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3 decades in the game: What’s changed and what’s stayed the same?

09 February 2021 Grace Ormsby
Sam Marsden

Mustard-brown jackets, STD phone calls and driving buyers around town: A Toowoomba agency is reflecting on an incredible 30 years with the same network in 2021.

Century 21 Marsden Realty Toowoomba first joined the real estate franchise when owner Ted Marsden “was looking for some growth”, according to his son who took over the family business, Sam Marsden.

“Century 21 were just pushing into Australia, so I think we were one of the first half-dozen agencies certainly in Century 21 in Australia, back in the days of the old mustard-brown jackets,” he reflected.


Following in his father’s footsteps, Mr Marsden first joined the business in 1994 as a salesman “in the days when everyone was commission only”.

“You had to cut your teeth — or sink or swim — so to speak!”

And while Mr Marsden concedes he is “very happy to see the jackets go… Here we are, 26, 27 years later — still at it.”

Sam Marsden first bought into the business in 2000. Fellow agent Geoff Jordan joined the office in 2002, and together with Sam, bought out Ted’s share of the business in 2006, making the pair partners and business owners.

With 26 years in the industry under his own belt, the son of Ted Marsden highlighted how one of the most obvious changes he has seen in the industry over the years is the internet, coupled with “the rapid demise in front of our eyes of print media”.

But it’s not the biggest change, with Mr Marsden indicating that “the way we do things” has shifted dramatically.

“We started out with putting buyers in our car every single day and driving them around, and we really helped buyers,” he reflected.

“The service to buyers who weren’t paying us was really high, and the service to sellers who we were acting on their behalf and they were paying us, was really low.

“So, the biggest change really has been the service that a seller gets, and I guess that’s a good thing.”

Considering it as a gradual shift, he said the switchover has been visible for the last 15 years, and most evident for the last decade: “Certainly in the last 10 years is where we’ve seen that massive change of constant vendor feedback and keeping in touch with them.”

Despite having mobile phones when he did start working back in 1994, Mr Marsden conceded “no one would ring them because they were an STD phone call — so certainly our clients didn’t have mobile phones to call”.

But now “when you finish an open house or an inspection, you call the owner as you pull out of the driveway”.

“All of that’s just so much easier because of something as simple we take for granted as a mobile phone.”

Unlike many other agents, Mr Marsden took last year’s forced shutdown as an opportunity to take a well-earned break — although he did still look to mobile phone technology to ensure business could continue.

Mr Marsden said: “You could imagine for me, after 26 years, I took a breath and said: ‘Hey, this is a bit like a long service break, unpaid!’

“We were pretty lucky up here in Queensland, and particularly in the regional areas like Toowoomba — COVID didn’t really affect us.

“We got shut down for six, nearly eight weeks, but that was it.

“So it meant for me, as a longtime real estate agent, that was the first six weeks of my life where I didn’t do open houses every Saturday, so that was a change.”

But in a community like Toowoomba, where residents are far less transient than cities, the Century 21 business has built up generations of clientele, and the fact that property did pause for a little while has not mattered.

“We’re a family business and that’s what we pride ourselves on,” he stated.

“Looking ahead, our focus is doing a better job at keeping in touch with the people we’ve already got and being their agent for another 30 years, in theory… Although, I’m not going to be here in 30 years, that’s for sure!

“Most of the people that we’re selling homes for are people that we know, or one degree of separation. If we don’t know them, we know one of their friends or family, and that’s why they’re talking to us.”

Mr Marsden said he sees many of his past clients’ children now buying through him, but said “it’s another level when they’re going out the other end and they’re actually selling”.

“It definitely does make me feel old, unfortunately,” the agent conceded.

The key to the Marsden family business’s longevity over three decades? “Love what you do.”

“And we certainly do,” Mr Marsden said.

“There isn’t another industry I’d work in. It’s so rewarding, isn’t it?

“You’re in people’s lives, you’re a part of their life.”

The business owner said that sometimes, when he’s been working so closely with sellers for a number of months, they’ll ring him a month after settlement just to say, “I’m just calling to say hi because we were talking every day!”

“It is so rewarding to become a part of that.”

In recognition of Century 21 Marsden Realty Toowoomba’s 30 years in business, Century 21 chairman and owner Charles Tarbey has passed on his congratulations to the Marsdens and Mr Jordan, highlighting the anniversary as an “extraordinary milestone”.

“Over the last 30 years, they have achieved remarkable accolades and we look forward to seeing this success continue,” Mr Tarbey said.

Newly appointed CEO of the Century 21 brand James Bell has also passed on his regards, applauding the achievement of 30 years with the network.

“Their passion for real estate is inspiring, as is their standing as highly respected and renowned agents within their local community,” the CEO commented.

3 decades in the game: What’s changed and what’s stayed the same?
Sam Marsden reb
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