This year, she was ranked number four on the international list, made the A-List for the third year running and was also inducted into the exclusive Ray White Chairman’s Club; proving age, gender and being authentically who you are do not create barriers to success in real estate. Story by Samantha McLean.
Starting her real estate career in real estate in her mid 40s, in six years Sonya Treloar has grown a strong business through value-driven marketing, careful attention to the basics and a personal brand that is made for real estate. She is known to her local community and colleagues for three distinctive things: The colour pink, a set of pearls and an approach to customer service that is consistent and delivered with absolute precision.
FROM STANDING START TO TOP PERFORMER
Like most agents, the first few years weren’t easy; but she learned from others who had already achieved success. “I think in any job, especially in real estate, it’s not an easy road. You’ve got to put in a lot of work, a lot of dedication; but to me it’s all about service and being consistent. It’s about saying what you’re going to do and then doing it. Repeatedly.”
While Sonya began her career in real estate maybe later than most, she says that having some life experience behind her when she started has been a distinct advantage. “I admire our young superstars, but when you have to deal with different situations sometimes people just feel they can’t do it because of their age. Well, age is no barrier. I don’t care what gender it is. I don’t care what nationality it is. There are no barriers [like that] to success in real estate.”
Learning as she went, Sonya also realised early on that getting to know the local community inside and out was going to be important. “I knew I had to build networks very quickly and started sending out a monthly newsletter to the area that I wanted to be known in. Every month I did that, and I haven’t stopped. I’ve been to a client’s house and they had every newsletter clipped onto their fridge! Obviously, they found the information about real estate was useful, or something in their street that was very important to them.”
MAINTAINING A CONSTANT PIPELINE
Working in and around the northern suburbs of Brisbane, Sonya’s average sale is around the $880k mark.“I list blocks of land for $300,000 or so right up to $4 million. Brisbane is a good, steady growth market. We’re not having massive booms like in New South Wales and Victoria. It’s sustainable, there’s confidence in the marketplace so it’s a good time to be in real estate.”
Steadily carrying 20 to 25 listings at a time, for Sonya real estate is a game played in four quarters of the year. And, she says, that consistency is key all year around. “Everyone has four quarters, but what I do in those quarters is really important. What I do in my first quarter reflects in my third quarter. It’s all about how I consistently work with those potential purchasers, potential buyers, potential sellers; how I can dictate the next 12 months.”
From a marketing point of view, the Ray White brand and the support that the franchise provides has been important to Sonya’s success. “I’ve never met a company like it. The White family are such supportive people. When I do a listing presentation, I have a pre-listing kit that always gets sent first. Inside that is a bit about the White family and myself. Then once we transact and sell the home, I feel my family has worked with their family and we’ve all worked with the White family. The ethos around Ray White, and what I believe they bring to the marketplace as a brand, to me is number one.”
To demonstrate the pride she has in the brand she represents, both Brian White – the Ray White Chairman – and the original Ray White ‘shack’ appear in Sonya’s profile video, featured below. “I rang Brian White and said, ‘Brian, I want to do a video; it’s a bit about clients and a bit about the history of Ray White. Can I have the keys to the shed?’ And he said, ‘No one’s ever asked me that before, but yes you can.’ So I got out there with my film crew and we learned about the history of Ray White, who as it turns out started selling pigs at the old shed. Then we learned about Allen White, Ray’s son, and then Brian is of course Allen’s son. And now there is a fourth generation.”
Along with the Ray White brand, Sonya also has a strong personal brand that is instantly recognisable in the community – although not everyone agreed with it at first. “My first day in real estate I turned up with a pink skirt on, pink briefcase and pink laptop. My principal looked me up and down. He said, ‘Sonya, lose the pink because nobody’s going to take you seriously’.
“I went home and cried. I said to my husband, ‘Well, that’s it. My real estate career is now over.’ But I thought, ‘I love pearls, I love pink, and I am who I am’. I went back the next day and have just weaved it into what I do.””You have to be true to yourself. Who you are is who you are and you can’t change that.”
“You have to be true to yourself. Who you are is who you are and you can’t change that.”
Sonya says she started prospecting using the telephone, but really felt her strength was face-to-face. So she decided to try door-knocking. “I would go and door knock and talk to [everyone] just about sales in the area. Whatever area you start in, you’ve got to become an expert in it.”
Sonya applies all sorts of digital and social tools in her marketing and also uses Domain live auctions on Facebook, which she says work well. But she still does a few things the old way, including handwritten cards, which she says she loves. “I do them every time I’ve done an appraisal, thanking ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ for allowing me in their home. I think the good old old-fashioned touch of personalisation is really important.”
“I like everything to look fantastic, and keep our brand as much as I can in people’s lounge rooms because when they go into real estate mode I want them to say, ‘Let’s get Sonya in from Ray White as well’.”
Sonya says that three people in particular have taught her a lot in this area. “Mark McLeod is a great guy. He has taught me how important customer service and [a good] database is, and the calls; we have a system in Ray White called Concierge and I pay Concierge to call my database every quarter. That has been a key reason why I’ve written what I’ve written.
“The second person is Julie Ryan, who also works for the White family. She’s just a great strategist, who’s taught me how to raise my expectation of where I can take this business and shown me the key people I must bring in to help me.
“The third person doesn’t work for Ray White. His name’s Michael Gordon. He’s what I call ‘My wise old owl’. He’s been in the industry for 40 years, gives back to a lot of people; just a great man, but he’s someone that I can talk to about a bad listing or [when] something’s happened in life.”
ATTRACTING LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL BUYERS
Sonya is also known for her marketing creativity and attention to detail. One of the important things is making sure the online listing looks the best it can. “Great photography is very important. The text must be accurate and so must the photos. Courier Mail print advertising is very important as well.
“Also, list on all the major portals. I even list all my properties on [Chinese portal] Juwai; I do as much as I can for my client, to give them a platform where everyone can see their property. I leave no stone unturned.”
Sonya says she has had a great deal of success with international buyers in the area. “I have a person that interprets Chinese for me. Transactions can be done in any language. I have also had lot of Indian buyers and sellers.”
“I believe our job as real estate agents is to represent our sellers in the best way we can and to tap into every portal, whatever medium that is, to showcase their homes so everyone sees their property.”
Sonya says, “In my six years of being in real estate, I’ve been very fortunate. It has provided my family and me with a wonderful life.”
“I’ve kept in contact with nearly every one of my clients. It’s a nice thing to be involved not just in the transaction but the after-transaction as well. Every year I hand-drop a gift off to every single part of my database, so they all get a box of chocolates hand-delivered in the month of December. That’s two and a half thousand boxes! I have a team that helps me do that, including my two sons.”
And the rewards are in both the gifts that come back and in the form of phone calls and contacts from her farm area. “It’s about the longevity of the name and [the customer’s] experience again. Giving a great experience, I feel, is a really big part of real estate. We need to remember what we’re there to do, and also to help people close one chapter and then open another.”
“In 2017, I want to increase my business by 20 per cent again. I’ve done that year on year, so whatever dollar value that is, as long as it’s at least a 20 per cent rise, I feel it’s all doable.”
“The market doesn’t dictate to me what I write; I dictate to it by what I do in preparation during those first two quarters that reflect on my third and my fourth quarters.”
Every year’s a great year because I want it to be. Privately, I’d like to spend a bit more time with my family, have a few more holidays with them.”
Sonya says the most important thing she has learned during her six years is about giving people time and being patient.
“Never want the deal more than the buyer or the seller, because when you’re in that zone you’ve lost focus. We’re employed to broker deals; that’s our job. That’s why we must always give the best service, the best customer experience, and also be empathetic for why people are doing what they’re doing.
“Selling a home is a major thing in someone’s life. When your life’s going well, it can be great; but when life’s not going well and you have to sell your home, we need to never lose focus on the trauma and the stress that’s on that person, and that’s why you need to be empathetic and understanding. We have two ears and one mouth. There’s a reason: you need to listen. So being patient and tolerant for whatever situation it is, that is really very important.”