Coming from a career as an accountant, John Comino knew that property investing was his ticket out of the rat race.
During the time he worked as an accountant, John and his wife were able to build a significant property portfolio and in the process learn what it takes to become a successful investor.
“The process of buying for myself turned out to be an opportunity to develop a passion for something, but also to make a lot of mistakes and to find out what worked.”
“That turned into a real understanding of property cycles and property selection and the financing behind property. From there, people started coming to me to either bid on their behalf or just give an opinion on properties that they wanted to buy.”
After finding personal success in property, John then wanted to use it as an opportunity to build his own business.
“I became a buyer’s agent towards the end of 2017, beginning of 2018 and there were two drivers at the time. One was to own my own business. A part of that concept of planning my escape, but one was just financial independence and running my own business.”
“The second reason was to explore the skill that I had in sort of choosing properties and putting deals together.”
As a buyers agent, John focuses on finding off-market properties while educating everyone he helps.
“I’m always conscious that there are three reasons that people come to BAs. One is to save time, two is to educate and to help make better purchasing decisions and then the third one is to purchase off-market properties.”
“With that in mind, my strategy as a buyer’s agent is to be more of an educator than a head kicker because I don’t have a background in sales so that can be a double-edged sword, but I do focus on the soft skills of sort of educating the clients.”
“The second thing is that I do try to target off-market properties because I never want to get into the conversation around ‘I could have done it myself’, which is always a risk, as a buyer’s agent.”
Having started his career after the property cycle peaked in Sydney, John had to navigate a tricky time while launching his own business.
“I started at the end of ‘17, beginning of ’18, which was a really tough time in the property market. I think it dropped, 15% in 2018.”
“I got very lucky in that one of my very first clients was actually an ASX listed media company who wanted a very substantial property at the time. So even though the market was sort of languishing, I was able to put together a fairly large deal and that was really helpful.”
“That was very good for my brand and that was good for my experience and obviously good for cashflow. But it’s a difficult sort of deal to repeat so they don’t come along very often, but that was one of my first deals.”
John used a number of approaches to help get his business off the ground in the early days.
“It’s been tough to get established, but I focused on three things. One was thought leadership and articles and podcasts. I was writing articles fairly prolifically. I do it a bit less now, but lots of articles and lots of podcasts.”
“The second thing I did to get established was networking and meeting people and trying to meet new people every week. That’s an excellent way to do it. And the third thing is that I do and did invest in a lot of social media at the time because you don’t want to be the best buyer’s agent that no one’s heard of.”
For John, one of the hardest parts of working with buyers was trying to educate them on cycles and when to buy.
“Buyers buy in sellers’ markets, not in buyers’ markets, which is sort of strange – they should be buying in these dips, but human psychology is that they don’t.
“When property was on sale, buyers weren’t interested in property and now that it’s hot again, the buyers come back in. I used to try to fight that and my articles were all about being a contrarian. I don’t worry so much about that now. I just accept that that’s how people are wired and so I don’t fight the tide on that one.”
In a bid to build momentum in his business John worked with the BAI and it was instrumental in learning how to grow his client base.
“I started as a buyer’s agent before I did the Buyer’s Agent Institute so the institute was really helpful for me because it covers everything from scripts and dialogues to mindset and time management.”
“Because I got in very fresh, I didn’t really know where to start. So for me, the most important part of the Buyer’s Agent Institute were scripts and dialogues and also scripts about how to convert prospects into clients.”
“The other big thing that the Buyer’s Agent Institute helped me with was understanding the value that I provide to the referral partners.”
“If you go to, a mortgage broker or a real estate agent, you don’t want to just ask them for a favour – “Hey, come and help. Send me some referrals.” What you want to do is create a transaction of mutual value for them rather than simply asking a favour.”
Going forward, John wants to continue to grow his business, through more effective practices that depend less on him.
“In the next five to ten years I want to focus on systematising the process more and scaling up so that it’s not so dependent on me.”
“That’s one of the things about the buyer’s agent business, it is very personalised and it’s very much about my brand as John. I want to sort of get away from that towards a more scalable model.”
For anyone considering a career as a buyers agent, John notes that it is a people business.
“The main thing is that being a buyer’s agent’s about people, not about property.”
“A lot of people get into the buying business because they love property, but if you simply love property, it might not be the right thing for you because as a buyer’s agent you deal in the peoples’ wealth, their frailties, their insecurities, their fear of debt and their fear to take action.”
“It’s not about the properties, it’s about the people.”