Back on track: 30 minutes with John Minns

It was one of the most perplexing real estate news events of 2022 - NSW Property Services Commissioner John Minns was hired, replaced and then rehired in just a matter of months. Here, John explains what happened to Kylie Dulhunty, what his goals are now that he's back in the role and why shaking up the industry's CPD requirements will help create a better trained, more trusted property sector.

John Minns is a man on a mission.

The NSW Property Services Commissioner wants to foster an empowered, accountable and trusted real estate sector.

And, not least of which, one that autonomously seeks to rise above minimum standards and deliver a customer experience that’s first-rate and ever-evolving.

“Our industry actually requires us to care about the people we’re dealing with if we’re going to be credible, if we’re going to inspire confidence and if we’re going to be successful through all markets, not just the ones that are in our favour,” John says.

A dramatic about-face

Ever passionate about the industry he has been involved in for more than 25 years, John almost didn’t get to follow through on his ethos of building a strong, collaborative and innovative framework for property in NSW.

Appointed to the commissioner role for a two-year term in December 2021, by July 2022 the State Government had announced he would be replaced with an independent statutory Property Services Commissioner.

But in an abrupt about-face, John was then reinstated just weeks later.

John’s very matter-of-fact about the hiccup, saying the right partnerships with the right people were what was needed.

“If we’re on different pages, with someone, we’re probably better off acknowledging that and moving on,” he says.

“But I think the most important thing, from my perspective, was I couldn’t add value unless we were focused on things that actually related to industry uplift and sector uplift.”

John says with the possibility of the role changing quite a bit, he felt there could have been people better suited to the role, but when that didn’t eventuate, he felt he still had important goals to achieve in the job.

“We had the conversation about what was going to be possible,” he says.

“There was support there from the right people, so I decided, ‘There’s a job that hasn’t been finished, so let’s get on and finish it’.”

A united front

And that ‘job’ includes uniting industry, government and consumer advocates to deliver “a sector that’s empowered, accountable and trusted”.

As part of Project Engage, one of five projects devised as part of a property services strategy during his first tenure in the job, a report will be delivered to the government on “trusted and customer-centric regulation of the property services in NSW”.

John says it will be critical that the NSW Government doesn’t stand in the way of delivering an empowered, accountable and trusted property sector through unnecessary, burdensome regulations.

“The complexity of the regulatory structure around Australia to work in is pretty well known,” he says.

“The industry often struggles with the amount of legislation, the amount of regulation that’s around and knowing what to do to comply.

“There are a few big issues – one is how do we empower industry to become more professional and focus on things that are important and make sure that they’re more motivated to protect consumers than the government is.

“And from the government’s viewpoint, let’s not build a whole bunch of red tape and then stifle people with it.

“Our goal is ultimately that good regulation should empower great industries to become more attractive, more consumer-centric and enable them to say, ‘We’re not happy with the minimum standard; we’re prepared to rise above it’.”

One of the keys to moving the industry forward as part of Project Engage is getting all stakeholders to collaborate, reduce friction and step into each other’s shoes.

An approach such as this will create a more holistic picture of the industry’s issues.

“Finding a way that we could all be in the same room, in the same conversation, talking about the same things, I think, is pretty important,” John says.

Elevating professional standards

John says another project that will play a major role in fostering an empowered, accountable and trusted sector is Elevate, which is focused on empowering high professional standards through fit-for-purpose education and licensing.

He says professional standards will become increasingly important as the real estate market continues to change, and it would be critical to get the combination of licensing structures, mandated accredited training and compliance operations right.

This includes round-table discussions with leaders and training businesses.

“We’ve got an industry that does all this training, but we can very rarely see a connection between the training they’re doing and the performance that happens within the business,” John says. 

“Let’s have a look at what we need for licensing. Let’s try and reconnect with performance-based training in a way that makes sense to everybody.

“Let’s remember that the times when this industry has been at its most successful, it’s been because we can recruit great people, bring them in and we can grow them.

“We need to become an attraction industry again. A big part of that is pride, it’s professional standards and having the skills to be able to go out there and genuinely engage and look after people who are buying, selling and renting properties.”

John says the changes in CPD requirements, which came into effect on March 23, and include the introduction of interactive training, would help achieve such outcomes.

It will help prevent unsavoury practices, such as agents having someone else complete their CPD for them, and help embed the learning.

John says the licensee will also need to create and maintain a training plan for all their agents, while standards or training providers will also lift.

He says there has been some “pushback”, but any feedback will be considered as part of a review process over the next 12 months.

“If we’ve got great training businesses who are signed off to deliver it, and we’ve got an industry prepared to embrace it, we’re going to get better results,” John says.

What AI means for the industry

John says other major issues affecting the industry include strata reform, the rental crisis, housing affordability and, more recently, the sudden arrival of AI technology in the form of ChatGPT.

And while he says many real estate practitioners will use the technology to make their job easier and create a better customer experience, “smart, intelligent, professional businesses aren’t going to rely on a bot to deliver their communications and messaging”.

“Particularly in real estate, our role is to look for the best tools that we can, not to do the job for us, but to enable us to do our job better and provide that much higher level standard of experience,” John says.

“One of the most important things we’re looking at this year, in a changing market, is that we’ve got to get the consumer experience right.

“The thing I would encourage any business owner, or anyone in a leadership role, is that building performance and growing performance the right way, is incredibly important.”

John says the real estate sector had more opportunity than ever before for agencies to future-proof their business and the industry.

“I think there will be haves and have-nots on both sides of that fence and those who are serious about leadership and serious about where the industry is going will be succeeding at levels disproportionate compared to the others,” he says.

Show More

Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.