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Real estate professionals call it a day

Retiring real estate agents Kevin Mitchell, right, and John Peters sat shoulder-to-shoulder with each other for 29 years with never a cross word said. PHOTO/STEVE RENDLE


John Peters and Kevin Mitchell have retired from the real estate industry, having sold more than 2000 houses during their careers at the Professionals in Masterton.

Peters says he started in 1990 and worked there for 29 years and Mitchell was there 38 years.

“We were sitting side-by-side for the whole 29 years,” Peters says.

Mitchell confirms that, but says there were some changes.

“For the first 20 years he was on my right – for the next nine he was on my left.”

Neither will admit to any arguments over that time, even though the job meant you only got paid if you sold houses.

“One month I might take home nothing, and he might get $15,000,” Peters said. “That was just the way it was.”

The office was run entirely professionally, with little socialising involved.

“We never had a beer together unless it was the Christmas function – never went round to each other’s houses,” Mitchell said.

Now, in retirement, they’ll see a bit more of each other socially.

A function attended by about 80 people was held this month to mark their retirement.

Principal Andy Scott said Mitchell was one of the founding sales team members and was still working when he turned 80 in March.

He was still an active member of the sales team, selling a $1.5 million property last year.

Scott said the longevity of service of both men was unusual and to be celebrated.

Peters says when he started there were no cellphones, no emails and no computers.

“We were given a pager on our belt and when it went off you asked the person whose house you were visiting if you could use their phone.”

Mitchell was one of the first people in Wairarapa to have a cellphone, though he recalls it with some embarrassment.

“It was a brick,” he said. “I was so embarrassed whenever it rang.”

The phone cost a couple of thousand dollars but his reasons for having it had little to do with selling houses.

At the time he had a forestry block at Mt Bruce and he became aware someone was growing marijuana nearby.

One day, driving between Masterton and Carterton, he thought he was being followed by the growers and hit the accelerator – only for the following car to also speed up and overtake other cars to stay behind him.

Then a second car took up the chase and eventually flashed its lights.

“I pulled over when I got to town. I wound the window down a fraction and the driver appeared – and told me he was the police and I was in trouble for speeding.”

It transpired that original chasing car was, in fact, known to the police and the cellphone seemed a sensible precaution.

“But really I just thought it was embarrassing.”

Both the men were skilled at taking their own photographs of houses going on the market, with a camera that had film which had to be developed.

“We took it down to Nikolaison’s who did a jiffy service and you picked up hard copies of the photos that afternoon.

“Then you would write your own script and clip it to the photographs and take it to the Times-Age.”

He said there were more decisions to be made about marketing in those days as there were no templates for ads and they ran at different times in different places.

“I could show you old ads that make you laugh. We used to run riot with the copy and have fun with it.”

Both Peters and Mitchell had a background in trades before becoming real estate agents – both were qualified joiners.

Peters said after he served a trade apprenticeship, he went into deer culling at the same time as Barry Crump was doing it.

He then worked as a carpenter at the freezing works at Waingawa until it closed.

He was “pretty rough and ready” but decided to give real estate a go and it was just something he took to and was good at.

“It was the right job for me, and I sold a hell of a lot of houses.”

Peters says he probably sold some houses four or five times during his career.

Mitchell’s route to real estate was via the Northern Building Society, which he left when changes began that would lead to it becoming a bank.

But his long-time office mate insists he has a story to tell outside real estate as a “hero” of the Wahine disaster.

Mitchell had been a member of Wellington Free Ambulance for some years before the sinking, and volunteered to help on the day.

He ended up running what was known as the “third landing” near Wellington Railway Station.

He has a link to the famous photograph of a policeman holding a baby – he was the person who handed the baby to the policeman, going back to help the distraught mother to shore from a tug.

Peters said Professionals was an ethical and honest company and its sales people worked all days of the week.

He said an influx of people from Wellington had fuelled the property market in recent years and some sections that had been on the market for 10 years had suddenly sold in the strong market.

But overall selling houses hadn’t changed since day one. You placed advertisements, held open homes, negotiated a sale and saw the process through to settlement.

Peters admits they are probably “dinosaurs from the old days” when it comes to new technology.

“Neither of us are great when it comes to computers,” Mitchell said.

“I can’t get internet on my cellphone. But you don’t need a cellphone to sell a house.

“It’s about negotiation and we are probably two of the best negotiators in town. But that’s out of sheer practice.”

The goal, he said, was to end with everyone smiling.

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