Over the years, I’ve come to learn that I have a good eye for identifying talented agents capable of great things, and not always those with a real estate background. Here are the traits and qualities I look for.
1. Broad (life) experience
I’m not interested in clones. Assembling a great team of agents means having a mix of experience, women and men, younger and older people.
Instead of just real estate experience, I like to work with people who have worldly experience — those who have seen different places and cultures, done some interesting things in their lives, even made some mistakes, or have possibly experienced some pain along the way.
Real estate is not a “technical sport”. Yes, it’s important to understand the legislation and be able to read a contract. It’s also important to justify an opinion and value a property.
These things can be learnt by doing a course, but I’ve discovered that there are many people who have done a real estate course and half of them apply for a job telling me they “just love property”.
I baulk at this. It’s like saying you’re buying a chocolate shop because you like chocolate.
Being competitive is important. A couple of members of our team are former Australian and world champion sportspeople. These guys could put their minds to anything and do well, so people are attracted to their strength, determination and positive personality.
I also think agents need to have their own affairs in order. Real estate is about solving problems and you can’t do this if your own life is in crisis.
Real estate is a “people business”, so the ability to connect is important. The best agents have natural charisma, which is the type of charisma that comes from a real place: a likeable personality.
Agents have to be humble, have a heart and be enthusiastic. Huge egos and overconfidence make my alarm bells sound. Honesty and trustworthiness go a long way and while everyone will claim to have these traits, when there’s money involved, you quickly see who the genuine people are.
These are the types of people who work well in a team. They help each other, they understand if someone in the team is under the pump, they offer their help, in the knowledge that they’re building up their own karma credits by doing so.
3. Ignoring gender stereotypes
I tend to look for agents who, shall we say, don’t play up to obsolete gender stereotypes. And I had better explain this one pretty clearly!
What I mean is that, if I am interviewing a male agent, I want to know what they’re like as people. Any hint of chauvinism is an instant deal-breaker. But in their home and family life, do they cook, clean, iron, do the grocery shopping and run the kids around? Paperwork may not be their strong point, but if they’re confident and willing contributors at a household level by nature, they are generally a good fit as an agent.
When I am interviewing women, I am drawn to those who can demonstrate the wide range of behaviours, emotions and qualities that real estate as a job can entail.
This means being forceful at times, being tough when the moment calls for it and even getting cranky if it’s appropriate.
Some of these traits are, in my opinion, often wrongly seen as masculine. But the women in our team are some of our best agents because they can demonstrate exceptional balance between being forthright, confident, empathetic, caring and organised.
Male or female, the best agents understand what the situation calls for, then respond effectively, efficiently and confidently.
4. People people
I like to employ people who have come from either a hospitality or retail background. They are usually very organised, customer-focused and work well under pressure.
Experience is important, but in real estate, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Some of the best agents are fresh and, because the business of real estate is intense, sometimes experienced agents are just worn out.
I look for people’s people, those who are good listeners and good communicators. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be good writers, but instead they need to communicate in a real, genuine way. If they are excited, this should show; if they are nervous, that’s understandable too; if they are open and honest, this should be obvious.
Unfortunately, good people don’t always make good agents and, likewise, good agents aren’t necessarily good people. I can honestly see why real estate agents have a bad name. Some like to play dress-up: wear nice clothes, drive nice cars, be well groomed and really look the part. But I’ve seen those same people in the industry tell lies, be lazy and act very unprofessionally.
I want people on my team who want to get the best out of themselves. Whether their goals are to improve their lifestyle, further their education, become more widely read, people who set goals have a natural motivation and willing attitude that a career in real estate demands.
While it’s not always possible for younger people, of course, I like agents who have either bought or sold property in their own lives. It gives them an understanding of how the property market works from a tax, finance, growth and returns points of view. It also provides insights into what does or doesn’t work from the customer’s perspective.
People who have owned their own business, or worked in a family business, typically have the work ethic, commitment, determination and understanding of risk that translates well in a real estate environment.
And finally, there’s passion. Not the clichéd passion for property but passion for life and success. If you’re only in it for the money, then pardon my French — “get lost!”