One of the comments on my recent post about virtual agents was from Teena Andrews, an agent with Coldwell Banker Property Direct in Brisbane. Teena is a Road Warrior who almost never sets foot into her agency’s actual office. In this interview, she tells us more about being an agent who has dispensed with the storefront office.
There are some fascinating things in here, so it’s well worth a read. For example, Teena feels she gets more leads than the office-based agents.Read on to find out why.
NOTE: Because Teena is a guest on this blog, I would like to ask the more aggressive commentators on business2.com.au to be gentle to Teena and grateful that she has been willing to share a bit of herself with us.
Q. Teena, tell us about your career trajectory. How did you end up a Road Warrior?
A. My background prior to real estate for 26 years was photographic processing & printing, marketing, graphic artwork and design. I have been in real estate for 8 years, worked originally at a traditional suburban real estate office and the impetus to make me move to Coldwell Banker Property Direct (CBPD) in May 2006 was the need to be more “independent.” I was looking for a company who showed something a little different from the other offices. I had outgrown the office I was working at and wanted to operate and function in a different number of areas [ geographically speaking as well as career-wise ] which I wasn’t allowed to do, nor encouraged to do and CBPD offered the opportunity I was looking for.
Q. You have said that CBPD calls Road Warriors like yourself “Suburb Agents”. How do suburb agents fit into CBPD’s business?
A. The original “suburb agents” model for CBPD came about I believe because the company saw the need to expand in the area of residential suburb sales. The office actually specialises in inner city projects and apartment sales, so the suburb model came in as a separate department. The suburb agents appointed have all had a number of years experience in suburban offices, and we were all looking to be independent operators as such, working the majority of our time out of our specific suburbs.
Q. What sort of properties and number of transactions you work on?
A. I cover a wide selection of property sale types including acreage, residential, house and land packages, land, land developments, units, townhouses and seniors investment properties – as well as personally handling property management on the Northside of Brisbane. Due to the range of properties I work on, I cover a range of property type contracts and documents and I have to be conversive in all of the areas I am dealing with. This diversity in itself makes for a busy daily schedule but I find it rewarding and like to cover as many facets of real estate as I can.The number of transactions I work on vary, and it has been quieter of late, but I am currently waiting on around 8 sales to settle over the next 2-3 months.
Q. Do you personally like being a suburb agent and how does it compare to being a traditional agent?
A. I love being a suburb agent. Personally, it gives me the independence I need as well as the mobility to list and sell in a wider range of arenas. The main difference is probably not having to drive to and then “walk” into the traditional office each day but – because the Virtual Assistance system is in place – we can operate for the office, away from the office and still have the admin and sales support if and when we need it.The other advantage is that I receive a higher percentage of commission than if I was working out of a traditional office – because I do have the separate associated costs and expenditure from operating the way I do.
Q. Do you feel you lose anything by being suburb-based?
A. I don’t feel that I have lost anything in becoming a suburb agent – only most of the time I work longer hours because it’s only 10 steps to my office – you can’t just lock the office and walk away as easily. I am mobile and take my office with me wherever I go. Being productive is very personal I believe for a suburb agent; self motivation is imperative and you need to be fairly disciplined in your plans and systems. I consider that I am running the office from my home office. I have all the necessary equipment, computers, printers, scanners, copiers etc that a normal office has and have access to the web based systems which aid me to operate autonomously.
Q. Do you get the same number of leads from the office as the other agents?
A. The majority of my enquiries come from the internet. I get the same number of leads if not more than if I was in a traditional office, because they are coming directly to me and the enquiries I get are generally very specific so I am responding to these enquiries usually quicker than normal and on a more personal basis.
Q. Describe a typical day. What technology do you use? How is your job different than that of an office-bound agent?
A. A typical day for me starts around 6.00am, I spend about an hour having breakfast and playing housekeeper. I then spend the next 1-2 hours answering emails and sorting out my plan of attack for the day. If I have no early appointments I spend a couple of hours doing paperwork as in scanning whatever needs to be scanned and emailed to the office, updating the internet information and I try and arrange appointments for mid morning to early afternoon, but this of course depends on what the appointments are for.I have a couple of days each week where I am out and about most of the day, either letterbox dropping, door knocking, or researching properties, photographing what needs to be photographed and calling in to visit past and prospective clients or businesses. What I have had to force myself to do though is make time for lunch and coffee breaks away from my desk, which is not always easy to do, because I’m a bit of a workaholic. But I have realised that it is necessary to have that time out. Back in my office I spend the rest of the time doing phone calls, internet research, answering emails, creating flyers, brochure and letters for advertising, posting and letterbox drops. If I have late appointments, as in anything from 5.30 pm onwards, I generally finish off things after dinner and would normally get back online until later in the evening. Saturdays I am out most of the day organising and doing Open Homes and inspections.
Q. Do you have a boss?
A. I do not see my days as anything different from an “office – bound agent” except that I do not have to “report” to anyone as such. Dave [ MD Of Coldwell Banker Property Direct ] overseas all the suburb agents activities as we operate under his licence as Principal Licensee and are “supervised” in the respect that we regularly make contact with him to keep him updated of what we’re doing. Plus he has full access to my activities via email and our Virtual Assistant program. We regularly attend sales and training meetings in the office as well as teleconferencing between ourselves. We all were then registered salespeople and we now all have completed our full licenses, another concept CBPD has encouraged with their corporate and in-house training.I have no set hours or roster and can arrange my appointments to suit. I have a PDA, access my emails and messages wherever I may be, so am truly mobile in that sense.
Q. What online marketing do you do? How important is it to you?
A. Online marketing is vitally important to me – I need to be able to get my listings out there so I can generate the enquiries, plus they need to be effective and look good. I spend a lot of time researching other sites and listings to see if I can improve on what I have. Plus, I routinely add my URLs to google-add-url to increase visits to my site and my listings on a selection of the real estate sites the office subscribes to. Currently we subscribe to over 15 sites as well as several international sites, so I look for coverage and spread. I ask for Vendor advertising and usually obtain it, by offering a selection of reasonable options and prices including internet Feature Properties and Priority Placement, as well as print media and monthly realtor publications.
Q. How do you see your job changing in future?
A. I see it becoming more and more internet based. More mobile with the laptop and pda and more versatile because of my mobility.I see it increasing with regards to extending the number of sites I subscribe to, as well as offering the full range of real estate related services. I have very good contacts within the finance and building sector and see that aspect pushed further as well, with more and more agents being able to offer these extended services from reputable and trusted businesses. I do believe, however, that the personal contact is important to developing and maintaining a sound referral database.
Q. How do you see technology changing your job?
A. I believe the options for an agent like myself become greater with technological advancements – and because of the increase in advancements – a more viable and mobile economic business system. I am a self-confessed internet geek and love the opportunity it presents to display and market myself and my listings as well as the research and information it provides. With regards to accessing a larger number of people by having to do less, as in bulk emailing and databasing I believe this is more time and cost effective, hoping to work smarter by using technology better. I know principals who have been in the industry for many years who either are disdainful of the advances or fear them because they feel the traditional real estate agent is being lost in the scheme of things. Or maybe they feel they are losing control if the agent is not within their office walls.Not so: real estate will always be the essence of what it is – land and bricks and mortar – but the way we do real estate has to evolve.I also know many agents who embrace these changes for what they really are – improvements to enhance our lives. Real estate is not just a job to me, it’s a lifestyle, a career and an adventure.