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An insight into real estate and real life

She believed she could, so she did.


If a picture is worth a thousand words then this one sums up my last 6 months. This chubby little tear stained face is relieved, elated, over whelmed and most of all happy.

Definitely not “insta worthy” and needs a filter or two but this is me right after I was awarded a gold achievement award, a sapphire pin (over $20 million in sales) and being placed in the top 20 in the Lower North Island. I know that means nothing to the majority of you and its only other real estate agents that usually give a shit but to me, it means the world.

As a Mum there is always guilt, even Jacinda Ardern touched on it briefly last week and she’s supposed to be running an entire country. Not that I want to compare myself to her but like her I’m privileged, I have a supportive husband, I work five minutes away from home, I have a huge support network personally and professionally.

I just want to let all Mum’s know that YES you can do it, YES its hard, YES its worth it. Doesn’t matter what it is, returning to work, starting a new career, getting your kid to sleep through the night! By the way I still need help on that last one, but anything is possible.

Real estate can be a very lonely career choice. Yes, you are meeting people all the time but unless you work in a team you are a lone wolf. Its competitive, you must have thick skin, broad shoulders and somewhat of a killer instinct if you want to survive. You come to work every day and work with your competitors, thankfully we have a fantastic office and brand culture which is what makes our office so successful and different to so many others. We don’t have to watch our backs that someone is going to steal an appraisal off the printer and drop their pants (with their commission, however there are tales of agents actually dropping their pants) to get a listing.

 

What is astonishing is that everyone is here because they want to be. There is no ringing in sick, and people are barely ill! Funny when your livelihood relies on you fronting up each day you have an indestructible immune system.

I’m a true believer in finding what makes you, you. Not a wife, not a Mum but YOU, is hugely important and it can be anything, from CrossFit to quilting. Something that is yours and no one else’s that you can be proud of. So many women lose themselves as they pour everything into their families and wake up wondering what the hell happened. Happy Mummy means happy babies.

I’m not a martyr and I’m not going to sit here and polish my halo, my house is a mess, quite often Ethan eats jam sandwiches for dinner or gets an iPad frisbeed at him while I make a work call. I couldn’t do it without the support of Nic my EA, Chopper and Glenys my managers and of course the world’s most patient husband.

However, I’m grateful and believe it’s all possible. Winning those awards, being recognised by my peers as a serious contender makes this chubby, teared stained little face smile.

Good work isn't cheap and cheap work isn't good


You know its winter in real estate when all of the desperate agents start to flog their wares. There are group on vouchers for free marketing, slashed fees and even promos for fly buys! That’s all well and good and I like a bargain as much as the next guy but as the saying goes if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional then wait until you hire an amateur.

My husband had no idea what actually goes into a real estate transaction before I started and he is blown away with the amount of work that we do to get things across the line and make everyone happy (if I only I worked that hard to keep him happy ;)). He often tells me that “its not my job” to clean, or remove rubbish, help after settlement, get quotes and the list goes on and on. I haven’t told him that I had to clean up cat vomit this week yet!!

The reality is that it’s our job to make the property shine, take all stress away from the vendor while getting them the best possible price. We are negotiators and marketers.

There are a lot of articles out there about how to pick an agent, what questions you should ask when interviewing them. The majority of our work comes from referrals and this doesn’t give us the opportunity to do a bad job because then not only would we be letting our vendor down but also the person who referred us.

I’m not going to tell you which agent to pick (me of course) but I’m not a one size fits all business and my personality, approach, gender or whatever wont work for everyone, but here are some things to look out for.

If an agent drops their fees at the beginning then what will they do to your price at the end when they are negotiating on your behalf.

Flat rates and quick sales – You know why an agent loves a quick sale? Because it costs them less money, the longer it’s on the market the more it costs the agents. Flat rates, that’s a no brainer, zero incentive to get the best possible price its all about turn over.

The cheapest and the best person to sell your home is seldom the same person. Like all industries there is good and bad operators. Ladies, if you were going to get ready for a big event and you wanted some beauty treatments, wax, hair, make up. Are you going to go to rock up to your mate with a bottle of wine, a roll of duct tape, pair of kitchen scissors and their kids Crayola pack or are you going to go to a professional?

Free marketing - there are many ways to sell this concept. All agents offer free marketing to some degree as its in their best interest. Believe me, we want you to be able to see how well we are doing. Find out exactly what is free and what will cost you up front.

Free photography - my personal favourite! Most agents aren't photographers and you can tell. If your agent can't be bothered to move the dirty tea towel from the oven door then they really shouldn’t be marketing your biggest asset.

Do it once and do it right.

If you want something doing ask a busy person.


I've been back in the saddle 6 weeks and already have 9 signed listings, sold 3 properties and have appraisals coming out of my ears! I tell you what, it's good to be back and firing on all cylinders.

 

I'm an all or nothing girl and work better at 200% than at 50%, obviously work and life balance is a must when you have kiddies and seeing their wee faces light up each day is why I work so hard.

 

It’s great that I had Nic running the show while I was enjoying my new daughter, this means that we never missed a beat and coming back with fresh eyes made me realise just how easy it is to disappear. You don’t have a listing for a few weeks and it’s like you’ve never existed – thankfully I’ve never had that problem! Success leaves clues and by putting strategies in place means that you can’t get rid of me just yet.

 

Taking a step back gave me the opportunity to study what other agents are doing, the good the bad and the downright lazy! There are some guys out there who are doing a great job, but then the others who have adverts and photos that dont evoke emotion, no social media marketing, no follow up with buyers. It shows a real lack of care and pride. When the market changes (and it will do at some point) then all those agents who ignore their buyers will be sorry. I know we get a bad name and the perception is that agents are all the same. Some dodgy used car salesmenesque type but believe me we are not and I'm embarrassed to be put in the same category as some of the muppets out there. 

 

In this industry you have to work to get work, you can't clock in and have listings magically fall from the sky. You've got to be in the trenches, in the area you sell in and not flitting about in different cities, countries or even agencies gaining "experience". How Auckland to how Christchurch to how Timbuktu do real estate is all different and only relevant to that area.

 

What I know is Wellington, all though I was imported 18 years ago I am proud to call it my home. I’m excited to raise Ethan and Grace as kiwis. Milo drinking, Marmite eating, Hurricane supporting and rugby playing little kiwis.

 

Brand Vs Boutique


With the surge of listings that are coming to the market its quite common that we see every man and his dog list a property in the area. There are several smaller/boutique agencies that tend to have the smaller proportion of listings. So whats the difference between a Brand and a Boutique Agency?
 
A boutique agency will guarantee you one on one service (as do we) which is great for that personal touch but not all agencies are created equally so here are somethings to consider.
 

How many agents are going to work your property? This is a biggie, when its one agent per listing what happens when that agent has exhausted all their buyers or can't show you any more properties? Sales people are competitive by nature and you want as many as possible trying to get a sold sticker for you.

 

Exposure, is there a "shop front"? Do they have a referral network? As much as we are in the midst of a technology revolution having presence in real life and not just behind a screen is important.

 

Can they offer you all methods of sale? Sure any licensed agent can call an auction but if that is your preferred selling method wouldn't you want an expert auctioneer? Not every house or situation is the same so a cookie cutter and one size fits all method doesn't always work.

 

Whats their infrastructure? Are the owners of the company selling your listing. Its a tough job running a business and you want your listing agent to be completely dedicated to selling your home for the best possible price not one that has to wear many hats as a cleaner, receptionist, trust accountant. You may think that you are getting preferential treatment by getting the top dog but running a business and being a dedicated sales person are two very different things. 

 

History, agencies that are in their infancy and dont have robust systems and processes in place that a more established agency will have. If something goes wrong, which it will very occasionally there isn't an IT team, a hierarchy or a strong admin team to pull together to get it right.

 

And last but not least REPUTATION and TRUST, with out history there is no reputation and without reputation there is no trust. Working for the most trusted brand in real estate means you can't get much better! 

 
For all of NZ's most trusted brands check out the website below. 
 
http://www.trustedbrands.co.nz/brand-showcase/Harcourts.asp
 
 
 
 
 

I'm Back!!


While most of you were sipping champers and nibbling on scorched almonds and left over ham I spent my Christmas wrangling a new born. Henry and I completed our family with the addition of our daughter Grace Emery Vivian on 4th December, the perfect way to round off the year.

So, why am I back at work? Henry and I made the conscious decision that he would take the parental leave and I would go back to work, although in this gig you can work anywhere as long as you have your phone and I was still answering emails from my hospital bed – I know I’m nuts.

When I tell people this I get a very mixed response from “Oh aren’t you lucky” to “I couldn’t leave my baby”. Every family is different and this way works best for us. The benefits of my role is I’m usually only ever 5 minutes away from either of my babies and I can come and go as I please. So, if it’s been a particularly rough night (and believe me, we’ve had a few!) then I can stay at home and help. No promises that I wont show up to appraisals with baby vomit on my shoulder or not show you photos of the cutest baby and toddler in the universe (even if I am ever so slightly biased).

I thrive when I’m working and being a stay at home Mum just isn’t for me, I’m domestically challenged (although I can cook!) and get my energy from people. Henry has worked full time since he was 16 and shouldered the financial responsibility for our family while I was on leave with Ethan, and while I dove into real estate so this is great opportunity for him to catch his breath – as much as you can with a baby!

Sometimes its easy to forget that we work in a family orientated business and a home is the heart of so many families. Understanding the dynamics of a family makes us better at what we do. Being a Mum isn't a weakness, it's a strength. We know what families are looking for, we know how hard it is to keep a house spotless for the marketing period when you are a turbulent toddler running around and we can help. 

I’m proud that I can show my kids that I’ve worked hard and not relied on benefits and handouts, that Mums can go out and bring home the bacon and Dads can stay home to teach them that both roles are just as important as each other.

Its full steam ahead for 2018, we have some great things planned as a family and Nicola and I are knuckling down and have some awesome listings tee’d up for the new year.

Will the lack of foreign buyers impact the Wellington Market?


So now that Jacinda and Winston are in charge how is this going to affect the market in Wellington’s Northern Suburbs? The Government plans to stop foreign speculators buying New Zealand properties by classifying all existing houses as "sensitive" under the Overseas Investment Act.

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a few days ago that the new legislation will be introduced before Christmas and passed in early 2018 to ban foreigners from buying existing residential homes in New Zealand. She added that foreigners would still be able to buy land and build new homes, as that would add to overall supply.That would mean anyone who was not either a citizen or resident of New Zealand would need approval to purchase existing homes. Foreigners would still be able to buy land and develop housing on it to sell. Australians would have a special carve-out to still be able to buy homes - as Kiwis do in Australia.

 

Wellington hasn’t been massively affected by foreign buyers like Auckland has, with a lack of direct flights from China to Wellington the majority of the Asian buyers have always been absorbed by Auckland so we don’t expect the same hit, more like a ripple.

However, there are some types of properties that simply attract foreign buyers with a bit of cash to splash. I’m talking the bigger, newer high spec properties with low maintenance sections, four plus bedrooms in popular more affluent suburbs like Churton Park, Khandallah and the new sub divisions in Grenada, Newlands and Woodridge. Most foreign buyers aren’t coming all the way to NZ to buy a two beddy doer-upper!

 

Of course, like with anything, there will be loopholes. Kids having residency/citizenship using money that Mum and Dad have sent over. There will be smart lawyers and accountants out in there finding perfectly legitimate structures to get around it.

 

Over the past two years the Reserve Bank had already put in place measures to dissuade non-Residents from buying property. They did this primarily by demanding that foreign buyers have a New Zealand bank account, provide a New Zealand taxation number and a tax number from their home country.

After speaking to our Chinese agents in the office there is an urgent feeling amongst their buyers they are working with, these are the buyers that are cashed up and looking for houses to live in themselves or for their families not investors.

 

If you are thinking about selling and would like to jump on the band wagon before the bill is passed then this is absolutely a good time to sell – although not many agents will ever tell you it’s a bad time to sell!

So, is it more of a storm in a tea cup than a full blow hurricane? Only time will tell.

Does your agent live in the area they sell in?


Some people couldn’t think of anything worse than working and living in such close proximity but I can honestly say I love it! Obviously, I get caught out rushing to the supermarket in my scuffs without my slap on (although never in my Kmart pyjamas) and I probably scare clients more than they scare me.

Living in the Northern Suburbs means I have a vested interest in the area. Believe me we want our property value to rise so if there is anything I can do to help that I will. Ethan will be going to a local school and we shop locally and try to support local businesses as much as possible.

With Nic living in Johnsonville and me in Newlands we have got the area pretty well covered. Nic’s two kids go to Raroa and Westpark schools and Ethan goes to Carigane in central Johnsonville. We are always talking to families and friends in the area and if anyone tells you they’re not interested in real estate they are definitely in the minority! It’s a topic that we get asked “outside” (if there is such a thing) of work on a daily basis and we are happy to chat about it – usually the trick is getting me to shut up.

You become an expert in the area, you know who lives in what street, where gets the best sun, what properties are in what school zones. Nic is heavily involved in the sporting community so if you know any teams that need sponsorship she’s your girl. I’m the social butterfly (although on hiatus until next year) which means I create relationships and quite often with passive buyers. These are people that tell me what they are looking for in a house in passing conversation and I play match maker if/when their dream home comes up.

Sometimes, there is a downside. I pop out to do a 5 minute job and end up chatting to everyone this does drive my husband nuts and my two year has no patience for anything that doesn’t involve diggers or dogs. As the saying goes if you love what you do then you never have to work another day in your life and I love what I do. Being the recipient of awards and getting given the bottles of moet (Rising Star 2016/2017, currently number 2 in our office and sitting in the top 20 for the Lower North Island – whoop!) is certainly the icing on the cake. I’m goal orientated and extremely competitive – just ask anyone who has ever played monopoly with me. So I reckon I’ve found the perfect career for me.

They don’t make ‘em like they used to


This week we attended the National Harcourts Conference in Wellington and let’s face it I’m usually concentrating on the “networking” (free bar) at these events.  I hit my stride in the evening, go until the wee hours and I can be a bit dusty during the day but this year I was there to learn. I must be growing up.

Something really struck a chord with me and that is RE-PRICING of properties in NZ. We’ve all heard about the “bubble” and if/when it will burst but what if it’s not a bubble it’s a RE-PRICE.

So why are prices so expensive? lack of stock – Yes, influx of migration – Yes, but what else has changed? Indoor plumbing for one! Insulation, industry standards, heating, double glazing.

Household income has changed since the 1960’s, the banks will only let us borrow what we can pay back and back then most of the households were on a single income and now it’s expected that both Mum and Dad go off to work.

So let’s compare your bog standard 1960’s box we all know and love with ALL the original features, plumbing, wiring to your Nokia 3310 phone. It was great, everyone had one and if anyone still does the battery will still be at 90% but what did it do? Made calls, texts (at 20c a pop), you got to play snake and you could pick it up for a couple of hundred dollars.

Now fast forward 20 years as we are in the midst of a digital revolution and hello iPhone! This thing can practically fly a plane, you can take photos, videos, check your activity, even your sleep and of course call and text people. Everyone has one and they cost upwards of $1000. This is your home, it has a dishwasher, heatpump, a deck and a double garage so wouldn’t you expect to pay more?

They don’t make ‘em like they used to, they make them better.

No bubble, just a re-price.

 

Bat sh!t crazy?

MAY 2017


 

As my son approaches his second birthday in a couple of weeks it makes me think what a whirlwind couple of years I've had. 

 

I started studying for my real estate license when he was 6 weeks old, prior to going on maternity leave I was a property manager for Homes and Properties in the Northern suburbs. I really enjoyed this job, great people who I still keep in touch with and it provided a good foundation to move into real estate by providing me with contacts, knowledge of the area and a real insight to property. I wasn't a fan (or very good at) the admin side of things and would prefer to sit and giggle/gossip then do filing, nothing’s changed there.

 

Fast forward to now and I was recently awarded 3rd place for sales person of the year in our office. It's been a hell of a ride, mentally and emotionally challenging and that's just trying to get Ethan to day care before the 9am sales meeting every Tuesday! This career choice was never about dipping my toe in the murky real estate waters, I was all in. Money was tight and it was a huge decision/gamble for Henry and I to take but nothing makes you work harder than knowing that you have a little person relying on you. Thankfully the gamble paid off and we are all settled even if my phone constantly buzzing drives Henry nuts!

 

Most people think I'm bat shit crazy (and they are probably right) to start a career when you start motherhood. Truth be told, this "job" was like coming home for me and I can't imagine doing anything else. It has provided my family with a great start for our future, gives me flexibility to work around Ethan if he's sick (which he was for what felt like 6 months) and meet some great people who are at the same age and stage as us. 

 

So what now? Well, I've recently expanded my business by employing a real estate superstar in Nicola Ingham to help deliver amazing service.  Unlike me she is very good at admin and organised. She has been working in our office with the one of the top agents for 6 years and as he has moved to Auckland his loss is my gain - sorry Andrew but no backsies! 

 

Together we are looking forward to getting stuck in and who knows, we might get a first place award next year!

 

 

Am I a dying breed?

APRIL 2017


It’s fascinating how much the world has changed in such short amount of time, its true that we are going through a technological revolution and I have seen a huge change to buyer demands to when we bought out first house, albeit only two and a bit years ago. Maybe its being a Gen X/Y and not a millennial. We didn’t expect the house to be picture perfect, it was never going to be our forever home and we’ve had to work hard to get it up to scratch.

 

Henry and I bought a run down, two beddy ex rental in 2015. The tenants had an old dog that by all accounts leaked out of both ends so the carpet was the first thing to go and then the rest of the house needed gutting. I was about 8 months pregnant at the time and we had to some how move in, renovate and work full time before the baby arrived. It was like the worst episode of the block ever. My work space and capabilities were limited because I could barely bend over. There were a lot of tears, mainly mine but I’m sure Henry shed a few at my sheer incompetence. Thankfully we had some really awesome mates who helped us and we haven’t looked back since. It then took us another 2 years to finish it but that’s another story!

 

The point is that we bought the crappy house that needed work because it’s all we could afford and we wanted to get on the ladder before baby arrived. We (mainly Henry) have worked so hard to bring it up to date and neither of us are great DIY’ers, actually we are crap and don’t enjoy it in the slightest. We have never fought more than when having to renovate.

 

Buying that house at a lower price point has enabled us to buy our family home because we added the value ourselves, obviously the huge growth in the Wellington market has certainly helped. If I could go back in time I would have done this in my 20’s without a giant baby bump and it would have given us a huge advantage going forward, but they didn’t advertise this in the pub while I was spending my money on jager bombs.

 

So, what’s changed? Why are so many millennials opposed to getting stuck in and doing the work? Is it because you don’t get the instant gratification that we are all getting so used to now. Is it because prices are so high that they don’t have anything left in the tank to do renovations with? Is it too hard?

 

Juggling renovations a baby/toddler is definitely not something for the faint hearted and there have been so many times when we have walked back into the room and our son is playing with a hammer or a gib gun (Don’t tell CYF’s) but we survived. If you are a young fit couple with time and energy (because you will have neither after your kids arrive) then buy the house that needs work. It’s all part of the adventure and life would be a bit boring if was easy all of the time.

 

 

 

We bought a house!

MARCH 2017


Here it is, my first blog post. I thought it was about time that I shared something about my life as a busy working Mum in real estate. Not sure what will come of it, but will give it a go. I'm originally from the North East of England and moved here in 1999 spending the majority of my time living in the Northern Suburbs, I love living here and being part of the village type feel of the community. Its quick and easy to get into the city, all of the amenities are a stones throw away and there is no where else where you can get a free blow dry when you step out of your front door each morning.  I'm married to Henry, a good kiwi lad and we have a wee tyrant of a toddler called Ethan. Both Henry and Ethan require the same level of parenting so I'm partial to a glass of wine by the time Friday comes around.

 

Recently we bought our family home and I would like to touch on that experience. When it comes to buying a house I'm in the same boat as everyone else. Henry and I are what we call passive buyers, we weren't doing the open home trail every Sunday (I'm usually working) or even looking for a property but Henry stumbled across this one and went and checked it out. He fell in love, he made me ring the agent to follow up so I could have a look through. Thanks to the November 14th earthquake there were no tenders that were accepted and after contacting the agent we made an offer and by some miracle, on going negotiations and an amazing mortgage broker (shout out to Bernadette Huyen) we got it!

 

I think I'm a bit de-sensitised to the process working in the bubble but there were a couple of things that dulled the sparkle of moving. During the pre settlement inspection there was a strong smell of cat pee in one of the bedrooms so we were advised by our lawyer to keep some money back, come settlement day we settled at 10am, the vendors didn't move out until 4pm that day and we didn't get the keys until 5:30pm. Not a big deal to us but as an impatient person it was a bit frustrating, when we moved in we were greeted by the pungent smell, overgrown lawns and the vendors had placed a brand new washing machine in the laundry during the marketing period but there was no plumbing/taps to go with it, so we had to call a plumber out. None of these things are deal breakers but a few mild annoyances definitely takes off the shine.

 

Going through this process in this market has undoubtedly made me a better agent. Buying a house whether its your 1st or 10th is a bloody big deal and a fanfare should ensue. I will always endeavour to make sure the lawns are mowed and all is as it seems for the new owners. This should be one of the happiest (albeit stressful) times of your life and I wouldn't want my buyers memories overshadowed by things that can be easily fixed. With all that said and done, we are in and its awesome - now back to the unpacking.