Business LeadershipElite AgentFeature Interviews

The domino effect

Over a lengthy career in real estate, Maria Carlino has established herself as an expert in the art of growth. Now, she heads up The Agency’s property management division as part of a talented team intent on making their mark.

Ask Maria Carlino about her goals for the years ahead and she’s crystal clear in her response.

“Ten thousand-plus property managements is my goal for The Agency in the next three years, with a presence in every state,” she declares.

That’s no small target for a brand that was founded less than two-and-a-half years ago. But chances are Maria will achieve it.

Already, The Agency has 4,500 properties on its books, operating property management from eight hubs in four states with 17 serviced regions.

It’s that can-do kind of attitude that has seen Maria handle property management growth for some of the industry’s biggest brands, and once saw her buy a Domino’s franchise just to bring her real estate dreams to life.

Still at high school and seeking direction, Maria found her passion for real estate by chance.

“My parents were selling our family home and invited a local real estate agent to value it,” she reflects.

“A really dynamic agent came through and I was instantly attracted to what he was doing.”

He took Maria under his wing and invited her to work weekends, manning the switchboard at the Kogarah office.

It quickly led to a full-time role in the family business.

“The first thing he said to me was, ‘If you want this role, you will have to get your licence’. I thought ‘Bugger. That’s three years at TAFE, two nights a week’.

“But I committed to it because I wanted the role, and he encouraged me all the way through. I’ve never forgotten that and the fact I had a really great boss who was happy to teach me everything he knew.”

Maria soon found herself a fully-fledged agent, working out of another office in Kogarah. But a move into property management beckoned and it was here Maria would begin to make her mark.

Within six months of taking on her first PM position she was training others in the art.

“I quickly learnt property management is all about how you treat others and good old-fashioned service,” she notes.

Maria steadily took on larger and larger portfolios, before being hired as the Business Development Manager for Ray White Newtown, where she was tasked with building a portfolio from the ground up.

“The business owner was very flamboyant and amazing at what he did,” she says.

“He grew that office to 17 staff, including hiring three seniors to get into the business and build it ASAP.

“I loved his thinking around that. It was a great taste of growth and how to structure and grow through investing in people.”

Within six months, Maria had helped build a rent roll from zero to 300.

The owner sold up, bought Ray White Annandale, and asked Maria to help do it all over again.

Having successfully built businesses for others, Maria realised it was time to create her own.

“I got the bug and wanted to open my own office. But I needed a strategy, I needed an income and I wasn’t interested in a partnership,” she says.

A lateral approach was required.

Maria and her partner decided they would find a business outside real estate which they could grow quickly and sell at a profit.

“So, we bought a Domino’s at Five Dock,” Maria says.

“We gave it a complete refurbishment and grew it from $15,000 a week in sales to $24,000 within 10 months, then sold it.

“We walked away with a nice nest egg to open our own Ray White, starting from fresh at Burwood.”

Over five years, Maria and her partner built the business from nothing to a team of 11, with Maria handling business administration and the growth of the property management division.

By the time the pair sold the business, they had a rent roll of 300 and a successful sales team of five.

Following the sale of her business, Maria was hired by Run Property, looking after their two branch offices at Artarmon and Ryde.

“I was given the job at the interview and it changed my world forever,” she notes.

“I learnt how to be accountable to budgets and profit and loss. I think I had been lucky in the past, but understanding the figures allowed me to know what we needed to do.”

This insight would be invaluable when she was tapped to interview for McGrath, who were starting a property management business.

“One of the interviewers was John McGrath, who said it was important for him to get up and running and his goal was 10,000 property managements,” Maria says.

“My largest previous team had been 15 overseeing 1700 properties, but I remember thinking ‘Wow. OK yes. I can do this’.

“So I looked him square in the eye and told him I would.

“Working for McGrath was like the crown jewel. It was a complete eye-opener.

“I did the journey with Matt Lahood, who truly believed in property management.

“Within seven years we had around 5,000 properties on the books, 80 per cent of which was through organic growth.”

Maria explains that growth was strongly supported by a sales team, who converted property investors into property management clients.

“It was easy to gain ground with warm leads that would convert,” she says.

“We grew McGrath at a pace where you had to be quick on your feet.

“You had to be supportive of your team and you had to be aligned with the strategy of the company.”

When McGrath was floated, Maria and Matt Lahood were among the agents who decided to move on.

It was a phone call out of the blue that started Maria’s journey with The Agency.

Matt had just come across a model he believed would disrupt the industry and had the potential to go national.

“He rang and asked, ‘Are you ready to do it all again?’

“Count me in,” was Maria’s response.

That was almost two-and-a-half years ago, and Maria reflects what has now become The Agency began with four people sitting around in a loungeroom planning a fresh and innovative brand.

Now, The Agency has 4,500 properties on its rent roll and national aspirations ahead.

“Matt and I have reinvented the cohesiveness, our collaboration and the way sales and property management do business,” Maria says.

“What I love about this brand is the flexibility and how it’s so nimble.

“What The Agency provides is a platform to develop careers, and that’s what I’m excited about.”

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