Latest News – 11 October 2022

Sue Williams | Oct 11, 2022

Shortly after Ion Teska launched his own commercial real estate company, all hell broke loose. Unemployment surged to 10.8 per cent around Australia, share prices sank by 40 per cent and a number of financial institutions crashed and burned.

It was the recession they said we had to have but, back in 1990, the outlook appeared dire for the new firm Teska Carson. Instead, it proved the perfect learning curve.

“The overarching thing I learnt was that it didn’t matter how rich a person was, or how much property they owned, the little stuff still mattered to them,” says Teska, who was a mathematician by profession before moving into real estate.

“So when properties were being managed by big international firms and they maybe left a little shop somewhere empty because there weren’t big fees involved, the owners would notice. They were hard-working people and they paid attention to every detail. And, yes, so did we.”

From that less-than-auspicious start, Teska Carson has grown to become one of the most respected commercial property firms in Victoria, with a portfolio made up mostly of retail centres and office buildings, with a small amount of industrial.

In December last year, it sold the 11-storey, 10,033-square-metre B-grade office building at 399 Lonsdale Street in Melbourne’s legal precinct for a stunning $86.8 million – after buying it for the Hong Kong-backed property company owner for $31.5 million just eight years before. The purchaser, Forza Capital, plans to give it an environmental upgrade and a quality refurbishment.

The month before, it sold a 3300-square-metre development site in Cremorne, three kilometres south-east of the Melbourne CBD and one of the largest available land parcels in the fast-emerging tech and creative hub where tenants such as Disney, MYOB, Domain, Seek and Uber operate, for $53.5 million. It was bought by Bill McNee’s Vicland Property Group.

“Our company has grown very rapidly but we like to keep that small firm boutique kind of feel,” says Teska, who now has a staff of about 80, and a $6 billion portfolio of prime commercial assets under management across Greater Melbourne.

“High-net-worth individuals are our staple and we pride ourselves on going for smart options rather than the safe options that the big corporates might choose. We’re a team of people who love coming to work and get a lot of satisfaction from building good relationships and strong connections with clients.”

Director Adrian Boutsakis, who’s been with the firm for 19 years, says another of its specialities is working on projects from before the start, liaising with developers and assisting with design, approvals and market appraisals, all the way through to product delivery. One such project was a seven-level office building at 13 Cremorne Street, on the border of Cremorne and Richmond.

“It was a creative office building in an area that’s one of the hottest pockets in Victoria,” Boutsakis says. “We worked with the client from the start through the development and then leasing out the different offices at the end.”

Historically, Teska Carson started out leasing strip retail but has also since evolved to working with big shopping centres. The company bought Pakenham Place Shopping Centre in Pakenham for one client, for instance, and is now refurbishing it and re-leasing it. It also took on Caroline Springs’ Central Shopping Centre as a managed asset, which is going through a 25 per cent refurbishment and a fresh leasing campaign.

“One of the most important things to us is the relationship scenario,” says Boutsakis. “This is very much a relationships business. We’re a privately-owned company with the directors owning the shares so we have a much greater responsibility in how we deal with clients and how we look after them, than an international conglomerate might feel.

“We build relationships over time, and loyalties. One of the commercial property portfolios we manage is for the Royal Children’s Hospital and we’re proud to be associated with them and give back to them, provide pro bono advice and assistance and donating sales commissions.”

Fellow director Steve Fein, who’s been at Teska Carson for 13 years, heads a team of 50 people in asset management, looking after more than 5000 retail, office and industrial tenancies ranging from 100 square metres to 40,000 square metres.

“I think our detailed strategies are what’s led us to have some of the biggest property players in Victoria on board,” he says. “We deal with a lot of funds, but also some of the very high-net-worth individuals who are top of the list in Victoria.

“We’ve purchased, repositioned and managed sites up to 350,000 square metres, and have a great staff, many of whom have been with us for 10 years or more. We differentiate ourselves by being much more involved in every facet of a property.”

Fifteen-year staff member Matthew Feld, another director and also an auctioneer, enjoys the culture of the company, as well as the work. “It’s somewhere where people love to work and stay for the journey,” he says. “There’s a lot of variety in our work, and we’re well known across the Melbourne market.”