At only 30, Ryan Mitchell is the youngest known agency director in his region. Couple that with his dual roles as a property manager and business development manager and you have a unique skill set. Here, Ryan shares his ethos and some of the secrets behind his success with Daniel Johnson.
It’s rare to come across a co-director of an agency who’s also a property manager, but Ryan Mitchell is used to confounding people’s expectations.
The co-director and business development manager of Ray White Kurri Kurri, in the Hunter Valley region of NSW, was named the 2020 Residential Property Manager of the Year at the 2020 AREAs in February, just weeks after celebrating his 30th birthday.
Ray White Kurri Kurri Office Administrator Carlie Forsdike nominated Ryan for the award, and despite having confidence in his achievements, he admits he “didn’t even expect to be a finalist”, let alone take home the top gong.
“Not that I didn’t think that I was good enough,” he adds.
“I think that being in such a rural country town as Kurri Kurri and being up against major cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Perth – and bigger agencies – I didn’t expect to be a finalist.
“Then to go on and win the award, I was just gobsmacked, but I feel very honoured.”
In her supporting statement, Carlie described Ryan as a valuable asset to the team who has achieved great outcomes for the business over the past year.
“He has worked tirelessly this year, keeping our entire property management department afloat on his own while also acting as business development manager,” Carlie’s nomination reads.
Ryan increased the agency’s rent roll by 59 per cent over the past year, growing Ray White Kurri Kurri’s portfolio from 80 to 127 properties.
One strategy Ryan developed to bolster the rent roll included seeking referrals from businesses and investment companies.
“I sat down and had phone meetings with a few of them and we were able to establish a relationship,” he says.
“They could then refer their clients to us to manage their investments, knowing they were in safe hands and we were offering good services.”
At a time when rent rates were dramatically falling in major cities across the country, Ryan was able to set records for the highest rent yields in six of the region’s suburbs – Pelaw Main, Stanford Merthyr, East Branxton, Abermain, Elrington and North Rothbury.
He says a combination of his local knowledge and fortuitous market conditions helped him achieve those results.
“I think it was a little bit of favourable market conditions and I also just knew the market was growing and changing and that it was time to achieve some of those market values,” Ryan explains.
“It was a bit of a gamble to see whether the owners were comfortable with doing that, but we thought we would go a little bit higher, and we would know within the first couple of days (what the market thought).
“Everything is live now and we can see who’s clicking on the properties, inquiring and things like that.
“Obviously if we didn’t get that interest, we could drop the price back down, but in all those suburbs there were people looking and we managed to achieve the right outcome.”
And of course, there’s the fact that – as Carlie puts it – Ryan was willing to “literally put his money where his mouth is” and invest a substantial sum to become co-director when he was 29.
“This makes him the youngest director of a real estate agency in the lower Hunter Valley that we know of,” Carlie says.
HIS RELATIVE YOUTH BELIES HIS EXPERIENCE
After joining Ray White Kurri Kurri a little over two years ago, Ryan signed on to become a co-director midway through last year.
“It was always my intention to become a co-director,” he says.
“In June last year, despite COVID and everything that was going on, I still decided to buy into the agency.”
Ryan started his real estate career at Ray White Maitland, alongside Carolyn Wallis-Tomlins, who is now his business partner and Ray White Kurri Kurri’s co-director.
“We both started out 10 years ago in the same job doing lead generating,” Ryan says.
“From there, we went our separate ways but have always kept in contact, and the opportunity came up for me to come across.”
KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE
At the start of 2020, Ryan set himself the goal of growing the agency’s rent roll to more than 100 properties.
“It felt a long way away, and we got so close so many times, but we were a little bit affected by COVID, where we lost a couple of managements here and there, and then it slowed down a little bit,” he says.
“But then we finally got over that 100 mark, and it’s just gone up from there.”
Ryan has also been quick to adopt new procedures and implemented the use of DocuSign, which allows organisations to manage and sign documents electronically, and Snug, which is software that streamlines inspections and application processing.
Both have saved him many hours of work per rental application.
But despite the growing trend towards automation, Ryan is a firm believer in technology complementing the personal aspects of his duties, not replacing them.
“Automation is great but you still have to have that personal touch,” he says.
“At the end of the day, we are still people and we do thrive on person-to-person interaction, but especially in a rural town.
“There’s a lot of competition in the area and I think it’s really important to make sure you’re putting your face to your branding as well – you’re not just Ray White, I’m Ryan at Ray White.”
Despite the challenges thrown his way when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March last year, Ryan has managed to not only survive but thrive in his role.
“It kept us on our toes; the legislation was forever changing,” he says of the weeks that immediately followed the pandemic declaration.
“But I think the most important thing for us was to stay on top of it.”
He says his approach to business has always been to act proactively, not reactively, and the way he has dealt with the ever-evolving social restrictions and legislative changes that have arisen from COVID has been no different.
“We always try to be one step in front of whatever’s going on and make sure that we’re the ones advising our clients, and they’re not having to come to us,” Ryan says.
Ryan says this proactive approach included ensuring the wider community knew Ray White Kurri Kurri remained open for business at the height of the pandemic.
Part of that strategy included a clear marketing plan that created brand and agent awareness.
“We did a lot of social media marketing, we ran a lot of campaigns and boosted a lot of our posts,” he says.
“For the past two years we’ve also run a Christmas lights competition, where we give away prizes to the community for doing up their houses with Christmas lights.
“We do a lot of different things like that to try and give back to the community.”
Although he put in a lot of leg work himself, he is quick to credit Carlie for her efforts getting the word out on the agency’s social media channels.
“We got a lot of out of town investors,” he says.
“In the middle of all that, we got in contact with a couple of brokers and other suppliers in the Sydney region that contacted us during COVID and from that, we have maintained the relationship and now get a lot of referral business.
“That was a huge opportunity that came from COVID, and again, we got that contact by them knowing that we were actively out there, still working, and they’ve openly said that’s the whole reason we got the contact.”
EVERYONE SHOULD BE TREATED EQUALLY
Applying an egalitarian approach to everyone he encounters is something Ryan has always prided himself on, and it’s an ethos that continues to underpin his day-to-day operations.
“It’s something I’ve always done from day dot coming into property management,” he says.
“I just think that everyone should be treated the same, no matter if you’re a tenant, a landlord or a supplier.
“Everyone’s given the time of day and treated with the same respect.
“A lot of the time people forget that without tenants, we don’t have landlords and without landlords we don’t have a rent roll, an agency or a property management business.
“They all play an important role.”