Five Questions with Alisha Daya, founder of Daya Gibb Real Estate

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I was educated at Dio and studied law at Auckland University before working at Ernst & Young in Auckland and Melbourne. I left professional services to start a direct-to-consumer ecommerce business, which I ran for five years before selling the company’s assets to a private equity start-up. It was during my time in business that I first became interested in the property industry in New Zealand.

I spent the better part of 18 months talking to people within the industry about the problems they face and the changes they would like to see. Almost every person I spoke to had the same request – they wanted someone to disrupt residential sales.

In residential sales, a successful result for a vendor often hinges upon how well a property is marketed. While I had no background in residential sales and at the time very little interest in doing it myself, I recognised that my background in ecommerce and digital advertising gave me a huge advantage in the area and would be extremely valuable to vendors. I have sold hundreds of thousands of products to tens of thousands of customers all over the world. If I was to claim to be an expert in any one area, it would be digital marketing.

It was this realisation that set me on a path to starting my own real estate agency. Traditional real estate agencies are nothing more than over-paid middlemen. The internet has levelled the playing field by making data available to everyone, so why are we still paying agencies so much when they do so little? My goal is to cut out the middlemen completely by taking a direct-to-consumer approach and applying tried and tested ecommerce marketing strategies to residential sales.

What is Daya Gibb?

Daya Gibb is a residential real estate agency based in central Auckland. What makes Daya Gibb different is that it is completely independent and not attached to a traditional agency in any way. This means that we are not bound by inflated commission structures and outdated marketing strategies. We pride ourselves on our ability to find creative and cost-effective ways of selling each property for the highest possible price.

Our team has a broad range of competencies and extensive experience using social media and digital marketing to sell properties throughout the Auckland region. We do everything in-house and never charge where we can absorb the costs ourselves. Having skin in the game lowers up-front marketing costs and ensures that our incentives are properly aligned with the interests of our clients.

Why did you start Daya Gibb?

Real estate is an industry that everyone loves to hate. My goal is to change that perception, one interaction at a time.

In 2016, after returning to Auckland following a brief stint working in New York and Melbourne, I found it impossible not to notice the proliferation of real estate agencies and the growth of the real estate industry. In Remuera, in particular, where I had grown up, agent advertisements took up space on the back of every bus, on every billboard, and on the back of all locally distributed publications.

Despite the apparent wealth of the individual agents, the agencies themselves in central Auckland felt tired and out of place. I was unable to identify with the brands or the way that they were run. It also troubled me greatly that while property prices continued to increase, traditional agencies did nothing to improve their brands or their offerings. Legacy agencies still seemed to think that it was acceptable to treat residential sales like it’s the same as booking an economy fare to Fiji. That may have been tolerated when the average house price in Auckland was $300,000, but with property prices close to or above two million dollars in most central Auckland suburbs, I felt that sellers deserved a brand and an experience that reflected the true value of their properties.

After taking meetings with several creative agencies that weren’t so creative, I took it upon myself to create the agency and brand and do everything that goes along with it. I wanted to create a brand that you would not find wedged between a bank branch and a liquor store at your local shops. It is my hope that this is what I have created in Daya Gibb Real Estate.

My goal is a modest one. I want to provide an option. I suspect that the majority of home owners are content with the status quo. Daya Gibb is an agency for everyone else. For those of us who doesn’t see themselves reflected in traditional agency offerings – those discerning home owners who want a real estate experience that isn’t modelled off a 90s travel agency.

What makes Daya Gibb different?

This is a question that I have grappled with for some time. When you meet me in person or speak to me over the phone, the difference between me and other agents should be obvious. On a website, these differences can be more difficult to communicate without a long-winded explanation and accompanying social proof. I will dispense with the explanation for now, and instead use an analogy.

In some ways, the real estate industry reminds me of the bottled water industry. Every brand of bottled water does the same thing – they all quench your thirst. When you walk down a supermarket aisle, you are confronted with 50 different brands of water with only the slightest difference between them. So how do you choose which brand of water to buy? Your decision will ultimately be based on a combination of factors, from the placement of the bottles on the shelves to the price, from the brand and product label to the bottle shape, from the marketing reach of a brand to whether you have consumed a particular brand of water in the past.

The real estate industry is similar in a number of ways. Like the bottled water industry, all real estate agents ultimately do the same thing – agents act on behalf of vendors and try to get the best possible deal for a vendor’s property. However, in real estate, the stakes are much higher. If you buy a bottle of water and don’t like the taste, as disappointing as it may be, you are only out of pocket a few dollars. The great thing about an inexpensive product like bottled water is that you can always experiment with different brands until you find one you like. Vendors do not have the same luxury in real estate.

In real estate, you have even less information upon which to make a decision. Most home-owners give no thought to the real estate industry until it comes time to sell their own property. Vendors are then faced with the daunting task of sorting through agents and agencies who all claim that they will make you the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time. In the end, a vendor will likely give in and go with an agent they see on a billboard or the back of a bus or one stepping out of a Lamborghini at the local super market.

A good agent is worth his or her weight in gold. While commissions are a constant pain point for vendors, it pays to remember that a good agent may cost $50,000 but they should generate several times that amount on top of what a normal agent would have otherwise received as the final sale price for a property. A bad agent, on the other hand, may make you several hundred thousand dollars less. Either way, the agent gets paid.

So, while the real estate industry is similar to the bottled water industry in that there are a lot of options, they are very different in terms of how decisions are made and what is on the line. You shouldn’t have less information when choosing an agent to sell your $2m property than you do when buying a $3 bottle of water. Large agencies have become blinded by greed and lost sight of how much money is at stake. Being an agent isn’t about forcing through a sale, getting a commission, and moving on. It’s about having a personal stake in the outcome of a sale rather than a solely financial one. It’s about stepping into a vendor’s shoes and only ever acting in a vendor’s best interests. It’s about being a trusted advisor and someone that a vendor can rely on completely. These are all things that are at the core of my value system. These are things that are at the front of my mind in every interaction I have and every transaction I am involved in. These are the things that make Daya Gibb different.

What changes would you like to see in the real estate industry?

Where do I start? The number one problem with the real estate industry is the agencies themselves. I would like to see more agents operating independently of traditional real estate agencies. Large agencies do not need to exist. Why are commissions so high? Large agencies. Why is it hard to market your own property outside of Trade Me? Large agencies. Why is it so difficult to start an independent real estate agency? Large agencies. Until there is a fundamental shift away from large agencies, nothing will change and the industry will continue to be derided by the wider public.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing about the real estate industry is just how these agencies have managed to survive, while taking huge amounts of money from individual agents and offering almost no value to vendors. I plan to write a lengthier blog post about this, but I will touch on it now.

When you start out in real estate in New Zealand, you are required to get a salesperson licence. To get your licence, you are required to complete a qualification that amounts to 6 weeks of full time work, at 40 hours per week. To become an agent and own your own agency, you need to work at an existing agency for three years. At the end of this three year period, you are eligible to get another qualification that in turn allows you to get your agent’s licence. Curiously, three years is the same length of time you need to have practiced law in New Zealand before you can practice on your own account. The obvious difference between the two industries is that this is only possible after completing four years of law school, a professional studies course, and being admitted as an enrolled Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand.

Real estate agencies have lobbied hard to increase the amount of regulation to protect incumbents in the industry. Chances are, if you come across an agent who has been in the industry more than 15 years, they only needed to tick a box and pay a few dollars for a real estate licence. There was no testing or oversight. Now, the requirements have gone in the other direction and have become unnecessarily burdensome.

The reason there are so few small agencies is because very few agents last three years in the industry. The culture at most large agencies is incredibly toxic. If you cannot get 3 years of experience under your belt, you won’t be able to start your own agency. This is “experience” measured in time, not actual experience. The salespeople that do last will likely be rewarded by agencies in the form of a higher percentage of each commission. This practice is designed to disincentivise these salespeople from leaving and starting their own agency. If a salesperson is earning 80% of each commission, for instance, they will likely feel that leaving entails too much work. However, the idea that large agencies deserve anything close to 20% of a commission is laughable.

Before the advent of the internet, if you wanted to sell your house, you would either walk up to the local shops or look in the Yellow Pages and pick the first agency that caught your eye. You would then pass your information onto a receptionist who would take down your name, telephone number, and address on a piece of card. This card would then be given to an office manager who would decide which agent to give the lead to. The agent would contact you and try to get an agency agreement signed. Since the agency generated the lead, they would understandably want a large percentage of the commission – usually between 50-70% at this time. The agent would take home the remaining 30-50% in commission. Agents were encouraged to bring in their own leads, but it was very difficult and expensive for individual agents to advertise in old media publications.

With the internet and social media, agents now do their own marketing and bring in their own listings. Large agencies do very little. They are able to exploit agents for three years until they either leave the industry or become so complacent and/or lacking in confidence that they can’t find the courage to go out on their own. If vendors want fairer commissions and a better overall experience, they should seek out smaller agencies that are trying to disrupt the status quo. Large agencies don’t want change. They want to keep commissions artificially high and force through sales even when it’s not in a vendor’s best interests. They want to stop home owners from being able to effectively market and sell their own properties by restricting public access to sales and property data and working with media publications to limit access to industry-standard marketing channels. They want to retain their middleman status at all costs – even if it means acting in bad faith to stifle competition and suffocate innovation.

These are all things I am hoping to change with Daya Gibb. Sometimes in life, you have to be the change you want to see. This is me doing that.

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