How did your careers in real estate begin?
I started as a personal assistant for an agent (David Mifsud), who is currently working with us. I lasted as his assistant for six months, before the boss advised me to go into sales. I’ve always loved talking to people and looking at houses – perfect combination! Chris joined by default – he was looking for a new career after nearly twenty years in the Police Force. Joining Kerry in real estate seemed a natural progression, and it was good business sense; he was a hostage negotiator, so sales and negotiation came pretty naturally.
What makes you passionate about buying and selling on the Coffs Coast?
It’s where we love to live: great climate, easy lifestyle, plenty of opportunity.
Owning your own home is the Australian dream, and the Coffs Coast provides properties of a broad range of prices and styles, which enables most people to pursue this dream.
There’s nothing more satisfying than helping people achieve their goals in life, whether it be buying their first home, their first investment property, or helping them move to their next step in life.
What are some of the challenges you face as real estate agents?
Primarily, it’s getting over the preconceived ideas that people have about real estate agents – it’s a profession and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, there are a few dodgy agents who give everyone a bad name. Usually they don’t last long, but they leave a negative lasting impression.
Give us some background on UnReal Estate.
Unreal Estate was conceived just over five years ago. The name came from our daughter Jesse, and it’s what we are about. We want to provide our clients with an ‘unreal experience’ when selling or purchasing their homes.
It’s a very stressful time for all involved, and we try to take a lot of that stress away by giving honest advice and feedback. We are able to deal with many of the problems that can arise during the sales process through experience and our nurtured relationships with many of the professionals involved in the property industry, such as pest and building inspectors, Council, solicitors, financiers etc.
Although we have a professional attitude to work, we have a friendly attitude to our clients; we understand that buying and selling is not something they do every day, and it’s important that someone explain the sales process succinctly.
Your new super sales centre has opened in Toormina. Tell us about the new premises.
It’s an exciting time for us. We’ve followed our own advice and bought a home for Unreal Estate.
Although 99.99% of our contact with clients is via email or phone, the location of the office is like a shining beacon on the major roundabout for the southern area and will certainly remind people of who we are.
Real estate has changed significantly over the years, with most clients becoming aware of properties for sale via the internet and to a lesser degree, via the local newspaper.
The days of prospective customers coming into the office to see what is for sale have long gone, with most purchasers having a short-list of properties which they have gathered via the internet, before they bother to contact an agent.
A strong marketing presence on the most popular internet sites is imperative, and great photos are a must. We use Trish O’Brien of Jetty Images, a professional photographer – you only get one chance to make a first impression; you must stand out, particularly in the current market.
Will you be merging the two offices, or will your office in Coffs still remain the same?
With the purchase of our new ‘super office’, we will be merging into one, and we’re excited to have everyone back under the same roof. We’ve always worked as a team, and having everyone together certainly makes it easier. The beauty of our team is the eclectic mix of characters and experience, both real estate and real life. We all blend well together, enjoy each other’s company and genuinely work hard for each other and our clients.
Introduce us to your team.
David Mifsud, our rural man, first earned his real estate licence in the 1970s, so there’s very little that he doesn’t know about real estate. His number one love is rural sales and he’s the expert, selling more rural property in the local area than anyone else.
Julie Asquini has recently joined us after many years in the Sydney real estate market, where she was at number one and two for a large franchise group for a number of years. She had a short break to move to Coffs and enjoy what we have to offer and is now raring to go again.
Sophie Collins joined us straight out of school and has now been with us for nearly four years. She’s one of the new real estate agents who has great people skills and a rapidly growing knowledge of the industry.
Kristen Voors is our ‘girl Friday’, who looks after the books and the general administration of the office, as well as filling in everywhere we need help.
Anna is our director of first impressions – the smiling face everyone knows and loves when they come to the office. She is also about to complete her full real estate license, which will just about make her the youngest licensed agent on the Coast.
Trish O’Brien – Jetty Images, is our photographer and has been for a number of years. We are proud of the awards she has recently achieved for her work.
What are your predictions for the real estate market in 2011?
We’re at a distinct advantage compared to a lot of Australia – we’re a very desirable and affordable place to move to. Although many are preaching doom and gloom, there are some great opportunities out there currently both for purchasers and sellers. Real estate prices are fairly steady at present, and real estate always represents a good investment for the future.
I have a simple theory – it’s a good time to buy when you can afford the property you love!
What do you enjoy most about the lifestyle on the Coffs Coast?
UnReal Estate is heavily involved in the local community. Tell us about some of the events/organisations that you sponsor.
We’ve always had a strong involvement with the local community and we support and sponsor a number of sports and events from netball, soccer, football, as well as the local bowling club, schools, Coast Out, and the whole team has volunteered with Telecross.
This is a great service, run by the Australian Red Cross, providing a daily phone call to check on the wellbeing of people who are at risk of an accident or illness, or simply those who have little or no local support. We’ve become involved as a group, and each morning everyone starts their day with a phone call to check on their ‘clients’.
It’s a great way to give back to the community, and I would encourage others to be involved also. In a lot of cases, it’s older people who live by themselves and have little outside contact, so it’s nice to be that friendly voice in the morning just to ensure that they’ve had a good evening and chat about their plans for the day, and if something is amiss we can set the wheels in motion to make sure they are all right.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
Usually work, the joys of running your own business, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We have a large family, and trying to keep up with what they are doing keeps us busy.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
Finding out where everything is in the new office!