Buckle Up and Embrace the Change: Tony Williamson

TONY WILLIAMSON is widely recognised locally, nationally and internationally for real estate leadership and vision, and is acclaimed by customers and clients of his Cairns’ business RE/MAX Real Estate Services in Tropical North Queensland, his RE/MAX peers globally and his colleagues in the real estate industry at large.

Tony began in real estate industry in his early twenties, rapidly becoming a highly successful agent. He took a break to pursue his love of finance, joining accounting firm Price Waterhouse, before returning to real estate in 1999 when he opened a Century 21 office. He joined RE/MAX in 2004; subsequently sold the two franchises he owned in 2006 to focus on training, consulting and motivational speaking; and then, in 2010, he re-entered the Cairns real estate market with RE/MAX Real Estate Services. His office enjoys the largest market share in Cairns, QLD.

What have been the most exciting, impactful changes in the real estate industry through the past couple of decades?

Geez! Great question for a bloke that started in Real Estate in the 1980’s! I have seen lots and lots of changes and I can quickly say that a great part of my success has been in letting go of the old and quickly adapting to the new. We have had changes in legislation, changes in communication, changes in information delivery and changes in the regulation of commissions, to name some.

The biggest change or game-changer has been the internet. Not just the way people buy and sell real estate, but how information about sales is readily available. Once we had ‘more control’ as we, the real estate agent, had all the information, but now this information is freely available, which is actually far better for all as it leads to greater transparency.

What concerns you about the real estate industry today?

I have no real concerns. However, one thing that really gets to me is real estate agents who are ‘slow walkers’ – real those who have to drag their sorry butts about. What I mean is that we work in a fast-paced dynamic industry. People, sales is a transfer of energy. Show up and light it up!

With all the talk of ‘disruption’, what do you think will most ‘change’ the industry in the coming decade, and will that change be for the better?

Change is happening fast. Today’s trends are redundant tomorrow. There will be disruption, there will be new lead generators, and there will be new shortcuts. Embrace the change and buckle up. There will be opportunity everywhere as some real estate agents fail to adapt.

We work in a people-driven business. Nothing will replace good old-fashioned (Thanks, Leigh Brown*) ‘missionary style’ real estate – that is face-to-face, chest-to-chest, knee-to-knee. Keep communication high with buyers and sellers. I know outstanding travel agents and stockbrokers that have seen many of their competitors close up shop, but are making more money than ever. Why? Because they care and communicate with their customers.

Where do you think real estate agents should be most honing their skills; what do you think future real estate customers will really want from them?

I think real estate agents should continually work on themselves. Future real estate customers really will demand a knowledgeable and willing agent. Don’t forget to have some fun too. People like to deal with people that they like. Some real estate agents walk around as if they have lost their dog. Geez, turn it up!

Do you think ‘robots’ can have any place in the industry and will they change the relationship between agents and customers?

No robots! Apologies to Jarvis and Steve Carroll from REA. Only if and when the seller and the buyer have exactly the same expectation, only then will you not need a real estate agent. In the Cairns market, that never happens! I know this might not be true in other markets, but the reality is that if you have one buyer who is at the seller’s expectations, then you could easily have two; and with competition, you can get the seller a premium. That is our obligation, to get the best price for the seller: robots don’t get that yet.

Where do you think Australia is leading the world when it comes to real estate practices?  

In my role with RE/MAX Cairns, I have been very lucky to travel the world and experience many different real estate practices. Let me tell you, what we do in Australia is at the top of the real estate tree!

Our training in getting the best price for the seller, getting seller-paid-marketing and working for the seller is unique. It allows the Australian real estate agent a degree of integrity unmatched with our overseas colleagues.

Our auction culture is also a game changer. Whilst they are happy to auction antiques and art, auctions are still hardly ever used to sell houses outside of Australia.

If you were in a position to guide the Australian real estate industry through the coming decade, what would be the major elements in your plan?

As a group we need to step up. The taxi industry has shown that the consumers’ tolerance for continual bad service and quality is not acceptable. I would call for more ongoing education and development, more reporting, accountability and governance. The entry level for new agents needs to be increased, with longer full-time education courses that will ensure the industry attracts ‘career real estate agents’ and not ‘blow-ins.’

Wow – let me be the boss for the next 10 years and we will have some fun.

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