When you celebrate your 21st birthday you’re officially given “the key to do the door”, so it’s no surprise that after 21 years in real estate Tracey Dixon has held the keys to many doors.
A long-time Hunter’s Hill resident and property expert in that very market, Tracey is synonymous with real estate in the upmarket, peninsula suburb on Sydney’s Lower North Shore.
Consistently ranked in the McGrath network’s top agents, Tracey has built a reputation as an empathetic straight-talker who prides herself on a dedicated, honest approach that puts her clients’ needs first every time.
In a market where vendors may be celebrities or high-profile business people, discretion and confidentiality are other vital qualities Tracey insists on personally and from her highly-valued team.
“Discretion is so important,” Tracey says.
“In my team, it’s a case of ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour’.
“We don’t discuss anyone’s properties or their lives outside of the cone of silence that is the office.
“I think it’s super important to be confidential for our clients.”
While Tracey sells multi-million dollar properties now, that wasn’t always the case.
From teacher to agent
Like every agent, the former high school teacher had to work her way up in the industry.
Tracey, who also had experience running a hotel and a motel, got her start in real estate after she became a single mum and a friend who was a local agent suggested she try it out.
“She invited me to come and try it for a few days alongside her to see what I thought,” she explains.
“She needed someone to trail around after her, be a sales assistant and do some of the marketing, so that’s what I did.
“I started off working three days a week and very quickly it became a passion.
“To go and look at people’s beautiful homes, to chat to them about the changes that they wanted to make in their lives in terms of moving – I just found it really interesting, rewarding and fun.”
Despite quickly falling in love with her new career choice, Tracey says when she moved to sales as a stand alone agent, it was a battle to secure listings and keep her head above water.
“I found it a tough gig, it was hard to get the listings,” she recalls.
“Everyone thinks it’s easy, but when it comes to actually getting your own listings and selling them, that’s a different ballgame.
“The market was good in 2003 but in 2004 it started to be quite a tough market.
“That was when I knew I either had to leave and do something else or really become more skilled in what I was doing.
“So I hired a coach.”
A helping hand
Tracey says that coach was Mark McLeod, who is now Ray White’s Chief Strategy Officer of Real Estate.
“Mark’s renowned for being very down to earth and has an amazing mind for real estate, and I was like this little sponge,” she says.
“That was when I started to learn about what to do, how to sell things, and about the energy and timing surrounding a listing.
“I didn’t really know anything about all of that and it was like a slap in the face and I realised I needed to have a strategy.
“I needed to know what I was talking about and how to close a deal.”
Tracey says agents today have access to a wealth of training and she loves nothing more than being a strong advocate for change, growth and self improvement.
After about seven years with First National Hunter’s Hill, Tracey was headhunted and made the move to McGrath, which is where she’s happily remained for the past 14 years.
Tracey says while she was excited to make the move to McGrath, it was also a “leap of faith” leaving her “comfortable” position at her existing agency.
“In the end I got excited about a company that was obviously doing things well, was professional and would possibly elevate and help me sell more of the higher end properties,” she says.
“At that stage I was selling some beautiful local homes but the waterfront homes and the bigger properties were out of reach for someone that hadn’t had as much experience as other agents.”
A winning strategy
It was about this time Tracey started working with real estate coach Peter Gilchrist and she says it was he that encouraged her to become “locally famous”.
“I created a profile locally where I became the expert in the area,” she explains.
“I started to do really luxurious market reports because Peter was really big on being an information giver, not an order taker.
“So I didn’t just ring people and beg for business, which is what a lot of agents do.
“Our strategy was to, if someone was thinking of selling, make me on the list of people they call in just by elevating my profile in the local area.”
Tracey notes that back then it wasn’t too common for agents to cold call to tell homeowners what the house down the street had sold for and not immediately pitch to sell their home too.
But this method saw her quickly build her database and she coupled it with doing things like a Hunter’s Hill-specific end of financial year report, after drawing inspiration from US businesswoman and founder of the Corcoran Group, Barbara Corcoran.
“People love to know what’s going on,” Tracey says.
“I think that consultative way of working is more my style rather than, ‘I want to sell your house’.
Tracey says her local knowledge, having lived in Hunter’s Hill for more than two decades and having bought and sold her own properties in the same market, is another point of difference.
“I think when you become a true professional, and that’s what I wanted to be, you become somewhat of a local expert,” she says.
The importance of teamwork
Thorough, holistic customer service is another of Tracey’s core values and she’s the first to acknowledge that she couldn’t do what she does without her team.
At the moment Tracey works alongside sales agent Nicholas Cowdrill, associate agent Edward Swan and client services manager, and niece, Lauren Dixon.
“I love working with a team and I think that is the key,” Tracey explains.
“These days we are moving much more towards the real estate team that can do everything for the client rather than just a real estate agent. An agent can’t do it all themselves, you’ve got to have a great bunch of professionals working alongside of you.”
One of the attributes Tracey is most renowned for is her negotiation skills and she says success in this area all comes down to intuition and timing.
She says the vendor must be in the perfect mindset to sell and when it comes to buyers it’s critical you don’t rush the process and push too hard.
“I think if you jump the gun too early and if you’re overly keen to sell the property it sometimes turns people off,” Tracey says.
“What I’ve noticed is, people love to buy something that other people want to buy. There’s a bit of fear of missing out on some properties.
“It’s all about timing. You’ve got to recognise the signs that the buyer is ready and comfortable, and then you can start proceedings.”
The key to negotiation
Tracey says there’s “no such thing” as conditioning an owner, and her approach is to tell them the truth about market feedback and give them time to absorb that information.
“It’s no use taking a buyer that’s ready to buy to an owner that is not ready to sell,” she says.
“You’ll spend the buyer’s money before the owner is ready.”
Tracey says the other keys to her success include her reputation, integrity and her empathy.
She firmly believes that agents should always keep their seller at the top of their mind in everything they do and that the job isn’t done just because you’ve secured the listing.
Rather, you have to offer impeccable service at every stage of a campaign.
Treating everyone you deal with, including buyers, with the utmost respect and empathy is also critical.
“You have to deal with people in an honest way, whether they’re buying the house, not buying the house or buying something else,” she says.
“People ask me every day, ‘We’re looking at this property’ and you’ve got to be honest with them about what the best deal for them is and what they want for the future.”
Tracey says experience having sold and bought your own home also helps a lot.
“It’s life-changing where someone is going to move to,” she explains.
“I think there’s a lot of positives about understanding the transaction and the emotion from that point of view.”
Networking and supporting local events, schools and clubs is another way Tracey has bolstered her profile and made important contacts.
But she says the offers of support have to be genuine and not done with superficial goals in mind.
“I sponsor a bunch of local things like the art show, the junior rugby at Hunter’s Hill and the local school that my daughter went to,” Tracey says.
“I think it’s super important to give back a bit.
“I know some owners don’t really care about that when they go to choose an agent, but I’d prefer to have someone on my team that has that kind of view (to give back) than someone that is all about doing it for themselves.”
Tracey says the current Sydney market is strong but she worries that some homes might be being undersold as they are moving so quickly.
“I think a lot of properties are being undersold by people that have just got a buyer and they want to sell it,” she explains.
“They want to sell that buyer something rather than really nutting out what the best result for the owner might be and giving them a bit of a broad spectrum approach.”
Moving forward, Tracey is looking to expand her team with two more associates and two more administrative assistants set to join the team.
In the meantime Tracey is looking to open the doors of many more Hunter’s Hill homes.
“There’s still many people that I haven’t met and sometimes I get a call and they say, ‘We’d love you to come down to our house. We’ve never met you before but we watch all your videos and we know what you do’,” she explains.
“That’s exciting. There’s always new adventures in real estate.”