Peter Thompson enters his 41st year in the family real estate business next month as a super-heated housing market shows little signs of abating in 2021.
Barfoot & Thompson, where he has served as managing director for the past 15 years, closed out the past year reporting its strongest December sales on record.
This resulted in more than $1.6 billion worth of houses changing hands in its Auckland stronghold, with 60 percent sold at auction.
Thompson said while this was more than double the average value of total sales of the past five years, there was still paperwork to complete on a slew of other properties, which will show up in January and February sales numbers.
Like other family members in the firm, Thompson - the grandson of co-founder Maurice Thompson - came up through the ranks, starting in the firm’s rental division at the Otahuhu branch in 1981.
As with co-director Kiri Barfoot, Thompson is a third-generation realtor in the almost 100-year-old business.
The next generation is already on its way, with his daughter Paula and her cousin Matthew working at the support centre in Auckland and in sales at the Meadowbank office, respectively.
Unlike the franchise model adopted by many agencies, Barfoot & Thompson owns its own branches, employing about 2,500 realtors and property managers.
Branches each run on their individual profit and loss with managers pay linked to the profitability of each office.
“We are all one company, so we can make a decision at the support centre rather than franchise owners making their own decisions, so that removes any inconsistencies,” Thompson said.
Its sales force is also not beholden to any particular region. “Obviously, agents are strong in the areas they are based, but anyone can list any property between Kerikeri in the north and Pokeno in the south.”
About a third of each of the firm's 76 offices' sales come from outside their direct region. The best performing offices are consistently Pukekohe and Epsom, followed by the Albany and Browns Bay offices on the North Shore.
Dominant market share
The firm’s focus on the country’s biggest metropolitan area means it consistently has had a dominant market share, at about 39 percent overall, though as high as 70 percent in some locations.
Thompson attributes much of the firm’s success to its community and family values as well as a ‘melting pot’ of cultures within the company itself.
Husband-and-wife teams are also common, he said, “but it’s really about how the people in a team gel. Where those teams are close, and work well together, we see good continuity and we reward that performance.”
Yet real estate isn't for everyone. “It doesn’t matter what level your career is at, the harder you work, the better your results, and it’s certainly not a part-time gig.
“There’s a lot of highs and lows – you might think you’ve got a deal in the bag and then someone else comes along with the perfect house and the client is gone. But, by the same token, there’s no better feeling than putting a family in a new home.”
And the housing market?
“Auckland is coming off two years of relatively flat sales, so we’re really just getting back to (growth) levels we’ve seen before then.”
Difficult to predict
Nor does Thompson see extending the bright-line rule or pushing up loan-to-value ratios as slowing the market much in the current climate.
Still, he accepts the speed of the rebound and the level of competition has been difficult to predict.
“The summer months are generally a busy time of the year anyway and last year's momentum will carry us through to at least March, but we’d see this kind of market pace for between the next six-to-12 months.”
While restrictions on foreign buyers have not had the desired cooling effect on the market, he is keen to see them loosened.
“I know people who want to come in and buy property, people who bring businesses, or heart surgeons with great skills, who are unable to purchase a property and then they go elsewhere."