ONE of the city’s best-known and most colourful business identities is hanging up his gavel.
Charlie Rovere – a Griffith auctioneer, real estate agent and raconteur – will close the doors of his Ulong Street business at the end of this month, bringing to an end a fascinating and at-times controversial career.
He’s sold more houses and done more handshake deals than he can remember – he even did a stint in jail – and has a unique insight into where the local housing market is headed.
“This is the first period in my history here where properties have actually declined in value,” Mr Rovere, 59, said.
“There’s a lot of factors affecting markets at all times, but I think a big part of it is the change in mentality of buyers,
“When I was young, the dream was to buy a house, have a nice car, have a career and get married. Now, most young people don’t want to commit to long-term goals.
“It’s so obvious when you interview them and you mention a 25 or 30-year loan – they go into shock mode.
“Credit is so available now and they’re more interested in using that for luxury items.”
Consequently, he said, first homes had dried up in the city and rentals had boomed.
“But this market is resilient, that’s our great strength,” he said.
Famously gadget averse – “I’ve just learned to send text messages and don’t own anything starting with an i” – Mr Rovere said technology had changed the industry.
“Only this morning I sold a block of land to someone who hadn’t even seen it – technology has changed everything,” he said
A 12-month secondment to the city as manager for the Australian Estates Company (AEC) in 1979 grew into a full-blown love affair with Griffith for Mr Rovere.
“I just fell in love with the place,” he said.
“The community of Griffith has been so supportive over the years, that’s what makes us stronger than other regional centres. We’re so diverse, yet so supportive of one another.
“I really believe this is the best to live in inland NSW and once we get a private hospital and university, it will be the best place in inland Australia.”
When the AEC was bought out by Elders in 1987, Mr Rovere did a career 180, becoming a part-owner and manager of the infamous Irrigana (now the Gemini) Hotel.
But it was the company he kept – he still owns Bob Trimbole’s old XA Falcon and counts Pat Barbaro as a close friend – rather than the company he worked for that saw Mr Rovere make the headlines for the wrong reasons in 1989.
Hit with a string of serious marijuana cultivation charges, the father of five spent the next 10 years in and out of court and prison as he fought to clear his name. Ultimately, all charges were dropped and all convictions quashed.
Despite the dark period in his life, Mr Rovere refused to let the whispers and innuendo beat him, opening Rovere Real Estate in 2001.
“It was a bit hard at times to live in the community – the case was so public,” he said.
“To open a new business was also a huge step, but I got immediate support and I’ll never forget those people.”
His impending semi-retirement holds no trepidation for him, with family, a fitness regime, a new-found love of kayaking and a gig teaching young real estate aspirants at Griffith TAFE more than enough to fill his time.
He will also continue to sell property part-time, working “a couple of days a week” from the Ray White, Griffith office.