Transitioning to a shared leadership model forced upon them in difficult circumstances has been credited with Ouwens Casserly taking out the 2022 Annual REA Excellence Award for Residential Agency of the Year.
Director Nathan Casserly described the award win as “very humbling” and “rewarding” for the entire team at the Adelaide agency.
“It’s an honour to be recognised on a national level and by an industry body and business like realestate.com.au, which is so well connected to the consumer and is a part of everyday transacting in real estate,” he said.
Mr Casserly said the award was a just reward for a team that had pulled together and implemented significant change in the business during a difficult time – with directors Alex Ouwens and Luke Holden taking significant time away from the agency after their children were diagnosed with cancer.
Thankfully both children have recently been given the green light on their health, but Mr Casserly said the changes introduced due to having two directors away from the business would continue.
“We were forced to learn the benefits of working more as a team and the significant risk you run when you’ve got work expectations built around just one or two people,” he said.
“What happens if that one person isn’t available or they get removed from the business because of a significant health issue that’s out of your control?
“It’s not an ideal way to adapt and learn, but we did it.”
Mr Casserly said the agency now operated with a shared leadership model that provided greater support for every team member but also for each client.
“We’ve given responsibility to others and asked them to step up, which has created change and while most humans don’t like change, it’s actually been very good for our business,” he said.
“You hear the cliches around building a championship team in sport, and while we don’t have as many agents being nominated for the most sales in a year, the recognition from an agency point of view aligns with our philosophies and beliefs around building a team.
“We’ve transitioned from the Alex and Nathan show to Ouwens Casserly as an agency and team performance.”
Mr Casserly said under a more traditional model, a vendor would deal with a single agent for every process in the sale transaction, but under the shared leadership structure, the primary agent was backed by a pool of centralised data and operated with a team of knowledge and experience.
He said the team approach meant clients had access to a greater buyer database and real estate expertise, and the sales process didn’t have to pause if an agent was unwell or had to be away from the office.
It also means the agents themselves feel more supported.
“The reality is, things happen in people’s lives,” Mr Casserly said.
“Sometimes there’s a special sports carnival an agent would like to attend, sometimes people get gastro or are involved in a car accident and just aren’t available at that time.
“So when you’re relying on one individual sales agent, then all of that activity ceases until that agent is available again.
“But with the model we have now, there’s always someone there ready to step in.”
Mr Casserly said the new approach also meant agents were able to schedule downtime and holidays, which was great for work-life balance, job satisfaction and productivity.
Top Residential Agent – Western Australia
Western Australia’s Linton Allen was one of eight top agents to take out the state-based AREAs for Top Residential Agent.
He said it was nice to be recognised with the award, but he liked to keep everything in perspective.
“We’re not doctors or surgeons or NASA pilots, we just sell real estate,” Mr Allen said.
“I prefer to think of myself in the same vein as a good plumber or a good sparky – people call you if you do a good job.”
In the past year, Mr Allen, the sales manager at Empire Property Solutions in Fremantle, said he sold about 190 properties, most of which came from referrals.
He said he worked hard to listen to clients, both vendors and buyers, and to match people to the right properties.
“When I meet people at open homes or people inquire about houses, there’s no point sticking them on a database and just sending them spam,” Mr Allen said.
“I try and narrow it down and think, ‘these guys are looking in this area at this price’, and I send them what they really want.”
Mr Allen said the Perth market had held its own, but stock levels were tight, and the true litmus test would come later this year when homeowners with fixed-rate loans rolled off onto variable rates.
“At the moment, the demand is still outweighing the supply but I think by the tail end of this year, early next year, it will even itself out and it might even go the other way,” he said.
Rising Star of the Year
Mr Agrawal said he had initially studied optometry at university but joined the real estate sector in administration and as a business development manager.
“I came into real estate with no prior sales experience, and I didn’t even know the suburb I worked in existed,” he said.
“So it was a completely new start, but I hit the ground running and found a field and career I’m passionate about.
“I wake up every day with no regret, and I love what I do.”
Mr Agrawal said he started in real estate in March 2021, and by November of that year, he had started listing properties.
In February 2022, he became a standalone agent and he sold more than 100 properties in his first year.
“It was challenging, it was an emotional rollercoaster and that’s why (winning the AREA) was a very special night given it was my mother’s birthday, and it was good to be recognised as the rising star across the country.”
Mr Agrawal also paid homage to his team and said he hoped to grow the team further in the coming months.
“This award just reassures us that what we’re doing is correct,” he said.
Most Influential Woman in the Property Market
Managing Director and Principal of Place New Farm Sarah Hackett took out the AREA for Most Influential Woman in the Property Market.
She said it was a good opportunity to reflect on her 25-year career and gave credit to her mother for inspiring her to succeed.
“My mother was my inspiration as, when I was four, she had to go back into the workforce, and she started her own business rather than work for someone else,” Ms Hackett said.
“She did really well and worked really hard. She was in hospitality and had several restaurants throughout her career… and that’s where I learnt the customer service that has really improved my business.”
Ms Hackett said she runs two businesses, selling both houses and apartments as well as off-the-plan sales.
She said she couldn’t have achieved her success without her highly organised team of six, all of whom are females.
“I couldn’t do what I do without them,” she noted.
Ms Hackett said her business had significantly developed over the past 12 months.
“About 12 months ago, we bought out one of our partners… and in the transition, I became the principal of Place New Farm as well as being the major fee earner for the directors,” she said.
“It was a new position that I’ve really enjoyed and it’s the first time in history that Place New Farm was a number one office for a quarter and beat the Bulimba flagship store within my first 12 months of taking over.”
Ms Hackett said she also loved her role as a mentor within Place and helping younger or less experienced agents build their skills and confidence.
“Because I’m in the trenches with them, I’m not asking them to do anything I haven’t done myself,” she said.
“I keep learning and tweaking my skill set as well.”
Ms Hackett said she had also recently joined the board of Sommerville House, an all girls school in South Brisbane.
“I’m an old girl and my girls all went through there,” she said.
“I felt it was time to give back.”
Over the next 12 months, Ms Hackett said the goal was to continue to grow the agency, develop existing staff but also have a recruitment drive.
She said she’d also spent a lot of time with the property management department so that, culturally, they knew they were an integral part of the team.