FARMER’S FRIEND: Kevin Richardson has been with Professionals Whakatane for 30 years and has no plans to retire yet. Photo supplied

AFTER 30 years selling rural real estate with Whakatane Professionals, consultant Kevin Richardson says the people he meets makes it a work of passion.

At 74 years of age and showing no signs of slowing down soon, Mr Richardson has seen the industry go through many changes but the one thing that remains constant is the importance of building trust among the community.

“You still have to visit people and talk with them face to face – that’s the way I think anyway,” he said.

With an easy smile and gentle manner, he has developed many friendships with both his co-workers and customers. He is so pleased with the work environment he convinced one of his good friends, Dot Basher, to join the company. He said there was nothing that could convince him to work anywhere else.

“I’ve been asked by other companies over the years to join them, but nah Professionals is a wonderful company to work for,” he said.

Because of his outgoing personality and friendliness, he was often offered jobs in sales.

“I was farming at the time and I was asked by a local real estate and stock agent Selwyn Bennett if I’d like to go into real estate. He said, ‘I think you’ll be alright but if you think you’ll make a fortune in your first year, you won’t’. And he was dead right,” he said.

It took a few years for him to decide to make the leap to real estate and after a two-year stint at his brother-in-laws orchid plantation, he joined Professionals – owned by Mike Shepherd at the time.

“Mike Shepherd had been gnawing at my ear and AMP had been after me to sell insurance, but Mike won out. I started with Professionals on the third of January 1990 and have been here ever since,” he said.

With a philosophy of personal integrity, Mr Richardson has a strong dislike for dishonesty.

“I’ve always believed that if you tell the truth everyone forgets, but if you tell a lie, everyone remembers,” he said.

As a rural real estate consultant, he has seen how the agricultural focus in the Eastern Bay has changed with the economy.

“Back in the old days, I used to sell quite a few farms. We still do but lifestyle blocks are our bread and butter now. In 1990, you could go up Stanley Road without seeing any, now the whole road aside from two or three forestry lots are lifestyle blocks,” he said.

With the dairy industry in challenging times, the future of rural real estate is becoming increasingly focused on horticulture.

“Some dairy farmers have converted part or all of their land into kiwifruit because dairy farms are quite hard to sell at the moment.

“There’s a fantastic market for kiwifruit and that’s driving up land prices.

“I think you will see more and more horticulture here because of the climate. Kiwifruit is expanding at an incredible rate. Even avocados are coming into the area along with more blueberry orchards,” he said.