Undaunted by the challenges of selling homes in a pandemic, or working in a mainly male industry, two Bandon real estate sisters tell Emma Connolly they’re living their best lives
CAROLINE and Majella Galvin are known as ‘West Cork’s Property Sisters,’ and say there’s a welcome for more females in auctioneering.
Their dad Michael set up DNG Galvin over 40 years ago in Bandon, and it came as no real surprise that his daughters joined the team.
Majella said that growing up she always wanted to be an auctioneer: ‘I loved property. I can remember as a child the highlight of my week was to accompany my father on viewings on Saturday mornings and school holidays. From a young age, I could see myself in this profession, I could easily find the gems in a house and I knew how to enhance them to close the deal, long before I officially became an auctioneer.’
After her Leaving Cert she studied for a diploma in estate management and valuation, and because at the time there wasn’t a degree for real estate in Ireland, she attended University of Reading in the UK and graduated with a BSc (Hons).
Caroline’s property career commenced working in the administration and customer service side of the business for over 10 years.
‘I really got to know and understand the business from the bottom up,’ she explained. ‘As I learned about the property industry, I really enjoyed the many aspects to the business. The thrill of helping both buyers and sellers to close a deal is so rewarding.
‘I was very enthusiastic and wanted to qualify as an auctioneer. So, when the opportunity arose to study auctioneering and property services in Cork, I instantly knew this was for me and was delighted to join the family business as a fully licensed agent.’
The pair are undaunted by working in a mainly male dominated industry, and say that it’s actually a trend that’s changing.
‘Besides,’ they said, ‘our parents have always encouraged us to follow our dreams and supported us through our journey. There is certainly a welcome for more females in auctioneering now.’
And having your sister, someone you know inside out, as a colleague is a huge advantage, they agreed.
‘Although we have different personalities and skills, we can bounce ideas off each other. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one and there is a real positive outcome when we work together on projects,’ Caroline said.
Majella is the older of the two, but just by 14 months, so age isn’t a big issue for them.
‘In saying that, Majella does lead the way, she never switches off,’ said Caroline describing her as ‘an absolute perfectionist.’
‘This can be challenging at times! But it’s great for the business.’
Their resourcefulness really came into play when the pandemic hit, and their industry had to radically change. ‘Meeting people, finding out about their lives and what kind of home they want to buy, or why they are selling and opening the door into the possibility of a new life – this is what work was like for estate agents before the pandemic, but this was all turned on its head when the first lockdown hit.
‘We had to adapt quickly, invest in technology and upskill to provide virtual viewings. We engaged with buyers online and gave them a live tour of a property. This enabled them to be virtually present in the property with us and ask any questions they may have.’
The sisters have successfully secured sale agreed on a number of properties virtually, but insist that a video alone won’t sell a property.
‘An estate agent’s office is no longer the centre of the business. You can cover a large area with the use of new technology, but business is not just about selling property, it is about spending quality time to get to know client’ needs, building a trusting relationship with both the buyer and the seller, and going the extra mile to get the best result for our client,’ said Majella. ‘As women, we are genetically good at building relationships and understanding that buying or selling a home is an emotional process.’
Majella and Caroline, like other estate agents, also saw the pandemic change the market and people’s priorities.
‘It brought many Irish people home from abroad,’ said Majella. ‘Many who were in a position to buy property with cash.’
Caroline expanded: ‘It also led to people living in cities now looking to relocate to their root towns with home working, leading to a greater demand for rural property. People’s lifestyles changed. Home became more important than ever. Buyers now want to live in an area with good broadband, nice amenities, garden, home office and open space.
‘Stock is at one of the lowest levels ever. High demand and low supply has and will lead to price increases.’
For her own dream home, Caroline said it would be close to a beach.
‘West Cork has so much to offer, like award-winning Michelin star restaurants, excellent schools, a vast array of shops, amenities and services. I would love a coastal cottage – and sea views would be the icing on the cake.’
Majella would go for something open plan with lots of glass. ‘I would like a coastal location where I could enjoy my morning coffee overlooking the Wild Atlantic Way!’
When not busy working, that’s exactly where Majella, who is also vice chairperson of the southern region committee of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, enjoys being – outdoors and seeking new adventures.
‘I am also a proud member of Bandon Toastmasters Club and communications officer for Network Ireland West Cork, where I get to network with an inspiring group of women.’
Caroline added: ‘I enjoy walking our local beautiful beach with our dogs Cindy, Abby and Beauty.
‘I love my food. I enjoy eating out in some fantastic local restaurants and I look forward to when they re-open as I’ve really missed that. I never miss an episode of RTÉ’s Room to Improve. Dermot Bannon is an excellent architect, he has such brilliant ideas. Maybe some day, I could invite him to West Cork to design my dream home!’
The pair are infectiously excited about their future: ‘We’ve seen how our father has built up this business over the last 40 years, and we are excited to carry on for another 40 years.
‘We know property is not just bricks and mortar. Emotion is at the heart of buying and selling.
‘People may think that entering the process can be stressful, but we’re here to prove that doesn’t have to be the case.’