The true measure of success

September/October 2017 edition

Starting out in the banking industry before making the move to real estate more than 20 years ago, David Howe believes that honesty and integrity are the foundations for success in any industry. Here he explains why.

By Tina Liptai

Talk to any successful professional and they’ll inevitably attribute their success to their own secret mix of habits, traits and practices. With a career spanning four decades across banking and then real estate, David Howe’s personal equation for success has always been simple and straightforward.
“I’ve always believed that success comes down to two things: honesty and integrity,” David explained. “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you need both honesty and integrity if you want to do well. I’m always upfront and transparent with my clients and I believe this is one of the things that’s behind my success. For me, it’s not just about doing well in business. It’s an innate part of who I am. It’s in my personality. It’s what I truly believe in.”

David started his real estate career in 1994, after 18 years working in the banking sector.

“When I finished school in Singapore, I completed two years’ compulsory army service and then took my first job as a clerk in a bank at the age of 20,” he said.

David soon moved into trading and became a specialised foreign trader, before being headhunted in December 1984 for a position with a bank in Sydney.

“When I accepted the position, I told my parents I’d only be in Australia for three years,” he said. “I really did believe at the time that I’d return home, but it’s not what happened.”

Ten years into his Australian adventure, in 1994, David decided to leave the banking industry and it didn’t take long for him to decide on his next career move. He followed his passion and was guided by what made him happy – something that’s always led David in the right direction.

“When I left banking, the only thing that really resonated with me for my next career was real estate,” he remembered. “Over the years, I’d bought and sold a lot of properties. It’s something I always found interesting. I’d also dealt with a lot of real estate agents over that time and I felt I could bring something to the industry.

David started his real estate career under the guidance of Sandy Ludman at her agency in Willoughby. David credits her with “teaching him everything” and, as his first real estate mentor, she gave him a great start in the industry.

Four years on, David felt he needed some new challenges. “I spoke to Sandy about it and explained that I really wanted to work in a bigger company. I decided that McGrath was the place for me and I’ve never looked back.”

David is now the Director at McGrath Northbridge.

"I've always believed that success comes down to two things: honesty and integrity. It doesn't matter what you're doing, you need both if you want to do well".
Six-star service
Like most agents, David loves working with people and helping his clients get the best results possible. He takes personalised service seriously – an attribute he attributes to his next mentor, John McGrath.

“Helping people is what’s most important to me. That’s what I really enjoy,” he said. “Helping vendors achieve their dream price and purchasers buy their dream home gives me a lot of satisfaction. Whether it’s a couple or a young family, people buying their first home or someone looking for an investment property, I give everyone six-star service to help them achieve their goals. When my clients are happy, I’m happy. At the end of the day, if you have happy and satisfied vendors and purchasers, that’s the best feeling.

“People ask me about money and of course it’s important, but it can’t be the number one thing you strive for. Yes, everyone wants and needs money. But it will come if you’re good at what you do and you’ll be good at what you do if you’re doing something that makes you feel happy and satisfied.”

For David, six-star service means providing constant updates and regular communication to both vendors and purchasers throughout the sales process, being a trusted source of information and advice, and attending to every detail to make the process as smooth as possible for everyone involved.

“At the end of the sale, if clients rave about the service and, more importantly, treat me as a friend then I know I’ve given them six-star service,” he said.
“Real estate is a referral business. Word of mouth is so important and it leads to more business. I want to be the first choice for anyone who’s looking for an agent. That’s a huge motivation for me and is always my end goal.”

New career, similar skills
Armed with an MBA from Macquarie University, which he completed during his banking career, David found many of his business and banking skills were key to his early success when he moved into real estate.
“It might seem surprising, but banking is also a people business,” he said. “Banking is where I first learnt how to provide excellent service to customers. If you offer the best service, you’ll build trusting, loyal customers and they’ll listen to your advice and recommendations.

“It’s the same in real estate. If you give your clients great service, they’ll be loyal and trust in your recommendations and you’ll have good relationships with long-term clients.”
In addition to the all-important customer service values, David has found that the discipline, negotiation skills and ability to identify market trends he learnt over the course of his banking career have all helped him in real estate.

“Also, the mental alertness and mathematical capability you need as a banker enable me to give accurate market appraisals or assessments of a property’s value based on historical performance. Charting the trend in real estate is quite similar to charting the trend in foreign currencies,” he said.

Work, life balance
As well as enthusiasm, David brings a high level of discipline to his daily routine and this helps him achieve the best results for his clients. Every morning, he’s up at 6.00am. He trains twice a week at a local gym in the morning and works six days a week. Always in the office by 7.00am, David usually doesn’t leave until after 7.00pm.

“I make a habit to always reply to emails as soon as possible and never, ever leave the office until all emails are actioned,” he said. “When you leave the office, you should feel like you’ve completed everything for the day. Also make sure when you’re at work, you’re present and 100 per cent focused on work. Don’t be distracted by other things.

“I spend a good part of my day prospecting. It’s a big part of our business, so I always make sure I spend time focused on it. This includes speaking to clients on our database, giving them information about the market and keeping them up to date with what’s happening. It’s vitally important to keep communicating with all our clients.”

While he’s completely focused on his work, David said moving out of the suburbs where he works has helped him achieve some work, life balance.

“Until 10 years ago, I was living and working on the Lower North Shore. But then I moved to Millers Point,” he explained. “Even though it’s only eight minutes or so over the bridge, it feels like when I’m on one side of the bridge I’m working and on the other side I’m home.

“I still tend to send emails and reply to clients until about 11.00pm, but I feel like I can switch off a bit more. I enjoy my work so much, I never completely stop until it’s time to sleep!”

Cultural understanding
Besides his dedication to service, one thing that sets David’s offering apart is his cultural knowledge – both Asian and Western. It helps him provide tailored service to meet his clients’ needs.

“About 50 per cent of my clients are Asian, so it is helpful to understand Feng Shui and other cultural needs,” he explained. “Having this cultural knowledge is not critical, but it’s good to know and it can help you to better understand what clients are looking for.

“With Feng Shui, it’s important to understand what can be altered. A property is not necessarily a ‘good house’ or a ‘bad house’. There are things you can do to address concerns, such as consult a Feng Shui master.

“Not all my Asian clients will avoid a number 4 house, but some will in the same way that some of my Western clients avoid buying a number 13 house. Having this knowledge helps me better target the market and understand why particular clients might love or avoid certain properties. For me, it’s like understanding the difference between a Californian Bungalow and a Federation Style home. It’s important to have this wider knowledge to help you provide a better service to your clients.”

Paying it forward
David still has a lot of personal goals he’d like to achieve in his own career, but after more than 20 years as a real estate agent he’s passionate about doing his part to help up-and-coming stars of the industry.

“I would like to be a mentor and give back to the industry that has given me so much,” he said. “I’d love to be able to give more advice to young agents and people starting out in their career.

“Over the years, I’ve had assistants and people in my team go on to become very successful agents. Some are better than me and I’m proud they all started with me and have now gone on to achieve great things.”

The best piece of advice David’s ever received? “Someone once said to me, ‘Always be happy and smile. Give what you want to receive in return. If you see someone, smile and wave. It doesn’t cost you anything, but it can make all the difference to them.’

“This is how I try to live and work every day. I want to share this and my other knowledge with others, so they can achieve all that they are hoping for in this great industry.”
"Someone once said to me, 'Always be happy and smile. Give what you want to receive in return. If you see someone, smile and wave. It doesn't cost you anything, but it can make all the difference to them'. This is how I try to live and work every day".

DAVID'S TOP TIPS for real estate success

  1. Always act with integrity, honesty and give your best service to every client
  2. You need to be hardworking. This is not a 9 to 5 job
  3. When you’re successful, never forget the people who helped you get there and pay it forward to others when you can
  4. Never be arrogant. There’s no need for it. There isn’t much satisfaction in being the richest person or the best real estate agent if no one likes you. Always be humble about your success
  5. Be of service. Be helpful to your clients and your colleagues.

Why I love real estate

“I love homes and I love helping people, so real estate combines these two things really well for me,” he explained.

“I enjoy making people happy and I can do that every day by helping my clients. I enjoy my work and I’m pleased to have built a strong team that can achieve a lot together. This is not a one-person job. My dedicated and hardworking team is a huge part of my success and they always have been.

“When I have a client leave me a great testimonial, saying our team was efficient, professional, we gave great advice, know the market and made the whole process stress free, it’s such a great feeling. That’s why I wake up every morning and go to the office. That’s why I love my job. My team and I love to help others achieve their dreams and goals. It’s our main objective – and when a client says they’d recommend us to others, then I’m over the moon.”