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Helen Yan on how she settled $195 million in one year

By Tamikah Bretzke
06 February 2017 | 25 minute read
Helen web

In this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents, host Tim Neary talks to Ray White Balwyn’s Helen Yan, the number eight ranked agent in the country for 2016. A love for property inspired Helen to become an agent, and in this episode she reveals how to settle $195 million – in a single year! But beware she says the life of an agent often means having no life at all!

In this jam-packed episode find out:

  • How real estate ‘found’ Helen
  • Why you should always fight for your vendor
  • The best way to build strong relationships with your clientele 

Tune in to hear all of this and much, much more in this episode of Secrets of the Top 100 Agents!


Full transcript

Tim Neary: G'day, everyone. It's Tim Neary here. I'm the editor of Real Estate Business and the host of the Secrets of the Top 100 Agents show. Thanks for tuning in. We're going to keep to the theme of the title of the show of bringing you the very best agents in Australia. I quite like that, chatting to and getting the inside track from the best agents in the business. It's the base of the show and it's why we created it. We have a very special guest on the show today. Not only is she ranked in the top 10 and the REB top 100 agents ranking at number eight, but she's also the number one ranked female agent in Australia after having taken out the top spot in the REB Top 50 Women in Real Estate for 2016. It's Helen Yan. Hello Helen, and welcome to the show.

Helen Yan: Thank you, Tim. Thank you having me.

Tim Neary: You’re very welcome. It's good to have you here. I just wanted to have a general chat to you today, Helen, just around about your business and some of the experiences that you've had as a real estate agent, and maybe just to start out, how did you start in real estate?

Helen Yan: That is very coincidentally, because I like investment property. That is, in 2010 I bought a property in Harbourough. Then Hockingstuart office was saying you may be very good for this industry. Would you like to try? I said maybe not bad idea because I thinking for this industry maybe make me more relax. So don’t need to working five days a week. I think maybe two or three that may be interested to me. I said yes, so I working started work the next week, then started.

But once I started it's total different from what I'm thinking. It's very tough, very challenge, and very competitive market. First two months I was working in Ivanhoe area. Then after than Balwyn director was asking me to go to Balwyn area. I think maybe better because most Asian people there, so I went to there.

Since I starting Balwyn then has non-stop. Every day working sunlight and for my personality whatever I do I want to finish it perfect.

Tim Neary: It sounds like listening to your story, it sounds almost like real estate kind of found you rather than the other way around. You had these investment properties. It was in your blood. You wanted to learn a little bit more. Then I guess they realised at Hocking Stuart that there was something about you, that they could see something. That you had some talent for this. You decided to go along and the rest it seems to have taken off quite quickly.

Was there a breakthrough point for you, Helen? Or did it just start off with a bang and just go quickly? Because you haven't been in the game for that long considering that you've reached such a high level.

Helen Yan: I know, I didn't thinking in that time anything. I just thinking that is because I maybe can learn more about this industry. Also I was thinking maybe I can less work every week. That is the first I thought. Then I thinking because I always have sales manager that position, I think also good I can meet a lot of people. I always say yes. I thinking in the beginning I thinking it's a simple and less work. After that completely different.

Tim Neary: It didn't work out that way, did it?

Helen Yan: Doesn't working.

Tim Neary: If you look back on it now, Helen and you sort of take a sort of spot check about your business, how would you describe it? I know that we were talking a little earlier off air and you were saying that you work some really long hours. I think you were saying you work seven days a week as well.

Just as a snapshot, how would you describe the real estate business.

Helen Yan: I think for this job wherever for my personality if I list a property from vendor I want to fight for. I always thinking why vendor give to me? Vandal give to me, that is the opportunity for vendor, also for me.

Tim Neary: I really like the way that you put that. I think there's a real lesson in that for aspiring or new agents to the business. You said when you get the listing you fight for it because you almost, it become personal, is that right? The vendor is giving you ...

Helen Yan: The opportunity. I'm appreciative vendor giving me the opportunity. That's why every opportunity will be try very hard. I want the vendor end of day saying thank you, I will using you again. Also vendor will refer a lot of business to me. I am so happy, I think I did it very right things for vendor.

Every property I spend hours working hard for vendor. That is the most vendor feedback to me say Helen if anyone selling the property, you are the best person to contact.

Tim Neary: That's a real goal that you're saying. The one thing that you're saying that the vendor is giving you the responsibility to sell their property. It's almost as if there's a trust relationship that builds up and they've entrusted you to do it and you want to fulfil that obligation in terms of trust. Then the important thing is that they're going to give your business again, but also they're going to refer you to others. You get this multiplier effect in growing your business.

Helen Yan: Yes, that's true.

Tim Neary: I know that you said that you, I can hear it as well when you talk about this, that you obviously take this really seriously in terms of the hours that you put in and working and fighting for the business.

I wanted to get an idea of some of the things that you never do, if there's one thing that you never do. Is there one thing that you never do or some things that you never do? Are there some sort of non-negotiables that you have in your business?

Helen Yan: I think of what this industry most important things to me why I'm different you always don't lie. You always honest to vendor and purchaser. I can working hard for vendor, but the other hand also working hard for purchaser because my service. That's why I get a dollar for the vendors.

Most purchasers take a few weeks look around a lot of property. Let them know what property is a value for them. I give them a lot of service. For example, drive to them the school, to the airport, to hotels. I do a lot of extra service of vendor where don't see it. I think that is my job to get the best service to the purchaser.

I think they will be comfortable and that they know you. They trust you. Some purchaser say to me I just feel very, very right for me it's a very meaning to me. They say Helen, if we don't buy property from you we feel bad because your service is so good. You are so honest to us, give us all the information.

I want a purchase to make a decision by themselves. I just give them all the information on the table, what is this, what is that. But you need honest to them. That is the most things I want to say. For this business a lot of people want a selling good price, but they may be shortcut. I think most important is honest, you're never lying. Never ever lie.

Tim Neary: I'll just make that point again is that the one thing that you never do is you never lie. You never take the shortcuts. The business, and correct me if I'm wrong, but at some point people might think that the business is about price and getting the best price or maybe cutting back on some of the costs that are involved. But the business is about doing the right thing. It's about telling, it's about being honest. It's about being upfront with all of the prickly bits if there are prickly bits and building trust with the vendor. Then it grows from there.

Helen Yan: Most important, when I get a good price for vendor not because I lying to the purchaser, but we do have a lot of purchase are competition. That's why you get a good price for vendor. Sometimes if only one purchaser, it's harder to get a price. That's why vendor employ you. Want to get a competitive price for them. That is the opportunity vendor have only one chance. That's why every property I fight for them.

Most in my area you know retired people selling their house for their whole life. They only get this money by downsize then for their life the money, so I fight for them. I want to make them happy. That is the best for them. Most people after I selling are so appreciative. They say Helen, you make us very easy and very happy.

Tim Neary: That's terrific. That's the kind of feedback that's gold.

Helen Yan: That is meaning to me a lot. Then I think that I did the right things to the vendor. Also I did the right things to the purchaser.

Tim Neary: Right, and it takes a lot of commitment from you. I know that I asked you off-air how you get balance into your life. You told me, you told me again?

Helen Yan: No, no balance. In this job to me is really no balance. You have no life. I'm very hardly to consider my own life because once you know take over the listing or whatever, I just say 100% commitment. From morning until evening, seven days a week. Anytime purchaser want to look at it, just go. I never say no.

Tim Neary: Perhaps Helen, just give us an idea of what a typical day looks like. You mentioned you started around six, 6:30 in the morning?

Helen Yan: Yes, normally I will be in the office 6:30 to seven o'clock. I'll be in the office to do a lot of paperwork. Then during the week a lot of meeting. Then finish meeting maybe seven, eight o'clock. Back office again, do a lot of paperwork, like the vendor's statement to centre and a lot, a lot of afterwards the paperwork. Then have to consider what do we do next day. Every day job I have to be finished, then I go home. I never leave to next day.

Tim Neary: You finish everything on that day. You leave nothing outstanding. I'm right in saying that your clientele, your business is built around a Chinese market? Chinese people, investors investing in the Melbourne market, or it is all around Australia?

Helen Yan: I think at the moment in Melbourne. I've done about in Sydney. in Melbourne I think the buyer 70% is Asian people because the immigration. They really like buy property rather than rental. 70% is Asian people. From vendor point of view I think 70% is local.

Tim Neary: Okay, so you've got a nice balance there. Are there any sort of, for want of a better word, peculiarities that exist in that market? Anything that other agents wouldn't necessarily have to deal with that makes your job a little more difficult or a little bit more pointed in that direction? Is there anything that you do that is typically, that you wouldn't normally do? How do you go out of your way to service this particular market of yours?

Helen Yan: That is a good questions. From my own business, Ray White Balwyn, that is a new business. Why I'm do differently to the other agents because in this area you have to think about why vendor give to you. Tell me why it's different. I do open Sunday, no one does.

All the services you provide is different than the other agents. We do a lot of stuff concentrated every property two or three staff working on. Every property listing we take seriously.

Tim Neary: Right, that's a good point in terms of understanding your own client base and what you need to do to deliver in terms of that service. You also mentioned to me off-air that sometimes your clients might exit the country. They might go overseas then they entrust you with the keys to go and do the mail and go and do the check-ups on the property. That's another example of the trust relationship that exists.

Helen Yan: Correct, so most the purchasers that they buy from me because it is a trust. They always leave the keys. Sometimes they will come back maybe another two years to permanent living here. They just drop the key to me say Helen whenever you just take time to check our mail, to clean the gardens. I do lot of free service for them but I think after purchaser you became like a friends. You can look after them whenever you can. Not necessarily every is a dollar.

Also I do most of different agent does. A lot of agents, they're selling then good-bye. But we became good friends and we always, they always contact me saying how's you going? I have a friend that wants to buy. A lot, a lot of referral business because I think most important is the service.

Tim Neary: Again that's a really good point that you make there is that you do the add-on service and you go the extra mile for your clients because you are thinking long-term. You're playing the long game in terms of understanding that if you do this that it's going to enhance your reputation. It's going to provide business from them again in the future and also referral business that you'll get from them.

You don't look at it as a short-term thing and charge for it. It's a service that you provide for free. But am I right in saying that it will come back to you and it does come back to you?

Helen Yan: I think so, yes.

Tim Neary: Helen, in terms of running your own business, do you have an idea of how many, do you keep a track of how many clients you actually have and how many referrals comes from each of those clients?

Helen Yan: I think for my business most is a referral business. Once I selling a lot of people keep a database. At the moment I'm lucky I don't have to because most of customer they will ring you. For example, local customer, developer, once they finish building, I don't need to during that time I don't need to ring them because I don't have that time. But at the end once they finish the project they will ring me strong, say Helen I'm finished. Can you come and look at what is the value? What are we strategy to selling on the market?

Most of the time I tell them you know the value of the market. I tell them the truth. But sometimes maybe one percentage we lost a listing because some vendors say the other agent tell them the high value. I say that is me, I want to tell you the truth rather than lying. Sometimes I've lost, but at least I didn't regret because I think end of day they selling what I value the price. I say I have one percent of that.

Tim Neary: I really like the way that you put that, that you do lose some listings from time to time but you never have any regrets of the listings that you lose. When you go into a listing presentation you tell the truth. You tell your truth. You do it the way that you want to do it. You don't tell them necessarily what they want to hear, if I can put it that way.

Helen Yan: I don't want to tell the vendor you know misleading them. For example, say this property worth three million, I tell them 3.5. I don't want to do that. I just tell vendor that is a rough value from the other support in your area selling the result. If a vendor says Helen, the other agent says 3.5, I want to go whatever agent says. I say doesn't matter. If I didn't list I'm not regret because I can't tell your lie.

Sometimes I have a few property lose. But once they selling, or selling the result what I'm saying. I'm still very happy because I think I did the right things to the vendor. Even if I didn't make this money but to me that is not important. Reputation, honest, that is the most important.

Tim Neary: Can I just reemphasize that what you're saying there, the money is not important but your reputation is important.

Helen Yan: Most important.

Tim Neary: If you prioritise it like that, then the money will follow. Then the success will follow. I think that we're seeing that. As I said at the beginning of the show, you're number eight in the country overall and you're the top performing female agent, woman agent in the country. That's a real endorsement to that. Prioritise it correctly and the success will follow. That's terrific, that's really, really good advice.

As I said at the beginning of the show as well, a lot of our listeners here are aspiring agents looking to do it the right way and to learn from those in the best. That's real gold, thank you for that, Helen.

I wanted also to just, we're getting to the end of the show now. I wanted to just go through, just in terms of the nuts and the bolts of your business. Sort of Helen's top tip for sales. We touched on a little earlier, but just the one thing, the one gem, if you like, of listings. What is the one thing that you always do when you're going for a listings presentation?

Helen Yan: I think the most important is honest and give vendor correct information. But you need to show vendor what is difference. That is the most important.

Tim Neary: You back it up with the facts. You consider this is what's happening.

Helen Yan: Yes, I will show vendor a lot of my good result selling in that area. Most important is a good result. If you didn't selling, you're selling zero, I don't think the vendor will give you a listing. Once you have a good result you still need to give vendor correct information and the right value.

Tim Neary: That goes back to what you were saying a little earlier about having that reputation. If you're getting the results then you're going to build a reputation. They work hand in glove together. That's terrific.

Helen's top tip for marketing. How do you get more buyers? How do you reduce your average days on market?

Helen Yan: I think most important is still is the service because you do right things to every buyer. They will talk, so every buyer most of them in my area will say if you want to buy property please ring Helen. Every buyer will give my number to their friends. I receive a lot, a lot number from overseas. They say Helen is who is introduce me to you. I will be arriving in Melbourne certain days. Can you find some property, let me see it?

Normally I will organise that trip very often. It is a very difficult job, but because most people live in the city are living in the eastern suburbs it's a lot of round-trip, long trip. But I'm happy to do that because they don't have a car. They can't speak English. I think that is our job to support them. Let them know this area, the knowledge and the values.

Tim Neary: Again, I like the way you put that, that's our job. It goes back to I guess the theme of this entire show today has been just doing more. Just going, just doing the extra mile, doing more than what's expected. Again, people will see that. People will respond to that. That will build the reputation that you have, no doubt.

Final question, Helen. In terms of technology, we see more and more that technology is playing a bigger role in the real estate business. What is your relationship with technology? What is your top tip for tech?

Helen Yan: I think so far because I'm working the Ray White franchise, that technology is very, very good. Wherever we put a home pass systems so you can do everything you want. For example, people coming to our inspection, once they register their name in our home pass then Straway texts them the link they can see the house details. That is very good.

Also we have a lot of different things like a WeChat. We will have that system. Wherever you're listed it will go to WeChat. Most Asian people are using that. Very powerful.

Tim Neary: Popular.

Helen Yan: Very popular. Every people oversea people using WeChat. Very powerful so we're using that as well. The most important is still I said relationship, is the service, reputation. Technology is very important we're using, but you still need to give them good service.

Tim Neary: Yes, and I think that's an important point. That comes across very strongly just in talking with you is that your business is very much built around your personality and your relationship, your personal relationship that you have with your clients. At the same time you don't turn your back on the technology. You still use the technology to support what you do. You don't let it take over. You still do what you do but you don't turn your back on it. You use it to support. Terrific.

Helen it's really been a pleasure to talk to you this morning. I really thank you for coming up and sharing your insights with us and with the listeners. Thank you very much.

Helen Yan: Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate.

Tim Neary: You've very welcome, Helen.

Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me on Twitter @TimothyNeary if you want to do that. Please keep those reviews coming in on iTunes, we do appreciate it. The more reviews that we get the higher we rank which means that more real estate agents are able to find us and share in the community that we're creating here around the business of real estate property.

Please leave us some feedback as well. If there's anything that we're not doing that you'd like us to do let us know. Remember to tune in next week and remember also that realestatebusiness.com that I use where you'll find us. Plenty of stories there on the other agents and also Helen who will put up some information about her accomplishments. Thank again for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Good-bye.




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