AREAs 2023: A tough diagnosis changed everything for Queensland’s top agent

Just over a decade ago, Alex Jordan was given a grim deadline by his doctor.

He was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, an incurable disease affecting the joints and ligaments of his spine, and told he would lose the ability to do basic tasks, such as driving, within 10 years.

“I was psychologically shattered, emotionally a mess – I didn’t even tell my wife what the specialist said,” Mr Jordan said.

Alex Jordan has been recognised as Queensland’s Top Residential Agent three times at the Annual REA Excellence Awards. Picture:

The news prompted him to reassess his life and career choices. He had been grinding away in real estate since 1999 without much success and decided that had to change.

“Straight away, when I went home that day, for the first time in my life, time became a very precious commodity,” he said.

“I said to myself, ‘You have 10 years to make a career.’ There’s an old saying that the best gifts in life come badly wrapped, and that was the case for me.”

That was in 2011. Over a decade later, Mr Jordan of McGrath Estate Agents – Paddington is one of Brisbane’s top-selling agents.

He won the Annual REA Excellence Award for Top Residential Agent in Queensland in 2020, 2022 and 2023, and inked about 150 sales last year.

And despite the doctor’s prediction, he still sometimes drives, though not without difficulty.

“I took my diagnosis seriously, and that’s probably the best thing that happened to me when I look back.”

Hitting all the right notes

Growing up in housing commission, a job in real estate wasn’t always on the cards.

He received a scholarship to study jazz piano at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music when he was in high school. After graduating, he joined a six-piece band, playing corporate gigs and nightclubs.

But he quickly realised a musical career, which often paid as little as $100 for a full day’s work, wasn’t for him.

“I had to get a day job to bring in a more consistent income,” he said.

This home in the Brisbane suburb of Chelmer was one of around 150 sold by Mr Jordan in 2022. Picture:

He swapped scales for sales and went to work at a car dealership for a few months. It was his first taste of sales and led him to apply for a job at a real estate firm in Toowong.

“It took me six or eight attempts to get an interview. I didn’t own a car or a suit, so I bought a very dorky outfit with a Donald Duck tie and borrowed my dad’s Mitsubishi Express van.”

His tenacity paid off, and he landed grunt work putting up sign boards, organising rental inspections and dropping off contracts – “whatever was asked of me, I would do.”

Within a year, he was promoted to a sales role, but it didn’t take long for him to “hit a brick wall.”

“Fear of rejection”

Try as he might, Mr Jordan said he struggled to close deals and had “very few listings.”

“I was avoiding the calls and the door knocks – all the hard things agents don’t want to do – out of a fear of rejection,” he said.

“I was complacent and not doing the right things, so I underperformed for a long time.”

Things got even worse after the catastrophic 2010-2011 Queensland floods which submerged thousands of homes in Brisbane and caused over $2 billion in property damage.

By 2011, he was ready to leave the industry – and then he received his life-changing diagnosis.

Although the news initially “broke” him, it also led to an epiphany.

“My fear [of rejection] was outranked by a greater fear,” he said.

“I started doing all those things I wasn’t comfortable doing because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to provide for my family in 10 years. I reinvented who I was and how I was operating.”

A life-changing diagnosis put Mr Jordan’s fear of rejection into perspective, and led him to reinvent the way he approached his career. Picture:

He started cold calling and door knocking. And instead of targeting 20,000 homes with letterbox drops, he focused on a “much smaller patch” of about 700 homes in Indooroopilly, building close relationships with vendors and an “intimate” knowledge of the market there.

Within 18 months, his new approach paid off, netting him a steady stream of listings and sales. He expanded to neighbouring suburbs and gradually grew a team to support his efforts.

Today, he rules Brisbane’s prestige property roost, with a median sale price of just under $2m – such as this four-bedder situated on a ridgeline at 41 Tooth Avenue, Paddington.

41 Tooth Avenue, Paddington recently sold for $2 million. Picture:

He encouraged other agents struggling to make their mark to “build and maintain” relationships with all types of clients – and to not wait for a perspective-altering medical diagnosis to put in the work.

“Every conversation, whether it’s with a tenant or a buyer or a homeowner or a seller, should be respectful,” he said.

“Today’s tenant is tomorrow’s buyer, and today’s buyer is tomorrow’s seller.

“If you can leave a positive impression with every interaction, add value, and be selfless with your advice without asking for anything back, it pays dividends in the long run.”

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