I grew up working in the family business in the hospitality industry. At 12 years old I would work during the school holidays picking up glasses, and then as I got older, I was given more responsibility. I really had to work my way up the ranks; I went from picking up glasses to working in the cellar, then behind the bar, as a bar manager and finally into management where I looked after a number of hotels.
I made the change from hospitality to real estate after I was in a nasty incident outside one of the hotels I was managing. I was escorting one of my clients to the train station as he was worried he would be attacked by a group of young men, sure enough, they turned up carrying weapons. It was a pretty close call; I was nearly stabbed.
At the same time, all of this happened, my wife and I were looking to move homes. We contacted a number of agents and detailed our requests like number of bedrooms, bathrooms, location, etc. I was amazed at the response. Of the agents that did get back to me, only one showed us anything that resembled what we were asking for.
I think that is a problem with our industry; some agents get caught up pushing the stock they have rather than listening to what the client is telling you. It was then I thought I could do this better.
It wasn’t until I was 31 that I got into real estate. I started at LJ Hooker Double Bay as an agent; I convinced the owner to give me a job by telling him that if he wasn’t happy with me within the first six months, he wouldn’t have to fire me, I’d walk out.
For three years I door knocked, and letterbox dropped every day. I was persistent and kept going until every person in the area had seen my face.
Our industry is a tough one to start out in. Building trust with clients without a proven track record is hard. You can’t rely on family friends; you’ve got to prove yourself first.
I began selling $150,000-$200,000 one bedroom semis in Dover Heights. I’ll never forget those days; it was a lot of hard work, long hours and dedication.
I was one of the oldest rookies working in the patch; most of the agents in the area had 10-15 years more experience than me. They didn’t notice me; I wasn’t a threat, I was nothing to them for a long time.
The most memorable sale I’ve ever done also happens to be the most pivotal of my career. About seven years into my real estate career I sold the Coogee Bay Hotel for $14 million. Having years of hotel experience under my belt, I had a distinct advantage over other agents who had tried to sell the property before me. We sold the property to an investor from Vanuatu and negotiations went for 48 hours straight.
That sale received huge media coverage and cemented me as a key player in the multi-million dollar sector. The calls started coming in, and I haven’t looked back since then.
Playing in the high end of the market is all about dealing with personalities and emotions and listening to what they want, which is very similar to selling real estate at any property price. Over the years I’ve intuitively learnt to read personalities and determine the best way to deal with that person by their character.
I’ve met and worked with some fascinating people. However, Kerry Packer has been the most intimidating.
I’ve always been driven by ambition and a desire to provide a certain lifestyle for myself and my family. I grew up with three brothers; the youngest went on to run a very successful business, the other is an ex-wallaby player and the eldest was a great athlete; competition was a huge part of our childhood.
My father was an unbelievable salesperson, he did his business deals with a handshake and that was a binding agreement in his eyes. I watched him for many years and was always in awe with how he acted in business.
When I was 16, he sat my brothers and me down and said to us I’m lending you my name, never dirty it. He told us that our word was our bond and we should always uphold it. I’ll never forget that, and his words have shaped me as a businessman and as a person.
Success is important to everyone; I think we are all striving for success. For me getting to number one was the greatest challenge for me, I don’t like running second. I started out as a 35-year-old rookie agent and wanted to build something that made me proud. Now LJ Hooker Double Bay is one of the country’s leading real estate offices working in the $10 million-plus sector. We strive every day to stay at the top of our game because no one wakes up wanting to be number two.
Now I want to pass on my 30 plus years of real estate experience to an intern. Just like me, they could be a 31-year old rookie wanting a career change or they could be fresh out of school and raring to start their career with a bang. If this could be you visit milliondollarintern.com.au and post a 60-second video of yourself selling something, anything. Just show your personality.
Bill Malouf is a Director of LJ Hooker Double Bay.