He made his first sale in late 2009 – within two weeks of starting his career.
In the next month he sold 10 properties, and then he sold 44 in a quarter.
Flash forward to the end of the 2010/2011 financial year, and his tally topped a staggering 83.5 listings sold.
These are numbers that would more than satisfy most industry veterans.
And they secured Joel Rawle of hockingstuart Werribee, in Melbourne’s western suburbs, numerous awards from his employer. They included the title of hockingstuart’s Sales Rookie of the Year, Sales Agent of the Year both for highest value of sales commissions and number of property listings sold, and – perhaps unsurprisingly – Sales Agent of the Year overall.
Mr Rawle wasn’t, however, laden with real estate sales experience when he started his career as an agent. In fact, far from it.
Instead, Mr Rawle entered the industry on the back of owning an investment property and running two fruit and vegetable retail outlets. Not the resume you’d expect but, as he told Real Estate Business, he believes it’s this life experience and maturity that are the key reasons for his stunning success.
“I had a lot of life experience before I became an agent,” hockingstuart’s Sales Agent of the Year recalls. “I had been dealing with the public and with other business owners, and you get to know how you need to mature.”
Certainly, waking each morning at two or three o’clock for seven years would have honed his propensity for hard work.
“I think I’m hungrier than other people,” he says. “I think some people just want to be in real estate to have the name, they don’t understand the amount of work that goes on.
“You have to be mature, because in this industry you deal with people of all age groups, from 18 to 80 year-olds. So, you have to [know how to] communicate at different levels.”
WORKING HARD, WORKING SMART
Mr Rawle is a busy man. Immediately before talking to Real Estate Business, he was out showing listings to a client; immediately after, he already had a client waiting in hockingstuart’s Werribee office (which is owned and operated by franchisee Eric Bartz).
Not surprisingly, his ability to remain in control but focused and relaxed at the same time are personality traits that serve him well as an agent.
He admits to working around 60 hours per week, but doesn’t “kill” himself – “I think I work smart,” he says.
“For example, if you’re going to take a buyer out to a property... most agents will just show them one home. Realistically, you could probably show people four homes in this [Werribee] area in 40 minutes. And they’ll love you for that, because you’re giving them four options.”
Mr Rawle enjoys thinking strategically about how he works and doesn’t waste an opportunity to reassess what he’s doing. This was the case even when he was commuting the 50km from his former home in northern Melbourne.
He would often use this time to think through plans and strategies, analysing where each listing stood: “I was thinking, ‘I’ve met those people now – what properties can I match them up with?’” he explains. “I would always be analysing stuff as I was driving.
“I’m always thinking,” he adds. “I know every agent in this district, what car they drive, and I know how they appraise.
“If I see their car parked out the front of a property I know they’re doing a valuation in that street. So, the next day, I know I’ve got to go to that street.”
It doesn’t end there. Mr Rawle ensures he receives feedback from vendors, not only on his own performance but on that of his numerous competitors.
Based on this feedback, he now knows which of his competitors is more likely to reduce their commissions; who doesn’t spend as much on marketing campaigns; and who is performing strongly at any given moment.
Getting and keeping that competitive edge is obviously critical. But in a lower socio-economic suburb like Werribee, who would have thought to introduce night photography to garner more sales?
“I’m a big fan of night photography,” he says. “I won’t do day photography on my listings… night photos just stand out in this area. Not a lot of people sell night photography.
“If you’ve got 20 properties on a page [from this area], 19 are day shots. Mine will have night shots, so when a buyer is looking through it grabs their eye.
“It may be a bit extra in fees but it makes a big difference.”
Mr Rawle generates a large amount of his listings from word of mouth. But he also sticks to the basics for new business, including letter drops as well as just getting his name out there on boards with ‘SOLD’ on them. Local newspapers also deliver new leads.
hockingstuart’s strong eastern suburbs presence is another benefit.
“We’re attracting a lot of buyers from those areas coming out here because of affordability,” he says. “Buyers are discovering Werribee, and that we’re as close to the city as they are, but we’re half the price.
“As a listing presentation, I sell it to the vendors that we can bring in more out-of-town buyers than anyone else,” he says.
The company’s early alert system and its weekly magazine containing all hockingstuart listings also work really well, he adds.
Interestingly, social media isn’t a key driver behind Mr Rawle’s success. While he acknowledges the benefits that social media can provide for a real estate agent, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter don’t make a great difference in Werribee when it comes to the real estate industry.
“In this area here you’ve just got to be really honest, do a good job by people, and it’ll come back to you,” he says. “I think just regarding follow ups, you [must] follow up the buyers correctly.”
THE NEXT FIVE YEARS
It’s hard to say where Mr Rawle sees himself in five to 10 years, he admits. But it’s not for the reason most people would give – that they would hope to have achieved enough to be able to move up to the next level.
Instead, he can’t say because he’s so focused on the next year or two, and it’s within that short period that he plans to make his next move.
“I’ve sort of accomplished what most people take five to 10 years to do,” he says, without a hint of arrogance.
“I want to open my own office... and take it to the next level. I’ve had my own businesses before, so I want to get to that level again.”
He won’t take this step, however, without some support.
“It may be the case that I don’t go on my own; I may take a partner with me so we share the workload,” he says. “In this industry, if you want to get holidays, it’s a little bit difficult if there’s only one of you.”
Whatever his next step might be, based on Mr Rawle’s few years in real estate, you’d be surprised if his numbers didn’t continue to mount up.