A flood of new agents join the real estate industry

Covid-19 has been the catalyst for a number of new agents to take the plunge.

14 September 2020

Becoming a real estate agent is something a lot of people think they’ll do at some stage in their lives. Sometimes, they just need a little push, and it seems that the environment created by Covid-19 has been the catalyst for a number of new agents to take the plunge.

The Real Estate Authority, (REA) which regulates the real estate industry, has seen a strong surge in the past three months of licence application approvals.

“Over June, July and August 2020, REA approved 611 applications for a real estate licence, an increase of 48% on the same time last year ,” says Belinda Moffat, the new Chief Executive of REA.

“It’s likely that Covid-19 has contributed to this increase with skilled Kiwis now seeking new job opportunities, and the market is continuing to be more buoyant than we anticipated back in March,” she says.

The average age of applicants was 38, and the largest proportion came from Auckland (43.3%) followed by Canterbury and the West Coast (13.5%) and Waikato (8.9%).

Real estate agencies confirm seeing an influx of new agents

Heads of some of the country’s largest agencies confirmed that they were seeing more new agents signing up over this period and currently.

And some are being quite proactive about identifying potential new agents. Bayleys, which has had a 41% increase in new agents join from 1 April to 31 August, knocked on Air New Zealand’s door at the beginning of the lockdown to open a conversation with staff facing redundancy.

Flight attendants make very good agents, says Johnny Sinclair, Bayleys’ National Residential Sales Director.

The company asked former Air New Zealand manager turned Bayleys agent, Stuart Robertson, to do a video for Air NZ staff describing his journey from Air New Zealand to real estate. After leaving Air New Zealand, where he was a performance and development manager, he became a top performing agent in Titirangi and is now sales and growth manager at Bayleys Auckland City Living.

Thanks to the initiative, Mr Robertson is engaging with around 20 people from Air New Zealand, says Mr Sinclair, one of them already working with a top Bayleys agent, Blair Haddow.

Bayleys is picky about who it brings into the company, because it wants to take on people it thinks will succeed, says the national director. Mr Sinclair thinks nurses, police and school teachers, also make great agents. They’re critical listeners and can manage multiple situations, he explains.

Real estate firms are very cautious about who they bring on because onboarding is a significant cost. Bayleys has an intensive six week training period when agents first start and continues to support them after that.

“We’re very particular and very straight up about it. If you can’t look after yourself for six months, it’s not the right industry for you,” adds Mr Sinclair.

“These are people’s livelihoods you’re dealing with,.” he says.

REA recommends new agents should be interviewing a number of companies and checking on the sort of training they offer.

“Having a great relationship with your supervisor and the right amount of support from your agency, can be key to your success,” says Ms Moffat.

“The culture of the organisation is important too. You might want to look for an agency that takes a collaborative approach to listings, where sales are celebrated as a team success.”

Not necessarily a bad time to start up as an agent

Barfoot & Thompson managing director, Peter Thompson says he’s been seeing good numbers of new agents join the firm in recent months. “They’re generally people who’ve been in jobs that have changed in recent months, he says.

And while the Covid situation has been a challenge, the market remains strong, he notes.

He cautions those entering the business, that they’ll have to be prepared to work, and there can be a lot of heartbreak when starting out. But, he adds, new agents bring their own network, new ideas and fresh marketing approaches, which can give them a good start.

Tough time to start but good disciplines in hard times

It might be a tough time to break into the industry, with listings not keeping up with demand, but a number of agents started in 2008 and 2009 after the GFC, emerging with a strong skill set,and they’re very successful now, says Ray White Chief Operating Officer, Daniel Coulson.

He says he’s seeing a significant increase in interest from new agents across the country.

People looking to enter the industry are heartened by seeing increased consumer spending from Kiwis not able to go overseas as they normally would, he says. Consequently, they’re looking to improve on the home they’re in or thinking of buying a second one.

“Those that are coming into the industry have seen activity in buying and selling.All the numbers are pointing up, so there’s an opportunity for people to get in and make some money,” he says.

Some of the new agents coming in might have had real estate experience and are deciding to re-enter the industry or they’re people looking for a change.

Daniel Coulson - Chief Operating Officer, Ray White New Zealand

“There are a number of industries with cross compatible skills,” says Mr Coulson. Some people have had a bit of time over the past few months to think over what’s important, how they can find a better work life balance, and how best to provide for themselves.

In another sign of interest from Kiwis in starting a real estate career,Harcourts’ managing director, Bryan Thomson, says his company is seeing unprecedented attendances at its regular career evenings around the country. It’s a good barometer of the interest in real estate, he says

This increased interest is not unusual when there’s a change in the economy and the environment, he explains.

“I always say most people make a change when they have to.”

Mr Thomson says good agents can come from all walks of life but they must be clear communicators, calm under pressure, and be able to inspire confidence.

Some may want to start by working in an administrative role, some set up on their own, while others join teams of high performing agents. The latter means you have got properties to start working on immediately, says the head of Harcourts.

New agent three weeks in, Barfoot & Thompson’s Rawdon Christie

One of a number of high profile people to make the move to real estate in recent months, is broadcaster Rawdon Christie.

He had long considered a real estate career, but when he was emceeing a conference in Fiji in March watching all his hosting work dry up back in New Zealand, it crystalised his decision to act.

He did the real estate course at Open Polytechnic over three months then applied for his licence in July, starting work in August. He was impressed with how regulated and monitored the industry is by REA.

The new agent went to Barfoot & Thompson’s because he knew Peter Thompson, and when he approached the Remuera Barfoot’s office, was told he’d be welcome to join.

The office has a vast wealth of experience, he says. “It wasn't like a shark pool with everyone out for themselves, they want me to succeed.”

Mr Christie, who has won his first listing just three weeks in through his network, says one of the things he likes about being an agent is the community involvement element.

Rawdon Christie - Barfoot & Thompson Agent

He and his family have lived in Remuera for 25 years. “That was a huge attraction for me to live and work where we’ve had children, where we’ve made all our friends with parents at our childrens’ schools. I love the fact I’m interacting with the community every day.”

To new agents coming in, he says you should be prepared to be self-sufficient, as you start your new business. Though you may have to rely on a partner in the early times for finances. Starting out is an overwhelming time, he says. “You go through these waves of emotion – from very excited to fear and dread,” he says frankly.

“You’re building a business from scratch, so you need to be tenacious. You have to do the basics very well, they won’t fall into your lap,” he adds.

As for the timing of his launch into real estate, he remembers Peter Thompson saying years ago: “When the market’s tough, that’s when good agents rise to the top because they know how to work hard and don’t expect the business to come to them.”

Clients he’s meeting with want to see evidence of where the market’s going, he says.

Mr Christie, conscious that he has good brand awareness, likes that he can use his journalism background to help write interesting articles about the property market on his Facebook page. His previous career has also given him initiative and drive, he says.

Some agents are leaving too

Of course as agents arrive in the industry, others will leave. There will be a number of sales people who take early retirement, says Mr Thompson.

Mr Sinclair notes that those who are leaving are typically those who have approached real estate as something they’ll do part time.

“We’ve exceeded that. Vendors and buyers expect more,” he says.

We haven’t got a complicated industry, says Mr Sinclair. “A person who’s prepared to pick up the phone, talk to a complete stranger and form a meaningful relationship, is going to win. We can teach everything else but we can’t teach you to do that,” he says.

Tips from REA if you’re thinking of becoming an agent

To become a licenced agent, you’ll need to complete the relevant real estate qualification and a number of NZ institutions offer this. You must also demonstrate that they’re a “fit and proper” person to hold a licence, meeting standards of conduct and character and you must consent to a criminal history check.

Licensees have to renew their licence every 12 months and are re-evaluated each time.

One you’ve completed the study and gained the license, you’re required to do continuing professional development and must work closely with a licensed real estate agent or branch manager.

The REA website has more information.