Gratitude and the Estate Agent


I love coffee cards. I only drink decaf, but that doesn’t stop me from punching my way through a coffee card in the space of a fortnight, before being rewarded for my good custom by my local provedore of (de)caffeinated beverages with a freebie.

I feel treatedacknowledged and delighted by this gesture. In all, I’ve probably spent about $35.00 with a coffee shop over the space of a couple of weeks, who then reward me with a coffee worth 10% of the value of my investment in their business. That’s just good business – and increasingly, we expect our loyalty to be rewarded – even with the most basic of purchases.

Can you imagine if an estate agency spent 10% of the value of a vendor’s investment on treating their vendor and buyer? It’s likely you can’t.

And that’s because the real estate industry has a problem with saying thankyou.

The bad old days of cleanskin wines and Donna Hay cookbooks are gone. The real estate industry is being forced to give more than ever before, whilst ostensibly working for the same (or a reduced) commission. Frankly, I don’t know how they’ve gotten away with displaying insubstantial gratitude to the people who pay their bills for so long. Are you a real estate stalwart grumbling with disagreement? You’re likely part of the problem.

Free-market economics are improving standards across the real estate community, with savvy agents looking to innovate across the entirety of their businesses. Creating an edge is where it’s at, and that point of difference simply can’t be achieved with the lacklustre delivery of shiny, branded Christmas cards with a printed ‘signature’, templated dross-filled newsletters focused on your business rather than your community, or a cheese knife and woodblock set handed across the front desk by a harried Sales Secretary at settlement time.

So what’s the edge? And how can you get it?


The edge is called delight. Delight is the emotional state that creates goodwill between parties. Goodwill brings with it referrals, repeat business and cold business – all drawn magnetically to you as a sales agent or a company because of your reputation. Delight costs, of course. It costs in personalised, thoughtful gifting. In genuinely giving back to your community in terms of quality messaging on bespoke social media. It costs in time, as well – in lounge-room sitting or calling that landlord client to check-in on how his experience with your property manager is faring. Delight is the only currency that matters in an age when fewer agents are doing more business thanks to ‘marketing units’, more powerful databases and the collapse of smaller agencies into monied mega-brands.

So let’s get grateful. To both our vendors and our buyers – who have both paid a healthy portion of your monthly bill courtesy of their invoice. It’s easy to become numb to 5-figure commission checks when you’re within industry, splitting them up into their 40 – 60% splits before they’ve even hit the trust account. But each commission is big bucks to your vendor, and it needs to be appropriately acknowledged.

Word to the wise (and not the wise-assed): this isn’t an opportunity for Principals to pass the buck on gifting. This gesture of gratitude must be a percentage that comes off the whole fee. Not just the amount of commission apportioned to the sales agent – that’s lazy, and greedy. Imagine the sense of delight you could offer your vendors and buyers by setting aside just $3000 of a $30,000 fee and investing in gratitude. BBQs and dinner-tables around your community will soon be buzzing with talk of your decidedly un-realestate-y generosity. This delight could be a big spend all at once, a fair splitting of the resources between the vendor and the buyer. It could be a portioned upfront spend on the two parties, with an additional amount put into a collective ‘delight’ kitty, used for the benevolent scattering of goodwill to deserving clients in the form of coffee cards for newbies to the neighbourhood, magazine subscriptions, tickets to the theatre or weekends away.

The edge is delight, surprise and gratitude. It’s time to give back and to say thankyou. And it feels good.


Photography: Breeana Dunbar

Location: Aquabelle Apartments, Mornington Peninsula

Iolanthe Gabrie is the Director of Ruby Slipper, Melbourne’s best social media agency. Learn more here.


Christmas Parties: The Estate Agent Guide


You can tell Christmas is coming in three key ways when you’re an estate agent.

One is when your clients decide to wait ’til next year to sell their home,  feeling they’ve missed the boat in terms of an auction campaign or harnessing the ‘spring buzz’. The second way you can sense Christmas is nigh is the sight of Mr Kipling mince pies at Woolies. And the last is the arrival of the annual Christmas party invitation – which is something either met with great excitement, or gnawing dread. In today’s Hometruths Melbourne blog, we offer a Christmas Party guide for principals and estate agents – a thorough what-to-do and what-not-to-do guide that will make for happier celebrations of the year that was. More Nutbush, less Krampus.


Are you a Principal? Congratulations on making it through another year. It’s tough out there for a boss, #amirite? You’ve probably contended with an array of events in 2016 including but not limited to: legal skirmishes, staff turnover that made you panic, tax bills that result in emergency accountant visits and enforced attendance at your local real estate institute for CPD points. It’s hard to tell which of these is the worst, innit? In any case – you’re on the home stretch and it’s time to reward your team for the many wins you’ve enjoyed. Here’s how to do it:

  • Forget about mini-buses. Anywhere.

It’s true that a winery day out sounds initially appealing, especially if you rather enjoy the odd tipple. But being stuck on a bus hours outside of your capital city with Jerry the BDM vomiting pulled pork burgers and pilsner out the mini-bus window is a much less happy reality. Don’t make the Christmas party into something which must be borne through gritted teeth rather than enjoyed. Appreciate that not everyone in your team enjoys drinking, and take that into account when planning a stress-free and enjoyable day out together.

  • Don’t conflate team-building with celebration and reward.

You have 11 months of the year to do team-building. Christmas parties are not about that: they’re a reward that shows your appreciation as a business owner without making anyone feel put upon or pressured into an activity they don’t enjoy. Less abseiling and trust exercises, more ‘here’s a personal gift from me to you, what would you like for your entrée?’

  • Partners matter. Include them.

Estate agents often work six days a week. In order for an agent to succeed and make you money, they need the complicit support of their partner. The real estate widow is carrying the domestic workload and executing the emotional labour of a couple by themselves. They are as much a part of your success as your employee. Make sure they know they’re appreciated and included in Christmas celebrations and rewards. Let’s face it: a Christmas lunch or dinner with your team alone makes for pretty dull conversation. Throw partners into the mix, and you’ll have a diversity of relaxed conversation that’s (hopefully!) about anything other than the office. Don’t be cheap about this – scale your celebrations to a level that partners can be acknowledged and rewarded within.

  • Don’t be offended by difference.

Maybe you’re going ahead with a Christmas party at a winery. Or you’re taking the team out for a day of paintballing. Be open to the reality that not everyone in your business will want to participate. Not everyone drinks, travels in mini-buses well, or enjoys toting paintball guns in the bush. If you have a team member that would prefer to sit this event out, don’t make a big deal of it. Their fun isn’t your fun. That’s OK. Reward them privately in a way that they will appreciate, and your tolerance and thoughtfulness won’t go unnoticed.


Are you an estate agent? Well done to you too, on making it (nearly) all the way to 2017! It’s time to enjoy and pat yourselves on the back for having being faced with alarming circumstances during 2016 including but not limited to: changes to quoting laws, dogs constantly jumping on you during listing presentations, forgetting open A-Frames on street corners, dealing with irate, threatening buyers during boardroom auctions and trying to meet your monthly KPIs. Holiday season is here, and our recommendations on best enjoying your team Christmas celebrations include:

  • Keep it nice. 

During your Christmas office party, you may very well enjoy a snifter or two of your favorite tipple. Sante! Relax and mellow out. But don’t let that sweet devil’s liquor loosen your tongue or allow you to behave in a randy, inappropriate fashion. You’re still in a professional setting, so calling people racist nicknames, bottom-pinching, or indulging in a disco-bikkie or two in the bathrooms really isn’t on. It’s easy to ruin a reputation. And it’s easy to bully other people when you’re in a position of power. Neither action is very spirit of the season, really.

  • Give your boss a gift.

Appreciation, innit. Goes a long way.

  • Make an effort.

Some of us like Christmas parties more than others. If there’s an activity that makes you really uncomfortable and you don’t want to participate, speak frankly to your boss about this. If they’re not a d*ck, they’ll respect your considered response. But if you’re just generally a Christmas party hater, take off your Grinch hat. Make it a more enjoyable a day by offering to organise games or a focus for the party. Maybe not Cards Against Humanity, but something that will elicit a giggle from everyone. Or indulge in a new outfit for the day, and think of ways to engage with your colleagues outside of your daily roles. Chat to Jacinta’s husband about his favorite books. Find out if Gregg is still collecting 1970’s football cards. There’s more to your colleagues than meets the eye, I’ll bet.


Photography: Breeana Dunbar.

Don’t Be a D*ck: The Landlord Guide


Following on from our rather popular ‘Don’t Be a D*ck’ guides for estate agents and homebuyers comes Hometruths Melbourne’s essential ‘Don’t Be a D*ck’ guide for landlords. Good landlords: may we know them, may we be them, may we become them. Being a landlord is an important social role, and one that many take with all due seriousness. Unfortunately, some landlords make life difficult for everyone involved – for their tenants, their managing agents and for themselves – due to either sheer bloody-mindedness, a lack of understanding of the landlord-tenant relationship or because they’re just d*cks. We hope today’s handy guide goes some way to remedying the situation for the latter.

1. Don’t be the cheapskate who self-manages their investment property.

Don’t be that guy. Often a  close relation to the vendors who put ‘For Sale By Owner NO AGENTS’ handwritten signs  against their front windows or in micro-font in the local paper, the self-managing landlord is motivated principally by cheapness fuelled by ignorance. ‘Why should I spend $100 bucks a month on an agent?’ he thinks. ‘What me worry?’ When your investment property burns down due to an ill-maintained hot water system or a crew of whimsical bikies take over the residence using the corner spa as a giant meth-cooking boiler, you’ll be worrying alright.

Unlike the relatively short term relationship between a vendor and a buyer, the relationship between a landlord and a tenant is an ongoing affair which may last many years. Like any relationship, it will have its ups and downs. It requires good professional boundaries based on a robust knowledge of tenancy legislation in your respective state, an understanding of bonds and notices and of the responsibilities and rights of both landlords and tenants. Even in the best of landlord-tenant relationships, matters can become fraught. Whether that’s because of rent late-paid regularly, maintenance issues, wear and tear or body corporate issues – a managing agent is the essential fair sounding board between you and your tenant – emotionless and encouraging resolution at all times. Resolution supported by the hard word of the law, that is. If you don’t know where to lodge a bond (or you wonder what a bond even IS), can’t properly create condition watertight reports, if you don’t know how to correctly vet potential tenants or understand the parameters of legislation around rental arrears, eviction and representation of matters at VCAT – you cannot risk self-managing. The systems and accountability mechanisms a professional property manager has at their disposal shores up your financial position, while leaving you to get on with your daily tasks – not trying to remedy complex tenancy matters you are not expert in. Word to the wise: leave it to the professionals.

2. Don’t get Uncle Don to perform maintenance on your property.

And don’t pretend to be Uncle Don either, ya cheeky bugger. Some landlords are controlling and suspicious when it comes to maintenance, occasionally doubting the veracity of the request for maintenance. If they learn there’s a gas heater on the blink or the oven’s not working, they will attempt to perform maintenance on the cheap by doing it themselves. This is dangerous and irresponsible. Deaths have been caused by faulty appliances. It’s a serious matter. Don’t believe me? Read this article and feel the fear of God. Unless you are a registered, insured tradesperson, don’t put your tenant’s welfare at peril for the benefit of a financial saving. Your property manager has an array of trusted, insured professional trades at their disposal for urgent and non-urgent repairs. Take your property manager’s advice when it comes to maintenance, and don’t be the d*ck that haggles over service callout fees (“What do you mean it’s $220 for a callout? I’ll just get Uncle Don to go ’round.”). Being a landlord has responsibilities which are expensive – maintenance done properly and in a timely fashion is one of them.

3. It’s your investment property, but it’s not your home.

Flying in from interstate on a stopover? Ringing your property manager incessantly once you land to get through your property ‘for a quick look’ on short notice? ‘They won’t mind, will they? It’ll only take a minute’. Erm, actually the tenant probably will mind. Your tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of their home. They pay for the privilege. Your property manager can inform you about annual access to your investment property for routine inspections, but make sure to begin any conversation about inspecting your investment long before you fly into town. Your tenants will likely want to present their home in the best possible light, and be aware of strangers entering their private space.

4. Don’t be a hateful bigot.

Thinking of asking your property manager to turn down the applications of people based on their race, gender, sexuality, marital status or disability? You don’t deserve to be a landlord, you unutterable bastard. Nick off.

5. Don’t choose a property manager based on cheap fees, or ‘free management’ periods.

Property management businesses who urge you to join them by offering heavily discounted fees or ‘free management’ periods are focused on building up their estate agency’s largest asset: that being their rent roll. These are worth a motza to the agency. What they’re not focused on however, is the service they offer you as a landlord or the health and workload capacity of their property managers. You’re just a number to fatten a rent-roll for these behemoth discounting real estate businesses, rather than a client to be cared for. By all means, if you’re being prospected by an on-the-ball property manager who knows you and your property inside-out, consider leaving your lacklustre current agent for them. But don’t be wooed by a cheap fee which will only save you shekels and likely disturb your tenant-landlord relationship. Your role as a landlord is more than a simple return on investment and screwing down every service provider to save you dollars – you’re housing humans. And if you’re irresistibly drawn to cheapness remember: thing that are free aren’t of value. That goes for property management services and anything else of import in life. Property investment and being a landlord is a long-game, in which you should try your very darndest to not be a d*ck.

6. Realise that selling your leased property is an inconvenience to tenants.

Sometimes ya just gotta sell a property. I get it. Whilst having a tenant in-situ during a sales period isn’t ideal (in many cases it dissuades owner-occupier purchasers who need to wait for your tenant’s lease to expire), it isn’t uncommon. It is an inconvenience to your tenants, however. Think carefully about your motivation: are you really ready to meet the market, or are you livin’ on a prayer Jon Bon Jovi style when it comes to your asking price? If you’re being wooed onto the market on the never-never, don’t put your tenants through the hell of a sales campaign – months of open for inspections with no result due to your own price expectations being out of the ballpark. If you are ready to sell, proceed with the selling process in tandem with your property manager and sales agent, respectfully and transparently. It is a good idea to offer fair compensation to tenants during sale period – a sum that will be paid to them (or taken off their rent) at the end of a set time contingent on the property being opened at agreed times and in a condition which is appropriate. This is both an incentive to the tenant, and an act of good faith. By the way, this doesn’t mean throwing them $20 a week for three months worth of opens. Don’t be a d*ck. 

Purple People Eater: Why Purplebricks Will Improve the Real Estate Industry

purplepeopleeater (1)

Purplebricks is not going to revolutionise the Australian real estate experience. But it may very well improve it, and for the better.

For those not of the industry, a potted history of Purplebricks:  a UK-based technology business, Purplebricks offers fixed-price property marketing which purports to upend every market it enters. They’re best thought of as a technology and data company, in much the same way as Uber and AirBnB are: they don’t actually own assets such as physical agencies – they own technology and systems. They’ve got money to spend on PR and (because they’re clever and know which way their bread is buttered, unlike many of the old guard of our existing property industry), they’re engaging in both a traditional and digital media assault. Which is frankly what you have to do if you’re wanting a startup to do well.

Many agents have been proverbially sh*tting purple bricks at the thought of their industry being disrupted. If you’ve been getting your knickers in a knot about the entrance of Purplebricks into the Australian real estate market, it’s more a revelation of your potential professional weaknesses than of their ability to destroy your livelihood. Here’s why:

  • If you lose a listing to Purplebricks, you probably deserve to. Ouch. Right? Purplebricks listings are much like the infamous ‘chicken raffle’ listing, where four agents are called in to complete appraisals within a week. These listings are really a race to the bottom, where a decision by a vendor is based primarily upon agent cost because nobody did their bloody job and prospected them properly. Agents who have ongoing relationships with potential vendors based on true prospecting – which is offering information over a long period of time, paired with personal service and a sense of intelligent delight –  will not lose listings to Purplebricks. That’s because their offering isn’t based on a fixed price. It’s based on expertise, accountability, an actual relationship and (most importantly) – reciprocity. Purplebricks will undoubtedly appeal to some vendors – those who haven’t been prospected, those who are very price driven, and those who think they are the expert. The first of these – the vendor who hasn’t been prospected – is really a problem of agent neglect which can be turned around by action. The second two – vendors maniacal with greed or narcissistic in the extreme – are best avoided anyway. It’s these latter potential clients that Purplebricks will benefit from, and probably not to your detriment.
  • The UK real estate market is not the Australian real estate market. The UK has a ‘chain’ real estate system, which diminishes urgency and expectations for buyers and vendors. It’s best understood (in a nutshell, and very simplistically) as a chain of property settlements which must occur simultaneously. Every sale is conditional and held together by a chain of purchasers agreeing to go ahead with their transaction. If one buyer can’t settle for whatever reason, the whole chain of transactions fails. It’s unthinkable in comparison to the Australian real estate transaction process. Our own market has no such weakness: if you don’t perform on an unconditional contract, you’re toast. Australian expectations of real estate sales transactions are substantially higher than they are in the UK. Price quoting on property and expectations of price based on the quote also differ – in the UK, the asking price for the property is the asking price expected. Buyers know to offer below immediately. Our own market is the polar opposite – with buyers recognising that the asking price is often below vendor expectations. An Australian vendor left to their own devices to quote on property price a la Purplebricks will be completely stuffed, resulting in failed campaigns at a much higher rate than traditional agent-led campaigns. Moreover, capital cities in Australia have auction-centric markets. As any agent worth their business card knows, a successful auction campaign relies on conditioning and education of both the vendor and the buyer. It’s not a matter of whacking a price on the thing, uploading it to your favorite real estate portal and cracking open a tinnie. Purplebricks’ model appears to favour the private sale market which is more natural to the UK – it will probably work well in some more suburban areas of Australia which have limited capital growth and poor agent activity.
  • Fixed-price real estate marketing isn’t a new thing. Purplebricks has marketing and technology, and they’re utilising it at far more sophisticated levels than many of the dodgy fixed-price ‘Sell My Whatever’ brands of the past. But their model is essentially the same. Their offering will appeal to some of the market, certainly – variants on this offering always have. The best way to future-proof yourself against potential disruptors wearing different guises? Be a better agent. Use technology to your advantage. Prospect properly. Pay attention to details. Make people feel special. It’s a service industry, which is something the real estate community itself sometimes forgets. Our trade is our capacity to serve our community and negotiate relentlessly for our vendors.
  • Horses for courses. Not every vendor is driven by value. Some are driven by prestige: they want to list with the best agent who has the best marketing. They want the soft gloss, four page brochure. They want the VR floorplan. They want everything that opens and shuts, and they want their friends to see it. These people will not be attracted to PurplebricksOther vendors will kill you for a dollar and want to haggle down the price of a Happy Meal. This may be partly your failure for neglecting to show them why you deserve to be paid for your time and effort. But it might be because they frickin’ hate real estate agents. Or that they’re just really cheap, too. And that’s okay. Horse for courses. Purplebricks isn’t for everyone any more than you are.
  • Negotiators R Us. Purplebricks flat-price philosophy works when you don’t truly understand the ugliness of human nature. That vendors and buyers are greedy, vulnerable, scared and largely unable to negotiate effectively. They’re strung out and emotional: they’re three year olds at dinnertime, waving around a contract of sale. That’s why there’s estate agents to coach them through this risky, emotionally fraught process. Vendors don’t believe they’re unreasonable with their price expectations. The fact they’ve rewired the garage and put in new carpet has to add $12,526.00 exactly to the price they’ll get for the home, right? They don’t understand the dangers of pricing a property inappropriately, and the risk that overexposure in the market has upon a property’s eventual value. Purplebricks aren’t an estate agency: they’re a technology business offering systems and access to task-oriented agents. They’re not you, agent.

If anything, Purplebricks will improve the state of the Australian real estate market by encouraging existing agents to finesse their offering to the public. To go about things in a different way, using technology and old school service. It will make stragglers practising in markets too long neglected  by lazy, backwards Principals shape up or ship out. The only people who have anything to fear from Purplebricks are agents who are lacking in skills, ideas or talent. So don’t worry about the disruptors: just get on the with the job.

* I did contact three Purplebricks estate agents in Melbourne to learn more about their model. All three told me they were under strict instructions not to speak to the media about their experience as Purplebricks agents.

Don’t Be a D*ck: The Homebuyer Guide


Homebuyers, I know you’re scared. You’re scared that the home of your dreams is going to slip through your fingers. You’re scared that the estate agent is trying to rip you off. You’re scared that you’re always going to be living with your folks in a quiet court in Boronia. And being scared makes us all into d*cks. But in the second of Hometruths Melbourne’s Don’t Be a D*ck Guides to Real Estate (read the first instalment here), we highlight ways you’re unconsciously being a tool during your journey for property – and how this toolery is actually preventing you from achieving the holy grail of property ownership.

1. No-one owes you a property, so stop acting as if they do.

Property prices in highly desirable areas with limited property supply – typified by their proximity to the city, to amenities and to employment –  are not going to become more affordable. The reality of our economy is that Baby Boomers are moving closer to the city. Baby Boomers are asset rich, thanks to both their time in the market AND the era they were born into. Their good fortune (and decision to invest in property) is broadly a trick of fate, and not a personal insult. As opined on in our Negative Hearing blog, some home buyers foster unrealistic ideas about the economy they exist in, and what they should be able to buy. They refuse to look the difficult reality of our economy squarely in the eye and adjust their expectations.

Australia’s capital cities are quickly mirroring their European counterparts, with the soon-to-be norm being lifelong tenancies rather than home ownership. Melbourne is growing by 1760 people per week, consistently. They’re all competing for a limited amount of affordable property. Interest rates are at all-time lows. Sitting on your hands and waiting for a ‘bubble’ to burst before purchasing is ultimately self-harming, pricing you out of your preferred inner-urban location. Property in the inner-city is expensive. I know it is. It’s galling to see a two-bedroom shitbox in Brunswick go for a cool million. It can make you feel helpless and uncared for by the community in which you live. So mourn it, gnash your teeth and rage to your peers.

And then make sure you get over it and make a decision to do the best with what you have, where you can.

2. Shit properties are the shit.

Just like everyone should have that one shit boyfriend/girlfriend to teach them the value of a quality relationship – everyone should have one shit property in their purchasing history. It builds character. And more importantly, it gives you the opportunity to spend time in the market watching your asset grow.

Are you turning your nose up at old school one bedrooms on the edge of growth suburbs, because they’re too far from your ideal, or because they’re a bit manky? Think carefully – these outer fringe growth corridors are ripe with the relatively-kinda-affordable properties that you need to buy to hop on the asset elevator. If you are on a strapped budget, avoid brand new off-the-plan apartments. They might appear convenient and glossy, but they come at a substantial premium for size and have stamp duty plus a margin built into their prices. Choose the ugly duckling, which will grow in value at a rate you can’t possibly hope to save yourself. If you’re lucky enough to be able to do so, buy an ugly property now, and in a decade you’ll be glad you did – congratulating your former self whilst quaffing single blend coffee in your renovated residence. Or continue dissing properties that don’t have all the bells and whistles while waiting for prices to come down. Whatever.

3. There’s no conspiracy to screw you over.

Estate agents are hard workin’ schmucks in shiny suits with leased European cars. (I say this with love – I’m married to one.) They’re not Bilderberg Group evil geniuses. They’re not making voodoo dolls of potential buyers and working out the most audacious lies to tell them. Bottom line: if you have enough money you’ll buy the property. If you don’t, you won’t. There’s nothing else to the story, not really.

What agents are doing is working very hard to help their vendor come to terms with the reality of the market they’re selling within. This is called conditioning. There’s nothing evil about this either – it’s just a process which helping sellers look more dispassionately at their asset so they can make a decision to sell when an appropriate offer presents itself. It involves the feedback of recent sales results, and comments direct from buyers too. And whilst you bitch to your mates that property sales results are offensively high (‘That guy paid waaaay too much for the property. What a rip off!’), the likelihood is that the vendor probably wanted 10 – 20% more for their property than it eventually transacted for. It’s only through the hard graft of education that the estate agent has eventually brought buyer and vendor together.

Remember that the estate agent works for and is paid by the vendor – not the buyer. This doesn’t mean that agents work against you or are hating on you. More often than not, buyers are working against the agent by not showing their true interest in a property, before becoming angry when it’s sold ‘under their noses’. As if, by showing their interest and enthusiasm for a property, something terrible will happen. If you’re finding your hand staid by agent paranoia or lack of knowledge of the property market and its machinations, I suggest you engage the services of a buyer’s advocate to help you acquire a property. Buyer advocates work for and are paid by their buying clients – and they can be just the ticket to help you get over your toolery in the kindest possible way.

4. Hand over your frickin’ details.

Enough with the playing hard-to-get with phone numbers and email addresses at open for inspections. If you don’t hand over your contact details to the agent or you make a song-and-dance about the process you are a tool. You’re disrespecting the owners of the property AND the property professional standing the open. It’s someone’s home and a space that needs to be secured – it’s not a free-for-all for nosey parkers. And whilst I am all for nosey-parkering, nothing is for free: your details are the passcard to the inspection. If you’re buying  or selling property (or even if you’re not – at least, you’re not now) – these details will allow the agent to invite you to similar upcoming opens, and to build a hopefully mutually useful relationship. Sure, their weekly emails are often boring and won’t regularly be tailored to your exact needs. It is what it is. It’s a social contract. Don’t be an open for inspection tool. (And don’t badmouth the property whilst you’re there loudly, either. There’s a special place in hell for those people.)

Don’t Be a D*ck: The Estate Agent Guide

dontbeagent (2)

The ‘Don’t Be a D*ck’ Guide to Real Estate’ by Hometruths Melbourne comes from a good place. When I say ‘don’t be a d*ck’, I mean it with goodwill to mankind (and agent-kind) in my heart. Let’s be real: property transactions can bring out the tool in everyone.

A property transaction is one freaky concoction of anxiety-inducing factors: think jealousy, greed, mistrust and boredom – shaken, not stirred. We all participate in the real estate market to a greater or lesser degree, and we can all improve our behaviour whilst negotiating within it. Today, Hometruths Melbourne presents ‘Don’t Be a D*ck: The Estate Agent Guide‘, which focuses on common ways – often unconscious – that you, the estate agent, can come across as a real d*ck to the wider community. Read this guide and be downright legend instead.

1. You’re an agent. Not a gangsta, bro.

A wise Principal of mine had a pet hate: sunglasses on agents. Even worse – sunglasses on the HEADS of agents whilst at open for inspections. At the time I though he was being pedantic, but in reality his disdain at sunnies-on-Saturday was right on the money. They inferred a casualness that was at odds with the role of the serious, knowledgeable property professional.

You’re an estate agent: you need to dress the part. You need to present yourself in a way that makes people connect with you and trust you. The path of least resistance is the one to tread. Don’t wear tightly fitted fashion suits that can barely contain your pecs (do you even lift?), and don’t spray yourself so liberally in fragrance that the tenant next door can smell your Lynx Africa.

Are you a lady agent? Awesome. Word from the wise: don’t wear heels that make you totter like a dolly. This makes you appear vulnerable, weak, and far from businesslike. Wear heels if you like by all means, but be able to walk well in them, to look robust. Avoid clothing that’s been sprayed-on, and be careful with your spraytan and makeup, too. Aim to be bullet-proof in your physical appearance – don’t allow chinks in your professional armour put you at a disadvantage.

Lastly, make good choices with your vehicle – which is an extension of yourself. Clients will see you pulling up curbside, so try to make sure your car is clean, and that you’re not pumping out sweet tubthumping junglist cuts so deep the tarmac is vibrating. Avoid incredibly showy vehicles. Don’t alienate your customers – show them that you’re a lover of fine things, sure – but don’t be an ostentatious bogan. In short, don’t be a d*ck.

2. Be transparent.

As anyone who works within the industry knows, real estate is an arcane business. Down is up, right is wrong, what looks natural is confected. This is part of the reason why the public are so mistrusting of estate agents. They don’t understand the business, because in order to do so they’d need to step outside their own motivation: the buyer would have to put themselves in the vendor’s shoes, the vendor in the buyer’s. And whilst occasionally we might get clients who are eminently reasonable, most need a good does of firm but fair conditioning to be ready to make a decision about their future.

They need structure, they need rules, they need transparency above all. This makes the average punter – who only transacts property once in a blue moon – feel more fairly dealt with. Here are some ways to achieve greater transparency in your real estate practice:

  • Have a documented offers process for transactions. Be able to send your policies to clients who need to know more about making offers prior to auction, multiple offer scenarios, boardroom auctions etc. Your whole team needs to be on board with this.
  • Provide comparable sales. Regardless of your business’ philosophy on quoting, comparable sales are a great way to win the confidence of purchasers, and they should give a true indication of current market conditions.
  • Be firm and earnest in your responses. Sometimes we cringe to speak plainly with clients – whether they’re vendors, buyers, tenants or landlords – tell them the facts as they are. They might blow up in the first instance, but your working relationship will be stronger in the long run.

3. Don’t be the office leech.

Are you the person who’s always selling properties out from beneath the listing agent? Are you focused on working buyers rather than bringing new business on? I’ve got some bad news for you. You’re a leechIf you do this just occasionally, or you’re learning to be an agent and getting a few sales under your belt, you’re OK.  But if you’re being the creep who can’t list and exists by selling properties out from under listing agents, I’ve gotta say you’re a d*ck. Harden up with a long, cool glass of concrete-flavoured prospecting. #RealTalk

4. Don’t prospect like a d*ck.

‘Hi this is Jayden from XYZ Real Estate. Are you thinking of selling your property?’ ‘Hi is that Mrs Pana, erm, Popol, erm, Panapopoulos? It’s Cherie from ABC Property. Can I sell your house?’

If you’re making prospecting calls like this, stop. If you have a Principal who believes these calls are productive, find an agency to work for that believes in developing actual human relationships. As any agent knows, selling (and to a lesser degree, leasing) a person’s property is an intimate role. You earn the right to ask that question by offering service and showing competence and market presence. Asking a stranger flat-out if you can sell their property is a d*ck move for two reasons:

  • The likelihood of listing a property without a prior vendor relationship is next to nix. You’re more likely to offend them with your impertinence than anything else, spoiling your chances of beginning a useful conversation about their property.
  • If you were to be invited to list this property, you’d likely be in a ‘chicken raffle’ listing scenario with an array of other agents. As they vendor has no relationship with anyone they’re interviewing, they’re probably motivated by fee alone. Are you the pants-dropping agent who wants to work at an offensively low commission? No, you’re not.

Instead, focus on clever ways that build value around your identity as an agent. Think service first. Call people on the street when you list a property, and ask them if they’re interested in expanding their portfolio. This is an effortless question which infers the subjects’ competence and largesse. Call them to tell them what the property sold for. Call them when someone else lists in the same street, or sells in the same street. If you have a good conversation with someone, send them a thankyou card. And no, not some cheap corporate jobby. Go to the newsagent and make an effort. You will be remembered for your unusual attention to detail. Create a private social media group to invite communities to based on suburb. Become an authority. Make your vendors and buyers rave with unexpected, creative gifting – it doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be thoughtful.

Are you a buyer, landlord or tenant? Stay tuned for your very own ‘Don’t Be a D*ck’ Guide to Real Estate’ by Hometruths Melbourne. Subscribe to receive our next blog post.

Want to learn more about the author of this article? Visit the Ruby Slipper website. 

All The Single Ladies, All The One Bedroom Apartments


Today’s Hometruths Melbourne blog is for the ladies in the audience. And not just the single ones. I want y’all to be financially literate and financially independent. And the key to this literacy and independence rests on one keystone: the one bedroom apartment in your own name.

In my years as an estate agent, I was privy to the financial and emotional bullying of young women who were attempting to assert their independence by purchasing their own asset. Here’s two ways their story would go:

Scenario One: 

The young woman would start attending open for inspections to get a measure of the market they were in. Most young female purchasers are well-informed, taking time to research their preferred investment location and its sales histories. They have their finance in order and they are ready to purchase. They absolutely have the capacity to make independent financial decisions for themselves. They’ve got their eye on a one bedroom apartment, and they’re ready to make a commitment. But then the well-meaning family members or significant others step in.

‘Oh darling, this place is so small! Why don’t you spend the same money on buying a villa unit in (insert outer urban location here)?’ says Mum. ‘Sweetheart, you’ve gotta be careful with these agents. They’re swindlers. Offer them $100,000 less, and not a penny more. And this place is old – think of all the repairs you’re gonna have to do. Trust Dad. We’ll help you save for a better place than this – something new, something where you’ll get better value for your dollar.’ Finally, the boyfriend (who often hasn’t the savings or will to assert financial independence behind him that she has) chimes in. ‘Babe. I don’t think we’re ready for this. What about the housing bubble? Wait for that. What about an overseas holiday for six months? Don’t you want to make memories with me? Also, I hear that Collingwood is going to become overvalued soon. Don’t take the risk honey.’

Scenario Two:

They would find a one bedroom apartment in an inner-urban area which matched their budget and lifestyle requirements. Their hands would shake with the gravity of the situation as they signed the contract of sale (after having their solicitor look it over, young women being the rightfully cautious peeps they are). The relief in their voices was palpable upon learning their offer had been accepted by the vendor – sometimes there were tears and hugs, too. But then it came time for their ‘final inspection’ of the property prior to settlement – and naturally, they’d bring along Mum and Dad and the boyf, wanting to share their joy and hoping for praise from their loved ones at their achievement.

This would rarely occur. Rather, she would skip into the apartment with glee ahead of me, before her Mum and Dad would begin picking out every irrelevant, negative detail of the property. ‘Ooh, the grout in the bathroom’s a bit dirty isn’t it?’ ‘Great living room, but it’s so close to the kitchen isn’t it?’ ‘The view’s not great darl. Wish you called me to have a look at it first.’ And often, in whispered tones ‘can you get out of this contract’? The joy in her eyes would dim. She had made the wrong decision, it seemed. She wasn’t capable of buying property – isn’t that something only the professionals, and men were to be relied upon to do well?

This bullying is insidious, profoundly destabilising and ultimately misogynist. It’s sabotage. Sure, it’s coated in a veneer of concern – it’s probably unconscious on behalf of the perpetrators – but at core, these attitudes reinforce that she can’t make decisions about financial matters for herself. Which is patently untrue. In all cases, ‘she’ – the buyer of that much saved for and wanted one bedroom apartment – had saved her shekels, done her research and shown great bravery in committing to her own future.  For a woman, purchasing a one bedroom apartment on her own is a revolutionary, feminist act. She is saying to the world (and to herself, more importantly) that I can make a decision, I am capable and I am responsible for myself in this rowdy world.

A one bedroom is the keystone to a woman’s financial future. Don’t listen to the naysayers who pretend that one bedrooms aren’t valuable because they’re not on land. Pish tosh. Value has to do with location, not land per se. Particularly when you’re young and you just have to get a foothold in the escalating market. The one bedroom you buy isn’t for you to live in forever. It’s just an elevator – it will grow at a rate that you can’t hope to save for yourself per annum. It will give you equity as the years pass, and enforces savings on you into the bargain. Soon enough, you’ll be able to buy something else – either keeping that first, important one bedder or selling it to trade up. The only thing you need to worry about, lady, is buying in an area that is desirable – or in the suburb next to the desirable one. Older apartments are fine – they increase in value just as much (and often moreso) than their newer counterparts. I probably wouldn’t recommend buying in a giant development or ‘off the plan’ – but that’s my own peccadillo. A property in a good area that you can afford to service is better than no property at all. 

And that boyfriend? Don’t let him move into your hard-won asset, or ride on your coattails onto the contract of sale with a declaration of eternal love. If he didn’t put in half the deposit, he’s not the owner. Let something which has taken such focus and commitment – and bearing of emotional strain to purchase – be yours alone. Repercussions for allowing a casual partner to cohabit for an extended period of time in your residence can be severe: if you split up and a court rules you as de facto, that ex-partner may be due a portion of your property. If he liked it, then he should have a put a ring on it. Whether you’re a fan of marriage or not, buying a property with a partner at an appropriate stage in your relationship is the best bet. You can then liquidate your one bedroom and put it towards the bigger purchaser made together, or (even better!) keep it and build a portfolio in your name.

You can do it, ladies. Buy a one bedroom apartment. On your own. No boyfs or BS about it.