Elite AgentFeature Interviews

Don’t stop me now – real estate’s elder statesmen

Data from Australia's most recent census shows there are 14,261 real estate agents still working well past the age of 60. Kylie Dulhunty spoke to two of the industry’s elder statesmen about what they love about real estate and why they’re not ready to fully retire just yet.

Ken McCarthy doesn’t know the meaning of the words ‘slow down’.

At the spritely age of 89, the Ray White Helensburgh Director is one of Australia’s oldest real estate agents.

There must be something about the name Ken as down south, in Geelong, Elders Rural Real Estate Sales Manager Ken Drysdale, 69, is also one of the profession’s elder statesmen.

According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data, there are just 295 real estate agents aged between 80 and 89, while those aged 60 to 69 make up 10.35 per cent of all agents.

When you chat with each Ken it’s not hard to see why they’ve been so successful.

They have a way with words.

Not a stereotypical slick veneer that’s all for show, but a genuinely warm and sincere nature that can’t help but win you over quickly.

More than just talking the talk, each believes in backing up their chatter with actions and results.

It’s a no-frills, honest approach, but it has stood the test of time.

“Tell the truth at all times,” is Ken Drysdale’s number one piece of advice.

Ken McCarthy doesn’t subscribe to the adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

He’s been in the real estate game for 47 years and is still gathering Continuing Professional Development points, including scoring 100 per cent on his recent Elite Agent online course.

“It gives me a real boost, the fact that I can still do that,” Ken says.

Ken’s grandsons Mattias Samuelsson and Simon Beaufils own Ray White Helensburgh, in Parkes St now, but Ken is often in the office or just a phone call away with advice only time in the industry can buy.

“I still call in for a quick chat and they still discuss things with me and let me know what’s happening,” he says.

Simon says they wouldn’t have it any other way and the family’s fourth generation has recently started work at the agency.

Simon’s 16-year-old daughter Ashlea works on Saturdays in reception as the Director of First Impressions.

“Ken’s been the glue who kept us together,” Simon says.

“Family business is a different kind of business and Ken’s always been there to support everyone 100 per cent.

“He’s like the godfather, and we counsel his opinion on big decisions and he definitely still loves to attend sales meetings too.”

Formerly an accountant with the ABC, Ken first went into real estate in Pennant Hills before starting what was initially known as Helensburgh Real Estate almost 50 years ago.

“We came down here to Helensburgh for one weekend and we never went back,” he says.

“The beauty of Helensburgh is that it’s like a country town, but you can get to Wollongong in half an hour and you can get to the city in half an hour.

“The magic is the people are like country people. Everyone is easy to deal with and I like that.”

Initially, Ken set up shop about 10 minutes from Helensburgh in Heathcote but soon found there wasn’t enough foot traffic in that area.

A move to Walker St in Helensburgh proved more fruitful and in 2000 the team moved to its newly-built Parkes St location.

Over the years Ken has employed many agents and support staff, including his sons Warren and Patrick McCarthy.

Warren is now the CEO of Century 21 Australasia and Patrick is the Principal at McGrath Cronulla.

“I’m immensely proud of all their achievements,” Ken says.

Ken is also not opposed to hiring seemingly left of centre people as sales agents, having employed a local fruit shop worker and a butcher over the years.

“They are salesmen regardless and had a lot of contacts in the town,” he says.

“People would go into the butcher shop every week, so he knew people and they knew him.

“They felt comfortable with him so when he came to work for us, his clients, when they needed to sell or buy a house, came to us as well.”

Selling real estate came relatively easy to Ken with his simple yet effective methods including obtaining and maintaining his qualifications, dressing smartly and being kind to all who crossed his path.

“Don’t do anything you wouldn’t like other people to do,” he says.

Over the years Ken has also tried to give back to the town that has given so much to him and his wife, Patricia.

He helped start the Lions Club about 40 years ago and served as its founding treasurer.

He also played an integral role in building Helensburgh’s first villas.

“I could see the town needed to have some single-level villas in the shopping centre area, so we built the first lot, four of them, about 40 years ago,” Ken says.

“It’s such a small area and everyone knows each other so whatever you do is really appreciated.

“I’ve never made any enemies and even now if I go into Coles there’s a lot of people saying ‘hi Ken’.

“It’s great. Much better than them chasing me down with a stick.”

In his spare time Ken loves to swim, every day at noon, in his heated pool and also enjoys getting out in the garden or doing a spot of leadlighting.

He’s also partial to a sneaky scotch at night – just one drink.

“I don’t gallop around quite like I used to, but I definitely wouldn’t say I’m retired,” Ken says.

“I’ll probably die with my boots on.”

Head down to the bayside city of Geelong in Victoria and in an unassuming Brougham St office you’ll find Elder’s Rural Real Estate Sales Manager Ken Drysdale.

With his beaming smile and trademark Akubra hat, Ken is a familiar face around town and even more so in the surrounding districts.

In his 25-year real estate career Ken, 69, has sold multi-million dollar properties, historic homesteads and wonderful acreages.

There’s not much Ken doesn’t know about the land or the people that work it and love it.

“I’d never had anything to do with real estate,” he admits.

“I was running two properties on the Murray River at Barham and Koondrook, which are twin towns halfway between Echuca and Swan Hill.

“They were sheep, cattle and cropping properties, but Geelong has always been a second home to me.

“My father and uncle left Little River in the middle of the depression with nothing and built them up with two bob.

“So when I sold the properties we moved to the Bellarine Peninsula to a five-acre lifestyle property between Leopold and Wallington.”

As Ken, his wife Elaine and their boys, Henry and Angus, created their new home, Ken spent about five years looking after various investment and business interests.

It wasn’t until 1995 that Elders branch manager Ashleigh Vincent came knocking on Ken’s door to recruit him to rural real estate.

“Where I come from means I know the land and I know how people think,” Ken says.

“Residential real estate, rural and rural lifestyle are like chalk and cheese; they are totally different products.

“The way you advertise them is different, the buyers are different, everything is just different.

“A good rural real estate agent needs to know the land and what properties are capable of.”

Ken Drysdale auctions 80 Callahans Rd Barwon Downs.

It’s fair to say that what you see is what you get when it comes to Ken.

He’s traditional and a man of his word. If he says he will do something, he does it and if he tells you something, you can bank on it being the truth.

“I have built my business and life on confidentiality, telling the truth at all times and not letting any client do the wrong thing,” Ken says.

“Some properties do take longer to sell than others, but you tell the truth, no matter what.

“I’ve been rewarded with the loyalty and dedication of my clients over many, many years.”

Ken has seen many changes in real estate over the years, and while he still prefers to meet face-to-face or chat over the phone, he has finally got email up and running on his computer.

Still, when it comes to advertising rural properties, he says nothing will beat his relationship with local newspaper the Geelong Advertiser.

“Electronic media plays a significant role in the industry but nothing in the near future will replace quality print media when it comes to advertising rural properties,” Ken says.

He credits the team at the Elders Geelong office, including his Executive Assistant Carmela Muscat, Branch Manager Julian Prendergast and Office Manager Wendy Buller, as integral in the success of the business.

As are State Real Estate Manager Nick Myer, Administration Manager Peter Dinsdale, Southern Zone Manager Malcolm Hunt and Australian Real Estate Manager Tom Russo.

“It’s a team effort,” Ken says.

His advice to agents just starting out in the rural real estate industry is simple: “Put aside two years to learn the industry, at all times tell the truth and deliver quality service.

“It’s all about helping good people market their properties well and about seeing good purchasers buy the right property.

“It’s all about the people.”

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