Agent Advisor Blog

Read about the latest market trends, see unique listings, and get tips and advice for selling Australian real estate.

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Feature agent: 5 minutes with Ben Munro Smith


Feature agent: 5 minutes with Ben Munro Smith

This week we had a quick chat with Ben Munro Smith from Belle Property Balmain to get some insights into Sydney's property market, advice on what it takes to be a successful real estate agent and the best spots in Balmain worth stopping for a bite.

What kinds of trends are you seeing in the property market in Sydney’s Inner West at the moment?

People are looking further afield than we have previously seen. More and more people are choosing key lifestyle suburbs and then beginning the search for the perfect house. As an agent, this is fantastic because it means we get to work with people from all over Sydney. The Balmain Peninsula has so much appeal to Sydneysiders, we make most people’s lists!

What do you find most challenging about your job?

One of the biggest challenges about working in real estate and certainly one of the things that makes me love it, is that you always need to be ‘on’. It doesn’t matter how many opens you’ve had that day or how many properties you’ve sold that year – it is absolutely imperative to make sure you are representing yourself and your clients in the best possible way.

I’ll never forget what my grandfather told me when I got my first job, you need to treat each customer as if it was your first for the day. I’ve tried to take that attitude with me to every job I’ve had since.

In what ways do you leverage social media for marketing and lead generation?

Social media is a great opportunity to engage with the local community. For me, this platform isn’t all about selling, it’s about being part of the community, supporting local businesses and connecting with people. 

It has also been great for introducing me to clients which I may not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. I think where social media helps an agent stand out is that it shows the personality behind the agent. Real estate is a people game. A brand might get you through a door but ultimately a client will decide to go with you (or not!) based on you as a person. Social media helps the community get to know you and in return helps you to understand them.

One of the other great parts of being active on social media is that it gives you real time feedback from your clients. I have asked for feedback on new marketing ideas on social media and had some great responses. I’ve then been able to use this information for client sales campaigns. This year I signed up my first vendor from social media and I’ve had special 'follower' property previews which have helped to provide my client (the vendor) with real market feedback on price and the property itself.  

Do you have any specific strategies or tactics you use to most effectively manage your time and follow ups?

Time management, like in any job, is something you really need to remain in control of. Being organised and having a systemised approach to each day is so important. For me, that means everything goes into my diary and at the end of each day I put together a plan of what I’m going to achieve for the following day. Keeping on top of this means I can see where I have space if something comes up and it also allows me to track my day to ensure I achieve everything I set out to. It might sound a little extreme, but it certainly works. The saying goes, fail to plan and you plan to fail, and there is some real truth in that. 

What do you find most appealing and useful about

Homely is a great resource for agents, buyers and the community. It gives something back to all these groups which really makes it stand out against the competition. Personally I love reading their blog for tips and industry articles. These are great to share with my clients and database.

One of my favourite features is the Q&A section. It’s great being able to answer questions and share information about my local area as well as having a platform to ask the community for some advice. 

As an agent it is great to have a free platform to showcase my client’s homes for sale, especially one that is easy for buyers to use. For my business, having the ability to display listings on such a beautiful platform really helps me to stand out from other agents.

Do you have a go-to restaurant or café in Balmain?

We really are spoiled for choice in Balmain when it comes to food. All of the local café and restaurant owners are so passionate about their offering, it is tough to choose just one!

I go past Little Ethel’s most mornings on my way to work and Jamie the owner makes a mean cup of coffee, so they see a lot of me. Tom at The Lodge, just opposite my office, hosts a great spot for a drink at the end of the week and Kim from Wilhelmina’s Bar organises an amazing monthly seasonal dinner which I love to attend. I could really go on and on, there are so many great options!

Check out one of Ben's latest listings on Homely here


Agent bio:

Ben has extensive experience in sales and real estate having worked in the property industry for 10 years. Specialising in homes on the Balmain peninsula, Ben share’s the same enthusiasm for this part of Sydney as his clients do. He works with Belle Property Balmain, attracted to its powerful brand and broad marketing reach which assists him in attracting as many buyers as possible for his clients’ homes. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn or Twitter



About Homely:

Homely is a new way to search for property to buy and rent in Australia. Homely incorporates beautiful design and community engagement, to create an enjoyable and simple experience that helps you find a new home quickly.

Check out our suburb reviews and Q&A pages to see what everyone is talking about.


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Seven home-staging tips to make your listings shine


Seven home-staging tips to make your listings shine

Ensure your vendor’s house shines for its open for inspection by recommending these simple low cost staging techniques. Explain that when it comes to selling their home it is important to market it effectively to potential buyers in the most attractive way possible.

Clever staging can be the difference between a quick sale and a house that sits on the market for months, which is not good for you or your vendor. 

Here are seven easy tricks to pass on so sellers can skilfully stage their home without breaking the bank, and most importantly tempt buyers to make an offer.

What staging techniques should I focus on when getting a house ready for inspection?

1. Depersonalise

One of the most important things a buyer needs to do when inspecting the property is to imagine themselves and their belongings living there. To help make this happen recommend that sellers pack quirky, valuable and personal items away and ideally store them away from the home.

All photos and portraits should be removed from view. Generally, wedding photos and family mementos draw a buyer’s attention to the seller’s family and can stop them from seeing the house as their own family’s future home.   

Removing personal photos, collections and quirky keepsakes also means there is nothing to distract or detract from the overall home itself. The seller needs to make sure the house is the centre of attention.

2. Deep clean

Remind sellers that noticeable grime, dust, pet odours and dirt are very off putting and gives potential buyers the impression that the home is uncared for and hasn’t been well maintained.

Make sure they pay close attention to cleaning light fittings and windows (inside and out) to make sure the place is light and bright come inspection time. From shining floors to gleaming appliances and spotless bench tops, every surface should be sparkling clean and pristine.

If they have pets, have the rugs and carpets steam cleaned and remove litter trays, as there is no bigger turn off to buyers than the smell of wet dog as you enter a house.

If they cannot handle a deep cleanse themselves or their house is especially large suggest that they hire a professional cleaning service to give the place a thorough once over.


3. Let there be light

Buyers want ‘light and bright’, not ‘dark and dreary’, so make sure the house is lit up like a Christmas tree for inspections and listing photography.

When staging the home for photography try to chose a sunny day and make the house appear as bright as possible. Have vendors open all the curtains and blinds and turn on every light in the home, even switch on lights on the range hood and oven to show off the appliances and kitchen.

A fresh coat of paint can also work wonders to lighten and brighten up spaces and makes a property a feel clean, new and well maintained.

4. Declutter and organise

Too much clutter makes homes feel messy, small and cramped. Have sellers clear out extraneous items, like piles of mail and magazines, shampoo and medicine bottles in bathroom cabinets, and remove toys, shoes and clothes from overflowing cupboards.

This can be tricky for some, but is worth the trouble to demonstrate to potential buyers just how much space there is for all their things.

If the vendor is moving out shortly after the sale it can be a good idea to have them pack up and put into storage off-season clothing, books, extra linen and DVDs to really show off the home's storage space.

5. Scent appeal

Prior to an open for inspection advise buyers to wipe down bench tops and surfaces with their favourite subtle all-natural cleaning product to give buyers the impression of cleanliness.

However, make sure they don’t over do it. Being overwhelmed with powerful and competing smells when inspecting a home can be very off putting for buyers. So let sellers know to keep the potpourri, aftershave, fresh coffee and air freshener use to a minimum.

6. Simplicity is key

When arranging furniture remember ‘less is more’. The aim here is to lead buyers' eyes to the room’s best assets. For example, make sure sellers don’t block off large windows with bulky furniture or crowd and take focus from a feature fireplace with a TV and armchairs.

A few simple décor touches of bright colour, like a turquoise throw rug or quirky vase help to add personality to spaces and photograph well for listings.

7. Create a sense of luxury and comfort

A seller doesn’t have to spend a fortune to make their home welcoming and to achieve a sense of luxury. By simply buying fresh fluffy white towels or bathrobes to hang in bathrooms, displaying fresh cut flowers in a crystal vase and pretty throw pillows for beds can make a home look luxurious and feel inviting.

Unlit decorative candles or bottles of luxury hand soaps are great styling tools to recommend for sellers to add a sense of comfort to their home and lightly fragrance the air as buyers move through the house. 

In preparation for an open for inspection remind sellers to focus on depersonalising, cleaning, lighting, decluttering, subtle fragrances and making the house feel comforting and homely. All this will help to make the property more attractive, allow potential buyers to envision themselves living there and hopefully achieve a good sale price.

Are there any other staging techniques you use that prospective buyers love? Please share them with us and our readers below.


Happy selling!

From the Homely Team


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Ask Rocky & Rob


Ask Rocky & Rob

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to buy property at auction?

A: Buying a property at auction can be a very scary thing to do for a buyer, especially if they haven't participated in one before.  

As agents and auctioneers we typically work for the vendor and are employed to achieve a desired outcome for them, however this shouldn’t stop us from helping a buyer achieve their ideal result at auction.

We’re big believers in providing quality buyer management. In this relationship it is really important to understand what the buyer wants to achieve and then put them on the right path to succeed using your valuable experience within the industry.  

Always remember ‘the buyer of today is the seller of tomorrow’. We often hear anecdotes where buyers complain that their agent didn't assist them enough in finding and buying the right property. Obviously this could be for many reasons. The buyer may have missed out on their dream home because of unrealistic expectations or misinformation on pricing given to them by agents in the past.

Whatever the case, buyers won’t forget bad experiences with you and agents like you. Keep this in mind when you’re assisting them and set out to provide as an exceptional service as possible, so they tell their friends and come back to you down the track.

The key here is coaching and education. Help buyers by researching prices and clearance rates in their areas of interest, explaining how the auction process works and setting out a strategy they are comfortable with.

Remind the buyer they will need to get their written mortgage pre-approval prior to the auction date and they are required to pay a deposit on the day, usually 10 per cent of the sale price. 

Recommend attending a few ‘practice’ auctions before the real thing, so they get a feel for auctions and know what to expect. Afterwards review what happened and discuss how they should handle the same scenario when they step up to bid. 

Make sure your buyer doesn’t just stand there waiting for someone to bid and then react, guide them to be a proactive buyer and the aggressor come auction day.

Bidding tips and strategies:

Tip 1. Open the bidding.
Advise the buyer to open the bidding. When someone else bids encourage them to bid straight away and repeat this throughout the auction. Most buyers will be put off by this and lose the desire to keep bidding because they miss the chance to feel a sense of ownership of the property and don’t form an emotional attachment to it. 

Tip 2. Bid with odd numbers.
Direct the buyer to open with an odd number and to always increase their bid in odd numbers. This may slow down the auctioneer, and confuse and slow the momentum of the other buyers. Make sure the buyer understands the importance of standing their ground and being aggressive at auction. Suggest they take control and show that they mean business by putting in their odd numbered bids straight after everyone else’s.

Tip 3. Wait it out.
This one is a riskier tactic where you want others to bid first and you give them the chance to gain a sense of ownership and become emotionally invested in the property. Here the buyer should wait until the very end of the auction to place a bid when everyone else has stopped. At this point a majority of buyers are likely to have reached or exceeded their budget and have already let the property go.

Tip 4. Use research to plan your bidding.
Remind buyers to do their homework. This will help them to gain a better understanding of how much the property will cost. They should look into what comparable properties in the area have sold for by weighing up their key features, such as the number of bedrooms, whether off street parking is included or not, the property's condition and size. Also, consider what the overall growth has been in the suburb over the past 12 months and beyond. Look into plans for future developments that will impact the value of the property, like shopping centres, train stations or schools. Get the buyer to factor in all of this research when thinking about how much they're willing to pay for the property and setting their maximum bid before auction day.

You will find your buyer will really appreciate that you took the time to help them where other agents didn't bother. Even if they don't buy from you immediately, we can assure you they will remember the help and advise you provided and they’ll come back to you in the future because of it.

If you have any questions for Rocky and Rob please send them to or add them to the comments section below.

Happy selling!

From the Homely Team.

Blogger bios:

Rocky Bartolotto is the National Sales Director at and works closely with real estate groups in Australia, tasked with building strategic partnerships and growth. Connect with Rocky on Twitter and LinkedIn.


As the NSW Sales Manager for, Rob Trovato focuses on building relationships and partnerships with real estate groups across all of NSW. Connect with Rob on Twitter and LinkedIn.