Tales from an auction virgin

Blog photo for Emma Salkild's post "tales from an auction virgin"

Last night I attended my first auction.  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but maybe something more glamorous and fast paced.

My husband and I had no intention to bid, we just wanted to see how it works, and learn some of the real estate lingo. The two most important terms I learnt were:

  • 1) reserve price – the lowest price the owner wishes to sell for
  • 2) passed in – when a property is not sold because it hasn’t reached the reserve price

The auctioneer’s double chin would wag when he got particularly excited. Or at least I assumed he was excited because he played it calm, cool and collected. I had to groan when he said, ‘if I sell this to you now I’m going to have to call the police because it’s a steal.’ The Real Estate agents also use the term ‘steal’ a lot, as though all buyers are thieves looking for their next loot.

Throughout the auction I kept wondering, what if this is a scam? What’s stopping agents planting fake buyers in the crowd to up the ante? There was a woman sitting in the corner holding up red and green cards to the auctioneer whilst staring at a computer. Her job was to read out the online bids. She looked respectable with her hair pulled back in a bun and her glasses perched on the end of her nose, but what if she was scamming it? I wanted to tell her, “I’m on to you missy”, but how do I know for sure? That’s the thing, I don’t.

The rhythm of the auction is not what I expected either. It would have these lulls where no one said a word and all you could hear was the auctioneer’s endless chatter, and just when it seemed the property will be passed in someone would come in with a bid. It felt like a poker game where players take their time, call your bluff, and try to read what’s going on while agents keep pestering you by whispering in your ear, “get it now, it’s a steal. You won’t find a place like this again.” The anticipation is building and building and everyone in the room is a player. There’s the seller, the auctioneer, the agents and the various buyers all with hidden agendas. Even though I wasn’t there to bid, the tension got to the point where I was about to yell out, “five hundred f***ing thousand” a la Samantha in Sex and The City.

The best advice I’ve been given is before you plan to bid, go to auctions and practise, practise, practise. That’s all well and good but after last night’s auction, I think practise could lead me to a two-bedroom flat I can’t afford in Newtown.

Here’s a great video on how not to bid. Sometimes to get a good price, you need to let a place get passed in (or get withdrawn). Also, keep an eye out for fictional rival bidders. So, they are scammers.

If you want to come up with more colourful ways to bid, why not draw some inspiration from Peter Sellars and Ringo Starr?

For more real estate lingo head to Flourish Magazine or Domain.

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