FROM a small country town where “everyone knew everyone”, real estate agent Kevin ‘Buddy’ Gleeson has witnessed firsthand Camperdown’s transformation into a cosmopolitan mix of incoming professionals and retirees.
Joining James H. Monk Real Estate (now operating as Ray White Real Estate) in 1987, Mr Gleeson officially retired this month and took a nostalgic look at how the town had developed and grown over his 32 years in the profession.
“Average three-bedroom houses were selling for between $25,000 and $28,000 when I started – it’s nothing to get $300,000 for them now,” he said.
“Farms were a lot smaller too – about 160 to 180 acres – and had the basic setup of 12 a side swing-over herringbone dairies.
“Getting loans was also easier – we’d send someone down to the State Bank and the manager would ring back about 20 minutes later to say the loan had been approved.”
Mr Gleeson said not long after he started, farmers began buying out their neighbours’ properties as they retired and the farms grew bigger and bigger.
“Banks were encouraging farmers to buy up because the government had set a guaranteed wool price, which offered great long-term security,” he said.
“But as happens, the wool price dropped and times were suddenly pretty tough.
“The only thing that saved a lot of those farmers was that there was also a drop in interest rates.”
The early 90s saw tough times for the real estate business with a widespread economic downturn under way, but the 2000s and beyond picked up and saw Camperdown flourish.
“Suddenly Camperdown was on the radar for retirees – people from the city or coastal areas that were fed up with the congestion and hustle and bustle,” Mr Gleeson said.
“It is staggering how many people came into our office and said they’d been driving through Camperdown for years and always thought they would retire here.
“I can remember one January where I sold 13 investment properties to people from Melbourne, all initially looking to retire on the coast but finding it too expensive.
“It hasn’t stopped since – from then on Camperdown has just grown and grown.”
Mr Gleeson said the rezoning and opening up of land parcels in the Park Lane area saw a huge expansion to the town’s boundaries.
Developer Art Wigell’s Lake View Estate housing development followed, with developer Geoff Daffy’s Kilmaley Street subdivision finalised soon after.
“We auctioned all the Park Lane development which sold really well, with the investors then subdividing the parcels into smaller lots,” he said.
“You look up that hill now and there are so many houses – it’s a whole new part of Camperdown.
“There are also only a few lots left in the other two developments, which just shows you how much and how quickly Camperdown has grown.
“We’re at the point where another estate needs to open up and the Corangamite Shire Council is looking into that at the moment.”
First employed with James ‘Jimmy’ Monk, Mr Gleeson took over the business with fellow agent and business partner Daryl O’Donohue in 1999.
Mr O’Donohue’s retirement in 2005 saw Mr Gleeson then take on the business as a sole entity – a situation which remained in place until he on-sold the business to current owner Davina Pickles, though he remained on staff.
“It’s been a great career, one that I’ve really enjoyed,” he said.
“I got as much enjoyment out of selling houses to the little battlers as I did from the big $800,000-$900,000 sales, and it was great seeing the excitement that comes with the first home buyers.
“In some cases, because I used to sell cars earlier on in my working life, I’ve dealt with some families for three and even four generations and that’s pretty rewarding in itself.”
Mr Gleeson said real estate was a seven-day-a-week job with regular phone calls into the evening and thanked his family for their support and understanding throughout his journey.
“I’m looking forward to a lot of relaxation now, pottering around at home and taking off with (my wife) Vicki on some fun caravanning adventures,” he said.
“I will always have an interest in the local property market though and will be happy to consult for any interested vendors and buyers.”