The name Tony Pickering is synonymous with Darwin real estate. After 50 years of dedicated service in the industry, the KG Young & Associates director has been awarded the Real Estate Institute of Australia’s top gong – the 2021 President’s Award. Here, Tony shares how he got started in real estate, his long list of achievements and why he’s not ready to retire just yet.
Tony Pickering doesn’t like a lot of fuss.
So, when a long-time friend and real estate colleague suggested he apply for the Real Estate Institute of Australia’s President’s Award, the veteran agent scoffed.
“John Dowling, from K.L Dowling in Melbourne, contacted me and told me he was going to nominate me for the award,” Tony recalls.
“I said to him, ‘Thanks very much, John, but I don’t know whether I’d get a guernsey’.”
But when the KG Young & Associates director sat down to write a list of his achievements during his 50-year real estate career, he suddenly realised just how much he’d done.
“A lot of things came back to me that I’d completely forgotten about,” Tony says.
“Life moves on, and when you’re in business, you don’t dwell on things, you just keep doing what you do, and it wasn’t until I sat down to write a CV that I remembered all of the things I had been involved in.”
A CAREER OF HIGHLIGHTS
A director at KG Young & Associates since 1972, Tony was one of the founders of the Real Estate Institute of the Northern Territory when it broke away from South Australia in 1974 and formed its incorporated association.
The 81-year-old has served on the board of the REINT and was its president in 1983-1984.
Tony served as the REINT national delegate to the Real Estate Institute of Australia from 1984 to 1990 and was chairman of the organising committee for the REIA’s 8th National Convention, held in Darwin in 1981.
Tony was also part of the REINT sub-committee formed to help the State Government create the NT Agents Licensing Act in 1979 and the education requirements for the issuing of licences.
When the REINT took over from Darwin Community College in providing the education programs required under the Act, Tony added new and amended modules and helped find qualified lecturers to teach the content.
“I also lectured in Real Estate Practice and Sale Procedures, including the conduct and process of the auction method of sale,” Tony recalls.
Oh, and in 2004 Tony was awarded the Order of Australia medal for his services to real estate and his philanthropic support of a range of groups and charitable organisations.
With all of this, and much more, written down, Tony decided to honour John’s wish to go in the running for the award and asked REINT Chief Executive Officer Quentin Kilian to endorse the official nomination.
“Tony was the first recipient of the REINT’s Ken Waters Award, which celebrates excellence in Territory real estate,” Quentin says.
“It’s an award that has only been given out five times in more than 40 years of the REINT’s existence.
“Tony is held in the absolute highest esteem by everyone in the Territory real estate industry.”
Needless to say, Tony won the 2021 REIA President’s Award for his services to real estate, but despite being invited to the awards night, he says he had no idea he’d won until his name was called.
“I was quite taken aback,” he says.
“I made sure I paid my respects to my wife Jude and our four children, Ben, Sam, Kate and Anna, because becoming established in real estate and during many parts of my career it took a lot of my personal time.
“Sometimes there were family functions or things that I could not attend, but they soldiered on.”
Tony says he moved to Darwin from Melbourne in 1969 as an insurance agent with South British United Insurance Company, intending to become the branch manager.
When that didn’t work out as planned, a client suggested he join Keven Young, who was opening a real estate agency.
“We came to an agreement that I would work with him for six months to see if we were compatible,” Tony says.
“As it turned out, we were. He appointed me a director of the company and from then on, we just rocketed on.”
Tony says his first sale came about when he sourced a property for the owner of the local BP service station who was tired of renting.
“He told me what he wanted, and later that year, a property came up that I thought would be suitable,” he says.
“So, without any form of advertising, I went straight to him and told him about it. Open for inspections weren’t held in those days, so I picked him and his wife up, took them to the property and introduced them to the owners and they had a look through.
“I waited 24 hours and, sure enough, they rang me to say they’d like to make an offer. I did a tap dance on the spot!”
HOW REAL ESTATE CHANGED
Real estate has changed a lot since Tony’s first sale, but he says the two biggest differences are property advertising and open homes.
Early in Tony’s career, there was no such thing as an open home and agents would pick buyers up in their cars and spend at least half a day driving them around to view various properties.
Not only was it time-consuming, Tony says many buyers found it uncomfortable as they felt they couldn’t talk openly in front of the agent.
He says the open home process is much more relaxed, and he has always encouraged agents he has trained or mentored to always, even at private inspections, give buyers details on the property but then allow them some space to consider the home.
“They (buyers) know when some real estate agent is leaning on their shoulder, and I think that relaxed attitude is far superior to the old process,” Tony says.
Tony says the open home process works hand in hand with advertising on real estate portals such as realestate.com.au and Domain.
There’s no more touring buyers around to multiple properties for hours at a time, and Tony says that’s a good thing, as in modern society, time is short, and things should be done at the convenience of the buyers and sellers.
TRIED AND TRUE
But, Tony says some timeless real estate elements and skills will never go out of fashion.
“You need to have empathy with people,” he says.
“You have to understand people, and you have to understand what their needs are.
“I was always taught, even from my parentage and my experience in insurance, that you have two eyes, two ears and one mouth.
“By the Lord’s ratio, you need to consider working those things in that order. So you look a lot, you listen a lot, and you speak little.
“A lot of real estate agents, like a lot of insurance agents, kill themselves because they babble too much.”
Tony also believes nothing generates a new agent more traction than door-knocking.
MEET THE MARKET
He says some new agents today seem to expect the market to come to them instead of taking their skills to the market.
“A lot of people seem to think that if they stick their photograph in the paper or online with their phone number that they’ll get calls,” Tony explains.
“It doesn’t work. It’s a waste of time. People will not answer that type of call; you’ve got to get out there and confront the market.
“When I started, I’d carve out a time and a designated area and I’d walk the beat, knocking on doors.
“Then, invariably, in a month’s time, in six month’s time, in a year, you’d have a phone call from a person saying, ‘Hey, I met you when you did your street walk that time. I’m thinking about selling my house. Would you like to come around and do an appraisal for me’?”
Tony urges agents not to let fear put them off cold canvassing or cold calling.
He says the only way you can beat fear is to confront it head-on, and it’s important to remember that if someone shuts a door or hangs up when you contact them, it’s not personal.
“How can someone be rude to me when they don’t know me?” Tony asks.
“They’re being rude to the image I represent, and that’s because they may have had a bad experience with someone in the past in the real estate business.
“I never walked back down a driveway with my tail between my legs; I just chose to say, ‘Well, that’s an experience’, and then it was time to move on.”
DON’T FORGET TO COMMUNICATE
Tony’s also a big believer in face-to-face communication and regular communication.
In fact, keeping in touch with clients is among his top tips for every real estate agent.
He says just as patients nervously await the results of an X-Ray or blood test from their doctor, vendors, who have spent many hours preparing their home, get nervous when their agent doesn’t keep in touch, particularly after an open home.
“Give service that people respect,” Tony says.
“Communicate and communicate regularly.’
In his spare time, Tony loves to play a round or two of golf, and while he knows retirement is on the horizon, he’s not quite ready to leave the real estate industry just yet.
“I just enjoy it too much,” he says.