Lana Maher is a young woman who has risen to the very top of her field as a real estate agent and now as a new mother she’s determined to continue her career whilst giving her young son the best possible upbringing. And based on her history of being successful at everything she attempts, no doubt she’ll turn into a fine juggler. A licensed estate agent with an advanced diploma of Marketing and Management, Lana works at the Emerald office of the Barry Plant Group.
How did you first become interested in career in real estate?
Sales is in my blood. My father had his own Nissan dealership and when my older sister joined his business and quickly became the number one sales person (a top female sales person being almost unheard of in the car industry then) I knew that I had similar talents but that my passion was houses – not cars. I began in real estate 13 years ago, working part time in an agency when I turned 16. When I finished my schooling I was offered a PA position at the Barry Plant Emerald office. It was an offer I had to think about, because I wanted to dive head first into sales – but upon reflection I realised I would be foolish to turn down such a great opportunity to learn from the best.
You’ve worked in the Dandenong Ranges for 13 years now, tell us a bit about the challenges in working in such a unique area.
Emerald is on the outskirts of Melbourne in the south eastern greenbelt. It’s a small area where I have to be able to market a really diverse range of properties from miner’s cottages to million dollar mansions to rural properties – many with incredible views. And that’s what I love about the area – the properties are all “one of a kind” and distinctive in their own way.
One disadvantage is the distance between properties, no mobile reception at times and a lack of mail boxes – which means letter box drops are not possible and you have to be super fit to door knock. A four wheel drive is a must and you carry gum boots at all times. I’ve even found myself delivering puppies when visiting a vendor’s property and the vendor was not home. And then there was the time when I rescued the German Shepherd that was trapped, and the then there was the run in with the goat…
You’re a highly awarded agent – tell us a little about your successes
I’m a very competitive person and I love people interaction and that’s helped me be a very successful agent. Winning awards in the Barry Plant network is just wonderful because I’m competing against people from 80 offices with some of them working in territories of up to 40,000 homes compared to my 5,000 homes. I was a Top Seller in 2004, 2005, 2009 and 2010, Diamond Club member (top commission earners) in every year from 2005–2010, was a Top Performer in 2007 and 2009 and a Top Achiever in 2007, 2009 and 2010.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the business?
Being so young when I started was a huge challenge, although I soon realised that the person who focussed on that the most was actually me! As soon as I started believing in myself and forgot about the age difference between me and my competitors, my business boomed. I think potential clients then saw nothing but confidence and enthusiasm.
What was the most memorable or unusual property you have sold?
I will never forget my first “List and Sell”. It was just a tiny cottage in Cockatoo but I was so proud. My husband (boyfriend at the time) took me out for dinner to celebrate the sale. He even got the musician to announce to the room that I had sold my first house!
Another favourite is a gorgeous character home built in the early 1900’s which I initially sold to some famous actors and then sold again to some English artists. Each time I marketed the property it received huge exposure through magazines and editorials and attracted interest far and wide – including in England where the current purchasers saw it.
What are the key features in maintaining a healthy agent/vendor relationship?
Honesty is the most important factor. People cope when you just “tell it how it is.” I also believe that it’s the little things you do that may not be expected that people remember. Extra help, advice or effort – such as dropping around some groceries, helping to clean up for the photo shoot, arranging for some help in the garden or simply getting to an OFI early so you can tie up the family dogs so they aren’t chained up from the time the owners leave home in the morning.
I’ve always focussed on my communication with clients to establish a trusting relationship which meant that the vendor and I are working together to achieve a satisfactory end result. I always have “vendor marketing meetings” where, after the property is listed I meet the clients at the office to discuss the marketing campaign, choose the photos and get the copy approved. This is also an opportunity to discuss any other questions they may have. I’ve found this meeting eliminates a big cause of complaints – “the marketing was terrible” or “they didn’t listen”.
Work life balance has become even more critical with a new baby in the picture. How do you achieve it?
Working smarter has become even more critical now. I’m only working part time but I hope to still service all my loyal clients, plus pick up additional listings. I’m lucky that the team at the Emerald office are so supportive of me and they love it when I bring Kody into the office – he’s passed around and entertained while I do my work!
I always have a holiday planned and paid for – a reward to look forward to. And of course, I have the most supportive husband in the world. It’s early days in this motherhood/agent dual role, but I’m confident I can still be a successful agent and give Kody a wonderful upbringing.
What advice would you give someone starting out in real estate?
Remain positive and be prepared to commit yourself to very long hours for the first two to three years. Each year gets easier as repeat business and referrals multiply your business and you can work smarter – not harder. I’ve been so lucky in always working in an office with a great team spirit and I’ve had access to all the great training, systems and support that our Head Office provides.