Colliers International female trio take on commercial real estate

In what is typically a male-dominant world, three women are taking Wellington's commercial real estate scene by storm.

Georgina Young, Michelle Chadwick and Janette Lillas, all of Colliers International, are aspiring to match the capital's "grande dame" of commercial real estate Rosemary Bradford.

Bradford was a Colliers International director who started a 'women in property' group. She worked in the industry for more than four-decades before retiring in February last year.

The longest serving of the three - 10-year veteran Chadwick - is part of the Wellington CBD investment sales team.

Chadwick said more women should work in commercial property.

"The hours are flexible, you typically don't work weekends and the main holidays are over the Christmas period, so it fits in with raising a family.

"It suits women fantastically.

"The industry would benefit from more women - it's one of the last male bastions. But the great thing about working with men is there are no hidden agendas, they're all straight up, they say it as they see it."

Lillas believed female commercial real estate brokers would become common over the next few years.

"More women are getting into valuation and property management. The logical step would be to make a move from using those skills into commercial real estate," she said.

"The profession's still very male dominated but women are getting more involved with commercial property decisions, be it selling, purchasing or leasing.

"I just go out and show people buildings."

Lillas preceded her five years with Colliers, with three years in her husband's boutique real estate firm.

"I have a background in social work, which surprises some people when they see my qualifications on my business card.

"But it's all about working with people, understanding issues and solving problems."

The trio are positive about the sector, noting the market was active.

 Chadwick said: "There have been clear signs of improvement in the commercial property market both in sales and leasing this year".

"Historically low interest rates make the market favourable for property investment as investors recognise the arbitrage between yields and current debt costs."

While there was always a good number of Wellington investors, "relatively favourable" pricing meant that overseas institutional or sovereign wealth funds were now looking closer at the capital, she said.

That international demand was fuelling a growing investment market.

"I was most recently involved in the sale of the Countdown portfolio with Richard Findlay, and the wider national Colliers team, which was the largest sale of my career - $287 million.

"The sale generated significant New Zealand and international interest showing the demand for good quality stock is currently exceeding supply," Chadwick said.

"We expect this increased activity to continue next year."

Lillas, who specialised in properties in Ngauranga north, including Porirua and Hutt Valley, said more investors were coming into the market and seeing opportunities.

"There are earthquake strengthening challenges for landlords with older buildings.

"But some people are more comfortable than others with buildings that need improving.

"A lot of industrial vacancies in the Hutt have tightened up - it's become much harder to match with clients' needs. So for investors, it's a good time to invest."

Young agreed.

"It is a great time to sell a building now if you don't have the appetite to strengthen it," Young said.

"There are a lot of developers looking for opportunities to strengthen buildings.

"The good thing about strengthening is that a lot of owners and developers are upgrading their buildings at the same time. This in turn is improving the stock in the market and is providing a major boost to the construction industry."

Young worked as a solicitor in Wellington, London and the British Virgin Islands before joining Colliers in November 2014, where she sells and leases property.

 - sourced from

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