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Rachel Lawrie: Scientifically Speaking

If you thought it was tough to find one or two points of difference to win a listing, how many listings could you win if you had 17 or more of them? For Ray White Principal Rachel Lawrie of North Adelaide, SA, this is the competitive advantage she has realised in becoming a Liveability Real Estate Specialist and part of what has helped her to a near-perfect appraisal to list ratio.

As an agent, Rachel Lawrie professes she is different than most, but when you get talking to her it’s clear that’s definitely in a good way. Having grown up in the country on a farm, and also having experienced physically and mentally challenging work as a marine biologist for 16 years, she says, “I’m used to doing that sort of hard work, those hard hours. In the country and as an aqua-culturalist that’s your income; if you don’t do the job properly you don’t have an income for the whole year.”

Rachel made the switch into real estate, she says, out of the necessity to be around more for her two young daughters. Completing her real estate course in 2015 and “sprinting out” into the industry, she wrote $400k in GCI in her first year. And, she says, much of it is down to being a “true professional” and investing a great deal in the community and sponsorships. Another part is her Liveability Real Estate Specialist qualification which allows her to approach listing and selling in a way that appeals more to the increasingly cost and environmentally conscious buyer or tenant.

PROPERTY MARKETING BACKED BY SCIENTIFIC PRINCIPLES
Originally conceived under the LJ Hooker umbrella, The Centre for Liveability Real Estate is now owned by the CSIRO, who are inviting all real estate professionals to become Liveability Real Estate Specialists like Rachel by completing their award-winning training course.

Rachel has followed the concept of Liveability from the beginning. “Being a scientist, it all just made sense and I wanted it straight away, and I was one of the first on board the training as I could see the benefit.

Under the CSIRO’s property marketing framework, there are 17 Liveability Property Features which can give a property potential for reduced running costs and increased comfort.

As a result of the training and applying the framework, Rachel says that she can have in-depth, quality conversations with all of her clients. “I was having seriously meaningful conversations about every home that I was trying to list or sell with the vendors and the purchasers, or even the landlords with investment properties.”

ONGOING RUNNING COSTS GO DOWN
Rachel says the process of appraising the property is straightforward. “I’ll just say to the client, ‘Unlike the other agents, I’m doing two appraisals. Firstly you get your standard appraisal everyone else gives you, and then we’re going to do what’s called a Liveability appraisal where I’ll be looking for features in the home that make it healthy, comfortable, connected, and offer the opportunity to reduce running costs’. And they sort of go, ‘Ah’. Then I explain to them what I do with it, and how it leads me to negotiate the price of their home up, not down. And they’re like, ‘Wow’.

“And so I do the initial appraisal with them, and as I’m going through I’ll ask specific questions which are about that, and make notes. And then, I do the Liveability appraisal. When we sit down at the dining table I get them to give me the evidence required for that at the same time.”

The Liveability features appraisal checklist is accessible on mobile devices like iPads, which is what Rachel uses during the listing. If a property has more than six features, the Liveability features trademark can be used on the property listing. The online checklist also automatically generates a more detailed customised listing image which shows the all the particular individual Liveability features that property has. This approval usually happens on the spot.

And Rachel says her clients, both men and women, have been loving this for individual reasons. “The wives and the ladies, they love it because I can show them how to run the house more efficiently, because that saves bills coming across the desk. But equally, I’m trained to have those nitty-gritty conversations with the guys about the pumps and the plumbing and the engineering, about the depth of the mechanics of the home, which they seem to like the idea of.”

PROFESSIONAL SERVICE MEETS PREMIUM FEE
In terms of protecting her fee, Rachel writes an email to each client with a very detailed breakdown of why she charges the professional fees she does. “The other day I walked away from [a listing]; the client kept wanting me to compromise my fee, even though I had all these extra qualifications.”

But, she says, they came back.

“The client says, ‘You’re right, you are the professional, you’ve got all this other stuff!’”

South Australia has some of the highest energy costs in the world right now and Rachel says that potential purchasers or tenants see the icon and call her for a chat, because of the reduced running costs. Having the Liveability Real Estate Framework supported by CSIRO gives the program credibility. “It’s created a great point of interest, which gets huge traction. People ring me up to have a conversation about it – and I can send them proof of the property’s Liveability features. That’s when the importance of it hits home to them.”

What are the 17 Things?

The 17 Liveability Features are property features which cover location, floor plan and layout, key building structure elements, important energy and water-saving inclusions, and a vibrant community experience close by. It is not an energy rating but a ‘features-based’ checklist. Each feature has benchmarks which must be met when the agent conducts their appraisal walk-through. 

The features (the 17 Things™) are not numbered in the checklist in order of importance; rather they are designed to mirror a property ‘walk-through’ from the front door, through the house and back out again. In this way it makes it easier for agents to appraise the property and easy for people to validate at an open home. 

The 17 Things (click to toggle)

CONVERSIONS AND REFERRALS
When Rachel started with Ray White last October at The Hub in Adelaide, she was at around 89 per cent repeat and referral business. This stemmed from a deliberate decision to work the community and ensure that every person at every open was well nurtured, so that even if they did not use her services initially they would refer people on in any case.

“Since I started in North Adelaide [her own business], I’m at a 100 per cent repeat and referral business.

“All of the clubs and sponsorships that I’ve invested heavily into, it’s all coming back tenfold now. That’s how it works in the country. I don’t have to go and prospect because my teams and my charities and my foundations do it for me.”

In addition to that, in the time since she implemented the Liveability framework into her listing presentations, she says the difference in her figures has been staggering. “To see my figures grow the way they did, I had to review exactly why and where they grew. My prices went up 15 per cent. My conversion of appraisal to listing ratio went up 17 per cent.

“I had a pretty good conversion ratio at around 81 per cent. I’m now at 98 per cent. I barely miss a listing. The majority of listings I miss now are due to me letting them go because I don’t think the client aligns well with me. They don’t respect my professional opinion and experience, and/or want me to compromise my integrity, morals and my ethics.”

The Centre for Liveability Real Estate runs courses regularly for salespeople and property managers. If you are interested in upskilling to become a Liveability Real Estate Specialist like Rachel you can book at liveability.com.au.

Rachel will be speaking at ‘How to Lead a Winning Team in 2018’ on the topic of ‘How to use science in property marketing to win the listing’, specifically talking about how she differentiates herself from the competition. For more information and to book tickets visit eliteagent.com/win2018.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Managing Editor of Elite Agent Magazine.
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