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Fruitful yield

12 November 2012 Steven Cross

He’s a greengrocer turned business development manager, but according to Deniz Yusuf there isn’t much difference between real estate and produce. It all comes down to people

Deniz Yusuf and his pregnant wife found themselves stranded without a home. His overseas employment fell-through when he decided to raise his unborn child in Australia. But unfortunately Deniz had already leased out his property long-term.

Deniz knew the owner of Integrity Real Estate in Nowra, along the south coast of New South Wales, so he gave him a call.

“The agent who showed me the house we were interested in [wasn’t great].” Having run a very successful fruit and vegetable market, Deniz prided himself on service and satisfying both clients and customers.

“So I said to the owner, ‘Why have you got someone like that employed in your business for? If I was still in business, I hope you would have rung me if you had an issue with one of my workers, so please don’t take this the wrong way.’

“He basically said, ‘If you think you can do a better job come do it yourself,’ and hung up on me.”

Six months later, Deniz decided to take up the offer and beat 170 other hopefuls for a job at Integrity Real Estate.

“When you own businesses for 17 years, you don’t want responsibility. So I asked for a job with no responsibility and they signed me up as a leasing agent. My sole job was filling properties, doing their maintenance, and that was easy.

“And after a couple of weeks, I said to the property manager, ‘What’s your job?’, and she said she lists properties.

I then said that I wanted her job. Eight months later, I was the BDM for the company and I’ve been doing that for three years.”

Negotiating Skills

To Deniz, real estate is all about negotiation. It’s a skill he learned when purchasing fruit and vegetables at Sydney’s Flemington Markets.

“I teach the girls who work here how to negotiate with landlords about getting maintenance done, or not putting the rent up because of the market.

“There’s continuing negotiating going on.”

Mr Yusuf ’s never-say-die attitude has seen his success rate rocket during his first few years.

“My first six months I had about a 50 per cent success rate, which sucks. I decided to try to improve that success rate before I pushed to expand. So before I did more appraisals, I worked on being more successful.

“I would prefer to do 10 appraisals and get nine listings than do 20 appraisals and get 11 listings. There’s too much work!

“My success rate last year was 92 per cent, the year before was 89 per cent.”

Sell the trend

According to Deniz, the traditional property manager’s days are numbered. With such a high turnover rate, he believes breaking up the roles will not only relieve stress and anxiety, but also take customer service to a new level.

“Property managers who take applicants to a property are a dying breed. I don’t know why people are still doing it.

“Why on earth would a business owner hire a property manager to fill properties, do maintenance, manage arrears, routine inspections, ingoings, outgoings and taking new business inquiries at the same time?

It’s ridiculous, there’s too much work.

“When a tenant inquires about a unit that’s already filled, the property manager has enough on their plate and won’t go out of their way to help them. They’ll say ‘sorry it’s filled’ and ‘better luck next time’.

“That’s not looking after your business. So that’s why we have specialised leasing agents who are employed to fill properties.

The property manager deals with the property and the BDM purely hunts for new business.”

And while breaking apart the traditional role, Deniz is also breaking the barrier between property management and sales in the Integrity office.

He feels comfortable talking to sales agents about investors they’ve met during open inspections, and occasionally sends their buyers to other offices, just so he can get them to sign their property on the rent roll.

“When I contact a buyer, I’ll let them know that I don’t care who they buy the property off, but I would like to help them choose a property that will attract a quality tenant.

“So basically I’ve set up an investor service so that anyone looking to buy a property can get feedback about the properties that they’re looking at, including rent return, if it will attract quality tenants, and even if it’s in a good area or not.”

Secure your future

As well as generating landlord leads internally, Deniz claims that around 40 per cent of all his listings come from ‘virgin calls’.

“That means they’ve never dealt with anyone in the office, they’re gold leads. That means it’s a brand new person and a brand new vendor potentially.”

Making sure you do your homework is essential, but to really ‘wow’ the customer and almost guarantee the listing, Deniz says BDMs need to step it up a notch.

“I do background checks on properties; how many times it’s been on the market, who it was leased with, what it went for. And from that you can get a pattern.

“If a property has been relisted every six months, the landlord wouldn’t be happy.

So it gives me ammunition when I first walk in. I might start saying how we’ve got tenants looking for long term leases and its music to their ears. They don’t even mention it, but because I’ve done a five minute search beforehand they’re hooked.”

And even if the landlord isn’t prepared to lease their property right away, ensuring they don’t contact another agent is the key to maintaining dominance in your area.

“If I get an inquiry from a landlord who wants to rent out their property in March next year, I still try and sign them up straight away to eliminate the possibility of them going to another agent. But if they feel uncomfortable or not ready, I’ll put them in my database and call them once a month and catch up with them.

“You categorise a potential landlord, so if the property won’t be up for a few years, I’ll only call four times a year. But if it’s next month, they will hear from me twice a week.

“I never walk out without saying, ‘Let’s go through the paperwork now’.

Don’t give them an option to say no. Get all the legalities out of the way now so that when the landlord is ready to go on the market, you already have the photos and paperwork out of the way.”

But the overriding rule for Deniz is honesty, claiming he will never say anything he can’t back himself up with.

“Our leasing agents aren’t allowed to even talk about a property unless they’ve already seen it, so it comes from the heart.”

Fruitful yield
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