“YOU GUYS are the next generation. You are the guardians of your industry’s values. Don’t change them for the worse, change them for the better.”
This was the advice that former Wallaby and rugby union great Brendan Cannon had for a packed room of Gen Y agents at the recent Young Professionals in Real Estate Conference (YPIRE).
Over the two-day event, held in mid-August at Sydney’s Crowne Plaza Coogee Beach Hotel, more than 150 young agents heard stories and learnt techniques from their peers who, despite their young age, are at the top of their game.
Among speakers were Karen Seeto, number one female agent in Australia’s largest property group, Josh Phegan, Chris Gilmour, Jason Andrew, Scott Farqhuar, John Knight and Brian White.
BEST MARKET YOU’LL SEE
Industry trainer Josh Phegan had the youthful crowd exchanging worried looks when he said that, despite shaky consumer confidence and price corrections across the country, this is the best real estate market in which agents will ever work.
“The market will only ever change if the consumer changes their perceptions, and that is not likely to happen in the current media environment,” Mr Phegan told Real Estate Business.
“From that point of view, you’ve got to learn how to deal with the current consumer before you’ll ever see the market shift.”
According to Mr Phegan, since the advent of social media-based mass communication, consumers have become more informed than ever before, creating new hurdles for real estate agents to overcome.
“With so much information, so much social media stuff and so much TV and news, we’ve become paralysed,” he said.
“What I mean by that is that as a society we watch so much TV, listen to so much radio and read so many different newspapers and books that there is always a reason why we can’t do something.
“There are always issues happening in China, and if it is not China it is Japan or America or Russia or Europe.
“Consumers have changed and adapted so much that they are so informed that, I think, they are actually paralysed [and unable] to act.
“So, our role as real estate agents is to really facilitate that process by asking better questions and helping them to move to those next steps, and to give them the courage to chase down their dreams about the things they want to do from a property perspective.”
DON’T COUNT YOUR CHICKENS
It was a day of blunt messages for the young crowd as industry trainer and auctioneer Jason Andrew said young agents often find themselves counting their pennies before they seal a deal, effectively “glorifying” the sale but forgetting the processes that got them there.
“Our industry is so focused on glorifying the outcome, but what it does take to get to the outcome is a whole lot of processes,” Mr Andrew told Real Estate Business after his presentation.
“They like to glorify the wrong thing; I have talked about how Gen Y glorifies sales instead of glorifying processes before.
“We continue to forget those steps in between, and if we forget the steps in between we will never get to the outcome. It is as simple as that.”
PERSONALITY IS KEY
You may have all the market knowledge in the world but if you are not personable you won’t get anywhere in real estate, said one of Australia’s fastest selling agents.
According to Chris Gilmour, sales agent at All Properties Group in Brisbane, who averages 21 days on market for his properties, it’s his laid-back personality that sets him apart from his competitors.
“I think personality is the most important part of being a successful agent,” he said.
Mr Gilmour told YPIRE attendees how he developed his referral business over three years, going from nothing to $1 million in earnings: “When people ask me why would I share my ‘secrets’ with my competitors at conferences and talks like this one today, I tell them it is because I have made those relationships,” he said.
“I am telling my competitors and peers [about] all my techniques, but the one thing I can’t teach them is personality. You’ve either got it or you haven’t.
“You’ve got to be able to relate to the client. You have to be a ‘chameleon’ – I think you need to be able to adapt to every different situation and if you are really good at that you will be successful.”
According to Mr Gilmour, living and being active in your farming area is the key to being a successful agent.
“It is about knowing your market and the people that live there,” he said. “I concentrate on a small patch of 1,000 homes and I live in that area, so people walking their dogs past me in the morning while I’m washing my car will stop and say hello to me.
“It is just easy and natural.”
But Mr Gilmour admits he is also now one of the nation’s “laziest agents”.
“My business is all about referral business,” he said. “I would probably be one of the laziest agents because every day just gets easier and easier. But it is because of all the solid work you do at the foundation stage of your relationship with the client that they just say your name everywhere.”
When Mr Gilmour first started in the industry he worked seven days a week, from five in the morning to 11 o’clock at night.
“I put in the hard years to be where I am now. I am up at five am and at home by six at night.”
AGE JUST A NUMBER
Brian White, chairman of Australia’s largest network, Ray White Group, told the YPIRE audience that buyers now worry much less about age when it comes to determining which agent they’ll use.
But he was still amazed by the confidence young agents have today.
“My father once told me that no one would buy a property from me until I was at least 30,” he told the audience. “That attitude has changed in one generation; the older generation is being pushed aside.”
Mr White also doused current fears of a declining market, claiming that young agents shouldn’t complain about the poor conditions.
“I hear young agents walking around saying ‘the market isn’t booming – this is a scandal!’ The reality is that this is normal. The conditions we are in now are normal,” he said.
Mr White also cautioned agents about making property market predictions.
“In the past, I’ve made predictions and all I know now is you just don’t know,” he said. “There are only two types of forecasters: those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.”
Mr White also stressed that agents don’t have a product to sell.
“What we sell is ourselves,” he said. “We are the product. All we really have is our words, and agents don’t practise using their words. How many times have you actually sat there and practised using your words?”