I first wrote the article below in February ’20, just as the dirty virus was about to take a grasp on us all. Typical of Liz O’Kane, reignite a business when the world is shutting down! Recessions follow me around, they no longer scare me, they are what they are, cyclical. And we’ll survive to tell the tales to all who’ll listen to our stories of austerity if they lend us their ears.
Yesterday, February 16th 2022, my new website went live (www.lizokane.ie) with thanks to government funding due to Covid-19. I managed to complete a Post Grad during lockdown with thanks in part to government funding due to Covid-19. I whole heartedly admit it almost sucked the life out of me and I will not be doing it again!
The previous recession (2010) ensured that my business collapsed within 10 months, that my family exited the country due to the financial crisis and that my confidence went down the loo! Fast forward to January 2020 when I become a sole trader again and two years on, I’ve survived when many couldn’t through no fault of their making.
So, here’s my throwback to February 2020. Who knew what was gonna happen next…
Here I Go Again…..
Literally, here I go again in just about every area of my life. Everything has come full circle and I find myself with two recessions behind me, one marriage, one business, two dependent, adult kids, and a serious knock to my confidence together with a new found vulnerability. And, now I’m saying, ‘Ah sure here, I’ll give it another go’. I’m either completely barmy or incapable of being an employee. Likely a bit of both!
Ireland’s Original House Hunter came into being three weeks following the birth of my daughter Ellie, now 18. That beautiful, infant child was completely ignored whilst I aggressively tapped into my new laptop the property idea that would make me Ireland’s first Buyer’s Agent. I am convinced she is an independent, well organised, mature kid because she had to bottle feed herself whilst Mum worked. Sometimes, there can be great rewards in ignoring kids I find!
Get-sorted and the Liz O’Kane brand had steady growth and lovely opportunities came my way. Presenting two property series for RTE – House Hunters and House Hunters in the Sun, writing property columns for several national newspapers, moderating and MC’ing exhibitions and events and regular radio and telly slots meant I was in the public eye and so business was good.
Then Ireland came tumbling down as the property bubble burst. Overnight ‘property’ was no longer a pretty word, it was a dirty word and the banks were the devil incarnate. I’m still in recovery. I will likely never truly recover. But I still have a chance. To operate purchasing property as the best Buyer’s Agent in the country, to be my own boss and to avail of new media opportunities that are coming my way again. Hallelujah, how lucky am I.
The last two years have been spent as the aforementioned employee working as a Buyer’s Agent under the umbrella of a Dublin estate agent. Being fair it gave me my mojo back and a renewed belief in myself. Vulnerability still hovers around however, and I wish he’d feck off!
Most importantly, I discovered quickly that the relationships with estate agents and property consultants I had garnered in my previous business life were all generous, kind and encouraging to a fault when learning I was back in the game. The difference between us, they sell, I buy. It is my job to know every estate agent in town. Most traditional estate agents do not know each other by virtue of the fact they are vying for the same sales instructions. I act exclusively for the purchaser, so when I contact a sales agent about a property, they know there is a serious buyer who has already retained me and so the reaction is strong.
Being a Buyer’s Agent is all about relationships, trust and discretion. Relationships with my client’s who are entrusting me to research, source, negotiate and purchase property on their behalf. Most are either abroad, time poor, want to remain anonymous or are first time buyers who don’t know how to go about the process. A house purchase is not the kind of retail therapy one gets embroiled in every year or every 10 years. Even the most savvy business people have a ‘wobble’ when it comes to the bidding process. It’s emotive, but not for me. When I’m acting for my client’s I am intense about their ambitions and aspirations for the property they want to buy. Sometimes I need to tell them that what they want is not achievable and a little exercise in changing the mindset ensues. It’s all about exploring options that might not have been thought about. You’d be surprised what a kilometer in the opposite direction can turn up!
Discretion is key. My client’s identity is never divulged. Neither is their budget. A fascinating and common error of the prospective purchaser can be to tell the agent what their budget is and sometimes without being asked. Pretty key information wouldn’t you say? All communication is through me until the solicitors come into play. Even at this juncture I’m never gone! Advising until the keys are handed over, managing emotions, money and expectations.
Knowing about off market properties is vital. It’s like being a detective. I need to know the word on the street and invariably the word will come to me. I am probably the first phone call a lot of estate agents will make if trying to sell a property off market. I don’t always have a match but that property will be firmly in my mind and I can talk about it should the right buyer contact me.
I’m not a messer, I detest being played, broken promises and my time being wasted. I’m open, honest and blunt in negotiation which is simply a conversation about ‘okay, what’s the deal’? ‘I have the client come to the table and talk’. Most agents respect this approach and in a funny way dealing with a Buyer’s Agent is more straightforward than dealing with a potential purchaser who can be slow and indecisive in the background. Buying for me is about doing a deal whereby everyone is happy and we shake hands, comfortable in the knowledge that a fair deal is done and we will be glad to do business again. Then calm and breathe!
Liz O’Kane is the founder of www.lizokane.ie and is Ireland’s Original House Hunter. She was the presenter of House Hunters and House Hunters in the Sun (RTE 1) and a regular contributor to Ireland AM (TV3 now Virgin Media) and The Afternoon Show (RTE1), she writes regularly for The Business Post (Ireland;s no. 1 Sunday Business publication. More recently she presented Buyers Bootcamp (Virgin Media) a series about first time buyer’s on their journey to purchase their first home.