Member Snapshot – Jill Toohey from Knight Frank

Negotiating multi-million dollar property deals is all in a day’s work for Jill Toohey.

For the past nine years, together with husband Laurence, Jill has built her Knight Frank franchise into the only dedicated commercial real estate agency in the Riverina, providing a range of services including commercial management, sales, leasing and valuation.

On the board of Committee 4 Wagga since 2016, we caught up with Jill to discuss current trends in commercial sales, upcoming changes to local council plans and why she supports C4W.

Committee 4 Wagga

Member snapshot 

Growing up in Adelong, Jill Toohey has had a long affiliation with Wagga Wagga. After all it was her “nearest big city”.

It was no surprise, then, that she and husband Laurence looked to Wagga when they decided to leave the Sydney rat race for a country change.

Having commenced her property career at Knight Frank Sydney as part of the Graduate Scheme, Jill was open to the idea of opening a new Knight Frank franchise in Wagga when it was suggested to her.

Nine years ago, there was a number of valuation companies, and a number of real estate agencies but nobody in Wagga did a traditional, commercial offer like Knight Frank does in Sydney.

We saw our point of difference as being purely commercial, offering a full-line agency plus valuation.”

Being a young woman breaking into the real estate game presented Jill with some challenging times.

“Some challenges were more evident than others. The first was that we weren’t currently operating in the market and we were then arriving and asking people to entrust us with their multi-million dollar assets.

“And there was an element of, ‘Are you capable of doing the job, being a young female?’. I think as time went on and our track record started to speak for itself, that has become less and less of an issue.”

Jill and Laurence have grown the business to a team of 10, hiring locally and also recruiting talent to Wagga.

“A lot of what we’re doing wasn’t being done by people in Wagga before but I now manage more than $300m worth of shopping centres across regional Australia, including six centres in one portfolio that was previously being managed out of Sydney.

“I guess that organisation was looking for a regional solution and we were in a position to respond to that need. Wagga’s a good base and we understand the regional context, including how things like demographics, seasonality and new competition can affect a client’s return.”

Negotiating large property developments and bringing them to life is what satisfies Jill the most.

“I redeveloped Kooringal Mall to expand Woolworths and make it a full-line supermarket –everything from acquiring the land, negotiating the lease with the tenant, going through the development application process, through to the construction process, remaining open for trade and making it actually function while everyone still needed to shop, and then to see it succeed in terms of the amount of people that shop there. That was a rewarding process.”

One development that Jill is pleased to see in the pipeline is imminent change to Wagga Wagga City Council’s Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and Development Control Plan (DCP).

“There’s positive noise out of council that there will be more engagement with the commercial sector and that some of the inflexibilities in the current system will be addressed.

“Within the LEP there are zones, and sometimes a business just doesn’t fit into any one zone. They might be manufacturing a product that they sell and they want to do that from the one place. The current document was restrictive in those instances. 

“As an agent, that’s frustrating because you want to say, ‘This is really good for Wagga. We need to put them somewhere’. You can’t just say, ‘Well they don’t fit. Sorry, go to Albury’.

“Hopefully we’ll have some good outcomes so that those developments can be facilitated in the future.  We welcome that opportunity to provide feedback to Council.”

It’s this kind of input that Jill is happy to give – and part of the reason she likes to be involved in Committee 4 Wagga.

“It’s fine to sit back and say, ‘The damned LEP – we could have had that business if it wasn’t for that’ but if you’re not giving Council the feedback in order to help them fix it, you’re going to be no further ahead and neither’s Wagga.

“I think it’s about working together and having an organisation (like Committee 4 Wagga) where people are specifically employed to focus on these conversations is really important.

“I also like being part of an organisation that is about the greater good of the business community. It’s about making Wagga a better place, and ensuring that things happen here.”

NewsCristy Houghton