To become a market-leading real estate agent in Goulburn in his day, Dick Greenlees reckons a five minute start on your rivals was crucial.
Today’s real estate market is much changed from the 1970s to early 1990s when Dick snatched that head start and hit his straps. Exclusive agreements between an agent and vendor were rare. Home sellers used multiple agents who moved swiftly chasing only a handful of buyers.
Mobile phones, the internet and emails were decades away – and the race for a sale began the moment Dick’s office phone rang, with a potential seller on the other end of the line wanting to list their home.
“When they called I would say, ‘Give me half-an-hour and I will be there’, and leave straight away to arrive first,” Dick said. “All I needed was a five minute edge to ring a few buyers.”
Listing in hand, he would quickly jump on the phone to a buyer he knew would be on every other agent’s books. Those rival agents included Sam Bryant, Bede Gordon and Bill Thwaite, and a particularly tough one to get ahead of, Doreen White.
“Margaret Falk was my first secretary. If a buyer came into the office and I was out, she would make them a cup of tea and chitchat and they never got out until I came back,” he said.
Over 29 years, Dick watched the Goulburn market change from a steady, predictable one that slowed under the weight of 17.5 per cent interest rates. He saw the arrival of Sydney buyers, creating a dynamic sales environment.
“If people had money you would send them to Hurst Street (to buy a home),” Dick said. “These days a lot of the people who buy Federation homes do them up and they’re fantastic.”
Dick’s success was partially propelled by people coming to Goulburn to work at Woodlawn Mine at Tarago, and the arrival of the NSW Police Academy in 1984. Managers at the mine and academy relied on him to find a home for new staff.
At one stage Dick grew bored with real estate and applied for a job at the mine. Unsuccessful, he asked the mine’s manager later why he had been overlooked for the job. “Because we want you to stay right where you are,” the manager said.
Until that disappointment, Dick had walked into new jobs effortlessly, including the one at Elders Real Estate that launched his career in 1975.
Before that, he completed a five-year fitters and turners apprenticeship with the railway, then worked as a toolmaker. He also worked for textile manufacturer Supertex Industries progressing to leading hand. He then became the leading hand fitter and turner at Southern Tablelands Country Council and manager at Adam Lighting and Electrical. He was there for four years before applying for the Elders Real Estate role.
“I needed a change and a challenge,” Dick said. “Tony Dowe (Elders manager) said I had the job before I walked through the door.”
Tony taught him the ropes, became a mentor and was a brilliant auctioneer.
After leaving jobs as a tradesman who taught other tradesmen, Dick remembers the property sales role was foreign for a while but he relished the contact with his clients and people like valuer Doug Broadhead.
Despite the rivalry between agents, they worked in partnership for conjunction sales. One agent would have the listing, the other would have the buyer.
“If they agreed, this created a great working relationship,” Dick said.
In time he widened his role to include rural properties and attributes his success there to having grown up on the Gibson’s property ‘Tirranna’ on the Braidwood Road where his parents worked.
His significant residential and rural sales included ‘Kangaroobie’ on the Crookwell Road, ‘The Village of Life Retirement’ complex in Joshua Street and ‘The Towers’ on Braidwood Road, an imposing mansion with 10 bedrooms and marble fireplaces.
“By gee the people of Goulburn have been good to me,” Dick said. “If you did the right thing by them, they’d tell their neighbours and the next minute you would get another listing.”