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Every Agent Has A Story: Iolanthe Gabrie

Our next story comes from Iolanthe Gabrie, who before she became a Director of Ruby Slipper, started her career in real estate. Here she shares the two key lessons she learned during a couple of difficult situations with vendors and tenants.

  • Prioritise your own safety if you find yourself in a dangerous situation, or feel threatened by a client.
  • Mistakes, tricky situations and difficult conversations are part of the ‘bootcamp’ that is real estate. Implement what you have learned into your own practice.


Hi. My name is Iolanthe Gabrie, and I’m Director of Ruby Slipper. We’re a digital strategy agency in Melbourne, Australia.

I was never really meant to work in the real estate industry. I’m the daughter of a family of people who are musicians, they’re artists, and they’re creatives.

When I decided, out of the blue, to become an estate agent, I told my family, and the looks on their faces, they were aghast. It was like telling them that I was going off to join the circus, but really, if I had said I was going to join the circus, it would have been more acceptable for my friendship group and my family.

But I really followed my gut into the industry, and I’m so glad that I did, because I think that an experience in real estate is actually a really great bootcamp for life.

I began my career in a boutique agency in East Melbourne, and I had a beautiful mentor, a great principal, who really allowed me to express myself in my prospecting. He didn’t try and make me conform to some kind of carbon-copy agent model.

We had one particular vendor [whose] sale had gone south, [there] had been an auction. Subsequent to the auction, nothing had really gone very well, and we ended up having a boardroom meeting between a husband and a wife where my principal had taken over for me, because I was, at this stage, probably not so capable of dealing with the conversation.

The husband and wife started fighting so badly, and they became so aggressive, that we actually had to end up calling the police.

That was really frightening, and I’m glad that my principal was there to work with me through that, but what it did teach me was that the next time I saw those characteristics that those clients had, now I stay away from them, and that’s relevant to my time in real estate, and it’s certainly relevant to my time as an independent businesswoman.

It also taught me to prioritise safety and to do things that I’m comfortable with. During my time as a sales agent and auctioneer, I had an experience where I was at a listing by myself, and an irate tenant threatened me with a box cutter. That was really frightening.

That experience is, even though it’s an extreme one, I don’t think that that is unusual to people working alone in the real estate industry, so it taught me about trusting my gut. Everybody, when they work in real estate, has frightening experiences, and those are the ones that we should take from and learn, and amend the things that we’re comfortable doing in our own practice at another stage.

When looking back on my career in real estate, I sometimes wonder, “Is there anything that I could have done differently?” And I guess yeah, there are heaps of crappy listings that I probably shouldn’t have taken, but looking at my time in real estate overall, I actually think that it was pretty perfect.

I was elevated into a very adult world at a very young age. I began at 22, and by having to talk about money, have difficult conversations, and get myself out of tricky situations, I think it is actually the ultimate bootcamp for life.

So even though there were some blips and bumps in the road, overall what I did was just perfect, and I’ll bet that what you’re doing is probably just perfect as well.

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