AT JUST 37 SEAN HUGHES has been in real es­tate longer than most. He bought his first house while still at school and be­came a real es­tate agent while in his teens. Like all good sons, he’s not afraid to ad­mit he couldn’t have done it without the help of t


Sean Hughes

AS A TEENAGER Sean Hughes was a “hus­tler”.

Don’t worry, we’re not talk­ing any­thing il­le­gal. Just good, com­mon-sense en­trepreneur­ship – with a dash of cheek­i­ness thrown in. Af­ter all, you’ve got to have a bit of pluck to save the $12,000 de­posit needed to buy your first house when you’re just 16.

“I was a lit­tle hus­tler back in the day,” the Real­mark Coastal prin­ci­pal re­calls with a chuckle.

“I bought my first house when I was still in high school for $120,000. I had seven or eight guys work­ing for me in a pa­per run and a milk run, and that’s how I saved the money for the de­posit.”

Sean and his twin brother Si­mon also bought and resold cars to make ex­tra cash, de­spite the fact they were too young to drive them­selves.

“We’d buy them, do them up and re­sell them. This was back in the day when there was a fair bit of money to be made. We were al­ways look­ing at the Trad­ing Post for good deals.

“I re­mem­ber one deal; a guy came to view the car and asked for a test drive, and I had to say, ‘Sure, but you need to do the driv­ing be­cause I don’t have a li­cence yet’.”


It was Sean’s mother, Jenny, and his grand­mother, Pat Davidson, who en­cour­aged him to buy that first prop­erty.

The women were both real es­tate agents in Perth’s beach­side sub­urbs and have re­mained a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion through­out his ca­reer.

In fact, Sean has worked his en­tire ca­reer along­side Jenny, with the pair tak­ing the man­tle of Real­mark’s num­ber-one sell­ing agents or prin­ci­pals for the past 12 years.

“Mum has taught me ev­ery­thing I know,” he says earnestly.

“Nana is such an in­spi­ra­tion as the orig­i­nal ma­tri­arch of our fam­ily. She’s com­ing up to the dark side of 90 and she still plays golf twice a week; she plays cards and she’s very ac­tive, very com­pet­i­tive.

“That is vi­tal in our in­dus­try, which is com­mis­sion-based. It goes back to that hunt-or-be-killed men­tal­ity. Whether you get paid next week de­pends on what you do to­day.

“The best ad­vice Nana gave me is, ‘If you list, you’ll last’ and I’ve never for­got­ten that.”

When Sean left St Mark’s Angli­can Com­mu­nity School in Hil­larys he gave up surf­ing at state level and his job at a surf shop to work along­side Jenny in real es­tate. What fol­lowed was a true bap­tism of fire and a bat­tle to show clients that a fresh­faced young­ster could cut it in an in­dus­try where knowl­edge was equated with age.

“The week af­ter I got my real es­tate li­cence, Mum went over­seas for two weeks and gave me seven listings she had at the time,” Sean says, still in­cred­u­lous at the fact.

“It was sink or swim time, and at that point real es­tate was very much an older per­son’s game. Here I was, straight out of school, and I think peo­ple thought, ‘What can this kid know about buy­ing and sell­ing?’.

“I made sure I knew as much as I could about the prop­erty, about the mar­ket and about the in­dus­try. I was lucky in that I had Mum there 90 per cent of the time to watch, ob­serve and learn from.”

Now, at just 37, Sean al­ready has al­most 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the real es­tate game.

“The best ad­vice Nana gave me is, ‘If you list you’ll last’ and I’ve never for­got­ten that.”

“I bought my first house when I was still in high school for $120,000.”

“If you want to be e the best you havee to train harder, workk longer and make sac­ri­fice­ses to get the re­sults.”

It’s a game he’s played as well as his fa­ther, for­mer Aus­tralian Cricket cap­tain Kim Hughes, played test matches.

“While Dad wasn’t fazed whether we played cricket or not, he was al­ways keen for us to com­pete whether that was in sport or in busi­ness,” Sean re­calls. “He and Mum re­ally in­stilled the im­por­tance of ded­i­ca­tion and dis­ci­pline when we were grow­ing up. To be an elite sports­man and cap­tain Aus­tralia takes a lot of ded­i­ca­tion and sac­ri­fice.

“If you want to be the best you have to train harder, work longer and nd make sac­ri­fices to get the re­sults.”

In his 20s and early 30s Sean n con­sis­tently worked 70 hours a week. He was first into the of­fice, the last to leave and would spend most of ev­ery evening at ap­point­ments. int­ments.

“Dad def­i­nitely in­stilled that at if you do some­thing, you do it prop­erly.” ”

The hard work has paid off and as a team he and Jenny have moved ved through the ranks. Sell­ing more re than $50 mil­lion worth of prop­erty perty an­nu­ally has seen them claim the cov­eted REIWA Grand Master r award eight times.


Sean says forg­ing strong, long- - last­ing re­la­tion­ships with their r clients has been the back­bone of their suc­cess.

“Help­ing peo­ple has to come first. Of course there’s the he com­mer­cial bonus off the back k of that, but you won’t achieve that at if you don’t put the ef­fort into build­ing uild­ing those re­la­tion­ships.

“It’s amaz­ing these days the e num­ber of hats you have to wear… you’re a prob­lem solver, ,a a coun­sel­lor, a me­di­a­tor be­tween n buy­ers and sell­ers, be­tween buy­ers and buy­ers; you’re con­stantly mit­i­gat­ing.

“This is a marathon; real es­tate tate is the long game. It’s about peo­ple, ople, be­cause peo­ple re­mem­ber and d it’s what they say about you when hen you’re not around that mat­ters.” s.”

Sean and Jenny now man­age a team of al­most 40 agents, prop­erty man­agers and sup­port staff, with plans to ex­pand fur­ther and in dif­fer­ent ways in the fu­ture. New and di­verse pro­cesses is some­thing they know a lot about, having in­tro­duced auc­tion sales and colour, ven­dor-paid mar­ket­ing back when few oth­ers were.

“In West­ern Aus­tralia we were tra­di­tion­ally a non-auc­tion state and a non­colour mar­ket­ing or ven­dor-paid mar­ket­ing state,” state, he says. “Back Back then you just had lin­eage; no one ran a colour page in the pa­per.

“But we had some men­tor­ing with Mark McLeod and his mes­sage re­ally hit home. So we had colour pages in the pa­per at $8,000 a page and now they’re $1,600 a page. We also did auc­tions. Those two things were cat­a­lysts for us.”

Sean be­lieves auc­tion is the “purest form” of sell­ing and keeps agents “ac­count­able”. He knows it’s hard work, but that’s some­thing he’s never shied away from, and

he ap­pre­ci­ates that the auc­tion method helps keep sys­tems and pro­cesses tight.

“You have to stand up in front of the com­mu­nity and sell, and if you haven’t done the work then you’ll end up with egg on your face. We were the top auc­tion of­fice in the state last year.”


Sean’s ex­pe­ri­ence and long fam­ily his­tory in real es­tate means he’s seen a few changes in the in­dus­try; per­haps none more preva­lent than im­prove­ments in tech­nol­ogy and the way agents do busi­ness.

“Nana was one of the first agents to have a mo­bile phone, which was the size of a brick; the bat­tery packs for those things were so big they had to go in the boot of the car,” he says.

“In the be­gin­ning I had a Nokia 6210 and it didn’t even have a cam­era. So tech­nol­ogy and the way we work as a re­sult has changed a lot. We now have the dig­i­tal let­ter­box on our phones rather than the phys­i­cal let­ter­box at a prop­erty.

“Mar­ket­ing is also more heav­ily ori­en­tated to­wards so­cial me­dia. What you can do with push mar­ket­ing is amaz­ing. Many peo­ple who go to Bun­nings are do­ing up their house and some­times that’s to sell it; we can ac­tu­ally tar­get peo­ple who have shopped at Bun­nings in the past seven days.”

But it’s not en­tirely out with the old, in with the new at Real­mark Coastal. Sean and Jenny have rein­tro­duced the reg­u­lar car­a­van, where agents tour each other’s listings so they can bet­ter know the mar­ket and match prop­er­ties with buy­ers.

Sean says it’s a great way to see what stock is on the mar­ket and helps to cre­ate a vi­brant, happy en­vi­ron­ment for their team.

He ac­knowl­edges Jenny has been in­stru­men­tal in cre­at­ing an en­joy­able work cul­ture, which in­cludes having ev­ery­thing from of­fice cook-offs to vis­it­ing AREC an­nu­ally and giv­ing staff mean­ing­ful birth­day gifts based on their in­ter­ests.

A team mem­ber is also in charge of or­gan­is­ing team build­ing ex­er­cises, such as a re­cent race with bouncy balls. “We want peo­ple to make money and have a lot of fun do­ing it,” Sean says.

But all jok­ing aside, Sean ex­plains how part of the suc­ces­sion plan in­cludes look­ing at ways of re­pay­ing great agents’ work, in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to lawyers who work their way up to be­come part­ners.

“We’re work­ing on a model that en­ables good agents to be part-own­ers, but which still has man­agers to run things so that those agents can still do what they do best, which is sell­ing,” he says.

“It’s sim­i­lar to lawyers who write lots of busi­ness get­ting their name on the door. A lot of agen­cies have higher com­mis­sion pay­outs, but I think there’s a lot to be said for own­er­ship. You can re­ally see peo­ple’s mind­set change when they’re a fi­nan­cial part of that team.”

So the only ques­tion left to ask is: how has Sean gone on work­ing with his mum for al­most 20 years?

“We haven’t had a blue in all of those years. It’s a unique re­la­tion­ship. The male and fe­male syn­ergy re­ally works well for us, as does having the two age de­mo­graph­ics. We just get along so well.”

“It’s about peo­ple, be­cause peo­ple re­mem­ber; it’s what they say about you when you’re not around that mat­ters.”

Sean and Jenny Hughes

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