The end of 2020 brought about a significant change for RE/MAX Malta and its internal structure. After years as the company’s COO, Jeffrey Buttigieg has taken the helm as CEO, following his brother Kevin’s tenure. Now, Jeffrey is looking to the future with fresh tenacity and enthusiasm about what this next chapter has in store.
“I’ve been engrossed in implementation for a long time, but my focus is being recalibrated,” Jeffrey says, as he reflects on his transition to CEO, and Kevin’s move to Chairman. “It’s a different ballgame, but to be captaining the ship is an exciting challenge through which I am making sure that our sails are trimmed, everything’s ticking along and we’re all sailing in the right direction. I’m meticulous and determined to forge a new path ahead. But, more than anything, I strive to continue learning. I’m a lifelong student, so in many ways, my journey is just getting started.”
From milestone to milestone, Jeffrey has consistently applied real-life lessons to secure new opportunities. In his late teens, he was working in real estate when he got poached by one of his clients to work in an advertising company. But the call of real estate remained strong, and when his brother, Kevin, called a few years later with a proposal to set up their own property agency, Jeffrey jumped at the opportunity.
“I had always wanted to run my own business, so we decided to set up JK Properties together, a small operation that then grew into RE/MAX Malta within five years,” he smiles. “When we were JK Properties, we were known as the island’s Lettings Specialists, which is something we still hold close to our hearts. With RE/MAX, we’ve progressed into becoming experts in sales as well as lettings.”
The generalist vs specialist discussion in real estate is something that is often spoken about quite zealously. While Jeffrey sees the benefits of both approaches, he is a staunch advocate of specialising in one’s career.
“A specialist knows everything there is to know about a particular kind of property or town, including what has and hasn’t been sold and all relevant details. As a specialist, you’re the go-to person and this boosts the trust factor from the client’s perspective,” he explains.
“On the contrary, a generalist does a bit of everything, everywhere – but it will often take longer to sell a property if you don’t specialise in the building’s particular area. The real estate sector has a lot of generalists and just a few specialists. At RE/MAX Malta, the reverse is true, and this has been quite a pivotal strategy behind our success.”
For the new CEO, it all comes down to knowledge and expertise, and the ability to share both with clients proactively. “Property is often the biggest investment in one’s life, so I believe in arming people with the knowledge they need to make sound decisions,” he says. “I’ve applied this concept at RE/MAX too, through conducting thorough market research, which isn’t necessarily the norm on the island. In fact, we’re still in a position where the Maltese Government does not have a system in place to distribute robust statistics about the property sector. As a result, without proactively seeking that data and knowledge, all a company can do is walk ahead blindly.”
One initiative Jeffrey set up to funnel market knowledge to the public is The Real Estate Conversation, an online video series. Asked about his decision to take the plunge, Jeffrey says that he had spent a while contemplating innovative ways of giving solid, unbiased knowledge to the community.
“I settled on the idea of letting experts do the explaining,” he says. “In each video, I sit down with a consultant or other expert – someone who lives and breathes the subject in their profession – to discuss a particular topic so that the public can hear the ins and outs from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Especially after doing the series, my advice to people is that if you’re serious about investing in property, seek information from a trustworthy source, rather than through hearsay.”
Following his many successes, Jeffrey is now driven by the strategic opportunities that lie ahead for both the company and the team. “I like building relationships with people and understanding their psyche,” he says, “and above all, I believe in empowering people and giving them chances to explore abilities and establish expertise.”
“Of course, 2020 has been difficult and our performance in some respects has been hit: we are currently at 85 per cent of where we were last year. It’s been tough for our agents, who have had to work even harder for the deal. Buyers have not been in abundance and property owners are wary. But in contrast to popular belief, prices haven’t really decreased, and we’ve had a few excellent luxury market sales. That said, foreign clients have slowed down and many agents have had to re-focus as a result.
“Overall, though, the entire team has really come together and picked each other up to get through this period. I am incredibly proud of how well our agents have adapted to working remotely and using new tech systems and processes. The unity and camaraderie across the whole company have been truly inspiring.”
And it is RE/MAX Malta’s agents that lie at the core of Jeffrey’s vision moving forward. “2021 will be all about consolidation and taking our training to new heights. RE/MAX Malta’s learning programmes are unparalleled among our competition on the island. Besides the obvious benefits, this is proving to be fortunate for us because all agents in Malta will need to be fully licensed by the end of 2021, as per recent legislation. Thankfully, our agents have been doing the kind of training needed to obtain the licence for years. But across the wider local sector, this new requirement will mark a turning point.”
This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.
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