In an industry known for agents chopping and changing which agency they work for, Alexandra Stamatiou-Buda is somewhat of an anomaly.
The McGrath partner and sales agent has worked her entire, 17-year real estate career with the one agency.
“A brand is like a glove, it has to fit right,” Alexandra says philosophically.
“It has to fit culturally, team-wise and the setup has to be right.
“So for me, McGrath has fit well. It’s definitely been a good journey.
“Wherever you go there’s going to be ups and there’s going to be downs, but like a relationship, it’s always going to be greener where you water the grass.”
Rewinding the clock 17 years, Alexandra is the first to admit her start in the real estate game was anything but conventional.
She says she “fell into real estate by default” after spending her 20s living in Europe.
“I came back (from Europe) and fell into an assistant role,” she recalls.
“I was helping out a friend at her mother’s agency in Stanmore, working Wednesdays, when I was approached and asked ‘would you consider getting into real estate? We could have a position as an assistant’.
“I didn’t really know what that entailed at the time. I didn’t even know what a vendor was.”
Alexandra went for the interview with McGrath on a Thursday, and on Monday she started work as an assistant in Sydney’s Inner West, which is where she lived.
A year later, Alexandra had some training under her belt, and she started as an agent herself, working in an area where McGrath had little to no market share.
“In that Earlwood, Dulwich Hill and Marrickville area I had a blank canvas,” she says.
“The area I started in also had predominantly male agents, so I was coming up against that as well.”
In her first year of selling, Alexandra sold four homes. In her second year, she sold six.
Over the years she’s steadily built her market share and sales figures and last year she had her best year in real estate, with 85 transactions.
Alexandra’s core foundations for building market share and generating sales were relatively simple, but it’s a formula that has served her well over the years.
“Whether I had one property, two properties or many properties, we treated everyone like gold,” she explains.
“We gave them 100 per cent.”
Alexandra also focused on developing strong relationships with buyers from the beginning of her career, recognising that they would become sellers one day.
Even buyers who didn’t buy her properties have returned to use Alexandra as their selling agent in the following years.
“They remembered the experience,” she says.
“People are going to forget what they paid, but they’re going to remember how they felt.”
Now, Alexandra says 70 per cent of her business is either past clients or from referrals.
But she says she never had grandiose plans to conquer the market, preferring to take a slow, but steady and dedicated approach to building her business.
“I didn’t expect anything to happen within two years or five years,” Alexandra says.
“I didn’t approach it thinking ‘I’m going to make $2 million’, I just thought ‘next year is going to be better than last year’.
“If I had sold 15 properties then I’d try to go to 17 or 18 and then 20 and from 20 I’d look to increase to 25.
“It wasn’t like I had this master plan; it just happened gradually.”
Alexandra’s team comprises four full-time and two part-time staff, including herself, and she takes an empowering approach to leadership.
It’s a style that sees her give clear direction, but she steers away from micromanaging, preferring to trust her team to do the job she has employed them to do.
“You need to step back, and you need to believe that your staff members know what they are doing.
“You employed them, no one else.
“If you don’t think they know what they’re doing, they shouldn’t be there.”
Alexandra is passionate when she says her team should definitely be there.
They help keep her organised, on track and work closely with clients to ensure nothing but exceptional customer service is delivered.
This allows Alexandra to do what she does best – listing, negotiating and selling.
“I can’t stress this enough; you’re only as great as the team around you,” she says.
Alexandra also sees her role as one of a mentor.
She says it’s not enough for employees to feel needed and wanted, but employers, in real estate and other professions, should help them learn, develop and grow.
“We have to give them an opportunity and a platform to grow,” Alexandra says.
“We need to give them a good environment and help them learn the right skills to become a better agent when they’re ready and out there in the marketplace.”
Alexandra’s penchant for giving also extends to the support she lends to causes close to her heart.
She sponsors Earlwood Public School, donating each time a property sells where the vendor has a connection to the school, such as a child or another relative attending the school.
The Little Legs Foundation, which raises awareness and funds to find a cure for brain cancer, is another cause Alexandra supports.
“One of my clients, my friend, lost their daughter to childhood brain cancer,” Alexandra says.
The foundation has created a personalised Monopoly game with sponsors purchasing squares on the board, with the funds going to the foundation.
Alexandra uses the Monopoly boards as gifts for her clients.
“I buy them knowing that the money is going back into the foundation,” she says.
“You’ve got to care, genuinely care, about causes in your life.
“They were clients of mine who became friends and it was just heartbreaking for them to lose a child at just six-years-old.”
Despite being her best year in real estate, Alexandra admits 2020 was not without its challenges, not least of which was COVID-19.
Alexandra says she approached the pandemic, and its impact on the real estate industry and market, with thoughtful honesty.
“March and April were months where no one knew what was happening and there was no roadmap for us,” she recalls.
She says clients were also apprehensive about whether it was a good time to sell, and they looked to her for guidance.
Alexandra held several properties back, waiting to develop a clearer picture of what impact COVID-19 was having on the market.
“Then I realised towards the end of April that there was still quite a bit of buyer activity,” she says.
“So we started bringing properties to market and from May onwards it was my biggest year ever in real estate.”
One of the things Alexandra prides herself on is her marketing.
She ensures she and her team dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ when marketing their clients’ properties, with each one getting first-rate service.
When it comes to digital marketing and social media, Alexandra uses a specialist media company, but the team retains authority over everything, approving every post.
Alexandra says while having a lot of followers on social media certainly helps spread the word about your business and your clients’ properties, it doesn’t necessarily equate to being a good agent.
That comes from hard work, honesty and experience.
“Having 10,000 followers, which I don’t, doesn’t make you a more experienced agent,” she says.
Alexandra’s advice to new agents just starting in the industry is to always play a straight bat when it comes to client relationships.
“Don’t be afraid to have the crucial conversations and be honest, because sellers and buyers will appreciate that in the long term,” she says.
“Be honest, be diligent and follow through.
“If you say you’re going to do something, do it, and if you can’t, call your client and let them know you can’t do it at that time.
“If you do the right thing, it will come back to you.
“I’m a firm believer in karma.”