Shakespeare once wrote, “All the world’s a stage,” and for Josh Horner, that’s certainly proven true.
The former dance and musical theatre sensation has danced on Broadway, London’s West End and even had his own reality TV show.
And while Josh may have switched treading the boards in favour of real estate, The Horner Agency director says there are surprisingly numerous connections between the two professions.
“This ain’t my first rodeo,” he says.
“I know the blueprint. I know how to put a show on.
“The house is my new show and I’ve got to get as many people to come to the show.
“Then you’ve got to cast the leading characters, which will be the buyers.
“I’m the choreographer and casting director, and I’m going to find you a leading character. Then you cast the show, and the vendors walk away with a lot of money.”
A twist of fate
Of course, Josh wouldn’t understand the significance of such dance analogies had he not spent years performing with the Australian Ballet and in headline musical theatre shows such as Dirty Dancing, Movin’ Out, Guys and Dolls and Billy Elliot.
Growing up in Wyong on the NSW Central Coast, Josh says he became involved in dance when he was six years old to help with a medical condition.
“I was a little boy that had severe asthma,” he recalls.
“Because of my asthma, I tried swimming and gymnastics, but I’d get infections from the chlorine in the pool and gymnastics didn’t really gel.
“As a last resort they (doctors) said I needed to do some kind of dance because dancers and swimmers use similar lung functions.
“So it was a medical condition that basically narrated a full life of performing arts and dancing.”
It didn’t take long for Josh to find his feet in the world of dance, competing in eisteddfods and performing in concerts before securing a spot at the Australian Ballet School, where he completed Years 11 and 12, secured a Diploma in Dance and then moved into the Australian Ballet Company.
The string of headline musical theatre shows followed.
“I was ticking off all the boxes of dancing on London’s West End, Broadway and then I moved to LA where I worked for Disneyland for eight years as a creative executive,” Josh says.
“While I was doing work at Disneyland, choreographing their parade, I got the role as a judge on Dancing with the Stars in Australia.
“I was commuting from LA to Melbourne to shoot the show. I was doing four days in LA and then three in Australia. It was very tiring.”
After Dancing with Stars, Josh returned to the US full-time, and after a lot of hard work pitching to production companies and television networks, he secured a five-episode docu-series called Oh My Josh.
The series focused on Josh teaching five people to dance so they could perform at a special event in their life.
“One guy danced for his wife at a baby shower to surprise her to say, ‘You’re amazing’,” Josh explains.
Looking back, Josh says he now “cringes” watching the show, but he’s pleased with the experience he generated going through the process.
“To get it over the line, to get an executive producer credit in Hollywood is huge,” he notes.
But Josh says he was feeling the pangs of homesickness and longed to return to Australia, which he did when he was in the running to be on Dance Boss with Dannii Minogue.
When producers opted for another judge instead, Josh says he knew the universe was telling him it was time to get out of show business.
The only problem was he had no idea what he would do next.
“I was 38; I’d come home, I was rich in experience, fabulous memories and experiences of travelling and performing,” Josh recalls.
“But financially I was like, ‘Holy cow, all my friends have got houses and kids and full-time jobs and I’m broke. I really don’t have anything. What do I do’?”
Enter Josh’s close friend and real estate agent Tanja Neven-Jones, who insisted he’d be perfect for the profession.
Still unsure about his future, Josh did his certificate of registration just in case and suddenly discovered real estate was a whole new world.
“I had no idea,” he chuckles.
“I was doing it online thinking, ‘What’s a vendor?’ and ‘What’s an exchange?’
“But now I’m a machine at it all.”
It wasn’t long before Josh had his first job as a sales agent with a local Central Coast agency and he says he took to his new profession “like a duck to water”.
“I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having with it,” he recalls.
And the operative word there is “fun”.
Injecting soul into property
From the outset, Josh was determined to do real estate his way and inject a little life, soul, and a lot of joy into the process for his vendors and buyers.
“When we’d sell a house I’d do a little ‘sold’ dance,” Josh says.
After about four-and-a-half years, Josh decided the time was right to strike out on his own and he said UrbanX offered him the chance to run his own race with all of the backend support in place.
Now that The Horner Agency is up and running, Josh says his vision has never been clearer.
“I just want to have the best time and, still within the realms of legislation, push the barriers of people’s emotions to feel loved, heard and cared for,” he says.
“It’s not in my fibre to churn (the transactions) out like that. I don’t want to be super busy, I’d rather provide great service.
“I know money is a great thing, and with real estate you can write as much as you want, but I have also observed many rich people who are unhappy.
“So I chase joy before I chase dollar signs.
“I don’t need to be rich to be successful. I just need to be content and happy and authentic.”
Building a brand
For Josh, “chasing joy” also includes creating a fun brand that encapsulates his effervescent personality and commitment to making his clients feel secure through the sales process.
With this in mind, he decided his perfect logo would be a dancing garden gnome, which he modelled on a cookie jar version that sits next to his kettle at home.
While it sounds strange, there’s a lot of thought behind the iconic character.
“When do you look at a real estate logo and feel emotionally connected? Never!” Josh says.
“I worked at Disneyland for eight years; I know the method of making people feel good because I’ve been doing it my whole life.
“So I needed a logo that was relatable and stood completely out in the crowd.
“It’s also great for marketing, settlement gifts and merchandise. I want to do a little plush gnome toy for the kids.”
Josh says according to folklore, garden gnomes are also said to protect the home and garden they stand in and keep evil spirits away.
“I’m totally on board with that.”
When it comes to branding, Josh says as well as the gnome logo, many of his images and videos feature him in dancing poses or doing dance moves.
Despite no longer dancing on stage, he says dance has always been his “brand identity” and he had to take it with him when he moved into real estate.
It’s an image that helps him feel relatable to would-be clients, as well as helping him stand out amongst other agents who, Josh feels, can fall into the trap of appearing cookie-cutter.
“I think to myself, ‘right, what information do I need to give to the vendors or buyers, and how can I wrap it up with a sparkly, shiny disco ball with a bit of passion, love and energy’?” Josh asks.
“When I meet people they tell me, ‘You’re really warm, you’re inviting and you really listen to us’.
“So with my marketing I’m not afraid to be bold, beautiful and magical.”
His first sale
Like most agents, Josh clearly remembers his first sale as a bit of a baptism of fire, with his then principal tasking him with getting a vendor who was selling her home herself to list it with him.
Josh admits he had little idea what he was doing, but his straightforward approach worked.
“She said, ‘I’m going to give you a go because you came in, you had a cup of tea with me, we chatted about other things and I just like you’,” Josh explains.
As it turned out, that vendor, Barbara, had another property she wanted to sell and Josh secured that listing as well.
“We’re still friends now,” he says.
While dance may seem miles away from a career in property, Josh says numerous skills cross over easily.
Three, in particular, have stood out – confidence, the ability to read body language and a strong work ethic.
“Because I was a dancer, I’m very instinctual with body language,” Josh explains.
“I can say to vendors, ‘I can see your body language and that you’ve closed off from me. What’s scaring you right now’?
“Then I can get them to open up and help ease their minds.
“Ballet training also gives you the discipline to know, ‘I have a job to do. I have got to get it done, and I have to go through all the steps and not miss one’.”
Defending his fee
One of the toughest questions Josh says he faces is the age-old query on his fee, and while he says it’s all well and good to reply with the standard “I’m not your cheapest, but I’m also not your most expensive”, he takes it a step further.
“I ask them, ‘Who do you feel most connected with and who do you trust is going to communicate with you through the whole process’?”
“I tell them it’s my job to take all your stress away and that I’ll make it as fun and entertaining as I can.
“I say, ‘I’ll protect you at every hurdle we hit and I’ll prepare you for all of them’.
“I just try to humanise it.”
Going forward, Josh says his goals this year are to establish his agency and his brand, and he plans to increase his social media presence with engaging, fun content based on reality and life.
He says he’s not focused on hitting a certain GCI or set sales figures as long as he can pay his bills and live comfortably.
“I’m more driven by emotion,” he notes.
“I just want to solidify a brand out there that people will love and trust and find fun.
“If I can make someone smile through real estate, that’s a winning goal.”