The 1980s: Market Influencers with Integrity
While 1980s Ireland was experiencing considerable economic difficulty, the fledgling Sherry FitzGerald company recruited for the future, forming a team of young property professionals who shared a common vision of a new type of auctioneering company. From the start, we practiced a strong gender balance philosophy, a philosophy we have continued to champion to this day.
We also always understood the absolute importance of having a strong ethical foundation, combined with a sense of exceptional customer service. With this in mind, we introduced a strict rule of not allowing anyone in the company to buy a second-hand house off our own books – a move which may have surprised some! We also introduced opening 7 days a week into what had traditionally been a ‘9.30 – 5.30 & closed for lunch’ industry.
Our strapline in those early days was ‘the new generation of estate agents’ which subsequently evolved into ‘the agent you’d recommend to a friend’.
We closed the decade by investing in our belief in a brighter future by opening a second office in Terenure in 1989.
The 1990s: Leadership and Growth
Looking back, it is amazing how much has changed in the way houses are bought and sold in Ireland, and how much of those changes for the better were down to the leadership of Sherry FitzGerald’s company policies.
In 1992 we were the first organisation, outside the Department of the Environment, to provide clear house price information to the general public; this led to the launch of our Dublin House Price Index in 1996. Today we continue to employ economists: through all the challenges of the Europe-wide property crash, we remained committed to research and transparent information by not only retaining this function, but by further resourcing it. Our National Property Index, launched in 1999, is a benchmark in terms of accurate reporting of house price trends and is published every three months.
Opening further offices in the Dublin area, including in Drumcondra, Dun Laoghaire, Templeogue and Sutton, we also began our nationwide expansion, opening in Galway, Limerick and Cork before the decade was out.
As the 1990s came to a close we looked forward to the new Millennium with a series of innovations that were to prove key to how people would come to buy and sell homes in the future.
In 1998, we launched one of Ireland’s first property websites – www.sherryfitz.ie. The following year, we launched Ireland’s first ever national property franchise organisation. Today there are over 70 Sherry FitzGerald franchise offices, providing property advice throughout Ireland.
Continuing to grow, in 1998, we also consolidated our growing commercial presence by forming a joint venture company with the global property advisory firm DTZ Holdings – DTZ Sherry FitzGerald, which 18 years later was rebranded Cushman & Wakefield. In the following year (1999) the Group acquired the Ross McParland New Homes business which was subsequently rebranded Sherry FitzGerald New Homes.
The 2000s: Innovation and Community Support
Kicking off the new Millennium, we acquired Cork’s leading residential estate agency, Burton Crowley O’Flynn, later rebranded Sherry FitzGerald and now occupying a flagship office on Lapps Quay in the heart of Cork City. Recognising our clients’ need for sound financial back up when taking the step of buying a house, we launched Sherry FitzGerald Mortgages in the year 2000, providing independent mortgage and financial advice.
While the year 2000 may have begun with concerns about the Y2K Millennium Bug (remember that?!), our then CEO, Mark FitzGerald also saw the huge future of the internet in making property searches smooth, efficient, and most importantly, fully accessible. As the century turned, he came up with the idea of launching a national property portal and led the process of putting together the team, the partners and the investors that made it happen.
www.myhome.ie was successfully launched 2001. It quickly became Ireland’s largest and most innovative property website and, 5 years after its launch, it was acquired by the Irish Times.
In 2006, we launched two community initiatives supported by the Sherry FitzGerald Foundation. "Your Home Away from Home" saw us underwrite the purchase of 5 Fontenoy Street, Phibsborough, Dublin for Temple Street Children´s Hospital to use as parents’ accommodation for two families 365 days a year. We subsequently organised two successful Walkathons to raise funds for the project.
We were also instrumental in the establishment of Amawele: a national charity which grew to twin 100 schools in Ireland with schools in the Eastern and West Cape of South Africa with the aim of opening the minds of children to the human race beyond their immediate environment. More details around our Corporate Social Responsibility program can be found here.
The 2000s: Market Volatility, International Diversification and Resilience
The 2000s were a volatile period, as many of us learned all too well. However, in 2005, we successfully diversified into the U.K. market with the acquisition of the 150-year old, Central and West London estate agency, Marsh & Parsons. In the following year, we acquired another London estate agency, Vanstons which was later rebranded Marsh & Parsons, solidifying our position in the London market. In the subsequent 5 years we grew the Marsh & Parsons network to 14 London offices employing over 200 people. In 2011, we successfully sold Marsh & Parsons to LSL Property Services plc.
The timing of the acquisition and sale helped to protect the Sherry FitzGerald parent business during the depths of the global financial crash, enabling us to keep all our own offices open, and 200 people directly employed through the difficult times. This made us the largest Irish property business to emerge from the crash.
In 2008, we were chosen by Christie’s International Real Estate to be their exclusive affiliate in Ireland. This partnership gives sellers of prestige homes in Ireland access to international markets. It also offers the owners of luxury property abroad access to local expertise when they come to sell, via the global Christie’s International Real Estate network.
2010 and into the Teens: Succession, Growth and Digital Transformation
As the new century got into its stride, we continued to grow and innovate.
In 2013, the Group acquired the Sherry FitzGerald franchise offices in Galway and Limerick with both former franchise members, Tony Kavanagh and Des O’Malley, joining the company as Directors.
In 2017, after more than 40 years in the estate agency business, Mark FitzGerald stepped down as Chief Executive of Sherry FitzGerald. He was succeeded by Steven McKenna, who previously held the position of Chief Financial Officer. Mark remains as Non-Executive Chairman of Sherry FitzGerald, and in 2018 joined the Government group, Better Balance for Business, to examine why so few women have senior positions in business. A Galway native, and now Dublin based, Steven joined the Sherry FitzGerald family in 2008 and helped navigate the financial crash. He quickly became Chief Financial Officer, working closely with Mark on ensuring the company could emerge safely and strongly as part of Ireland’s overall economic recovery. During this time, he oversaw steady expansion and growth, while all the time remaining a champion of Sherry FitzGerald’s core values.
These values have served us well throughout our first forty years and look set to carry us well into the future, committing to continue to be the most trusted property advisors, creating exceptional value for our clients.
In 2018, we launched our new online platform, mySherryFitz, which gives customers unique 24/7 access to their property journey. Here, they can book virtual or physical viewings, favourite properties, submit offers, chat to our advisors, and access a huge range of other functions to guide them through the buying/selling process, providing much greater transparency throughout.
Of course, even as we launched all these digital innovations, we continued to expand our network nationwide, and our team of agents remain available in person, by phone, email or via online messaging. After all, digital transformation enables us to give our buyers and sellers every advantage in the marketplace, but we still firmly believe that people are at the heart of everything we do.
In 2018, we underlined this commitment to personal service, by opening five new franchises in Maynooth, Abbeyfeale, Claremorris, Loughrea and Portumna.
As we looked to consolidate our Dublin network, we also acquired three franchise offices in Malahide, Swords and Lucan with both former franchise members, David Blanc and David Lewis, joining the company as Directors.
Also, that year, we successfully sold our commercial business to its global parent company, Cushman & Wakefield, and entered into a two-year Alliance Agreement.
Sherry FitzGerald Today, and Looking to the Future
The second decade of the Millennium has brought its own challenges, which Steven has safely shepherded the company through. Our strategy of investing in cutting edge technology meant that we were able to continue to support our clients during COVID-19 through mySherryFitz and state-of-the-art virtual viewings.
In fact, in 2020, despite the branch network being physically closed and in-person viewings suspended, we remained open for business in a safe and virtual environment through the support of mySherryFitz, where we sold over 6,500 properties.
The strength of the Sherry FitzGerald brand and our investment in technology has attracted leading new franchise members with offices opening in Balbriggan, Rush, Castlebar, Carrick-On-Shannon, Skerries, Swinford, Virginia, Lettings West Dublin since 2020.
In 2021, we celebrated the opening of our 100th office, at the historic Doyle’s Corner in Phibsborough, as we continue to expand our service offering to every community across Ireland. We also launched our new online mortgage platform, mySherryFitzMortgage, providing our customers with independent advice from our team of expert brokers, access to all of the lending providers and financial products in Ireland, and a paperless 24/7 solution that takes the stress out of mortgages.
The Sherry FitzGerald Group now employs 600 people and remains an Irish, privately owned business, committed to maintaining its leadership position in the marketplace.
As we look to the future, we continue to believe that our fundamental belief in integrity, personal service, hard work and trust, coupled with our sheer love of connecting people with their future homes, will keep us at the heart of your own property journey – wherever that may take you next.