Meet the realtor whose horse connections helped steer the future of the Winter Equestrian Festival

  • The village of Wellington, home to the Winter Equestrian Festival, is a realtor’s heaven (that’s an estate agent for those of you in the UK) and no one knows that better than Matt Johnson, whose combined interest in property and horses, brought prosperity to the area, with the advent of Andreas Helgstrand, CEO of Global Equestrian Group, owners of the newly-rebranded Wellington International showgrounds.

    Matt started out as a working student for various grand prix and Olympic dressage riders, but not coming from money or a horsey family he quickly realised he would need to make some serious money if he wanted to ride so he acquired a real estate license in 1997.

    By 2014 Matt’s real estate endeavours had paid off enough for him to travel to Denmark to purchase a four-year-old stallion from Helgstrand, Qasanova, who Matt has since brought up to grand prix level.

    “Andreas had heard of Wellington but had not been here,” said Matt. “I told him ‘you should come and when you do I will give you a tour.’” Two years later Andreas took Matt up on his word and the rest, as they say, is history.

    “He was really impressed and said I’ve got to be here next year,” said Matt. “Then we found a place to lease for three years and then we started looking at properties to purchase. In the beginning, we were looking at 10-acre properties and then his vision for what he could do here with his business started to evolve so then we started looking at 20-acre farms, 30-acre farms and ended up settling on Windsome, which was 80 acres. So it’s been exciting to work with him.”

    It is one of many long standing relationships that has seen Matt rise to the top of his profession – serving now in the coveted position of a Private Office Advisor to luxury real estate company, Engel & Völkers.

    “It was a natural progression,” said Matt, who works in his role as a realtor, while also riding and competing at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. “I was able to tap into the network that I had built in those early years in Wellington. I would say 98% of my clients are connected to the horse industry.”

    A high end horse property featuring barn, house and arena in Wellington

    Wellington horse property prices continue to soar with barns and houses built on a palatial scale

    Wellington land prices have continued to rise over the years and more so since the pandemic.

    “It started maybe six months into Covid,” said Matt of the recent property boom that has seen some property prices close to double in some cases. “I thought when Covid happened it was over – I was going to have to get a new job, but it went the total opposite. It started to really take off and about eight months ago it took another jump to a whole new level. It’s substantial – it depends what market and price point you’re looking at, but there has been a huge increase.”

    Since the start of the pandemic Matt has closed over $176 million in sales, a clear indication that the once small town of Wellington continues to grow as a world destination for horse sport.

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