Don Ha

PHOTO: Ha with his wife Mohina in 2007. Richard Robinson

Don Ha is one of the most familiar faces in New Zealand real estate. His 27-year career in the industry has included making millions and winning top awards through to going into receivership and climbing his way back out again. Now the CEO of RE/MAX New Zealand, Ha – who came to this country as a refugee aged 12 – reveals how he got to where he is today.

Don Ha

Don Ha | New Zealand’s very own Property Guru (EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – PODCAST)

Q: What did you do before real estate?

Ha: I was a baker. After my family came here from Vietnam, my father had bakeries so working in one was my weekend job when I was at school then my full-time job, and I graduated to my own business. But I always wanted to be famous. I thought I would do it through martial arts or being a movie star, like Bruce Lee. But being in this country, they put me as a Korean fisherman at Piha or on Crimewatch. I thought, I am not going to get famous playing this sort of character. I never expected to be recognized because of real estate.

Q: How did you get into real estate?

Ha: One day in 1991, a man walked into my bakery. He was dressed up and I asked what he did for a living. He said he was a real estate agent. I said, “How many houses have you sold this week?” He said two. I asked how much money he’d earned, he said $12,000. I decided to get into real estate after that.

Every Monday was my day off so I went to a company in Papatoetoe to study for my papers with the boss there. I passed in September 1994 and went to work with a company that had just been bought by a new boss. Nobody was interested in me. They put me at a desk next door to the toilet. I was 26 but I was shy about asking for help – being Asian and working in a European environment is very intimidating. I had to ask a friend who worked for an opposition company to help with things like appraisals because everyone in my company seemed too busy.