Keeping it real

How a Southlander and a Kiwi from Sweden bonded over real estate.


It’s a long way from a lifestyle block in Southland to the northern slopes of Remuera.

But the values and work ethic that became ingrained in Ryan Dixon while he was growing up on the outskirts of Invercargill have stood him in good stead as he’s established a very successful career selling high-end homes in the upmarket Auckland suburb.

Ryan is one of the leading salespeople at Ray White Remuera and credits his down-to-earth upbringing by hardworking parents in the deep south for his outlook on life and determination to be the best he can in his chosen line of work.

“The value of hard work was instilled in me when I was very little,” says Ryan, who describes his parents Tom and Fiona as both wonderful role models and his best friends.

“I was never handed anything – if I wanted money, it was a case of, ‘Go and sell lambs or roll hay or help dad strip wallpaper [his father has a painting business]’. They taught me principles and values and how to treat people.

“I remember them saying, ‘If you have to cross the road to walk past someone, you’ve done something wrong. Don’t be that person’. They’ve been a real guiding light for me.”

Another crucial factor in Ryan’s success – he’s among the top 1% of Ray White’s salespeople Internationally – is his business partnership with Alex Smith.

Like Ryan, Alex grew up in a rural area where he too learned the importance of hard work and treating others with respect. But in Alex’s case, it was literally a world away from Remuera. Born in Wellington to Swedish parents Torbjorn and Cecilia, he moved to Sweden with his family when he was six and lived there until his early 20s.

“I grew up on the other side of the world, but Ryan and I have a lot in common – the same values, the same belief system,” says Alex, who has been a vital part of Ryan’s team for the last three years.

“We believe in knowledge, transparency, leaving no stone unturned and being able to sleep well at night because we know we have done the right thing.”

They were both drawn to a career in real estate from an early age and went to great lengths to make their dreams of selling property come true.

Ryan was just 18 when he got his salesperson’s licence but finding work in Invercargill proved to be difficult because of his age and inexperience.

So, he moved to Queenstown where he lived in a garage and put up real estate signs for free for a real estate company.

“That was a way of getting my foot in the door,” Ryan recalls. “I knew I would have to start from the ground up but I was prepared to do that.”

From there he moved into marketing, then commercial real estate sales in Auckland.

“When the global financial crisis arrived I was doing work with a special projects team selling hospitality and tourism businesses. I was at the coal face, seeing the ups and downs of a tough market taught me a lot. I had to think outside the square and be very diligent, and that’s something I have carried over to residential sales.”

Twelve years ago, a yearning to work with the best people in the industry led to a decision to move to Auckland.

Ryan was drawn to the gracious heritage homes, architecture and estates found in Remuera, so he was delighted when a few years later he joined the Ray White office there, under the leadership of owner Megan Jaffe who has repeatedly been Ray White’s number one International office.

“The support I have had from Megan and the team here has been incredible,” says Ryan. “I am very grateful.”

Alex took a slightly different path to Ray White Remuera.

Also very close to his parents, he grew up in the village of Trosa, 70km from Stockholm, and spent his weekends and summers working on a friend’s farm, driving tractors and clearing the land of rocks.

He went to university to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Property – a prerequisite for real estate salespeople in Sweden – and when it came to doing a two-week internship in his final year, was keen to challenge himself by doing it in the country of his birth, New Zealand.

A friend suggested getting in touch with Megan Jaffe, who offered him an internship.

On his first day in the office, he met Ryan. “From there we have never looked back,” Alex says.

When he finished his degree a year later, Alex bought a one-way ticket to Auckland and has been here ever since as part of the Ray White Remuera family.

The two have become so close they’re like brothers, and their partnership has gone from strength to strength.

Ryan says they see themselves as problem-solvers whose responsibility is to “get people home safely”.

“We dig deep, we do the research, we make sure we don’t miss anything.”

One thing they don’t do is overload themselves with listings. “We only take on a select number of homes at any one time,” Alex explains.

“That allows us to put all our focus on the people we are already selling for,” Ryan adds. “We don’t spread ourselves too thin.”

Megan says the fact that Ryan and Alex will often turn down potential listings is a testament to their dedication to excellence.

“They will look at it in the context of the people they are doing business for to avoid any potential conflict of interest, even if that means missing out on an additional sale.

“Some people are in it for the transactions, but these boys are committed to building relationships.”

Megan says humility is another trait the pair have in common. They don’t boast about what they’ve achieved but when prompted, they did mention a recent sale that has been a career highlight for them both.

They were trusted by the vendor to market a grand 1924Roy Keith Binney home situated on the ridgeline of Bassett Road, Remuera.

The stunning house has a category B heritage classification, which affects what changes can be made to the property. Understanding of this heritage classification was critical to convey and interpret to the market.

“It had been a wonderful home for a distinguished family, but it was time for them to move on with the next stage of their life,” Ryan says.

Through sheer tenacity, they found a discerning buyer who was overjoyed to be the next custodian of the historic home.

The delighted vendor wrote a glowing testimonial praising their professional approach, adding, “as a businessman of more than 50 years standing, this did more than fulfill my expectations.”

“It was an honour for us,” Ryan says. “It’s such a privilege to be a part of people’s real estate journey and to be invited into their lives.”

Megan says this attitude is one of the many reasons why Ryan and Alex’s careers are soaring.

“They don’t focus on the sale; they focus on the people. They really care about their vendors, and they deliver on their promises without taking any shortcuts.

“Some of the sales they have made have been complex, like Bassett Road, but they work hard, and they stay on the journey until the job is done.

“They are not only deeply respectful but they stay the distance, and that’s why they have got a very big future ahead of them.”

The pair get testimonials from clients with heartfelt messages like, “The biggest endorsement we can make is that we hope Ryan and Alex are available to help us and our children with any property transactions and we believe that their manner and approach is the future of real estate in New Zealand.”

That’s high praise indeed, but rather than resting on their laurels, it’s spurring Ryan and Alex on to even greater things.

“We have got a good track record so far,” Ryan says, “but I feel like we are only getting started. This is just the beginning.”

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Keeping it real