Backstories: The Art of the Auction

November 20, 2023
/ Sophie Bruhn

While we hold auctions across every week of the year, our Auction Weekends are the biggest event on our selling calendar, held seasonally to maximise excitement and campaigns. For our final Auction Weekend of 2023, we hit the road to capture the energy and excitement of Auction day.

Auction one. It’s a dreary, overcast Saturday morning, but that does nothing to dampen the buzz and nervous excitement in the air for the first auction of the morning. Registered bidders, spectators and neighbours gather in scattered formations across the verge, clutching morning coffees and property brochures, eager to see how it unfolds.

An opening bid arrives fast and clear. A second bidder enters just as quickly, before the first matches it with speed. And repeat. For a moment it looks like this might be a two-bidder race, but a third enters. And then a fourth, fifth, and sixth. Bids fly and duels break out before it narrows down to the final two, hyper-charged by the fact they are standing next to each other, bids slowly and steadily petering out.

It looks like it’s done, a battle well fought. There’s a first, second and final call – and then a seventh party swoops in. The bidder who almost has it seconds ago tries to move the needle by micro-increments, each attempt thwarted by bolder amounts. They’re outmatched.

The three calls sound again, this time it sticks. As soon as the hammer falls, screams of excitement break out and tears flow, a family thrilled to have a new home, catharsis and joy palpable.

It’s an epic, emotional roller coaster across a mere total of 13 minutes.

And that’s the first auction of the day, one of many held across Harris, and across South Australia, on any given day. While auctions are held every week, today is notable as our final Auction Weekend of the year. Over the last 5 years, we’ve held these event weekends seasonally, a carefully calibrated weekend designed to maximise excitement and campaigns and put properties in front of motivated buyers.

While it’s a become an urban myth that auctions are the prevalent method of sale, we have seen a shift and an uptake in clients choosing them for their campaigns, now sitting at around 17.6% nation wide. It’s a reflection of a market that has changed greatly post-pandemic, where consumers seek certainty more than ever. Across 2023 to date, we’ve held 473 auctions.

For vendors and agents, it’s about control. When selling a home, an auction allows the specificity of settlement dates and sales conditions. The unconditional contract of an auction also delivers complete certainty and alleviates the potential angst of cooling off-periods. The competitive, real-time environment can also yield exceptional results for vendors.

For agents, it offers greater control over a campaign, ensuring structured timelines and a clear scaffold. For an agent to recommend an auction campaign, the property needs to have demand in the marketplace, with no hesitation from prospective purchasers.

For purchasers, auctions provide transparency. The methodology showcases clear competition and an obvious result. They’re a favourite of neighbours and the community too, delivering a non-committal, energised forum for live feedback on the local market.

Auction two. Dreary skies persist. Different property, different locale, but there’s still a crowd, gathering in close proximity, regardless of any rivalries about to become apparent. Dogs included.

There’s less bidders and more hesitation. The pace is different this time.

Once the auction is declared open, it’s met with silence. There’s a notable hesitation before a first bidder signals, auctioneer noting it’s a gentle start. There’s another moment of reluctance before a second bidder enters, immediately outbid by the first. It’s clear that this time, it is actually going to be a two-party race.

The auctioneer coaches each, and it’s a slow burn, the skill of the auctioneer stopping it from ever becoming a slog and keeping the bids ticking along and the energy high.

Right as a third call is sounded and it looks like a done deal, the auctioneer calls a hold, an intermission in a suburban theatre. Nervous conversation breaks out, both parties consulted by the agents. The property hasn’t met reserve, and a new process begins.

When this happens, negotiation is everything. Hushed, professional tones clarify offers and counteroffers exchanged between the highest bidders and the vendor, auctioneer skyrocketing their step count dashing between each.

An agreement is reached, the fanfare resumes. The highest bidder is asked to confirm the amount publicly, three calls, the hammer falls. Done, sold, congratulations. The successful bidders are called inside their new home, the crowd disperses in a flash.

It’s an auction that brings into full focus the mastery required to get to a result.

A great auctioneer is ready for each and every variable, controlling the play with a firm but flexible hand. While the common perception can be that they’re there to just count numbers, in reality, they are campaign managers, working with vendors well in advance of an auction being declared open. They inform their clients with total transparency what the process will look like, alleviating the stress that makes people avoid auctions, providing certainty as to what’s happening on the day.

And in this case, they’re also masters of negotiation, coaching all parties to an outcome with nuanced persuasion and zero aggression.

It’s also well and truly a team effort. A scribe is on hand as a legal requirement to document the process, but at several points they’re a valuable resource to help bidders get optics on the numerals of a bid, intuitively assisting during moments of confusion. They’re another set of eyes to spot bidders, and at several points, they’re also a vital springboard or punchline for impromptu comedic moments to keep the crowd engaged.

Auction three. The skies have, thankfully, cleared, sun starting to peak through.

This time, it’s not just a hesitation – there’s no opening bids. The auctioneer and agents stay the course, cool and collected, tactfully deploying humour to keep the crowd engaged, but the silence persists.

When it becomes clear the stalemate isn’t going to break itself, the auctioneer declares that if the opening bidder makes a bid at a specified amount, even though it’s well below reserve, it will give them the first right to buy at exclusion of all other parties. It’s a different tactic, and an enticing offer, especially considering the high number of registered bidders thus far keeping their lips sealed.

The hesitation lingers but an opening bid appears. Fortune favours the brave.

It’s quickly volleyed by a second and a third bidder, and we’re away, the awkward stalemate already a distant memory when a fourth and fifth jump in. The tempo quickens, then steadies, a few tricky bids are thrown around, and then the pace tapers off entirely.

The first bidder re-enters strong, and wins. It’s an oft-repeated legend, but the truth is, they often do.

It comes down to a number of reasons. The bidder who jumps in first often doesn’t hesitate as they have a plan. Bidders who go in with the mindset of sitting back to see what happens risk never getting involved and watching the auction passes them buy. To be successful at auction, it’s important to have a strategy and know your limit to enable confidence in how you bid.

Auction 4. It’s a different end of the day, the coffee cups replaced by umbrellas, but the atmosphere still hums.

The energy is different again. There are phone bidders, and a live stream beaming the proceedings out to anyone who wants to join the crowd from home.

We’re off, a handful of bidders becoming apparent. Each bid goes to third call before the next, and a slow, steady pace is established, every party keeping things close to their chest. The sun comes back out just in time for the final call. Done, sold, Saturday done.

Spring auction weekend completed, we’re now looking ahead to summer, with our next Auction Weekend booked for the last week of January.

There’s a number of strategic reasons we’ve picked those dates. If you’ve ever heard that ‘February is the new spring’, you’ll know this is the first surge of the year, so a January listing beats the rush and ensures a property is on the market with less competition. The more focused attention from buyers, the better the result.

It also targets buyers who missed out or put off buying their dream home prior to Christmas, a statically-backed strategy – Boxing Day is one of the busiest days of the year for web traffic to listings, and we’re busy building an exclusive 2024 launches campaign to take full advantage of this.

We also have additional bonuses for vendors registering as part of our Summer 2024 Auction Week – contact your agent for more information.

Find out more information about our next Auction Weekend, meet our auctioneers, or contact an agent to discuss how an auction might work for your property.

Sophie Bruhn
Sophie Bruhn
20/11/2023 | 10 MINS READING

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