When Nicola Parreira was given the opportunity to have her own office, she put almost every red cent her family had into the venture.
She even sold her home and moved her young family into rented accommodation.
Nicola had been in real estate for just five years when opportunity came knocking.
She was a great agent, making good money at a Barry Plant agency in Melbourne’s outer south east.
She was on her way home to meet a financial planner to work out the next step for her family when the phone rang.
It was an offer to take over the Barry Plant agency at Narre Warren.
What the person on the other end of the phone didn’t realise was that her parents had moved to Narre Warren when she was just 16.
She and her siblings went to school there, her sister settled there and she had deep connections in the area.
It was serendipitous.
Arriving home she brushed past the financial planner, apologising and saying, “I need to talk to my husband!”
The business on offer had a good rent roll and lots of sales potential.
Fountain Gate, a huge Westfield shopping precinct was in the centre of the territory. Plus, she had that emotional connection.
The agency was a $400,000 sales GCI business, but Nicola was confident she could double that.
Once she decided and committed financially, failure wasn’t an option. She had to succeed.
Choppy waters ahead
A homeowner and mother from age 21, Nicola had never rented, but she didn’t want a business partner and so, with her husband’s support, she sold the family home to finance the acquisition.
But it was far from smooth sailing.
The day she put the key in the door of her new business was the day the Royal Banking Commission announced its findings and the banks basically shut up shop.
The real estate market went into a deep downward spiral.
Nicola recalls standing at open homes with no one attending, meeting just two or three buyers in a month.
“I remember calling the Barry Plant head office crying, because at that stage I thought I had made the wrong decision for my family,” Nicola recalls.
“I had risked everything and was going to fail.”
With her corporate team right behind her, Nicola pulled herself together and reminded herself that she could build great, trusted relationships with vendors and provide a level of service that would reassure them.
“I hustled,” Nicola says.
“I didn’t sit and dwell on my bad luck.”
In six short months she was the number one agent in the area – and still is.
However, Nicola confesses that the first year nearly broke her mentally.
“It wasn’t just the downturn, it was learning to be a business owner,” she says.
“I was a sales agent. I had no experience in leading a property management team, I didn’t know about the regulations around employment or owning a business.”
Creating a family culture
Since then, Nicola has built a team that has embraced her passion to build a respected business, creating a family culture.
Asked what motivates her, Nicola confesses it’s a mistake she made way back when she was in her early 20s.
“We owned a home, we had savings, and I answered a knock on the door and got conned,” she says.
“We were financially gutted as a result, to the point where I was struggling to find money for food. It was a terrifying time.
“I had two little girls who relied on me and my husband, who was self-employed, had just lost his dad.
“We got through it and I vowed I would never be in that position again – which made the decision to sell our home to make the Narre Warren office a success really difficult.
“But this time I was backing myself.”
As a result of her early experience, she is always generous to people who need her help.
The situation also pushed her to begin her career in real estate.
“Real estate allowed me to become financially stable again but I don’t forget the harsh lesson that young Nicola learned and every decision is filtered through the need to ensure that the kids and I are never in that situation again.”
Fostering the future
Currently, Nicola generates about half the listings in her business, but she’s working on changing that.
“Every year I am trying to be fewer in lounge rooms and more in the office building the business,” she says.
“While my customers are still everything, my agents are like family, so watching their success is the new plan.
“I want to grow our army bigger and see more success from our team.
“For instance, I have one team member who was a refugee from Afghanistan.
“He has bought his first house, drives a top of the range car and is about to get married. I love seeing people succeed.”
Nicola says she will consider herself a success when her rent roll reaches 1000 properties under management.
When she bought the business she had 350 properties and has already nearly doubled the number with organic growth.
Realising a dream
But she did allow herself to celebrate her business success a little as a result of turning 40 recently.
“I had dreamed of getting a white convertible Mercedes for myself since I was a little girl and on my birthday – during Covid – I walked into the Mercedes dealership and had a look and thought ‘What are you thinking!’ and walked out again,” Nicola recalls.
“I waited another six months and when it became clear that there would be a Covid-normal, and as I had done well during that period, I went back and bought it.”
Last year, after just three years in the business, Nicola celebrated $2 million in GCI turnover.
Two years ago she and her husband bought their dream, home which they have been renovating and will move into next month.
Nicola is passionate about seeing more women in real estate roles, but understands the hurdles.
“We lose ourselves as women, we are divided and in constant battle with ourselves,” she says.
“We please everyone around us – our children, our partners – with very little left over for what drives us as individuals.
“There are huge challenges for women in real estate. While flexible, the hours are not necessarily family-friendly unless you make it so.
“I wasn’t the perfect mother I thought I would be, nor the wife, but have I been able to financially provide for my family? Absolutely.”
Sacrifice for success
For Nicola, the sacrifices have paid off and she loves what she does.
“I get to change lives, I get to be by the side of someone that is making the biggest decision of their lives and I get the opportunity to earn their trust,” she says.
“And that is given to me, Nicola. Not the mum or the wife – the professional. I can’t tell you how fabulous that feels.”
Nicola’s advice to women considering a career in real estate is to accept that there will be sacrifices, but to remember there will also be great rewards if you commit wholeheartedly to the journey.
She believes that women have many attributes that make them great agents.
“Women are empathetic and great at following through – never letting anyone down,” she says.
“The rewards, emotionally and financially, are so worth it.”