Luxe Listings’ Monika Tu: From zero to $300 million

Entrepreneurs

Celebrity real estate agent Monika Tu’s first property sold for $13.5 million. Today, her business sells $300 million worth of property annually.
Monika Tu | Image source: Supplied

When Monika Tu came to Australia from China in 1988, she didn’t know a word of English. A contact had offered her a deal on tuition fees – the opportunity made sense, the language did not. But it’d be unlike Tu not to take on a challenge.

“That’s just the kind of person I am,” she says. “I always take on the challenge.”

Today, Tu is the director of Black Diamondz, a property concierge for global buyers – though her clients are predominantly high net-worths from China. She launched the business in 2009 with her husband, but seriously started selling in 2014. Today, Tu claims the company sells $300 million worth of property annually. And her reputation in the industry landed her a gig on the second season of Prime Video’s hit property show, Luxe Listings.

But – she reminds me – she was actually approached from the very beginning.

“I was asked to do the pilot show,” she says. “But I’m a serious entrepreneur, so I wasn’t interested at first. I wasn’t in a hurry to grab anything.

“I didn’t need another media outlet to make me famous. But I watched it, and thought it was phenomenal. It’s probably one of the best shows to showcase property in Sydney. So, I agreed to season two.”

At 60, she’s ready to share her journey with others. It’s what’s prompted her to launch a Masterclass called West Meets East. This, she hopes, will help western real estate agencies understand the basics about west-east cultural differences – including Feng shui. And she tells Forbes exclusively that she’s written a book, which will hit stands on the 8th of February next year. It’s called #NeverTuMuch, which she says is about empowering others to be successful.

From the outset, her climb to fame and fortune seems like it happened almost overnight. But Tu’s story is like that of many immigrants of that generation.

“I came here with zero. I had to start again and build myself.”

She learnt English, washed dishes in restaurants and worked market stalls in the CBD. Eventually, she was approached by her would-be-husband (now ex-husband) who offered her a gig in the computer business.

She was 36, he was 33. The job, and the marriage, made financial sense: “I just said, ‘Let’s keep the money in the business’.” Eventually, they would build that into Laser Corporation, a successful IT accessory company. Tu would step down following a marriage breakdown in 2007.

She met her now-husband not long after. He had a passion for real estate, she had a knack for sales. The two would start Black Diamondz with a view to help other migrants find their feet in Australia – with property as the vehicle.

“That’s why we’re a concierge – not just a real estate agency. We wanted to help migrants find a house, but also a school, a community and a sense of purpose.”

The first property Tu ever sold was $13.5 million, which banked her around $35,000 in commission.

“I thought, ‘That’s a pretty good business to run’.” But she admits that, at first, the male-dominated, white-washed real estate industry was difficult to break.

“I got bullied all the time as a Chinese woman,” she says. “But I don’t have ego – I’m very humble. I was always open to learning from others. I worked seven days a week to really make a mark in the luxurious property market. And look around – I’m probably the only female principal in luxury properties.”

But despite the flamboyant look about Tu (watch an episode of Luxe Listings and you’ll get a glimpse of her luxurious wardrobe and handbag collection) her ultimate goal, she says, is to give back. It’s why she hosts parties with wealthy members of the Chinese communities to get them to donate to charitable causes. This is a handy combination of her two loves, she says: partying and helping others.

“I just want to make sure I never forget who I am,” she says. “I want to keep my feet firmly on the ground.”