New York State of Mind – Nick Harrington

Before settling down in Sydney, Nick Harrington lived in France, Germany and New York, where he faced stiff competition against high-flying agents from Million Dollar Listing. But in the early days, desperate to compete with them, it was some wise advice to ‘start acting like them’ that set him on the road to sales success.

How long have you been in real estate?
I first started in the real estate industry in 2003. I began as the office gopher in Ray White Elizabeth Bay and was grumbling about not being a ‘proper agent’ after about one month. The father of my then girlfriend told me that they’ll ‘respect you as a salesperson when you act like one’. His advice was to go and find some listings; not wait to be made a salesperson, but just to go out and be one. A month later, at one of the team sales meetings when everyone else had finished, I asked if I could say something. The office sales team looked at me oddly and they were quite surprised when I placed three (at that time green) agency agreements on the table. That’s how I first got into sales.

How does it tie in with your background in political science?
I have always been interested in reading, in politics, philosophy, and so on. Political science for me is a personal interest; real estate is how I generate a lifestyle. I find both fascinating and feel I bring a little academic rigour to how I manage listings, and how I generate marketing and negotiating strategy.

How competitive was New York and what did you learn from the experience?
Real estate in New York is incredibly competitive. When I arrived, Million Dollar Listing had been on for a couple of seasons and those guys were brokers actually in the market; guys against whom you’d try to pitch for listings!

The biggest difference between New York real estate and anywhere else is the calibre of the agents.

Many of the most successful agents had previously been attorneys, investment bankers, company directors, and so on. They come to the industry with a rolodex of wealthy clients that they then spend their time servicing. The biggest takeaway from my time in New York is the value of the long-term personal relationship. The game is a social game over there. It’s far less transactional than here in Sydney. In New York you have a broker for life, and the broker treasures and nurtures that loyalty.

You speak fluent German and French – how has being multilingual helped your career?
Back in the 1960s there was a surprising number of French ex-pats who bought properties in Elizabeth Bay. It wasn’t at all unusual that I’d go to have a look at a property and find myself speaking to the homeowner and their family in French.

Most memorable or unusual property you have sold?
The most memorable properties I have sold were the two apartments in ‘Del Rio’ (22-24 Billyard Avenue, Elizabeth Bay). The building is one of the most attractive in Sydney: a beautiful Spanish Mission block with a stunning harbour-front pool and large apartments with portico terraces.

What would you say your career highlight has been, and why?
My career highlight was speaking at an elite conference during the Global Financial Crisis about how
to manage the change in market conditions to ensure you continue to write the commission you need to write and your clients still get the results they expect. I enjoy public speaking and it is nice to know you can offer helpful advice to people who find themselves in the same situation as yourself.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received, and why?

Someone told me I was the most ‘normal’ person they had ever met. It’s not the best compliment, but it’s one I’ve never forgotten.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Spend more time listening and asking questions.

What would you do more quickly?

Best piece of advice you have ever been given?
If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?

What has been the best thing about joining McGrath?
I appreciate the level of managerial support and the freedom to work on your own terms.

What do you still find most challenging about being in real estate, and how do you overcome it?
The most difficult aspect for me is the work-life balance. Real estate is an all-consuming profession. It’s always a challenge to find the right balance.

What are your goals for this year?
I don’t set goals. I just work as hard and as smart as I can, trying to maximise the outcome of every activity.

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