March 14, 2024

How bold leads to sold: The WHITEFOX story

The Block’s newest judge, Marty Fox, made his mark shaking up the real estate industry. Today, backed by bespoke NAB support, he’s as determined to do things differently as the day he started out.

He’s spent his lifetime proving himself but, at age 21, Marty Fox’s most important pitch almost didn’t come through.

“I’d scraped a deposit together for a one-bedroom apartment,” Marty says. “I was introduced to NAB, but wasn’t able to persuade them to lend me the $360,000 to complete the deal.”

Enter Marty’s wife Charlotte.

“She convinced them I knew what I was talking about and the manager approved the loan,” he says. “Within three years, we ended up doing over $5 million in property deals.

“Since then, I’ve never left NAB. I’ve done 14 projects with them and still have the same banking team.”

That first loan approval underpinned Marty’s journey from young entrepreneur to where he finds himself today – founder and CEO of international real estate agency WHITEFOX and the most recent judge to be added to hit renovation show The Block.

Built on family foundations

Marty’s childhood equipped him with many of the tools for his success.

“We didn’t have a lot of money, but I always felt rich. I had loving parents who instilled immense self-belief,” he says.

“My mum is Irish – I got my fight and lack of fear from her. My dad was a hairdresser, so used his charisma to thrive. I sat in the salon after school and listened as he talked to adults; it helped me understand the importance of people and of EQ over IQ, as I wasn’t the best of students early on. He had clients for decades and they’d never leave. If he moved salon, people would follow him.”

Moving was something that Marty’s family did often during his childhood, spending time in Melbourne and parts of New Zealand, where he gained his tertiary education at Otago University.

“I went to seven different schools, I was bullied and I was constantly having to pitch myself,” he says. “And that’s what real estate is all about – not pitching the property but pitching yourself in order to get the property.”

Charlotte’s family was also a major influence later in life. Her father gave Marty his first job in real estate, mentoring him for eight years until Marty launched WHITEFOX at age 29.

Family continues to play an important role in Marty’s professional life.

“Charlotte’s father is now our chairman, my mum is my motivator and confidante,” he says. “My brother runs marketing, my uncle a buyer’s advocate, to name a few. There are over 50 staff in the business and around 15 per cent are direct family members.”

Shaking up the industry

Marty’s lessons from life spent on the move showed him real estate didn’t need to be a ‘local’ business.

“Agents are usually obsessed with geography because they’re sold a territory,” he says, “but we want our business to come from referrals. We’re specialists in connection, communication and networking. It’s all down to marketing, engagement and negotiation, particularly with the rise of social media influencing during our foundation years.

“While our agents don’t have geographical restrictions, they are still required to understand the intricacies of local data and the USPs of the assets they represent.”

On launching WHITEFOX, Marty knew he needed a point of difference to transcend what were then the norms and traditions of real estate.

“I wanted us to be the luxury agency that wasn’t antiquated,” he says. “We dropped the suits and wore smart-casual wear. We used black and white in our hero imagery and engaged a creative agency to work on a clear tone of voice.”

A growth path

The result is what Marty refers to as more a creative marketing agency than a real estate firm; it’s a bold presence that’s paid dividends.

WHITEFOX quickly expanded, turning one Melbourne office into four, followed by three offices in New Zealand and now the latest in Perth. This year, Marty will open in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, with Dubai and London openings planned for coming years.

Joining The Block as a judge has presented an opportunity for further growth.

Now busier than ever, Marty says he juggles his newfound TV responsibilities with his business by maintaining authenticity and consistency across all roles.

“I’m the same Marty at WHITEFOX, on The Block and in real life,” he says. “The advice I give someone on The Block is the same I give to clients, family and friends – it’s all about maximising the value of the asset.

“And remember, whether it’s a $300,000 apartment or a $30 million home, the person signing the contract is making the biggest financial decision in their life at that moment. They need to be treated delicately and with respect.”

A partnership that’s paid dividends

Marty says the nature of his relationship with NAB is a further reason WHITEFOX has been able to flourish.

“NAB has given me the funding or a redraw facility when times are tough and they’ve backed me when I’ve seen an opportunity,” he says. “They’re an extension of my business, of my network. Without NAB I wouldn’t be here, and I appreciate that belief they put in me.”

The partnership has been an exciting one for NAB too, says Daniel Goodman, NAB Business Banking Manager, Professional Services.

“Marty is one of the most ambitious people I know,” Daniel says. “I try to match his energy and enthusiasm. When Marty is reaching for the stars, my role is to help him get there and have a never say never attitude.

“By understanding Marty’s strategic goals, we’ve been able to put the right banking facilities in place to meet his needs. Ultimately, we’re a relationship bank; we connect with our clients and find them bespoke solutions.”