In countries beyond our shores, ERA Real Estate has proven itself as a global leader in the residential real estate industry. Now, Jeremy Cassar, CEO of ERA Real Estate Malta, is hoping to continue the company’s success at a local level. With energy and drive to spare, he shares his ambitions for the island’s industry and the change he wishes to see.
In just four years, Jeremy Cassar steered his career to impressive heights – from estate agent to Chief Executive Officer of a real estate brand based in Gozo, which forms part of a respected global franchise. Having worked in different industries previously, Jeremy was constantly on the look-out for a bigger challenge – and the real estate industry satiated his hunger.
“The last few years have been intense,” he smiles. “I became a real estate agent in 2018 and, 12 months later, I opened my own business called Property Hunters, alongside a number of partners. The following year, in 2020, I bought out my partners, and went on to become CEO of ERA Real Estate Malta in 2021, after buying the rights to bring this well-renowned franchise to Malta. The journey has been overwhelming at times, but certainly thrilling.”
Since the start of his working life, Jeremy’s goal has been to aim high, believing that every job he had could be used as an opportunity to learn and acquire new skills, and serve as a stepping stone for greater success in the future. “I’m a very driven person. I give more than 100 per cent to whatever I do to come out on top; otherwise I’d rather do nothing at all.”
Despite being relatively new to the role of CEO, Jeremy says his ability to adapt and his capacity to learn quickly – both traits he considers to be his strengths – have helped him tremendously in this position. “As CEO, I needed to really master the skills I’ve acquired over the past 10 years and put them to good use. Sometimes, you need to be a good manager, other times a good counsellor; you need to be the visionary pushing forward, a confident decision-maker, and know when the time is right to set sail,” he asserts.
“I believe being young in this role means I can bring plenty of drive and ambition to the table. Besides, being the captain of my own ship excites me – I can aim as high as I want to and work as fast as I would like to. So far, my approach is paying off. I believe the industry knows there’s a new player in town.”
Under the ERA Real Estate brand, ERA Malta forms part of an extensive network of offices – spanning 35 countries and comprising 40,000 agents worldwide. It was founded in 1971 by American entrepreneur Jim Jackson, who saw the potential of using technology to sell property. In 2022, the company celebrated its milestone 50th anniversary.
“The name stands for Electronic Realty Associates and, since its early days, it led the US industry using technology and innovative tools to provide a quality service – starting with the fax machine to having a website when the internet was still in its infancy,” says the CEO. “In 1981, it expanded to Japan and went on to open offices in another 28 countries. Today, the company is a leading real estate brokerage with a forward-thinking approach for clients as well as the agents who work for it.”
Jeremy officially put down roots for ERA Real Estate Malta in January 2022 with an office in Gozo, which is where he is based. In less than a year, the team outgrew the office and will be moving into larger premises with a modern and fresh design and aesthetic, which will serve as the blueprint for all subsequent offices.
“Over the past year, we’ve been hard at work establishing the image and direction of the brand, and I believe we’ve put the name out there as more and more people have learned about us. We now have two franchise owners in Gozo and business is doing well,” says Jeremy. “Having an office in Malta is necessary and this was part of my strategy from the beginning. We’ll open our new branch in Naxxar early this year.”
Jeremy explains that, for the past year, he has been focused on laying a strong foundation for the business, which in turn has enabled the team to launch one of its many exciting plans. “We introduced a revolutionary system for the local real estate industry, called Text ERA, which converts the standard ‘for sale’ sign on properties into a lead-generating tool,” says the CEO.
With Text ERA, prospective home buyers simply text a code that is unique to each property and receive instant information on it, including photos, its price, plans, and other useful information. For sellers, the tool helps to attract new leads from potential customers through interactive marketing.
“It’s an excellent tool because it is instant, but it also acts as a filter that saves time for property owners, agents, as well as interested buyers. This isn’t an app or a website, it’s a text message. It’s that simple,” says the CEO. “The launch of this innovative tool is just the start for us. It came to fruition following months of hard work and, while it’s true that if you dream, you achieve, dreaming isn’t enough. You have to take risks and work hard. One year on, this belief has paid off.”
Reflecting on the past year – the company’s first full year in operation – Jeremy says that, while it’s still early days to discuss challenges faced by ERA Real Estate Malta, there are clear challenges that need to be tackled by the industry at large. “One of the foremost challenges in the industry right now is the real estate cycle,” says Jeremy, which is composed of the four phases of recovery, expansion, hyper supply and recession.
“We are currently at the end of the hyper supply phase. At every stage of the cycle, the market shifts from being a seller’s market one minute to a buyer’s market the next. This alone affects how the industry, and specifically estate agents, work,” explains Jeremy.
“In a seller’s market, when the industry is doing well, there’s high demand and supply. It is an easier time to sell, and therefore many agents jump on board – they are excited by the market, investing and making money. This changes when it’s a buyer’s market – activity slows down and suddenly agents lose interest in the job and start to jump ship. Going forward, as we approach the end of one phase and the start of another, I think it is going to be crucial for negotiations to be relationship-based and therefore agents need to be in tune with the mood of the market, and trained accordingly to deal with it.”
The CEO is quick to share that ERA Malta is looking to be a change-maker in this regard over the coming 12 months. Indeed, bringing about change is at the very heart of Jeremy’s ambitions for the business and industry in 2023. “We have invested a lot of time and energy in creating appealing packages for estate agents to join our team, through which we will provide the training and guidance they need to give a more professional and well-rounded service to clients. We hope that, over time, this will lift the status of agents and how they’re perceived by the general public. But, for this to happen, old work practices need to change.”
On a personal note, Jeremy says that his own role has also evolved since taking the helm of ERA Malta. From opening an office in Gozo and building a team from the ground up, to marketing the brand and launching innovative tools in just 12 months, he has nimbly adapted to all the stages of the company’s timeline so far. “Being in this role requires perseverance and the ability to withstand pressure. However, it’s all very exciting, and I’m eager to see what this year has in store.”
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders
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