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Two of Melbourne’s biggest property families have come together to form a powerful new business that intends to bring a new intensity to the local real estate market.

Father-and-son team Mark and Rhett Simonds have joined forces with another father-and-son team, Bob and James Hand, to create Latitude Real Estate. Together they represent over a century of experience in the residential property sector – but with a commitment to bring a fresh approach.
“We really want to shake up the industry and by combining the considerable forces of the Simonds and the Hands, we are going to do it,” said Latitude director Bob Hand. “We have known each other for over 30 years and our strong relationship provided us with a platform for combining our extensive property networks and knowledge.”

Bob said doors are opening for Latitude because of the friendships and associations their families have within in the real estate sector. “It is clear that people in this industry want to deal with people they trust,” he said. “They also recognise we are taking a different approach to the generic offering in the market, offering unique financial products and other marketing tools to give purchasers very strong reasons to buy. It’s an exciting new direction.”

We won’t be putting up a sign and waiting for people to ring – that is not the way we do business

Rhett Simonds

L atitude will bring together services in project marketing, new home and development site sales, finance brokerage, residential leasing as well as local and foreign investment sales. Predominantly, Latitude will be a project-marketing team, dealing with high quality, large-scale developments.
The new business will take an aggressive, creative approach – actively tracking down and targeting specific buyers, according to Latitude director Rhett Simonds.

“We won’t be putting up a sign and waiting for people to ring – that is not the way we do business,” said Rhett. “We don’t offer a passive relationship – we are looking for a true partnership with our vendors. Where we can, we will look for ways to allow the vendor to establish a recurring revenue stream for the life of the project.”

For the two families, the inclusion of Gen-Y sons ensures their Baby-Boomer dads remain in touch with the approach of the next generation of property developers, including the use of the latest technology, connectivity and digital data sharing.

“It is not that the old ways of doing things don’t have their place,” Rhett said. “It is just that there are new approaches that need to be part of what we do: such as moving from the glossy brochure to an animated iPad presentation.”

The emergence of a new business incorporating the background, experience and reputations of these two families is certain to get people talking in the broader real estate sector.

Mark and Rhett Simonds both played key roles in one of Australia’s most successful house-building businesses, Simonds Homes, which builds 2,500 houses a year and last November was successfully floated on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Bob Hand played a significant role in the development of Oliver Hume Real Estate over 20 years, and by the time he left the business was turning over 6,000 properties per year. His son James has a background in property including time at Oliver Hume, MCD Australia and the Barry Plant Group.
Bob said Latitude will embark on an aggressive growth campaign over the next year in which it will target some of the best talent in the business. He said the Latitude model will allow the business to rapidly expand into other states.

Already Latitude is making a name for itself through its involvement in a number of high-profile and successful projects. These include Balmoral Quay, a luxury waterfront townhouse and marina development in Geelong, and Riverdale Village in Tarneit, which saw people camping out overnight for the first land release and the sale of 23 blocks in the first week.

Currently, Latitude is involved in five other projects, with expectations it will be appointed to at least another four in coming months.