26 May 2012
It’s an understatement to say Sarah and Bruce Symon are passionate about their property inspection
business, Realsure. A better term would be “crusaders for better industry standards” because over the past 12 years they have
battled obstruction from the real estate industry, campaigned to educate the public, and lobbied
As a real estate agent in the late 1990s, Sarah became increasingly disgusted at the lack of robust building standards and property inspection processes. She saw a gap in the market here and Realsure was born, but she had not anticipated the extent to which she would become involved over concern for the consumer. The industry is essentially still unregulated but, in part thanks to Realsure’s work, there is a system to accredit property surveyors qualified to a New Zealand standard.
Realsure’s ultimate goal is to be the name to go to for property inspections. Sarah believes individual house inspectors will go by the wayside. Bigger companies that pool resources and knowledge will give better service. About 80 per cent of Realsure’s business consists of referrals, which has helped it grow: it now has franchises in most of the main centres around the country.
Why did you become an entrepreneur?
Bruce and I have always looked out for business ideas. In the late 1990s, property inspections were in the top 50 growing industries in the United States, yet our research of the Australian and New Zealand market showed no real property inspection services. We seemed to have unintentionally expanded our entrepreneurial skills into developing an industry standard and accreditation programme out of an absolute need to protect the consumer when making property decisions.
What have been the biggest obstacles in running your company?
Finding suitable standards and systems in an emerging industry, and the resistance from the real estate industry. Standard-compliant, competent inspections do uncover issues and inform purchasers of potential weather-tightness risk, where applicable. This can create issues or terminate a contract to purchase, [and are] therefore not seen to be in the real estate agent’s best interest. And the industry is unregulated. Name one thing you’ve learnt from while in business, and from who. Always look at the needs of the consumer or end-user. We learnt this way of thinking from our marketing guru, Dave Bassett, of Brandnew.
What are your business and personal goals?
Realsure was always launched to be a national company and we are getting there, slowly but surely. Our goal is to be the trusted name for property inspections throughout the country, like AA checks for your car. We want to know we have made a difference in making New Zealand homes better by empowering homeowners with the knowledge to maintain and care for their homes and providing quality assurance programmes to monitor new building work for the builders or homeowners – we are not there yet on good building practices across the board.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Look for the gaps in the market, do your research well, and tackle them with tenacity and passion. You will have setbacks; learn from them and adapt.
– Jenny Keown © Fairfax NZ News