Phillips’ success is not easy to verify, as some competitors do not provide sales statistics to real estate marketing websites that rank agents. These include Ben Collier of The Agency, who is sometimes cited as the best seller of expensive homes in the eastern suburbs.

Asked to respond to Phillips’ claim to be the best agent in town, Collier said, “I’m surprised he stopped in Sydney. I thought he always claimed to be the best agent in the universe.

Braden Walters, president of residential sales at the Real Estate Institute of NSW, is not skeptical. “There’s no question he’s one of the best agents in the country,” he says.

For a super salesman, Phillips is a bit shy. As we discuss our real estate portfolios a bit stiffly, he feels driven more by process than by charm. He doesn’t get hype, which surprises me. If I was expecting a show – and I think I was – I’m going to be a little disappointed.

It has disrupted millions of lives, but the pandemic has been great for the real estate sector, which has been classified as an essential service. Every day of Sydney’s lockdown, Phillips was all over the eastern suburbs in his new Porsche 911. Seven days a week he fielded calls from Australians abroad wanting to take part in the city’s property boom.

“Everyone was sitting around doing nothing,” he says. “Last year I wouldn’t have been sitting here with you. Last year I didn’t do lunches.

Lunch he may not, but eating and drinking is a specialty. Phillips chose the Centennial, which is owned by Sydney’s Merivale group, out of loyalty and tradition. Phillips is friends with owner Justin Hemmes’ older sister, Bettina, and has socialized with Hemmes, one of the most sought-after party companions in the eastern suburbs.

Phillips and his 35-year-old wife, Brighid, hosted their centenary engagement party (their wedding was limited to 10 people) and apparently dine at a Merivale restaurant once or twice a week. On our Friday lunch night, he has a reservation at sushi e, a restaurant in the Establishment nightclub. The next day, dinner at Félix, an expensive French brasserie.

For our lunch date, Phillips arrives on time and greets the staff like old friends; they reciprocate. We are seated at his favorite table, which is in the middle of the room. He asks for a Sydney Lager, which is not stored, and settles for a Kirin, which works as a wine palate cleanser.

Phillips orders a dozen oysters to start. I look at a pork pie, but I’m intimidated by what looks like Phillips’ food discipline.

“You seem like a steak guy,” he said.

I choose a Murray cod, roasted.

Phillips and a sommelier, Simon, discuss whether wine should be served at 12 or 18 degrees. Phillips mentions a 1965 red he tried while vacationing in the south of France. “I swap between Bordeaux and Bordeaux,” he says.

Luxe Listings Sydney made D’Leanne Lewis, Simon Cohen and Gavin Rubinstein minor celebrities. Amazon Prime Video

Good agents become well known in their neighborhood. In the eastern suburbs, they are now appearing on a reality show. Real estate porn, fierce competition and personal drama have transformed Amazon’s three leads Luxury Listings SydneyD’Leanne Lewis, Gavin Rubinstein and Simon Cohen, celebrities well beyond the enclave in which they work.

Phillips, whose serious demeanor may not be ideal for television, is dismissive of showy competition. “It didn’t double their numbers,” he says. “The clientele, the people we deal with, are private. People in Sydney are not flashy. They are underestimated.

When meals arrive, Phillips asks for a second towel to stuff into his collar. “I’m a messy eater,” he says. “I don’t want to mess up my tie.”

The silk is saved. The fish is superb. Phillips doesn’t touch his salad or the broccolini I ordered for the table. I urge him to smile for his photographs. He asks if he’s the first agent I’ve approached for a lunch interview. I assure him that he is. I don’t know if he believes me.

The Phillips family lived on the seafront at Woolwich. His father sold European cars on Parramatta Road, including Jaguars and Aston Martins. Every day, Phillips piloted a small aluminum boat to NSW’s main Catholic boys’ school, St Ignatius, Riverview. The relativity of their wealth became apparent during the holidays, when the Phillips went to the Gold Coast and their neighbors in the United States.

After finishing 12th grade, Phillips enrolled in a real estate course at Macleay College. He was made redundant from his first job, at property management firm RT Forsyth, where a tea trolley was moved at 2 p.m. “I was probably a little immature,” he says.

He found work as a receptionist for John McGrath, another driven young man who had just opened the second of what would become one of the city’s leading real estate chains. McGrath, who started the company in 2015, is still regarded with respect by Phillips and other agents who admire his drive and professionalism in a commission-driven industry notorious for burning people out.

“You have to have mental courage,” Phillips tells me. “You can miss five ads in a row. It can wipe you out mentally. I don’t empty myself. I don’t see it as work.

During lunch, which barely lasts an hour, Phillips unknowingly takes or makes four calls and sends several text messages. A call comes from the buyer’s agent whose client is camped in the PPD office. “Congratulations,” Phillips told her. “You’re a pleasure to deal with. He just wants to make sure he’s tagged on Instagram.

Phillips predicts house prices will fall another 10% and rebound quickly when interest rates start to come down. Louie Douvis

Phillips owns PPD, has six investment properties in Vaucluse and Paddington, and provides monthly property market updates to Sydney bankers at Jarden, a New Zealand investment bank. He sold houses for two of The Australian Financial Reviewhe says, and sees newspaper coverage as a useful marketing tool.

“We give a lot of information to the media,” he says.

Since April, the newspapers have covered falling house prices. The effect of interest rates is felt hardest in affluent suburbs such as those in which Phillips earns his living. Waverley is down 12% from its peak; Woollahra 10%, according to figures from Core Logic.

Phillips predicts that prices could fall another 10%. The number of properties for sale is down 20%. When the Reserve Bank of Australia reverses monetary policy, the rebound will be quick, says Phillips.

“As soon as they talk about lower interest rates, people will say, ‘I have to come back,'” he says. “They will deliberately overshoot interest rates to slow inflation, and we will see it come back.”

Investment advice from a real estate agent? Why not?

The wine was drunk and the food eaten. Phillips insists on paying the bill, which wasn’t the case. He ignores my protest.

I express my concern at the idea of ​​returning to the office after two glasses of burgundy and a beer. Phillips isn’t worried. “Everything will be fine,” he said.

Outside the pub, a black four-wheel drive Audi pulls up on the pavement. From the table, Phillips had called a round with one of his aides.

At least one of us will make it home safe and sound, I think.

The law project

Centennial Hotel, Oxford Street, Woollahra, Sydney

Kirin beer, $12

Rock & Wood Pacific Ale, $13.50

12 Sydney rock oysters, $72

Bread and butter, $8

Burgundy Volnay 2019, $290

Cod Murray, $55

Crab quiche, $36

Broccolini, $16

Total $502.50

Read more Lunch with the AFR