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The invisible power of authenticity with David Lack

With David Lack Biggin & Scott, Port Melbourne

Last year, the nation fell in love with young Queenslanders Will Bethune and Karlie Cicero and The Block. We adored their contemporary city fringe, ground floor Art Deco apartment featuring handperfected custom interiors, with soaring 3.75m ceilings, precious timbers and midnight black and rose gold accents. We admired the use of natural materials, the state-of-the-art Neff kitchen and the north-facing Blackbutt terrace. It was a stunning achievement and a buyer paid a premium for it and smashed the competition.

Will and Karlie’s success however was, in part, the manifestation of a carefully planned campaign that was crafted by a man who has the invisible power of authenticity. One of Melbourne’s leading real estate agents and auctioneers, gentle David Lack from Biggin Scott Port Melbourne, instinctively knows how to inspire confidence from vendors and how to tell honest, powerful narratives and create homes embedded with heritage and quality of appeal to contemporary buyers.

David, a local Port Melbourne resident, knew precisely what would deeply and universally resonate with local buyers and how to work collaboratively with the producers, Will and Karlie and the buyer’s advocate. With his acute niche awareness of millennial buyers and the post-industrial area, he consulted with The Block producers, even before The Block contestants donned their hard hats.

Niche awareness is a powerful commodity

David explains, “I had a phone call basically asking me if I could assist a friend. His cousin was involved in The Block and they needed some assistance - they felt a little bit out of their depth. I live in an old YMCA building, built the same era as The Block in the 1920s - literally 500 metres from the actual site of The Block.”

He was asked to go down and give some advice from the very first room of the old soap factory. He says, “When we turned up, we were given some hard hats, wired for sound, and what we thought would be a 20 or 30 minute conversation ended up being three hours. The property had been derelict for decades; there was lots of graffiti, a roof that probably wasn't safe. Months were spent by The Block team actually preparing I suppose, the infrastructure for what the contestants were going to use.”

Connected with the client

From offering advice with the design of the overall building, David was then selected by Will and Karlie, who could see David’s authenticity, to bring their apartment to market. David says, “We would consider Will and Karlie part of our family. We wanted to do well for them and everything that we did was in the interest of them. We were the only agent that was actually local and by being local - Port Melbourne - there was added pressure there because we had some agents from Albert Park and St. Kilda and even Brighton. The pressure to perform as the local expert - we really felt that on our shoulders. Everything we did, we did the best we possibly could. We had a video made up with our contestants - it was about seven minutes. We used a drone; we did a lot of lifestyle.” Mass marketing was not the answer.

Focused on the buyer

David also focused on the needs of the buyer by working closely with the buyer advocate who represented three out of the five winning buyers. He explains, “We developed a really great rapport. It was one of those things that she consulted with me; we worked together on a report to justify the value of these properties because there aren't many properties that are actually like this. It's a semi-industrial area. It's at the gateway of Australia's largest urban renewal project but still you've got industry all around it, you've got 300 townhouses going up. The location, while it will be fantastic, still needs a little bit more infrastructure to go in. It was sort of that consultancy process and trying to justify the value. When we came down to the comparable sales, there really weren't comparable properties.”

Not a typical campaign

The campaign went for three months! David says, “It was a very different campaign to what we normally run. In Melbourne, typically whether it's an auction or private sale, we promote properties over a four-week period. Domain were a major sponsor of The Block this year. What that meant was once we had the Rio Olympics done and dusted, The Block was actually exposed on television and on the internet. We had basically a 12-week marketing campaign on the internet where we would have to promote each room as it was revealed and so you really had to keep the buyers on ice. It was a bit of a simmer with the buyers and just keeping them interested and obviously building momentum. Over three months it can be difficult.”

Nearly 300 parties came through the property over that period. David says, “I suppose the challenging aspect was actually qualifying those people that were bona fide purchasers. It was a matter of really finding out if those people had actually looked at any other properties in the area, what sort of budget were they working with. With the opens, we coordinated with the other agents. There were five apartments being offered. We cooperated with them so that it was important for us to show not only our property but I suppose give people the option of actually comparing it to the others which were all a little bit different in terms of styling and proportions and layouts.”

Created a buzz

Knowing what was of interest to his market, David and his team pulled out all the stops to highlight the ground floor position, outdoor entertaining areas, house-like proportions, quality finishes, the heritage elements and the use of natural materials. He hired an experienced copywriter to write extra copy, highlighting every single feature in Will and Karlie’s rooms, which had been scrutinised by the judges and everyone on social media. David says, “In every single room, we had all the pertinent details, the bespoke furniture that was included in the sale, what the value was - just to remind people. I think all those little things ended up helping us with the end result.”

Utilising the latest technology, David and his team also produced a series of short and long videos that were played when people walked through and for social media grabs.

They also produced an outstanding Web Book. David says, “We're very proud of it. We think it's probably one of the best buyer Web Books out there - it had absolutely everything you could possibly want to know about the property. Again, it was something that was constantly updated. We had very strict protocols with Channel Nine in terms of what we could reveal to the public. It was one of those processes where as each week went by and a room is revealed, there'd be extra photos and extra information. It was really a work in progress over a 12 week period.”

The Web Book had another advantage in that it also helped David track buyer interest. He says, “It was sent out to those people that were bona fide and really interested in the property. The great thing about it was then we were able to track who was actually opening it and how it was getting passed around. When it really came down to that critical last 24 hours, we felt that we had a really good feel as to where the buyers were at. Ultimately, that determined our success.”

Day of the auction

On the day of the auction David recalls, he and his team were on the edge of their seats as much as the contestants. He says, “It was quite stressful in the last few days leading up to the auction. We didn't actually receive our reserve until about 9 o'clock that evening. When we did receive it, it was probably the only concern that we had. We knew that we had done all the hard work with the marketing and the open homes and prepping the buyers. When we saw what the reserves were, we felt that we would be able to certainly sell the properties but it was all about rewarding the contestants for their hard work and trying to get a reasonable sum over that figure.”

Taking on the role of auctioneer, the reality of being part of a national conversation hit home when the cameras were all pointed at him. David says, “Normally when you turn up and you do your bit in front of a crowd of 50-80 people, you are considered the expert. I suppose you've really got that commonality, you're used to doing it week in and week out. When you actually turn up and there's six cameras on you from all directions, behind you, in front of you, beside you, you're told to stand on a pedestal and don't move because you'll be out of the camera - the reality really sinks in.”

He could feel the pressure being the first auction but he knew he had done the work in convincing buyers of the value of one of the better apartments. He says, “We thought that was the best choice, to set the benchmark quite high. Our auction was really quick. We had a really good rapport with the buyer advocates and that showed. They're out to out do each other but we kept the increments really high. It was the quickest auction by a country mile and we absolutely got the maximum dollar that was actually there for an apartment. As the auctions went, that was very, very clear. Very nerve wracking because you just don't know if you've done everything you need to do. As they progressed, there was less interest and less money on the table.” David’s strategy worked – Will and Karlie’s ground floor apartment sold for a whopping $2.6 million, shattering the reserve by $715,000.

Looking back

Working closely with all the partners in the process came easily to David. David says, “We found it was a very natural process. I really prefer to nurture clients. I'd rather actually be part of that process, help with the handiwork, help with the styling, pick the right timeframe for the property to go on the market, make sure there's no long weekends, there's no school holidays. I mean, we're selling a very valuable asset and so you need to do everything to the best of your ability in the circumstances.”

David Lack’s natural authenticity, awareness of his niche market and his ability to tell honest, powerful narratives and create homes embedded with heritage and quality of appeal to contemporary buyers makes him the model of a successful agent.

A last word on Web Books

David says, “We've found that Web Books is just the way of the future. Not just from a sales point-of-view but property management, tenant induction, landlord induction, property management submission, sales submissions - I mean the list is really endless. It’s one of those tools that people can pick up really easily. Once you get to know it, it's a simple matter of once you've done one, you can do another.”

Tapping into consumer desire for authenticity

  1. You can’t fake, borrow or buy authenticity
  2. Stories must be grounded in truth
  3. Mass marketing undermines authenticity
  4. The consumer is inclined to not believe advertising
  5. Consumers want to buy something more than a logo
  6. Be true to your origins and values
  7. Create and deliver a genuine message and experience.


Ideas that appeal to the millennial market


  1. Industrial
  2. Natural materials
  3. Organic
  4. Provenance
  5. Hand-crafted
  6. Artisanal
  7. Passionate, personalised products
  8. Intrinsic status
  9. Timeless quality
  10. Bespoke.




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