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Shannan Whitney, Understanding the process

The boy from Tamworth who came to Sydney for university and worked in real estate at the weekends, has taken his simple country principles and made them work in the industry’s competitive city environment, carving out his own niche in the inner Eastern Suburbs.

Shannan Whitney, 34 started with McGrath when he finished school in 1994, and is now the principal of BresicWhitney Estate Agents in Darlinghurst, an agency he started with Ivan Bresic five years ago. When discussing his reasons for leaving the comfort of a big brand to go it alone, Mr Whitney said the pair wanted to learn. “We wanted to grow as people and we wanted to grow as real estate agents, and we really felt that walking away from the comfort of the McGrath banner was the best thing for us to do, and it’s proven to be the case.”

The essence of real estate

Rather than concentrating on how many times he should call a vendor, or whether he has printed enough brochures, Mr Whitney credits his success in the industry with understanding the essence of what a real estate agent should be. “What’s kept me interested and passionate about real estate is that I naturally took to it very well,” Mr Whitney said.

Understanding the process behind real estate has helped Mr Whitney develop his skills from working as an agent to a principal. “I found that as an agent I focused very much on numbers, listing and selling. That was obviously critical because it dictated how much you earn,” he said, explaining he looked carefully at his role in the process and changed tack to better serve his clients – and himself. “I’ve changed my focus and the way I work. I’ve taken a lot of pressure off myself and I've found that to be hugely successful and I think I’m selling better now than I ever have because I’m more effective in the process.”

“The process is in what we do – we do our call backs on Monday, buyer appointments on Tuesday, open houses on Wednesday and Thursday, call backs on Friday, open houses and auctions on Saturday. If we do those five things and we have the same principles every day, then our business will be in a better place, because our competitors won’t do it consistently. We will, and the brand will flourish. I thought it was much more complicated than what it is, but it’s not.”

Keep it simple

Product knowledge, listening skills, customer service and a good work ethic are the most important traits for a successful real estate agent, Mr Whitney said. “I think I’ve got an ability to engage and listen to what people have to say and I’ve got a good work ethic. I think that is critical if you want to succeed in any business. Being a listener in this industry doesn’t get the credit it deserves and for me I think that’s probably one of my biggest strengths.”

“A lot of people go through many years of training and improvement and they’re focusing on the mechanics of what makes up a real estate agent. In my view, what they fail to see is product knowledge and customer service as simply the two things that they need to master.”

Mr Whitney’s style is not over-engineered, but he understands how to orchestrate a sale by bringing the right people together, focusing on being calm and letting the process unfold as it should. “We overdo vendor communication, we overdo talking to the buyer, we overdo talking full stop. It’s taken me a long time and many, many sales to get to a point where I am comfortable and confident in my own ability and my understanding of how buying and selling works in real estate. I’ve found it to be incredibly powerful in doing numbers without the unnecessary exertion that agents think we have to put in,” he added.

Focus on buyers

This natural flair for buyer management kept him in good stead during his time at McGrath, where he was responsible for Kings Cross, Darlinghurst, Woolloomooloo, Potts Point, Surry Hills and Redfern. The importance of focusing on the buyer is something he passes on to the sales force at his own agency.

“There was a lot of things I got out of my time at McGrath – the main one probably was John’s [McGrath] insistence on buyer work, and being 18, 19 or 20 years of age and not knowing much about the world, that was excellent advice. To this day that’s probably the simplest, and most important, thing anyone entering the industry should focus on,” he said. BresicWhitney has a very simple message for newcomers to the industry to help them get ahead: turn up to work every day, be enthusiastic, have excellent product knowledge and do all this consistently.

“Where many new agents go wrong is they don’t have an understanding of what we’re doing. Take a stockbroker, for example, who specialises in industrials and you ask him the price for a telco stock, they’ll typically know. You ask a real estate agent in Manly what a typical terrace house sells for in Paddington and they’ll have no idea.”

“People focus on what do I say when a vendor asks me this? How do I say this when a buyer asks me this? Should I call a buyer three times before an auction? Should I call a vendor five times before an auction?” Mr Whitney added, explaining product knowledge was the base knowledge that technique should be built on.

Still concentrating on a similar inner city area with BresicWhitney, Mr Whitney said the agency grew from the patch he developed for so many years with McGrath.

He and his team now focus on typical inner Sydney Victorian terraces, priced between $500,000 and $2 million, and mid-range apartments, around $600,000 or $700,000. Mr Whitney now handles around six vendors a month, with the agency selling 50-65 properties each month.

 

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Shannan Whitney