The Brady Marcs Podcast

Episode 4 with David Walker

Episode 4 with David Walker

This week on the Brady Marcs Podcast my guest is Principal of Ray White Upper North Shore, David Walker. David brings over 20 years experience in Real Estate, and leads one of the most awarded Real Estate teams in Australia spanning 6 offices. We discuss his incredible career and what it takes to lead such an elite team, advice for anyone looking to get into the Industry, balancing work and family life, as well key insights and advice for the current market.

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Episode Transcript


Voiceover: Welcome to the Brady Marcs Podcast with your host Brady Yoshia from Brady Marcs Buyers Advisory. Enjoy discussions with a variety of guests and pioneers from diverse backgrounds, each sharing their unique perspectives on property, business, industry and more.

Brady Yoshia: David Walker is the principal of Ray Whie Upper North Shore, leading a team that spans six offices, leading one of the most awarded real estate teams in Australia. He’s Ray White’s number one selling principal, he’s been awarded ‘Agency of the Year‘ many times over and is a distinguished Ray White Chairman’s Elite Business Leader. With 20 years experience as a licensed agent, David continues to set the bar higher, not only for emerging talent, but for the best in the business alike. Welcome, Dave. It’s great to have you here today.

David Walker: Thanks for having me.

BY: So I know that you have been a very successful agent for a long time. But for the listeners out there, could you please tell us how you began in the real estate arena?

DW: Yeah, it was, it was sort of a bit by mistake. I was 18 years old, fresh out of school working down on the Northern Beaches in a friend’s nursery. And he was shutting his nursery down just before Christmas to get into real estate in January. And he and I had some sales challenges to sell some plants and things down there. And I ended up beating him in most of the challenges and he said you’ve got sales skills, why don’t you come down and get a job in real estate for a little while where he was working, just to pay my way through a year off before going to uni the the next year. And so anyway, I thought it was a good idea I’d always love houses the idea of houses, I was going to be going to uni to do Property Economics. So it was a space I was really interested in. I went and had an interview with the old school principal down there in Dee Why. And he did that the old sales thing of asking me to sell him a pen. And at the age of 18, he offered me a job. I was the youngest person he’d employed by over 15 years. So that was the youngest person by a long way ever employed. So started that. And then the first year I was the Young Achiever of the Year in the First National Group, and the rest is history.

BY: That’s incredible. So I heard that somewhere along the way, you started a real estate business in a garage. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that.

DW: Well that’s where Upper North Shore was created is actually created in the garage.

BY: The Ray White Upper North Shore.

DW: Yeah, so it was Ray White Wahroonga, we originally I went into business partnership with my old principal, Peter Sutton, who owned Ray White Turramurra, and I wanted to do something new and open Ray White Wahroonga, but we just couldn’t get in any space, Wahroonga’s one of the most tightly held retail spaces in Sydney. So it was difficult to find a space. So we put a Ray White Wahroonga sign on the door of the garage. And we started in there, me and two associates, and that’s how it all started.

BY: So how do you go from starting a business in the garage to being one of the most awarded top performing sales agents and agencies in the country?

DW: Look, sometimes I’ve pinched myself at what we’ve all, what we’ve all done in the last eight years, nine years since we opened Ray White Wahroonga. But the thing I’ve always held very close to me is I guess the motto, it’s all about getting the right people. We have a no dickheads policy within our business. And so getting the right people was so important. So along the way we targeted the right people, people with, that would fit into the culture, people that I enjoyed spending time with, people that were good people, inherently good people, some agents that were working in other businesses that weren’t doing as well as what I thought they could be doing. And we were able to get them across and some of the people within the business now were agents who were writing 200, 300 thousand. Now they’re writing well over a million dollars a year and that’s just putting them in an environment surrounded by lots of good people doing really good things.

BY: Yeah. So culture, good people and having fun along the way.

DW: Absolutely, yeah.

BY: Yeah. I’m a firm believer of having fun. And believing in people. I think it’s very important. Some people get lost along the way. How do you define success?

DW: Success to me isn’t necessarily a financial thing or anything like that. It’s achieving whatever goals you set yourself. So, and everyone’s goals are different. We’ve got people within the business, who are wanting to, it’s all about writing more business. We’ve got people who want to get the work life balance. We’ve got people that are actually wanting to do less than what they’re doing, so they can spend more time at home or with kids, and we support everyone’s individual goals. So what makes somebody successful is very different to what might make another person successful. So it’s really not trying to fit everyone in the same box. And if you can find out truly what somebody wants to achieve, and tap into that, that’s where you really get success, I think.

BY: Yeah, it’s about understanding. Yeah. So we all have dealt with multiple personalities in the real estate world.

DW: Yes, we have.

BY: Some vendors are very easy, and some are very difficult. What would you say, is a good client experience for a vendor?

DW: Well, again, for a vendor, they want to, everyone relates our industry back to price. But I think pricing is secondary to the overall feeling somebody gets when they stand back and put a solid sticker on a signboard and realizing they’ve done everything possible to get the best outcome. So and I think that comes down to sometimes some clients go for the cheapest agent, sometimes they go with an agent that might have over promised. Ultimately, I would like to think that when our clients stand back and look up at their signboard, they realized that they couldn’t have gone for better agency, they couldn’t have gone for a better agent. And everything possible was done to get the best outcome. And I think that that’s what we provide as a business. Whereas I think with maybe some competitors, a vendor might stand back and think I’m wonder what would have happened if we had have used the leading agency rather than the cheapest agency

BY: So it’s not a transactional thing?

DW: No, never is.

BY: It’s about the client for life.

DW: Yeah, yeah. And it’s also realizing this process isn’t about us as agents, it’s about the client, it’s about houses, some of them have owned for over 50 years, some of them it’s a really happy experience, because they’re upsizing into a new home. Some it’s a really stressful experience, it could be a death, divorce, or financial problems. So it’s all about the client. Now, unfortunately, some people in this industry as agents have made the experience about them. Whereas I think, I think, ultimately, it’s about the client.

BY: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. So then what would make a happy client?

DW: Again, it’s all different and happy clients, somebody who feels like the outcome that’s been achieved is the best outcome possible. Think that’s a happy client, happy client feels like they’ve been serviced, feels that they’ve gotten the outcome in the right way feels like that everything’s been done with, you know, doing it where you can know that you haven’t done it in a way that’s deceived or being deceptive. It’s all been done in the right way.

BY: Yeah. So Dave, you’re at the top of your game. What are your non-negotiables for being a successful elite agent?

DW: Well, that’s a tough one, non-negotiables are different every day. So for me personally, on a personal level, my non-negotiables are trying to look after my health, trying to be present for my family, trying to be present for people within the business. Always be there and everyone knows that I’m contactable. And, and I am present with with everybody who, who I’m there speaking with. So non-negotiables for me, it’s not necessarily back to the basics of phone calls, or it’s not about you know, the things that might have been at the beginning of my career, it might have been around all numbers and door knocking and phone calls and all of that sort of stuff. Now it, it comes down to actually getting value out of the time that I spend with each person. And not making, not just not wasting any opportunity, because I’ve got a lot going on in each and every every day. So I don’t want to waste an hour at an appointment, if it’s not an appointment that’s going to go anywhere, I don’t want to sit down with anybody, if I’m not giving them the time they deserve if I’m distracted. So that’s biggest non-negotiables is actually just being present.

BY: Yeah, being present is so important. So what has made us such a successful agent?

DW: I just think I’ve worked, I do work hard. But I also have tried to do everything in a genuine way. Whereas I think what you see is what you get with me. So and clients I think feel that I’m I’ve always made it a point of trying to the best of my ability to to give everybody the outcome or the the information that I believe to be the truth, rather than just being an agent that goes in and over promises. I’ll go in and be realistic, which is sometimes lost me business, but in over a 20 year period, you get more business than you lose because you start getting a reputation and on the Upper North Shore your reputation can spread very, very quickly in a positive and negative way.

BY: Yeah, well I’ve certainly enjoyed working with you over the years and even remember an auction on a Sunday quite a few years ago that I I was bidding for a client at in Turramurra and you worked for the vendor, but you were also very present for the buyers. So yeah, I can absolutely attest to your professional manners and your ethical way of being an agent. So myself as well being in the industry for quite a long time, I’ve had so many client interactions with buyers, vendors, multiple different people, and there’s lots of memorable occasions, some are good, some are bad. What comes to mind as one of your most memorable occasions that you’ve had with a client.

DW: I think there’s there’s probably too many to name individually. I think, for some people when you’re selling a house, and it’s their biggest asset, getting, you know, an extra 100 thousand, 200 thousand, or, well and truly above expectations can be life changing for people, financially life changing. I did have a close friend, who I sold for about 18 months ago, now, they had their daughter who had passed away who was friends with my son. And she was only five at the time. And they were selling to move to Brisbane and the house that we sold for them, we well and truly, it sold for well and truly above everyone’s expectation. So it was really, they’d had such a hard couple of years after, after their daughter passed away. And so it was really nice to for something to go right for them. So that was something close to close to my heart because it was also personal friends as well that we’d been through everything with them. So that was a really nice situation when they’ve just been really battling everything that they’d had behind them in the last few years. So that was probably up there. 

BY: Yeah, a good news story. Yeah. So you’ve expanded from one office to six offices across the Upper North Shore? How do you grow a team whilst maintaining your sense of values?

DW: It’s all about as I said earlier, the people so if you get the right people, we don’t grow our business unless it’s with the right people. So I think if you get the right people that makes it a lot easier to keep your values strong. Somebody who doesn’t align with their values, with our values, then they’re not going to be in the business long term. And they’re probably not going to grow in the right way with the business. So every decision we make comes back to, is it the right decision for the business, people within the business? And is it, is it not just a is it not just the decision based around growing? Is it a decision around, is this going to be better for the people within the business? So I think with those, with that in mind, if you make decisions for longer term outcomes, rather than just short term gratification, then you’re going to probably have a successful business or successful career.

BY: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more with that. And culture is so important, as you mentioned a little bit earlier. So how do you evolve the culture?

DW: Well, it’s, we’ve got some values within our business, all around respect, all about having fun. But also being the best person you could possibly be, and getting, and hitting the goals you want to you want to hit. So if you if you have some strict values, and that everybody sort of buys into, and they’re not just values that we came up with that, as a business, we’ve sort of spent a long time working out what was important to everybody. So if everything comes back to those three key values, then ultimately, I think the people will buy into it, and you can build a culture around it.

BY: Yeah. Have you had any mentors along the way that have stood out and made their mark on you?

DW: Yeah, look, there’s been plenty. There’s not, I’ve been asked that a bit. There’s probably not one person in particular, but I feel like I’ve gotten a lot from so many different people over the years. You’ve got some amazing business leaders within our industry. Like when I was a younger person, as at 18 years old, I remember going and listening to John McGrath speaking, I was enamored with, you know, his passion for the industry and the way he thought bigger than everyone else did at the time. So he was always trying to be better and change things and really was thinking outside the square, which I loved and, and I’ll never forget that energy that he had around that. And then there’s been some wonderful trainers over the years that I’ve come into contact with that you learn a lot, but probably more it’s the personal relationships on one to one within people, people within the business, people that I’ve been close to, my parents, I learned a lot from everyone that I try and meet and always try and find people doing better than what I’m doing so I can then learn from them. Even lots of business owners, especially within the Ray White group, a lot of principals from other areas that I spend a lot of time with. And just understanding how they run their businesses. So there’s been a huge amount of big influences in my life.

BY: Yeah, and I’m sure you learning all the time. Yes, it’s a game that you you never stop learning. And I noticed that you’ve talked about being passionate. Passion is something that if you don’t have, you’re not gonna go far in this industry. So are there any specific lessons that you’ve learned along the way that you’d like to share with the listeners.

DW: I guess, I’ve learned a lot about people like it’s, I find real estate, almost like it’s a psychology and to the best and worst of people. There’s been people I’ve invested a huge amount of time in that. Really, when it comes down to it, it’s only about for them back pocket, rather than, you know, being, being a person that you know, is, is going to be a good person within the business. So there’s also people that you come in contact with that can be somebody to you and another person to other people’s. So it’s really important to try and get an overall perspective on everybody. Lessons wise, I think I’m always learning you can’t not be learning in what we do. Because you are, you’re seeing the best and worst of people and you’re part, generally part of some of the biggest moments in, in people’s lives when it comes to selling a house. Because it can be, it’s one of the top three stressful things you can do. But yeah, like, I’m always learning and I think every single day something will shock me in a good or bad way. So, you never stop growing and learning.

BY: No. And I think that’s what is the secret to the success of being a good agent is constantly learning. And I still feel like I’m learning all the time. And I love it. One of the things that really inspires me about you and I would like to know, and I’m sure a lot of the listeners would like to know, the transition from being a selling agent to a principal. How did how did you mentally work through that? And what was the biggest challenge through that transition?

DW: Yeah, so interestingly, now, with a bit of hindsight, you look back and you, you look at why you make decisions. At the time, I think becoming a principal was for me was probably more around having a little bit more autonomy within my world and my life. And I think a lot of people make decisions on becoming business owners, maybe for the wrong reasons, because they want to be the boss. So they want to be, you know, head honcho, I think, from what I see, I would say 80% of principals would make more money if they were just listing and selling real estate by themselves. And so if I had my time, again, I would do it all the same in terms of becoming a principal. But I, I think, ultimately, if you’re trying to look at whether you want to be business owner, or not, it’s not about money. It’s all about the people who are the best business owners and best leaders are the ones that will actually get the biggest kick out of seeing other people do well. And that’s the one thing I didn’t realize, back when I did this, when we first opened the business, it was all about me writing more business as a principal, and growing my own individual business. And it wasn’t until I actually started getting a kick out of seeing people within my team step up to become agents growing their own teams. And then I thought I was getting more thrill out of helping and watching and doing that than I was out of doing my own stuff. And to this day, I am happy to see somebody have a successful auction, or call me with some great news about winning a listing or seeing somebody kicking goals or hitting their own goals. That is gives me more of a thrill than me doing it myself. And so that’s when you talk about passion. That’s the stuff that I get passionate about.

BY: It’s so rewarding. When you see your team members performing and doing well. It’s a really good feeling.

DW: Yeah. The issue though, if you stand back and you probably get more of a front row seat to this, but from my perception of looking outside or looking in on most, not most principals but a lot of principals is they’re doing it to control rather than doing it to inspire. There was a prominent principal who, who had a theory that you’re better off having 10 average agents who didn’t, wouldn’t do that well rather than having three or four really good agents because you could then control them and that all right average amount they’d never want to leave, because they’d never feel good enough to leave. Or they’d never want to do their own thing. Whereas the way that I look at it, I want everyone to be superstars in their own mind. And but if you can have then a culture around people being surrounded by the best people, then people wouldn’t want to leave as well. So, but I do think there are a lot of principals out there are probably principals for the wrong reasons.

BY: Yeah, I love that being superstars. That’s great. So you work with some of the most successful agents within your team? What are some of the characteristics of the agents that do really well?

DW: Again all different, everyone’s got their own styles. I think what we talked about earlier, which is just having a genuine care and respect for your client. If clients can see that you do care, whether the campaign is going to plan or not to plan, if they understand that you’re doing everything you possibly can, you’re keeping them informed, you’re working your backside off for them, then the outcome, whether it is at expectations above or below, there won’t be anyone saying, well you could have or should have done this. So I think if you look at some of the personalities, and people have all got different attributes that I love, but they’re all very different. There’s, I don’t think there’s as a key metric to why somebody is successful or not successful, because everyone is so different.

BY: Yes. And it’s being able to understand each person’s difference and their characteristics. So the real estate arena is very appealing to a lot of young people. What would your advice be to someone looking to get in to the real estate industry?

DW: Would be find a good agent and agency and put in three to five years of really, really hard work doing hard stuff. I think a lot of the perception of our industry is it’s just lattes and BMWs. And it’s a, it’s a perception that I think is unwarranted because the people that do the best in our industry work the hardest. And when I say work the hardest, it’s not putting in the most hours, but they just, it’s doing stuff when no one’s watching the people that, that do really well, especially the younger people, the associates. They’re the ones they’re not doing things for gratification from their seniors or their principals. It’s doing stuff because they want to get results and they want that, everyone’s in competition with themselves. They’re not in competition with anyone else. And so the people that do really well understand that and they’re just picking up the phones, they’re making difficult calls, they’re knocking on doors, they’re doing all the, the unpretty things that you need to get your hands dirty when you’re in that early stages of your career. But if you can find a good mentor or a good agent to work for, and put in the three to five years of hard work, you’ll set your, your whole career up.

BY: Yeah. So putting in the hard yards goes a long way.

DW: Yeah, absolutely. There’s no shortcuts. Anyone that tries to make shortcuts or think that Instagrams gonna get you a successful real estate career is kidding themselves. Real estate is one of the hardest industries to break into. But once you do, it’s one of the most rewarding as well. So, but as we know, 80% of people doing doing real estate today won’t be doing it in five years time, which is a pretty scary thought. And so one of the highest turnover industries in the country. But I think it’s because most people these days don’t want to do the hard work. And when I started in real estate, 20 years ago, I spent 12 months, literally out door knocking a whole suburb every single day for six hours a day, because I didn’t know anything different. Then I’d come back. And it was before computers, you’d have databases. So I was writing my cards that would put people’s names and numbers and write it down. And I’d have a whole card system set up of every single contact. And in the first 12 months, I had a database of two and a half thousand people that I was in speaking to and just went from strength to strength because I just did the hard work. But I didn’t realize that no one else was really doing it.

BY: It’s incredible that. So talking about the market, shifting the pace a little bit now. There’s so many mixed messages out there in the marketplace. What would your advice be to any vendors that are looking to sell in the next few months?

DW: I wouldn’t try and judge too far down the track. I think people get into trouble when they start trying to predict what’s going to happen. Because ultimately, no one knows. My take on the market is there’s still not a huge amount of stock that’s out there. There’s a bit bit more stock that’s on the market.

BY: I’m just going to jump in and I’m gonna say that we are in August of 2023.

DW: Yes, there’s a bit, the perception is there’s more on the market, but it’s just sitting there for a little bit longer because I think now the interest rates with going up 12 times in a row, I think that people are starting to feel the pinch a little bit on that. So people aren’t as bullish on just jumping in and paying too much for things because they’re a little bit more price sensitive. In our area, where we are lucky in the sense that most people aren’t getting 80% mortgages. So it’s people wanting to live for the next 20, 30 years and bring their families up. So they want to make an informed decision. And they’re still wanting to buy because people are still having kids and needing bigger houses. And we live in the best part of the best city of the best country in the world. So, we’re always going to have demand there. It looks like interest rates have been paused, probably will be again, for the short term. But no one can really look much further than that. I think if you’re buying something doing the right research, you found yourself the right buyers agent, you’d be able to then buy a property for a decent price. I think prices have already pulled back probably 5% from where they were three months ago, just on people that are now starting to realize that it’s not as bullish as what it was. But I also don’t think it’s dropping a huge amount more either. Maybe in some areas, it might if people are a little bit more price sensitive to the interest rates, but on the Upper North Shore, there’s still going to be strong demand so, and spring is always a really good time to sell your property because gardens are looking beautiful. And people are starting to look to get in to different school catchments for next year. So there’ll be a lot of buyers looking out during the spring period, and it’s all going to come down to how much stock is on the market. I thought there’d be a lot more stock than there is right now. But there’s just not that many people wanting to get out of the the Upper North Shore.

BY: Yes. People love the Upper North Shore. And do you often work with buyer’s agents?

DW: Yeah, look, there’s lots of buyer’s agents who have come into the market. I guess the buyer’s agents industry, as you know, is a little bit like the real estate industry that when in the market that we’ve been in that has been tight for stock, there’s lots of people that thought I can become a buyer’s agent or agents who who didn’t sell much because there was not much stock around then when jumped in to become buyer’s agent. But there’s only a few select good buyer’s agents that, around here, and I think, you know, like our industry, the real estate industry, a lot of people with stock does start freeing up a little bit, then you might not have much as much competition within the buyer’s agency space.

BY: Yeah. So I predicted five years ago, that 1 in 10, people will be using a buyer’s agent. So now I’m going to predict that within the next five years, one in five people will be using a buyer’s agent, what do you think?

DW: I wouldn’t? I wouldn’t be surprised. Where you look at the Eastern Suburbs, the Eastern Suburbs, from what I hear, they’re probably already at one and five. And the North Shore is a little bit, I guess, slow to react in some things. But it’s becoming more and more popular, especially because people are so time poor these days. And because it’s becoming more and more difficult to, to really navigate the real estate space. So if people are time poor and need their help doing it, then absolutely, I can see it becoming more and more common.

BY: Yeah, well, we hope so. So real estate is 24/7. And the pace can be quite crazy at times, how do you maintain balance?

DW: Just putting my priorities in the right, the right space? So you know, spending time with the family? And that’s, you know, number one, the thing I love about the industry is I can, I live five minutes from where I work. So, you know, I get to see my kids every morning, I get to see them every afternoon. And yes, sometimes you’d have to do a couple of late appointments. But if I have a late appointment, I’ll go home first to see the kids before I go out to the late appointment. So it’s just getting priorities, right. And if you look at our industry, people do, a lot of people do tend to make it about them rather than actually being real and understanding that the only people that care, truly for you are the ones closest to you. So if you get those priorities, right, and then everything else falls into place. You get the priorities within the business and the people within the business, spending time with people in the business and making them feel respected and heard. They’re the priorities that I spend the most amount of time on.

BY: Yeah, that’s important. And how do you unwind?

DW: Oh, I like my sport, my music, friends, hanging out with friends hanging out with my wife, my wife and I try spend one day together each week, like without anyone else. So, go out for lunch when kids are at school, so we just, I’m one in those ways. So I’m one of five kids as well. So we you know, we’ve got a big family, and so, see them all the time as well. But I’m pretty simple.

BY: So I know that you absolutely adore your wife and your kids. And now the thing that I’ve found out about you is that you were a champion chess player. But what is something that people who are not close to, don’t know about you?

DW: Oh, yeah, I was, I did play chess back in the day with the New South Wales Junior Chess Champion back in year, in 1995. So it was a long time ago. But I’m a huge fan of, huge John Mayer fan. So I’m going to be flying to New York to watch him play at a show in the school holidays. So I’m looking forward to that. No, but that’s, that’s really, I am a massive Sydney Swans fans, so they’re on the verge of potentially making Finals if they can win the next few games. So, but that’s about it, I would think.

BY: Yeah, so a lot of exciting things in play. Absolutely. So where do you derive your inspiration from?

DW: I think, ultimately, inspiration comes in the interaction you have every day. So I don’t, I don’t have a vision board or anything like that, that I get off and look at every day. But I get inspiration out of different situations. And, but also, I’m always trying to be better, a better person, a better husband, a better dad, a better, you know, ultimately a better leader if I can be with just every interaction you have, because I think it’s not one thing you do. It’s all these little things you do along the way that will be what defined you.

BY: Yes. So what would you say is your favorite quote?

DW: Well, nothing worth doing is ever easy. And that’s why I’ve always had the view that if you can take on the hard things to the day early, whether it’s a hard meeting, hard phone call, or whether it you know, when I was younger, getting prospecting out of the way doing the stuff that no one wants to be doing. If you can get that out of the way early, then you’re gonna have a good day. Every day, you’ve got to get outcomes for your clients. So it’s calling, you know, the buyers back that are interested, following up people it’s doing doing all of the unpretty stuff, but doing the hard stuff, because if it was if everyone was doing the hard stuff, then the industry would be far more competitive. But I think most people these days, just try and take the easy options.

BY: Yes, such great advice. So if someone wants to get in touch with you, any of the listeners, what’s the best way for them to reach out to you?

DW: Call me directly on the mobile, or email me. And it’s real estate so we’re always 24/7 and easily contactable.

BY: Thank you so much for joining me today. It’s been amazing.

DW: It’s my absolute pleasure.


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