Elite AgentFeature Interviews

Home is where the heart is

In just three short years Holly Komorowski has quickly and definitively given the Canberra real estate market a good shake-up. Here, the winner of the 2019 Gold AREA for Agent of the Year tells Kylie Dulhunty the secret to her success – and just how much it means to her.

Holly Komorowski wouldn’t be where she is today without a couple of chooks, a lot of heart and a Nike “Just Do It” attitude.

Synonymous with innovation in Canberra’s competitive real estate market, Holly has won the 2019 Gold Area as Agent of the Year at the Annual REA Excellence Awards.

Taking out the top gong at the industry’s night of nights is just reward after almost a decade in real estate and living proof her creative, heartfelt approach to her clients, her staff and her brand works.

“My passion and commitment drive me to innovate, to take on new challenges, and to go above and beyond,” Holly says.

“It is more like an attitude, day-to-day actions, and what has become the status quo for me.

“I try to do all the little things incredibly well.

“One little thing doesn’t make much difference in a campaign, but when all of them are combined and executed, the result is compounded.

“Premium prices, memorable and exceptional service equals happy customers and clients for life.”

It’s the third year in a row Holly has scooped a big award at the AREAs, having won Residential Property Campaign of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

One of the keys to taking out this year’s Agent of the Year has been the growth that her boutique agency, aptly named home. byholly, has experienced since its inception in September 2016.

Back then it was just Holly, her assistant and a photographer who formed a dynamic trio in a small-ish office with a blinking pink neon branding sign. Since then the team has quadrupled to 12, including seven selling agents, three executive team members and two property management staff.

“After the first year I knew something had to change because we got really busy and the volume of business was more than I could do on my own,” Holly recalls.

“It was logical to take on a second agent, and that’s when Sally joined me.

“Then very quickly Cris and Ash came along, and this year Jenny, Michael and Mark joined the team.”

Holly admits it was a big step to start her own business and then to expand it so early and quickly.

But rather than her seeking new agents, agents were knocking on the door at home. byholly asking to work for her.

“They chose me, not the other way around,” Holly laughs.

“The growth in that second year was a bit scary.

“I’ve taken a lot of brave steps, but those opportunities just felt really right.

“I think you’d call them calculated Nike, ‘Just Do It’, moments.”

As her team formed naturally and instinctively around her, Holly says all the qualities she looked for in agents were immediately evident – drive, enthusiasm, commitment and vision.

“The things that shone through were their positive, can-do attitude, enthusiasm and a really caring and authentic approach,” she says.

It’s that commitment to caring, to authenticity and to storytelling that makes Holly, her business and her property marketing campaigns stand out in the crowd.

A home Holly first sold in 2015 and again this year perfectly represents her ethos that property is about people and that the little things can make a big difference.

The residence in question is 17 Higgins Crescent, Ainslie, a 1927 heritage beauty, which had been rented out before selling four years ago.

“This home was a pivotal one in my taking on the narrative of storytelling,” Holly says.

“We had the property styled and through a friend of mine, Rachael Coglan, we collaborated with designers and stylists, but then I realised there was still something missing.

“There was a chook yard in the backyard, but there were no chooks in it.”

So Holly jumped in the car and drove out to the country to a friend’s rural property to ‘borrow’ a couple of chooks to complete the picture.

“The chooks completed the whole package and the picture of the home we were trying to create.”

The campaign worked, with the property attracting 10 registered bidders and selling for $200,000 above the reserve.

Holly then gifted the new owners the prized chooks!

This year Holly was asked to sell the home again and gave it the full home.byholly treatment with the vendors and their children joining the chooks in photos.

The campaign also included video, editorial in Riot Act on the value of good neighbours, community and the lifestyle on offer at the property.

Holly even had the vendors write a letter about their experience of living in the home. Coincidentally, the home sold, for $300,000 more than it did four years earlier.

“What I started doing four to five years ago with this property is now the longevity of why we are successful,” Holly says.

“It’s because of the relationships we build and the special things we do.

“The little actions, the consistent above and beyond, trying to bring value to the sale and trying to bring value to the experience of the client really translates now into the success of my business.”

Holly has become an industry leader in the methods she uses to market properties.

Gone is the tired real estate jargon and in its place are vibrant stories about the homes, the people who live there, the surrounding suburb and its best features.

Photography, editorial and video are all used with stunning effect, and Holly uses digital as well as traditional media to share the stories.

“Engaging creativity is innovative in an industry that quite often applies a template approach,” Holly says.

“My willingness to collaborate with influencers, cross-promote with businesses, use social platforms and explore different ways to represent property is innovative.”

Favourite campaigns from the past year include creating a video with the 82-year-old vendor of 2 Dirrawan Gardens, Reid, about her favourite places in the suburb.

Another standout included a home most other agents would rush to restyle, the three-bedroom share house at 23 Belah St, O’Connor.

“Sometimes people say to us, ‘my house isn’t beautiful enough’,” Holly says.

“The owner was saying ‘it’s rented so perhaps we should do it without the tenants and present it with styling’.

“But it was the coolest group house with a blowup pool out the back, lots of books and posters from concerts and a really eclectic feel.

“We immediately thought ‘this is gold, we can have a great time with this’.

“So we marketed it as a group house, we had young people in the photoshoot and got lots of great images.

“It sold to an investor and is now rented out as a group house.”

Creating a positive, empowering culture at home.byholly is another aspect of the business Holly is most proud of.

She prides herself on supporting her agents with a mentoring mindset and fosters their development and personal brand.

Listings in agents’ farm areas are shared – Holly places them as the lead agent and applies a collective and collaborative approach to every property listed and sold.

The new home.byholly website not only enhances customer experience but is agentcentric as opposed to the for sale/for lease models traditionally used in the industry.

“When we designed the website I wanted it to be about the agents,” Holly says.

“I want them to be the brand because I know real estate is a people business.

“I want them to shine and I feel like I have a responsibility to ensure their success.”

Weekly CrossFit sessions help build team culture, as do cafe meetings each Monday to start the week and on Saturdays before open homes.

“Our culture and passion for real estate and marketing ensure we have fun along the way.”

Family is also a vital consideration at home. byholly and you wouldn’t expect anything less as Holly juggles work with motherhood and six teenagers at home.

Twice a year she takes each team member and their partner out to dinner, and she is committed to empowering women in the industry with flexible work hours, wellness and mindfulness.

“I really appreciate the partners because real estate is a really busy and demanding business and we couldn’t do it without them,” Holly says.

Personally, Holly says her partner has always supported her and backed her from the beginning.

Her mother also lends a hand and family trips and adventures are always written on the calendar.

“It’s definitely not easy,” Holly says.

“But like with everything, keeping positive helps.”

So what does 2020 hold for Holly and the home.byholly team? “I think our next brave move is to slow down,” Holly says.

“I think the right thing now is to consolidate and to nurture the agents we have.

“It’s all about setting up the framework for success.

“It’s amazing how successful and how happy everyone is, and we want to be careful with that and not take it for granted.”

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