- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2007

Five years ago, Charles Billig spent 10 minutes walking from class to class. Today, he can sell a $1 million property in that amount of time — or less.

Mr. Billig recently joined A.J. Billig & Co. Auctioneers as a real estate auction associate. The Baltimore business, established nearly a century ago by Mr. Billig’s great-grandfather, holds hundreds of auctions every year across the Mid-Atlantic region.

The 23-year-old auctioneer said his job is all about reading people.

“It’s kind of a psychological exercise,” he said, adding that body language often indicates how a buyer will bid. “People get really excited and into the bidding. It’s an emotional experience for them.”

Whether he is selling a restaurant at $1.7 million or a house for $8,000, Mr. Billig said, it doesn’t matter how fast you talk but how quick you think.

“It’s not so much talking fast as it is being really good on your numbers and clear on your filler words,” he said. “After that it just starts to sound a little bit quicker.”

The most-challenging aspect of his job, Mr. Billig said, is finding sellers. As a real estate auctioneer, his duties include researching property and analyzing its market value before the auction. It helps to know the neighborhoods of the properties he is selling, Mr. Billig said.

“The business has been expanding a lot over the past two or three years,” he said. “Auctions have gotten a lot more popular.”

According to a report by the National Auctioneers Association, the amount of residential real estate sold at auction increased from $11.5 billion in 2003 to $16 billion last year.

Mr. Billig, a Maryland native, quit the restaurant industry after managing several food and bar establishments, including the Full Moon Pub in Reisterstown, Md., and Jay’s Lounge in Hagerstown, Md. Five years later, Mr. Billig said, he is glad he made the switch to real estate.

“It seemed like a better growth opportunity, and I get to work with my family,” he said.

Taking care of business is certainly a family affair for the fourth generation.

“Charles has grown up in the auctioneer world and has seen his entire family dedicate their careers to the family business,” said Dan Billig, a third-generation member of A.J. Billig. “We are delighted he has chosen to pursue his career with us, and we look forward to the new ideas he will bring to us and our clients.”

Mr. Billig earned an undergraduate degree in business management from Elon University in North Carolina in May. He is a licensed Realtor in Maryland and a graduate of the Missouri Auction School in St. Louis.

Mr. Billig lives in Baltimore.

— Rachel Buller

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