Making every moment count

November/December 2016 edition

As most of her contemporaries consider slowing down or retiring, Christine Nesbit is busy taking on new challenges and looking to her next goals. Here she talks about the changing face of real estate, the necessity for lifelong learning and what’s next on her career journey. 

By Tina Liptai

The moment you start speaking to Christine Nesbit is the moment you discover she has a zest for life. And it’s infectious. Whether it’s her real estate career spanning decades, states and almost every industry specialisation, or ongoing community work and studying to complete a degree when most people are looking forward to retirement, at 69-years-young Christine commits seemingly boundless energy to everything she turns her hand to.

“I’ve always thought working and studying keeps you young, so that’s a big motivator for me,” Christine explained.

“I’m a big believer that staying active helps keep your body and mind healthy into your later years. I can’t imagine retiring. I love working. Of course, there are some days when I wonder why I’m still doing all this, but I think that happens with everyone at some point.

“If you take pride in what you do and are passionate about what you do – whether it’s work or other activities – then you look after yourself and that’s essential for good health.”

Her passion for life-long learning has seen Christine earn diplomas in both information technology and business management, and she recently embarked on a degree in business management. This is in addition to gaining a raft of industry-specific qualifications as a licensed real estate agent, stock and station agent, strata management agent and accredited auctioneer.

As the Principal and Licensee-in-charge of Albury Wodonga Real Estate, Christine is also cross-border licensed which is essential to practice in both cities located either side of the New South Wales/Victoria border.

Starting in sales
Though she always had an interest in the industry, real estate wasn’t Christine’s first career choice. Raised in Perth, Christine left school at the age of 15 and took a job as a nurse’s aide in the restorative care unit at Mount Henry Hospital. She then moved into a retail role before marrying and starting a family.

When she decided to go back to work, Christine took her first real estate job in 1976 at Grubb Real Estate and Finance, and relished the vibrant world of sales.

“I took on real estate head on. I was in sales and I loved it,” she said. “I think I chose real estate because it offers a good lifestyle to balance with family. It’s still demanding, but there’s a balance you can achieve when it comes to the hours you work and the flexibility of being able to take holidays at times that suit your family.”

Never one to do things by halves, one of Christine’s proudest achievements during her early years in the industry was organising one of the biggest auctions ever held in the remote township of Karratha in Western Australia.

“That was a lot of work! But the client loved it and it was a really great feeling to have done that for them,” she recalled.

Building a business
In 1983, Christine and her family moved to Albury in New South Wales. Following the relocation, Christine decided to take a break from real estate and return to retail. She took a role as an administration manager at Big W, where she remained for nine years.

“I then had a feeling that I’d like to go back into real estate, so when I saw a job come up in Wodonga, I took it,” she said.

For the next few years Christine enjoyed being back in sales, and also having the opportunity to expand into stock and station agency work. But it wasn’t long before Christine was looking to take on bigger challenges in her career.

“I’d always worked for other people and I was a bit sick of it, so I decided to go out on my own,” she said. Armed with her licence and a recently acquired diploma in business management, Christine was set to launch her own business when in 2001 she was unexpectedly offered a position with Albury Wodonga Real Estate as a licensee.

“It was a good opportunity, so I took it. And it was around that time that I also started to become more involved in strata management, because I was really interested in the administrative and legal side of things,” she said.

Three years later Christine bought the business and it’s still going strong. “I have a great team, which makes a huge difference to running a successful business,” she said.

Christine has a team of just two full-time staff and her husband, a retired engineer, also helps out. She said the success of the business has been down to hard work, but also working smarter where possible.

A self-described ‘tech-head’, Christine combines her years of industry experience with savvy integration of technology wherever she can in her business to streamline processes and save time for her team.

“We have good systems in place and we use as much technology as possible to help us. We’re all tech-heads and it’s really incredible that these days, with a click of a button, you can do the work of a dozen people – so we take full advantage of that.

“In so many ways, technology brings us closer together and makes work so much easier. Being able to do things like use email to send documents, contracts and correspondence makes work much faster, especially in regional areas, because if you are sending or receiving mail by post – like we did in the ‘old days’ – you could be waiting up to a week, which means significant delays.

“Of course we still have challenges with older clients who don’t necessarily understand technology, but on the whole technology is vital for us.”

Changing with the times
Christine’s love of all areas of real estate practice means her business spans residential sales, property management and strata management. And while she enjoys the challenges that are unique to each specialisation, she would like to further expand her strata management business.

“I really love homes and housing, and I enjoy every aspect of working in real estate,” Christine emphasised. “There are lots of challenges with legislation working across New South Wales and Victoria – but that keeps things interesting.

“Sales is rewarding because you’re helping people find their dream home. And I’ve met a lot of great tenants over the years managing rentals. But I really love strata management. 

“Some people say it takes a brave person to be a strata manager, but for me it’s a very rewarding stream of work and I enjoy all the challenges. You have so many opportunities to help people to iron out problems, and dealing with the construction and legal side of things is also interesting for me.”

Since she first started out in real estate, Christine has seen a lot of changes in the industry and she believes a move to more people choosing apartment living is going to be the next big shift.

“The basics of real estate are the same as they’ve always been, but the demands of the market and what people are looking for has changed. Land is becoming more scarce and there’s a trend of people downsizing to apartments. Some of it has to do with the ageing population, but also I don’t see as many people looking to have a big family home and a big garden; they want convenience. I think strata management agents will be in more demand in coming years with the shift to more and more people living in apartments.

“Albury Wodonga is a vibrant city. Developments are springing up everywhere and the population is increasing – it’s really exciting to be in the industry right now.

“To be successful, you have to change with the times,” she said. “There are always new challenges, but I think there are also exciting opportunities and you’ve got to go out there and face them head on. 

“One thing I always say to people is that if you want to keep working, you have to stay up-to-date with technology. And if you don’t keep studying to keep your skills sharp, you won’t stay in work.”

Grabbing life with both hands
You might think Christine has her hands full running a business, studying for a degree and managing a 200 acre farm with both crops and cattle. You’d be wrong.

Being an active member of the community has always been important to Christine. She served as a Hume Shire Councillor for nine years, was President of The Business and Professional Women’s Club and serves on the property committee of the Anglican Church’s Wangaratta Diocese. Christine is also a member of REINSW’s Strata Management Chapter Committee.

“It’s really important to be part of a community. I wish more people would get involved,” Christine said. “It’s rewarding and strengthens the community when people know each other and can help out when someone needs it or they know who to go to for help. You can make such a difference to other people just by being involved.”

Music has also played a big part in Christine’s life. She started playing the piano at the age of four and later played in bands for many years. Today, she is a member of the choir at St Matthew’s Anglican Church.

But rather than being shocked by how much she does, Christine hopes people are inspired to make the most of every opportunity they have. 

“You just need to make the time,” she said simply. “I always say to people ‘if I can do it, you can do it’. Time is precious. You need to apply your mind and get your priorities right. The more you have to do, the more organised you are and the more efficient you become. 

“You only get one chance at life, so I’m grabbing everything with both hands.”
Why I love real estate
“I’ve always found real estate really interesting, and it makes me happy to be able to work with so many people across so many different areas of the industry,” Christine said.

“Working in real estate does offer a good lifestyle to balance with family and other parts of your life. It is demanding, but there is a balance that you can achieve.

“I really enjoy every aspect of the work I do. It’s incredibly rewarding. I love working cross-border in sales, rentals and strata because there is always a new challenge – which I enjoy – and working with people is always very interesting.

“Real estate has always presented me with a lot of opportunities to learn, which is important to me. Whether it’s learning about new legislation, developing my skills in a real estate specialisation or the study I have done in IT and business, there’s always a new challenge around the corner or something I can do to improve how I work. That really motivates me.”
Christine’s top tips for real estate success
Take the time to listen to your clients. Get as much information as you can and understand what they want. If you work with your clients, you’ll be successful.
Make sure you keep in constant contact with your clients, keep them updated and let them know what’s happening. Think about how you would like to be treated, be patient and make sure you keep the lines of communication open.

Always be open and honest with your clients and everyone you deal with. Sometimes they won’t want to hear what you have to say, but that shouldn’t stop you if you know they need to hear it. There have are when this is difficult to do, but being honest is much better for everyone in the long run.

Make time to learn
Keep studying, keep learning and embrace technology wherever you can. The skills you have today will not be the only skills you need in five years. Embrace new challenges, keep evolving and learning and you’ll have a long career.
Running a regional agency
While it may seem like there would be glaring differences between working in a regional agency compared to an inner city agency, Christine believes the skills and attitude required from agents is quite similar.

“I don’t think there are that many differences. I’ve worked in Perth and in Albury Wodonga and I don’t think I would do anything differently in the city than how I work now,” Christine explained.

“I think the city is probably more fast paced and clients are perhaps a bit more demanding. Particularly in Sydney, I’m sure there are a lot more clients that have very high expectations and are very specific about what sort of property they want. But there are still times that I walk the streets and door knock to find a property that matches what a client wants.

“In general, you could say it’s a bit more of a relaxed lifestyle in regional areas. The pace of life and business is probably a bit slower. But I think it’s still demanding work. You need to be motivated and working hard for your clients.

“I think a lot of it comes down to the individual agent. In the city and in regional areas you have good agents and you have great agents, and the difference is how motivated they are.”