When it comes to negative preconceptions about professions, estate agents are right up there with politicians and journalists. That’s why we talk to Matthias Huss, the manager of Cushman & Wakefield’s Hamburg office and Milan Herrmann, a trainee on his team currently completing a degree, to get a more realistic perspective from an established professional and someone at the beginning of their career. We ask five questions – and get five answers which prove that being a good estate agent is about more than simply opening the door and cashing the cheque.
Zarina: What are the typical clichés about estate agents?
Milan: For a start, everyone thinks we all wear expensive Swiss watches and drive luxury cars. I suppose people imagine us in tailor-made suits and shiny shoes, too, and expect us to sign contracts using certain mountain-related brands of fountain pen…
Matthias: Yes, people think of us closing deals with champagne! Then there’s the idea that we get up late, close up early, and enjoy a nice leisurely “business lunch” in between (which might run into dinner…). And yes: people think we all drive sports cars.
Zarina: Why did you decide to become estate agents?
Milan: It was a choice I made early on: my father worked in property and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. While I was young, he often had a fun story about something he’d experienced that day and would share it with us over dinner. Aside from the obvious advantages of the profession, I specifically liked the way property consultants work: there’s a lot of variety – no two days are the same – and plenty of diverse challenges which require flexibility and quick reactions.
Matthias: In my case, it was a newspaper advert for a job as a property consultant with an international real estate service company which first caught my attention. After my degree in construction engineering, I thought it would be interesting for me – and useful for others – to put my technical knowledge to work making customers’ requirements happen.
Zarina: How do people get into the profession nowadays – and is it really true that being in property was something which was passed down through families?
Milan: I got my traineeship through a personal contact of my father’s, and started at Cushman & Wakefield in August 2017. In addition to this professional training, I am also doing a degree in business studies, focussing on property management.
Matthias: As ever, a key criteria for becoming an estate agent is an interest in buildings and interior design; candidates also need to enjoy working across a range of industries and take pleasure in trying to understand each and every customer’s requirements – however specific these may sometimes be. In other words, it means really identifying with clients and making their search into one’s own, going on a mission to get the perfect result for them.
Zarina: To what extent has the profession changed over recent years?
Matthias: There definitely used to be more of a boys’ club atmosphere. Contracts came through contacts, and there were indeed long – sometimes boozy – lunches, important games of golf, and that kind of thing. Nowadays, property management companies often have to pitch as part of a contract bidding process in which detailed and comprehensive customer requirements are used to tailor an offer. This had led to greater competition between companies in the property business – and a higher degree of professionalization. Moreover, you have to keep up with market developments, spot trends, and identify opportunities for your clients. Nevertheless, the traditional skills of good salesmanship and creativity in finding potential tenants are still very much required.
Milan: I’ve spoken to a lot of my colleagues and have the impression that the way an estate agent works has changed considerably in recent years. Increasingly, it’s about supporting clients not just in finding the right property, but in a range of other areas. This leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction and to lasting commercial relationships. Workplace strategy, research, and project & development services are therefore now more often found in one and the same organisations.
Zarina: Do you still call yourself ‘estate agents’ or are you ‘property consultants’ now?
Matthias: In today’s market, both tenants/buyers and landlords/sellers expect more, meaning that there are a range of complicated processes to take care of. Estate agents therefore have to provide various additional services. As such, we are indeed more like consultants specialising in the property industry. That is why we talk about consultancy fees and not commission; contact to our customers isn’t over on signing or completion, but carries on through the whole process, past exchanges of keys and into the next stages. The consultant’s personal network remains an important resource, however, although property sites such as Immobilienscout24 and Immowelt are now playing a much greater role.
Our consultants’ salaries are a mix of basic pay and commission, and while they are free to organise their day-to-day work as they please (i.e. they schedule their own meetings and viewings), as the old saying goes: “No pain, no gain!” Hard work pays off, though.
Zarina: Thank you for your open-hearted words, Matthias and Milan.
You might also be interested in our blog post “The first impression is visual.” How to present successfully by Eva-Christine Bode.
Milan Herrmann, Apprentice, Office Agency Hamburg at Cushman & Wakefield
Matthias Huss joined Cushman & Wakefield in January 2017 as International Partner, Branch Manager and Head of Office Agency Hamburg. His responsibilities include the management of the branch and the Office Agency team in Hamburg as well as project and object acquisition, owner advice and tenant acquisition and support of search mandates.
This interview was conducted by Zarina Winkelmann, Consultant, Marketing & Communications at Cushman & Wakefield