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‘We have intimate knowledge and I think that’s power for a real estate agent’

10 November 2017 Demii Kalavritinos
Claudia Portale, McGrath Estate Agent, Neutral Bay

Ranked 34 in the Top 50 Women in Real Estate ranking 2017, Claudia Portale joins host Tim Neary to discuss how she has overcome challenges to reach the top after only four years in the industry.

The Neutral Bay McGrath Estate Agent explains why vendors choose her and what makes her different, as well as the simple things she learnt early in her career that make a big difference now!

You will also find out:

  • Why she uses personalised marketing
  • The best piece of advice she ever got
  • How understanding her clients’ needs became the cornerstone of her success

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


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Full transcript


Speaker 1: The Top 100 Agents are the best of the best. Listing and selling more than any other agent in Australia. These are the practises, passions, and beliefs of the most successful agents in Australian real estate, raw, honest, and completely uncut.

Tim Neary: Good day everyone. It's Tim Neary here. I am editor of Real Estate Business, and host of The Secrets of the Top 100 Agents podcast. Thank you for tuning in. I'm very pleased to welcome on the show today number 34 in the Top 50 Women for 2017 from McGrath in Neutral Bay. It's Claudia Portale. Is that how I pronounce your name?

Claudia Portale: That's correct, yes.

Tim Neary: Okay, fantastic. Hello, Claudia, and welcome to the show.

Claudia Portale: Thank you very much for having me.

Tim Neary: You're very welcome. You've only been in the game four years, so it's a tremendous achievement to get into the top 50 list so far. You've sold 35 properties in 2016. I just wanted to ask you, what is real estate, being a real estate agent, mean to you?

Claudia Portale:        It's a good question, Tim. I think it's something I've always loved, from the word go. My father was in property so I think it was in the blood, so to speak. What does it mean to me? It's about giving people an opportunity to find their dream home and just giving them advice on their real estate needs. It's also being a part of the community for me. I love my area, Mossman, grew up there, went to school there, so it gives me an opportunity to be around the people that I know.

Tim Neary: It's quite an emotional journey to go on, isn't it, to buy a sell and house? A lot of the time the vendor and the buyer, but the vendor needs and wants more than just a negotiator. They want a negotiator at the end of the day but they need more than the negotiator and it sounds to me like, as you're speaking, that that's kind of who you are and what you like to do. You like the people side of it as well.

Claudia Portale: Yes, definitely, Tim. Look, a lot of the people I speak to, I'm not necessarily ringing them to talk about selling their house. I want to know what they've been doing and perhaps what their plans are for the future. It is important to build relationships. I sponsor the local school, I attend book launches, anything that interests me in my community, so I stay relevant to the people I'm with. It boils down to what our job is as real estate agent, and that's to provide a service and to be as knowledgeable as possible in what we do, so the best way to do that is to actually be part of their lives.

Tim Neary:  That's a competitive industry as well. I mean, you're not the only real estate agent working in the Neutral Bay/Mossman area, so you would need to have something unique, something that stands out. What is it that is your point of reference? When you're in the market, what are you selling?

Claudia Portale: Yeah, it's a very good question. I don't really know what my point of reference is.  

Tim Neary: I could put it another way, is why do you think people are attracted to you? Why do you think vendors are attracted to you?

Claudia Portale: What keeps coming back to me from my vendors is that I'm honest and very genuine. I've never been the pushy agent, so I'm usually there just to give them advice, and it's up to them to take it or not.

Tim Neary: That's fine, that's terrific. Just following on from that, what do you think that it is that vendors, that the public wants from real estate agents? Because the business of real estate is changed and it continues to evolve, so what is it that you're getting back from the market that the public wants from real estate agents?

Claudia Portale: Well, I think, Tim, these days everyone's educated. Real estate facts and figures are at everyone's fingertips, so I think it's really important that we have intimate knowledge and I think that's power for a real estate agent. Whatever's going on from a real estate perspective in the area, you need to be fully informed straight away. I think also if you have a good result and you're doing well in your work, you need your clients, you need your community to know that, so I think personal marketing's really important, which I do a fair bit of. I think people want to know that they can work with someone they can trust, that knows what they're talking about and that can get a good result.

Tim Neary: That they can feel safe with themselves but that have also got their best interests at heart, I guess.

Claudia Portale: Yes, definitely. I think one of the things I learned early on was to talk less and listen more, so when I go to a listing appointment or even just an appraisal, it's very important to just find a connection with that client and actually listen to what it is they're looking for, so it is different with every client. It just depends. You've got to find what their purpose is and what their needs are and then service those needs.

Tim Neary: Two years and one mouth.

Claudia Portale: That's exactly right.

Tim Neary: Listen twice as much as you speak. Talking about what you learned early on, you've only been in the business four years and you're already at the top level, so obviously you're a high achiever, but I'm quite interested, was there a point in your short career so far where things changed for you? Did you get a piece of advice that really resonated and said, "That's what I'm going to  do" and that took it to another level? Or has it just being a rapid growth from the start?

Claudia Portale: I think I was pretty determined not to fail and I think once I overcame the fear, a fear or being rejected or not being able to achieve, I think once I got over that, that's sort of where things started to move pretty quickly. I also learned that by listening to my peers, and fortunately I am surrounded by some of the best agents in the country, so I'm very fortunate, so just listening to them, so I think it's important to listen to other people who are successful and also I learned also that attending lots of training and getting lots of ... Attending forums and going to AREC and things like that where you actually learn and take bits that are going to work for you. I don't think it was an actual point over the last four years but more just learning. Every experience was something I learned from.

Tim Neary: A progression.

Claudia Portale: A progression.

Tim Neary: In terms of those learnings, is there anything that you're doing today ... Is there anything that you're doing more of today than you were when you started up? In other words, things that are working, and if they are, what are they and why?

Claudia Portale: I think I definitely stay in touch with everyone. Actually one of the early pieces of advice I had from one of my peers was stick to the basics and write down your top 50 clients and don't try to focus on 1,500 people in your area, but rather, focus on your top 50.

Tim Neary: Quality over quantity.

Claudia Portale: Exactly, because obviously a lot of my business now is just repeat and referral, and that's because I really, really looked after that top 50, so they will refer me then or I'll have their repeat business. The other thing that I really concentrated on over the years was servicing buyers. Early on I didn't have many clients, so I thought, "Well, I've got to work with someone."

Tim Neary:    [crosstalk 00:07:45]

Claudia Portale: I worked with the buyers and now those buyers are becoming my vendors, and it was interesting that I remember early on a lot of buyers saying, "I've had such a bad experience and it's great to have an agent that respects me as a buyer," so I think it's important what I have learned and what I do more of is respect the buyers as much as your vendors.

Tim Neary: It's a good point, and we hear this so often that the real estate cycle is a cycle and that who is a buyer today could be a seller tomorrow and vice versa, and a seller isn't just a seller once off. It goes on in spreads and you're talking about referrals a little earlier.

Claudia Portale: That's exactly right. It's like your own network, so you do a great job, that person is going to  tell everyone. They're going to  tell their friends, their family, and for me it is really important. I'm probably one of those people that I can't promise something unless I know I'm going to  be able to deliver it, and I think that's really important as a real estate agent as well.

Tim Neary: Which goes back to your point earlier about the trust.

Claudia Portale: Exactly right.

Tim Neary: I think there's probably a fairly high level of astuteness, of business astuteness in terms of it's easy to, say, identity your top 50 and then concentrate on them, but to be able to identify what a top 50 client or potential client looks like, because you don't want to invest all of your time in the wrong 50. You want to get the 50 right, don't you?

Claudia Portale: That's right. Yes, you have to quality a client, so it may start at 100 and then you sort of tailor it back.

Tim Neary: How do you do that? What's the filter process?

Claudia Portale: It's just really understanding where they are in the process of their real estate life, I suppose, so how long since they bought their last property? Are they looking to invest in other property so it's not just about selling but it's just understanding their family because maybe they have a daughter or a son that's living outside of the area and may want to move. It's really just finding out and just staying in touch with them as their whole family and try to be their real estate advisor. It just takes you in the right direction. The more questions you ask and the more you listen. I'm not sure if that ...

Tim Neary: Nope, that's absolutely spot on. It is, and it's just understanding where they are in that real estate cycle and being able to properly identify them. Some of the things that you're doing less of, you're obviously doing a lot of deals now. We saw earlier that it is 35 properties that you've sold, so you would have to ... We talk about this a lot as well, concentrate on the dollar productive stuff. In order to do that, have you been able to ... Have you identified things that you do less of?

Claudia Portale: I think I'm getting quite busy now, so I struggle to do the prospecting and the calls, which are absolutely paramount, so what I am going to be doing is growing my team to be able to cover that side of my business. One thing ... I know database always is a big topic. I very much like things to be simple and just have a simple process so I'm probably, again, going back to concentrating on who my key clients might be and probably doing less of the calls that are probably not that relevant.

Tim Neary: So just focusing on the, I'm going to say the word again, but I'm looking for another word, the dollar productive stuff, the important things that the lead agent would be doing.

Claudia Portale: That's it, and the other thing is I have a family so I'm probably going to spend a little bit less time in the office and spend a bit more time with my family now.

Tim Neary: Okay, yeah, yeah, cool. Claudia, I wanted to talk a little bit about sort of more about the business end of the business, of your business, and in particular to start off with, any memorable marketing campaigns that you've put together and what made them memorable and how did they work out? Or how did it work out? Or another way of putting it is when you've got a listing and you're going to put a marketing programme together, do you follow a checklist, or do you have a sort of, put up a spoke tailored marketing programme together, marketing programme together for each and every listing that you get?

Claudia Portale: Yeah, most definitely, because I'm selling anything from one-bedroom apartments to multi-million-dollar homes, the marketing and strategies are all different, so definitely tailoring every single one in a different way.

Tim Neary: Are there any points that you always check off? Are there certain things that are must-haves?

Claudia Portale: Look, internet, web advertising is a definite and then in our area, marketing is important in the Mosman Daily. It's the Mosman Bible and so a lot of that passive advertising is really important as well. Social media, so Facebook and Instagram are becoming so much more important now, and that, again, depends on the type of property you're selling, so it tends to be more the apartment seekers that will be more on the Instagrams and the Facebook pages whereas the high-end homes, you're probably looking at locals that are looking in the Mosman Daily or potentially overseas investors looking to buy in the area.

Tim Neary: Yeah, to what you were saying about tailoring it and understanding the profile of the buyer to the property that you're listing.

Claudia Portale: That's correct, yes, and newspaper marketing and all of those sorts of thing come into play. It really just depends on the type of property. I can't think of anything that's really been different, but I use drone on a lot of properties now to get different perspectives and to be able to have that sort of virtual be there with a drone, at least someone that's overseas.

Tim Neary: Have you had any feedback on that or is it just a general impression that you get that the things that you're doing are working and that more and more people are going online and are looking for something a little more extraordinary?

Claudia Portale: Well, it's working because they're selling, and I have had some properties that have sold without the client even seeing it in the flesh, so they've looked at it ...

Tim Neary: Overseas buyers?

Claudia Portale: Absolutely. I'd say probably last year a good 30 percent of my stock was sold to overseas buyers and investors, either just by looking at it online or by having a buyer's agent on their behalf.

Tim Neary: Okay, okay. Claudia, we're sort of coming to the end of the show and I just wanted to ask you one other thing and it's probably the most important thing in the real estate repertoire, and that is listings. I just wanted to get an idea from you, when you're going into a listings presentation, what are the kind of things that you're thinking about and how do you prepare yourself for a listings presentation?

Claudia Portale: Tim, firstly, I'm always really excited when I get to go into a listing presentation, so I do a lot of homework behind it. I'll look at the property, see when it last sold, who's living in it, what's sold in the area, so I try to be as informed as possible before I even visit the property. I think it's important then to understand who the people are that are wanting to sell it and what their motivation is. I don't go in and look at it as, "Oh my gosh, this is an opportunity to sell the property." It's almost an opportunity to see a new home and to meet someone new and be there to help them, so I think yeah, it's finding a connection with that client and also to be as knowledgeable as possible so that I'm their first choice, if I am competing with other people, but I'm also very competitive, so I like to be very professional and polished and extremely knowledgeable.

Tim Neary: This comes up so often. When we talk to real estate agents, there's sort of this blend between the fundamentals and the behavioralists and the mongrel, the competitiveness, and it's a nice balance between all of those things, and as you're talking now, I can hear it's the same thing with you. Hey Claudia, it's been a real pleasure to have you on the show today. Thank you for your time in coming in. Congratulations again on a successful last year and hope that this year is just as successful for you.

Claudia Portale: Thank you, Tim. I really appreciate it.

Tim Neary: You're welcome. Thank you for coming in.

Claudia Portale: Thank you.

Tim Neary: Cheers. Remember to follow us on all the social media stuff. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. You can follow me too on Twitter at TimothyJNeary if you'd like to do that. Remember to tune in next week. RealEstateBusiness.com.au is where you'll find us. There's plenty of stories there on the business of real estate across the whole of Australia. Thanks again for tuning in and we'll see you next week. Goodbye.


‘We have intimate knowledge and I think that’s power for a real estate agent’
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