Val Barfoot's first advertising flyer showing sales district.


While Barfoot and Thompson have always specialised as land agents, early on in their history the firm was forced to diversify their activities. To counter the effects of the 1929-36 Depression, Maurice Thompson and Val Barfoot turned to letting and rent collecting as a way of bringing in sufficient cash-flow to continue in business. Equally, a specialist farm sales department was added in 1934, and with house prices limited by government regulation, they expanded into valuation during the Second World War

Through its rapid expansion in the 1950s and 1960s the firm continued to offer land agency and auctioneering services in both commercial and private property. By the late 1960s, Barfoot and Thompson's 150 staff sold, on average, 32 properties per year each. By 1970, the firm had 33 branches, including the Industrial and Commercial Division operating from Head Office, and a business sales department operating from its Auckland Town Hall branch (the valuation department has since been discontinued).

A factor in the successful expansion of the firm was the switch from employing sales staff on wages, to commission only basis. In 1956, Maurice Thompson and Val Barfoot adopted this fundamental change to remuneration, and was the first Auckland real estate firm to do so. Initially, sales staff received 40 percent of the commission received by the firm plus petrol costs, and the firm supplied a radio telephone - an innovation introduced by Maurice Thompson into the firm as a result of his wartime experience.

Easing the transition to the new pay system, the partners advanced 10 per week up to a maximum of 50, against future commission. It was not long before the new system enabled staff to earn higher salaries, with additional benefits in motivation and improved customer service. To encourage the development of a loyal and experienced cadre of branch managers, they were included in a branch profit-sharing scheme. Today, the commission system of remuneration for real estate agents is uniformly adopted.

Chris Barfoot showing the panelling inside the first house his father, Val Barfoot, sold.

© The University of Auckland Business School