Peter, the of­fice boy who be­came a gun auc­tion­eer

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - LOCAL LIVING -

Words and photos cour­tesy: Real Es­tate In­sti­tute of Vic­to­ria.

Drouin real es­tate agent, Peter Wil­liams was only about 10 when he used to “auc­tion” the chooks in the back­yard of his Western Dis­trict home.

Some­times his sib­lings’ bi­cy­cles would also go un­der the ham­mer in his auc­tion games.

Wil­liams’ in­ter­est in auc­tions was sparked when he’d run up to the lo­cal Bal­moral stock­yards af­ter school to watch the auc­tion­eers sell off the sheep.

It was a cap­ti­vat­ing scene for a wided eyed young lad.

He was nearly 14 when the lo­cal El­ders man­ager dropped in to the school look­ing for an “of­fice boy”.

When the man­ager asked if there were any boys in­ter­ested in work­ing in the of­fice, Wil­liams put his hand up and on Jan­uary 5, 1955, com­menced what would be­come a life­long ca­reer.

“I learnt how the back-end of an of­fice worked,” he re­calls. “It was in­valu­able for my fu­ture as a real es­tate agent.”

At 18, Wil­liams be­came a stock agent … the youngest out­side stock rep­re­sen­ta­tive for El­ders across Aus­tralia. He was at home stand­ing on the fences in the sa­le­yards auc­tion­ing the sheep.

But the young man al­ways had a burn­ing de­sire to work for a smaller, pri­vate com­pany and an in­tro­duc­tion to a for­mer Past Pres­i­dent of the REIV, Peter Au­bin, saw Wil­liams join his agency in Dan­de­nong.

In those days, Dan­de­nong was the edge of Mel­bourne and hosted three mar­kets a week, in­clud­ing big live­stock sales.

“I con­tin­ued as a stock agent and be­came the of­fice man­ager be­fore Peter en­cour­aged me to move into real es­tate,” Wil­liams says.

The prob­lem was the pre­req­ui­site en­try for the es­tate agency course at the for­mer Caulfield Tech­ni­cal Col­lege was “leav­ing cer­tifi­cate” or Year 11 as it is now. Wil­liams had left school af­ter Year 8. But he was blessed with a good com­mand of the English lan­guage and his teacher de­cided to re­assess his abil­ity at the end of the course.

Wil­liams passed with fly­ing colours and, at 23, be­came a part­ner in the busi­ness, trad­ing as Au­bin Wil­liams Pty Ltd with a fo­cus solely on real es­tate.

“It was a real chal­lenge,” he says. “To­tally dif­fer­ent. Farm­ers were much eas­ier to deal with but I love a chal­lenge. And it’s a peo­ple busi­ness. If you don’t like peo­ple, it’s not for you.”

In those days, Dan­de­nong was start­ing to boom. Blocks of land were sell­ing at Narre War­ren for around $1,200. New sub­di­vi­sions were open­ing overnight and new homes were pop­ping up al­most as quickly.

One of Wil­liams’ first house sales was for a “mas­sive” $11,000. It was also an era of mi­gra­tion and Dan­de­nong at­tracted many new mi­grants. The area was buzzing with an eclec­tic mix of res­i­dents.

“I had a full sales team, all of whom had been in real es­tate much longer than me,” Wil­liams says. “We got an elec­tronic cal­cu­la­tor and book-keep­ing ma­chine and thought we were just it. When you bought a fax ma­chine, you were ‘Mr Big’.”

Af­ter 15 years and en­cour­aged by Au­bin, Wil­liams opened his own busi­ness in Glad­stone Rd, Dan­de­nong North – Peter Wil­liams Real Es­tate – where he re­mained for an­other 23 years.

“I’ve al­ways be­lieved you should be proud to stand be­hind your own name and I’ve built my busi­ness on that foun­da­tion,” Wil­liams adds.

A fa­ther of four chil­dren and mar­ried to a coun­try girl, he im­mersed him­self in the Dan­de­nong com­mu­nity.

He be­came Pres­i­dent of both the Dan­de­nong RESI and REIV branches, also serv­ing as long-time branch sec­re­tary.

As well as be­ing a mem­ber of the in­au­gu­ral com­mit­tee of RESI Search, a ti­tle search com­pany pre-dat­ing the Sec­tion 32 days, Wil­liams was on the Board of the REIV’s Mul­ti­ple List­ing Bureau, which in­tro­duced a revo­lu­tion­ary change for the in­dus­try.

It meant REIV agents could pro­vide a ser­vice for their clients across Greater Mel­bourne.

“It was a priv­i­lege sell­ing houses to suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies. I’d have kids come to me to sell their houses be­cause their grand­mas had been cus­tomers and rec­om­mended me.”

One of Wil­liams’ “big­gest thrills” in Dan­de­nong was serv­ing as Pres­i­dent of the Dan­de­nong Foot­ball Club for three years. In two years, he led the club from cel­lar-dwellers to pre­miers when the se­niors won the 1991 VFA pre­mier­ship.

“The com­mu­nity went wild and the coun­cil raised the club’s flag on the Dan­de­nong Town Hall.”

Like many peo­ple, with their chil­dren all grown up, Wil­liams made a “life­style” change 17 years ago and sold his busi­ness, mov­ing to Drouin. Ini­tially, he com­muted to Dan­de­nong to work as a mem­ber of an­other agency’s sales team.

“But I was the worst sub­or­di­nate,” Wil­liams says. “I didn’t work well as part of a team and the call to open my own busi­ness again was strong.”

So Peter Wil­liams Real Es­tate opened in Drouin. To­day Wil­liams has three sales rep­re­sen­ta­tives, two prop­erty man­agers and a re­cep­tion­ist. His gen­eral man­ager, Elise David­son, has been with him since day one.

The agency sells res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties, farms, life­style prop­er­ties as well as com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial prop­er­ties.

Wil­liams isn’t as “full-on” as he once was; he tried to re­tire once … it lasted two weeks.

While he’s pas­sion­ate about his busi­ness, Wil­liams ad­mits he gets the “big­gest adrenalin rush” from running clear­ing sales, which he first started in his early ca­reer.

His skills are renowned in this niche market which sees him in de­mand through­out Vic­to­ria, of­ten tak­ing his grand­chil­dren along for the ex­pe­ri­ence.

The sales are many and var­ied. He once auc­tioned 500 rab­bit traps as well as the con­tents of jewellery shops, tim­ber mills and old home­steads.

Wil­liams proudly says he can still sell 500 in­di­vid­ual lots “on the trot” – that’s about 100 lots an hour.

“I still be­lieve Peter Au­bin was the best prop­erty auc­tion­eer I’ve seen and a man called Roy Bas­sett was a won­der­ful live­stock and chat­tels auc­tion­eer. I learnt so much from both of them. They taught me the skill in pro­ject­ing your voice from your di­aphragm, like a singer, so you save your throat, es­pe­cially when you are do­ing five hours straight.”

Wil­liams loves buy­ing items at clear­ing sales and has a gen­uine in­ter­est in col­lect­ing Aus­traliana. But he has never bro­ken his own rule of not buy­ing at his own auc­tions.

A keen bike rider who has com­pleted three Great Vic­to­rian Bike Rides, Wil­liams enjoys the coun­try life.

He reg­u­larly con­ducts auc­tions for var­i­ous char­i­ties, rais­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Dan­de­nong Hospi­tal, La­trobe Re­gional Hospi­tal, Palliative Care, the Scouts and lo­cal sport­ing clubs.

He has no hes­i­ta­tion in recommending real es­tate as a ca­reer, of­fer­ing this one piece of ad­vice: “Keep your nose clean and be ab­so­lutely hon­est at all times.”

War­ragul Busi­ness Group’s Oc­to­ber Net­work Night was hosted by Of­fice Choice War­ragul re­cently was well at­tended by around 40 lo­cal busi­ness peo­ple who heard from a range of speak­ers.

The theme of the evening was ‘Get off your chair, get mov­ing, get healthy’ and kicked off with guests be­ing en­cour­aged to take the stairs in­stead of the lift.

Of­fice Choice War­ragul owner John Mai spoke about how tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances have made our lives more con­ve­nient, re­sult­ing in Aus­tralian adults now sit­ting for an av­er­age of nine hours a day.

With the ev­i­dence mount­ing to show that spend­ing too much time sit­ting at work and also in our leisure time is bad for our health, John re­minded guests of the need to stand up, sit less and move more.

This mes­sage was backed up by Ta­nia McDon­ald of War­ragul Os­teo­pathic Clinic who spoke about the im­por­tance of pos­ture and move­ment.

Ta­nia used some of the er­gonomic of­fice fur­ni­ture on hand to demon­strate healthy pos­ture and how we can now work stand­ing up with a sit/stand desk.

Next to speak was Lisa Gi­b­lin from Ai­den’s Heart Awareness who shared her per­sonal story and in­formed

Golden rule: Peter Wil­liams has a sim­ple phi­los­o­phy “keep your nose clean and be ab­so­lutely hon­est”.

Call­ing the shots: Peter Wil­liams is hap­pi­est when work­ing the bids.

War­ragul Busi­ness Group Pres­i­dent, Teresa Mitchell en­joy­ing the Paella cooked at Of­fice Choice War­ragul by Brandy Creek Win­ery.

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