After 38 years in real estate, Geoff Trebble has found the perfect balance between adapting to an ever-changing industry and maintaining traditional and still highly-regarded personal connections.
Geoff recently moved to the RE/MAX Pamilya Properties team to continue working as a senior sales agent, after spending most of his career on the northern end of the Central Coast, where he started his career back in 1983.
The 75-year-old’s success and longevity in the rapidly evolving industry can be attributed to his willingness to continue learning and his dedication to maintaining relationships with his clients from day one.
Starting out in real estate
In 1983, six weeks into his real estate career, Geoff made his first sale. It was a four-bedroom beachside property, which he sold for $195,000.
“It was the most expensive thing I thought I would ever see,” Geoff recalls.
“It was certainly the most expensive property we had in our office at the time. It was a very small office but in those days, we had a lot of listings.
“At $195,000, I thought I was wonderful. Little did I know that I had a long way to go.
“That was only about six weeks into starting my career there and it was a very exciting exercise.”
But Geoff didn’t stumble on such an impressive first sale by chance. If Fitbits were around in 1983, he would have clocked up a lot of steps.
Geoff’s first job at his local real estate office was walking the streets and talking to people who were “mowing the lawn, washing their cars, and doing all of those sorts of things”.
“I spent a lot of time out of the office, in the street, walking around,” he says.
“That’s the only way you’ll get to know the local area you’re going to be working in, and that’s really important.
“Even on days off when I had nothing to do, I would walk around and just make sure that I popped into the local shops.
“I gave them my card and had a talk to them, (asked) if they knew anybody who was selling or anybody who was interested in buying a property.”
Geoff says it may be surprising for some to see just how many people respond well to that face-to-face interaction.
“But you’ve got to do it constantly, you can’t just do it once and think, ‘I’ve done everything’. It’s got to be done on a regular basis,” he says.
Geoff says people are just as receptive to face-to-face interactions today as they were when he first started almost 40 years ago.
“Being a good agent is about the quality of the relationships you build,” he says.
“I see newcomers to the industry, who might have the qualifications but not the heart and soul, and the passion, to work through the nitty-gritty, day-to-day stuff.
“A lot of the young ones think that everything can be done through electronics. Just fire off an email and it’s gone, they don’t need to bother about it anymore.
“Unfortunately, that doesn’t get you very far when you’re competing with another agent.”
Geoff explains most people can’t always put their feelings in an email and real estate is often about emotion.
“If you were sitting around a coffee table with someone in their home having a cup of tea, they will tend to open up to you more when you’re doing that face-to-face rather than putting all that in an email,” Geoff says.
Geoff believes if you give a client an excellent experience from your first interaction with them, they’re more likely to come back to you again down the track.
“If they’re happy with what you’ve done previously, it’s the old story about repeat business,” Geoff says.
“Being in real estate is for the long term. Selling someone a property the first time is the easiest.
“It is having them return to buy their second, third or fourth property that is the challenge – and that happens when you build rapport.
“Repeat business is the sort of the thing that keeps our industry afloat, it certainly has for me over a number of years.”
But Geoff warns agents should not just hope for returning customers after a good sale, it is just as vital to maintain that connection even when they’re not looking to buy or sell.
“You need to make sure you keep constant contact with them too. I know agents who sells things to people and then 12 to 18 months down the track, they’ve forgotten who they were,” he says.
“We try not to do that and I’ve always made a point to keep in contact with the people I’ve sold property to over the past 30 years.
“That has always been a big help for me in relation to getting additional listings and some extra sales that may or may not come our way.”
Geoff says it can be hard work, but remembering people’s birthday, anniversaries, children or families is “where you get repeat business from”.
The value of continual learning
Geoff uses his experience to assist younger agents starting out in the industry.
“I mentor a lot of the younger ones down here in real estate, I’ve done that for a number of years,” Geoff says.
“I’ve also talked at the local high school here in relation to the Year 12 students who wanted to leave and become real estate agents at the end of their school term.
“I’ve always said to them, ‘Personal contact is still one of the most important things and building rapport with your clients, whether they be buyers or sellers, is the thing that will hold you in good stead if you’re interested in being in the industry for any length of time’.”
Geoff suggests there is a lot of turnover in the real estate industry because new agents are only taught one approach and don’t diversify.
“I find a lot of the young ones get into real estate and then two years later, they’re out again, purely and simply because they can’t hack it,” he says.
“That’s a shame because they’ve been taught one particular way and one way only ,but you’ve got to be adaptable and you’ve got to be able to keep on top of things.
“Everyday we need to learn something, if you don’t, you probably need to leave the industry.
“I’ve had a lot of people who say ‘Well, I think I know everything’ but they don’t. I’m still learning, we all are in that regard.”
For Geoff, one of the biggest shifts over the past four has been the integration of technology.
“It’s been a dynamic shift, particularly in relation to electronic and social media. The advertising and marketing – everything has changed,” he says.
He uses technology to maintain contact with customers, especially during the pandemic.
“COVID-19 down here in New South Wales has been extremely difficult for us and still is,” Geoff says.
“We’ve had to make special arrangements for a lot of our clients for one-on-one situations in a COVID-safe way.
“I still believe we need that personal contact, I think that’s still important, even with all the things we can do electronically, we still have to maintain a very good relationship with our vendors.
“We try as best we can to get to see them in whatever way, shape or form we can.”