Three generations of Barfoots are involved in family-owned Auckland real estate agency Barfoot & Thompson.
Garth Barfoot is the youngest son of company founder, Val Barfoot. Mr Barfoot has been a director since 1968.
With no new branches opened in the last three years, he says the biggest changes in the company have been the introduction of new technologies.
Electronic lock boxes now record details of home viewings, buyers can access legal and local authority property details electronically and a new property management computer system has been installed to give landlords and tenants better access to information.
Mr Barfoot says although no new branches have been opened in the past three years a resurgence in home construction should change that pattern soon.
With more than 50 years of experience in real estate, he has seen buyers’ tastes and trends change over the years.
He says when he started selling houses US-style ranch homes were a buyer’s dream, then as the 20th century wore on, Mediterranean styles were the rage and now “inner suburban American homes” are in season.
Mr Barfoot says these homes are characterised by small, easy-care sections, which means interiors are frequently spread over two stories.
He says another change was the increasing presence of women in the company’s offices. This year women outnumbered men for the first time in the company’s top 12 salespeople.
He recalls working at Barfoot & Thompson during school holidays when there was only one woman salesperson at the company, working in the specialist business department.
Family wealth certainly helps when starting out, says Peter Thompson. “I wouldn’t be in the position I am today if it wasn’t for the foresight of the first generation of the company setting the platform.”
Mr Thompson, managing director of Barfoot & Thompson, is a third generation member of the largest family-owned real estate company in New Zealand.
He says that in order to protect the amily fortune, it’s wise to invest in three sectors: housing, money in the bank and: “if you want to risk it, shares.”
He urges people not to over-commit when entering the property market. It is better to buy in a lesser suburb with a smaller mortgage than to think big from the outset, he says. “It’s not just about housing; it’s about the ability to repay loans and have a good life.”
He has led by example: starting out with a house on the “south side” of Remuera and slowly making his way up to a more salubrious spot the family now occupies in the same suburb. There is also a Coromandel holiday home.
For all his advice, some buyers are still writing big cheques. Barfoot & Thompson recorded a 36% increase in the number of homes selling for $2 to $3 million in the 12 months ending February 2012.
Mr Thompson says there was also a steady market in homes selling in the $3-4 million range, with 20 sold in the past two years, along with 10 in the $5 million and over category.