They’ve bought and sold multi-million dollar properties for Kiwi rich listers, a sultan, billionaires from the US and China and an All Black coach.
With price tags of $10 million, $20m and sometimes even $30m-plus, the properties feature everything from gold-plated toilets, underground man caves, bowling alleys and subterranean helicopter hangers.
For the real estate agents selling these premium properties, it’s big business. Agents reportedly earn a 2.50 per cent commission at the top end, meaning a $250,000 payment on a $10m sale is not uncommon.
Understandably, their contact books contain the phone numbers of New Zealand’s ultra-rich, and sometimes the property deals are so top-secret, the neighbours don’t even know the houses have been sold.
So just who do the wealthy and well-known turn to when it comes to buying and selling property in New Zealand?
Ricardo Simich reveals the real estate maestros.
The Walls: Auckland
Graham Wall and his sons Ollie and Andrew are top of the list for a reason, they’ve become real estate royalty as they keep smashing sales records at the top end of town.
“From day one, we decided to focus on only really high quality and unique property,” Graham Wall says.
His reputation for working with the ultra-rich was cemented after the $35 million sale of a Herne Bay property for the Sultan of Brunei in 2005. And he says multiple transactions with Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel created a constant stream of wealthy “tech guys” buying here.
The Walls dominate the Herne Bay waterfront area, having sold five $20m-plus properties in recent years, and they also hold the record for the highest house price in New Zealand: a $39m Paritai Drive mega-mansion.
The seven-bedroom property, partly financed by former Hanover Finance director Mark Hotchin, was sold to businessman Deyi Shi nine years ago. Wall says the CV for this property is now $58m, and it would probably get $70m if it were for sale today.
One of the Walls’ big Herne Bay deals was the $28m sale to rich listers Paula and Simon Herbert, the most expensive house buy of 2018. The Walls had previously sold the Herberts’ Remuera Rd home, the former sprawling abode and grounds of David Richwhite, for more than $25m.
Wall says they smashed that Remuera Rd sale this year with one on the same road for $29m, and says they have also recently completed two additional Remuera sales for more than $25m.
The Wall family is proud to be back selling on Auckland’s most established rich list street, Paritai Drive, selling the home of Dame Jenny Gibbs. With a CV of more than $12m, the architectural masterpiece was designed by David Mitchell especially to boast one of the world’s finest personal art galleries. The art collection inside is so valuable that temperature-controlled storage vaults were specially created.
The Wall family are well connected and are friends with many of the families on the rich list. A large number of the transactions they do are in complete secrecy.
“Seriously, sometimes the neighbours don’t even know the property has changed owners. It’s a very big part of our business and we really feel so grateful that people trust us to manage these huge transactions,” says Wall.
If you have a sprawling pad in Auckland it is likely you have one on Waiheke too. Wall says they do lots of high-value deals on the island.
“In fact right now we have one of the most amazing places on Waiheke for sale – absolute beachfront on Palm Beach,” he says.
The five-bedroom, architect-designed house on a 1700sqm double section on the beachfront, has a CV of $9.3m but it is expected to sell for north of $10m.
Wall is proud to work with his sons, whom he describes as operating with absolute honesty and good manners: “It’s an unbeatable combination”.
“We’re a family. We have exactly the same objectives. It’s really a joy every day being around beautiful property with exciting, interesting people,” he says.
Ricky Cave and Jayne Kiely: Auckland
This dynamic duo of Auckland’s eastern suburbs are well known for selling multi-million-dollar properties and it is the sheer volume and consistency of their sales that make them stand out.
They’ve sold more than $600m in houses from the northern slopes of Remuera, past their Ray White offices in Mission Bay through to the cliffs of St Heliers. Their top 10 sales in the area work out to an average of $8m each.
“Jayne and I specialise in the Bays’ area from Orakei to Glendowie and sell in all price ranges. But we do love marketing and selling in the higher end. It’s a real pleasure marketing some incredible homes across the Bays but to be honest, we put the same effort in whether it’s a $1 million home or a $10 million home,” says Cave.
They say they’ve seen their fair share of luxury, from 10-car garages, gold-plated toilets, sculleries the size of a normal kitchen, a bowling alley, a shooting range, helicopter pad, an underground bar, and pools that have glass viewing windows - but of course won’t name whose home had what.
Cave and Kiely say they have a database of more than 20,000 people and it is how they market properties of which they are most proud. Cave - who moved to Auckland from Christchurch 12 years ago - says their database is very powerful and has been accumulated from every listing they have marketed.
“When we get a new listing or an off-market opportunity, we go into our database, which is categorised into detailed sections, so we can call the perfect buyer that suits the particular property,” he says.
It’s their Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-style videos with their slick production values and extremely high-quality drone footage, that make them stand out.
“Jayne has a television background - she hosted Mitre 10 Dream Home for 10 seasons and has worked as a commentator at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, so since joining forces back in 2016 we create movie quality video productions on every single listing,” says Cave.
Cave’s real estate swag translates well to the stage. Speaking at numerous global real estate conferences, he was once alongside Hollywood superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger and Fredrik Eklund of US reality show Million Dollar Listing fame.
The pair insist that it is not always about marketing a property to its full potential and putting it up in lights.
They say some sellers are very private and would prefer an off-market listing, which is when they take social media out of the equation and go straight to that rich database.
Ross Hawkins: Auckland, Queenstown and beyond
Hawkins is known as much for his big sales in Auckland as in the regions - he’s built a substantial sales history in his 23 years in the business.
He started with the sell-down of the Omaha Southland development project for John Darby from 1999-2002, and the Princes Wharf Development for David Henderson and his Kitchener Group Team in 1999-01.
Throughout his career, Hawkins says he has set many record prices in a number of New Zealand markets. He prides himself on the confidentiality of his client base, who he says have the confidence in his ability to maximise their values should they decide to make a change.
“I specialise in the coastal and lifestyle market - as well as quality high-end homes and apartments across Auckland. The multimillion-dollar client base is much the same for these different sectors of the market. My high net-worth clients in Auckland also buy and sell properties on the coast north of Auckland and in the Queenstown Lakes District.”
Hawkins says the mix makes his business more interesting and robust as he can move with market trends and focus more in the sectors that are the most active at any point in time.
It has been lucrative. He owns properties in Queenstown and Wanaka and waterfront properties in Matapouri on the Tutukaka Coast and on Rakino Island, which he says allows him to have good work/life balance, spending time in the various locations while also working.
In 2012, he sold Parihoa Farm in Muriwai, the architectural masterpiece by Andrew Patterson, for $6.25m, which he says was a record then for the area.
The buyer, global entrepreneur Matt Chapman, who has spent time with Richard Branson on his private island, has gone on to further enhance the property and set up Parihoa to use for events and a wellbeing retreat. Hawkins says Chapman has gone on to buy neighbouring properties for increased accommodation. Parihoa appears on many TV programmes, films and ads.
In 2017, Hawkins says he sold Eric Watson’s property Te Hihi Estate in Karaka for more than $14m.
Much of the real estate sold by the multi-million dollar maestros are often rented out by visiting big-name Hollywood celebrities, and mega-star Adele stayed at Te Hihi during her sold-out concerts in 2017.
But it doesn’t always go to plan. That same year Hawkins says he signed a deal on Te Rere Estate in Church Bay on Waiheke Island for $22.5m, with one of the world’s richest men.
“The deal required NZ Overseas Investment Office, (OIO), approval from the New Zealand Government due to the purchaser being from offshore. After a painstaking almost two-year process, the approval came through on the basis the purchaser’s name would be made public,” says Hawkins.
But the purchaser wanted to remain private and the deal fell over. Hawkins says the rigmarole was unfortunate for his vendor, as the property went back to market twice and was eventually sold by another agency for a lot less.
Hawkins says he recently sold a property in Queenstown which is yet to be built.
“I achieved a record price for a residential home in Queenstown of $25.75m. The home will be in an absolutely private setting overlooking Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station,” he says.
“Repeat business is the key to being at the top of your game in real estate and if your clients have a great experience dealing with you then there is no reason why they won’t come back again when they are ready to transact.”
He says his network is the key that helped him in 2020, during lockdowns and the strict rules around selling homes. In that time, he managed to sell the Arney Rd, Daniel Marshall-designed residence once owned by former All Blacks’ captain Sean Fitzpatrick for more than $10m.
“The local family who purchased have since gone on to fully remodel the home and add onto it which, once completed, will have it sitting in the circa $20m price range,” says Hawkins.
“Buyers are very happy to invest huge money in their family homes in the best locations as they are always going to get it back, if not now at least over time.”
Hawkins likes to sell properties that have the X Factor. He is currently marketing a substantial coastal property on an entire peninsula on the Tutukaka Coast. He says the property has four houses and farm buildings behind two security gates.
“The main house is 2000sq m and was built over five years using two cranes. The stonework alone on the exterior took three years to complete. To construct today, it has been recently costed in the $25+ million range. The main living room itself is bigger than most family homes. It’s one of those properties you need to see to believe.”
Hawkins is taking offers between $10-$15m before Christmas.
Andrew Murray: Auckland
It’s not all sprawling homes and estates that keep the Auckland market ticking strongly in uncertain times. Apartments - flash ones - are also in demand by the wealthy, and the man to know here is Andrew Murray.
Murray runs Apartment Specialists and has advised everyone from developers doing $150m-plus projects to the odd All Blacks’ coach, he says.
The mammoth apartments in the city centre and surrounds have features like driving your car into its garage lift, then getting raised up to your apartment.
The company recently achieved a record at auction - but most sales are through private treaty. Murray says the high-end apartment market is expanding so rapidly that future record prices will occur when buying off the plans.
The high-end builds go in fits and starts and right now Murray says his business is specialising in the already-built market.
“We love selling residences at Metropolis, The Pullman, The Stamford, and The Grand Chancellor,” he says.
In 2017 a Stamford penthouse with a three-car garage and views across the harboursold for more than $5m.
Murray says New Zealand and Australia follow the US in all things real estate, so he visits the top agents there to stay across trends.
Next year Murray says the Inman Connect New York in January and the Inman Luxury Connect in Las Vegas will be perfect opportunities to see what is happening on both coasts of the US.
And it’s not all high-end - Murray says he has sold the smallest apartment in New Zealand.
“7.8m2 floor area sold for $108,000 a few years back. A car park is 13m2 to give you an idea of just how small that is. The owner would rent that out for $250 per week,” he says.
Edward Pack: Auckland
Edward Pack, of Bayleys Real Estate Ponsonby, leads the way in selling multimillion-dollar villas in Ponsonby, St Mary’s Bay, Herne Bay and beyond.
His smart sartorial style matches the classic refurbished villas that stand out head and shoulders from the rest and that he specialises in selling.
Over recent years Pack has sold his fair share of rich list homes, and has testimonials from mega high rollers, Ted Manson, Justin Wyborn, Murray Rose and Andy Davies.
If you are a newly minted multi-millionaire celebrity looking for an incredible villa in Auckland’s trendiest suburb, we are told Pack is your man.
Vicki, Gary and Andrew Wallace, Auckland
The Wallaces’ son Andrew has recently joined their Bayleys Remuera team. The family have been one of the most recognisable names in luxury high-end real estate for decades across Remuera and Parnell.
Since 2006, Vicki and Gary have become part of the Bayley’s “Hall of Fame” reportedly amassing more than $1 billion in sales. Like the Walls, they mix in their fair share of rich list circles, however their style is to fly under the radar.
The Wallaces have established an enviable reputation in real estate circles, and are said to have transparent communication, honest advice and an unwavering focus that never fails to produce results.
Gary Wallace this year marketed the spectacular home of rich-lister Martyn Reesby for $25m. It’s understood that in a confidential sale, the home sold for $1m less.
Michael Boulgaris: Auckland
For more than 30 years, Boulgaris has been the stand-out for luxury sales. His first million-dollar sale was at the age of 23, and saw him nicknamed the Million-Dollar Man.
When it comes to architecture, Boulgaris says his knowledge is such that he can pinpoint the year a property was built within a 130-year span.
Meeting new people and sharing a lifetime of knowledge to help clients capitalise on their investments, he says, comes naturally to him.
A horse-riding accident over a year ago ruptured his C3 and C4 ligaments, which paralysed him from the neck down, and he was told he would never walk again. Extensive rehab has proven the medical experts wrong.
Boulgaris keeps a very private life and has no social media so his family and partner were able to keep his accident quiet while he was in recovery.
Today Boulgaris has the assistance of caregivers and with the kindness and sympathetic nature of his clients, he is able to still maintain Boulgaris Limited and his small successful team.
Last December Boulgaris netted a beauty, selling the landmark mansion on Victoria Ave, Remuera, for construction magnate Culum Manson for just under $20m. The home was formerly owned by Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton.
Jon O’Connor: Bay of Plenty
The Bay of Plenty has its fair share of uber-wealthy folk with extremely desirable homes and apartments at The Mount.
A $11m beachfront home in Mt Maunganui was thought to be a record sale for a residential property in the region this year. It beat a record set last year by car baron Sir Colin Giltrap when he sold his five-bedroom, penthouse in the Ocean Eleven apartment complex on Maunganui Rd for $10.2m.
Jon O’Connor, GM for Bayleys in the Bay of Plenty, says he and his team are across all the big deals around town. He won’t name drop the over $10 million sales but says there have been several other sales by his team in the past year for $8m and $9m.
“Our clients want to truly test the market, we will run an auction or tender process, allowing the entire market to participate,” he says.
O’Connor says waterfront properties are always special, and nothing beats some of the unbelievable views from the homes they market.
“Whether it be out across the waves of the ocean, across a lake or river, water has always had a magnetic pull for New Zealanders; it’s a part of the Kiwi DNA,” says O’Connor.
He says his team has built an excellent reputation in Mt Maunganui and the Papamoa coastal strip, including the beach and harbourfront area.
They are also very strong with sought-after, very valuable luxury homes in the wider Bay of Plenty - from Waihi Beach to Ohope and inland Rotorua lakes.
Bas Smith: Queenstown
Smith has been based out of the Wakatipu Basin since 1993, and has been full-time in real estate for nearly 20 years. He and business partner Cameron Reed have owned Ray White across the basin since 2007.
“I know this place, its characters, stories and history alongside the surrounding wilderness, well,” says Smith.
He operates across all levels, including high-end homes, farms and commercial. A notable transaction was with a wealthy, globally active Chinese company, which resulted in a $48m sale for a 4.9 hectare high-density site at Remarkables Park. The sale was a two-year process that included numerous trips to Australia and China. A Holiday Inn Hotel has been built on part of the site, with the rest planned to suit a mix of high-density residential and boutique commercial spaces.
Smith says he sold 14ha for Stage 2 at Five Mile for Rob Alloway and Allied Farmers for more than $25m a decade ago.
He says two Australian buyers snapped up properties for $17 million a pop at exclusive housing development Wyuna Preserve, one of which - the stunning Mason and Wales Twin Peak View house - has been previously called New Zealand’s finest home.
Smith has plenty of Kiwi buyers too, saying one of the highest sales to locals was $14m for Arcadia Station - the 273ha farm and film location.
He says there are a number of interesting transactions in a transient party town like Queenstown. He says they have clients who have incredible underground man caves, a subterranean helicopter hanger and a lap pool that has a natural alpine stream running in one end and out the other.
He says it is a small group of incredibly experienced and professional real estate operators in Queenstown.
“We rarely step on each other’s toes - and if we do there is a mutual respect for what we do and ensuring the client experience remains high that overrides other motives,” says Smith.
All of Smith’s business comes from referrals and word of mouth between existing connections and he prides himself in his selling and marketing with a less conventional approach.
“The past four years has seen Queenstown and Wanaka light up in the eyes of wealthy individuals and corporates even more than in the past,” says Smith, especially given the properties available there for far less compared to other larger, sought-after global markets.
“Kiwis beware. Since the pandemic there are now high and super net worth Australian and Singaporean investors who have turned their attention to this tiny little idyllic market, safely at the bottom of the world and many of them can’t believe how cheap it is for what they get,” he says.
He says if Kiwis want to buy in Queenstown to not sit back expecting a slump at the top end.
“It will never be as cheap as it is today,” says Smith.