KATE SMITH IS THE PRINCIPAL of Raine & Horne Semaphore/Port Adelaide. This year, after doubling her solo settled sales and growing her commissions by more than 117 per cent, she scored Silver in the ultra-competitive Residential Sales category at this year’s REISA Awards for Excellence. A former basketball ace with the Australian junior team, the Gems, Kate says there are a lot of good lessons in the world of professional sport. Story by Samantha McLean.
RAINE & HORNE Semaphore is situated right in the heart of the town and is built on a family tradition going back two generations. In 2009, Principal Kate Smith began managing the office that her mother Helen started in 1983.
I start by asking Kate what age she was when she first started in real estate. “I was 19 at the time I officially started. I remember going to opens, or when Mum had late appointments, Dad and I would sit in the car and wait. He didn’t like her going to her late appointments by herself. And she would always work weekends, so I got used to that early.”
Kate continues, “I remember we’d go to the supermarket (the local supermarket that’s still there on Semaphore Road) and we’d be walking up and down the aisles. It would take so long to do the shopping because she would stop and talk to every person. Now it’s really funny because that’s what happens when I go there.” I ask if Helen is still involved in the business? “Yes, she still holds a current real estate licence. She still does some opens for me and gets excited about it; she’s still involved in the business but not from a ‘Principal’ point of view. She does help out at auctions and things like that when we need her to, though, which is great.”
Semaphore itself is approximately 14km from the main town centre of Adelaide. Semaphore’s white sands, family-friendly shallows and colourful foreshore make for a classic Adelaide beachscape. “The high street is Semaphore Road; that’s the main centre so everyone wants to be within walking distance of that,” says Kate, “About two or three years ago it went through a major upgrade. They’ve redone all the roads and the parks and we’re seeing a lot of cafes and a lot more restaurants. On the weekends it’s pretty busy.”
Have you always lived in Semaphore? “Apart from when I was playing basketball, I’ve been in Semaphore my whole life. All our family are from Semaphore originally as well. Years ago, when mum started up, no one wanted to be in Semaphore or Port Adelaide. It used to be considered a ‘wharfie’ area but now it’s very sought-after.”
“We’re seeing a lot of people coming in now from outside the area. More younger people; a lot of professional footballers live in the area. It’s trendy. I wouldn’t even say ‘up and coming’ any more because it’s probably already arrived!”
Kate continues, “The good thing about Semaphore, as opposed to Glenelg or Grange, or Henly, is that there’s a conservation zoning on the area so they don’t allow people to demolish character homes. The earliest one I’ve ever sold was dated around 1870 or 1880. They’re big stately homes, and some of them are incredibly beautiful.”
So given all the character homes, it’s a strong auction market? “Yes, I think it’s a pretty strong auction market. People probably trended away from it a little while ago, but we tend to operate a quite few auctions in our area because it’s a popular location. Especially with the character homes or the coastal homes – we’ll generally take them to auction. It just depends on the property.”
Our conversation then turns to basketball, and I asked Kate to tell me about her experiences in being a part of our national team. “I studied at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS); I received a scholarship when I was 15. Part of that was that we left home and lived at the AIS in Canberra full time. I was selected for the Junior Australian team, the Gems.”
“We were all very young at the AIS; I was there from the ages of 15 to 18. We’d probably only go home six weeks in every year. Every school holidays we would go home for a week – so it may not have even been six weeks, probably more like three to four weeks. We had to do schooling, and we trained three times a day. Not only were you living with your team, but they were also your competition.”
Does that sort of training set you up for life? Are you still competitive? “Yes, I’m all for setting ambitious goals and exceeding them. I wouldn’t change any of it, and I definitely think it has helped me to get where I am.”
“I think I’m now very disciplined; it comes naturally to me. It doesn’t feel like I ‘have to be disciplined’, because that was my training from a very early age. At the AIS we used to get up at five or earlier because we had to be at weights or training by five – in Canberra, where it snowed.”
What other lessons have you taken with you? “When things don’t go so well in real estate I can normally handle it pretty well. I absolutely get that some things are beyond your control and you learn to deal with that.”
“I found that in sport, even if you did all the hard work, you didn’t necessarily get rewarded for it. You may not be a favourite; you might have a personality issue with a coach or a teammate and it might be beyond your control. But in real estate, if you do the hard work and you do the right thing by people, you do see the rewards. I think that’s what I love about being in the industry.”
What does a typical day look like for you now? “Well, now, even on weekends, I still get up at 5 am! My typical day is to get up at five and I’ll go into my office; I’ll do all my emails to vendors or purchasers and reply to anything outstanding. I set up my day and then I’ll go to the gym at 6 am. After I finish at the gym I’ll go straight to the office and work through until the last appointment. That could be up to 6 or 7 pm; I still do later appointments if people need me to. On weekends I’ll do Saturdays and Sundays. Occasionally I’ll take a Sunday off, but it’ll just depend on the workload. I’m not an agent that says ‘I don’t work Sunday.’ I’ll do seven days.”
You’ve won lots of awards at franchise and industry level. What does it take to achieve that sort of success?
Kate is incredibly humble. “I’m not sure, I just do what I have to do. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but I rarely say no to people. If someone wants to view a property and I have the capacity to do it, I will. I’m also very much about communication. I’m constantly on the phone – all day. I think that might be a big part of it! I’m not big on email, but I am always on the phone with my clients.”
What advice would you give your younger self starting out in real estate? “I guess I probably went through that period in my life where I was a bit distracted, being in the industry so young; and I was young when I started selling! So I guess my advice would be to just commit 100 per cent. In real estate you can’t be half in or half out.”
“I also think that fitness is a really important thing. If you’re going to be a professional you need to have that fitness about you, so I think that may have helped me. Having been in sports and because I didn’t make it all the way in basketball (to the Open Women’s team) I can also handle rejection. I can handle people telling me ‘you haven’t made it’ or ‘you didn’t get the deal’. I believe that has really helped me as well. I still have incredible stamina; I don’t really get tired, and I feel it makes a big difference.”
So what are your goals for the next 12 months? “For the next 12 months we’ve got a big focus on growing our rent roll. We’ve pretty much doubled it in the last year and we want to keep growing. From a sales perspective, we’ve started getting recognition. My goal this year was to be a finalist at the Awards; I never thought I’d be runner-up! To be number four for Raine & Horne for Australia is something that I didn’t expect would happen, but it has. I think maybe I’d like to see how far we can go with that. I’m competitive by nature, so now having been runner-up, we’d hope to maybe win it next year. Other than that, it’s constantly trying to improve myself and the service to other people.”
THE ‘TOP 8’ FROM KATE
- Smile at people, wave and say “Hello!”
- Always follow through on your promises. If you say you will call at 3 pm, do it at 2.45 to establish trust.
- Be open and transparent in all your dealings.
- Nothing worthwhile came from within your comfort zone.
- Get out and about in the community and shop, eat and drink locally.
- Daily vendor phone calls: Not emails
- Without goals it is difficult to keep score. Write them down and keep a clear vision of where you are headed.
- What you feel, you will project: Make time to train everyday.