Katie Kepner has always been crystal clear on the type of real estate agent she did and didn’t want to be.
“I wanted to be someone who could calm my clients and take away the stress, the nerves and the pressure that comes with a process like selling,” she said.
“I wanted to make it a positive experience for people, and something that they weren’t dreading.
“I wanted it to be a process where people felt like they could trust me and have open conversations.”
Originally from Southern California, the former international athlete originally came to Newcastle to play in the Australian Water Polo League.
“I was supposed to be here for six months and now here we are 13 years later, married to an Australian man, with two kids,” she said.
Ms Kepner said she had always been “fascinated by real estate”.
“There was a street at home, in Newport Beach, called Kings Rd and it has these beautiful, incredible mansions,” she recalled.
“And from childhood, from as young as I can remember, I would just be fascinated by these homes and wondering who lived in them, what they did and what it would be like to be inside one of these homes.
“Now, I’m so lucky to be able to sell homes just like those.”
Ms Kepner said she started her real estate career in property management and then switched to sales – starting at the bottom and slowly working her way up to becoming a standalone agent.
After eight years in real estate in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie region, Ms Kepner joined Presence Real Estate earlier this year, with the clear goal of continuing to build on her innate traits of providing the calm in a sometimes hectic sales process.
She said she knew Presence was the right fit to take the next step in her career after meeting founder and director Mark Kentwell.
“I just wanted to be in the sphere of someone like him, who is truly an incredible salesperson,” Ms Kepner said.
“I knew that there was so much more for me to learn, just by being around someone like him.”
But, as Ms Kepner soon discovered, learning, growing, adapting and continually improving their sales and client experience skills, is something the entire Presence team embraces.
“From Mark, and the other agents, the biggest thing I have learnt is, particularly in a changing market like we are in right now, there is so much more that can be done to enhance the experience and results we produce,” she said.
“And not just for the sellers, but for the buyers as well.
“One of the things I’ve learnt is how to dig a little bit deeper with clients and how we can help people better by asking better questions.”
Ms Kepner said she had learnt how to gently encourage more information from her clients, not to be nosy, but to help obtain them a better result.
“It’s about understanding their motivations, their fears, their timeframes and what’s important to them,” she said.
“There are so many different aspects that are going on in a person’s life, and often, people want to withhold information from a real estate agent… but there’s so many things you can do to help someone more.”
Ms Kepner said another aspect that drew her to Presence was its employee equity scheme and strong values, in addition to fostering inspiring, top female real estate agents such as Natalie Tonks.
“She has an all-female team and they’re doing really well, so that was another big motivator for me,” she said.
“I wanted to be around agents that I want to be like.”
The training Presence offers was another key factor, with Ms Kepner impressed by the agency’s multi-pronged approach that sees education delivered from industry coaches, Mr Kentwell and from within the team.
Ms Kepner said he has never experienced anything like the team’s ‘Friday Pump Up’ anywhere else.
“On Friday there is a team training session that’s designed to help each other sell each other’s listings,” she said.
“It’s all about saying ‘Do you have a client that’s looking for something like this’? Or, ‘I’ve got something off-market’ and ‘What challenges are you seeing’? And then the team masterminds and brainstorms solutions for each other.”
Ms Kepner said her goal between now and the end of the financial year is for her and her sales associate, Alexander Moyse, to write $1 million in GCI.
And beyond that, she really wants to establish a ‘presence’ for Presence in the 2290 postcode area of Lake Macquarie, including suburbs such as Charlestown, Dudley and Whitebridge.
“It’s all about bringing the team effort, amazing database and a really different selling process to the area that I love working in,” Ms Kepner said.
“I think there’s a lot of room for that.”