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Insight: Kymbal Dunne explains how to invest in yourself

By Kymbal Dunne - Knight Frank Director of Major Projects and Office Leasing

I’ve been in real estate since I left school. I’m 53 now, so I’ve had a long time in the industry.

I started out in residential property management with a company called Andy Palumbo Real Estate, which was based out in the Western Suburbs. They were recognised as managing the largest portfolio of apartments in the Western Suburbs. I think we had about 5000 apartments. Cutting the keys for every apartment, which was something I had to do, was a big and mind-numbing job!

But that’s how you start off in life, isn’t it? You start out doing property inspections and checking references.


Starting out

The industry is about a tangible asset, which is vastly different to selling radio advertising space. For somebody young that’s starting out, if you don’t mind talking to anybody, then it’s a good career to consider.

During my career I have worked for residential and commercial agencies, including an agency called Time and Justice, Raine & Horne Commercial, Jones Lang Wootton (now JLL), Hooker Corporate, my own agencies PACT and m² Office Leasing and now Knight Frank.

My first transaction for Jones Lang Wootton was worth $21m. That was a great entrée to working in the company and working on these higher unit values. I took that first building, strata titled it, and did $28m worth of resales.

I sold Chanel the ground floor and the basement for $9.8m and then the Cartier store for $4.75m. This area then became the high fashion area of Sydney. I also used to do work for Louis Vuitton, advising them on rents. As a result of these connections, after a while pretty much everybody came to me. We’d just move one retailer from one shop to another.

I love dealing with the best. I enjoy dealing with those people because they are always doing something new.

Finding a balance

I exercise every day. I’m part of a group of cyclists that meet every Sunday. I play volleyball on Monday nights for a mixed indoor team, and I’ve also had a tremendous interest in coaching young athletes. One of the girls I’ve coached is the current world junior champion for javelin and another will represent Australia in 100m hurdles.

Another interest I have is bonsai trees. Bonsais are all about peace and quiet and taking time out to watch things grow. They are all very satisfying balances to the work I do in real estate. In our industry, it’s extremely busy, but not everything gives you a result, so it’s important to balance life with other things that give you a positive outcome.

How to make a career in real estate

Take the initiative
In 1998 I went to America and door knocked the IT businesses. I found the Americans were full of admiration for our efforts to cold call them because the American history is based around the travelling salesman. We won two jobs while we were away. I realised that travelling and meeting people in other countries was the only way we were going to win more work. It is really a global village. It’s not that hard to do business with people. I do quite a bit of business now with international players.

Start broad
I think the lesson is, you don’t need to be a specialist to start with. You should be a generalist. It’s good to just get into the industry, whether it’s residential sales or property management, or whether it’s the bottom end of leasing as a data entry person, it doesn’t matter where you start. Your first job is just a stepping stone and it will help you work out where you are best suited in this industry.

Invest in education
Education is critical. The great thing about property is you get educated during the day. A lot of it is life experience, but you’ve also got to study. It shows your commitment. For many people like me, who did their study at night, it shows their commitment.

Build a support system
There are many times when you do feel alone in this industry and I think that’s a killer. If you can get into a team environment, that can soften those blows. You need people around you saying you are doing a good job. I’ve got other passions, such as writing, but at the end of the day, every time I tend to come back to what I’ve invested in, real estate.

This article was first published in the July 2014 edition of the REINSW Real Estate Journal.