How Ben Codling found the best of both worlds

In Victoria, sales agent and principal Ben Codling believes he’s genuinely struck it lucky.

He has the independence of owning his West Gippsland agency, Baw Baw Real Estate, which specialises in the Baw Baw Shire district about two hours drive east of Melbourne.

He is backed by the expertise and technology of the fast-growing online real estate brokerage eXp Realty.

And his office is in a converted shed on the family rural block outside of Warrugal where an average workday is made all the more special by the sight of grazing sheep and roaming chickens.

“We’ve got the chickens and sheep and I’ve got everything I need from an office just a few metres from home,” Mr Codling says.

“It is a beautiful area to live, and I can take a call at night in the office so there is that separation.”

Ben grew up in Melbourne’s east and worked as a sales executive, but there was something leading him to another kind of life.

”My wife had extended family here and we would come down for Christmas every year,” Mr Codling says.

“When I was on holidays I was always that bloke looking in the real estate window and saying, ‘This looks nice, we could live here.’

“My wife would say, ‘But you say that everywhere we go!’ ”

The couple made the move to the West Gippsland region in 2010 and the tree change also gave Ben the chance to make his best career move.

“I had the background in sales and I always had that interest in real estate that I hadn’t had the chance to act on. I had a disappointing experience selling a house and decided, ‘I can definitely do better than that’.”

He started work in traditional agencies from 2015 but it was the move into his own business, powered by eXp, which unlocked the potential of Ben’s business experience and his strong community connections in the district.

“I love the place,” Mr Codling says.

“I’m a long-time resident now and I know the area back to front.

“I am here to help people whether they are buying or selling. I am always available, and if I can’t answer a question at that second I make sure I always come back to them.

“You can see by the reviews I get online that people always talk about the level of service I give and how approachable I am.

“I put myself in the shoes of the clients and make them as comfortable as possible, and I am someone who tries to anticipate any potential problems and avoid them.”

That builds the kind of trust which makes clients for life rather than one transaction and Mr Codling takes pride in having many repeat customers.

“I am someone who loves to have a chat and a cup of coffee with people. It is all about building that relationship.

“Every home is different and every person is different and it is important to understand that. So much in real estate is about communication.

“I ask people, ‘Have you been in the market before and what was the biggest issue you had?’

“Often you hear the issue is that agents didn’t keep up with the communication that people needed.”

 eXp was founded in the United States in 2009 with a cloud-based model saving on office overhead costs.

It offers an attractive commission split with agents receiving 75 per cent return on the first $100,000 of annual commissions and 100 per cent after reaching that level.

The platform launched in Australia in 2019 and now has more than 80,000 agents around the world. Some choose to work under the eXp Realty name and others, like Mr Codling, develop their own brand with the support of eXp.

“You don’t need to pay the rent, you don’t need to pay a receptionist, so you have that easy entry point,” Mr Codling says.

“It can be daunting building a business from zero but you always have that support there with the technology, trust account and marketing.

“The argument that would come from a traditional agent is ‘We are a team, we have more people on it’. The advantage for me is I am trading under my own brand with a virtual office and a team behind me who are only a phone call away.”  

Mr Codling is confident the partnership sets him up to deal with the cycles of the real estate market.

“The traditional country market is where a property would take 60 to 90 days to sell. When Covid hit there was more of a city feel where people felt they had to buy now or lose the chance.

“The people selling were moving to Queensland and the people moving in were from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula.

“There was that change in mindset about working from home and people found they could make the change and have money they could put into super or use to travel.

“It is coming back to a more traditional market now. You can’t always list a property and expect it to sell quickly. You have to keep looking at ways to improve, listen to the vendors and take on their feedback. If you are proactive they will stay with you.”    

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Noel Mengel

Noel Mengel is a freelance journalist and author based in Brisbane.

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