members on a package the telephone data is available at no additional cost.

One of the biggest developments we have been working on in regard to Red Square is the new Listing Management feature. This feature is now undergoing final testing and will be released to a select number of Agents in February for feedback.

In October I attended and presented at the International Year of Co-operative’s Conference. It was an interesting conference on several fronts. It is surprising just how many large Australian businesses, and I am talking some with billion dollar turnover, operate under a Co-operative structure. Co-operatives are distinguished from other forms of organisation by their democratic structure and the fact that capital is used to service the common needs of the members, rather than to provide individual benefit. As a result of some of the ideas I picked up at the conference this year I will be working with the Board to develop new ways to make Membership more beneficial to Members as the marketplace and industry continue to change.

Over the coming months we will be conducting some surveys and focus groups to get a better understanding of Members’ needs but if you have any feedback in the meantime feel free to call me.

All the best in the coming year.

In the Pipeline – What’s Happening at EAC

Welcome to another edition of From the Boardroom, our first edition coming to you fully online and from our new Head Office at Rosehill.

Things are pretty busy here at EAC, let me say that I am happy to get back to my normal role after the move and for anyone that has ever moved an organisation of 40 plus people after twenty five years you will know what I am talking about.

The move to new premises has been on the agenda for some time now and the main reason for the move was that the offices at Villawood just simply did not meet our needs
anymore. We had over 2,500 sqm at Villawood and as a result of us outsourcing the printing of our publications and selling off all our presses more than half the space we had was unutilised. The premises also did not present the organisation in its true light and we no longer wanted to be located in an industrial area.

The move provided us with the opportunity to change many things and things are very different at the “New EAC” as I describe it. As part of the move we have reviewed the way we were doing things and have implemented many new policies and procedures to streamline our operations, minimise costs and to provide a better level of service.

There is also change in the pipeline for the industry and I suggest some of the biggest changes we have seen for some time. One of these changes is the proposed introduction of National Licencing and EAC has been involved in the consultative process since the beginning. The Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) for Property Occupations has been released for discussion and some of the suggested changes will have serious consequences for all real estate practitioners. We have held meetings with several other industry groups, NSW Fair Trading and NOLA representatives to express our concerns and will be holding seminars on National Licencing in the coming weeks to obtain further feedback from the industry prior to making our submission on the proposed changes.

The Minister for Fair Trading, Anthony Roberts, has announced consultation on proposed compulsory professional indemnity insurance for licensed property occupations. It is proposed from 1 January 2013, all licensees under the Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 be required to hold a minimum of $1 million professional indemnity insurance with a number of set policy inclusions.

EAC has provided feedback on this proposal in our meetings with NSW Fair Trading in the past twelve months and will be making a formal submission providing our feedback in early October.

If you have any feedback on either the National Licensing or introduction of compulsory professional indemnity insurance please call us or submit it to

For those involved in Strata, NSW Fair Trading is also reviewing the Strata and Community Title laws and is seeking industry comment. While we have some members that operate in this area we won’t be putting a submission in this regard at this stage.

NSW Fair Trading has also announced a new partnership with EAC to supply the fact sheets pertaining to Agency Agreements, Bidders Guides as well as New Tenant Checklists.
This partnership sees NSW Fair Trading ceasing to supply their real estate fact sheets in print form, and bulk copies can now be purchased through EAC.

There have also been some big changes to Red Square in the past few months, with more on the way. On June 30 we turned off the Red Square application, who would have thought that it was in the marketplace for some 13 years. In the end the underlying technology just became outdated and with the introduction of Red Square Web we now have a solid platform that we can build on for years to come. In September we released a major upgrade to Red Square Web and Mapping and we are about to release an upgrade to Red Square Mobile. The next month will see the addition of mobile websites for your office as a new product from our Web Services team.

For those that have been waiting for our new Listing Management feature, development of this module is now complete and is undergoing internal testing. The new Listing Management feature has been redeveloped from the ground up and when introduced will require us to make changes to the underlying systems and websites. The team is working through these changes as we speak and we are looking at a 4th quarter release date.

On the front we have recently updated the logo to a cleaner and more modern look and feel and have updated the website and masthead on our publications. We have also recently produced some new TV and radio advertisements featuring Wendell Sailor which will be used in some regional areas. Traffic and the number of listings on the website continue to grow and October will see the release of a new mobile website. Work is also now well underway on the development of a new website which will be released at this stage around the same time as the new Listing Management feature.

As you can hopefully gather from the above we are investing a lot of time and effort into our products and services and ensuring the interests of the industry, practitioners and
members are protected. We can only do this with your support and feedback and as always, we welcome any feedback you might have to help us make our products and services and the industry we are part of better.

Contracts and Deposits – Agents Should Be Ready, Willing And Able

Many agents properly and correctly participate in the process of exchanging contracts either with a cooling off period for residential property or immediately following a sale by auction of property in all categories.

The great majority complete this process without error but there are some stunning examples of very costly mistakes being made.

Here are some simple procedures to follow to avoid those mistakes:
• When you receive the contract in your office ensure that the necessary documents are annexed as required. (Page 2 of the Standard Contract for Sale has the checklist)
• Ensure that the attachments are the relevant ones for the property. It is not uncommon to find the wrong S.149
• Certificate or Sewerage Diagram – make sure they are for
the right address and not missing any pages.
• Check the original against the counterpart to ensure they are exactly the same. One missed page can destroy the integrity of the document and provide the opportunity for
the purchaser to rescind.
• Be particularly careful when photocopying- always check the result no matter how tedious it may be.
• Check both the “Inclusions” and “Exclusions”. Are they as nominated by the Vendor and do they match your understanding?
• Check that the vendors name(s) and property particulars are correct.
• Check that all lots are identified. Particularly important when selling Strata property. Units, car spaces, garages and storerooms may be separate lots in the Strata plan, make sure they are all included.
• Are you selling with vacant possession or subject to tenancy? If tenanted the details must be included, (copy of lease).
• Settlement time, is it as you expected?
• Check the GST status; if applicable make sure you fully understand the implications and discuss with your client and their solicitor (and accountant if necessary).
WARNING: Do not give GST advice to prospective purchasers or anyone else for that matter – they must seek their own advice.
• Are the improvements properly represented on the contract?
Whilst some of the details are strictly not your “responsibility” as such you do need to check to make sure there is no confusion.

Let’s face it – a simple mistake or a missing page can provide the opportunity for the purchaser to rescind and have their deposit refunded, cost the vendor a sale and cost you your selling fee. If the mistake is a result of your negligence then legal action will almost certainly follow and you can be sure that it will be very costly!

When it comes to “filling up” the contract in preparation for exchange remember that an agent can only complete the details inside the “black box” on the front page.
These details are:
Purchaser’s Solicitor/Conveyancer
Purchase Price, Deposit Amount and Balance
Contract date

Some Handy Tips
• Have the purchasers write their full name(s) and address on a separate piece of paper together with their solicitor’s name and contact details BEFORE you fill these in on the
contract. This avoids making errors and then also avoids very untidy corrections.
• Do the calculations for purchase price, Deposit and Balance separately also. Have someone else check the maths to ensure you are correct, and then fill in the contract.

Deposit Danger Zone
The deposit must be as shown on the contract, normally 10%. On no account should an agent alter the amount of the deposit without written instruction from the vendor’s solicitor or conveyancer. If a purchaser is seeking to pay a deposit less than the amount stipulated in the contract then it must be agreed before the auction or before negotiations are finalised and the agent so authorised in writing.

This also applies to an exchange with a cooling off period for residential property. Some agents have adopted the practice of amending the contract to reflect only .25% as the deposit. This is completely incorrect.

The obligation on the purchaser is to pay the full deposit as shown on the contract, normally 10% and then to forfeit .25% of the purchase price if they cool off.

You as agent have both a duty and serious obligation to collect the full deposit as nominated. Failure to do so can expose you to legal action and a potential financial minefield.

In the same way agents MUST NOT delete, add, alter or amend in any way any clauses or special conditions in the contract, and this includes the completion date, without first having written instructions from the vendor’s solicitors.

• Have the vendor sign the front page of the original contract and then initial each page, including attachments. It is also good practice for them to initial the purchase price and
deposit in the margin.
• The purchaser(s) sign and initial the counterpart contract in the same way.
• Signatures need to be witnessed on the front page.
• Have both parties sign the appropriate “authority to exchange” document.
• Physically exchange the contracts by handing the one signed by the vendors to the purchasers and vice versa.
Once this has occurred the parties can choose to give the contract back to the agent to forward on to the respective solicitors. This is provided for in the ‘Authority to Exchange’ document.

The law provides the right for agents to participate in the exchange of contracts in certain circumstances and it is in the best interests of all parties that this process occurs efficiently and without confusion and error.

Principals and their staff should feel confident in this participation, by following the simple checklist and by not stepping outside the rules will ensure that this level of confidence is achieved.

From Compliance Matters – EAC From the Boardroom – Summer Edition 2012

My EAC From the Boardroom Article – January 2012

Welcome to the first edition of From the Boardroom for 2012 and if your last year was like mine it was like we blinked and 2011 was gone.

On a pleasing note we are able to announce that the Cooperative reported a profit of $658,695 in the last financial year.This figure is the consolidated result for EAC and and included things such as the sale of the Wollongong building and the bringing of Pty Ltd into EAC which will be completed this year. If you would like to know more download our Annual Report at

The past few months have been very busy on several fronts and I see this continuing as we roll out some of the planned infrastructure and product changes in the first and second quarter of this year.

With the sale of our property in Wollongong we had to find a suitable replacement office and this has now been completed with the move taking place in late November. Settlement has now also occurred on the Villawood property and we have leased back the premises on a twelve month lease while we look for new premises to purchase. We are looking in the Parramatta and Silverwater areas and have looked at a few buildings but have not yet found anything suitable.

In early December we had a meeting with the Minister for Fair Trading Anthony Roberts and some of his staff. At the meeting we raised several items and issues that we believe are important from the industry’s perspective including Professional Indemnity Insurance, National Licensing, CPD, Forms and the proposed changes to Short Term and Holiday Letting. It is our intention to provide an update, on some of these items and the feedback that we received, in the forthcoming road shows that we are holding in February.

In the first quarter of 2012 we will be rolling out several updates to our services. These will begin with an update to Red Square Web and Mapping which will include several enhancements and the inclusion of some twelve new reports including brochures, flyers and booklet style reports.The redevelopment of our Addlist is coming along nicely and it has been developed from scratch and of note are the changes to the Business and Commercial Industrial For Sale and Lease sections.

February will also see the launch of Red Square Communicate which is a very powerful newsletter solution. For more information see By the time you read this, Red Square Mobile would have been released for beta testing to a select number of users. Red Square Mobile will provide Listings, Property Information and Current Market Information searches on your phone and it is just not limited to the iPhone. With Red Square Mobile finished we will then turn our attention to a mobile version of and agent web sites for consumers.

The web site continues to grow and we have experienced significant growth in the past six months. During this time we have seen a 70% increase in offices coming on board, a 60% increase in listings and, with the new content, an increase in the visitors to the site. We continue to add new feeds into and out of our system and of note is the recent addition of an upload by the LJ Hooker network to the site.

I would like to thank and congratulate the members and agents in the Mid North Coast, Clarence Valley, Far North Coast and Illawarra areas for their continued support of their publications. The Christmas editions saw two new records being achieved with 124 pages in the Mid North Coast and Far North Coast and 156 pages in the Illawarra – and those pages are all real estate, not editorial and fill as you find in many of our other competitors publications. These figures just go to show what can be achieved when the agents in an area work together.

All the best for the new year and lets hope that some of the predictions for the property market this year don’t eventuate as I understand many of you are already doing it tough out there. If EAC can assist in any regard we will be here continuing to do our best for you and the industry. As always, we welcome any feedback you might have to help us make our products and services more beneficial to your office as, ultimately, we are about service and not profit at the expense of the industry.

My Article from the EAC From the Boardroom publication

This year will be another big year for the Co-operative where we will continue to look at ways the organisation can do some things better while continuing to innovate and add value to members.

I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the many and varied achievements of 2010.

These include:

  • The purely agent centric launch of the new web site provides a single place where members and agents can find out anything they want to know about EAC.
  • The introduction of a new insurance service with OAMPS Insurance Brokers as its preferred supplier of insurance products including a PI insurance package that we believe is superior to others in the marketplace. The feedback from Members on the level of service being received and the number of policies being obtained by OAMPS has been very positive.
  • EAC being named in the inaugural “Australia’s Top 100 Co-operatives, Credit Unions and Mutuals by Annual Turnover”.
  • EAC re-entering the market with its own suite of real estate forms and agreements. The uptake of both our printed and eForms has exceeded our expectations and continues to grow.
  • The re-launch of our Agency Practice Support service whereby EAC members are able to call and obtain advice on many of the issues that real estate practitioners face in the day to day operation of their business including compliance, agency agreements etc.
  • EAC Annual Planning Day at which we reviewed the operations of the Co-operative over the last twelve months, the Strategic Plan and the Budget for the new financial year. The Strategic Plan was updated with some forty items that we believe we can and need to do better at as well as consisting of some exciting new services that will further enhance the benefits derived from being a member of the Co-operative.
  • The launch of a new site with a new fresh look and feel. The new site includes several enhancements based on consumer and agent feedback.
  • Discussions with the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) with a view to obtaining representation at a national level for EAC Members.  As a result of these discussions EAC Members now receive valuable real estate resources from the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), including a weekly newsletter.
  • The creation of a new position of Communications Co-ordinator to allow us to streamline and centralise the many different types of communication that that we send out both internally and externally.
  • The extremely popular roadshows and industry update seminars conducted by EAC. The first round of seminars for 2011 starts in February.
  • The  implementation of a new Customer Relationship system to allow us to keep a better track of, and easily access, information about members and clients so that we can provide a higher level of service.
  • The transfer of all our servers to a new data centre to allow us to provide better business continuity and a higher level of service.

From a personal perspective, it was encouraging to see the Co-operative return to a profitable position this financial year. The planning and hard work put in by the Board and the team at EAC is now beginning to be realised. On the back of this result, the Co-operative is poised to deliver another profit this financial year. This profit, while larger than last year, will not be at the expense of member services. If anything, we have expanded our service offerings while continuing to focus on driving efficiency across the organisation.

I think that 2011 will be a challenging year for the industry on the business front as a result of the current economic and market conditions, as well as from a compliance perspective due to the changes to the Residential Tenancies Act. Remember though that your Co-operative is here to assist you with these challenges and any others that you may face – if you need assistance you only have to call.

All the best in the coming year and as always we welcome any feedback you might have to help us make our products and services more beneficial to your office. Ultimately, we are about service, not profit at the expense of the industry.

To view the publication online click here

David Crombie – EAC From the Boardroom Article September 2009

So much has occurred since the last From the Boardroom and, as a result, the team at EAC have been very busy. The last few months have seen Red Square 7 formally released with some 4000 users having now been upgraded to this new version.
This release introduced many enhancements and included the introduction of Current Market Information, a new version of Neighbourhood Reports and Street Maps. No sooner was the new version of the software out there and I was already planning the next round of enhancements.
The web site continues to grow on all fronts with increases to unique visitors, page impressions, and subscriptions.The level of content has also increased over the past few months. We continue to update the site with new features and are working on a new, fresh design that will be released in the coming months.
Our publications have remained stable with no real drop off in paginations. Some have actually grown in content due to increased support from the agents. This would appear to be against the trend that is being experienced by many other publishers. I think the quality, cost, your support and the fact that the publications are purely real estate are the differentiating factors. The rollout of our online ad building system, AdBuilder, continues, providing those offices that use it with the flexibility to create and supply their ads electronically.
For those offices that produce their own publications or mini-mags, this solution combined with the very good prices we have access to through the printers who print our magazines, we can provide a very cost effective solution.
You would have noticed a new Stationery and Merchandise Order Form that came out at the beginning of July. If you need any stickers or marketing aids make sure you look at the extensive range of merchandise that is available at very competitive prices. As a result of increased demand we are also looking at the production of items such as personalised Sold stickers not only for your office but also for salespeople. We already produce these for many offices, so if you are interested let us know.
The training partnership with Think Real Estate is progressing well. I have spoken to many salespeople, property managers and principals who have attended courses and the feedback has been nothing short of excellent, with some commenting it has been the best training that they have ever attended. We can offer a wide range of training from Skills based, CPD, Certificate of Registration and even Licensing. We are already to go with the latest training requirements that were set by the Office of Fair Trading in May. Training is scheduled for many venues across the state but is also available via correspondence or can be tailored for, and delivered within, your office to suit your requirements. If you need training remember Think EAC Training and call 1300 818 874.
Geoff Hunter and the team have been out in the field performing many Compliance Reviews and I have to say that some of the findings have been a little disturbing. The cost of the Review and the peace of mind that it offers is nothing compared to the potential loss of commission and fines based on some of the issues that have been found. As a result of the success of this service and resulting feedback from the members we will be introducing several new services in this area in the coming months so watch out for the
Early July saw the launch of a real estate search feature to Google Maps in Australia. The new feature allows real estate agents, franchise groups and portals like to upload their listings directly to Google Maps at no cost, making them more easily discoverable by the millions of Google Maps users in Australia. EAC was a Foundation Partner and I have been working with Google since June 2008 on this initiative, initially helping them develop the specification for Australia and then the testing of the upload function.
More and more people are starting their search for a new home online The latest research shows that 87% of Australian home buyers use the internet to research properties. Google themselves saw more than 35% growth in real estate-related searches from Jan/Feb 2008 to Jan/Feb 2009.
There has been much talk in the media and the blogs about the effect that Google will have on some of the large existing real estate portals – I think it is still too early to tell. Do they feel threatened? Yes! Should they? Possibly. Why, Because Google “has” the potential to change the online real estate landscape in Australia. Stay tuned!
All listings in Red Square or on are automatically uploaded to Google Maps at no additional cost.
I have also recently spent a considerable amount of time studying the emerging area of Social Media Marketing. I first came into contact with this area of marketing over two years ago and it is now quickly gaining traction. If you are not aware of what I am talking about it is the use of tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, facebook and Blogs to name a few.
You will need to get your head around how to use these tools to promote you, your business and your listings pretty quickly. To make the job easier I have already begun putting together a package to help you do this and have been fine tuning it with a few agents before offering it as a service to EAC Members. If you are interested in finding out more about this emerging area, then just call me, email me or contact me on any of the social networking sites above.
There are many benefits of being an EAC Member and, in addition to access to many discounted goods and services, we continue to concentrate on delivering services you need and require in the day to day running of your business. We provide tangible services providing tangible benefits. Real Estate, as you would appreciate, is a business that revolves around people and over the past few years to enhance the level of service provided (in times when many other similar organisations have been putting people off) we have invested heavily in putting people on the ground. This was done to ensure that you gain the maximum benefit from EAC and our products and services.
I have to say that it still amazes me when I visit offices and talk to principals that many are unaware of everything that is available to them in the way of goods and services through their association with EAC, and not necessarily just new products and/or services but those that have been available for a significant time. I ask that, if you are not sure or would like some assistance with getting more out of our services such as Red Square, that you contact us and your area representative will come out to your office and take you through what you are interested in knowing about.
That is it for another update. As always we welcome any feedback you might have to help us make our products and services more beneficial to your office as, ultimately, we are about providing the best, most cost effective service to you and not attaining profit
at the expense of the industry.

From the Boardroom Article – Edition 4

As unbelievable as it is we are already in March. I would like to begin by thanking you for your ongoing support throughout 2008. It was a hard year for the Industry but we hope it was a successful year for you all. 2009 is already well under way and we look forward to continuing to help grow your business.

I am pleased to report that many of the changes that I, together with the EAC Board, have been working on putting in place are now beginning to show results. The financial reports presented to the Board for January this year show a turnaround of some $578,000 over the same period last year. This is a significant achievement given the current marketplace in which the Co-operative operates. Every one of the 53 employees at EAC should be commended for their dedication and hard work that has assisted in delivering this result.

Whilst we can be somewhat satisfied with the positive results flowing through as a result of the changes made, the Board and Management remain focused on achieving more for the Members who own the Co-operative and for the Industry for which we exist.
The real estate industry and property market in NSW is currently in a state of flux with the volume of sales, on average across the state, down from anywhere between 35% – 40% on last calendar year. With what has occurred in the past six months to the major economies of the world, their stock markets and banking sectors, I believe things are going to get worse before they get better. Unfortunately, nobody really knows how long this situation will last, or how deep it will go.

To assist with navigating, and in some cases surviving these difficult times, it is imperative that you have a plan. While there will always be things that come up that we cannot plan for or control, you need every step to be deliberate, sure, and effective, and that means a plan that spells out exactly what needs to be done to move forward, what needs to be executed tactically to achieve that, and where your clear priorities lie.

To this end on the on the 24th February 2009, the EAC Board, the Board and EAC Management held a Board Planning Day. For those that are not aware, is a wholly owned subsidiary of EAC but has a separate Board that is responsible for the operation of that company.
During the Planning day we looked at what is necessary to thrive in these hard times in which we find ourselves. From there we looked at our revised Budgets for the second half of the financial year and, as with many businesses today, we revised some of our revenue targets downwards. As a result of cost savings and efficiencies that we have implemented, it is encouraging to note that even with these revised revenue levels the budgeted result will still be significantly better than previous years.
The Board then updated the EAC Board on its objectives and where it was at from an operations perspective.

Having reviewed the budgets we then moved onto a review of the draft strategic plan which is a document that contained some 36 pages. The Plan looked at the current position of the Co-operative and set out items that need to be considered and discussed in order to determine which of these should form part of EAC’s strategic plan over the next 12 – 36 months. From this session we came up with a list of some 40 items in order of importance, and work has already begun on putting the Plan into action.

With decisions having been made on the items/areas that we were going to focus on, the next session then looked at EAC Membership moving forward. As a result of this session we will be undertaking a number of survey’s and focus groups in order to obtain feedback from the actual members on what their “wants and needs” are going forward, to ensure we deliver the necessary outcomes.

The day then ended with Executive and Management Feedback to the Board and vice versa. Overall the day was very positive with some exciting outcomes.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the day was how passionate everyone was about the Co-operative and the Industry, of which we are a part. It was self evident that there were no hidden agendas, with everyone working towards the same goals.
The past few months has seen a hive of activity at EAC.

The long awaited new version of Red Square has been released and we now have some 2,500 licences of this new version out in the marketplace with the feedback being very positive to date. For those who do not have the new version as yet, it is envisaged that it will be released to all users by the end of March.
Since introducing our Compliance Review Service, we have been busy performing reviews, with reviews of some 10 offices now completed. The Compliance Review service is designed to highlight any problems in your office and office procedures in order that these can be remedied before any inspection by the Department of Fair Trading. It is a small price to pay for the level of comfort it offers. At the end of the day you will be provided with a list of immediate findings followed up by a written report on any compliances issues found and the areas of potential risk. Call to book your compliance review today.

I am glad to report that we can finally put the IPMG matter behind us. In December we saw the determination of costs come back from the Supreme Court and we were awarded some $257,000. This is still some way short of the $380,000 that it cost us to fight the action but it is a small price to pay (although expensive) to ensure that the Illawarra publication remained in the control of the Co-operative and its members.

The paginations of the publications have remained pretty stable over the past few months. The publications that remain in the market place are well supported by the agents. These agents, as a result of working together and resisting the constant offers from the other publications in the respective marketplaces, continue to benefit from the savings.

As a reward from EAC for the agent’s commitment and continuing support, the paper stock used for the Illawarra and Far North Coast publications has been upgraded. This change, which greatly improves the quality of the publications, including the use of a thicker cover, was provided at no additional cost to the agents. This change also further widens the gap in relation to the quality of the publications in these marketplaces as compared to the competition.

December saw a new milestone for Illawarra publication with the last edition for the year reaching 100 pages in size.

January saw the Sydney publication move to a Gloss format from newsprint and the Mid North Coast publication expand up the Coast into the Coffs Harbour area.
March will see the Far North Coast publication move from basket and home delivery to basket delivery only saving the agents some $230 per page.

In my last update I mentioned that we were in the final stages of obtaining recognition as an “Industry Association” in the area of training. I am happy to announce that this has now been confirmed with correspondence being received from the Minister for Fair Trading in January. We have some big news coming up on the training front so stay tuned.

Well that is it for another update. As always we welcome any feedback you might have to help us make our products and services more beneficial to your office as, ultimately, we are about service and not profit at the expense of the industry.