For many, finding a body in a bathtub in your first week in real estate might just be enough to put you off a career in the industry for good.
But for McGrath partner and Sydney Inner West sales agent Cindy Kennedy it taught her there’s always more to the story when it comes to selling a home.
A natural fit
Balmain sales agent and McGrath partner Cindy Kennedy had never set foot inside an open home or been to a property auction before she took the plunge into a real estate career 15 years ago.
Rather, she was inspired to make the shift after finding an affinity with the heroine of a novel.
“I’d been working in radio in New Zealand for 13 years when I moved to Sydney seeking a career change,” she explains.
“There was a lead character in this book I was reading who sold the same way I sell, and I began thinking this might just be the job for me. My mum and dad had also always bought, renovated and sold houses, so I had experienced real estate that way.
“I started as an assistant and then moved into listing and selling, and turns out I was quite good at it.”
When Cindy modestly says “quite good”, her figures indicate excellent. Within her first year she notched up 30 property sales.
Her natural talent soon attracted the attention of John McGrath, who took her under his wing.
The human story behind a home
Cindy learnt early in her real estate career there’s much more to a property sale than just a transaction.
There’s a story and often emotional reasons driving the decision to sell.
Few scenarios could illustrate that more clearly than when, in her first week in real estate, Cindy and a fellow sales agent entered a home to find the owner had taken her own life.
“Clearly she was selling the property as her life was going through a significant change. It impressed on me the fact that there’s often a big reason someone decides to move and when you walk into a home, you walk into someone’s life.
“The reason behind a sale might be financial, it might be the arrival of a new baby, a marriage breakdown or the death of a partner.
“There are lots of reasons someone might sell, but the change can be accompanied by a great sense of anxiety.
“As an agent I can’t take that on board, but I can work with a vendor to understand what they’re looking to achieve and come up with something to present to the market appropriately.”
There’s often a big reason someone decides to move and when you walk into a home, you walk into someone’s life.
A story for every property
Cindy firmly believes when it comes to marketing a property, there’s no one size fits all.
“Every home is different,” she reflects.
“As is every vendor. I believe every campaign should be customised to the person and the property involved.”
That tailored service recently saw Cindy achieve a record $6.499 million sale price for a waterfront home at Birchgrove.
“In this case the owner had no set time frame to sell the home. So, I suggested an off-market approach for a period of time followed by an auction. In the end the auction wasn’t required. It resulted in a private treaty with the home officially on the market for only four days.
“With that campaign we put a lot of effort into the marketing copy including a book we could give to potential buyers containing information about recent sales in the area. That allowed buyers to see why the property was valued where it was, and we had a very positive response.”
Work, life and family balance
Seven years ago, Cindy was tapped on the shoulder to become a partner in McGrath, which she notes was both “amazing and scary”.
“Obviously it was a real compliment and incredible recognition.”
It also came with new challenges, including becoming more deeply involved in decision making, while being a leading sales agent in her own right, and maintaining a work-life balance.
In 2015, her fiancé joined her to look after the back end of business operations and the pair have powered ahead from there.
Now they run a team of three, have just employed an additional sales associate, and have doubled their business since last July.
Along the way they have implemented a range of processes and procedures.
“When I was first employing an assistant, I was so busy I didn’t have time to show them what to do. Ultimately, we went through six because that’s not a realistic way of working with people. Now, every time someone starts in the team, they have full checklists.”
She also believes in the concept of an “ideal week”, which sees the team identify what they would achieve in a perfect week, both personally and professionally.
Cindy’s includes time with her family, regular exercise and work goals, and it was prompted by a near brush with burnout almost three years ago.
“The end of the 2016 financial year was exhausting,” she recalls.
“I was working late every night and was completely sucked dry of energy.
“At the end of it I said ‘Right. Things have to change. There have to be non-negotiables like exercise and spending time with my family. My whole life changed.”
Living and breathing Rozelle
Renowned as an expert in Balmain, Rozelle and Lilyfield, Cindy notes she lives and breathes the local area.
“I live here. I am part of this community. I’m not just selling bricks and mortar but the lifestyle as well. And I really believe in what I’m selling because I live it.”
After establishing herself as the Number 1 agent Rozelle and beyond, Cindy’s focus remains firmly on offering personalised service that exceeds expectations.
“We don’t want to be a high-volume agency. We want every client to receive personalised service. We do that by caring and being authentic because we understand property sales is a lot more than a transaction.”
Cindy Kennedy will speak at AREC alongside Georgi Bates on Monday, June 3.