Realities of a realtor's life
Having already managed her own overseas rental and sales business, Sue Fitzgerald thought she was ready for a new challenge in Hong Kong.
“I’ve lived in Hong Kong for 21years and have a wealth of contacts and knowledge about the city,” she says. “After helping friends search for both rental and sales properties in the city, I decided that it was time to formalise my skill set by working with a large and reputable company.”
Fitzgerald, who has a background in teaching, joined Hong Kong Sotheby’s International Realty to work as a property realtor – a job that she says has more to it than meets the eye. “The various aspects of my job are more than most people could imagine,” she says. “During busy times, I am communicating with clients, sourcing properties to match their requirements, and liaising with landlords for viewings and negotiations. This all leads up to the compilation of offer letters and tenancy agreements for both parties to sign.”
During leaner times of the year such as summer, agents are busy networking, marketing, creating new listings and working on web pages. “I doubt that anyone outside of the industry really understands the amount of work that goes on in the background to actually present the client with a set of relevant properties that match their needs,” Fitzgerald says. “Undertaking a clear and thorough needs analysis for each client is the underpinning of any successful transaction in my view.”
Despite the hard work, income for a property agent can fluctuate. During leaner times, Fitzgerald says the support she gets from her colleagues helps her to stay motivated.
“We have a super international team at Sotheby’s, who truly support each other,” she says. “If you have a difficult case or can’t quite find that perfect property for your client, colleagues and managers within our team are always forthcoming with suggestions and advice. I think it is essential to have a supportive network in what can be a very stressful working environment.”
She believes that for the job to be sustainable, you need to have a real passion for it. “It is certainly not a lasting profession for anyone who is merely looking for a salary,” she says. “You need to be driven and have a lot of selfmotivation to move on to the next client, whether you have achieved a rental or sale [with the previous one] or not.”
She also believes that a successful agent needs to be a good listener and empathetic to their clients’ needs. “Knowledge of properties and the market in Hong Kong can be learnt and acquired over time, but if you do not have the people skills to really understand your clients’ family needs, you will end up showing them irrelevant properties and wasting valuable time for both parties,” she says.
An agent also needs to constantly update themselves on the market – not only in Hong Kong, but worldwide – so that they can understand trends that directly affect buyers here. “A certain amount of legal, banking and policy knowledge is required to guide clients through the maze of information out there regarding all aspects of property, including mortgages, illegal structures and home-ownership schemes,” Fitzgerald says.
The government’s recent attempts to cool property prices have seen a downturn in transactions over the past few months. Fitzgerald, however, remains confident about the local market.
“Hong Kong will always remain a firm favourite for investors, both locals and expats,” she says. “In light of this, we continue to be busy with rentals for expats relocating to Hong Kong, along with residents opting to rent instead of buy.”