Denise Wellstead, principal of Professionals Wellstead, tells Real Estate Business how she transformed a local agency into one of WA’s most successful offices – and became a local sensation in the process
At the time, her decision just seemed to make sense.
Bored with being a small business owner, Denise Wellstead had always had an interest in real estate. Agents appeared to have it all: ‘the good life’, as she called it. Plenty of freedom and lots of time for lunches – or so she thought.
That decision involved a quick and simple statement to her husband – that she was going to give real estate a go. She was then off on a journey that has lasted more than 20 years.
And what years they have been.
With a raft of Gold and Diamond sales awards, a Hall of Fame induction and, most recently, the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia’s (REIWA’s) 2011 Salesperson of the Year trophy, it seems clear the Perth-based agent made the right decision.
OFF TO A FLYING START
Ms Wellstead’s move into real estate was an immediate success.
After joining former WA real estate group Roy Weston in 1992, she took home the title of top selling representative in 1993, a title she retained for five consecutive years.
Her ability to perform at a consistently high level caught the attention of the current business owner and, by 1998, Ms Wellstead was the proud owner of Roy Weston Bassendean.
“I made the move into real estate first, and then my husband joined me 12 months later,” she explains. “Our boss owned two offices and wanted to get out of the industry.
“For the first seven years I had the role of sales manager, and then my husband and I decided to purchase the business in 1998.”
The office remained under the Roy Weston brand until 2007, when the company was bought out by a new and emerging brand that was looking to establish a presence in the Western Australia market.
“Roy Weston were the biggest franchise in WA, they had 52 offices and were famous for their red and white colours,” Ms Wellstead says. “If you saw a red and white sign anywhere in Western Australia, it didn’t matter who they were, the public would immediately think ‘Roy Weston’.”
RED, WHITE AND BLUE
The acquisition of Roy Weston, however, became a concern for Ms Wellstead and her husband – not least because the new owner’s branding colours were blue and white.
“We didn’t want to change our colours and our branding,” she says. “It made no sense to us when we were already part of the most recognisable brand in WA.”
Determined not to change the branding and colouring of the office, Ms Wellstead and her husband were left with only a few options.
Backed by a prominent reputation in the local market, opening an independent office was certainly one of them.
“We liked the idea of going to conferences and sharing ideas and experiences,” Ms Wellstead says.
“This was something we had with the other group [Roy Weston] for 16 years and we became like a large family – we wanted another large family.”
After meeting with several franchise and marketing groups, they made the decision to join another prominent group, The Professionals.
“We liked the business model,” she said. “[The Professionals] weren’t a franchise group; they were a marketing group, and this was something that appealed to us.
“With a franchise group, somebody owns the franchise and you pay franchise fees. But with a marketing group there is no boss, you have a CEO that runs the head office but there is no middleman, so you don’t pay a fee to anybody else.
“Everything that we pay goes towards marketing, and if you compare this model to a franchise model it is probably a third of what you [might] be paying.”
However, there was one more reason for the couple choosing The Professionals.
“The branding and the colouring of The Professionals was a huge motivating factor since we were able to keep our red and white,” Ms Wellstead says.
“The oldies in the area don’t even realise that we have changed. I still hear them in the hairdressers talking about the Roy Weston building.
“It’s the same face and same colouring, so the community barely noticed any change.”
BUILDING A LEGACY
Branding alone will only get you so far; some hard work and dedication is also required.
When Ms Wellstead began her career as a real estate agent in 1992, she was given an area approximately 12 km from Perth, in the suburb of Bassendean.
Twenty years on and Ms Wellstead is still farming the same location.
“We all have our core areas and mine is Bassendean,” she says.
Ms Wellstead’s market knowledge is second to none and her face has become something of a local sensation: “I was in the supermarket the other day and one of my ex-clients with his little girl was in there. She pointed at me and said, ‘Daddy, there’s that famous lady…’ I have certainly been called a lot worse.”
Ms Wellstead has, over time, accumulated a deep understanding of the local property market, which has paid dividends throughout her career.
“I would estimate that approximately 85 per cent of all our business comes from either a previous client or somebody referred onto us,” she says.
In an area where the median house price sits at around $450,000, Ms Wellstead was able to achieve a sale of $3.1 million, which wasn’t only a personal achievement, but a Bassendean record.
While her legacy and reputation continue to grow, Ms Wellstead has been able to remain grounded and stay true to the basics of selling real estate.
“Face-to-face communication is key,” she says. “A computer is a great tool but it is never going to list or sell a home.”
It is the little things that make the biggest difference, and this is why Ms Wellstead tries to add her own personal touch every time she communicates with a client.
“I’m really big on handwritten cards,” she says. “I know it sounds corny but receiving a handwritten card in the mail is far warmer than receiving an email.”
Both past and present clients have come to expect a little something from Ms Wellstead on a regular basis. This is because she has developed a system that operates almost automatically.
“After a property is settled, I have a system via which my client will receive a six-week card which basically says, ‘I hope everything is well’.
“In six months, I will send them out complimentary movie tickets, and at 12 months and two years they will receive another card, just wishing them well and offering a market update or appraisal.
“The response is always positive – especially from the movie tickets,” Ms Wellstead adds. “Just about always I will get a text back or a phone call thanking me.”