Robyn Waters is the first Australian woman to hold the position of World President at the International Real Estate Federation FIABCI, a business network of real estate professionals worldwide that began in 1948 and includes 48 countries. While at the helm of FIABCI, Waters visited 33 countries in 12 months.
"The interesting thing about all that travel is that I was going into countries with really established real estate markets, and then also into countries where they're developing a real estate market and they're developing a middle class, and the universal problem right around the world is home affordability, so we're not unique in that regard," says Waters. "The aspiration to own your own house is universal."
She explains that FIABCI is a significant global presence for real estate that, under her watch, has strengthened its World Councils, Chapters and Committees. FIABCI used to be focused on brokers but now includes chapters for builders, developers, architects, interior designers, valuers and property accountants and lawyers, "all of those sorts of people who are driving the business, as such," says Waters. "While it doesn't have a massive number of members, its global presence is quite significant in that it is the only ngo advisor to Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and through that we have an involvement with habitat with the Global Compact Cities Program, which is part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and we're a signature to them. We signed a memorandum of understanding with them during the year last year to create a project to examine sustainability of cities, and that's an ongoing project."
FIABCI is also involved in two other international collaborations, including the International Property Measurement Standards Coalition which was started with the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and looks at how property is measured in the world. They've finished the retail standards and are now looking at the residential standards. "In some of the countries that have been third world countries and that are now developing a middle class, and developing a property market and private property as a point of equity, they are needing to have some sort of standards to work to," says Waters. The other is an international collaboration on ethical standards, which Waters says is especially beneficial for some of the countries where a bag of cash still works as currency in a property transaction, or just squatting on the land.
Another hallmark of Waters' tenure at FIABCI was pushing for the real estate community to be referred to not as an industry but as a profession. "What we do is professional, and the sooner we start talking about ourselves as a profession, the sooner the public will too. That's one of my pet things," she said. "We've also got a fairly high involvement in terms of academia because we have 100 educational institutions that are training people to be property professionals, and we've got a diploma that allows people to get an understanding of what it takes to become an international real estate agent," said Waters. FIABCI also offers the FIABCI International Real Estate Consultant, a global designation that consists of two online courses. It also has a very large professional exchange and scholarship program for young people globally.
Waters has always worked in real estate, and has a long association with FIABCI. "I was born and raised in a real estate family in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, and my father was involved with the Asia Pacific real estate federation which is a part of FIABCI," she said. "I did an exchange in the early 80s and went to the US, and been involved in real estate ever since. I was involved in the young professionals, which is very active, and then I was a member of a committee, involved in the Asia Pacific committee, then moved onto the board and then as time went by I was the president. I had a perfect schooling to become president with a great understanding of what goes on."
Living in Mont Albert in Melbourne, Waters sold her family business and now runs her own niche business giving advice to people about how to transact a real estate transaction and helping people move. "My logo is 'Moving on, moving up, moving out, get sorted, Get Robyn,' and we help people make the decision to sell, help people decide how to sell, and then I use colleagues to do the work. I do all the shifting and sorting out of people's things, and I do a lot of work with deceased estates, a lot of older people moving into a home and young people who just don't have the time."