Navigating through big changes

Working with clients when they’re making big life decisions is just one of things that makes real estate so rewarding for Director of Pilcher Residential, Simon Pilcher.

Did you always want to work in the real estate industry?
To be honest, I really fell into the industry due to a range of circumstances. I initially started in the industry in 1992, when I did a four-year stint. After I left I did a few different things, including working in the recruitment industry. But I missed the very close relationships you build with clients when you work in real estate. I just don’t think you find that so much in the corporate world.
While real estate wasn’t necessarily something I was set on pursuing as a career from an early age, I wouldn’t work in any other industry now. Interestingly, my dad worked as a real estate agent at one point in his life and I found out not too long ago that my grandfather did as well. So, a bit unwittingly, here I am as a third generation real estate agent.

Why did you choose to specialise in residential sales?
I’ve always worked in residential sales. It’s where I started. Clients put an enormous amount of trust in me, but I like dealing with people on a very emotional level. Sometimes I find myself helping people through extremely difficult situations and they need someone to shoulder some of the burden for them. I really respect that and it’s just one of reasons why I love what I do.

Real estate and recruitment are very similar in some ways, because you’re making contact with clients at a time when they’re making large life decisions.
I believe being brave, making big decisions and backing yourself is really important.
Why did you choose to open your own agency?
I’d been working for McGrath Estate Agents for nine years. When I started with McGrath there were only two offices. Over the time I was there it grew a lot and, to my mind, it became more corporate than personal. I wanted to go back to a smaller, more personal business and have the total freedom to make choices on behalf of my clients. I could be the master of my own destiny. It was a really liberating experience.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
The big buzz for me is helping people through one of the biggest changes in their life. There’s always a reason why people are selling their home. They generally don’t just wake up one day and think “Oh, I’ll sell my house today”. Their family might have changed; they might have another child on the way or perhaps the kids have moved out of home. There may be a significant positive or negative event that has occurred. But the common theme is that there is always a big change going on. I thrive on helping people navigate their way through the change. That’s why I do this job. It’s why I love it.

What are the key skills needed to be successful in your job?

Empathy. That’s the number one thing. People have a lot of emotional needs when they’re buying and selling property, not just financial ones.

Having a thick skin is also really important, because you tend to get a lot thrown at you. When you have the title “real estate agent”, I think some people feel it’s OK to take a shot at you. But you have to be able to just move on and not be affected by it.

Broad experience is also an essential ingredient to success – broad business experience and broad life experience. I think it’s extremely valuable for both you and your clients.
"Empathy. That’s the number one thing. People have a lot of emotional needs when they’re buying and selling property, not just financial ones."
What’s the most interesting transaction you have been involved in?
Without doubt, it was a property called The Abbey in Annandale. It’s a huge neo-gothic sandstone mansion with an incredible history. Built in the late 1880s, it’s had a very interesting and somewhat chequered history. When I sold it in 2009 it set a record for the suburb, which still hasn’t been broken. It was a deceased estate and there were some quite colourful characters amongst the family and beneficiaries, which made the sale process a rich and challenging experience.

The auction itself took an hour. There were people heckling each other and there were warring factions of neighbours. It was one hell of a process and one hell of a day.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Without doubt, setting up Pilcher Residential with my wife almost five years ago.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?
Our goal is to maintain the growth we’ve been experiencing in a market that’s offering 30-40 per cent fewer properties. Maintaining market share and growing turnover is also high on the list, which is challenging under the circumstances but I believe we’ll achieve it.

We also have some younger team members coming through as sales people and it’s a clear goal of mine to be a really great mentor for them as they grow their careers.

When you’re not at work, how do you like to spend your time?
Any precious non-work time is spent with my family. We have an eight and a 10 year old, who both keep us fully occupied. In a perfect world, we’d go skiing every year in the US. We don’t quite manage to pull is off each year, but it’s a great goal. The whole family really enjoy long bush walks, so we’ll often disappear for the day into the bush where there’s not a house in sight! I’m also a really keen cook; I can lose myself in a kitchen for hours at time. And, if I get the chance, I do Kung Fu training twice a week.

Is there a particular phrase or adage that you live by?
My dad was in the SAS and they had a coat of arms with the motto “Who dares, wins”. I grew up with it sitting on the wall in front of me. Seeing that motto every day of my life as a kid growing up, really stuck. I believe being brave, making big decisions and backing yourself is really important. 

What’s the best advice you would give your younger self if you knew then what you know now?
Dream bigger dreams!