From sales, letting and commercial, to turnkey, property management and condominium services, the newly merged organisation is set up to service clients in a personal & holistic way.
In the reception area of a sea-front office in Spinola, Ludwig Farrugia, the founder and CEO of one-stop-shop property company Inside Homes® Malta | SQL, cuts a towering figure, and greets us with a smile from ear-to-ear.
Recently, Managing Director of the well-known letting company SQL, Joseph Sullivan, announced that he was leaving the company, and would be handing over the reigns to Mr Farrugia.
Having his own property company, Inside Homes® Malta, which pioneered the use of video walk-ins for property viewings during COVID, WhosWho.mt sought to understand what will become of the two companies, and what direction Mr Farrugia plans to take the newly merged organisation.
Inside Homes® Malta | SQL, Mr Farrugia explains, aims to serve clients in a personal and holistic way. The company is split into six departments: Sales, letting, commercial, turnkey, property management and condominium services. The Spinola office takes care of the sales, letting and commercial aspects, while official partners take care of the latter services.
The company, Mr Farrugia stresses, strives to set itself apart by placing particular focus on the client - and highlights that in property transactions, an agency actually has two clients: the buyer and seller, or the landlord and tenant.
Turning back to the acquisition of SQL by Inside Homes® Malta, the CEO shares that while his company was launched during COVID, SQL has been around since 2001 - no easy feat for the cut throat business that is the local property industry.
Mr Farrugia has himself worked in the sector for the past 11 years, previously owning two franchises of a well-known local agency, and previously enjoyed top letting agent for six consecutive years in another well known agency on the island.
Having known SQL's Joseph Sullivan for some time, when he heard that Mr Sullivan would be leaving the country, after much deliberation and consideration, it was agreed that Inside Homes® Malta would merge SQL "lock, stock and barrel," meaning it was taken over with its Spinola office, state-of-the-art property database and existing systems.
This meant that Mr Farrugia had to take Inside Homes® Malta - which was operating, up until last year, as a business with minimal expenses, working out of cafes and not having a fixed base, to having a high-expense set up, considering the office, database and the highly user-friendly SQL website.
The CEO is passionate when he says that part of the great success behind SQL since its launch in 2001 was that it remained "small", so to speak, and thus continued to be able to deliver a personal service, going a cut above the rest.
This is the plan for the newly merged organisation, Inside Homes® Malta | SQL, Mr Farrugia confirms.
"The idea is to remain contained and small. That is the trick on the island, because when you grow too much, and too quickly, you lose control. Everybody - from staff to clients - become a number, and you will not be able to retain the desired level of customer service," he says.
By remaining small, he adds, he is also able to keep his promise of providing a personal service.
"Even among the culture of my letting agents, because we are small, we are able to be flexible with our clients, whereas in big offices, you cannot."
Providing an example of this, Mr Farrugia shares that he can be flexible with agent commissions charged, because accommodating clients, when it makes sense, is possible when you have full control of a smaller operation.
"We try to give back to both the buyers and sellers. For example, I do not charge five per cent + VAT as commission, but rather four per cent, including VAT, because I can."
"If I am close to concluding on a property deal and see that it makes sense to tweak agency fees, I do not have to call my franchise owner, boss, or whoever it may be... An agent simply makes one quick call to me, and a decision is taken."
Selective with properties, selective with agents
Another way in which Mr Farrugia plans to keep Inside Homes® Malta | SQL contained, is by being highly selective of the properties allowed on the company's database, as well as the type of agents he wishes to work with.
"I do not want to fill my database with properties I cannot sell. I would rather have very sellable properties and remain honest with the client. If they are asking for an unrealistic asking price, whether too high or too low, I will have an honest conversation with them about it. What's important for me, is to manage the transaction of properties that I truly believe in."
Here, Mr Farrugia shares that he much prefers to show 10 clients one property, then showing 10 properties to one client. According to his ethos, he prefers to know a property inside out, and take clients for viewings in a way that makes sense.
He adds that like this, when showing one property to several like-minded clients, it acts as a lead generation, because he is establishing the kind of properties a particular client is looking for, and if one doesn't quite fit the bill - at least it would be in a similar ball park.
As for his comments regarding being selective with the agents he works with, because the strategy behind the company is to remain contained, he does not have the luxury to hire anybody who comes through the door. He requires attentive agents who are go-getters, who he himself hand-picks.
Currently, the office is made up of four letting agents and two sales agents. While currently recruiting for his sales team, Mr Farrugia says that his aim is to come up to a total of five letting specialists, while also increasing his sales team.
Goals for 2022
Asked for his goals in the upcoming year, Mr Farrugia says he is focused on getting all seats filled within the Spinola office.
"I want to consolidate and strengthen the office. I want to fill every chair and get each team member working optimally. Once I get to that stage, where my hand-picked agents are working on their own steam, I am out there getting them leads and getting them properties."
"That is my target - not to actually sell or rent, but to generate business for the company as well as business development."
Mr Farrugia says a mistake typically made in the local industry is to keep opening office after office across the island, resulting into major expenses and empty-looking outfits.
Having entered the property industry as a junior, and worked his way up to company owner, Mr Farrugia says he knows just how rewarding it is to "work smarter", to understand that it is not just sheer hours put in that will translate into success, but remaining on the ball with trends, closely following patterns and behaviour, to remain one step ahead.
Mr Farrugia is upbeat about the company's prospects, commenting:
"You need to know how difficult it is at the beginning and how rewarding it is when you get somewhere. If you work smart, take care of your people, deal with them properly, be very personal, and go out of your way, that will bring clients back."