Andy Donoghue is the owner of Hodnett Forde Property Services based at Emmet Square, Clonakilty, West Cork.
Hodnett Forde has built a reputation as one of the leading property services businesses in West Cork. Founded by John Hodnett and Ernest Forde in 2009, and incorporating Matt O’Sullivan’s auctioneering business (est. 1957), the business has decades of experience of selling a comprehensive range of residential, commercial and agricultural properties all over Munster. The company provides a professional and efficient service to vendors and purchasers, landlords and tenants, and prides itself on its confidential and personal attention at all times.
Andy joined Hodnett Forde in June 2013 having gained valuable experience working in the residential, commercial and industrial property sales, letting and management in Cork City and also from a young age with his family’s Estate Agency business.
Along with being a busy Auctioneer he is married to Aisling and father to Ella and Patrick and living in Castlefreke, West Cork where the family also have a part-time beef farm.
In this episode, we discuss his path into property, the skills needed to be a good estate agent, the cyclical nature of the property market and dealing with that, the emotive nature of what he does and having a thick skin.
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Duration: 22:55 mins
Andy's Takeaway Tip
“ Try get as much experience in as many different offices as possible”
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Geraldine: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Cork Creative Podcast. With this podcast, we hope to shed light on the great work being done by local creatives and business people in Cork City and County. In Cork Creative’s third series, we tackle the property market and speak with three localist estate agents to get their opinions on their businesses, industry, and the property market in Cork.
I am your host, Geraldine Hennessy from Flux Learning, and today I chat to Andy Donoghue, who from Hodnett Forde in the beautiful setting of Fernhill House Hotel in Clonakilty. Andy has a long lineage in the property market. His grandmother was the first female auctioneer monster back in the 1950s. His father was also involved in property management, so it’s no wonder that Angie followed suit and became an auctioneer himself after working for several years in the.
Andy moved down to Clonakilty and joined Hodnett Forde[00:01:00] in 2013 before recently taking over the reins of the business. In this episode, we discuss his path into property, the skills needed to be a good estate agent, the cyclical nature of the property market and dealing with that, the emotional nature of what he does and having a thick skin.
So you’re very welcome to Cork Creative Andy.
Andy: Thank you very much. I’m delight to be here.
Geraldine: Tell us a little about how you got into being an estate agent.
Andy: Through a family connection primarily. My grandmother was in business in the city since 1952, mm-hmm, as what we know today as being the first female auctioneer in Munster.
Andy: So she proudly held that accolade and uh, was happy to tell everybody about it. gosh. Yeah. So through osmosis and everything, everything, it just trickled down. Dad was in it – kind of doing property management and lettings and a few sales. I came out of school. I served my time as a plumber and went to college by night in CIT, and I got my [00:02:00] auctioneer’s license at that time ,m-hmm, uh, under the family’s license. So, uh, that was my start to the, the business. But from a childhood, uh, dad’s office was at home. Mm-hmm. So the phone was always ringing. The notebook was always there. So you’re just, you’re just learning by being there as a, as a kid and learning how to, I suppose, learning the tricks of the trade.
Geraldine: So it’s quite an immersive experience, like it’s trickled down through the generations. And you took over the mantle then, as such?
Andy: Uh, yeah. I suppose Dad’s health wasn’t great. Mm-hmm. So there wasn’t ,mm-hmm, there wasn’t a business there to take over. Mm-hmm. So I, emigrated to Australia for a year, met my now wife , mm-hmm , over there. We came back and I got into property management myself, Mm-hmm. In 2009/ 2010, there wasn’t much happening. So it was a case that we just have to work, get work and do work. So I ended up working with a, a very good friend of mine now, Sam Kingston in Cork trading as Casey and Kingston on Grand Parade.
So I spent [00:03:00] five or six years with Sam in Cork City doing everything. Commercial work. Residential work. Mm-hmm. And I came down to Clonakilty in 2013 to Hodnett Forde, and I’ve been with the lads ever since. Mm-hmm. And, uh, there’s a great team there. So I would’ve worked under John Hodnett and Ernest Forde.Mm-hmm. And it’s grown and evolved now. So there’s 12 of us in the office. Oh gosh. Okay. And I took over the business last February, 12 months. Mm-hmm. So again, through osmosis and hard work and everything, just, it’s worked out nicely.
Geraldine: So you’re happy it’s all led to this point?
Andy: Uh, very happy. Mm. Pretty lucky. Mm. You know, very, very lucky. The market was kind of on its knees when I came back from Australia. Mm-hmm. That’s not that long ago either, you know. Yeah. People sometimes have a very short memory. So I remember a time on the Grand Parade looking out the window waiting for the phones to ring. Mm-hmm. And nothing happening.
Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, like we’ve, we’ve had a little bit of [00:04:00] a, a mini boom, I suppose, last year mm-hmm, for a piece of this year. You’ve seen both sides of it within a short period. It’s very interesting business.
Geraldine: I suppose it’s good though, that you are well aware of those circumstances where like when it does happen, it probably will happen again, to be fair, that, you know like, okay, let’s not panic here.
Andy: No. And the market’s cyclical. Yeah. Yeah. You don’t. I read a lot about it and I try research a lot of it, but it’s cyclical. Mm-hmm. So it’s going to happen again and boom will happen again, and a bust will happen again. Mm-hmm. And we just have to be prepared, Mmmn, and just factor that in. Mm-hmm. You know, we’re, we’re salesmen at the end of the day.
Okay. We’re selling a product, you know, whether you’re selling bullocks or bungalows, or bicycles in life -we’re all selling something. We’re selling a skill or we’re selling knowledge, or we’re selling our, our labor. What we have to sell are houses and farms and, you know, we just have to work with the market. Okay. The market conditions and the market demands. Um, and we’re, we’re, we’re trying [00:05:00] our best.
Geraldine: And you were speaking there, you did your course at night. So what qualifications did you have to do to become an estate agent?
Andy: Well, I got in under what’s called the grandfather rule. Okay. And it was literally the grandmother rule for me.
Um, I did a diploma by night in business studies. Mm-hmm. And I did my trade in plumbing during the day, mm-hmm, after leaving cert. Nowadays you can do a course in Cork. There is an apprentice working with us at the moment, who’s doing his two year qualification through the College of Commerce, mm-hmm, with our institute, IPAV, The Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers. So that’s a two year course to get licensed as an auctioneer.
Mm-hmm. And there’s a good uptake on it now. I think there’s 40/ 50 in his year in the course in Cork, and they’re running another course simultaneously in Dublin, mm-hmm, with IPAV alongside some of the university courses, I think in Limerick and in Dublin. Mm-hmm.
Geraldine: And you were saying there, you, you worked as a a plumber.Is that [00:06:00] handy in what you do ?
Andy: Oh, it’s, yeah, definitely. Um, definitely, yeah. A hands-on experience. Yeah. Uh, I did it for seven or eight years. And again, it’s just the, the knowledge of construction. Yeah. How things work. What’s behind the walls? They do construction studies as part of the course, okay, with the auctioneer’s license, which is vital because you need to know what you’re selling ,you know. You need to describe what you’re selling and have a knowledge of , Mm-hmm, the difference of construction and manufacture, now so more than anything terms of insulation, mm-hmm, to know what kind of insulation was standard in the house in the nineties or the eighties or the seventies. Just a practical knowledge of what your advertising is, is vital.
Geraldine:. I suppose on the face of it, they’re quite different but there’s a good bit of interlinking there that’s quite probably valuable in what you actually do on a day-to-day basis.
Andy: Now there is, yes. Especially for new [00:07:00] building sites. Mm-hmm. Uh, where you can go in and describe to maybe the different stages of building to buyers mm-hmm.
You know, on the timelines of, of the phases of construction. Yeah. You know, and, and you’re able to relay to people who, look, they’re at the first phase now, it’s going to be painted next or it’s gonna be hanging doors and architrave next. And you know, you know that there’s two months ahead of here, three months ahead of you.
Um, so it’s just to relate to the hands-on experience mm-hmm, to give that to, in particular first time buyers who may not have ever done it before. Yeah. Who are excited to get into the house, I know, immediately and get the keys straight away and, you know, why can’t we have it now? Yeah. Yeah.
Geraldine: So, uh, yeah, it’s good.
And given the strained nature of property market at the moment, do you feel pressure in how you market and communicate your services?
Andy: You’re always trying to find a niche. Mm-hmm. You know. Every auctioneer is online. Every auctioneer puts signs up. Mm-hmm. Every auctioneer advertises in the paper. Mm-hmm. I suppose the social media side of is still relatively [00:08:00] new.
Mm-hmm. And you’re just trying to exploit any little area that you can, you know, and try to just encapsulate that within your social media post. You know, if you’re selling. I suppose we’re lucky with the area that we sell a lot of coastal property, whereby you’ve sea views or you know…
Geraldine: It sells itself in, it sells to a certain degree.
Andy: Yeah. We’re very lucky here. Yeah. Do you know, um, but you just try to exploit that. Mm-hmm. And try push it and, mm. A bungalow is a bungalow, whether it’s here or above in Kanturk. Yeah. But why would someone want to buy it here versus Kanturk. You know, you’re saying you’re close to Roscarbery, you’re close to Clonakilty, or you’re, you’re near the coast or you’re near Kinsale, or you just try to push it.
Geraldine: so you’re, I suppose you’re selling not just the house, the bricks and mortar, you’re selling more, you’re selling kind a lifestyle.
Andy: Selling the dream!
Geraldine: That’s, it. Sounds so good, doesn’t it, ? I, I, I’m sold, anyway.
Andy: Why do people want to buy in West Cork? You have to look at it. It, it’s, it’s gorgeous. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Even a day [00:09:00] like today now with the wind blowing and the rain hammering, It’s still a wonderful place to live.
Geraldine: Yeah. It’s cozy .Yeah. And comfortable, yeah. Yeah.
Andy: That’s the reason people come down and, and you know, the community have such a part of playing it by keeping towns and villages clean and tidy and presentable.
There’s just a great pride in the place. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. But you don’t see in many other counties or many other places, I suppose. We appreciate the fact that there’s so many non locals that come and bring so much money into the community, brings so much, you know, they bring their own touches to the place.
Yeah. Especially here now, when you look at the artistic side of it, the food side of it, of late, I mean that’s booming. Like it’s just absolutely booming. The artisan food products. Mm-hmm. You go down to the markets in Skibereen on Saturday are Clon here on Friday. It’s just so colorful in terms of accents, backgrounds, tastes, smells, sights, that’s, wonderful.
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Do you know that’s what makes West Cork [00:10:00] yeah, what it is.
Geraldine: It adds that extra, I suppose, dynamite factor. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Okay.
And does the dominance of the communication channels for property by daft.ie and my home.ie your opportunities to market and communicate creatively or how’d you feel about that?
Andy: No, we just have to work with them. Yeah. You know, we know that they’re dominant. The two dominant portals, so we just have to use them as best service that they give us to use. You know, you naturally try to push your own website first. You know, your Facebook page, your Instagram, you know, you try to, to put your own foot forward first and then use those as, as your backups, but you know, they, they allow us to sell. Mm-hmm. We have to appreciate that and use it.
Geraldine:. Yeah. I suppose it’s just an extra like, supplementary channel maybe like instead of fighting them, maybe work with them.
Andy: No. You just have to work with them. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Do you know you could spend your life fighting and running up the hill against these things, but no, it pointless?
Yeah. Yeah. Just have to deal with it, move on and use it as best you [00:11:00] can. Okay.
We, um, we meet once a month with our IT and social media contractor. Mm-hmm. And she has an update for us of the analytics from our own website. And we can crosscheck that against the Dafts and the My Homes. And it is very interesting to see where you’re strong, where you’re weak, where people are looking at your web, you know, your, your web, web traffic, and you can base your advertising to kind of capture that. And obviously then you kind of look at your sales and go, well, did we get sales from the UK? Did we get sales from the Middle East? Did we get sales from from the states? And we have had media campaigns based solely in postcode areas of London, we’ll say at one stage. Stage. And then we tried it in Middle East.
Mm-hmm. So, you know, you’re constantly looking at data to see where people are looking at you from and how you can, I suppose, meet [00:12:00] their demands. And you can also see exactly what properties they looked at. Again, looking from overseas is primarily the coastal properties. Mm-hmm. Uh, and you always try to see how can you best spend your money trying to reach them and trying to push those properties to them and you could be very busy doing that , and yet you could focus your attention on the Southern Star Newspaper and capture a wide network of people, Mm-hmm. you know. It’s just a juggling act. Try to best spend your advertising budget to each each point of reference. Really. Okay.
Geraldine: A balancing act so as such
Andy: A balancing act,that’s all.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know how you try to, try to set your budgets, try to set your targets and just try to cast a wide net in of advertising. You know, there was, um, a magazine now that we came across covering kind of Bantry to Kenmare, mm-hmm, just over the last month or two. And we’ve found that we’ve gotten a couple of sales in from the Bantry region [00:13:00] on the strength of a new estate that we’re selling down there that my colleague Mark is handling.
So we’re gonna try that magazine and see if there is a bit of feedback from it and you’re just constantly trying different things, mm-hmm, do, you know, from the back of the bus to football jerseys to whatever you need to do. You know, that’s, that’s interesting. Yeah. It’s, it’s an interesting part of the business.
Geraldine: So do you like that part of it? Like that?
Andy: Oh, I love it. Yeah.
You love that? Okay. Yeah,
Andy: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s hard to read the result. Mm-hmm. You know, it’s very hard to read the result of advertising. Um, you just have to be trying to get your name, your brand image out there, Mm-hmm, in as many places as possible within the budgets that you set.
Okay. Yeah. You know, and try to support as many community activities and clubs and, you know, charity events. Like it’s all a big network and a big community in West Cork. Mm-hmm. And you just try to partake in as many of these clubs and societies as you can. [00:14:00] Okay. Bit by bit.
Geraldine: And what would be your favourite part of what you.
Andy: The thrill of the sale is, it’s hard to quantify. And that’s the same for a little cottage, yeah, for an acre as it is for a bigger property, for a million quid. Mm-hmm. It’s the thrill of putting together the final bids. You know, there’s a huge amount of emotion, mm-hmm, goes into it. And a lot of times, because it’s, it can be very localized, you know, the buyers, mm-hmm and you might know the sellers. You might know all sides. It’s a very emotive thing, property. Mm-hmm. And, uh, you just have to kind of handle the sale and handle people as professionally, as delicately and sensitively as you can. Mm-hmm. Uh, because unfortunately where there’s bidders, generally someone loses out.
Yeah. You know, so you just have to kind of manage it as, yeah, as kindly as you can. But ultimately your job is to sell. Get the best deal that you can for the vendor [00:15:00] at all times.
Geraldine: You must be very good at dealing with people. You’d have to be a good people person to be an estate agent.
Andy: You have to thick skin for sure.
Um, my colleague Ernest often references, you know, you could be up two or three big sales on a Friday evening, and things could be flying it and by Monday morning, two or three could be gone. I know. Yeah. You know, so it’s real peaks and troughs, emotions and you just have to grit your teeth, move on, try sell it again.
And that is hard. You know, when sales fall through, which they do for so many reasons, you get emotionally attached to, to some of them in particular. You know, if a family are selling a home now, and it’s a big deal for them to sell that particular home and it might be there for, for a couple generations. Of course, you’re gonna get drawn into it. You’re gonna get to know the family members. You’re talking to them regularly. You’re trying to bring them on a journey to sell what has been theirs and what has been their pride and joy. Mm-hmm. And all going well, it’s fine and great, but the times that it doesn’t work out that a deal might fall through, [00:16:00] like that can be hell.
And it’s very hard not to bring it home. Yeah. Mm. You know, not to be thinking about these things at night and not to be thinking about them over the weekend. Mm. You’re trying to pick yourself up again on a Monday morning and say, look, go at it again. Re advertise. You know, there’s a buyer for everything out there.
Yeah. And you just have to be cognizant of that and, and understanding. Look, the market is the market. Mm-hmm. Ultimately the market is the market. Everything sells.
Geraldine: And it’s apparent that they’re more like 360 degree walkthroughs and drawn footage of property. Is this the new benchmark for buying and selling property and is it expected, I suppose, by buyers and sellers now?
Andy: Uh, drone footage, yes. Mm-hmm. I suppose for houses and farms, 80%, I’d imagine, okay of, of all those listings would be drone. Mm-hmm. The walkthroughs- we did a lot more of it during lockdown when people couldn’t physically see the place, but, uh, nothing beats bringing someone to the house themselves, of course, putting boots on the ground. Mm-hmm. Um, you know, we have sold stuff to [00:17:00] people without them seeing it physically. Mm-hmm. But there’s a huge risk in that. Mm. Ever and always, that the day that they come over and see it, that it’s not quite what they understood it to be.
Geraldine: It’s not their vibe or whatever
Andy: No. So you just try to facilitate a viewing any way you can. Mm-hmm. Evenings, weekends, mm-hmm, mornings, you know, lunchtime, whatever you need to do. You just try to bring the people to the property. And get them in the door.
Geraldine: Not your typical nine to five job so.
Andy: I have a very understanding wife!
I know fair play to her. We’re all seem to be very understanding wives. Yeah.
And do you think that working from home and the growing trend of remote working is having an impact in West Cork and in the types of homes that people are looking for?
Andy: Definitely. Mm-hmm. Definitely. And you see builders now designing their product to suit that.
Yeah. You know, to suit the little box room that might be a fourth bedroom, you know, to ensure that, you know, even where they’re designing windows, that there’s kind of desk space under that. Mm-hmm. [00:18:00] if you need to make it a bedroom.
Geraldine: And based on your experience, is broadband provision still a major consideration for buyers of property? Does it impact on buyer decision , value of property and saleability of houses?
Andy: Definitely. Okay. If the government did nothing, if they didn’t tar a road for 10 years, mm, but kept the broadband strong, mm, that would be enough.
Geraldine: And do you think it’s a problem around here? Like even though….
Andy: Certain areas.Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just today now we’re looking at a rental property in Glandore, an area that has no phone coverage and broadband is very sketchy. Mm-hmm. And it’s proving difficult to rent.
Andy:And you’d say in this day and age, it’s hard to believe, but yeah, that is…
Geraldine: And Glandore is like an amazing area.
Andy: Like Yeah. But it’s just, it’s a prerequisite now you have to have it.Mm-hmm. It’s like heating in a house. Once you have broadband, you will survive-you’ll work.
Geraldine: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So we need to get that sourted . Yeah.
And given the increased technical nature of your work, do you feel having good digital skills is a prerequisite for being an estate agent?
Andy: [00:19:00] Uh, it’s probably combined with good marketing skills.
Okay. The two are interlinked. Mm-hmm. You know, that you have to use both simultaneously. The IT skills needed to upload properties online are very easy. Mm-hmm. You know, it’s probably something now that children are, are more than capable of doing based on their own capabilities now of using iPads and using desktops and everything.
But it’s to, again, it’s to find the little touches, the little niches in properties that you can, uh, incorporate within pictures and images, mm-hmm, um, to upload mm-hmm. And that’ll get people talking. That’ll set trends and that will get your shares and likes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Thankfully we have a very good marketing lady, who does our, a lot of our IT stuff. She’s brilliant at that.
Geraldine: Yeah. And marketing is probably fundamental in, in what you do. Yeah. Yes. Yeah, yeah.
Andy: Absolutely. Okay. You know, you have to be out there
Geraldine:. If your name’s not out there, you’re, you’re nowhere. Especially as you say, like you can sell anything, but you need to get your name, you know, and, [00:20:00] and who you are out there.
Andy: You do. Yeah. And, and for sales as well as for getting sales in. Mm-hmm. You know, you, you want to be the one that’s known for a good service. Mm-hmm. For providing the best people to do the job. Mm-hmm. For getting the best photographers to take the pictures, you know, but everything sells.
Geraldine: And would you outsource all that stuff, like the photography, the, the drone footage, would that be outsourced or would you do it yourself?
Andy: We do. We’ve, uh, a couple of drone photographers and internal photographers mm-hmm. that we would use depending on what regions the properties would be in. Okay. So we’d cover an area from Cork City West as far as Castletownbere, mm-hmm. So you’d have a handful of photographers to detail depending on where the property’s are.
If you had any tip to give to someone following a similar career path, what would it be?
Andy: I suppose check the areas that you want to work in. A lot of people dream about finding a lovely house to sell. Mm-hmm. Such as “The selling sunsets”. Mm-hmm. Programmess [00:21:00] you’d see. Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s, yeah. You might get a few of those every year, but you know, it’s the bread and butter or, or the houses, the farms, you know, the sites. I suppose we do a lot of valuation work as well too. So there’s a lot of arms to our business. Mm-hmm. it’s not just selling houses. Mm-hmm. We do more, mm-hmm. Uh, and it’s part of the business and it’s, it’s the bread and butter for us. Yes. Okay. Um, but for someone coming into the business, try get as much experience in as many different offices as possible. Mm-hmm. You know, overseas and up in the bigger cities for commercial work, for industrial work. Mm-hmm. Down to the, the rural auctions. Something I probably regret not doing is going into the business in, in an overseas, mm-hmm, office as in maybe London or the States or Australia when I was there. Just to get a feel for what they do and how they do things different.
Mm-hmm. You know, ultimately we’re still all selling something, but, [00:22:00] you know, we all do things a little bit different. Yeah. And that’s what sets us apart. Hmm. Well, it’s just a little bit of a regret. Yeah. I don’t go home thinking about it every night. I know. So I think we’re happy enough where we are.
Geraldine: Very good. Very good. So thanks very much Andy for joining us on the Cork Creative Podcast. If you want to learn more about Andy and his services, you can find links to his social media and website at corkcreative.ie.
Andy: Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure.
Geraldine: Great, thank you.