Elite Agent Magazine | Open Colleges
Samantha McLean

Editor of Elite Agent Magazine

Samantha McLean

"There is no substitute for both classroom and on-the-job training. Listen to podcasts, read magazines, subscribe to info services; there is so much information out there – just get amongst it!"

Samantha McLean is the Editor of online and print platform Elite Agent Magazine, as well as Elite Property Manager Magazine, publications for real estate professionals who want to “learn from the best” about everything in the industry, from the latest tools and techniques to international trends.

Samantha is also the Managing Editor for FIRE, a new magazine for females in real estate.

1 What is the Australian real estate industry like? How is it unique?

Australians have a love of property, and the great Australian dream of owning a piece of land is still pretty much top of most people's lists. That means the real estate industry in Australia is very competitive. There are probably very few other careers you could choose where you can earn the equivalent of, let’s say, a neurosurgeon ($300,000+ p.a.) without the 10- plus years of study that goes with that! However, along with that possibility comes a lot of “dreamers” who enter the industry when the market is “hot”, or feel that they might be able to make their fortune easily. That may be the case if it’s a hot market. In general, you must to be prepared to work hard – especially in the early days!

The Australian real estate industry is quite different to, say, somewhere like the United States. For example, for fans of the show Million Dollar Listing – showing in the US – agents represent both sides of the sales transaction (buyers and sellers), so there are two agents (at least!) in every transaction. I recently interviewed Josh Altman from Million Dollar Listing. His work is 50% on the buyer’s side and 50% on the seller’s side. He does both and likes both sides equally. In Australia, generally there are far fewer buyers’ agents; most agents become listing or selling agents. So in most cases there is only one real estate agent involved in the transaction.

Sale by auction is a popular method of sale in Australia, whereas overseas probably not so much. I was at a conference in the US last year and asked a lot of agents about whether they thought auctions might catch on, but for the large part it's all private treaty over there.

In Australia, property management, once maybe seen as the poor cousin of sales, is now really a profession of its own, and we are seeing a lot of specialist property management businesses that just focus on rentals and leasing. This may be a sign of the times – as housing becomes less affordable, people are choosing to invest or buy in more affordable suburbs while renting and living closer to the built-up urban areas where they work.

2 What are some of the upcoming trends in real estate/property services? Is there much of a difference from state to state in Australia?

There is a marked difference in the markets within each state in Australia, some being more affordable than others. For example, Sydney was extremely hot last year, as was Melbourne.

Some markets in Australia are more into auctions (again Sydney and Melbourne) as a method of sale rather than private treaty. At times it depends on the agent (some say an auction is just a “for sale” with an end date!). If the owner must sell by a particular time, or the property is unique in some way that creates competition between buyers (think The Block!), then that may be a good option.

Technology, and agents who use technology well, continues to drive improvements in the industry, as well as driving competition between agents/agencies.

3 Who would you say are Australia's most exciting people in real estate at the moment? What sets them apart?

In Australia, it is really hard to single people out. Alexander Phillips from Sydney is definitely one to watch, and in Western Australia, Stephanie Dobro from Caporn Young. Michael Clarke and Cherie Humel have an amazing business in Manly, Sydney (Clarke & Humel). Jellis Craig in Victoria has some pretty amazing property marketing with drone video and that sort of thing. Gary Peer has a TV show! John McGrath is always a personal favourite; I have interviewed him a few times, and if you want to understand “world class” in real estate, just go and talk to John – and just about everyone from Marshall White in Victoria. 

What sets them apart? – building relationships, a love of negotiation and that world-class service.

I think transparency is becoming a big one as far as setting yourself apart. Consumers don’t have time for anything but complete information and no “nonsense”. So I think honesty, integrity and ethics are really important if you want to be successful in real estate now and in the future.

There are some really interesting real estate business models cropping up in the US. While it is traditionally very much a sales-driven culture, that is changing. Some brokerages overseas now reward their agents on customer service only (not sales volume). This counter-intuitive approach has been very successful for them, as happy customers equals referrals equals good for business.

Then you have your niche operators who offer an end-to-end service, for example the seniors market. Homes often need decluttering, help with packing and moving, financial planning for the kids and so on. Lastly, there are also some very big “virtual” brokerages popping up, so you could literally work from anywhere – and with the extent to which properties are now advertised online, why be tied to a desk?

4 How has the industry changed over recent years in Australia?

Technology keeps changing the real estate industry and will continue to do so. The word “disruption” pops up a lot. Consumers can pretty much inform themselves of anything to do with a particular property through the data services that are available online – both free and paid. So this means a good agent really needs to demonstrate value from a marketing perspective, to attract buyers, create competition, negotiate well and end up with a great price for their vendor.

Technology is getting better at predicting property values, both currently and in the future. CoreLogic seem to be leading this area; they have developed a model with Moody’s Analytics that predicts property prices based on economic factors such as interest rates and unemployment rates.

“Big data” is a really interesting area as far as it pertains to property. We are getting to a point of intelligence where consumer data patterns in say, the supermarket, can go some way to predicting which house in a street will sell next. There are companies in the US that do this now. CoreLogic is working on some intelligent models that will do the same thing here in Australia.

5 What advice would you offer students looking to get into the real estate/property services industry?

Take an interest in your local area, go to some open homes, pay attention to what other agents are doing and keep up to speed with what is going on in the market. There is no substitute for both classroom and on-the-job training. Listen to podcasts, read magazines, subscribe to info services; there is so much information out there – just get amongst it!

Get some experience working in an office – for example as an assistant for a salesperson, on reception or in property management – to get a feel for the type of role that you would like in the future. Look for an office that values training and personal development, as you need this to stay current and competitive.

Lastly, don’t believe everything the media says about real estate agents! Sometimes it can be a bit of a beat-up based on a few bad eggs, as it can be in other industries. Most of the agents I know are very hardworking individuals who are doing their best in a super-competitive industry.


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