Elite AgentFeature Interviews

Jess Smith: Stuck on service and innovation

At 31 years of age, Jess Smith has already spent more than a decade working in the real estate industry. The experienced sales agent from Gungahlin, in the ACT, is now also a principal, after recently opening her own agency under the Stone Real Estate brand. Jess tells Kylie Dulhunty that as soon as she started working in the industry a decade ago, she knew she had found her calling.

In an industry where real estate agents often label themselves as negotiators or deal-makers, Jess Smith describes herself as her clients’ “glue”.

At just 31, Jess already has a decade of experience selling property in Gungahlin’s real estate market and has just opened her own agency under the Stone Real Estate brand.

The ethos that drives Jess’s approach to real estate is simple but highly effective.

“I’m here to be the client’s glue through this process,” she says.

“I think the second you position yourself from a point where you are somebody’s glue, and you are there to hold them together, and you’re there to guide them through this, it gives them that level of reassurance that they’re in the right hands.”

IN THE BEGINNING

Jess has been the glue for a lot of clients since she first started in real estate as a fresh-faced 21-year-old trainee at LJ Hooker Gungahlin.

The girl from Batemans Bay moved to Canberra straight out of high school, at just 17, to study management and psychology before finding a job in the public service and then retail.

Despite loving the interaction she had with people in the retail sector, she always felt it wasn’t quite the right fit and longed for something more.

With her father being a builder, Jess says she had grown up around property and, as a child, had often “sat on a pile of bricks” watching her Dad build houses.

“I’d always loved doing that, but I didn’t really know anything about real estate when I first started,” she admits.

Still, when she started under Carly Clough’s tutelage at LJ Hooker Gungahlin, she immediately knew she’d found her calling in life.

“I say this to young people all the time, ‘When you know what you want to do, it will feel right’,” Jess explains.

“For me, real estate just felt right.

“Even now, 10 years on, it still feels right and it’s probably never felt more right than it does now.”

PATIENCE IS THE KEY

Jess worked alongside Carly for about three years and credited her with teaching her everything she knows.

One of the biggest early lessons Jess says she had to understand, and which she stresses to new agents to this day, is that real estate is about patience, not immediate success.

“One of the things people expect from real estate is that it’s an overnight thing, and it’s not,” Jess says.

“It’s something that takes years and years to gain experience and knowledge in, and it’s such an intricate industry, and you’re dealing with so many different people.”

Jess says that as a young person in real estate, she quickly understood that her life experience didn’t always match that of her older clients.

While she couldn’t be sympathetic in every situation, Jess could be empathetic, and this strategy is still how she reassures clients they are in good hands.

“Even now, at 31, 10 years in and over 500 transactions later, I’m still running into scenarios I’ve never been in or experienced,” she says.

“Being patient throughout the process is so important.

“I just try and put myself in the clients’ shoes in everything I do.”

STANDING ON HER OWN TWO FEET

After her traineeship, an opportunity arose for Jess to become a standalone agent at McGrath Gungahlin, so she moved across and set about establishing herself as the go-to agent in the area.

Over the past seven years, Jess consistently ranked among the brand’s top agents.

She says her career at McGrath has been amazing, but she knew it was time to take things to the next level and she had a strong desire to create an agency that was innovative and truly invested in the community.

“I’m proud of our community, and I’ve loved every minute of the past 14 years that I have lived in Gungahlin,” Jess says.

“I have watched it grow, I’ve watched our schools grow, and I’ve watched the community grow.

“I’ve watched it almost quadruple in size. It’s grown from four suburbs to 14, and I’m so excited to give Gungahlin a sense of something they should be proud of.

“I want to give them their own agency that lives and breathes in what they do.”

STONE GUNGAHLIN LAUNCHES

Joining Jess at Stone Gungahlin is selling agent Jess Doolan, director of property management Amanda Tehle, client services consultant Sam Dyne and general manager Steve Boden.

Steve and Sam come with a strong client services background from their senior roles with gym franchise Anytime Fitness.

Jess says good customer service transcends industries.

“Steve has an amazing understanding around the interaction between consumers wanting things now and the world we’re living in with technology and how to leverage technology to provide better customer service,” she says.

“Sam has lived and breathed customer service for huge networks with thousands of members and thousands of staff.

“I’m really excited to bring four new fresh sets of eyes into our industry to really shake things up.”

Jess says the Stone brand felt like the perfect fit for her new agency and new chapter.

“I was ready to partner with a brand that was new and innovative, and certainly the Stone network is definitely very innovative with what they’re doing,” she says.

“They’ve partnered with some amazing companies to provide some awesome platforms for us to work with.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE FOCUS

Jess says in a world where customers “want things yesterday”, she’s focused on ensuring the team offers the most in-depth and efficient service.

“We have made sure that from day one, everything is integrated, everything is electronic and that we can service people on multiple platforms,” she says.

“I’m still very conscious that some people are working from home, so I’ve had to ensure that we can provide them with resources to be able to make informed decisions from home.

“We have the resources to be able to send them information instantly and making sure that they’ve got all the information they need to make an informed decision about things without needing to wait a week or two for things.”

INNOVATIVE TOOLS

Jess says some of the platforms include QR codes and automatic check-in at open homes, instant brochures and email and text message communication.

Online property listings will include 2D and 3D floor plans and walk-throughs.

Jess says other exciting online features include Stone’s ‘furnish’ and ‘photo style’ tools, which allow you to place your furniture onto the floor plans and change wall and floor colours and materials in images.

“You can, from the comfort of your own home, have walk-throughs of our properties and put your own furniture in our properties with these amazing tools,” she explains.

“You can make an informed decision around things without even leaving the house.”

The Stone Gungahlin team has hit the ground running, with multiple properties listed to coincide with the opening of its Hibberson St office in the heart of Gungahlin.

Jess says there are no hard and fast targets set for growth, with the team preferring to zero in on how they practice real estate.

“We want to make sure that we do it the right way, and we provide exceptional customer service the whole way through,” she says.

“If we maintain the mentality of asking, ‘how do we do this better for our clients? How do we do this quicker for our clients? How do we make this more efficient and more cost-effective for our clients? How do we get them better results?’

“If we do this, then I think there will be this beautiful, natural transition of growth that will just happen.”

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