Creating better connections: Heidi Howe

Heidi Howe didn’t seek out a career in real estate. She fell into it by chance, effortlessly landing on her feet in a role that combines a love of community with a go-getter mindset. As the new director of Harcourts St Helens in Tasmania, Heidi was also recently named the winner of Transform 2021.

Heidi Howe’s path into real estate is far from your average journey into the profession.

Before entering the industry, she’d worked in banking, owned a pub, become a mum, and started a community news publication.

But when a friend fell ill, and the phones at the local real estate office needed answering, Heidi stepped in to assist.

“They never got rid of me,” Heidi laughs. “I simply haven’t left.”

That was four years ago, and Heidi quickly progressed from administration to sales agent before taking over the business in April this year.

In between, she’s forged a reputation in her community for her low-key, yet informed approach.

A true transformer

In February, Heidi was among 350 participants who took part in Elite Agent’s Transform Challenge for 2021.

Her can-do attitude quickly impressed the judges and saw her positioned in the top 12 contenders.

She was subsequently crowned the winner after making an inspired pitch as to what she would do with the $5000 prize.

At a time when Tasmania is being inundated with interstate buyers, Heidi’s winning pitch involved creating destination video guides.

“We live in a regional area and there’s a lot of people moving from outside the state to the east coast of Tasmania,” Heidi explains.

“A lot of them are buying sight unseen, so they don’t necessarily know the area and what it offers.”

Each guide will feature Harcourts staff going around the town showing what’s there, what they love about the region, and what services are available.

Concepts that resonated

This year was the second time Heidi took part in Transform, and she credits the program with a dramatic increase in her performance and results.

After Transform 2020, Heidi became the number one agent in her region.

“Probably what I didn’t expect was how it would completely change my focus on why I do things,” she notes. 

“So, I’ve gone from, ‘I’ve got to grow my business, I’ve got to get more listings’ … to being all about, let’s create better relationships with people.”

Insights that struck a chord with Heidi this year included advice from coach Claudio Encina on going above and beyond when it comes to service, authentically connecting with people, and being true to herself.

“I can’t do me any better than me, and no one else can do it either, but just make sure that we’re providing value to our clients rather than just a service and ticking boxes was a really big one,” Heidi states.

One of Claudio’s suggestions was to answer every inquiry with a video.

Heidi now regularly reconnects with clients via video after appraisals and says the response has been fantastic.

“They absolutely love the personal connection of a video,” she notes.

“It’s also a bit of a novelty at the moment because they’re not getting them from anybody else.

“So, it’s one way of standing out from the crowd by sending that video message, and they can see me, they can see that I’ve got a genuine smile on my face, and I really mean what I’m saying.”

Taking over Harcourts St Helens

On April 1 this year, Heidi became the director of Harcourts St Helens.

She notes the biggest transition that came with business ownership was time management.

Between a sales portfolio, running the business, and spending time with her family, Heidi concedes navigating the work/life balance is occasionally a challenge.

“I’ve been working to bring other people into my personal sales team so that I can have that evolution time, the family time and everything like that,” she says.

“I still want to service my clients, but I just physically can’t do everything myself, and I want to manage a good business that’s positive and productive.”

The changeover in business ownership also saw Heidi draw on lessons from Transform and particularly a session by Stone Real Estate’s Neil Webster in the 2020 challenge.

Neil regularly leaves a gift in people’s letterboxes to thank them after an appraisal, and it’s a strategy Heidi has now implemented at Harcourts St Helens.

“We’ve recently had to ask the clients to sign a heap of paperwork with a business changeover. And we just sent a really small packet of seeds out, which we’ve personalised to say thank you from Harcourts,” she explains.

“Just the little touches. It doesn’t have to be huge. It just has to be something.”

A hot Tasmanian market

With the Tasmanian property market firing on all cylinders, Heidi notes 2021 has so far been busy and shows no signs of slowing down.

“I’ve still got a lot of interstate buyers and they are buying sight unseen,” she says.

“Because the restrictions with travel are a little bit easier, now we’re finding they’re putting the property under offer subject to a personal inspection within five to seven days. But they’re buying flat out.”

Heidi also states there are currently far more buyers than sellers in the market.

To address the shortage of stock, she has allocated a team member specifically to buyers, so Harcourts can keep in contact with them and ensure their database is up to date.

On the vendor side, the team is actively letterbox dropping in areas where they know people want to buy to let property owners know there are buyers ready to go.

The team is also active in the community.

“One big thing for me is I actually go and do my own shopping instead of doing click and collect or delivery because the number of referrals I’ve picked up just from being in the supermarket is insane,” Heidi says.

Ongoing community connection

Being active in her community is something Heidi prides herself on. It’s also part of her success when it comes to being known.

Long before entering real estate, Heidi started a community news publication, and notes it now helps provide a soft introduction to potential clients.

Called The Coastal Column, the publication has a print distribution of about 750 and focuses on sporting clubs and local events.

It fills a gap in the market that the major regional papers don’t service.

“The content is community news and things like that,” Heidi says.

“I try very hard not to be controversial. I’m not interested in starting fights between left and right-wingers or anything like that. If it leaves a positive memory when you put it down, that’s the aim of the game. “

The Coastal Column was Heidi’s base income for almost a decade, and it’s something she happily retains an interest in but explains she has brought in assistance to manage content in recent months.

“I love it. It’s an awesome tool for networking and I’m really lucky to have that,” she reflects.

“That’s something most real estate agents don’t have, so I will not let go of that advantage. It’s just a real connection with the community.”

The road ahead

With the recent Transform win under her belt and real estate in Tasmania booming, Heidi says the immediate plans for Harcourts St Helens involve expanding the team’s knowledge and confidence.

“As I say, I have learned so much from Transform that I just want to dump it all on them,” she says, noting her passion revolves around extending the client experience.

Working with her team, Heidi looks at one new thing each week that can be implemented to offer more to clients.

“We’re doing it slowly and let the team decide what that progress will be,” she says.

“If people connect with us as people and we’re connecting with them, business flows.”

Transform will be back later this year with a brand new program to ‘Transform’ your digital presence and spaces will be limited. Pre-register your interest here.

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Cassandra Charlesworth

Cassandra Charlesworth is a features writer for Elite Agent Magazine with over 15 years’ journalism experience in metropolitan and regional newsrooms. She has a specialist interest in real estate, tech disruption and a good old-fashioned “yarn”.