From her newly opened agency in Nedlands, WA, Michelle Kerr says she never expected to become a real estate agent. Rather, it was a career she fell into that ultimately saw her thrive.
“I had a long history of property development and renovations,” Michelle explains. “I enjoyed 15 years of buying and selling, and saw the best and the worst of real estate.”
Then circumstances outside her control revealed an opportunity.
“The GFC happened and we lost just about everything, which was really traumatic at the time,” she reflects.
Michelle took a job in real estate administration, with little idea that the industry would turn out to be her niche.
“As soon as I was in, it was like being a kid in a candy shop. I’d been happy to help from a back-end perspective, but started looking at agents and thinking, ‘I can do this and deliver the service I want. I can be a good, honest person and do really well.’”
Michelle’s focus was communication, honesty and transparency, all aimed at building a relationship with the client.
“I used my poor experiences as an agenda for what I wanted to change,” she says.
In six short years this ethos has seen her rise to the pinnacle of real estate in WA. Last year Michelle was named the Top Assisted Salesperson by Value Sold at the REIWA awards. She also currently ranks as the number one agent in WA on Rate My Agent in terms of buyer and seller recommendations in her region, along with total sales price in WA.
Going it alone
Late last year, success and the drive to offer more saw Michelle take the major step of opening her own agency, Duet Property Group.
The name is derived from her philosophy of establishing a partnership with the client, and the focus is on delivering outstanding customer service and very real results.
Again, it was a career move Michelle never envisaged she would make.
“If you’d asked me two years ago if I would open my own business, I’d have said, ‘No, not in a pink fit’.
“Then I started to think about it at AREC a year ago. As much as I had loved the support of the previous agency, I knew that to go any further I would need to do it on my own terms.”
Honesty, transparency and pure hard work
Michelle notes her business model is built on strict ethical guidelines. She only takes on 10 properties at a time, is brutally honest about the price she expects to achieve and works tirelessly to attain a result for the client.
“I believe that when you take on a lot of properties at a time, that’s when the wheels potentially fall off.
“People want a concierge level of service, and I’m conscious that the general experience people have with the real estate industry tends to lag behind.
“If people hire me, they get me.”
The result of this approach sees Michelle’s listings spend an average of only 15 days on the market.
“I move more properties than other agents because they are on the market less time. Having a limited number allows me to match buyers and properties more efficiently.”
Meanwhile, she notes she never regrets losing a listing because of setting realistic expectations at the outset. That doesn’t mean those prices are low; they are positioned where she firmly believes the seller and buyer will meet.
“I lose a lot of listings because I am absolutely straight-up about the price,” she says. “I am not interested in a home spending six weeks on the market and then being reduced.
“It is my moral obligation to sell a property for the right price in the shortest amount of time.”
If you’d asked me two years ago if I would open my own business, I’d have said, ‘No, not in a pink fit.
Authenticity and the educated buyer
This level of commitment, authenticity and honesty translates through every level of Michelle’s new business, and she notes it often has a “full-circle” effect.
The results she achieves garner her good reviews, which attract high-calibre clients. Her marketing then incorporates the favourable outcomes.
“Because I price homes realistically, people trust me. Then I dedicate a huge amount of energy to getting them what they want or more. What vendor doesn’t want that?
“People want transparency. If you are honest and straight people buy into that.”
An agency with a difference
It’s not just Michelle’s personal approach that offers a point of difference, but also the way she has set up her new office.
Describing the space as a “conversation with her community,” Michelle spent a lot of time with architects, designing the office to be as welcoming and accommodating as possible to both staff and clients.
“There’s a library, kitchen, free Wi-Fi, and virtual reality stations…all the cutting-edge technology you’re likely to see in the US and Europe,” Michelle says.
“Basically, we are a tech-enabled service company. I wanted this space to be a clean slate where ideas could be generated.”
For the staff, the space is designed so they feel they are coming home to work. “There are 10 different places that they feel they want to be. I wanted to make it fun.”
And yes, Michelle concedes the new office and new business are a risk.
“There were days when I was high-fiving myself and days when I was terrified,” she reflects.
A philosophy that resonates
Just 12 weeks into the new venture, Michelle’s risk is paying off. The philosophy not only resonates with clients but with others in the industry as well.
“It’s been so well received. We are busier than ever. I was amazed at how quickly people understood the brand and the cool things we are doing behind the scenes.”
Among those attracted to the brand philosophy were property consultants Susan Janes and Emily Hiskins, who both recently joined the Duet fold.
Last year Susan ranked second behind Michelle at the REIWA awards, while Emily boasts 12 years’ experience.
“These are very like-minded people and I’m honoured they have partnered with us,” Michelle reflects. “I never expected to be inundated with such high-calibre peers.”
With 2019 shaping up to be her biggest year to date, Michelle’s eye is firmly fixed on the future.
“I hate stagnating,” she states. “I’m driven to achieve and believe if we’re not growing, we’re dying.”
But in the interim it’s clear she relishes the opportunity to be a leader in her own right, enjoying real estate and the challenges it affords on her terms.