Peter, the office boy who became a gun auctioneer
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.