The Importance of Coffee and Real Estate Training — An Investigation

In the past week, a news.com.au article has come to our attention that makes some pretty hefty (yet not without merit) claims about the training, or lack thereof, of some real estate agents. The article’s entire premise rests on the notion that real estate agents have less training than baristas.

First of all: we applaud the level of skill shown by a great barista, and verily, we couldn’t do what we do without them—a world without coffee is no world we want to live in (shudder!). We love great coffee, and Canberra is lucky enough to boast our very own World Champion Barista, Sasa Sestic—so we know what we’re talking about here.

The goal of a successful agency, of course, is to have World Champion Agents. And that brings us to the subject of training.

Firstly, we would point out that not all training needs to amount to a University degree. In fact, for many jobs (including journalism and nursing), on-the-job training used to be common, and is arguably a better way to learn about your industry. (Anecdotally, this writer came out of her journalism degree without the faintest idea of how to be a journalist in the real world. In just two months of her internship, she learnt more about the profession than she did during the entire 3 years in front of the lectern, so what does that tell you?)

Secondly, when it comes to training, we want to stress that it’s not just about quantity—it’s also about quality. Much of the available training in the real estate industry that is delivered through online learning, is simply not good quality training and focuses only on achieving industry compliance. In an industry that deals with key aspects of a consumer’s wealth and lifestyle, it’s vital for agents to be on top of legal requirements, communication skills, market knowledge and client needs, and have real-world industry experience before they begin the sale of a client’s biggest asset. This knowledge can’t be obtained purely by undertaking the cheapest available online qualification—and any agent who does this is looking for a reward without offering value.

Independent Property Group works to best practice, focusing on training for success, not just compliance. 10 strategies are used including accredited training, regular work reviews, specialised skills training (eg. auctions, negotiation and leadership), staff mentoring and more. Staff members are also taught underpinning skills such as cultural awareness and time, risk and stress management as well as interpersonal and written communication. Operations and Marketing Manager Zara Riley says: “Professional development is a major line item on our annual budget, as we know it improves both market results and client experience.”

And she’s right. Prior to engaging with a client, Independent Property Group’s salespeople complete two weeks of training. They then undertake a 3-month onboarding and induction process which involves assessment work, field (aka on-the-job) training and mentoring. Over the course of their entire career, they undergo CPD (Continuing Professional Development) training and attend industry conferences (at their own cost) whilst also teaching themselves via online resources, podcasts and videos in their ‘down time’.

Oh—and on the subject of down time—that’s not really a thing in real estate. For any salesperson who wants to be worth their salt, down time means study, it means building relationships, it means selling homes, it means fielding calls from potential buyers and finding ways to provide great client experiences. One sign of a truly great agent and industry leader is also the time they take to share their knowledge and mentor others, which is one benefit of an agency with long-standing agents who can and do share their corporate industry knowledge with the ‘newbies’. They do all of this because they’re passionate about the business they work in and couldn’t be competitively successful unless they could find a point of difference.

And on the subject of income? The news.com.au article stated that agents earn an average of $71,000 a year in NSW. But what does this figure really stand for? With agents working 50-60 hours a week or more (often employing others at their own expense to help deliver the best client experiences) plus working weekends and evenings, all without any penalty rates or guarantee of a financial return, that figure doesn’t look so big. In addition, they often provide their own phone, technological devices, car and personal marketing collateral.

Independent Property Group’s Belconnen Principal, Matthew Peden, says: “Even established agents work a minimum of a 50-hour week. This often involves seeing clients outside of their normal work hours, leaving the agent doing appointments well into the late evenings, and of course, the weekends.”

This is the story of the best agents, at least. At worst, yes, some agents out there will do the absolute bare minimum amount of training and go out into the industry and make dodgy deals. This is why it’s so important to ensure you’re working with a quality agent who has both the training and expertise to give you a great experience. If you’re thinking of working with a particular agent, ask them what they do to stay at the cutting edge of this rapidly evolving industry. How are they going to get you the best result? What is their qualification? How do they stay at the forefront of the industry? These are the important questions that can avoid you taking a one-way journey to Real Estate Hellsville (it might not be on a map, but let us assure you—it exists). To put it simply: only an agent who strives for excellence will ever achieve excellence.

And of our barista friends? We certainly hope none of them have taken offence at the comparison made by news.com.au, as we want them to continue striving for excellence, too. As consumers, we should all be able to expect to deal with professionals in all areas of service delivery—and given how important property transactions are to people’s lives, real estate should be right up there on the list.

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