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July 27, 2023

Learning the property industry by osmosis

2023 UDIA SA Awards for Excellence winner Michael Leech says there is a lot to be learned by just being in the room.

  • The article was produced in collaboration with UDIA SA.

At the 2023 UDIA SA Awards for Excellence, Michael Leech heard his name announced as the winner of the Stuart Main – Young Leader Award.


See the 2023 UDIA SA Awards for Excellence winners here.

It was a fitting win, with Michael’s commitment to the industry and to the next generation of young professionals seemingly boundless.

The award judges said he “lives and breathes property and the industry” and is “passionate about bringing his team along for the journey”. His motto is: “It’s a good ride”.

Michael is the director of litigation and acquisition at M3 Property, a national property valuation and advisory firm, and believes those starting out in their careers should be in the room whenever industry experts get together.

“If I’m meeting with partners of law firms, investment developers or development managers, I always take someone with me who’s a junior coming up in the industry,” he says.

“I call it learning by osmosis. Listening to and learning from the people in the room, who are incredibly smart, talking about their project.”

As well as being an opportunity to gain decades of knowledge and strategy from the older guard, it keeps the enthusiasm high.

“They’re people who maybe have six months experience and they’re meeting the top barristers in the planning valuation space and it’s quite exciting to sit around a room and listen to that.”

Michael’s rise has been comparatively fast. Fresh out of university in Melbourne, he landed a job as an assistant valuer. He left that position to join M3 Property, first in a senior valuer role and then as a director, and in 2020 relocated to Adelaide to additionally take on the role of managing director of the local office.

He says working in property litigation and acquisition provides the opportunity to meet different people and be involved in a development from start to finish.

“No two valuations are ever the same and I meet a lot of interesting landowners, developers and investors, from small properties all the way through to $500 million properties.

He also likes the intellectual challenges and variety offered by the role.

“Coming from a sporting background, I am quite competitive, so I like that idea of having to go up against other valuers who have a different opinion,” Michael says.

Leading M3’s teams around Australia in compulsory acquisition, valuations and advice, for those litigation matters that end up in court, he often acts in his capacity as an expert valuer.

“I don’t mind being challenged on a valuation, which you do have a lot of when you go to court.

“You have barristers on one side who are trying to challenge you and other valuers who are challenging your professional opinion.”

While also working for governments, most of M3’s work is landowner focused. Michael’s valuation and consulting experience includes some of the biggest state projects, such as the North South Corridor and the Melbourne Airport Rail Project.

He said there is plenty of interest and work from institutional funds looking to invest in property in Adelaide. Residential is also a big part of the Adelaide office’s work.

Of the winning projects from this year’s UDIA SA Awards of Excellence, Michael says they had given valuation advice or strategic advice to “almost all, bar one or two”. This includes Project of the Year Junction’s Clifton Park, Cedar Woods’ Grace Apartments and Peet Limited’s Fort Largs development.

“I was very happy for our team to see that we played a small part in the future development of the state,” he says.

Fittingly, Michael’s individual award, sponsored by Holmes Dyer, honours the late Stuart Main – a respected South Australian planner and lawyer whose significant contribution to the UDIA, and work for the industry in private practice, has positively shaped the future of South Australia’s urban environment.

As the winner of the Stuart Main Young Leader Award, Michael will hold a position on the UDIA SA Young Professional Group and also further his professional development as a mentee in the UDIA SA Mentoring Program.

He is now eligible to be recognised among his peers across Australia as he is shortlisted for the 2024 UDIA National Awards for Excellence to be held in Melbourne in March 2024.

His own role as a leader within the industry began when he was approached to serve as the Young Property Professionals national representative on the Australian Property Institute board. Later, he was appointed a director to the board – the youngest ever at the time.

“I was very lucky to find my way to the API board of directors and observe what was going on and have the support of mentors who I saw as the leaders of our industry,” he says of his own learning by osmosis.

“I always thought, if I was ever given the opportunity to do that, I’d like to repay the faith in me.”

Consequently, he does “a fair bit” of mentoring to team members in M3’s offices nationally.

“I see a lot of my role now is giving back, even though I’m only in my early 30s,” he says.

“Property is such an important part of everything we do day to day… and part of my role as a leader in the industry is to ensure we continue to attain new talent and retain talent.

“I hope that someone could look back and they’ll be thankful that I gave them some support and hopefully I’ve bettered their career in some small way.”

See the full list of the 2023 UDIA SA Awards for Excellence winners here.

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