Research gone wrong – Gavin Hulcombe

Valuer from Herron Todd White, Gavin Hulcombe, tells us where he sees investors go wrong with research.
Kevin:  One thing I know about valuers is that they make the valuation process look so easy. That’s because they know a lot about the market. I think sometimes investors think that they can just do five minutes’ worth of work and probably know everything about the market. I’m talking now to Gavin Hulcombe who is the chairman of Herron Todd White nationally and also Queensland managing director.
Gavin, thanks for your time.
Gavin:  No problem. Good morning, Kevin.
Kevin:  Morning. I know that valuers spend a lot of time studying the market and always looking at it. Where do you see investors go wrong with the research that they do, Gavin?
Gavin:  I think one of the hardest things for anyone to do is to come into a market that they don’t know or a location that they don’t know and try to understand the local drivers. I think that can be someone who is coming from interstate; obviously, it’s very hard to know the specifics of a location.
But I think even at a micro level, if you live on one side of a city and you want to go to buy something on the other side, there are often a lot of local drivers or specifics that the locals know that people coming into an area might not necessarily know. I think they do tend to have a fairly big influence on value.
Kevin:  I think probably a decade or so ago, there was probably a time when the market was a lot less forgiving than what it is now and you could probably make some mistakes and just wait for the market to sort itself out, but you really have to be on top of it nowadays, Gavin, I find.
Gavin:  I think that’s right. I think you really have to be looking to outperform the market. If you’re happy to take the average of the market or if you make some mistakes, you’re right, I don’t think we have the same level of uplift. There’s the old saying “Every player wins a prize.” Well, that applies in some markets, but I’m not sure that we’re in that phase now. I think if you don’t make the right decisions, you are actually at risk of losing.
Kevin:  The topic for this conversation was where investors go wrong with their research. Quite often, you can do it at arm’s length, and I think you’ve mentioned the point that you have to get on the ground and feel what those local drivers are all about. Would your advice be to make sure you travel to the area you’re going to invest in?
Gavin:  I think you need to travel to the area. I think you need to talk to people. That might even be talking to as many property people as you can, whether that’s real estate agents, talk to council, talk to town planners. Even having chats at the coffee shop, I think you start to get a bit of an understanding of what drives the local market by doing that. It’s getting out there, talking to people, and you certainly have to walk the streets. The idea of sitting on the Internet and doing it all remotely, I think can be quite misleading.
Kevin:  What is a valuer’s role nowadays in advising investors – if that’s, in fact, what you do or you’re prepared to do – about the market that they may be looking at? Or do you simply look at it as a valuation and it doesn’t vary?
Gavin:  If I’m really honest with you, some valuers do fall into the trap of “I do valuations,” and that’s what they do all day every day. I think there are other people who can step back and take a bit more of a macro view and say, “These are the areas that I would be considering and this is why.” Then once you started to narrow down your pocket, then you can say, “Well, what’s your price point?”
Basically, you start to narrow the field within which you’re looking. I think some valuers can do that quite well and certainly it gives you the ability to tap into the knowledge that they have. More often than not, they’ll know the suburb intimately and more often than not, the street. That can certainly provide some really good insights for people who are wanting to invest.
Kevin:  In our show, we always talk with our investors and advise them to make sure they put together a team of people. Is it possible for a valuer to be on a team and look at areas outside their area of influence? As an example, would you be able to do valuations and help an investor in all parts of Australia?
Gavin:  I don’t think anyone can know all parts of Australia that well. I think what you need to do is go to locals. For Herron Todd White, we have 65 offices around the country, we have people in most parts of Australia, and it would be a matter of going to the local office and the local valuer so that they can provide the local insights.
I don’t know that anyone can give an overall view of Australia, but I think it’s about starting with the big picture, starting to narrow it down and saying, “Well, why would I go to that area over another?” Once you narrow it down to a city, then I think you can start to narrow it down to a part of a city, then a suburb, and then you’re starting to get into the specifics from there.
Kevin:  Gavin, thank you so much for your time. It’s been great talking to you as always. Gavin Hulcombe, chairman of Herron Todd White Australia and also Queensland managing director.
Thanks for your time, Gavin.
Gavin:  Thanks very much.

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