LOSE IT OR MAKE IT BIG: 25 YEARS ON FOR THE BELLS
Written on the 12 December 2014 by Nick Nichols
IT WAS a case of "lose it all or make a motza" when the Bell brothers decided to transplant a successful property business from Sydney to the Gold Coast 25 years ago.
Now Andrew and Greg Bell operate the largest Ray White real estate agency in Australia with total sales of more than $1.2 billion a year across 12 offices on the Gold Coast and in the US and Asia - selling everything from residential, commercial and industrial properties to luxury motor yachts.
"It was a real test of character - we had to find out what we were made of and if we could get through the worst times the Gold Coast had ever encountered which went on for many years," says group CEO Andrew Bell.
"Overnight we went from the top of the heap in Sydney's eastern suburbs to the new boys on the Coast who no one knew," says Bell.
"There were only two alternatives - either to lose it all or make it work and we sure didn't like the first option.
"The company has grown significantly since then the Gold Coast, too, has gone through a major transformation which weve been privileged to have been a part of.
"In particular weve played roles in bringing new developments to the Gold Coast and marketing the city nationally and internationally."
This month marks the Bell brothers' 25th year operating Ray White Surfers Paradise Group, riding high on resurgence in the Gold Coast property market that started in earnest about two years ago.
It's a far cry from when they first set up on the Coast in 1989, in the middle of the air pilot's strike which crippled Queensland's tourism industry at a time when the Japanese property bubble was collapsing and the economy was heading into the "recession we had to have".
Their resilience was tested early on, but the Bells -already seasoned players who ran three real estate offices in Sydney's east before venturing to the Gold Coast - took on the challenge the best way they knew.
They promoted the hell out of Gold Coast property, kicking off their Simply the Best auction program in 1993 - a program better known these days as The Event which is held in January and considered a barometer of the national property market.
The Bells are also among the early pioneers who put the Gold Coast property market on the map for Asian investors, securing offices and affiliations in Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.
"While we live and breathe the Gold Coast every day, we believe this push abroad deepens our value delivery to clients," says Greg Bell.
"We're great believers in the Gold Coast and realise that it has a national and international appeal as a lifestyle and investment destination.
"And while we continue to play a role in promoting the Gold Coast on the world stage, our focus remains on servicing our local clientele."
The past 12 months have been particularly strong for Asian buyers, with Raw White Surfers Paradise wrapping up 330 Gold Coast property sales to investors from the region.
Ray White Surfers Paradise's sales to Asian buyers are up more than 50 per cent on a year ago, with many of those sales mopping up the last of the oversupply of apartment stock in the market.
The surge of sales has triggered renewed development activity on the Gold Coast, particularly for high rise apartments.
The latest building approval figures reveal the Gold Coast had the fastest growing market in Queensland over the 12 months to the end of September, with approvals up 49.3 per cent to 4606.
More than half of those approvals, or 54 per cent, were for apartments.
According to Andrew Bell, who chaired the Business and Community Committee for the Gold Coast's 2018 Commonwealth Games bid and has an ongoing involvement with the Games' Joint Marketing Committee, the best is yet to come for the city.
"Winning the Games has given the local economy a tremendous long-term boost and will create a legacy for the Gold Coasts community, tourism, arts and sporting sectors," he says.
"It will also put the city on the world stage which is an opportunity we must seize with both hands."
The Bells are avid supporters of community events and worthy causes, most notably their long-term backing of the Muscular Dystrophy Association through the annual Ray White ball.
After 21 years, the ball has raised $3 million for the cause and become a key event on the city's social calendar.
The Bells also support Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club through RWSP Group's annual Sports Lunch, which kicked off in 2005 and has raised more than $600,000 for the club.
"We were concerned about the then financial strain on the surf life saving clubs and how it could affect the city's tourism industry if the beaches weren't kept safe, Greg Bell says.
This year, Southport Surf Life Saving Club was included as a beneficiary in the more than $40,000 raised.
Author: Nick Nichols