Typically used to pick up free, unwanted furniture, not many offices would even consider the classifieds website Gumtree as a legitimate source of recruitment.
But according to branch manager at LJ Hooker Glen Waverley Joseph Ngo, when opening the office 12 months ago they explored every avenue.
“At that time we had a hard market, and it was hard to find the right people for the job,” he told Real Estate Business.
“We wanted a superstar, who wasn’t a superstar now. I put the ad on Gumtree and I got all sorts of applicants – the weird and the wonderful.”
Upon opening its doors, the Glen Waverley office set out with a 12-person team, none of which had previous experience in real estate.
Ten months later the business opened offices in Box Hill and Doncaster, and Ken Chen had become the office’s top selling agent.
“We needed people with potential,” Mr Ngo said.
“They need to be well educated, smart and have the potential to be the best. Ken had no experience whatsoever; he was the owner of a Michel’s patisserie, but he had a bachelor in IT and loads of enthusiasm.
“[The whole team has] drive and work ethic. If someone’s done their masters degree they’ve got a good work ethic. Even the receptionists at Box Hill and Doncaster have got a BA and MA in finance and accounting.”
As of December, Mr Chen was officially ranked third in the network for Victoria and Tasmania, and within the next month or two Mr Ngo said he will be number one.
“With the calculations I’ve done from the last ranking, he’s either number one or two now but corporate are keeping those figures under wraps until the awards in June,” he said.
So how does a patisserie owner become one of the best agents in the state in just 12 months? According to Mr Ngo, it’s about a rigorous training regime.
“We’re very hands on with our training, we go out with them and show them how to close a deal, how to generate listings and we make ourselves available to them 24 hours a day," he said.
“If you want them to be good but you can’t put in the hours to make them good then they’re never going to get there.”
Also, Mr Ngo believes in hiring people without any prior experience in real estate so the training is fully embraced.
“We like to find them new so we can make them what we need them to be, they haven’t been painted already," he said.
“If I told a new agent to sell a property for a million dollars, they’ll go out and try to find a way to sell it for a million dollars; with experienced agents they’ll turn around and say ‘It’s only worth $900,000’.”