PHOTO: Real estate office. FILE
Selling real estate is not just a job for Linda Galbraith, it’s an all-consuming passion, and a fulfilling career And it has also saved her life, explains the top-selling Barfoot & Thompson agent.
Q: What did you do before real estate?
I was working in banking and accounting and I’d worked for the IRD. When my husband Murray was awarded a British Field Scholarship we moved to the UK, where I worked as a PA for a lawyer and ran an office for a large printing company. I can’t say I enjoyed the grind, but we were just starting out and we needed to pay the mortgage so I stuck at it.
Q: Why did you move into real estate?
At the time I couldn’t progress any further in my career. There was a glass ceiling for women in the type of role I worked in and I was at the top of my salary scale. With younger, smarter, less expensive models available, I was fast becoming a liability.
I had always wanted a job where I could be independent and in control of my own destiny, and I had always loved real estate. A friend who was an air hostess had had enough of flying and she did her real estate papers. She rang me one day and said, “Why don’t you come into real estate?”
Even so leaving the security of a guaranteed income was scary.
Q: Can you remember your first sale?
Absolutely. I had joined an Epsom firm run by Rob MacDonald, whose father, Scotch MacDonald, was well-respected in Auckland real estate. I’d only been there a week when a young woman came in saying she was looking for a unit. In those days – this was 30 years ago – you had general listings that all the agencies had, and as she was talking I was looking at the listings on the wall thinking, “What can I show her?” I saw one in Mt Eden that looked good so we jumped in my car and went to have a look. I was a little nervous and I really had no idea where this property was, so I handed her the map and said ‘You navigate and I’ll drive”. She liked it and made an offer that day, for $85,000. She still actually has it, as an investment property.
So one week in, I sold my first property. Positive affirmation was all I needed – there was no stopping me, although it did take another six months until I sold another property. The first year I earned the equivalent of the salary I had given up.
Q: How has the industry changed since then?
It is very, very different. Most listings were general listings – everyone had them. There was a system called the MLB (multiple listing bureau) and every week a magazine containing all the details of every general listing in Auckland was circulated. It was the Bible for beginners in real estate.
The MLB was an opportunity to convert a listing from a general listing to a sole agency.
Galbraith: “When I first came into the business it was very cut-throat.” Photo / Fiona Goodall
I used to go through the magazine, find a house I liked then go and knock on the door and try to get the owners to give me the listing. I did a lot of door-knocking and flyer drops and I followed up every lead.
It was hard but I was so determined to make this my future, so I persevered. It took me 10 years before I managed to gain momentum and started to get referral business.
When I first came into the business it was very cut-throat, which I learnt the hard way. I once sought the advice of a senior colleague on a sale only to find out 24 hours later, he had whipped a buyer through the property and sold it for the price as my offer. Lesson learnt!
We have legislation now that prevents that but it is still fiercely competitive. There have been ups and downs in the market but even in the bad times I have never thought I would give it up.
Now we have the REA, which provides the ethical basis for all agents and salespeople in the industry.
I’ve had various experiences in real estate, more positive than not, I’ve learnt from every experience but even at the lowest point in my career I never thought I would give it up. It has been a varied and interesting journey, I’ve done a lot of things in my years in this business, I’ve owned a share in two franchises, and I have my license, which enables me to run my own business. Real estate has shaped my life.
Q: Why do you think you have done so well in real estate?
Marketing and negotiation are my skill base, I understand the dynamics real estate better than most and I can sense changes [in the market] before they happen.
I am very black and white, no smokes and mirrors, so what you see is what you get. I don’t tell prospective vendors what they want to hear to secure their listing and then leave them scrambling, trying to explain the reality of the market for their home.
I currently hold the New Zealand record for highest residential auction price. I’d known the vendors for 30 years and we got $9.9 million for their house. I was so happy for them.
Q: What has made you stick it out even in the tough times?
What else would I do? Real estate is my life. For me this is not a job, it’s my lifestyle and it has been a lifesaver. I love houses but I am even more interested in people. I have been extremely fortunate to meet incredible people in my years in the industry and some have becoming close friends. People have welcomed me into their homes, shared their lives with me and trusted me. I treasure the fact vendors have taken me into their confidence. I get excited when people share with me their life story and why they have bought the homes they own. It is a privilege to be part of that.
Q: You said real estate has been a lifesaver – how?
At the end of 2018 I was diagnosed with cancer. Being the person I am, I put my absolute trust in my medical team and within a matter of weeks I was on the operating table. I was prepared for the worst-case scenario but I was absolutely determined cancer would not interfere with work or my life. I told my manager and a close friend, what I was going through. Apart from my husband and daughter, no one else knew and most people still don’t know. I left hospital with drains taped to my body. For weeks, I adopted a fashion of voluminous dresses to disguise them and carried on. Christmas came and went and in February 2019 I started intensive chemo, I was told because of chemo I would lose my hair, which was earth shattering for me, so I decided rather than wait for it to fall out in clumps I asked my hairdresser to shave it off. She cried as she did it.
I got a couple of wigs that were quite foxy – styled on Raquel Welch. Having no hair for 13 months was liberating, an enormous saving on hairdressing costs, not to mention time-saving, not having to blow dry every morning. Nobody noticed, although I got compliments on how great my hair looked.
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