From science to shelter: Nicola Powell’s journey to decode Australia’s property pulse


When Dr Nicola Powell pushes a real estate report or an end of year property wrap out into the world, it’s a little like a child leaving the nest.

She hopes she has prepared it well and that it’s successful. 

For the Domain Chief of Research and Economics, having a voice in Australia’s property market is a responsibility she takes incredibly seriously.

“I’m really passionate about helping everyday Australians understand something that could be considered complex, and that is our housing market,” Nicola says.

“And we know that our housing market is awash with data, but actually being able to use that data on an everyday Australian level is challenging.

“That’s where it’s really important, as leaders in the industry, to surface the right insights, at the right time, so that we can help people make a decision based on data without them perhaps even realising it.

“I feel like I do something that matters because we all need shelter, we all need to roof over our heads and Australians are absolutely fanatical about the housing market.” 

Looking for life’s lessons

But making sense of Australia’s property market wasn’t always on Nicola’s horizon.

After completing a Bachelor of Science (Hons), a Master of Science and a PhD at the University of East Anglia, in England, Nicola took 12 months off to travel and do volunteer work at an orphanage in remote Africa.

“I placed myself in these really stretchy moments that help you grow as a person,” she notes.

“And then I came to Australia, and it was meant to be a holiday, but I pretty much stayed.”

Stints as a research scientist followed, but Nicola notes that she still felt something was missing.

“I realised that the academic world wasn’t quite filling my bucket,” she explains.

“And I realised that what I love doing is communicating complex pieces of information in easy to digest and understandable ways.

“And I found this love in the property sector and I really haven’t looked back.”

Finding her calling

Nicola spent three years at Allhomes, focusing on the ACT property market, before taking on a national role with Domain.

She says one of the things she finds most interesting about the Australian property market is the connection Aussies have to it.

Likening it to an “obsessions”, Nicola says Australia is the only place she’s found property market discussions to be a totally normal topic of conversation at dinner tables, events and on morning television.

“I often ask myself what created that?” she says. 

“Maybe it’s from that core Australian dream, which is about owning your own home.”

Nicola reveals the other element she loves about the property market diverges away from the numbers and the data.

She loves the emotional connection Australians have to their homes and how this can impact the property market as a whole.

“I don’t think we talk about it enough, that emotional and behavioural connection between how our property market performs versus the behavioural drivers of our market and why, when prices pull back, we see that behavioural action and that emotional human instinct of, ‘I’m not going to sell if I am selling for lower than what I thought my home was worth’,” Nicola says.

“It’s such a powerful part of our housing market, because a big chunk of us own property.

“And aspects like that is also what drives the misallocation of housing and that misallocation of housing means that we live in homes that far exceed our needs. 

“That is because some of us don’t want to move…we have that emotional and behavioural tie to bricks and mortar because it isn’t just bricks and mortar, it’s a home.”

Women in real estate

Over the past decade, Nicola has watched as the number of women in real estate have increased and their roles have changed.

“I’ve been in the industry for over 10 years now and I’ve seen tremendous change, even in that period of time,” she says.

“It’s been so gratifying to see the change, not only in terms of women in leadership roles, but also more women as salespeople, and as auctioneers.

“I think what that does is it brings really fresh perspectives and transformation to our sector.

“And I’m really excited to see what the next 15 years look like in terms of diversity amongst teams. 

“Research proves that diverse teams are more innovative and they’re actually better equipped to tackle complex challenges.”

When it comes to the females that inspire her, Nicola says it’s the women she’s surrounded by on a daily basis that motivate her the most.

As mother of two young children, she says she’s particularly inspired by women that are able to juggle various responsibilities on a daily basis.

“In terms of key females that are in the public realm, Michelle Obama is one that inspires me, but it goes all the way even to Tay Tay (Taylor Swift), because she’s an artist but she’s also a business woman at her core,” Nicola says.

“So, I don’t think that there’s one female that I look up to, I’m inspired by everyone because we’re all going through our own challenges, we’re all human and we’re always juggling and that inspires me every day.”

What the future holds

As she looks ahead to the remainder of 2024 and beyond, Nicola says her goals are clear.

She’d like Domain’s research to become more influential in the government policy setting arena and on a personal level she’s looking to broaden her skill set and eventually, when her children are a little older, she’d like to sit on boards and share her knowledge that way.

Nicola also can’t wait to see what the real estate sector looks like in a decade’s time.

“I think what is going to be really interesting, is actually real estate and the evolution of technology and how we then leverage data analytics and use AI for market analysis,” she says.

“If we are having this conversation in another 10 or 15 years, the evolution of our industry is going to be remarkable. 

“I find that it’s daunting, it’s a bit scary, but it’s also very exciting.”



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