Elite AgentFEATURE INTERVIEWS

Sarah-Louise Anderson: strength and courage

Sarah-Louise Anderson has tenacity. Despite dealing with severe health concerns that eventually resulted in her losing a kidney, the Ray White Maroochydore agent never gave up on her dream of becoming a successful real estate agent. Here, Sarah-Louise tells Kylie Dulhunty about her journey, how she battled chronic kidney disease, why she couldn't have made it without her colleagues and what she has planned for the future.

If you could only choose one word to describe Sarah-Louise Anderson, it would have to be resilient.

But courageous, motivated and dedicated could equally apply.

It’s not that Sarah-Louise seeks admiration; she’d prefer her work ethic do the talking. 

But the Ray White Maroochydore sales and marketing consultant certainly has a backstory worthy of admiration.

A lead agent for the past five years, along with battling the ebbs and flows of the Sunshine Coast property market, Sarah-Louise has had serious health concerns to contend with.

Since she was just a youngster, Sarah-Louise has been battling kidney problems, and was eventually diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

“I’ve dealt with it my entire life,” she explains.

“It was very evident from a very, very young age that I was not well, but it all started really ramping up in my early 20s.

“I’ve been in and out of doctor’s surgeries now for 13 years, and in that time, I’ve only ever met one other person with it who was under the age of 30.

“It was formally diagnosed as chronic kidney disease resulting in kidney failure, but what was fundamentally wrong wasn’t really diagnosable. It (my kidney) just grew wrong.”

It’s a condition that has impacted her real estate career in many multi-faceted ways, but Sarah-Louise hasn’t let it stop her from achieving her goals.

She has reached Ray White Premier Performer status, and in the 2021-2022 financial year, she sold 24 properties at a total value of $22 million.

An early start

Rewinding the clock, Sarah-Louise recalls she got her start in real estate as a personal assistant for a lead agent at Ray White Caloundra when she was 18.

It was the perfect training ground for her career to come.

“She was a very high-performing agent, high turnover and a really incredible person to learn from at that age,” Sarah-Louise says.

While she always longed to be a selling agent, Sarah-Louise says those early days as a personal assistant created a solid platform from which she could launch.

It means she understands the “back end” of a real estate deal, including handling data, how to correctly establish, build and maintain a database, making callbacks, processing contracts and the importance of customer service. 

“It certainly taught me that your sales associates and your support team do a lot of the nitty-gritty, attention-to-detail tasks,” she says.

“I understand that side of the process and how important it is.

“I think there are a lot of agents that don’t understand what goes on in the backend of a real estate deal or in a real estate business. 

“So my time as a PA was hugely beneficial to the way I run my business now. 

“A lot of agents just step straight into the listing and selling space without learning the importance of putting the right systems and procedures in place, but I’ve done all of that right from the beginning, so my business is substantially further ahead.”

Health hurdles to jump

But Sarah-Louise’s first foray into real estate was cut short after about two years as her health deteriorated.

At one point, her kidney swelled to 200 per cent of the size of a normal kidney and when she was 21, she had a kidney reconstruction.

“You could run your hands down my back and feel this thing,” she explains.

“It was not good, but because I was so young they didn’t want to take it out.

“About 70 per cent of people who lose a kidney under the age of 40 have secondary kidney failure later on in life.

“So the doctors were really saying, ‘We don’t want to take it out’.”

Instead, Sarah-Louise had the reconstruction, which took two doctors about seven hours to complete and saw her with 75 internal stitches and a lengthy recovery.

“It took me about eight months to get back on my feet after that surgery,” she says.

“I couldn’t work. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t really do anything for four or five months.”

During this time away from real estate, Sarah-Louise worked for Michael Hill jewellers on and off as she had multiple surgeries, even after the kidney reconstruction.

She says the experience in retail sales taught her a lot, not least of which was how to relate to clients from various walks of life.

Despite her health hurdles, Sarah-Louise still became one of the youngest team members to reach Michael Hill Gold Club status when she was 23.

Return to real estate

But the longing to work in real estate never left her.

Just a year later, Sarah-Louise returned to the industry with the original agent she worked for, before moving to Ray White Maroochydore about three months later as a standalone agent.

While Sarah-Louise’s real estate career was taking off, she still had kidney problems to deal with and overcome.

Despite having the reconstruction, more surgeries were needed to insert and later remove a stent, and remove scar tissue.

By December 2020, it was clear that Sarah-Louise was in kidney failure, and doctors had done all they could to ‘patch up’ her kidney.

“I’ve had seven surgeries since I started working with Ray White Maroochydore,” she says.

“Last year, I got really sick. I went into septic shock twice, but the doctors couldn’t figure out why.

“It got to the point where my doctor, an incredible man, said, ‘If I don’t take this (kidney) out, you’re going to die. I can’t just keep cutting into a 28-year old’.”

But making it to the operating theatre wasn’t a quick process either, with Sarah-Louise’s doctor needing a board of doctors to agree the kidney had failed and to sign off on the procedure.

A new life

Finally, Sarah-Louise’s kidney was removed in May 2021, and by mid-July, she was back at work full-time.

“The life I live now versus the life I lived 24 months ago is completely different,” she explains.

“I hit 12 months in May since I had my kidney removed, and that was the first time in 10 years that it had been 12 months since I’d had a surgery.”

The comparison in her sales statistics speaks volumes of both her determined nature and the strength of her recovery.

In her first financial year as an agent, she focused on a core market of an emerging new estate on the Sunshine Coast and made five sales worth $4.01 million.

In the 2020-2021 financial year, Sarah-Louise had four surgeries, worked a total of six months in between recovery, and sold 15 properties with a total sales value of $8.26 million.

In 2021-2022 that jumped to 26 sales valued at $22 million.

But Sarah-Louise says her increasing success has not rested entirely on her own shoulders.

“The culture at Ray White is brilliant,” she explains.

“I wanted to come back to work because I knew I had the support here. All I had to do was put up my hand and I would have help.

“That helped enormously in terms of me having the right mindset to recover. I could come in and people here cared about me. 

“I know a lot of people who have chronic illnesses go down the path of feeling guilty for being sick.

“I never had that. Ever. I was never made to feel insignificant. That’s a huge credit to my boss, because he was doing everything he could to support me in this.”

Team support

That support didn’t stop at director Dan Sowden but rippled through the entire Ray White Maroochydore team. 

“I always had a job, and nothing ever went amiss,” Sarah-Louise explains.

“If something unexpected happened to me, my work just didn’t fall by the wayside. It was a priority for everybody.

“There have been a few other team members that have had things going on as well, but no one falls because we’re a big enough team and a close enough team that the rest of us pick it up.”

Sarah-Louise says she’s always had a flair for sales, and she’s the type of person that “could sell water to the ocean”.

She loves the fast pace of real estate, how no two days are the same and the amount of freedom she has to run her own race.

Right from her first sale, a four-bedroom house that sold for $905,000, she was dedicated to giving her clients first-rate service.

“The sellers (on my first sale) had been away and were flying back in at night,” Sarah-Louise recalls.

“I had the contract signed by the buyers, and when the sellers let me know they’d arrived, I drove into Maroochydore at 11.30pm to get the contract signed.

“It was really exciting because, while I’d been involved in sales before, this was the first one where I did it all from the start, to the open homes and putting the sold sticker up.

“There’s a photo on my social media where I’m holding the sticker up, and the caption is, ‘I’m a real real estate agent’.”

Clients and friends for life

And Sarah-Louise is still in touch with those buyers and sellers, with her philosophy firmly to count clients as friends for life.

“I’m still friends with them and I talk to them consistently,” she says.

“I get text message updates and emails, and they send me photos of things they have renovated and changed.

“I love it. It makes me so happy when I get a text message that says, ‘Look what we did today’.”

Sarah-Louise also has an ‘always learning’ mindset and loves nothing more than to set herself goals and challenges to meet – on both a professional and personal level.

She recently became one of the region’s first female auctioneers, which was the realisation of a long-term aim.

Sarah-Louise says completing the auctioneer training has equipped her with a skill set that sets her apart from her competition.

“It gives me the capacity to negotiate quickly and build momentum and all of the other skills that come with the training of being an auctioneer,” she says.

“To have a licensed auctioneer calling your auction and a licensed auctioneer working the floor, it actually gives you double the strength. 

“Last year, I had 18 registered bidders on a property, and one person can’t manage 18 people.”

Sarah-Louise says having an agent-auctioneer also provides comfort and confidence for her clients.

“You have an auctioneer throughout your campaign rather than just for an hour on the day of the auction.”

What the future holds

In March this year, Sarah-Louise also started to grow her team, putting on Heidi Midcalf as a sales associate.

“She is a weapon,” she says.

“To find someone with the same care factor, skill and desire at her age – she was 23 when she joined me – I got exceptionally lucky.

“Skills can be taught, but the burning desire to just be better every single day and to learn how to do things better every single day is really rare.”

And Sarah-Louise is not finished yet. In the next 12 months, she hopes to double the size of her team and continue to build on her knowledge and success.

“I’m going through a lot of training with Ray White at the moment, learning how to lead people, how to lead a team and how to be a leader rather than a fly-alone agent,” she says.

“I want to be able to bring people in and pass on my knowledge and skills to help create better real estate agents.”

Show More

Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Deputy Editor at Elite Agent.