From leaving school and working at McDonald’s to writing $1 million in fees, Matthew Farrugia has come a long way in the past decade.
The LJ Hooker Terrigal agent recorded his first million-dollar year in 2020 and was named in the top 2.5 per cent of sales agents in the LJ Hooker network internationally.
It’s a feat he’s incredibly proud of but admits ticking that goal didn’t result in the sensation of elation he had anticipated.
Rather, it made him realise that you always need to have another goal to move on to.
“As silly as it sounds, we expect to get to that million-dollar mark and there will be fireworks and big celebrations, but there’s not,” Matthew explains.
“You build it up for so long because every agent in the industry has this idea in their head that the million-dollar mark makes you some kind of superstar.
“In your mind, you’ll have made it.
“But then you get there, and you realise it happened but it’s been and gone, and now you have to start again.”
Matthew says the biggest thing he learnt during his best year was how to manage volume, with 80 properties sold in 2020.
But he says the strange thing is that it was almost easier to manage all of the “finding, keeping and doing tasks” at $1 million GCI than back when he was writing $300,000.
“The finding is the prospecting and lead generating, the keeping is your vendor management and the doing part of the job is things like buyer appointments and appraisals,” Matthew says.
“When you try and juggle all three of those when you’re writing $300,000 to $350,000, and you’ve not done it before, it can feel a bit overwhelming.
“But once you get through the storm and can do it, you then go to the next level and the next.
“Having reached that million-dollar mark I’ve learnt to juggle multiple vendors, multiple open homes and we had the good problem of going, ‘I actually can’t fit any more inspections in on this Saturday. If I list this property, who will show it, because I want to be at every open’.
“I learnt a lot about scale.”
The fact he had his best year during a global pandemic hasn’t been lost on Matthew.
He says like everyone else, he panicked at the start, thinking the bottom would drop out of the market and he worried he wouldn’t be able to cover costs.
But a chat with his mentor, LJ Hooker’s Regional Manager for southern QLD and northern NSW Paul Moore, soon eased his fears and got him back on track.
“Paul said there’s always a disruption, be it the Banking Royal Commission, the GFC or COVID-19,” Matthew recalls.
“He said to see it as a learning curve and a feather in the cap. That way, the next time something goes wrong, you can remember that you’ve sold in a pandemic.
“His advice was to also stick to the basics and not overcomplicate things. He said to stop thinking about covering my costs and to start thinking about how many calls and how many appraisals I needed and how we could add value every time we made a call.”
With his focus renewed and his nose to the grindstone, Matthew did more appraisals than he’d done in a long time.
He says while many agents used the lull COVID-19 created to slow down, he sped up and even kept a few team members in the office – socially distanced, of course.
“When the tap turned back on, and everyone (vendors) was ready to do something, I was standing there with the bucket,” Matthew says.
“I picked up quite a lot of listings and I started with a lot of traction.”
The key strategies that have been working well for Matthew include prospecting around success.
But instead of just making contact with residents in the same street as a listing or sale, he’s taking a much broader approach.
“So we’ve moved outside the realm, especially while there’s such a shortage of stock of just doing the one street,” Matthew says.
“If we list and sell a property in Mobbs Rd, we’re not just ringing people in that street, but the five or six streets surrounding that.
“We’re doing 200 to 300 just listed and just sold calls.
“The more data you can get, and the more conversations you can have, the more opportunities you create.”
But rather than using a script and making cookie-cutter calls, Matthew uses his CRM to log notes about each person he speaks to.
It might be that they would like a bigger or newer kitchen or that they’re having a baby and they need a larger backyard.
With notes in hand, the next time he calls them he can personalise the call and offer to show them a property with exactly what they’re looking for.
The prospects also feel heard and are often impressed with Matthew’s attention to detail.
“They’re not all one specific set of calls that require a certain piece of dialogue,” he explains.
“It’s case-by-case. It keeps you on your toes, and it makes you a better prospector.
“Every time I prospect, I try and find that little pressure point or something about their current situation that they are dissatisfied with, and then push hard to work out what the solution is.”
As fate would have it, Matthew got his start in real estate after cold-calling LJ Hooker Terrigal Principal Tim Andrews.
After leaving school at 16, working at McDonald’s and then a golf shop, Matthew resigned from his job on the promise of another position elsewhere.
When that job fell through Matthew, then 19, found himself unemployed.
“One day I drove past a sign that had Tim’s details on it, and I just cold-called him right then because I was three months without work by this time,” he says.
“I ended up getting a job with Tim as a cold-caller, and that’s how I’d spend my whole day.
“Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm I’d just make cold calls all day and tidy up the database.”
It was a rough start, but it didn’t deter him, and 18 months later Matthew had decided he wanted to see how far he could “take this real estate thing”.
He set about learning as much as he could by helping as many team members as he could with any and every task.
Stints in property management and new business followed, before he finally became a selling agent when he was 22.
It was time to sink or swim.
“What’s always been my method throughout my real estate career is to bite off more than I can chew and then chew like hell,” Matthew says.
“I moved past the age barrier, I got past all of the ego stuff and, for me, it is genuinely about being able to do this job as efficiently as I can and to build as many relationships as I can to have a really good, long life and business.
“It’s not about just picking up a listing and a sale and moving on from it. It’s about really creating a great experience for everyone involved.”
Matthew’s advice to new agents is to begin with the end destination in mind.
He says it’s important to think about what market you want to work in, including in what state and in which suburbs, as it can be difficult to change markets when you’ve built a reputation and a business elsewhere.
It’s also vital to have an overarching gameplan that’s broken down into manageable chunks.
Matthew says if your goal is to write $350,000 GCI in your first year that figure can look daunting on its own, but if you break it down over 12 months and into how many listings, appraisals and calls you need to make, it looks much more achievable.
“It’s about getting yourself in enough doors to start closing some deals,” he says.
Finding a mentor, whether they work in your brand or outside it, is also worth its weight in gold as far as Matthew is concerned.
He says real estate can be a roller-coaster where you move from winning a listing one day to losing three the following day.
Having a mentor who can honestly explain things to you or help lift you out of a negative mindset is crucial.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing $1 million or $100,000, the emotions are the same, the feelings are the same,” Matthew says.
“So having someone outside of that who can be an anchor for you is a great idea.”
Matthew also likes to track his numbers in an Excel spreadsheet and keep them handy, so he can review them when things appear slow.
It can help you pick up where the problem lies or emphasise that things aren’t as bad as you first thought.
When it comes to marketing, Matthew takes a slightly different approach.
A recent hit with prospective clients has been a hardcopy ‘sales resume’ that records each of Matthew’s 2020 sales including information such as the address, days on market, starting price, sale price, average marketing and the method of sale.
On his social media channels, Matthew uses ‘teasers’ on properties where there might be an image and a few details, but the address and other key information is withheld, so those interested need to pick up the phone and give Matthew a call.
“We just try and do things that are a little bit outside the box,” he says.
For the rest of 2021, Matthew wants to learn more about running a team given he hired Sales Associate Jessica Skinner about six months ago.
“Anyone who knows me knows I’m a control freak,” he says.
“I don’t like letting go of anything, so this year the goal is to try and learn to let go a bit.
“I’ve been slowly handing over bits and pieces to Jess, and I want to learn to run a team efficiently because I think it’s all good and well to put someone on to help you, but if you don’t know how to get the most out of a team, it’s a waste of money.”