An influx of top performing agents has made this year’s Top 100 Agents ranking – now in its second year – a hotbed of the industry’s best talent.
IF THERE’S one thing that’s obvious about this year’s Top 100 Agents ranking, it’s that the level of competition has intensified dramatically since the inaugural list was compiled last year.
Sales numbers are definitely up, with some of the industry’s biggest hitters entering their name into the ring.
The quality of this year’s list may be partly attributed to an improvement in the property market in 2012. Yet with more than 50 first time entrants in this year’s ranking, what’s been more obvious is the quality of agent who has been keen to participate. Awareness of the Top 100 Agents ranking amongst industry professionals has increased, and with it comes an even stronger group of the country’s best performing agents.
While the numbers do matter, what the Top 100 Agents list helps uncover are the key characteristics, business practices and attitudes of this elite group of professionals. This is particularly important for agents who work in smaller agencies or networks, many of which don’t have access to the sales performance benchmarks of the nation’s top real estate professionals.
In effect, this list quantifies what it really means to be a top performing agent, in markets across the country.
Encouragingly, a number of agents plying the trade in some of the lesser known suburbs or towns made this year’s list – showing that even markets with comparatively lower-valued properties can’t stop some agents from succeeding.
This report, however, is more than just numbers. With detailed profiles of a number of the agents, readers gain an insight into how they operate, and what makes them successful.
Real Estate Business has undertaken a process to ensure the accuracy of data used to formulate the Top 100 Agents ranking. Data for the ranking was supplied by individual agents and/or head offices. While Real Estate Business has attempted to validate the accuracy of data, any errors or omissions are the ultimate responsibility of the company or individual that supplied the data and associated information and to the full extent allowed by law, or ranking participants, its publisher Sterling Publishing (Sterling) and Sterling employees excludes liability for any loss or damage sustained by readers arising from the supply, use, or promotion, of the Top 100 Agents ranking. In March and early April, almost 300 of the country’s top performing agents submitted their details for assessment – an outstanding response given the substantial amount of data required.
As with last year’s list, agents provided a detailed breakdown of their individual sales for the most recent calendar year – in this case, 2012 – so that their data could be verified.
Data collected included number of sales, sales volume, years in the industry and listing numbers, among other information. In this year’s list we gave greater clarity around how to treat conjunctional sales, a more common occurrence than we had anticipated when we undertook the inaugural list.
Leading property analytics company RP Data then verified the sales data provided by every agent, ensuring the highest possible level of accuracy across all submissions. How they did this is outlined in the adjacent ‘Methodology’.
In those instances where RP Data did not have sufficient data to verify an agent’s submission, figures where possible were verified by a senior member of the management of the franchise group, network or agency.
Once verified, an agent was ranked on the following three criteria:
- Sales volume
- Number of sales
- Average sale price
These criteria were weighted equally, with entrants given a ranking for each.
The individual rankings were then added together, forming the basis for the final Top 100 Agents ranking. The list follows in these pages.
The following report includes a number of in-depth profiles of this year’s successful agents, including those who made the top three. Moreover, we take a close look at a breakdown of their key performance metrics, and how this compares to the 2012 Top 100 Agents ranking. It’s a guide to what makes the best agents tick.
We owe a big thanks to all of the agents – and their personal assistants – who took the time to supply data to us. And we thank RP Data for verifying the data, helping to give the list – and the agents on it – the credibility they deserve.
RP DATA verified the findings and results of the Top 100 Agents report by correlating the information provided to Real Estate Business by participating agents against RP Data’s own data.
This information was derived from online listings, print listings and RP Data’s ‘Recent Sales Advice’ team, whose members call agents to collect and validate property sales.
RP Data then provided a report to Real Estate Business on the degree of correlation between the information supplied to Real Estate Business by participating agents and RP Data’s own database. This enabled Real Estate Business to scrutinise entrants and to conduct further investigation into those whose claims did not correlate with RP Data’s database.
While RP Data believes all the information in its database is complete, accurate and reliable in all material respects, it does not warrant its accuracy or completeness and to the full extent permitted by law, excludes liability in contract, tort or otherwise, for any loss or damage sustained by any person or body corporate arising from or in connection with the reliance on such information and data in the findings and results of the Real Estate Business Top 100 Agents report.
FOR THE second year running, agents from NSW dominated the ranking. In 2013, more than half the list came from NSW, up by 10 from last year.
The number of representatives from Queensland almost halved, despite a modest improvement in buyer activity in the state last year.
Victoria and Western Australia both lost two mentions on the list, however the ACT managed to add two representatives to this year’s Top 100 Agents list.
South Australia and the Northern Territory both kept the same amount of agents on the list, while once again, no agent from Tasmania made the final Top 100.
THIS YEAR, McGrath Estate Agents took the title of most agents in the Top 100, with 14 making the list. This was up from 10 in the previous year’s list, and included five making the Top 10.
McGrath Estate Agents has 53 offices located in NSW, ACT and Queensland.
Independent network Real Estate Results Network, which has around 40 member agencies, finished in second place, with 12 agents from its membership making the grade. LJ Hooker came in equal third with Ray White, each with nine agents.
Other groups to perform strongly included CENTURY 21 with six agents, and Raine & Horne with four.
The number of agents from independent agencies remained fairly steady on-year at 34.
ALONG WITH 12 other agents who made the Top 100 ranking, the top two agents on the list both used the same CRM system, Boom - Box & Dice.
DURING THE submission process, agents were asked what their greatest challenge in 2012 was. Answers were incredibly varied, but some key themes ran throughout the responses.
Many agents believed that stock had dried up, that sellers were reluctant to list their property in a ‘bad market’ and those who did have unrealistic expectations on price.
“The biggest difficulty we faced in 2012 was securing listings and, of course, dealing with vendors’ expectations in a changing market, especially the first half of 2013,” one response said.
“Market conditions – predominantly the uncertainty of the market – which resulted in buyers being very cautious to committing to purchasing property,” another said. “Owners’ price expectations were not being met and the gap between what a buyer was prepared to pay to what a seller was prepared to sell for increased.”
With a lack of listings, one of the biggest challenges top performers faced in 2012 was competitors undercutting on fees and over quoting.
“Very competitive market with other agents reducing their commissions to gain listings,” a response read.
Time management was another issue, with more than 10 per cent of responses claiming it was their greatest challenge.
One response simply said there weren’t enough hours in the day.
With such high performers, it’s not surprising that maintaining a healthy work-life balance also ranked highly as a concern.
“I tend to be a ‘workaholic’, but with four young kids I have to ensure there is a balance between family and work life. This can be quite a challenge,” said one response.
AN IMPROVED PLAYING FIELD
Did the property market perform better in 2012 than 2011, giving agents in this year’s Top 100 an edge? We spoke to RP Data senior research analyst Cameron Kusher to get his insights into the performance of each year’s property market
ACROSS THE combined capital cities, the median house price was 5.3 per cent higher at the end of 2012 than it was at the end of 2011 and the median unit price was up 1.9 per cent.
“These figures would indicate that the market rose through 2012,” Cameron Kusher, senior research analyst for RP Data says.
But Mr Kusher believes other indicators could give a more accurate depiction of the 2012 property market.
“Simply looking at a median price is not a very good proxy for what is happening in the market because it only compares the price of those properties selling between the two periods,” he says.
“According to the RP Data-Rismark Home Value Index, which measures the ‘value’ of all homes rather than the selling price of those homes that actually sold, house values fell by -0.5 per cent over the year while unit values rose 0.5 per cent – a very different story than that told when you look at only that which sells.”
Figures show that 2012 overall remained relatively weak, but showed signs of improvement towards the end of the year.
“Home values had been rising since May 2012 and the annual rate of decline over the year
(-0.4 per cent) was much lower than the decline over 2011 (-3.8 per cent),” continues Mr Kusher.
“Sales volumes also picked up over the year and annual volumes were 2.1 per cent higher in 2012 than they were in 2011.”
So, should an agent theoretically have had a better year in 2012 than 2011?
“The numbers of sales were higher and the prices that were being paid for homes were also higher over the year,” Mr Kusher explains.
“Given this, it was likely a better year for agents in 2012 than in 2011 however, the improvement was very subtle and in comparison to a typical year over recent years, it should still have been considered a tough year.”
THE FORMER NUMBER ONE
AFTER BEING in the industry for just seven years, Peter Chauncey topped the Real Estate Business Top 100 Agents ranking in 2012.
“Having achieved almost every goal that I have ever written down, I felt I was ready for a new challenge,” he says.
“I worked out that there was one big thing missing – taking on the task of opening and growing a new office.”
So Mr Chauncey, along with co-principal Shane Smollen, opened McGrath Crows Nest Sydney on 1 August, 2012.
But managing a business instead of striving for individual excellence has been a challenge at times.
“The biggest challenge is managing my time between looking after my own sales business and assisting and coaching the other agents,” he says.
“Deep down I really love the selling and listing component of real estate, but now perhaps only 60 per cent of my time is devoted to that and the other 40 per cent is helping and growing the sales and property management team.
“When we opened last August, it was myself and my support team, as well as one other sales agent. We have grown quickly and we now have four other agents in the office, and a property management business as well.”
“I have a fairly organised and structured week these days, which has helped me manage the extra responsibility of growing the team.”
WINNING OVER THE COUNTRY
GROWING UP in a country town, Lucas Sheppard made a name for himself as the school captain and in the local sports scene.
But if Mr Sheppard has learnt one thing from growing up in Mudgee, about three hours west of Sydney, it’s that trust is the greatest tool any agent can wield.
“To do well in the country you need the trust of your community and you need to be known,” he says.
With the competitive sporting nature behind him, Mr Sheppard started out in real estate just four years ago at The Property Shop at the age of 20.
“I consider real estate a bit of a sport. Every day I get out there and set myself goals – like if it were a cricket match I’d walk out and tell myself that
I was going to score 100 or get five wickets. So on a monthly basis I set my targets and I don’t stop until I get there,” he says.
“My age has definitely been addressed at listing presentations, especially when I first started at 20 years of age. I’d be competing against guys who’d been in the industry for 10 or 20 years.
“But because I come off as young, enthusiastic and hungry, that helps me win over the older, tired agents who are just going through the motions.”
But with young enthusiasm comes a price – like most young adults Mr Sheppard misses the social scene.
“The biggest challenge is the time real estate takes,” he says. “It’s finding time for things like sport and social events.
“To anyone just starting out, I’d say the thing you need to learn is how to be patient because it doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve really got to work hard at earning peoples’ trust and respect.
“After that first 12 months, it gets easier. But mostly have fun; it’s a really good industry to be in.”
KEEPING WITH THE TIMES
THE YEAR Peter Batrouney started out in real estate, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon – so it’s safe to say that a lot has changed since then.
Working from Jellis Craig Hawthorn, Mr Batrouney has seen a lot in his time.
“Forty three years ago we didn’t have open for inspections, we didn’t have computers, we didn’t have photocopiers, we took private appointments,” he recalls.
“We spent time with buyers in the car and made sure we took them to the best house last.
“We even had lunch with them,” Mr Batrouney says. “We got very close with the buyers back in those days. And in fact, some of the buyers who I helped out early in my career have become quite good friends.”
With the rise of faster and more efficient technology, consumer expectations also begin to increase.
“The pace and immediacy of everything has changed.” “Everything has to have been done yesterday, and I don’t think that’s going to go backwards anytime soon.
“The technological advances that I’ve had to embrace, particularly in the last few years of my occupation, have been interesting.
“I was very lucky because about 14 years ago I hired an assistant who’d just finished at a private school where they studied computers. His knowledge was able to be imparted onto me, so while I won’t say I’m an expert on computers, I certainly have embraced them.”
So what’s the secret to longevity in real estate? According to Mr Batrouney, it’s about keeping positive and staying healthy.
“I’ve always said that I’m 10 years younger than what I really am. I’m a very energetic person,” he says. “I’ve had four sick days in 43 years of real estate, which gives you some indication of my state of health.”
LEARNING TO SAY NO
FOR THE second year running, Karen Vogl from hockingstuart Ringwood has claimed the title of Top Female Agent.
Despite dropping two places from last year’s list, Ms Vogl has remained fairly steady while other agents around her have dropped.
Ms Vogl believes the reason she managed to beat her 2011 performance was by learning to turn down business.
“Looking at my numbers in 2011, I realised that I was chasing some business that wasn’t right for me,” she says. “Not that I was above it or anything like that, but it just wasn’t good business.
“In my career I’ve always been taught to be hungry and passionate, but when I saw the numbers I’d listed compared to the number I’d sold, I decided that I needed to change in 2012.”
It was a bit of a turnaround for Ms Vogl, who for the past decade has tried to never let a listing slip through.
“When you start you chase hard, you try to get as many listings as you can – you don’t become successful by turning business down after all,” she says.
“But property managers turn down properties to manage all the time, but we don’t hear about it in sales. They know if a landlord is too much trouble, or if the tenant is horrible – it’s easier to cut your losses.”
Ms Vogl believes that once established, agents should have the confidence to say no to a vendor.
“It’s a delicate situation; usually it comes down to two things,” she explains. “Their price expectations are way off, in which case I’d say, ‘Now is not the best time to sell this property if you want a price like that. If you like, you can come back to me in 10 or 12 months and we can reassess the market then’.
“Or it would come down to fees. Now, I’m not being stupid about being firm on your fee; you’ve got to be flexible, but when we get asked to work for 1.5 per cent, it’s just not enough.”
Being able to defend your fee is something every agent needs to learn fast, so Ms Vogl has devised a way that works for her.
“I always like to have a list of my previous best sales, which I update as often as I can,” she says. “It has the price that I listed the property for and the price I sold it for, so that helps prove you as the agent of choice.”
SELLING A hundred properties in a year is a goal for some agents. In fact, only 22 agents on the list hit triple digits.
But what makes Jamie Giokaris’ 177 sales even more impressive is that he did it all alone.
“I work six days a week. I rise at about 5:30 and get all my emails out of the way early. I am very stringent about organising my day,” he says.
The agent with the second highest number of sales had three support staff to assist him, although he notes there is another key difference in his market which helps give him the time to sell more property.
“We don’t do open for inspections normally,” he says. “A majority of our inspections are by appointment only, which saves me a lot of time.
“In our marketplace, open homes aren’t heavily attended and if it means I don’t have to run around every Saturday setting everything up, the more selling I can do.”
Mr Giokaris claims his clients prefer the one-on-one appointment as it frees up their weekend.
“My target market is working class, so most of my clients are finishing work in the afternoon and prefer to drop by a home to inspect before heading home.”
And after 20 years practising real estate for LJ Hooker Lithgow, about two hours west of Sydney, Mr Giokaris has learnt that customer relations are vital for a business.
“Even though we have high volume and high market share of upwards of 63 per cent, there are just three real estate offices in Lithgow … so repeat business takes up a very large percentage of my buyers.”
“While agents in the metro areas are prospecting almost every day, we’re pretty lucky that we don’t need to be cold-calling or letterbox dropping every other month,” he says.
“The biggest challenge I face is time management, but looking forward, it will be structuring my business so I’d be able to take some time off and spend time with the family.”
CLIMBING THE LADDER
STEVEN KOURDIS from mcconnellbourn estate agents in Lindfield, in northern Sydney, was ranked 94th in last year’s inaugural Top 100 ranking. But after reassessing his business structure he has managed to jump 36 places up to 58th in one year.
“My business has grown extraordinarily,” Mr Kourdis admits. “Around 18 months ago I made the decision to consolidate my business, so I set up a team structure which has been my biggest improvement in the last year.
“The consistency of a team is better than my original business plan, which was me going it alone with a PA. Now I have a junior agent as my sales assistant to create a ‘super team’, which has helped to keep the work consistent.”
Mr Kourdis says having a team behind him has helped him concentrate on things he used to ignore.
“On my own, when I was busy, I was flat out,” he explains. “There were huge spikes in listing numbers that would cut into my prospecting, meaning that the next month there’d be no listings and I’d have to pick up my prospecting.
“I was very good at being an agent, but my time management left a lot to be desired. Now I focus on generating new business, while my assistant organises open inspections. Before, I’d have to juggle all these things together.”
Mr Kourdis’ main tip for success is keeping your prospecting consistent.
“Making sure you have that consistency in your business, so that means always looking for new business even if you’re busy,” he says.
AS GENEVIEVE Cox from Elders Palmerston/ Darwin gets closer to retirement, she continues to improve her numbers.
Beating her 2012 ranking by six places, Ms Cox is still the only agent from the Northern Territory to make the Real Estate Business Top 100 Agents ranking.
“I probably work more hours than everyone else,” she says. “I’m single, so I don’t need to go home and cook for children or a husband. I’ve got the time and I’m sure that’s a big part of it.
“I’m older than probably anybody else in Darwin, so I guess that puts me in a situation where I want to be a self-funded retiree and I’ve got a shorter time span to do it in than everybody else. So I’ve been pushing myself these last few years.”
With her dreams of a relaxing retirement pushing her to success, Ms Cox believes in creating lasting bonds with her clients.
“It’s the little touches that make people remember you as more than just an agent. I send anniversary letters out with a scratchie [lottery ticket] in it for all my clients. I give out gift baskets to people, but I’m also a believer in marketing,” she says.
“I’ve got a 1800 number, so it’s easier for people to remember. If anyone needs a home sold in Darwin, they think 1800 GENNIE.
“Anything that gives you a little bit of difference is great. We’re in real estate, we’ve all got shopfronts, we’ve all got business cards, and it’s all the same to a consumer. You have to be something different, and that’s what I’ve strived to be.”
Ms Cox is also a strong believer in training and has never missed an AREC event.
“If you get in my car you hear real estate hot topics. I’ve never missed an AREC, I never miss Tom Panos if I can help it,” she says.
“I don’t think there are any new ideas that come from these things, I think they’re all old ideas that we rehash. Sometimes we go to AREC and a presenter speaks about something and I think, ‘Gosh, I used to do that, why did I stop?’”
WAYNE VAUGHAN from McGrath Estate Agents Epping is the only person to appear in the top five of both the 2012 and 2013 Top 100 Agent ranking.
But improving his ranking this year wasn’t too hard, he says. “We weren’t happy with our 2011 year,” he admits. “We were out to improve and we did that substantially.”
While a majority of the 2012 top ten dropped away this year, Mr Vaughan has managed to claim the title of highest ranking NSW agent.
“For me it was a mind shift,” he says. “We did it quite comfortably to be honest. Last year we were completely in control and did it really comfortably.”
One of the most common challenges top agents identified was time management and keeping on top of the workload. So how did one of the country’s top performers manage to glide into third place?
“We just got really systemised around selling,” he says. “And the best thing about it is the service level didn’t drop, in fact it probably improved even more.”
One of the more noticeable changes from 2011 to 2012 for Mr Vaughan was his listing numbers, which increased from 85 to 114.
“Each of our team members has taken control of their role, which allowed me to completely focus on appraising and listing property. The listing numbers and the sale numbers we did was a great outcome, but also our days on market and auction clearance rate didn’t suffer,” he explains.
“The best thing that has driven me to success was that the number of properties we were appraising was consistent. I had to make sure I was doing two market appraisals every day Monday through Thursday, so I’m seeing eight to 10 new properties a week.
“And from there we find that half will come to the market in the next eight weeks.
“Apart from doing that, you need to make sure you’re doing at least one listing presentation a day as well.”
WITH A goal to write in excess of $2 million in personal fees in 2013 and winning the Australasian Auctioneering competition the year after, Marcus Chiminello from Marshall White & Co has always aimed high.
“Thus far I’m probably 40 per cent of the way there,” he says of his commission goal. “So we’re on track.”
Marcus came first on the list in terms of listing numbers after signing on 283 properties in 2012, but he believes listing presentations are less about presenting than most agents believe.
“I think it’s about the age old saying of having two ears and one mouth, and listening twice as much as you speak,” he says.
“I think by listening more than you talk you ultimately connect with your client better. It’s a relationship industry, rather than an industry run on expertise. Of course that expertise helps, but by connecting with people on a personal level that’s where you get your greatest return.
“People want to work with people they like, know and trust over someone who might be a guru but they have no connection with.”
Success comes down to one thing for Mr Chiminello.
“Remaining focused is the most critical aspect – you need to focus on what you’re doing each and every day. And that focus goes on to prospecting the right people and cultivating your own clients, which is essential to ensure you’re getting a return out of your database,” he says.
But Mr Chiminello couldn’t do it all alone. His team of support staff have been shaped by him as they started out in the industry.
“I’ve brought on two people, one from a very experienced background and one who was relatively new,” he says.
“They learn and follow your traits and the way you run your business, rather than potentially bringing in bad habits. So the perfect person would be someone who has a good grounding and sound knowledge in real estate, but also a lot of untapped talent.
“I’d like to tap into that talent and grow that person into what my business needs.”
“If you’ve got enthusiasm, tenacity and you’re a disciplined person, provided you can teach them the skill set, they’re destined for success.”
BREAKING $200 MILLION
TOP 5 TIPS
- Sales people dart in and out of the office all the time and they never have their time organised. I work in blocks of time. Agents don’t sit down and make a string of phone calls together for three or four or five hours in a row
- Spending a minimum of two or three Fridays a month where all you do is prospecting. No appointments at all. It’s amazing what comes from that
- A minimum of 100 prospecting and nurturing calls weekly
- Time management is the greatest weakness of real estate agents. When you recognise that, and you strive to make it your priority, you will notice the difference in your days immediately
- Agents don’t go to enough sales training. I’ve been to every AREC and cannot stress enough how important it is to get as much training as you can
JUST OVER half of the agents who made the Top 100 Agents ranking this year sold in excess of $50 million worth of properties, while just 14 made it above the $70 million mark.
These are all top efforts, yet they aren’t close to what James Tostevin, from Marshall White & Co in Melbourne, managed to generate in 2012. With the support of three staff he managed to beat last year’s top sales volume agent by more than $70 million – breaking the $200 million mark.
It’s a staggering achievement from one the industry’s top performing agents.
And despite an average sale price of $1.4 million in the Melbourne suburb of Stonnington, near Toorak – the territory in which Mr Tostevin works – he says he doesn’t target the prestige market exclusively.
“Progressively, I’ve increased my average sale price over a period of time,” he says. “It’s not a delberate attempt to concentrate just on that market, but the longer you’re in real estate the reality is that your average sale price increases each year.”
But almost as impressive are his other figures. Mr Tostevin has managed to sell 144 properties, in less than 25 days on average, in 12 months.
“The advice you give the vendor in the first place is vital,” he says when outlining a key reason for his success. “Make sure you’re balanced in your view and realistic in your assessment, so you don’t give one figure and then work back to a lower number at a later date.
“I’m always trying to assess what is achievable, not what’s desired.”
Mr Tostevin admits he is well known for his dogged perseverance.
“When people say, ‘I’m not sure if I’m ready to sell, but maybe further down the track’, what I do is build up a rapport, build up that relationship so that when they think of real estate, they think of me,” which he admits can take a while sometimes.
“I’ve recently sold for people who I’ve been in touch with for 25 years. I also sold for some people where I’d missed a couple of listings over the years, and I still persevered and managed to sell for them for just over $2.6 million. I would argue, without being arrogant, that many agents would have long given up on those people.
“You’ve got to be incredibly organised to do it; most agents get busy with other things and don’t dedicate the necessary time to do it.
“But I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it, if it didn’t work or if I didn’t get the outcome that I wanted. If you’re familiar and comfortable with people, and if they like you and don’t feel they’re being pressured in any way, you will see great dividends.”
As a director of Marshall White & Co, an independent real estate group with four offices in Melbourne, Mr Tostevin has played a significant role in the training and development of the people working in his company. It’s something he considers as his greatest achievement in 2012.
In fact, Mr Tostevin’s training is in such high demand that several entrants who made this year’s Top 100 Agents ranking nominated him as the trainer they would most like to see, which he said was a “great compliment”.
“Throughout my entire career, writing $350,000 in gross fees in a single day has been my most memorable moment,” he says. “It happened on November 17 in 2007, and in that same month writing just over $700,000 in gross fees, without a doubt, that is the highlight of my career.”