Elite AgentFeature Interviews

No plan B: How Matthew Farrugia conquered the Central Coast in 12 months

He’s only been in sales for just over a year, but Matthew Farrugia has made his time count. Being listed in the top 15 per cent of the LJ Hooker network in his first financial year, he started from the bottom at LJ Hooker Terrigal and is proving himself to be a formidable force on the Central Coast.

Real estate wasn’t always the goal for Matthew. He was working in a golf shop, trying to break into the golfing industry, when he first thought about making the switch. Through his work he had met several agents, and when he expressed an interest one of them offered him a job.

“I walked in on my two-year anniversary at the golf shop and said, ‘I resign. Nothing against working here, I’ve loved it, it’s been a great opportunity, but time to move on to different things’. All I had was the promise of a job; I didn’t have a letter of offer or anything like that.”

But the offer fell through, and Matthew soon found himself jobless. Not one to sit around and wait for the opportunities to come knocking, he resorted to sitting by the main road and calling the numbers of tradies who drove past, looking for day labour jobs.

“I did that for three months, then decided I still was interested in real estate. I saw Tim [Andrews]’ details on a property in Terrigal and I rang him out of the blue and said, ‘You don’t know me but I’ve seen some of the houses you sell and I think I would also like to sell those houses. I’d love it if I could have a job.’”

Understandably not ready to hire someone who’d called him out of the blue, LJ Hooker Terrigal principal Tim Andrews said Matthew would need to come in for an interview. From there he offered Matthew a job.

“There was no real role for me, but Tim felt that I would make a good addition to the team at some point and so kept me there. I started from literally the ground up.”

Starting from the bottom

Initially cold calling for lead generation in the sales team, Matthew moved into leasing, then property management, before taking on a newly created new business role. As part of a tightly knit team, being able to get hands-on experience inside the office was a golden opportunity.

Tackling the new business role, Matthew tried to look at the job as a precursor to a sales role, which meant forging relationships with people he would deal with again. He spent 12 months in the position, signing up over a hundred properties to grow the office’s rent roll. From there he finally got the jump he wanted into sales.

“Terrigal is a really cutthroat market. It’s been dominated by just a few agents; there are a hundred agents or so that service the area, but it’s a couple of agents at the top. Before Tim put me in sales, we had spoken about it. I was really eager but he thought I should wait a bit longer. I felt he was holding me back, so I thought, ‘All right, I’m going to see what else is out there.’ The general consensus from people I reached out to was I should look at other areas, that I’d get eaten alive in Terrigal because I was young and inexperienced.”

Matthew went back to Tim and explained again how keen he was to join the sales team. There was no plan B – just a lot of passion and determination.

The risk Tim took on Matthew paid off. Within his first financial year of sales, Matthew was in the top 15 per cent of the LJ Hooker network. He’s the number one sales agent for volume in the Terrigal area year-to-date according to realestate.com.au data. His tough journey into sales has given him the determination, and the experience, to not only survive in a tough area but to thrive.

“It’s nice to have these markers along the way to signify that you’re on the right track. I remember when I first started, that overwhelming feeling of angst around not even knowing where to start. I’ve got to get a listing, where do I get a listing from?

“There’s a couple of guys in our office that have just started and it’s interesting to watch them from the other side. It’s nice to look back and see I’ve come a long way and it’s great to help those guys and I can’t wait to see them do the same.”

Finding your feet

Matthew understands better than most the importance of having a mentor in real estate, but he says it’s easy for young agents to get overwhelmed when they’re faced with successful people who have been in the business for a long time.

“You look at these big guys who are in the industry and it can be daunting because you think the last thing he’s going to want to do is to speak to me or help me. There were agents out there who weren’t very helpful, wouldn’t be willing to give you advice or assistance because you compete with them in the area, which I understand.

“But there were agents, not just within my office but outside of that, who offered me a lot of support. Sometimes it’s just the little things, turning to someone for a bit of confidence, to say, ‘I missed another listing today. Is it me or is it the market I work in? Could I have done something different?’”

Another problem for agents starting out is how easy it can be to get overwhelmed by the amount of training material out there, but breaking it down into consumable steps is the best way to get your feet on the ground.

“You can overwhelm yourself by listening to podcasts, watching YouTube, reading magazines, getting all these different avenues for training. Sometimes you need to break it down into small chunks. Step one – get a listing. How do you do that? Then break that step down into smaller chunks – a listing that means x amount of phone calls, x amount of appraisals. That’s how I’ve always done it.”

Another one of Matthew’s tips comes from his days playing golf. Instead of spending all your time focusing on the competition and trying to outdo them, your energy is better spent focusing on your own goals and working in your own lane.

“Everyone is so worried about what their competitors are doing, it’s such a big thing in this industry and it’s just crazy. When I play golf, whether it’s playing a comp or just playing socially, I don’t look to my playing partner and say, ‘Well, he swung it like this and that’s why he’s shooting par’. He’s just playing well, so I need to play well. There’s nothing about trying to mimic what he was doing.”

The next goal

With so much success already under his belt, Matthew isn’t getting complacent. His goal is to double his business each year, hoping to be in the top seven per cent at LJ Hooker next financial year. But it isn’t about ego or being the biggest and baddest agent on the coast that drives Matthew; he says he’s here to deliver the best outcomes and do the best he can at his job.

“As an individual, you have to have the understanding that the minute this becomes about your own ego, or about being better than someone else, you’re in the wrong industry. I think naturally things will progress in the wrong direction when you start thinking like that. I genuinely put my success down to karma, for lack of a better word. It comes down to doing the right things, trusting the process and being a genuinely good person trying to help everyone.

“You’re not always going to get it right. You’re not always going to win every bit of business and you’re not always going to be happy about where you are in your career, but as long as you trust that the outcome will be determined by the attitude and by the energy that you put into your work, that’s what it always comes back to.”

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Hannah Blackiston

Hannah Blackiston is the Deputy Editor of Elite Agent and real estate obsessive who splits her time between stalking auctions and lusting over luxury listings. She fell into property journalism 5 years ago and never looked back.

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