Alanah Eriksen

Alanah Eriksen is the New Zealand Herald's property reporter, and assistant chief reporter.

Top real estate agents rake in the cash

As house prices soar, top sellers are making more than the chiefs of many top companies.

Top agent Nadja Court sold this Mairangi Bay house for $5.5 million.
Top agent Nadja Court sold this Mairangi Bay house for $5.5 million.

Top real estate agents are making up to $1.5 million a year as they cash in on soaring property prices.

Their pay packets are bigger than those of chief executives of some New Zealand companies with thousands of staff at home and abroad.

Barfoot & Thompson says its top three salespeople had $200 million in sales between them over the past financial year.

They were Yvonne Wang and Nadja Court (both Mairangi Bay) and Jane Wang (Panmure).

The three women sold more than 300 homes, with an average asking price of $721,000, over the past year.

Property commentator Alistair Helm calculated that, based on the company's commission rates, available on its website, and the agents' recent sales, each would have been paid about $1.5 million, compared to what he said was the average agent income of $35,000 a year.

This figure includes part-time agents.

The average house price in Auckland city is at a record $735,692, so sales commission is also up.

Mr Helm said about 20 agents throughout New Zealand were probably making similar amounts to the top Aucklanders.

Many top agents had one or two assistants, so if $150,000 was allowed to cover that cost, the agent could be making about $1.35 million a year.

Another $20,000 could be deducted for the yearly real estate licence, a car and marketing costs.

Nadja Court told the Herald her costs "were way more than that", but would not comment further.

A Barfoot and Thompson spokeswoman said the company did not want to comment on what its agents were paid.

The Herald contacted several large real estate companies to ask what their top agents were paid.

Ray White chief executive Carey Smith said his top sellers, Ruth Hawes (Kingsland), Rohan Thompson (Royal Oak) and Marie Raos (Howick), each made "in the vicinity" of $1.5 million on $201 million in combined sales last year - not taking into account their costs. Each had at least one assistant.

Colliers and Professionals said their agents did not make as much.

Harcourts, Boulgaris Realty, L.J. Hooker and Bayleys refused to say, and Century 21 and First National did not respond to messages.

The $1.35 million figure puts agents well above many chief executives featured in the Herald's CEO pay survey last year.

It is slightly more than the salary of Simon MacKenzie, chief executive of power company Vector, which has more than 500,000 customers and about $5.5 billion of assets.

And it is $380,000 more than Russel Creedy, chief executive of Restaurant Brands, which runs KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Carl's Jr.

Mr Helm is critical of the amounts paid to real estate agents.

"Running a complex multi-million/multi-billion dollar business is a challenging and demanding role with the responsibility for thousands of employees, customers and suppliers," he says in his blog.

"Top CEOs are paid for performance and the demands of the job. They are in demand and have global value. Selling houses is not ... You have a handful of customers at any one time, you have virtually no suppliers or employees.

"You don't have shareholders or a board of directors to report to. Bizarrely the people who monitor your performance share in your success, and yet they do not directly contribute to that success.

"Selling a house is not a unique skill, nor a highly demanding skill."

But Real Estate Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said agents worked extremely hard, late at night and during weekends.

As well, she said, "that's not a lot for the revenue of a small business".

- NZ Herald

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