What he lacks in height, Gavin Rubinstein makes up for in the art of self-promotion. Tasked with selling Sydney’s most luxurious properties in the richest market, Gavin isn’t afraid to indulge in his wins. From Instagram posts to his funding his own documentary series, Gavin wants you to know that he’s on top…because he is. But does success breed envy, or is it all a little over the top?
Thomas Mitchell spends a day with Australia’s top-performing – and most polarising – real estate agent.
My day with Gavin Rubinstein actually starts the night before. “You training with me tomorrow, champ?” reads the text. It’s a 5 am start, and while I appreciate the offer, I politely decline.
“I’m an early riser,” he explains the next day, at a plush Eastern Suburbs cafe.
“Kind of like Richard Branson?” I ask, recalling that the rebel billionaire is a famous non-sleeper.
Gavin’s eyes light up. “Exactly.”
Dressed in a hushed blue suit and matching shades – “custom made in Los Angeles” – Gavin is slick. He’s rocking white sneakers and even whiter teeth. As we sip our coffee, three separate people stop by to say hello and talk business. The last is a lycra-clad mum whose beaming teeth match Gavin’s own.
“I sold her place in Vaucluse two years ago, beautiful house, off-market, amazing backyard and pool for the kids,” he explains.
We’ve been here five minutes, and already I can see what makes Gavin the subject of so much debate in the real estate world. At 32-years-old, the former Moriah College student is Australian real estate’s most divisive figure.
On the one hand, he is the pint-sized property prince, selling million dollar houses for fun and writing figures that no one can rival. On the other, he travels with his own videographer, quotes LeBron James like he’s Plato and is not afraid of flying the flag for Gavin Rubinstein.
And he’s probably right. In the last few years, his profile has been on the up (and up). He was named Ray White’s top NSW agent based on commission seven times in a row before heading out on his own to form The Rubinstein Group, under the Ray White umbrella.
“The office I was working in changed hands, within the first 12 months of the new ownership I ended up deciding with the owner to go separate ways, we were in mutual agreement,” says Gavin.
Of course, mutual agreement is the universal way of being diplomatic when one party wants out.
“We were very different people and were headed in different directions.”
Doing things differently has become a kind of calling card for Gavin Rubinstein, and as we walk across the road to his office, that ethos extends to his place of work, too.
Instead of plasma TVs flashing up the latest listings, abstract art hangs on the walls; soft music plays from invisible speakers. It feels more like walking into a day spa than a real estate office.
“That’s exactly the point, we’ll massage you into a multi-million dollar deal,” Gavin says, only half-joking.
I’m given a quick tour of the building and introduced to The Rubinstein Group team, which is predominantly made up of agents who fit a Rubinstein mould. Expensive suits, nice hair, everyone smells delightful. The latest addition is Gavin’s older brother, Jarryd, who joined as Managing Director.
“He’s ex-Israeli special forces,” says Gavin.
Of course, he is.
Saving the best for last, eventually, we make it to the boardroom, where deals get done and glasses raised. Sporting memorabilia predictably hangs on the walls, Harvey Specter eat your heart out.
“I’m obsessed with NBA,” says Gavin, by way of explanation.
“It goes so much deeper for me than just sport, it’s the competitive aspect, the team dynamic, they’re all superstars, making good money, but they can’t win a ring unless they work together, that’s The Rubinstein Group.”
Comparing a bunch of real estate agents to a championship NBA team might be a stretch, but surprisingly, I buy what Gavin is selling.
As he moves around the office, you can feel the team watching his every move. Follow the leader. But who does Gavin look to for inspiration?
“I relentlessly follow a couple of people on social media who inspire and motivate me, LeBron James, Tom Brady; I relate to athletes because I set up my year the same,” he says.
“During my ‘playing’ season I don’t go out, I don’t party, but when the season is done, it’s time to have fun.”
Both Tom Brady and Lebron James are undisputed GOATS, the best to ever do it – is that how Gavin sees himself?
“It’s open to interpretation. I can’t answer that.”
It’s time for the boardroom to be put to use, with some prospective sellers about to get the Gavin Rubinstein treatment. I’m ushered out into the foyer to wait, but just as the meeting begins, Gavin comes running out to show me something on his phone.
It’s an Instagram post from @TomBrady, with the caption: Do or do not. There is no try.
“That’s what I’m talking about, that’s the kind of inspiration I need before a sale,” says Gavin, before ducking back into the boardroom.
Taking life lessons from Yoda – via Tom Brady – pretty much sums Gavin up. There’s an almost comical earnestness to him, a deep desire to be inspired, no matter how cheesy the message. He also loves to pay it forward, and in the few hours we’ve spent together, I’ve been treated to a phenomenal amount of Instagram-worthy platitudes.
“I don’t focus on my weaknesses. I focus on my strengths!”
“I’ve always said don’t make the same mistake twice.”
“I’m about three things; sacrifice, focus, and commitment.”
Each time I would scan Gavin’s face for a trace of irony, but there was none, this is a man with a ferocious appetite for giving and receiving motivation.
While it’s tempting to roll your eyes and remind yourself that Gavin sells real estate, there is something magnetic about his pursuit of perfection.
“What you see with Gavin is what you get,’ says Remi Quinlivan, creative director at The Rubinstein Group.
“I know what some people think of him, the whole Instagram thing.”
Ah yes, the Instagram thing. With 25,000 followers (and counting), social media has become a crucial part of BrandRubinstein, and each post is helping build that image. Snaps of Gavin gazing wistfully out over a variety of different bodies of water. Pictures of him in the car, with AirPods in, game face on. And an endless stream of jaw-dropping luxury properties, all being sold by Gavin.
As with any Insta-Influencer in training, there is something funny about the filtered life portrayed on the app, and I can see why Gavin could be a source of cheap laughs. The posed photos, the sincere captions, he’s ripe for the ribbing.
“People that don’t know him think he’s so showy, but what you see on Instagram is all about work,” says Remi.
“He has three amazing cars, a Lamborghini, Ferrari Spider and Range Rover, but he never posts about them because he thinks it makes him look detached.”
This doesn’t sound right, but a revisit to Gavin’s Instagram backs it up – not a single post about his cars. I would later ask Gavin to elaborate on his collection only to be met with a firm, “I keep that part of my life private.”
Gavin is about selling – himself and his business – Instagram happens to be the ultimate platform.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about business,” echoes Remi.
“He’s been late to a wedding where he’s the best man because he’s closing a deal, Gavin is that dedicated.”
And I think Remi may be right. While he can seem cartoonish with his tailored suits and camera crew, when it comes to real estate, Gavin is the real deal. In a few short years, he’s gone from real estate rookie to selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of property annually, with a monopoly on the luxury market in Sydney’s most elite suburbs. It looks like Gavin’s unorthodox approach is paying off. Big time.
If you liked The Lincoln Lawyer, you’re going to love the real estate agent in a Range Rover.
“Are you OK for air back there, cool enough?” asks Gavin’s driver. We’re on the way to an open house, and whenever it’s an open day, the driver is on call.
“Everything I do is with one thing in mind: to build a bigger business,” explains Gavin.
“Thursday and Saturdays are my inspection days, so I am walking in and out of 25 properties each day, in order to maximise efficiency and productivity, I hire a driver.”
If it makes money, it makes sense.
“If I can find an inch that will change the game for me and put me ahead, I’ll take that inch.”
The phone rings and Gavin signals to the driver to turn the music down, ‘Forever’ by Drake fades into the background. At the end of the line is a gruff sounding man, who starts the conversation with a declaration:
Over the next five minutes, Rubinstein works his magic. He inquires about the man’s wellbeing, following up on the progress of his rehab after a recent knee operation. The pair trade tips on staying active and healthy, and Gavin promises to send him a recipe for his favourite smoothie.
By the end of the chat, the gruff man has agreed to sit down with Gavin and hear his proposal.
“That listing is mine, no doubt,” says Gavin. “Can you turn that song back up?”
The music fills the car once more. “Last name ever, first name greatest,” raps Drake, as Gavin nods along.
We arrive at the open house and Gavin takes a backseat, the property is being handled by one of his agents.
“They know what they’re doing,” he says. “That’s why I hired them.”
It’s become pretty clear that Gavin will go above and beyond to secure a listing, but I’m curious about how far that extends. I’d been told that, in the past, Gavin has called sellers to let them know he had ‘dreamt about selling their house.’ Hustling even when you’re sleeping, that’s impressive.
“Who told you that?” laughs Gavin.
“Look it’s true, I’ve done it all, but that’s because you need to be everywhere to remain top of mind.”
That’s quite the resume. “I’ll do what it takes for the sale. Will the other guys keep up? No, they won’t.”
As we talk, Gavin strolls through the property, arranging and rearranging vases, tucking kitchen stools in and fluffing pillows. “I always say to everyone, when you sign with me, I’m going to change your property’s life, then when it’s done, you’re going to tell everyone you’ve ever met to call Gavin. Referral is my business.”
Prospective buyers wander in and he is all ears, rattling off facts and figures about the property. Bigging up the unique selling points. The remainder of the afternoon follows much the same pattern. From the car to the open house, to the car. On the phone, off the phone, talking, selling, working. At each property, he runs into familiar faces and flexes his impressive recall.
“Did I sell your mother’s house in Watson’s Bay?”
“Isn’t your daughter about to start school?”
“How did you like that three-bedder in Woollahra?”
I’m exhausted on Gavin’s behalf, and yet it never seems to end. “I signed a deal at 11:30 pm last night, then was in the gym at 5 am this morning,” he says. I can feel a platitude on the tip of his tongue.
“I’ve always said make hay while the sun shines,” offers Gavin, right on cue.
For someone who thrives on drive, there must be a clear end goal in sight, and as I prepare to tap out of Gavin’s world, I ask him what the future holds. He answers without missing a beat.
“In twenty years I’ve made my money, with a solid property portfolio and I’m out,” he says.
“It’s a young man’s sport, because of the energy required to deliver and the way I run it, you can’t do that when you’re older.”
He’ll be kicked back somewhere in the dream house that Gavin built, all on his own.
“I can already picture it, a big garage with room for six to eight of my cars, and sweeping views. I’m torn between Harbour Bridge or the ocean. There will be a big walk-in wardrobes. It’ll be the perfect entertainer,” he says with a smile.
At the beginning of the day, I would’ve written that off as the pipedreams of a wannabe property mogul. But having seen what Gavin Rubinstein is made of, I look forward to the housewarming.
Gavin joined us as a special guest on Season 2, Episode 5 of our podcast. Have a listen below.