Agent of change

5 January 2022

By Tina Liptai

As he steps into the position of President, Peter Matthews is ready to take REINSW into the future and will continue his work to raise the profile of the real estate industry as a trusted profession.

After just one week of work experience, Peter Matthews knew real estate was the perfect career for him. Now, 33 years on, he’s ready to make his mark as REINSW President.

Like many agents, Peter always had an interest in real estate and looked with fascination at the photos of agents alongside their property listings in the local paper.

“At that stage, I was attracted to real estate because I wanted to work outdoors – and I also liked the idea of wearing a suit,” he laughed. “Dad wanted me to be a plumber, but I really wanted to wear a suit and being a real estate agent just made sense to me.”

As part of his Year 10 curriculum, Peter did work experience at the agency of a family friend in Balmain. He was hooked and went on to spend the next two weeks of school holidays at the agency doing more work experience.

“I knew then that I wanted to work in the real estate industry and that’s where all my effort, focus and energy went for the next two years of school,” he said. “I knew I was going to be a real estate agent. It was just a question of how.”

Peter explained that landing his first role was more challenging than he initially expected. He sent 65 letters of introduction to agencies, received 12 replies and was offered only one interview. But, as it turned out, that’s all he needed to kick start his career. The interview was for an office junior position in the then recently launched Ray White NSW corporate office and Peter was interviewed by the CEO, Ian Campbell.

“I have to say, I didn’t really like my chances against some of the other candidates, but I had a great interview,” Peter recalled. “Ian asked me where I saw myself in 10 years’ time and my cocky,18-year-old response was ‘in your chair’, which luckily made me stand out for the right reasons.”

“I’ve always really enjoyed what I do, and I’ve worked six days a week since I was 19 years old. I genuinely like talking about property, technology and training – so I do it as often as I can.”

No secret to success

Peter’s real estate career has been broad and he’s contributed to many areas of the industry. He spent his early selling days in Bankstown in South West Sydney before becoming an Associate and COO for Ray White NSW and New Zealand, and later the Principal of 55 staff across three offices on Sydney’s Lower North Shore. He’s also conducted more than 26,000 auctions. Today, he is the Co-founder and CEO of Realtair – a technology platform that provides an end-to-end integrated solution for real estate agencies to add value for clients and deliver a greater customer experience.

“I never set out with any ambition to do what I’m doing today,” Peter explained. “I do feel lucky that, early on in my career, I had positive experiences in the industry, which set me up well. I’ve always really enjoyed what I do, and I’ve worked six days a week since I was 19 years old. I genuinely like talking about property, technology and training – so I do it as often as I can.

“That’s my best advice to anyone thinking about a career in real estate: make sure you set yourself up to really enjoy working in the industry on a day-to-day basis. And try it out before you commit to a career.”

Peter believes that many people come into the industry with the wrong perception of what being an agent actually involves.

“A lot of people think agents don’t sell, but rather people buy,” he said. “They don’t realise the work that goes into building trust by working with both the vendor and purchaser to achieve a great outcome for both, while ensuring you meet all your obligations to the vendor, who is your client. You are guiding someone through a major milestone in their life and, as an agent, you need to have integrity and feel comfortable that you can meet your responsibilities to both parties.”

Positive change

One of the things Peter is most looking forward to during his term as REINSW President is leading positive change for the industry, particularly when it comes to using technology to work more efficiently.

“I know there are agents who are happy to keep doing the same things they’ve always done because it works,” he said. “But consumers expect so much more these days. They want added value and they want a good experience. What agents used to do is, quite simply, not enough.

“As an agent, embracing technology is a big part of securing your future in the industry. You can’t ignore it. It’s a certainty that agents who do not embrace technology will be replaced by those that do.”

Peter says he’s ready to help drive REINSW towards a thriving future – one where the industry and government work hand-in-hand to improve consumers’ experience of real estate as a trusted profession.

“REINSW is always relevant for the industry and members. Things change so often and it’s important to have REINSW as an independent voice that’s representative of the industry to ensure the best outcomes.”

Building momentum

Peter said that the challenges the industry has faced and overcome in the past two years have highlighted the importance of REINSW for both members and the wider real estate industry.

“REINSW has been front and centre when it comes to lobbying government and representing the industry for a long time, but there’s certainly now more visibility about what’s being done and the place of REINSW is being recognised more widely,” he said. “To be in this strong position is the result of the ongoing commitment that everyone at REINSW has to members.

“I strongly believe that the importance and relevance of REINSW for members will continue to build in the coming years, particularly as consumer expectations grow and as the integration of technology across day-to-day operations continues. REINSW has an incredible momentum and there are lots of opportunities to improve and add value.

“From a regulatory perspective, REINSW is always relevant for the industry and members. Things change so often and it’s important to have REINSW as an independent voice that’s representative of the industry to ensure the best outcomes.”

Peter explained that REINSW’s relevance will also increase for consumers as the industry moves towards professionalism.

“Consumers want to have confidence that the agent they’re working with is ethical, committed to ongoing training and operates at the highest standards,” he said. “We also have an obligation to ensure members are fulfilling their obligations as part of their affiliation with REINSW as a trusted brand.”

“Over the past two years, technology has advanced so much and the reality is that if we don’t start to integrate more technology into the way we work, we’ll be left behind. The value of what we do as agents will be under threat if we don’t commit to change and embrace technology.”

The future

Part of Peter’s vision for his time as REINSW President is playing a role in helping the industry and individual agents recognise the importance of embracing new technology to thrive in the future.

“For a long time, the industry has been nervous about disruption – and there’s been fair cause for some of that,” he said. “But it’s time to embrace change and evolve.

“Over the past two years, technology has advanced so much and the reality is that if we don’t start to integrate more technology into the way we work, we’ll be left behind. The value of what we do as agents will be under threat if we don’t commit to change and embrace technology.

“Tech is secure, efficient and effective – and there are so many things it can improve across an agent’s day-to-day operations. There are digital prospecting tools and presentations, payment platforms, digital signatures, process automation, transaction platforms, communication tools and more.

“You don’t need to use them all immediately, but make the decision to start integrating technology into how you work today and you’ll ensure you have a future as the industry continues to move forward.”

Why I love real estate

“What I love about real estate is that the industry has so much to offer an agent at every stage of their career and life,” Peter said. “What feels most rewarding to me about working in real estate today is different to what it was when I started out – and I feel very fortunate to have found an industry where this is possible.”

Peter started selling real estate at just 19 years old and loves the flexibility that the industry offers.

“When I was a selling agent, I was in control of my own time,” he said “I was able to be outside the office a lot and there were so many opportunities. I was lucky to have had a great introduction to the industry, with a supportive principal and senior agents around me, and good training that gave me the confidence to take on opportunities and do well.

“Now, having worked in the industry for 33 years, the most rewarding thing for me is to create a path for positive change to ensure the future of the industry.

“When I was starting out, I never thought I’d be in the position I am now. I’m really excited about the opportunity I have to impact the industry through leadership – particularly in relation to the integration of technology as part of the pathway to professionalism – and improving the overall consumer experience of the real estate industry.”

REINSW and the industry

During his time as President, Peter wants to improve consumers’ experience of the real estate industry by encouraging agents to embrace technology, creating greater transparency and driving member engagement.

“As an industry, we need to take responsibility to improve professionalism in everything we do,” he said. “As part of this, I’d like to see REINSW continue to build a strong and respected working relationship with the NSW Government. REINSW needs to work hand-in-hand with the government to drive necessary legislative change and we need to take members on the journey to drive professional standards.”

As the peak industry body for real estate in New South Wales, Peter believes that REINSW needs to focus on engagement with members at an individual level.

“There is, of course, a place for broader agency-level engagement, but I think there’s a lot of value to be gained by REINSW communicating directly with individual agents,” he said. “This will allow us to receive feedback directly from agents, which, in turn, will help us improve REINSW’s relevance and importance for members.

“Building on that, I’d also like to see REINSW have a higher level of engagement with our members’ customers – landlords, tenants, buyers and sellers. We need to communicate with consumers about the mechanics of the process, what they can expect and how things should happen – and we need to communicate with them about the issues that impact them.

“Gathering this feedback from a range of consumers means REINSW can better represent members and their customers by understanding what’s important to people in specific locations.

“This is essential in shaping how we work collaboratively with government. Having strong lines of communication that allow us to understand what’s important to members and their customers, and then being able to share this with the wider industry and government is key. Listening to the needs and concerns of people in specific locations will strengthen our working relationship with the government and will ultimately benefit the community as we will be able to better serve their needs.”

On a more personal level, an issue that is close to Peter’s heart is improving accessibility to buildings – especially residential – for people with a disability. His daughter, Abby, aged 20, uses a wheelchair and Peter is a passionate advocate for fair and equal access, particularly in strata buildings.

“One of the things that drives me most is thinking about how I can help make Abby’s life easier,” he explained. “I’d like to see reforms to the strata schemes legislation that require accessibility to be a consideration and, where reasonably possible, action taken to improve access. It’s not unreasonable to expect someone who uses a wheelchair to be able to have independent access to a residential building.”

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