Family affair

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Frankton realtor flogging $3 cheese rolls and $24m property.

Having a cafe as a sideline during the property slump has been a godsend for one Queenstown realtor.

Frankton Real Estate owner Kath Cruickshank says when the downturn hit last April, “it was like the lights went out”.

She decided to beef up the cafe – which is incorporated into her property office – and “instead of putting our prices up” introduced a $10 breakfast.

“In a downturn people can’t afford expensive items.”

Cruickshank also turned her board­room into a boutique to sell her three daughters’ art and jewellery.

Set up four years ago, FRE was the third firm she’d opened after a Century 21 franchise in Gore and Queenstown’s Southern Lakes Real Estate.

Cruickshank says she introduced an in-house cafe “because I didn’t think I could make it against the big boys.

“I knew the cafe would be the catalyst, and it works – with a huge number of people through my doors, I can offer my vendors unique exposure.“I’ve had people come in, buy a coffee and then they’ve bought a house.”

Approaching 61, Cruickshank says “if I was 40 I’d franchise the whole lot”.

Her offerings range from “plain old cheese rolls” for $3 up to a $24 million Kelvin Heights property listing.

Working 80 hours a week, Cruickshank says she’s never been busier – especially because she can’t find a cook to take her place at weekends.

But she insists it’s not about the money.

“I set this company up to help my family all get homes,” she says.

“I just provided the vehicle for them to earn a good living – now they all own a home in Queenstown.”

When she started, just daughter Lyndal also practised real estate, but now seven family members hold certificates – including her other kids, Andrea, Lisa and Simon, Simon’s partner Marie Hendren and Lisa’s husband John Ulrich, while Andrea’s partner Andy Pearson will be uplifting one soon.

“I might look up the Guinness Book of Records,” Kath adds.

“How the hell we don’t pull each other’s eyes out, I don’t know – but blood’s thicker than water.”

Cruickshank says property inquiries started picking up in December.

“We’re a small firm but we did seven contracts that month.

“We’ve got a shortage of listings from people prepared to meet the market, but there are plenty of over-priced listings where people are happy to wait.

“As they say, what goes up goes down, and vice versa.”