AUSTRALIA IS A DIVERSE LAND and selling property in country areas poses different challenges to life in the city. Stroud is a small country town one hour north of Newcastle where the population is around 669 and the traffic jams usually involve cattle. Denise Haynes from R & R property tells it like it is.
I GREW UP IN the country; it’s in my blood and, combined with my passion for real estate, I have the perfect job as a rural real estate agent.
The life of a rural real estate agent is varied and unpredictable. At R & R Property a ‘normal’ day can start with standard residential inspections then escalate to an all-out 4WD adventure! On the day you wear a skirt and heels to the office nothing is surer than a client turning up, without an appointment, wanting to be shown a rural property. We always keep boots and a hat in the car, obviously a four-wheel drive, for this reason.
I cover many kilometres a day at work, as it sometimes takes up to an hour just to get to the property. However, the scenery more than makes up for it and I often stop to photograph the amazing landscapes and wildlife I see on my travels.
We list properties that vary from flat to mountaintop steep, with rivers and creeks, timbered and clear plots, in sizes from 600 square metres to 600 acres. Our varied portfolio includes poultry farms, bed and breakfasts, old schoolhouses and a boutique vineyard. A recently sold listing required the crossing of nine causeways or fords to access the property, and we have even sold a 60- acre island in the middle of the Karuah River!
Getting bogged is always on the agenda after rain. On occasions I’ve had zealous clients over-estimating both their driving skills and the capabilities of their vehicle, insisting ‘You can’t bog a Land Cruiser!’ The result is that I have to organise the nearest farmer to pull them out with a tractor as the shamefaced client is bogged to the axles. However, this speaks volumes about the ‘community’ that exists in rural areas, and the generosity of these strangers is not lost on our city-dwelling clients.
I’ve had many snake encounters during my time as a rural real estate agent, the latest one being a client thinking it a good idea to poke a snake with a stick when I wasn’t looking. This caused the snake to turn around and chase the unsuspecting me. Once I realised what was happening I had to make a run for it, all while carrying my four-year-old daughter on my hip.
As a result, when I book appointments to show a rural property in the height of summer (snake season) the last words I say are ‘wear good protective boots’. Of course, I have had numerous clients still turn up in their double-pluggers. I especially love the sequinned ones – usually, but not always, worn by the female buyer.
While the countryside sounds like a notoriously dangerous workplace, it has the advantage of providing the opportunity to gain a multitude of new skills. I have a stock and station agent’s licence in addition to my real estate agent’s licence; I am also expected to know every breed of cattle there is, how many head each property will carry, what each property has been seeded with, how many dams and paddocks it has, and even what it was fertilised with and when.
We also cater to the lifestyle purchaser: motorbike riders, horse riders and nature lovers, so my knowledge has to extend beyond that of operating a working farm. We usually have over 40 rural listings in addition to our residential and commercial listings. Due to the sheer size of some of our larger properties, an inspection can take up to four hours.
The most rewarding part of my job as a rural real estate agent is the satisfaction of seeing our clients’ transition from city life to country living and embracing all that it has to offer. We have a family who sold their 400m2 property in Newcastle to purchase a one-acre property in the Stroud district from R & R Property. They now grow all their own produce through the permaculture method, operate ‘Bernie the Caravan’ Farm Gate Stall, have a child at the local primary school and are so happy with their new lifestyle.
So while our vehicles may be constantly caked in mud and dust, and our mobile phone reception not perfect, what we offer people seeking a ‘tree change’ is a more relaxed lifestyle and a greater sense of community. Our idea of a traffic jam is when there are cattle or a slow-moving tractor on the road, and even at peak hour you can still find a parking space in the main street.