Melbourne auctions: The greatest and quirkiest sales under the hammer

Toddler tycoon

Three-year-old Benjamin outlasted a buyer’s advocate to win a Geelong property in 2015 – a first for auctioneer Graeme Taylor – in one of Victoria’s most memorable auctions. Picture: Glenn Ferguson

Victoria’s greatest auctions have changed the face of the state’s property market, though not always for the better.

From bizarre moments to bidders coming close to blows on the streets of Melbourne, the hammer has come down on some amazing results over the years.

Take a look at some of our most memorable.

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Sold! To the well-dressed toddler

A toddler trumped a buyer’s advocate in a $438,000 bidding battle for a Pakington St, Geelong, shop in 2015.

Benjamin, 3, had been watching his dad try to buy the property and began to mimic his father’s offers.

Then the youngster took over, finishing the auction in four bids and winning the applause of a laughing crowd.

Auctioneer Graeme Taylor recalls a competing buyer’s advocate questioning the validity of the boy’s bids.

“I was checking with the old man on each bid, but the buyer’s advocate was a bit of a bad sport and cracked it at losing the property to a three-year-old,” Mr Taylor said.

Ansett estate doubles its $6.5m reserve

23/05/2006 Real Estate 23-May-2006. .  .  The Mt Eliza estate of Sir Reginald Ansett, bought in 1939 and turned into his personal Shangri-La, is for the first time being sold through James Redfern of Marshall White & Co in conjunction with Philip Crowder of Crowders Real Estate.

Sir Reginald Ansett’s Mt Eliza estate doubled its reserve.

Ansett Australia founder Sir Reginald Ansett’s Mt Eliza estate, Gunyong Valley, complete with a 500m private beach, is among a rare few properties to double its reserve.

The air travel tycoon’s business might have ceased in 2002, but Marshall White’s John Bongiorno said his 11.7ha property still attracted a crowd close to 1000 as it went under the hammer in 2006.

“It had a $6.5m reserve, and we sold it for $14.5m,” Mr Bongiorno said.

“And the auction went forever, it might have been an hour or something.”

When the hammer came down the keys went to retirement village operator and aviation enthusiast Charles ‘Chas” Jacobsen, who has continued to snap up neighbouring holdings sold off by the R.M. Ansett Trust as recently as 2018.

The pub lawn mass auction and the bushfire

Mega auction

A mega auction held in Metung became a fire sale by day’s end.

Fire

Smoke from the fires that closed all roads back to Melbourne after the auctions.

A failed Metung property development sparked an 81-property fire sale including waterfront land, marina berths and back blocks.

Auctioneer John Castran recalled that despite smoke clouds from a nearby bushfire looming, every single property sold as a crowd close to 1500, including 400 registered to bid, packed a marquee set up on the waterfront lawn of the town’s pub.

“It was 40C outside with a hot north wind which was fanning the nearby bushfires that were coming,” Mr Castran said.

“And there were kids on their mum and dad’s shoulders shouting bids. It was a bloody magnificent auction.”

While the conditions left the agents “obligated to hydrate the bidders” and by the end of the day the fires had closed all the roads back to Melbourne, a few of those who had missed out began making offers for properties listed in the town’s real estate agency windows.

The devoted auctioneer who sold a home before rushing to his first child’s birth

Case study: extraordinary auctions

Ray White Forest Hill auctioneer Hugh Francis at the Box Hill house he sold in 2019 before rushing off to the birth of his first child, Layla. Picture: Jason Edwards

Ray White Forest Hill director Hugh Francis didn’t let his first baby bump him off one last auction call.

On a Saturday in July 2019, Mr Francis’s wife, Vanessa, was due to be induced after becoming overdue with their daughter, Layla.

And the auctioneer was due to call an auction in Box Hill North for “a very good friend of mine’s grandmother’s house”.

“I didn’t really want to palm them off,” he said.

“My wife knew (what to expect from) a real estate agent husband – if I was just sitting in the hospital, I would have been thinking about the auction.

“The doctor said, ‘you’re not going to have the baby right now’, so everyone knew there was a window of time to get back to the hospital before she was born.”

Mr Francis took an overnight bag to the auction, just in case he had to rush off, and ended up taking 70 bids from five bidders to knock down the brick house on Woodhouse Grove for $1.09m: $135,000 above reserve.

Then, he drove straight to the hospital, where he and Vanessa welcomed Layla the following morning.

Now Mr Francis’s daughter was almost two, his “odd real estate hours” were coming in handy, he said: “I do swimming lessons with Layla in the middle of the work week, that’s always been my thing.”

The auction almost derailed by a heritage stoush

A verbal tussle over this Glen Iris’s homes heritage status almost derailed the auction.

The heritage status of a mid-century Glen Iris house by late architect Kevin Borland caused a war of words that almost derailed its 2020 auction.

Mr Borland’s daughter, Kate, interrupted Gary Peer auctioneer Phillip Kingston’s call to say she had applied to Heritage Victoria’s protection over the “mint condition” home.

“This house needs to be saved — it’s a modernist piece of architecture that’s significant in this country,” she said, to applause from some members of the crowd.

A spectator fired back, labelling Ms Borland’s statement “a load of rubbish” and sparking a verbal tussle Mr Kingston halted by placing a vendor bid.

Crossman House passed in at $2.225m and sold afterwards for $2.38m. CoreLogic records show the new owner listed it for rent for $1000 a week last September.

The auction that caused an auctioneer to “faint”

The more than hour-long bidding battle for this Caulfield house caused auctioneer Fabian Sanelli to faint afterwards.

Auction: 19 Meagher Rd, Ferntree Gully

Fabian Sanelli was “heavily dehydrated” and “drained” after the marathon call.

An hour-and-10-minute-long bidding battle for a dated Caulfield home in 2019 was too much for EYS auctioneer Fabian Sanelli.

Mr Sanelli said he was “heavily dehydrated” and “drained” after the marathon call involving 88 bids from five parties, which resulted in a $2.208m sale $228,000 above the top of the quoted range.

“After the auction, I actually fainted in the car,” he said. “It was the longest auction I’ve ever called.”

Bizarrely, just three of the 88 bids came within the auction’s first half-hour.

“I felt like a bit of a buffoon, (but) all of a sudden … it just went ballistic,” Mr Sanelli said.

Auctions so hot the fire brigade came

75 Taparoo Rd, Templestowe

This Templestowe home sold after the fire brigade interrupted its auction.

The first sale at a 2017 Ray White multi-auction event in the Manningham Civic centre went so well independent auctioneer Brenton Ilicic quipped: “the market is piping hot … somebody call the fire brigade”.

He must have had a premonition, because 11 auctions later negotiations for a home sale had to be paused as firefighters arrived at the building.

After initially passing in, the four-bedroom house at 75 Taparoo Rd, Templestowe, scored a $1.75m deal under the flashing blue and red lights of a fire truck parked in front of the Civic Centre.

“I hopped in bed that night and was reflecting back on that perfect one liner,” Mr Ilicic said.

The near punch on

165-183 Bannons Lane, Yarrambat - for herald sun real estate

A punch on almost occurred at the auction for this Yarrambat property.

Last weekend, when a pair of bidders for a sprawling Yarrambat property realised they knew each other, their tactics changed.

“They had words with each other and were sledging each other,” Buckingham & Company’s Stuart Buckingham said.

“They were yelling at each other and telling each other to stop bidding.

“We had five bidders, but the two guys went chest to chest — they nearly had a punch on.”

One of the pair claimed the keys for the 165-183 Bannons Lane property, and the other left empty-handed and angry.

The buyer who teed off at the auctioneer and underbidder, and won

An angry bidder won a Glen Waverley auction after teeing off at the auctioneer, agents and underbidder.

Buying at auction can be an emotional exercise – and for the highest bidder at a Glen Waverley auction last year, that emotion was anger.

Video footage of the $975,500 sale shows the eventual buyer shouting at the underbidder “in or out?”, as Win Real Estate agents attempted to tease a further bid out of her.

“They have to decide,” he continued, prompting EYS auctioneer Fabian Sanelli to respond: “You’re being very aggressive, they need time.”

The underbidder ultimately decided not to participate further, leaving Mr Sanelli to knock down the sale and shake hands with the angry buyer.

Win Mulgrave director Audwin Wibrata believed the aggression intimidated the shy underbidder.

The auctioneer who took a dive to save an auction from bombing

Brighton auctioneer Nick Johnstone agreed to jump in the pool to get bidding started at the auction of 55 Durrant St, Brighton (1)

Auctioneer Nick Johnstone agreed to jump in the pool to get bidding started at a 2019 Brighton auction.

Brighton auctioneer Nick Johnstone agreed to jump in the pool to get bidding started at the auction of 55 Durrant St, Brighton (1)

And the tactic worked.

Nick Johnstone Real Estate boss Nick Johnstone is no stranger to an auction swim.

He dived into Port Phillip Bay after selling two Brighton beach boxes in 2018 – one for a $337,000 then-record price – dressed in board shorts, a suit jacket, shirt and tie.

But he stepped up the behaviour at a Brighton auction during the 2019 downturn, offering to exchange a swim in the backyard pool for a bid.

“It looked like we weren’t going to get a bid,” Mr Johnstone said.

Soon after he took the plunge (in suit pants, a shirt and socks, this time), a couple made a $1.75m bid and the property sold shortly after auction for $1.815m.

-with Samantha Landy

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nathan.mawby@news.com.au

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