Before they were agents: The fascinating former careers of real estate professionals

Jason Akermanis, Blue Moon Property

Most people would know Jason Akermanis from his days as one of the Brisbane Lions’ star AFL players. 

He was a member of the team’s triple premiership run in the early 2000s and even walked away with the coveted Brownlow Medal in 2001. 

A larger-than-life personality, Akermanis – or Aker as he’s affectionately known – was almost as famous for his celebratory antics, including his impressive handstands, as his ability to kick a football. 

Eleven years later, Aker is kicking goals of a different kind – in the real estate industry. 

He’s only recently started selling homes though, having tried his hand at a range of other bits and pieces since his retirement. 

“I’ve done a lot of things actually,” Aker says.

“I first did foreign exchange while playing one-off games in Aussie rules. 

“Those one-off games took me around the country, so it was great. I played for 30 clubs; it was a bit of fun.”

He also did plenty of media, writing for a range of newspapers, and working in both television and radio, where his unique personality shone through. 

“Then, since the headquarters of the foreign exchange was in Albury, we moved there, where I was also able to coach and play AFL. 

“I coached there for four years and got a degree in coaching.” 

Last year, the foreign exchange company launched Zucoin, with Aker owning a portion of the coins. 

Last year, Aker also decided it was time for something different.

So, he went ahead and obtained his full real estate licence, along with an auctioneering licence, and packed up and returned to Brisbane. 

“I worked for Ray White Ascot for four months, then went on to start my own shop, 40m up the road,” he explains.

His Blue Moon franchise has since gone from strength to strength, meshing well with his personality and lifestyle. 

“I was always buying and selling and did that for a long time. Real estate, with the way I roll, was a better sort of job I felt,” Aker says.

“Being an auctioneer, I’ve always been comfortable speaking around the place, so I thought I’d give that a go too. 

“I certainly needed to get out of footy and I needed to get out of Albury, and real estate is more flexible, has more scalability for my growth. So, it was a no brainer as far as what I should be in.”

When it comes to the impact of fame, Aker says there are pros and cons, but Queensland offers a happy medium. 

“Queensland is a good state, because you don’t really get fanaticism,” he says. 

“In Melbourne, there’s no one more famous than an AFL star. 

“Queensland has a lot of sports, so you generally only get admiration from people that support your particular sport. 

“People do know you, but Brisbane is pretty relaxed. That’s our good bloke culture. 

“I get things I don’t deserve on some sides, but others I miss out on due to perception. 

“You always get both. So, you’re still working hard for your listings like everyone else.” 

From a personal point of view, Aker especially enjoys helping family and friends find their dream homes. 

“It’s really cool, I don’t mind that,” he says. 

As for his future, for the foreseeable future, real estate is where Aker sees it. 

“I’m not going anywhere.”

Ryan Suhle, Ray White North Lakes

He might only be 19, but Ryan Suhle comes from a background that makes most seem boring. 

“I got into racing when I was six years old, starting out in go-karts,” Ryan says.

“It’s just a great feeling, driving fast and going wheel to wheel. 

“The people involved are also great to be around and work with a lot of very like-minded and passionate people.”

Ryan’s racing has taken him around the world, including to Italy, where he was supposed to race in the world cup. 

“That was a highlight, despite the fact I broke a few ribs in a crash in practice and couldn’t compete. 

“They operate on another level there, it was impressive to see.”

One of the big downsides though, especially for a 19-year-old, is the cost. 

“Funding a passion as expensive as car racing is no doubt a challenge, and that’s where real estate has been very helpful,” he jokes. 

“My parents have been in the industry for a long time, and I started as an assistant to an agent on Saturdays and really enjoyed it. It snagged me, and things evolved from there.”

While Ryan concedes real estate is a challenging career with long hours required, he says the effort comes with great reward. 

“You write your own pay cheque,” he says.

“I know it’s not unique to our industry, but to be able to work hard as a young kid and earn as much as you’d like, really is great.”

Ryan has already reached Chairman’s Elite within the Ray White Group, but says he’s particularly proud of the market share and brand presence his team has built in a short time. 

“I think it’s a great advantage to have started so young,” he says. 

“I’ve seen my parents build an incredible office in 15 years since starting and think about how great it would’ve been had they started at my age.

“Being young, I have fewer commitments outside of work, maybe more energy, but certainly I found my market was easier to break into as a young agent as people didn’t take me too seriously in the first three months.

“I’ve had a few people that simply won’t list their home with a young agent, but it’s certainly been less than I expected when first starting.”

As for the future, for Ryan, that includes both real estate and racing. 

“I think they’re both high-pressure environments, where while you have a team behind you in the background, the responsibility and whether you will succeed or not ultimately comes down to you.”

Shaun Diviney, Brand Property

Most people would hardly recognise Shaun Diviney these days.

Well, at least not those who knew him as the frontman of punk rock band Short Stack. 

In those days, Shaun was long-haired and baby-faced. These days, the Brand Property sales consultant is clean-cut but not clean-shaven. 

“We started the band in high school when we were maybe 15 or 16, and started playing PCYCs and small backyard shows,” Shaun recalls.

It was a rapid rise for the band, who soon found themselves touring the world and appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Investing in property young, Shaun always had a passion for real estate.

So, when he took a break from the band, he bailed on plans to attend university and decided to “give real estate a crack instead”. 

“This is the first ‘real’ job I’ve ever had,” Shaun laughs.

“I bought my first property when I was 20, so I was somewhat familiar with the process from a buyer point of view reasonably early. 

“My team at Brand Property on the Central Coast are next level, and I genuinely love what I do. 

“On a personal level, I recently sold a house for a close friend for $250,000 over the guide.

“It’s a very humbling thing to be able to essentially change the life of someone you care about. 

“I’m on track to do my first $1 million year in GCI, which is something I’ve been working towards for a while.”

Shaun admits to finding it hard to turn off and stop at times, and still finds ‘rejection’ a struggle. 

“I don’t think enough people talk about how hard it is in the industry, even from people who have been doing it for some time,” he says. 

Shaun says he gets up a lot earlier now than when he was on tour, but there is an upside.

“I do get to go for the odd surf between appointments.”

There’s another benefit too, especially being a real estate agent with a high-profile background. 

“I get to do these awesome interviews!”

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.