Friday, August 05, 2022

Regina Mangan

REGINA Mangan, the driving force behind the hugely successful and award-winning Liberty Blue Estate Agents and Auctioneers, reflects on the highs and lows of business, her darkest days and undeniable and hard-earned wins as she celebrates 25 years in business. 

Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, Regina, Managing Director of Liberty Blue Estate Agents, admitted that she was “young and clueless” at the age of 25 when she first went into business. “I had £7 in the bank and an overdraft of £10,000 from Nora Widger in Bank of Ireland and I got a £7,000 grant from the Local Enterprise Board. That enabled me to set up Book-A-Room. 

“It was a very different environment to what it is now. We didn’t really have apartment blocks when I set up. We were the first property rental and management company in the south east, so we were breaking into a new market,” she said. 

Prior to setting up her own business, Regina worked in hotel management. Spotting a gap in the market, Regina recognised that people were looking for long-term accommodation. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing. “It was a very difficult first couple of years. It took me seven years to make a profit,” she said. To offset her expenses Regina held down part-time jobs in marketing, consultancy and PR and ran events. One of the values that her mother instilled in her from a young age was to always cover her bills. “That is something that I feel strongly about and likewise I feel strongly about being paid. Failure wasn’t an option for me. I couldn’t just give up. I had loads of really dark days in those first seven years. I remember one day lying on the floor, and really stressing out about how I was going to pay my bills,” she explained.  

All the stress was worth it as when apartment blocks began to be built Regina was poised to take on the market. “Opportunity met preparation and that was the start for us. The big development for us was Railway Square and all those apartments. We won those contracts. At the same time, I set up another company – a fitout company. We fitted out apartment blocks also. We had a very good couple of years before the crash. It was like we had just started to get going and then – bang.” 

In essence, Regina was fortunate that by that time the company was in a strong position and was able to weather the recession storm. “The hardest part of the recession was the devastation that our clients went through. We had landlords who were decimated. People were ruined overnight. It was traumatic because we lost clients to suicide. It was very dark times, but at the same time you had to try and stay positive,” Regina reflected. 

Like many other businesses, they had to plough through it. “In difficult times you have to be resilient and find ways of being strong. Exercise plays a part for me in my mental health. Running a business is never a bed of roses. It is always up and down, but what goes down must come up,” she said.  

When the market picked up, the company entered into property sales eight years ago and rebranded as Liberty Blue Estate Agents and Auctioneers, saying goodbye to Book-A-Room.  

Maria Clifford and Regina Mangan

“It is the same people doing the same thing, just more,” she said. The agents work in a hugely competitive market in Waterford. “We would have been the new kids on the block in terms of selling. Before Covid our percentage of sales would have only been 11% of our business, whereas now sales are almost 50-50% on our rental business,” she said. The growth in sales is attributed to a drive in marketing. 

“We try to be innovative, creative and do things other people are not doing. I am really proud to say that in 2019 we won a huge award, the KPMG Irish Property award for Best Estate Agent. We beat off some big brands and a national franchise. We won because of our innovation and our marketing,” she said.  

Over the past five years the team have implemented 16 pieces of different technology.  

“When Covid hit we had all that technology in place, so we could pivot quickly. At the time we were already doing Facebook live, video tours of properties and we had online contracts. We had the reference checking platform and our online maintenance platform where tenants can upload their maintenance issues in 40 different languages. We are a disrupter, and it helps us to provide a better service,” she said.  

In terms of social media, Liberty Blue has had the benefit of coaching from leading agencies in Australia and in the UK. “We try to stand out and don’t want to blend in. Our job is to market property,” she said.  

Despite the advantage of virtual tours as a marketing tool, property sales froze for a number of months during the pandemic. However, the thaw quickly followed. From the summer of 2021 to the first quarter of this year the market was “insanely hot”. Now the market is beginning to normalise and regulate itself. However, competition is fierce with multiple bidders. The current market is particularly difficult for first time buyers, especially if they are competing with cash buyers. Regina advises anyone buying to go through a good broker to be ready to purchase.  

In terms of renting, the market is in crisis with little or no properties available. Regina says there needs to be change of mindset about renting, along with increased building of social housing to free up existing properties for renting. 

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