Rick Hockey

IN THE MINING TOWN OF PORT HEDLAND, WA, First Na­tional se­nior sales con­sul­tant Rick Hockey has over­come the mar­ket slump of re­cent years to sur­vive and thrive in the real es­tate game. Rick tells us how chang­ing his mind­set changed his life and gave him the skills to weather the boom and the bust.

It was 2009 when Rick Hockey took the plunge to em­brace a life­long pas­sion for prop­erty and en­ter the real es­tate game.

At the time he had 28 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the Pil­bara re­gion as a BHP em­ployee, was run­ning his own suc­cess­ful clean­ing busi­ness and had a deep con­nec­tion with the Port Hedland com­mu­nity.

The mining boom had af­forded him the op­por­tu­nity to build a prop­erty port­fo­lio of his own and he was fre­quently in and out of the First Na­tional of­fice tend­ing to af­fairs. So when agency prin­ci­pal Morag Lowe joked he spent so much time at First Na­tional he should work there, Rick took up the in­vi­ta­tion.

In only his first week as an agent,

Rick sold his first prop­erty. It was just the start of the good times to come. By 2011, the re­gion’s prop­erty mar­ket was at a pre­mium. The me­dian house price for Port Hedland was $900,000, and South Hedland was re­turn­ing a me­dian of $700,000. Rents were also sky­rock­et­ing, draw­ing in­vestors to the re­gion to en­joy re­turns of up to $5,000 a week. The sell­ing was easy and the suc­cess stag­ger­ing.

“Life was good,” Rick ex­plains. “Lots of sales, good com­mis­sions and more per­sonal prop­erty ac­qui­si­tions.”

Then, in late 2012, things be­gan to change.

“In a piv­otal mo­ment, I was ap­prais­ing a prop­erty and told the own­ers the mar­ket price. They broke down and cried.”

“If you’re a fail­ure, it’s your fault; if you’re a suc­cess, it’s your fault.”

Mining con­struc­tion slowed, iron ore prices fell and ev­ery­one be­gan to tighten their belts. The mar­ket was cor­rect­ing, but at a fright­en­ing rate.

Rick notes that in a nor­mal mar­ket a correction might equate to 10 or 20 per cent, but in Port Hedland the im­pact was much, much greater. Prices dropped 30 per cent, then 40 and 50, fi­nally sta­bil­is­ing at about 60 to 70 per cent across ren­tals and sales.

Few were im­mune to the fall­out. The pop­u­la­tion dropped from around 20,000 to 13,000. In­vestors were gone, prop­erty be­came hard to sell and, for those who had staked it all on the high prices and lure of the boom, sell­ing equated to a mas­sive loss.

“In a piv­otal mo­ment, I found my­self stand­ing in a lounge room ap­prais­ing a prop­erty,” Rick re­calls. “I was telling the own­ers the mar­ket price. They broke down and cried. They were go­ing to lose ev­ery­thing. And stand­ing there I also had grave con­cerns for my own sit­u­a­tion, my own fam­ily and my own fu­ture.”

Like many, Rick had taken a hit to his own port­fo­lio,

but it was the hit to his self-es­teem that rocked him most.

“The boom cre­ated not only a false econ­omy, but a false im­age of re­al­ity and had given me a false im­pres­sion of my­self,” he says. “At the start I thought I was quite suc­cess­ful, but I didn’t know how to han­dle a de­clin­ing mar­ket.

“I be­came dis­il­lu­sioned with the mar­ket, the mining in­dus­try, the fu­ture of Hedland, my prop­erty port­fo­lio, my fu­ture, and my abil­ity to list and sell prop­erty in a de­clin­ing mar­ket.”

In short, he was strug­gling and spi­ralling to­wards rock bot­tom.

“Then I thought, ‘I’ve got to do some­thing’. So I rang peo­ple I knew, peo­ple I trusted who were still sell­ing a lot of prop­er­ties de­spite the mar­ket con­di­tions. I got my­self a men­tor, I talked to pos­i­tive peo­ple and I worked to change my mind­set.”

His im­me­di­ate men­tal shift in­volved tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. “If you’re a fail­ure, it’s your fault; if you’re a suc­cess, it’s your fault,” he re­flects.

His new strat­egy was a no-ex­cuses ap­proach. He di­rected his at­ten­tion to list­ing prop­er­ties, of­fer­ing own­ers and buy­ers a ser­vice that was sec­ond to none. He played to his strengths of good com­mu­ni­ca­tion, hon­esty and com­mit­ment. When he needed help he asked for it, bring­ing in as­sis­tance to ad­dress weak­nesses like so­cial me­dia pres­ence. But, above all, he brought his own ex­pe­ri­ence and the hu­man fac­tor to the game.

Once he started to take ac­tion, Rick be­gan to feel he had di­rec­tion. He was no longer sink­ing but had started to swim. His con­fi­dence be­gan to re­turn. His pas­sion for real es­tate resur­faced and the sales be­gan to come.

“I started to love list­ing prop­er­ties. It was my fo­cus; list prop­er­ties and the buy­ers will come to you.”

An av­er­age day for Rick can start as early as 5.30am and stretch into the evening around 7pm. The ex­tra hours are spent en­sur­ing ev­ery phone call and email of the day has been re­turned, with Rick not­ing this is key to his suc­cess.

“Clients gain con­fi­dence in you when you re­turn their calls promptly. They be­lieve you are ef­fi­cient and you care. That’s be­cause you are, and you do. I en­sure I never lose the all-im­por­tant hu­man side and go that ex­tra mile to help.”

Rick also brings his own ex­pe­ri­ence to the table, even if that means he has to be harsh to be kind. He is up­front about prop­erty prices and un­der­stands for some sell­ers that en­tails a loss.

“I talk peo­ple through it, be­cause I went through it my­self.”

Now, how­ever, things in Port Hedland are show­ing promise again. This time Rick be­lieves there will be no bub­ble, but con­sis­tent, sta­ble growth.

Con­struc­tion is cur­rently un­der­way

at mines in the area; new com­modi­ties like lithium and man­ganese are set to be ex­ported. Mean­while, the re­gion has also di­ver­si­fied into the cat­tle trade. The air­port is un­der­go­ing an up­grade and is soon to take di­rect flights from Auck­land, Shang­hai and Viet­nam. Like Rick, Port Hedland is ris­ing from the bleak days of the bust.

Rick is ex­cited and en­thu­si­as­tic about this brighter fu­ture ahead, but also notes the value of the lessons learned in re­cent years, re­flect­ing that they have made him a far bet­ter agent over­all.

Last year alone he sold 132 prop­er­ties, av­er­ag­ing 11 sales per month. For the past two years he has been recog­nised by First Na­tional as the high­est-sell­ing agent in West­ern Aus­tralia.

He has seen the highs, he has seen the lows and Rick Hockey has adapted to em­brace both.

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