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Breaking into the top end of the market with Michael Clarke

With Michael Clarke - Clarke & Humel


Many agents dream of working the top end, yet fail to prepare adequately and take the necessary steps to transition to win business.

At the top end, you have to hold the attention of the audience because they are not just interested in price. Michael Clarke from Clarke & Humel in the iconic seaside suburb of Manly has spectacularly transitioned into the top end of the Sydney market and is really having a moment.

  • With his wife Cherie Humel-Clarke, their business experienced extraordinary growth in the last year.
  • In 2014 Michael wrote more than $3.5m in fees.
  • They have gone from 60 property managements to 305.
  • They have bought two other real estate agencies and merged.
  • They have opened another office.
  • They have brought on board four new agents - all selling legends.
  • The group went from selling about
  • $140m - $150m to over $250m.
  • And Michael and Cherie welcomed a new baby boy.


Michael says that to service the top end of the market and to be successful in general, “There needs to be a system and a process around everything. There are no short cuts and you have to make sure that as you're going through, that you've been watertight. You've just got to make sure that you're doing good, clean business. That's the idea. And just working harder than the next bloke.”

Bringing value to clients

At the top end, Michael believes you have to bring value to your clients and study and know the top end far better than your competitors.

Michael says, “The first thing I had to do was get savvy with everything in the top end that had been selling.” When he was starting to meet with top end vendors, his greatest concern was not being able to answer questions about recent sales in the area.

He explains, “I felt rightly or wrongly I was leaving myself wide open to torpedo myself if I didn't know and wasn't able to speak with confidence. I found that by doing the amount of research that I felt was necessary, I could go in and genuinely have confidence. It wasn't ‘Fake it til you make it’.” In turn, Michael found preparing to that level meant no-one else presenting to clients could match him. As he says, “No-one was better prepared at that moment in time than me.”

He adds, “I also felt that I needed to work harder than the guys who were selling at that top end because they already had their runs on the board. So it was unlikely that they were going to get quizzed in as great a detail as me. I may do three or four comparables for a normal market appraisal or listing presentation but for a top end one - I'd do seven or eight. Now, I may not talk about all seven or eight in the listing presentation, but I would need to make absolutely certain that I knew everything around.”

Michael found that people at the top level knew the market intimately, knew similar properties to their own and their sale histories, so he needed to as well. He also realised that what had sold in the last twelve months was not as important as similar sales that had occurred over a number of years before.

He explains, “When I first started doing it, $3m in Manly was considered a massive sale. There were very few but rather than do the typical thing where you go back 12 months and see what else had sold, I went back five years and more.”

He made sure that he knew every sale in a particular pocket because $3m plus sales might have occurred six or seven years before. He says, “The top end didn't move as frequently as others. It wasn't good enough for me in a listing presentation to not know that two doors down sold for $3.5m and for me to say, ‘Oh yeah, but that was 6 years ago’. That's not acceptable for people at that price point because you can bet your bottom dollar at the time that other property sold for $3.5m, the vendor went through it or is referencing it. I needed to be extra thorough.”

The sales process has to be watertight

At the top end of the market, no one knows exactly what a place is going to sell for, including the vendor. The final figure really comes down to what someone is prepared to pay and what the vendor is prepared to release the property for.

Michael has found that vendors at the top end of the market, if they want to sell, will release a property if the sales process has been watertight and no stone has been left uncovered.

In his experience vendors, “want to make sure that at the end, when they are signing the contract, there is not another bid out there. And the way that they get the peace of mind to know that they are selling for the top dollar is knowing that the process has been correct.”

Michael has dealt with some tough customers who have made him work hard for the money but his grit and determination have paid off because customers have felt confident with his advice and his ability to sell.

He had one vendor with a property that had been on the market for three years with five agents. Michael sold it and he did it by following the right process. He says, “He was that typical builder/engineer type of chap who had built his own concrete fortress. And there was no other property on the market ever that was going to compare with his property. I remember having conversations with him where he was literally screaming down the phone saying, ‘You tell them to get stuffed’, all this kind of thing.” Michael met with him and responded in kind. He explains, “Firstly, he wasn’t going to listen unless I was able to get on his wavelength but the second thing was that ultimately he could see everything we were doing was correct. We nailed it. We got everything right and therefore there wasn't any more money out there".


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