Eight years ago, when he cofounded Vantage Strata, Rupert Cullen knew the strata sphere was going to explode, and he has returned to “supercharge” the company into the next realm.
After 12 years with Colliers International in the ACT, and with the strata industry booming in Canberra, Rupert says the time was right for him to make the move to Vantage.
“We knew there would be consistent and strong demand for strata services, and what we’re seeing now is what we predicted, but on steroids,” he said.
“I’m extremely proud of what we as a team have achieved, but we’re only part way through this journey. We always knew this space was under serviced and, quite frankly, under resourced.”
Rupert says the strata industry has changed as people working from home want more from their living environment.
“Over the last decade and a half we’ve seen an explosion in high density living in Canberra. This is not to everyone’s liking or taste, but it does speak to the appeal of Canberra as a place to live and raise a family,” he said.
“I moved here thinking it was a stepping stone to Sydney, but soon realised that Canberra has some unique attributes that make it an awesome place to grow your career, but also balance life and family.”
What started out as a reasonably straightforward cottage industry has become more and more complex, and strata management has become a specialist industry.
“It’s no longer about managing townhouse complexes, we’re managing whole communities with multiple body corporates within one development,” Rupert explained.
He says the management of large complexes isn’t just about collecting the levies and placing insurances, strata managers have become responsible for maintaining things like lifts, swimming and spa pools and rooftop gardens, not to mention waste and garbage chutes.
They’re also navigating the “electrification of Canberra”, which incudes solar installations and EV charging. The larger the development, the more elaborate and multifaceted the management process becomes.
By 2030, it’s predicted that one in every two Australians will be living in a unit titled complex, as all the capital cities, including Canberra, shift their focus to high density living.
“We’ve got a land supply issue so there’s a real drive for high density living, and the new apartment communities are very appealing to people,” Rupert said.
“The generations coming through aren’t looking for a quarter-acre lifestyle so much anymore, they’re looking for a home that has everything at their fingertips. They want convenience so they can steal back time.”
While the apartment life offers convenience for owners and tenants, Rupert says it requires “intense management”, which is why he has returned to Vantage as the director of built environment and to utilise his commercial property experience to help Vantage deliver better outcomes for its clients.
“In the strata industry there’s limited people with the knowledge and skills to deal with and deliver that end-to-end solution,” he said.
“Like all industries at the moment, it’s so hard to find good people and, as a business owner, I felt it was important to come back into the business and help lead our team into the future, and to prepare for the challenges we face.”
Rupert, along with Paul Powderly from Colliers, Peter Maloney from Maloney’s Real Estate and Vantage Strata managing director Chris Miller created Vantage after sharing the same frustrations at the “lack of skill and expertise” among the strata management industry in Canberra.
Chris said the strata management profession had been “fighting hard to shed its reputation as a niche service in a cottage industry for decades”.
“There are many headwinds to this idea, most notably the constraint of attracting top talent who could otherwise work in sectors considered more prestigious,” he said.
“Rupert’s decision to join Vantage Strata is a watershed moment for our organisation, but it also serves as a signal to the industry that strata management cannot be overlooked as an exciting and lucrative pathway for those seeking a career in professional services.”
After studying for a Bachelor of Property at Auckland University, Rupert began his career in corporate and commercial real estate asset management with Colliers in New Zealand 24 years ago. He spent five years working in London, then Hong Kong before returning to New Zealand, and finally to Canberra in 2011.