Kevin Buttigieg and Jeff Buttigieg, Chairman and COO of RE/MAX Malta respectively, believe that, with the imminent introduction of real estate regulations, combined with the company’s own Customer Service Charter, the real estate landscape in Malta is soon to experience a transition period. They believe it will go from a predominantly direct-from-owner market to a more agency-centric market, where property sales by real estate agencies will increase to over 75 per cent in the next two-to-three years.
“To begin with, 50 per cent or more of the population still buy direct from the owner. If you consider that RE/MAX accounts for a great percentage of estate agents in Malta, our influence can be instrumental. In North America and many European countries, 90 per cent of sales go through an agent and we are now seeing local numbers increase in line with that,” Jeff Buttigieg said. “We believe those results will be down to the service that an estate agent can offer, and we are at the very forefront of that.” Indeed, a recent study confirms that those who do not use an agency in Malta at the moment would consider using one if the agency was more professional, more knowledgeable of the market, properly trained, and cared about their customers’ needs.
When RE/MAX Malta opened in April 2004 with just three agents and the directors as its team, it was impossible to know that it would grow into a company with 31 franchisees and hundreds of team members, making it the sector leader in the real estate business in Malta. Now, the leaders behind the company say it is time to make changes that will ensure RE/MAX can keep growing and keep setting standards.
“We started small but always had big ideas for where RE/MAX was going locally,” explained Kevin Buttigieg. “We grew very quickly and that was absolutely fantastic for a number of reasons, but it has also highlighted some weaknesses within the company structure. Now we’re turning a family company into a uniquely professional one, which is immensely positive. That is exactly why we recently embarked on a transformative process that my brother, Jeff, has been leading for the past few months, so that we can consolidate what we have currently and reset the standards of the real estate sector into the future.”
Jeff Buttigieg, COO of RE/MAX Malta
Jeff Buttigieg said that as RE/MAX Malta is already always a step ahead of local competition, innovation has to be at the helm of everything the organisation does. “Thus, this new move will roll out a number of truly innovative approaches within the sector and revolutionise the way we do business. I believe no one will be able to match us in the years to come.”
To this end, RE/MAX Malta has engaged top-level professionals to help with this process – including industry consultants, as well as their own franchise owners and managers. Together they have studied existing structures and practices, and have paved the way to building a new strategy for the whole company to use in its operations.
One of the key aspects of this process is the creation of the RE/MAX Customer Service Charter, and works are already well underway. “This means that we are integrating our values into everything that we do, and our code of ethics is going to be a very important part of the business moving forward because we believe the company needs to go back to basics,” the COO explained.
“We have grown exponentially, and our administration couldn’t quite cope with that growth. We can be very objective, and know that some things were allowed to slip, some service standards were not adhered to across the board, and certain brand guidelines were not strictly followed. This is the time to rectify that and we are doing it in a big way.”
“As a result of this charter, the whole RE/MAX Malta network – including our franchisees – will speak the same language,” Kevin Buttigieg added. “After all, when you grow so quickly, it’s hard to keep specific standards in place while everything is changing around you so rapidly. So now, everything will reflect the way things must be done – from top to bottom and bottom to top; from the way we operate to the way we make decisions. I believe our services standards will soon be second to none.”
A lot of research has already gone into this process, while more will be conducted in the weeks to come. “We recently held in-depth focus groups with top-performing members of our team, for instance, to discover more about their processes and habits. We wanted to learn everything about the way they work – from how they approach clients to the way they close a deal. These individuals are incredibly accomplished in their fields and we want to learn from them, but also to ensure that our standards are being met at every stage.”
“Beyond that, we are also surveying clients who came to RE/MAX when searching for property but didn’t end up buying from us. We want to know why, and we want to make sure that, next time, any skills and training gaps are filled.”
With that in mind, RE/MAX Malta has already put a number of processes in place, including a 15-day induction course for new recruits. “We believe this starts them off on the right foot – by covering everything from dealing with buyers, sellers and notaries, to communication and soft skills. Thanks to the combined experience of our three real estate academy managers, we have created a holistic programme, using an approach that we trust will make a major difference to the final product.”
The company is also changing its technology approach by launching a new state-of-the-art property management system with integrated performance management technology. It has been built in-line with its Customer Service Charter so the company can ensure high standards across the board.
The Chairman said that RE/MAX Malta’s new approach started to be rolled out as of 1st January this year, and is all-encompassing across the pillars of the restructuring process, including the company’s operating model, franchise governance, service standards, brand building, engagement and staff development, digital and performance management.
“The process is happening now and will take about six-to-18 months to complete, with lots of elements coming together during this period to provide a genuinely well-rounded result. We’re very excited about those results and what this will mean for the future standards of real estate in Malta,” he concluded.
This article originally appeared in The Malta Business Observer