Leading the way

Leading the way

26 November 2020

By Tina Liptai

Industry-leading buyers’ agent Jacque Parker reveals how she’s developed a thriving career by building strong client relationships based on empathy, commitment and trust.

When Jacque Parker decided to leave behind her career as a school teacher to turn her passion for property into a business, she never imagined her skills as an educator would play a key role in building a thriving career and raising the profile of a relatively misunderstood part of the real estate industry.

“I purchased my first investment property in 1991,” Jacque recalled. “My husband and I spent our spare time renovating, attending seminars, networking and researching what we’d buy next. It’s something I’ve always been very interested in and passionate about.”

But it wasn’t until she was preparing to return to the workforce after having children that Jacque began to explore how she could focus on her passion fulltime.

“You could say it was a serious hobby that evolved into a business,” she said. “By 2002, my husband and I had amassed a healthy property portfolio across two states. I’d also had experience self-managing and selling some of our own properties, so I was well versed in the roles on the other side of the fence.

“I also knew first-hand that you can waste a lot of time researching and travelling to view properties that don’t work out. From my own experience, I knew how beneficial it would be for investors and buyers to engage an agent to search, locate and successfully negotiate for them within a set budget and criteria.”

Jacque and her business partner, who worked in the banking industry and was also a keen investor, saw the gap in the market and launched their agency House Search Australia at a time when just a handful of buyers’ agents were operating in Sydney.

Even though there was a clear opportunity in the market, Jacque said they still had their work cut out convincing both buyers and sales agents of the benefits they could offer.

“You can’t fake authenticity in this role; reputation, integrity and trust is everything in this business. Being empathetic and supportive is a big part of our job.”

Educating the market

While a lot has changed in the past decade for buyers’ agents, Jacque says there’s still a lot more to do.

“If 10 years ago it was in its infancy, buyers’ agency is now in adolescence, with buyers and selling agents more willing to engage, but it’s an ongoing education process,” Jacque explained.

“The attitude towards buyers’ agency has changed over the years, especially from selling agents. This has largely been the result of buyers’ agents educating the market about what we do and how we complement selling agents and don’t compete with them.

“In 2005, when we started out, most selling agents thought we were after a commission split, which of course made them hesitant to work with us. But that was really just a result of a misunderstanding about the role we play in the transaction.

“Good relationships with selling agents are essential in our industry and fostering healthy and professional relationships is a large part of what we do. For the most part, today is a very different environment to work in than it was when we started our business – and there’s still much to do.”

Embracing change

While buyers’ agency may not have the high profile of residential sales, Jacque said there’s never a dull moment.

“It’s been a really interesting and, at times, unpredictable ride,” she said of working as a buyers’ agent. “Every search is different and we work with a wide variety of buyers – from families looking for their forever home to singles wanting to buy their first investment property, and even TV networks engaging us to buy houses for renovation programs. But what remains the same is our promise and dedication to seek out and find the very best possible outcome for the particular needs of our client.

“I love what I do. I love the daily interaction with people and the thrill of achieving a great result for clients.

“But, like anyone working in any industry, there have been brief moments that made me question why I do this. It can be very stressful and there are times when you do everything right, but you don’t get the result you were hoping for. When a client misses out on a property they really wanted, the buyers’ agent can be the scapegoat, which is tough sometimes, especially when you’ve developed a close working relationship with that client.”

And, like so many business owners, Jacque has experienced a number of personal and professional challenges this year.

“There’s no doubt that 2020 has been the toughest year for us in more than a decade,” she said. “Indecision, uncertainty and a lack of commitment from both buyers and sellers has made it a year we’d like to move on from. I am sure many other agents feel the same.

“In particular for us, expat and absent buyers who would usually fly over to inspect the properties at the end of a search have held off engaging us until they can move freely again or have more confidence in the market. So, our main focus this year has been helping local people looking to buy a home, both first-time buyers and upgraders.

“What’s great about real estate is that shelter is an essential need, so even in challenging times there will always be movement in the housing market.

“But even when it’s a challenging market and even on the toughest days, I’d say 95 per cent of the time I enjoy what I do. I think it really helps to have an addiction to property, because no matter how tough my day has been, my passion for helping people buy the right property is always there and that keeps me going.”

“There really are no secrets or quick fixes when it comes to being a successful buyers’ agent. It’s about preparation, hard work, consistency, dedication to clients and having the motivation to keep striving to constantly be better at what you do.”

No secrets for success

As the only female buyers’ agent to have won the REINSW Award for Excellence in the Buyers’ Agent category three times, Jacque is no stranger to success and is happy to reveal that there’s no secret formula when it comes to achieving her goals.

“In my mind, success is simply helping our clients achieve the very best result,” Jacque explained. “There really are no secrets or quick fixes when it comes to being a successful buyers’ agent. It’s about preparation, hard work, consistency, dedication to clients and having the motivation to keep striving to constantly be better at what you do.”

Jacque credits her parents for instilling many of the core values that have led to her success in business.

“Both of my parents had a very strong work ethic, which I know has rubbed off on me,” she said. “My mother was awarded an Australian Public Service Medal back in 2005 for her outstanding service in her role with WorkCover. Her public recognition of the key traits of professionalism, outstanding service, provision of quality information and empathy with customers is something that I aspire to.

“I feel so lucky to have been raised in an environment that emphasised integrity, hard work and genuine care.”

Jacque explained that empathy, commitment and never taking for granted the trust clients place in you are qualities many successful buyers’ agents have in common.

“You can’t fake authenticity in this role; reputation, integrity and trust is everything in this business,” she said. “Being empathetic and supportive is a big part of our job. You need to be truly on board with the entire journey of helping buyers navigate through a myriad of information, emotional challenges and ultimately life-changing decisions. Every search is different. Some searches can take months and you need to be with your clients throughout the whole process, which can be really emotional for them at times.

“I consider it a huge privilege for buyers to outsource such an important life task to us, and we never take for granted the trust they place in us. I measure success on the satisfaction of our clients and the fact that they keep returning and referring us business is testament to our service and ability to do a good job.”

Why I love real estate

“As clichéd as it sounds, I feel truly privileged to work in an industry that I’m so passionate about,” Jacque said.

“I love the daily interaction with a myriad of people and personalities. There’s also a range of ever-changing challenges and, most of all, the thrill of achieving a great outcome for our buyers.

“I really enjoy helping people through what is often one of the most stressful and financially important events of their lives. It’s incredibly satisfying to see the joy – and sometimes relief – on a client’s face when we secure a new home or investment property for them.

“Using my skills and knowledge to help people by doing what they usually can’t do themselves is extremely rewarding.”

Strong and supportive networks

While many agents look to big names in the industry for inspiration, Jacque said she looks at the hardworking people around her to keep her bolstered.

“My peers inspire me,” she explained. “In particular, those with whom I have connections with via REINSW and the Real Estate Buyers Agents Association. They are a fantastic network of people and we draw motivation from each other by sharing resources, experiences, stories and giving each other support.

“I’m also very fortunate to have a wonderful team of women who work for me. Both Cathy McGowan and Sally Schinckel-Brown are experienced and resilient agents who hold high values and show genuine care for our clients. They go above and beyond to get results for our buyers, and this is reflected in the feedback we receive.”

The future

When it comes to predicting the future, Jacque said she’s excited to see what will happen next for her and the buyers’ agency industry.

“When I first started in this business, I had plans to expand, but that’s changed over the years,” she explained. “I love having a smaller boutique agency and choosing to help a handful of clients by providing a more personalised service is what works for us.

“I have a real balance in my life and I’m very happy with where I’m at. I’ve always focused on personal goals, growth and development, so striving for money or expansion for the sake of it has never been my goal.

“Buyers’ agency is still a developing part of the industry, so who knows where it will be in five years – but it’s exciting to see what will happen next.

“I also recently returned to the classroom as a contract trainer with REINSW and really enjoy introducing new entrants to the real estate industry. In this role, I feel I’ve now come full circle in my role as an educator.”

Leadership insights

“I’ve been very fortunate to attract and maintain a high calibre of quality buyers’ agents working for me,” Jacque explained. “We are a small independent agency and quality of service is what’s most important. That’s the focus of everything I do as a leader.

“I’m big on systems and having procedures in place for everything we do. From the inception of House Search Australia, I had a template and checklist for almost every task. It helps to ensure consistency of service and that no detail is missed, which benefits our clients and makes our jobs easier.”

Jacque also pointed to the importance of collaboration.

“If someone knows a better way to do something, has a different strategy to try or new idea to consider, I am all ears. I like to think that as a leader I’m approachable, adaptable and open to change.”

Contributing to the industry for the benefit of all buyers’ agents is something Jacque is also passionate about.

“I’ve held leadership positions as REBAA President from 2012 to 2015 and have been on the REINSW Buyers’ Agents Chapter as Deputy Chair for more than 10 years,” she said. “I’m truly passionate about our industry and I’m proud that our committee has been responsible for lobbying for many positive changes, including having buyers’ agents recognised on the front page of the Contract for Sale and Purchase of Land, being involved in the provision of consumer information on the NSW Fair Trading website and working towards legislative changes.”

Career tips

Jacque shares her tips about how to build a strong and productive career as a buyers’ agent.

1. Have realistic goals

Finding buyers takes hard work, consistent relationship building and serious commitment. Like any business it can be challenging, with solid profits not forthcoming for months or even years. So formulating a clear and pragmatic plan upfront is crucial. Laying and building the foundation is a hard slog, but it’s essential in creating a thriving business over the long term.

2. Find a mentor

Having a mentor can be helpful in understanding what buyers’ agency is all about and whether it’s a workable career for you. When I first started, I had the benefit of a supportive and capable business partner. We did our research and spoke to several buyers’ agents from different states to discover what life was really like in the trenches. This was not only helpful, but allowed us to develop a clearer business plan and set realistic goals for the future of House Search Australia.

3. Consistency is key

I recently heard a colleague say that although what we do isn’t necessarily hard, what makes an agent most successful is the banality of consistency. This is so very true. Getting up day after day and committing to the scheduled processes of making those calls, setting up appointments, and sending information to clients is what it’s all about. Connecting with people by forming new relationships and meaningfully staying in touch with your database and tracking your progress consistently is so important. It’s certainly not the glamourous side of real estate, but getting these things right every time is imperative to success.

4. Network

Buyers’ agency is still niche and a relatively small part of the industry, so it’s vital that you establish and nurture connections within the industry. You need to regularly reach out to colleagues, check in with them, share war stories, learn from each other and be involved in lobbying. I love the camaraderie and support from my colleagues on the REINSW Buyers’ Agents Chapter Committee, as well as REBAA members. As most buyers’ agencies are smaller outfits than selling agencies, it’s important to maintain professional relationships and being a member of industry bodies plays a big role in that.

“To be a good leader, you need to have a willingness to always improve, be on top of your game both in knowledge and skills, support those around you to achieve their goals, while also striving to do your absolute best in this business.”

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