Bert Sutcliffe Sales Advisor Leanne O’Meara holds the unique position of being the first person to sell a property to the man synonymous with real estate – Garth Barfoot.
That’s because, despite being one of the Barfoots of Barfoot & Thompson fame, Garth and his wife Judy have only ever owned one house - their beloved four-bedroom house in Island Bay, Beach Haven, was built for $30,000 after they paid $12,000 for the land.
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Now both 86, they have swapped their home of 50-plus years for a two-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor at Ryman Healthcare’s Birkenhead retirement village – a ‘future-proofing move’ prompted by age.
While Garth is these days just as well known for his sporting activities in triathlon and running, the real estate habits are hard to shake off.
“If I was selling this unit, I’d advertise it as like being at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac.
“We’re at the end of the passage and we can leave our door open – it’s very welcoming to visitors and you can just feel the air moving slightly,” he says.
He also loves the expectation that going up in the lift to the apartment inspires.
“What I liked about it was you step out of the lift and there’s another ante room and you walk down a corridor and it’s like you could be in a hotel anywhere in the world.
“And then when you come into the room here, it’s all light and designed with white walls which makes the room lighter, and they’re very generous with the size of the windows too.”
Four months in, they are still moving stuff across as they adapt to upper level apartment living after being on a three-quarter acre section. They are tickled by the fact they can still wave to their neighbours!
Years of working in real estate doesn’t mean the couple’s place equates to an overly-manicured show home either – the Barfoots prioritise comfort and practicalities first.
Garth overlooks Bert Sutcliffe village from his sixth floor apartment (above) and with Sales Advisor Leanne O'Meara (top picture).
Realising they had only had one guest to stay in three and a half years, they decided against a bed in the spare room and instead use it to store their bikes.
Similar reasoning was used when deciding on whether to have a couch or just stick with the two recliner armchairs.
“We worked out the only people who used the sofa were visitors, and we don’t get many visitors. It’s made so much more space and makes the room look so much bigger,” says Garth, who proudly states that the dining table is the same one they shared family meals around with their three children for decades and adds that the balcony is a great place to clean his running shoes!
Garth has always been a keen tramper, and it was through tramping that he met Judy who hails originally from Whakatane.
But it was their children that inspired first Judy and then Garth to get into triathlons exactly 30 years ago.
Since then Garth has gone on to compete in triathlons around the world, including the Kona World Championship Ironman in Hawaii, and when he was 77 he was the ITU Long Distance World Champion for his age group.
He is still heavily involved and cites a sporting-related activity he’s been involved in for every day of the previous week, including running club in the Domain, supporting a swim run event, calling the time for a local fun run, the Saturday Park Run and then the half marathon at Mission Bay.
Two of Garth's most recent events, Round the Bays on 5th March (left) and the Half Marathon along Auckland's waterfront on 2nd April.
This is despite the fact he is still hobbling a little after undergoing an emergency hip replacement – his fourth! - at the end of January this year after tripping over just before the finish line in another event.
“My bones are getting brittle,” he says matter-of-factly, before adding: “It meant I had to use crutches for the Round the Bays on 5th March.”
Garth says he felt ‘a bit self-conscious’ in the village at first as all his clothes ‘had running numbers on them’. The crutches were not an issue though.
“I was walking around with two crutches which is not unusual because there are a few people with walkers and sticks. What was unusual was when I was trying to run with them!” he laughs.
It is this incredible drive and determination which gives you a good measure of the man and explains why he now has his sights set on the New York marathon later this year.
“I do a time trial every day up to the Birkenhead shops where I have coffee so I’m always trying to get faster, to get my BSA – Best Since Accident!
“I’ve swapped the crutches for a stick now.”
Last year he was the second oldest of 40,000 competing in the London Marathon and he is just as proud to compete on the age front if the cut off time enables him to finish.
“I always said that when I retired from real estate I was going to be a professional athlete and be paid in gold, silver and bronze,” he jokes. “I haven’t had many golds yet!”