Nigel O’Neil: Opportunity knocks when the tide turns

You're currently in what could turn out to be the sharpest market correction in 30 years, according to Barry Plant CEO Nigel O'Neil. But rather than see it as a slump, he urges you to grasp the opportunities it presents with both hands. Nigel says those that can list and price a property well, focus on the controllables and even hand back an authority to an unrealistic vendor, will come out on top.

Post Covid, buyers came out of the blocks waving their wallets and it was very much a case of, ‘if you can list it, the sale will take care of itself’.

But now, as I write this, interest rates are rising, the cost of living is soaring, consumer confidence is faltering, buyers are putting away their wallets, and the value of properties is on the wane.

This may be the sharpest correction we’ve faced in more than 30 years, so strap in for the downhill ride.  

The good news is that a market downturn is also an opportunity where good agents (the cream) rise to the top.

So how do you ensure that you are on the winning team and harness the rewards through market share growth?

Ramp up the care for your agents

Agents are likely to increasingly deal with people in mortgage stress who need to sell.

This can impact them emotionally and, depending on where they lived during the pandemic, they may already be dealing with stretched emotional resilience. 

Have an open door policy, ask your agents how they are – how they really are – and ensure you introduce mental wellness programs. 

Reassure them there will be light at the end of the tunnel, that hard work now will pay off post downturn.

Focus on improving skills – training, role-playing, scripts and dialogues as the more options they have in their tool kit, the better chance they will have at dealing with the increase in the volume of ‘tough conversations’.

This is the time to be present with your agents, attending the face-to-face vendor meetings where you can hold their hand through some of the more difficult interactions.

Building and maintaining a strong culture that you live and breathe daily is paramount to retaining talent.

Keep investing in training, local area marketing and get closer to what drives individuals within your team so they see that you care about them; that they are not just an employee. 

Focus on the process

Listing a property well in a softening market is the key to a successful campaign.

Pricing the property realistically and ensuring that communication with the vendor is forthright – with data/evidence to support the conversations.

Nothing should be a surprise to them. 

As for buyers, they are gold and need to be nurtured with a depth of understanding that lets them know you are leaving no stone unturned to find their next home.

Hand back authorities

If you have a vendor who will not listen to what the market is telling them, who isn’t going to budge on price, who is taking up too much of your agent’s time and stressing them – support them by being prepared to hand back the authority. 

Often, a frank conversation about wanting to withdraw from the process can reset the relationship and enable the sales process to move forward.

Identify what you can control

This is a useful exercise to help gain some sense of perspective when it’s all economic doom and gloom in the mainstream media.

Make a list of all the things that will impact your business.

Interest rate rises, inflation, fuel prices, unemployment, consumer confidence, restrictions on finance, competitors, agents leaving the industry or being poached, lack of requests for appraisal, cash flow and more. 

Then, look at what you can control. 

While consumer confidence is a nationwide statistic, can you look to boost it in your area? 

Put articles on your website and social media about good sales, results and optimistic stories.

With finance, build a relationship with a broker or finance company that you can refer clients to that can provide a timely and effective response, working hard for your potential purchasers.

Start early with identifying waste in your budget.

Review your accounts weekly and make sure every cent is well spent, but not at the expense of what your team values. 

We don’t know how long we’ll be on this downward curve, but as we pull out and climb to the top again, if you’ve been strategic, maintained a positive mindset and been a nurturing leader focusing on a strong culture, you can look forward to reaping the rewards when the tide turns.

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Nigel O'Neil

Nigel O’Neil is the Chief Executive Officer of The Barry Plant Group. For more information go to