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Climbing the ladder: Jonny Nicholls

He spent two years stacking supermarket shelves to pay his bills while working 12 hour days as a fledgling real estate agent. Now, he’s in the top one percent of Harcourts’ global performers. Metropol catches up with Harcourts Grenadier’s Jonny Nicholls about what it takes to get to the top – before you even turn 30.



At 29-years-old, Christchurch real estate agent Jonny Nicholls sits amongst the region’s frequent top performers.

But just five years ago, as a fresh University of Canterbury Bachelor of Arts graduate, Jonny initially fancied a career in sports journalism or property valuation.

That was until a conversation with the only real estate agent he knew set him on his current path, and he successfully applied for a job at Harcourts Grenadier City Office.

The only problem was – he had to make sales to earn commission.

“I followed advice to tap into my network of homeowners, but at the time I only knew four; my brother, my sister and two of the coaches at my rugby club – and none of them wanted to buy or sell.

“I worked out that I needed $350 a week to pay all my bills, so I took a job at Coca-Cola and would go into supermarkets from 4am to 7am to get that covered.”

After his failed bid to tap into this network, he decided he needed to focus on growing one instead.

“From 7am to 7pm six or seven days a week I would prospect. I set myself a goal of 100 calls per day, so would go through the phone book and try and convince people to buy or sell their house through me.”

It took two years for him to earn enough to leave Coca-Cola, three years to start seeing impressive results, and four years to make it into the top one percent of Harcourt’s 7000 real estate agents across seven countries – including 2000 New Zealand wide.

He is also now a shareholder of the Harcourts Grenadier City Office – making him one of the brand’s youngest shareholders in New Zealand – and heads a team of four, the Nicholls Group.

“I wanted to join Harcourts because it was the biggest real estate company in Christchurch, so I thought I may as well try and join the biggest and the best.

“I also liked that there was opportunity for growth in the company, you could be an agent or move up into management.”

It is this growth which motivates Jonny each day.

“I love the growth and being able to measure myself against how other people in the business are doing.”

But how does a twenty something stay compelled to work six or – more often than not – seven days a week?

“A lot of it comes down to personal stuff – your health, your friends, your relationships – you have to nurture all those areas outside of work to do better in your career.

“And I love now that when I go to work I have to be a better person to grow my career.”

Jonny says an added bonus of the job is the opportunity to deal with a wide range of people every day.

“I always had an interest in property and people, and there was the added drawcard of the opportunity to work hard and be rewarded quickly – and I didn’t know any other jobs where I could do that.

“Everyone is interested in property – they have something to say about it, or want to learn more about it, so you can go anywhere and talk to anyone about it, it’s a great way to meet new people.”

Jonny says he has also relished the opportunity to dismantle a somewhat cynical view of real estate agents as untrustworthy, or just after a sale.

“The industry does have a bit of stigma, so you have to work hard to build your reputation. I have tried to build a reputation that’s probably based on a) working like a dog, and b) telling it like it is.

“Now, 70 to 80 percent of my work is repeat or referral based, and I think that largely is down to me being trustworthy and telling it like it is – I think we’re a winning business because of it.”

So, what happens when you reach your career goal before you’re 30?

“We set new goals and go again, that’s the beauty of this role. The growth is unlimited and that’s what drives me more than anything, to keep serving our clients and go again. Being number one nationally by the time I’m 35 wouldn’t hurt, either.”


Getting down to business: NAI Harcourts

For many, 2020 has proven to be a gamechanger, with lockdown providing the opportunity for a lifestyle reassessment.


“We’re finding a lot of people are looking for employment alternatives,” NAI Harcourts Grenadier Business Sales Manager Athol McCully says.

“They may have gone through lockdown and reassessed, they’ve lost their job and they’re looking to get into a business of their own and there are vendors who have decided it might be time for them to move on, particularly if they’re nearing retirement.”

With the largest team of NAI Harcourts business brokers in New Zealand, Harcourts Grenadier can guide you through the buying and selling process, ensuring everything is simple and straightforward.

“We have a huge amount of experience within our team and sell a wide range of businesses,” Athol says.

“We’ve also got a lot of qualified purchasers looking for businesses right now.”

Athol has the hands-on experience of 25-years of business ownership and operation and more than 15-years as a business broker.

“We have such a strong team of 10 here, with a huge amount of experience – three of our business brokers each have over 15 years’ experience in business sales. We cover business sales from cafés to motels to agricultural businesses and everything in between.

“If you’re considering buying or selling a business, get in touch with myself or our team and we can take you through the process. It’s a well-worn path, but it’s a process we go through to get a successful outcome for buyer and seller.”


The power of teamwork: Harcourts Alison Aitken

American author Ken Blanchard wrote, “None of us is as smart as all of us”. Certainly, success flows from people working together in a team.

Combining the complementary skills and experience of each team member creates more effective solutions to problems. Real estate consultant Alison Aitken definitely believes in the power of teamwork and has built up her own team of superb sales consultants and administrators.

“When vendors choose me to sell their homes, they receive the benefit of our whole team’s knowledge,” Alison explains.

“But the team members themselves benefit too, from the opportunity to grow and develop and to learn from each other.

“Each of them has also embraced my passion for delivering exceptional results.”

Sales consultants Pauline Wilson, Gemma Aitken, Glen Ford and Sarah Fidow echo Alison’s views. They’ve each worked in various aspects of the real estate industry over the years from sales and management to valuation and banking.

They place particular emphasis on developing and maintaining the very best relationship with their clients, both vendors and buyers, no matter where their property may be.

“We’re proud to sell every property, everywhere.”

Essential to the team is smooth, organised administration and that is the role of Office Manager Angela Pye.

Attention to detail is her forté and completing tasks to the highest possible standard is her focus. And no marketing campaign would be complete without Nicky Cocks’ styling expertise for home staging.
Alison sums up her team’s success in these words. “When you hand good people possibility, they do great things.”

Making success happen: Harcourts Gold Kathryn Picton-Warlow

Synonymous with multi-million-dollar listings, Kathryn Picton-Warlow forged her successful real estate
career while bringing up two sons as a single mother – and wants other women to know they can do the same.


One of the top performing real estate agents at the number one Harcourts internationally for revenue, Harcourts Gold Papanui, Kathryn believes listening, paying attention to detail, and nurturing relationships is the key to succeeding in business.

“I always try to go above and beyond for my clients because I genuinely want to help people achieve their dream result,” she says.

“Being able to listen is sometimes all you need to do.”

It also helps that she has a deep passion for the industry.

“If I am passionate about a product, I have always been able to sell it. With real estate, I am passionate about the people and the product is their homes.”

The home buying process can be an emotional one and Kathryn supports her vendors every step of the way.

“It’s the little things that matter to me; the service, the follow-up, the level of care to my clients is very important to me.

“Clients become friends and I get to see some unbelievable homes and lifestyle properties.”

Kathryn grew up on a family farm, her family instilled good manners and a great work ethic from an early age.

“This is a big part of why I am so successful today.”

Those values are reflected not only in her business philosophy, but in her parenting of her two teenage sons, too. |

“I am incredibly proud of my boys, William has flown solo at age 16 while training for his PPL and Tom has represented New Zealand with his ski racing from an early age.

“The boys see their mother working long hours and striving for excellence and I hope I have instilled the same values and ethics as my parents have.”

While she’s known for her aspirational multi-million-dollar listings, Kathryn says she treats all her listings with the same fastidious care.

“I have sold all types of properties across every price point; however, my business has always had more of a lifestyle component to it.

“Currently, my listings include an estate in Darfield, a château on Pound Road, and a resort-like mansion at Clearwater.”

Competitive industries like real estate may seem intimidating, so Kathryn hopes by sharing her story other women will feel inspired to achieve their dreams. Her advice?

“Stay true to yourself, trust your gut, and be the very best version of yourself. Always remember if you look after your clients and do the right thing, your business will flourish.”


All about Alison

Alison Aitken has been in the real estate game for three decades, so to say she is at the top of her league is an understatement. The Harcourts Grenadier agent is greatly recognised by both her peers and the community – she was inducted into the prestigious Harcourts’ Hall of Fame in 2011 and in 2019 became the first (and only) Harcourts salesperson to achieve $1 billion in settled sales. Often you read all about properties and what distinguishes them from the rest. We thought we’d take the time to do the same for Alison.



How was lockdown for your bubble?
Extremely comfortable, we got back to the basics of cooking, gardening, exercise, reading (no TV) and plenty of relaxation. I did very little work except talking to my great client base simply to see if they were ok.

Was your heart always set on real estate?
No, an interesting journey through farm cadetship, banking, hospitality and small business ownership – they all helped shape and form me.

What distinguishes you from the competition?
I work for a great company, part of a superb global network. I have a fantastic team of different ages and different skills which complement each other. We work hard and love what we do.

What advice would you give to someone who is wanting to start in Real Estate?
Get a good platform, a company with good management, training, and resources. The best start is to become part of a high performing team. Be prepared for the sacrifices you need to make, without them there are no rewards.


The Influencers: Lynette McFadden

Business Owner of Harcourts Gold

A new decade and a fresh feel is evident in the Christchurch real estate market as we continue our march into 2020.

I love this city, it’s my hometown and I’m excited about our future, our growth, and the variation of design that has started to occur in numerous suburbs and streets.

The definitive market drivers include lower than usual numbers of listings – 1906 listings in January 2019 and 1459 in January 2020 ( stats) and this is pre-empting an increase in the number of auctions being requested, conducted and sold.

Historically this occurs when vendors feel they can capitalize on the competitive attentions of buyers limited for choice.

I note Christchurch median house prices provided by REINZ also demonstrated an 8.1 percent increase over the January period proving a seasonal win for vendors, some of whom have waited a while to see the benefits of a market favourable to them.

Heading gently into autumn has yet to indicate a change in the current market but with 25 years of experience I’ve never seen a property cycle that didn’t continue to change or adjust to local and national conditions.

I’m also noticing an increase in the nature of property investment as interest rates refuse to provide many with the comfort or growth they’re looking for and this opens up significant opportunities in the months ahead. No doubt I’ll continue to discuss this further.


30 year real estate journey

“Not bad for a girl from Shirley!” Alison Aitken of Harcourts Grenadier chuckles as she recalls her progress over the years from selling real estate in her own backyard to being inducted into the Harcourts’ Hall of Fame – the first real estate agent in the company to be awarded this honour by her peers.


Recognition at this level does not come without hard work, dedication and a genuine interest in both people and the real estate industry.

Rewind to 1990 and Alison enters real estate as PA to her agent husband. “I was thrown in at the deep end, but found I loved the environment.

That gave me the confidence to become an agent myself in 1991. It was a job I could do while balancing my role as a mother of two small children.”

During her journey of nearly 30 years in the business, Alison has proved she has the attributes required to win her clients’ trust.

“I’ve been lucky to have been asked to sell properties for more than one generation of families. I think perhaps I might be doing something right. I certainly do put 100 percent into my work. It is not a part-time business.”

Alison also truly loves running open homes and seeing and talking to so many people she knows.

“My experience has taught me that although every client and every property is different, everyone deserves to be treated with respect, consistency and care. My greatest joy is the people I work with.”

A modern treasure

A modern treasure of innovative solid construction and historical reminders provides the ultimate central apartment lifestyle.



The second and final stage of the Latimer Central Apartments is now complete.

Adjacent to the new sports stadium, the prime-positioned build becomes an iconic part of the CBD’s eastern fabric.

At 272 Barbados Street, parallel to Latimer Square, the design is a head-turner.

The standard is high-end for all 34 units built by Street and Cook Construction.

Each one, a future-proofed investment. The first residents moved into the main building this month and now just five of the sought-after apartments remain for sale.

The drive-through entrance is via a portico under the project’s first stage, The Gatehouse, which is home to four exclusive apartments.

The 20 residents’ outdoor carparks are secured behind the central automatic security gate.

The ground-floor brick façade retains timeless character, melding with history – namely the old brick Orion substation.

It still stands as a grand feature point between the gatehouse and the main building – a nod to Christchurch’s past.

Director John Street of Street and Cook Construction has run an outstanding operation from Taranaki for over 35 years.

This is his second noteworthy development in Christchurch, which includes the award-winning GCH Aviation Centre.

Site foreman Brad Shotter moved his family down to Christchurch to project manage each exciting development.

“The apartments are very cleverly designed, to fit the relatively tight space we had to work with,” Brad says.

“Each one has its own unique view. All the balconies and courtyards are generously sized and most face north. The Hebel exterior is extra thick at 75 millimetres and provides a high acoustic rating and thermal barrier.”

The four floors and penthouse of the main building are of classic black and white exterior.

Fresh and light, neutral décor throughout connects the inside the 30 apartments to the spacious common areas.

The one and two bedroom apartments, are all generously proportioned and include Bosch appliances.

Strict acoustic tolerances mitigate the usual sounds from a bourgeoning CBD.

Solid Kwila treads and rises create the wide stairwell, provide an alternative to the internal elevator.

Brad says the project was a real pleasure to work on. It was almost like clockwork for the 18-month project that was completed on schedule.

“The build is up there with the best in innovation. BRB patented-design seismic-strength structural steel from America makes it a standout construction by John Jones Steel. The extremely solid foundation included 73 screw piles, some as deep as 14 metres, supplied and installed by Smith Cranes and Construction. These subcontractors were an integral part of this successful project.”

Cobalt Electrical and Security Systems provided the very latest requirements.

The company’s previous accolade was installing the security systems for the Christchurch Town Hall rebuild.

“We had six tradesmen on the Latimer site most days,” says Liverpool-born owner Eddie Russell, who has operated his one-stop-shop Christchurch business for more than 30 years.

“It was a nice job, and we needed to be there at every building stage. Everything worked out great. We were proud to meet every tight deadline and scope of works.”

Cobalt provided all of the smart features for the building and apartments.

With ICT card access control for the security gate and security walk in entrance, KNX Worldwide automation systems controlling the building through sensors and timers, including the carpark and emergency lighting. Installed in every apartment was smart-lighting control, data hub, Sky TV, fibre optics for the high-speed WIFI built into the walls, and the latest ABB video intercom.

The apartments are now state of the art.

Street and Cook is looking forward to the next exciting Christchurch project.

To view the apartment listing for sale visit Harcourts Gold.


New Year, New Beginnings: Harcourts Merivale

Cindy-Lee Sinclair is thrilled to announce that Matt Kurtovich has joined her team.



“Some people impress from the very first meeting and Matt is one of those individuals,” Cindy-Lee says.

“He is experienced in working with people, and has those personal qualities that make him so well suited to the real estate profession. His capacity for hard work, his commitment to his clients and his ability to stop and listen to the needs, wishes and aspirations of those he works with mark him out as an exceptional person.

“Matt is the type of individual that plays the long game – he builds a meaningful understanding of his clients’ needs by listening and talking through the issues and following up.”

For Matt, it’s all about building relationships. “I’m all about commitment to ‘my people’, and staying with them as their needs and desires change and they move through different homes.”

Matt’s appointment is just one of the exciting new developments taking place at the Harcourts Merivale office, as this popular team grows and expands, so watch this space.

With Harcourts Merivale, you get a great team with the clout of the Harcourts brand; the real estate company with the biggest market share in Canterbury.

We’re quickly heading into the season for new beginnings, so pick up the phone and call now if you are thinking of buying or selling. Contact Cindy-Lee on 03 355 6677 or 0274 888 616. Email



Golden sheen of success: Cameron Bailey

The honours shelf at Harcourts Gold Papanui just got more crowded with stunningly successful agent Cameron Bailey achieving 2019 awards for Number One Agent in New Zealand (for the third time), Number One International Agent (for the third time), Number One Agent in Canterbury (for a staggering seventh year), and Harcourts Gold Papanui is Number One Harcourts Office for New Zealand – and internationally out of 900 offices.



At Cameron’s level of achievement, real estate is a lifestyle, not a job. But while he truly is the top agent, Cameron is still driven by working with a great team every single day, and meeting clients and helping them realise their goals.

Cameron works all over Canterbury and is as satisfied in closing a sale on a $300,000 home as on a $3 million home. “In the current market, skilled agents are getting homes sold – there is a big difference in what a great agent can achieve.”

Cameron says that while prices have softened, the current market is “a fairer market and buyers are very prepared to pay what a property is worth”.  He has taken over many listings from agents and companies that have stalled, and achieved a very successful sale.

Cameron and his ‘A team’ completed 1850 open homes last year. “Our market reach ensures we have more buyers and opportunities at our fingertips; business happens constantly and our network buzzes.”

Repeat business is key “you reach this level and maintain it for seven years only if you’ve got excellence and consistency – clients who want to work with you again and again”.