Over the last 18 months, auctioneers across the state have been selling homes virtually. For some, adapting to the online platform has been difficult, while others have enjoyed the challenge.
I spoke to one of Melbourne’s most experienced auctioneers and the director of sales at Philip Webb, Sam Babalis on making the transition.
How did your journey in real estate start?
In the late 90s I started working at Philip Webb Real Estate as a sales cadet. Essentially, I was a young, new starter who emptied the bins, ran errands for the senior guys, made deliveries and tagged along on auction day to pick up the flags and put out the boards. It was a little bit like the movie, Karate Kid. By running those errands, I subconsciously learned the names of all the side and back streets. By listening to the senior guys and watching what they did, I learnt invaluable skills that would become critical to my success later on.
How did you make the move from sales cadet to auctioneer?
As a cadet in 1999, Phil wanted me to enter the Real Estate Industry of Victoria’s novice auctioneer competition. This competition is held every year, throwing inexperienced auctioneers into the deep end. Participants call a mock auction and are thrown curly questions to see if anyone misses bids. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I was the right type of person to be an auctioneer, but I entered anyway. After making it through the first and second heats, I ended up winning and was awarded best young auctioneer in Victoria.
Do you remember your first real auction?
The day after I received the award, Phil called me into his office and said he’d like me to do a real auction on the Saturday. I didn’t sleep one minute the Friday but ripped out a great auction the next day. In hindsight, it was a lot easier than the competition because no one asks you questions or is trying to test you. From there, I was doing six to seven auctions every Saturday.
How have you found the transition to online auctions?
For me, after being in the industry for 30 years, it was exciting to reinvent the craft. The dialogue and the quirky one-liners we use to appeal to an in-person crowd, didn’t work anymore. For a lot of top auctioneers in Melbourne, this was a struggle. But my team and I looked at it as an exciting challenge and we got the hang of it pretty quickly. Our team has had such great success using the online platform, all our auctions moving forward will be conducted online and on site, once COVID restrictions are lifted.
What is your advice for a young novice auctioneer just starting out?
Shadow past auctioneer winners and auctioneers you admire. Watch them religiously online or on site, then, work out who you are and develop your own persona. Don’t try to be me, don’t try to be last year’s competition winner. The more genuine you are, the better you will be received.