Home' The Wellingtonian : September 15th 2011 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, SEPTEMBER 15, 2011
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Finding homes for Wellingtonians
Tommy Heptinstall: ''People come to Wellington to work, not to buy a beach house.''
Photo: REBECCA THOMSON
talks to real estate guru
about the family name,
the property market and
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Titahi Bay and
grew up there. I had a wonderful
childhood. We had a quarter-acre
section, the bay on one side and
Porirua harbour on the other. We
were in state housing. Every
house would have four or five chil-
dren and we would play football
and cricket on the front lawn.
You were named after your
father, weren't you?
Yes. There s always been a
Tommy Heptinstall, back as far as
my father could remember. His
father was Tommy and his
father s father was Tommy. My
son is Tommy -- no pressure there
Where did Heptinstall come
It s from Yorkshire and the
Vikings. It had something to do
with when the Vikings invaded
Weren't you rather good at
I played in the national league,
as they called it, but my football
career was cut short by injuries. I
like football and softball. Alth-
ough we ve done incredibly well
internationally at softball, it s
never really taken off here.
And you own race horses?
I ve always loved horses, even
when I was little. My mother and
father would have a bet once a
week. As my kids grew up and
moved away, I became very
involved with horses. My horses
are spread across New Zealand.
Didn't you leave school at
Yes, I did, and I went overseas.
I had a grandmother in England,
so I worked my way there on
board a ship, doing odd jobs.
How did you get into real
When I came back to New Zea-
land I started a cleaning company.
We used to clean telephone
exchanges and the red telephone
boxes. One day my business part-
ner said to me: Why don t you go
into real estate? The very first
day on the job, in Paremata, I
knew that I was going to love it. I
loved the people. So many wonder-
ful people in Wellington have
entrusted their property to me.
I m very lucky to have stumbled
on to it [real estate] 23 years ago.
When did you start
In 1999, with David Platt.
David and I felt there was a place
for a good, Wellington-owned,
independent real estate company.
The support we ve had from Wel-
lington has been beyond belief.
We re up against big international
How healthy is Wellington's
real estate market?
Wellington has always been
good. We ve never had the real
boom or the real bust, like Auck-
land. It s not a seasonal place. It s
the seat of government and people
come to Wellington to work, not to
buy a beach house.
Is it too hard for young
people to buy their first home?
It is hard, but people shouldn t
buy a house if they can t afford it.
Look at what their parents had to
do. Back then people would have
had two or three jobs and save
hard. Then you would sit in the
bank manager s office shaking
like a leaf, hoping you would get a
mortgage. I worked two or three
jobs to get my first place. Parents
should help their kids if they can.
I ve sold many, many houses to
young ones whose parents have
It must feel nice to sell some-
one their first home.
It s the most wonderful thing to
see someone go into their first
home, to see them step on to the
How has housing changed
since you started?
Apartments have come to the
city. When the first apartments
went up, people said they would
never work, but they have been so
well received. We work harder
and longer and don t have as
much leisure time, so apartments
are an easy way to live. Indoor/
outdoor living has also become a
huge thing and so has open-plan
living. Gone are the days of separ-
ate dining, separate living and
mum stuck in the kitchen.
Are people too hard on real
Far too hard. It s very stressful.
You have someone selling a prop-
erty, people trying to buy it and
the agent in the middle. When
people miss out there is a sense of
loss and everyone wants to blame
someone, so they blame the agent.
You might have nine people going
for a property, so someone s going
to miss out. They just might not
have put in a high enough offer.
You have a low opinion of
They are a real bugbear of
mine. People were investing
money in property then in came
the finance companies and took
that money. You can t blame
people for investing in them.
Trustworthy members of society
were fronting finance company
ads. You will never lose all of your
money with property. You can
paint it, do it up and even if you
don t, you still have bricks and
mortar. And that s worth some-
What do you like about Wel-
The place has been good to me.
There are an enormous number of
good people here. And Welling-
tonians are great supporters of
things. We go to events. You only
have to look at the WearableArts
and see how successful that is.
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