A story about a fictional European marathon runner combined with a "fearless" approach has helped secure New Zealander Mark Sumich a record third Australasian Real Estate Institutes' Auctioneering Championship last night.
Mr Sumich, of Sumich Real Estate Agents & Auctioneers in Auckland, edged out fellow New Zealander and runner-up, Andrew North, of Cooper & Co Real Estate, Harcourts New Zealand, to take the trophy at a ceremony held in Melbourne.
The Kiwis topped three Australian-based finalists, namely Charlie Powell, from Cooley Auctions in NSW; Michael Fenn, from LJ Hooker Greenwith, South Australia; and Adrian Butera, from Compton & Green in Victoria, and another 11 auctioneers who were eliminated from the competition in the event's heats, held on Tuesday.
A crowd of around 250 watched yesterday's final, the culmination of an annual event that brings together the winner and runner-up of each of the Australian state and territory real estate institutes (REIs) along with the winner and runner-up of the REINZ auctioneering competition.
This year's event, which was run by the REIV, centred on pre-selected bidders 'buying' a property located in the prestigous inner Melbourne suburb of Armadale. The actual property had been sold only weeks earlier.
The five contestants were given around an hour at the property earlier in the day to help them plan for the event, although nothing could have prepared them for some of the scenarios that they faced. This included a police raid, with flashing red and blue strobe lights included, which prompted one 'bidder' to flee the scene only moments after making a bid (only to return moments after the police had departed the scene).
The auctioneers were also confronted with a number of probing questions, including one query that questioned the validity of the land's title.
The audience was treated to a variety of styles, with most auctioneers employing a blend of humour, expressive body language and clear, crisp voices to manage proceedings. Bids were pitched at the auctioneers in a rapid manner, and bid increments were purposely mixed - from lows of $500 up to $50,000 - to test each person's ability to keep track of the highest (total) bid price.
Neil Laws, chairperson of the steering committee, congratulated Mr Sumich for the professional and entertaining auction he conducted.
“After viewing 21 auctions over the past two days, the judges determined that, of the 16 contestants, Mark Sumich displayed the best combination of skill and technical knowledge.
“The devised bidding process tested the auctioneers’ skill, attention and ability to think on their feet. To be successful, they had to deal with – not unlike many auctions each weekend – a wide range of testing questions and unpredictable bids."
Mr Sumich began his auction spiel citing a (fictional) story about a European marathon runner who, despite leading the 1956 Melbourne Olympic's event, was so taken with the suburb he was running through - the same suburb where the fictional auction was being held - that he gave up his lead to stay in the area. Permanently.
"I'm a very structured auctioneer, and although I used quite a bit of flair today, I stuck to my knitting and did what I knew I could do," Mr Sumich told Real Estate Business shortly after winning the trophy. "And my bidding was faultless today, so that's a big help."
"To win an Australasian title you basically have to be error-free on the numbers. When I got that, I thought I did OK.
"I'm fearless as an auctioneer, and I'm not afraid to take some risks. If I think it's a worthwhile risk during an auction, I'll take it. By that I mean I'll have a bit of a lick at one of the buyers, I'll be a bit dismissive of them on occasions if I think they're flippantly hassling me or unnecessarily delaying me.
"That's a major attribute for an auctioneer in a final.
"You've [also] got to get the crowd on your side in an auctioneering final. You need the crowd laughing with you, because the judges run on that. The judges are inspired by someone who can motivate a big crowd."
And what was the motivation for using a fictional marathon runner? "Well, to be frank, the boys challenged me to it. They said, here's a name, you've got to put him into your spiel, and it's worth $200 if you can put him in."
"It was over the top for some people, but I didn't care. I was so satisfied when I got it out, and it melded, and the numbers started and I was away."
It was the ability of the finalists to quickly and constantly tabulate the highest bid price that impressed attendee Ned Delibasic, property consultant and auctioneer at Harcourts Dandenong. "The ability to take bids and focus on the numbering going up in sequence, I thought it was fantastic."
He said it's particularly hard when the prices get above the $1 million mark, especially when there are small incremental rises of $500 or $2,500.
"The ability of the auctioneers to actually think on their feet, the bids were coming fast and furious, it was amazing just the way they took it in," said another attendee, Joe Grgic, director and auctioneer at Harcourts North Geelong.
Mr Grgic said while he had been conducting auctions for eight years, he was lucky to conduct more than one auction per month.
He said this was low when compared to some of the finalists who might do 12 auctions in a weekend. "It's hard to compare with that sort of [experience], so I'm just here to learn."
"Although they only get a short time to prepare for this auction, the gentlemen that were all up here today have prepared that thoroughly for any situation. Whether it's their old jokes, or thinking on their feet...that's clever."
"Anything can happen on the day, and most were prepared for it. And if they weren't, they didn't show it, they acted cool and calm and were able to handle it."
Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) acting president Pamela Bennett told Real Estate Business that this year's event was of the highest standard.
"It always gives a lot of scope for people who are wordsmiths," she said.
"Also, you almost have to be a mathetician at the same time, you need to be creative, you need a bit of theatre with it, and you need to be able to stimulate and create excitement.
"I think we've seen that on display here today."
She said the competition was meant to be extremely tough, with numerous out of the ordinary things occuring with a view to seeing how they respond.
"It's not a run of the mill type [auction]. It's at the extreme of their skills to be able to meet the conditions of the competition. The competition is about strechting them."
Ian Farquhar, national manager real estate banking at event sponsor nab, said the final was a "fantastic experience".
"The auctioneers did very well," he told Real Estate Business. "It must be very difficult in front of all your colleagues and peers to actually perform in a more sterile environment. It was very impressive, and there was a very good standard of auctioneers."
"NAB has a heavy interest in real estate in Australia, so we've given it a lot of focus over the last 12-18 months in particular, so we're investing within the bank to support the industry, and this is a good way to show our support as well and aligning oursleves with the REIA and REIV."