Tom Panos is Australia’s leading real estate coach and trainer, successful real estate agent, auctioneer, as well as the Real Estate Advertising Director for News Corp, commentator on SKY News Business and much sought after keynote real estate speaker.
With a Master’s Degree in Management, tertiary coaching qualification in Coaching Psychology from Sydney University, author of a number of business professional development programs and having just launched a new book 'There are no more blind dates in real estate,' he is regarded as an expert in the housing market around Australia.
Tom spoke exclusively to GCT about his thriving career, how he has helped train most of the top 2oo agents around Australia, his thoughts on the property market, plus gives us tips on selling your home.
Have you always had a passion for real estate?
I’ve had a passion for real estate since the age of 22. The truth is, I was at university, I dropped out and basically fell into this. I couldn’t believe this job was so easy for me- I just had to be nice to people, tell them the truth and work hard. You also have to be able to handle rejection but I was able to do that and I absolutely loved the industry.
What excites you most about real estate?
Even to this day, which is 25 years later, on my days off I am still surfing on real estate websites, looking at the market and seeing what is going on. I speak at two hundred conferences a year on real estate, I auction every Saturday and I roughly do about ten auctions every weekend. It’s like I’m still in my first year with the same adrenaline and buzz.
Where did your career begin?
I was brought up in Belmore, Sydney and the first real estate agency I worked for was in Lakemba- from Lakemba, I moved to a really successful agency in Padstow. Then I decided I wanted to make my way into the inner-city and eventually I stepped into the inner-west. The area I worked in was Marrickville, which was a suburb that suited me as I was brought up in Marrickville and Newtown. At the time Marrickville was at the beginning of becoming an area that was appealing to young couples- it moved from being a Greek hub, to a Vietnamese area and then all of a sudden it was appealing to people who couldn’t afford to live in Newtown- so they would move to Marrickville. I found it had a mixture of dealing with clients of a Greek heritage and younger people who started coming through- this is when my career really started to flourish.
How did your work evolve into what you are doing today?
I worked as a real estate agent for around ten years and I was constantly being asked to help train other agents. Before I knew it, I was also approached to speak at conferences and seminars, plus I was conducting so many auctions. Then I started working at New Limited as the Real Estate Advertising Director. My training and coaching business took off, to the point where these days, I simply don’t have enough time to accept the amount of gigs that come my way.
Can you tell us more about your coaching and training business?
I do 200 key note or training sessions a year. I run an online coaching website where every week agents can go online and receive video coaching. I also interview an agent that is riding on a million- dollar commission each week and that way others can see what successful sales people are doing. So I don’t just train, I’m actually presenting other people that are excelling, so students are learning from what successful agents are doing.
My real estate online business is called Real Estate Gym and it is a bit of a metaphor- you see, people go to the gym to get physically fit- so what I say is, to be successful in real estate you have to be ‘real estate fit’. I train agents on things such as sales, negotiations, using social media, marketing, business development- all the things you need to be a million-dollar agent in real estate. And most of the top 200 agents across the country have been trained by me.
What is your key to being a leading auctioneer in Sydney?
You have to be able to read the play. You also have to naturally make people laugh, as it can become very tense. I think you need to have passion in the product you sell. I will predominantly auction in the inner-west of Sydney because I love that product. I live in that area, I know it and I find that when you sell something you believe in, your energy levels are really high. I think the fact I’ve done thousands of auctions helps and it’s not an experiment for me anymore, I’ve learned the process.
How would you describe the Australian housing market in 2016?
Fragmented. You have some markets that are incredible, you have some markets that are stable and you have some that are languishing. It all boils down to the actual city and certain suburbs in these cities. Generally speaking, you will find that Sydney and Melbourne, as in the inner city (within 15 kilometres of town) are generally great or always satisfactory. Other parts of Australia struggle- like Perth is in a very challenging period- when the mining industry isn’t going strong, it affects certain markets.
For example, the Gold Coast has picked up and is reasonable but it’s also very linked to what I call ‘discretionary spending.’ This is when you are doing well, have extra money and you may go buy a property in the Gold Coast, an apartment in Noosa or a holiday house in Terrigal. Those markets there are more ‘discretionary’ and have a lot to do with how the economy is going but generally speaking, Sydney and Melbourne within 15kms of the city are strong markets all the time.
What have you seen as the biggest change in real estate since you started?
From a real estate agent’s perspective, I’ve seen agents are younger, educated and more trained than before. I see many people now pick real estate as their first preferred line of work- they have swapped trading a corporate life from 9 to 5 to become a husking real estate agent because they can earn two to three times the money and have control of their own destiny
I’ve seen consumers have now become extremely intelligent and knowIedgeable- I use a term that there are ‘no more blind dates in business’. Everyone knows everything about the market and there is google stalking going on. People follow everything on real estate and are highly informed. They have downloaded applications like the RP Data app or the realestate.com.au app and they are ‘in the know’ about values and what is happening. So real estate agents must be extremely well trained and must now more than ever have authenticity because people can smell commission breath from a mile away.
How has social media changed real estate?
I think traditionally print advertising was the main form of promotion in property. Now print media is still there but digital media, like realestate.com.au are portals that buyers go to and I’m now seeing that Facebook is becoming important to the world of real estate too. When someone is thinking of selling, people will listen to what another person has said about an agent. So I’m seeing Facebook infiltrating decision making of consumers.
Just in the same way Tripadvisor affects where someone is going to go and book a holiday because they listen to others experiences, now what we are seeing with real estate is people are listening to their friends. In the old days people used to listen to their friends just by talking to them, whereas nowadays people listen to them by what they are saying on Facebook or what they post on Instagram. So I’m also seeing that real estate agents are becoming like brands and need to keep up with this trend- as a lot of people get to know them and follow them online.
What do you think about online video marketing?
I think videos are just in the early phase of totally transforming real estate. I launched a book on May 22nd called ‘There are no more blind dates’ and what happens is when you shine your mobile phone onto the front, which has me on the cover, it comes to life- so I start talking. We are seeing virtual reality and augmented reality becoming a common practice.
Like right now people may not know this but they can buy virtual reality glasses from Kmart for about $15 and you can use these glasses on certain YouTube videos to give you an experience. So what is going to happen is because we live in a world where people are very time poor, buyers will be inspecting properties using augmented reality, virtual reality and what will happen is they will select houses they will go to see based on this. I still think they are going to physically inspect the house they will buy but they are going to use this as a check list of narrowing down their list.
Your top tips for selling a home?
Tip number 1- sell when no one else is selling because what you want to do is be on the market with less competition. When there are too many properties on the market, buyers have too much choice and it affects the values. So traditionally people will sell in Spring, so I say to people, don’t sell in Spring- sell in Winter because there will be less houses on the market.
Tip number 2- you can’t sell a secret. You have to market the property and you have to tell everybody about it. This means you need to use newspapers, internet, video, social media, letter box drop offs in the whole area, maybe do advertising on Facebook and use peoples timelines in certain areas that you know will work. Have a bigger sign board than anyone else, have a 3D floor plan and what you want to do is out- market the other houses, so make a big noise when you put your property on the market.
Tip number 3- do a thorough interview with the agents you are going to appoint because you don’t want to get stuck with an agent who is a bad negotiator and is not going to work for you. You don’t want someone that’s lazy and won’t get you the best price but will settle on the first price.
What drives you to succeed?
I’m very grateful. I know what it’s like to go through bad health. I had cancer and I know what it feels like to have spent four years having low energy levels and being concerned about whether I was going to live. So when you recover- and I have- you have gratitude and when you have that, you feel like you have an opportunity and you do not to waste it. So what drives me is to take advantage of the opportunity I have to be living on this planet, to be healthy, to be alive.