Ringing a bell at the top

Jonathan Chancellor was the property editor at the Sydney Morning Herald for many years until April this year.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s legendary real estate editor Jonathan Chancellor has resigned and is set to launch his own rival property website. It is unclear who his financial backer is but the real estate guru today shocked his bosses at the paper by announcing he is leaving. Sources said Chancellor, who has been leading the paper’s real estate coverage for 25 years, revealed his plans to abandon the broadsheet today.

He was appointed property editor of the paper in 1986 and his column Title Deeds has been a mainstay of the Saturday Herald.

“Jonathan is a major Herald brand,” one source said. “It is a big blow. The editors are all in crisis meetings.”

The real estate supplements in the Fairfax Media newspaper are a major revenue spinner which the company would not want to see damaged. Chancellor is one of the last Herald newsroom characters, famous for his uncompromising manner. A Herald spokesman confirmed that Chancellor was leaving the paper to start his own business.

Back in April this year the media was slowly being macrobated. At the time of his resignation I did wonder whether the fact that the SMH had suddenly become bearish on housing was part of the reason for his departure. Yesterday the long awaited venture was launched with the new housing web site Property Observer.  Chancellor has this to say about what the new site is about.

I have been writing about property for more than 25 years, and I’ve learnt that getting passionate about property is easy. Getting it right is trickier. I intend for Property Observer to be property central, providing the essential news and analysis on the ins and outs of property. We will cover the capital cities, up and down the coast, and inland to the regional towns and the bush.

We will offer plenty of authoritative coverage about the homes we live in and the investments that top up our incomes.

Property Observer will showcase the best houses and apartments and all the big-name buyers and sellers. We will also keep a watchful eye on new developments, and the plush over-55 developments that seek out the growing band of empty nesters.

Property Observer will capture the changing seasons – we will write about snow homes, vineyards, fishing lodges, marinas and even the occasional beach bathing box. We aim to be of interest to the owner-occupier and the investor, given that population and investment funds are more fluid than ever.

I intend for commercial investment property to be a key component, especially the opportunities on high street –  retail neighbourhood shops, small strata offices, pubs and industrial strata. All are suitable for the self-managed super fund investor.

The website will offer wisdom on winning ways with property commentary from key economic and industry practitioners. We won’t overlook the property fundamentals, conveyancing clues, legal rulings and tax advice.

We want input from readers on market prices in their local patches, facilitating shared knowledge through dialogue, so let us know about your stories, insights and properties.

It’s not just about bricks and mortar, as Property Observer will personalise property with interviews of the movers and shakers.

We want our readers to get wisdom, not clichés. And that way we’ll all be the wealthier.

So let us have a look at who is on-board.

Obviously Jonathan himself, James Thomson the editor of smartcompany, Larry Schlesinger the previous editor of a mortgage broking publication,  Christopher Joye our favourite bullhawk providing the data, Chris Lang a commercial property advisor, Michael Yardney the director of an investment company, Mal James who seems to be an agent, and Louis Christopher from SQM who I assume will be the resident (semi) bear until further notice.

Given that line-up, I think I can guess the orientation of the content this new site is going to be churning out. I think it will be an interesting new hobby to observe ( pun intended ) whether they in fact “won’t overlook the property fundamentals”, most especially given the historic and global shift toward debt scepticism and the next decade of baby boomer retirements.

Still, on the bright side, as the era of system-wide growth fails, the detail of property investment will become more important. Localised growth will be the only game ahead so, if managed right, the site could help return property investment to what it should be, a small and specialised field.

As one of my colleagues commented earlier today, it looks like it’ll be a great commercial success, unless it blows us all up.

I’m going to be busy.

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  1. Try the obituaries column.Bring out your dead. Frankenstate scandal sheet. There is always room in Frankenheaven for one more real estate initiative.

  2. I had a look at the Property Observer site – it has a similar look and feel to me as Business Spectator.

    Just my two cents.

  3. Sounds like the major newspapers might be losing large revenue spinners…
    To a smorgasbrod of menus that grows for MB….
    yum Yum…JR