Q&A with Place Estate Agents' Sarah Hackett

When Sarah Hackett announced she was dropping out of a university degree to sell real estate, her mother burst into tears.

Today, 19 years on, the award-winning co-director of Place Estate Agents in Brisbane is clearly having the last laugh as she heads a company of more than 300 employees and 13 agency businesses, juggles family commitments, and mentors her team to more than $1 million of commissions every year.

Sarah spoke to Domain about her career flip from test tubes to clipboards, gender issues in real estate and how to get over a bad day.

Your career path did a 180-degree turn early on, is that right?

Yes it was 1997. I was 21 at the time, I deferred from studying science at university to go into real estate after one of LJ Hooker’s best agents at that time, a very successful older woman, told me I’d be great at it. My mother cried!

In my very first year I would have grossed $60,000 in fees; the second year that figure grew by about three.

In 2009, Damian [Hackett] and I decided to take on the prestige market in [Brisbane’s] eastern suburbs, specifically the riverfront, and we sold 85 per cent of the market share for properties over $2.5 million, which was very exciting.

Although we don’t take commissions any more, the fees from these sales are always over $1 million per annum.

Is it tough for women in real estate?

Absolutely! Not only was I a female when I entered the industry but as a 22-year-old I did care about my presentation, but learnt very early on that the woman in the transaction was who I had to win over and so I dressed very conservatively at work and deliberately didn’t apply my lipstick in meetings.

I wanted my clients to feel completely comfortable with me and, more importantly, know I had a very successful sales record even though I was young.

Unfortunately my competition, mostly males, would still use their best efforts to say things like, ‘she only wins business due to her short skirts’, which I never did, or ‘the boss favours her’, which never happened.

One thing I must say in[real estate’s] defence is it is one of the few industries that do offer equal pay, so that is something I’m very proud of.

Have you ever done anything outside-the-square in terms of marketing yourself?

I went to a Virgin party because my brother is one of their pilots and his wife was sick at the time and I took a snap of Richard Branson and myself and asked him ‘Can I use this to promote my real estate business’?’

He said ‘Sure if you think I can help’, and so I sent a postcard out to my whole suburb saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know …I have an international database of buyers’ and it worked a treat!

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self about how to survive in this industry?

Handle the knocks and pick yourself up as quickly as you can.

I was told ‘the best loose as much as the average make’, which stuck with me as it’s very true in this industry.

At 26, I was earning $1 million in fees, selling 13 homes a month, listing 16 a month and the one listing I would lose to my competition was the one that would keep me awake all night. Fortunately, over the years I have learnt to get over these disappointments and handle rejection so I can focus on what I can control.

What do you do when you are having a bad week?

I have learnt after years, that you have to be ‘good selfish’.  Most women are hopeless at being selfish, everyone else comes first, but we can and do need to get better at this otherwise you will build up resentment.

Also, some days can begin looking really draining and that’s when I turn up the music in my car, think about everything I am grateful for and snap out of it.

I personally love to exercise three times a week, love to internet shop, which is a terrible new habit, love sleep, which I rarely get with little ones and love a glass of wine with my mum or girlfriends.

We are all humans, and kisses and cuddles with my kids are a really great rebalance after a bad day.

Meet Kara Rosenlund

Meet the talented photographer, stylist and author putting Brisbane on the map. Kara Rosenlund is a respected photographer, stylist and author, loved among design enthusiasts and respected by Brisbane locals for flying the flag for our big country town and showing the world how to do it in the north-east, with her raw, honest and simple approach to her craft. Meet Kara Rosenlund.

Your photography and styling is so alluring. It’s raw and frank and you appear to run your own race. How do you describe your aesthetic?

My aesthetic is simple, it’s honest. It’s actually an extension of the type of person I am and what I’m attracted to visually, whether it’s styling a bedroom or photographing in the bush, it’s that honesty and sense of realism I love to capture.

How did you start out in your career? What came first photography or styling?

I started out in my career about 14 years ago as an editorial photographer (I had a break in the middle and lived in London). I was capturing more portrait work for magazines back then and I was really drawn to adding a styling element to the portraits. I found this gave the work so much more depth and really added a visual storytelling aspect to the portraits which people found engaging. Back then if you said you were a stylist people assumed you cut and coloured hair, so much has changed since then, in a good way!

Was a creative career always on the cards?

Yes, always. I have always been a visual person, even when I was little and have always been determined to follow my heart.

Offering your photographic work for purchase makes sense but is it correct you have only narrowed in on this aspect of your business recently?

The online print shop has been open for about 18 months. Like all the best things it came from a need – people desiring what I was capturing and sharing on Instagram. My Instagram community love to tell me what they like and I love to take them on the visual journey of where I’m travelling. I love to listen to them and engage, as most of the time I work on my own, so its great to have their ‘company’. Then to take it to the next level by being able to be part of people’s homes and celebrated on their walls through my work is a pure privilege.

What does an average work day look like for you?

Big! Most of all I always try to have fun! If I’m on location in the field for a client I’m up for the light at dawn and won’t stop until I lose the light in the evening. If it’s a studio day I generally try to get in by 7am to have a look at the emails that have come through over night from the US, usually usages on shots, orders from the print shop and editorial jobs. This will influence how the day pans out. I leave at about 6.30pm, but when you run your own small business you never really stop.

Who or what are your creative influences?

Nature is one of my biggest influences. Everything to do with nature, the colour palettes, the landscapes, the light. It never gets it wrong.

What’s the motivation behind your latest photography collection?

The motivation is the landscape and the connection to engage with it. So much of my life is spent on the road up close to nature and when I get back to the city I want to be reminded of that sense of freedom because I miss it. This was the real push behind the latest work, bringing nature into the home. 

What is unique about being based in Brisbane?

Brisbane is great, it’s a low-fi base and it’s a really easy city. It is true that we are laid-back up here and that’s just the way I like it.

Kara’s new print collection, Wild, is available now at www.kararosenlund.com.