30 January 2019

George Rafty is giving it everything

George Rafty has never done anything half-heartedly.

At the age of 28, when most people are starting to hit their career stride, George had already been running two successful businesses for a decade – including Newcastle’s first à la carte restaurant – and was ready to leave it all behind to follow his dream of working in real estate.

“I realised it was time to reassess,” he explains. “I’d always had a passion for real estate, so decided it was time to pursue that dream – and I’ve never looked back.”

Armed with the competitive edge and commitment to hard work he developed through years of playing soccer at state level, George dove head first into his dream career. Within just nine months of working at Colin Chapman First National Real Estate, George was in the top one per cent of real estate agents in Australia for sales.

“In that first six months, I worked every single day,” he says. “I had that fear of failure and wanted to succeed.

My parents raised me to have a strong work ethic and to always work with integrity and honesty – George Rafty

“David Chapman was the Principal and the perfect mentor to me. I wanted to learn everything I could from him and that helped to set me up for my career. If I’m going to do something, I want to be successful and I’ll give it everything I’ve got to get the best out of myself.”

This work ethic was instilled in George from a very young age by his parents, who owned and ran some of Newcastle’s most well-known cafes and restaurants, and also learnt from playing at the highest level on the soccer field.

“My parents raised me to have a strong work ethic and to always work with integrity and honesty,” he says. “They were hard working, and taught me how to look after our customers and make everyone feel important, so they kept coming back.

“And the values I learnt through soccer are still with me today – punctuality, being a team player and always playing to the best of your ability. If I’m always doing my best and working to my full capacity then I know, whatever the outcome, I couldn’t have done more.

“It’s important for team sports, but also in life generally, that you strive to be the best you can be and not let anyone down, including yourself. That’s what I always try to do – work to my capacity – and you can’t ask any more from someone than that.”

Follow your passion

“I chose real estate because it was interesting and I realised when I was younger that I had a passion for it,” George explains. “I bought my first house at the age of 18, with help from mum and dad for the deposit. I really enjoyed the process and still do.”

After four and a half years with Colin Chapman First National, George joined Dowling Real Estate where he worked for 14 years. Led by his father figure Gary Dowling, with 22 offices in the Newcastle region, George was acknowledged as the number one agent in the network for seven consecutive years. He then moved to PRDnationwide Newcastle, where he was the number one agent for the network in Australia for each of the five years he worked there – something that had never been achieved previously.

In 2016, George decided it was time to return to the First National Group and opened his own agency – First National Newcastle City. He has implemented the highest level of personal service and high impact marketing, and his passion, work ethic and innovative approach saw him again established as the number one agent nationally with the First National Group within the first 12 months of trading. In 2017, George was again the group’s number one agent in Australia and his office, with a highly skilled and dedicated team, were acknowledged as the number three office in the country.

Despite his consistently impressive results, there’s no mistaking George’s humility and his pragmatic approach to achieving success.

“Keep it simple,” he advises. “At the end of the day, you’re listing and selling. It’s so simple, but you have to stay humble.

“I still get excited about listing and selling property, and it’s not about the money. I hate the word ‘deal’ and I never use it when talking to clients about the sale of their properties.

“As real estate agents, we’re in such a trusted position with people who are going through what can be a very emotional time. You need to be respectful and make sure everything you do is making a positive impact for your clients. I want to make every client feel important, and always be adding value and make them feel that I’m working to get them the best outcome possible.”

One of the most important things you can do for your clients is be honest. What’s right for your client should be the number one priority of any agent – George Rafty

And George says agents should never shy away from being honest with their clients.

“One of the most important things you can do for your clients is be honest. If I don’t think it’s in my client’s best interest to sell, I’ll tell them so. What’s right for your client should be the number one priority of any agent,” he says.

“I love being on the journey with people. Some of the clients I first worked with 26 years ago are still coming back – now that certainly makes you feel that you’re important to them!

“About 95 per cent of my clients are repeat clients or have come to me from word of mouth. I enjoy building trust and helping every client – young people, older people, families – to make a huge decision.

“In real estate, as in life, it’s all about the relationships you create along the way and I’m so grateful to all the friends I’ve made and interesting people I’ve met through my work.”

New challenges

After more than two decades as a leading agent, George decided to take on a whole new challenge and launch his own business. Two years ago, at the age of 52, George opened the doors of his own First National office.

“There’s a lot involved in opening an office, and I’m incredibly proud of the team and what we’ve built,” George says.

“There are 19 people who work in the business. We’re like a family and that’s really important to me. When I look for people to join the agency, I look at the sort of person they are because I think that’s what really makes a difference. Honesty, integrity, passion and the right attitude are all qualities that you need to be successful. You can teach all the skills it takes to be a good agent, but if you don’t have the right attitude and work ethic, then you’re not going to be the right person for this business.”

And his advice to new agents who are starting out? Make sure you’re entering the industry for the right reasons.

“Only become a real estate agent if you’re going to be passionate about it and work your backside off,” he says. “This is not an easy industry and if you aren’t prepared to work or if you’re not interested in investing time in building relationships, then I don’t think real estate is for you. But if you’re starting out and want to give yourself the best chance of having a long career, I’d say the most important thing to do is to talk to people and learn as much as you can from more experienced agents. Be yourself, be humble, compassionate, have empathy, have a natural willingness to work hard and the results will follow.”

In his 26-year career, George has seen a lot of change in the real estate industry. But he believes the best is yet to come with the move towards real estate being recognised as a profession.

“I think things in the industry are better now than they were 26 years ago when I started and professionalism is going to see that it keeps on improving,” he says. “I do think some things are going to be more challenging and it’s going to become a lot harder to get into the industry, but overall it’s a good thing.

“I’m still learning every day, and I think if you don’t want to keep learning and improving then you shouldn’t be in real estate. Agents need to be held accountable for what they do and they must always put their client’s best interest first. What is the best thing for the client should be the most important thing for the agent. If you always do that then they’ll come back. It’s about always doing the right thing.”

Building on success

Two years after opening his own agency, George is working harder than ever and is looking forward to seeing his business continue to grow and his team flourish.

“I love working in real estate and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else,” he says. “So, I have no plans for my future career other than to keep on going and keep improving to embrace the future.

“I’m focused on growing the business and helping my team to be the best agents they can possibly be. At this point in my career, it’s important to me to be able to share my knowledge and help my team to achieve their goals as they develop into exceptional agents. It’s very rewarding.

“Our business will always remain boutique, but we will strive as a group to give our clients the ultimate in real estate service and marketing – that will always be the goal.”

Giving back to his community

Born and bred in Newcastle, giving back to his community has always been important to George.

“I’m a big believer in giving,” he says. “I was taught that whatever you give, you’ll receive threefold – but that’s not why I do it. I like giving. I enjoy it more than receiving.”

Losing his father to stroke and dementia, and his father-in-law to cancer – diseases which affect so many families in the community – left an indelible mark on George. So, in 2016, when his agency was officially opened, he and his wife Rose decided to start an annual fundraiser to support the Hunter Medical Research Institute, one of NSW’s largest independent research institutions.

Every year during Spring, a percentage of the money from every auction at his First National agency is donated to the Hunter Medical Research Institute. With between 15 to 20 properties sold by auction in October, the agency’s Spring Fling event generates around $20,000 in donations each year.

“This community has given me so much. I knew when we started our own agency that Rose and I wanted to do something special and different to give back to a worthy cause,” George says. “The Spring Fling has been a real success. People can see the money goes to a great cause and the community has really embraced it. We have even had situations where some sellers have held off putting their property on the market because they wanted to be part of our Spring Fling.”

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