No buyers at your auction?

Q: Our home goes to auction in another week. We’ve had lots of people through the open homes but our agent is saying that he doesn’t think he has anyone interested. How can this happen – if so many people see the advertising and come to the open home shouldn’t there be at least one buyer? Jodie R.


A: Excellent question Jodie! This is not that unusual –, especially in the current market. In past years we would expect one bidder for every 15 people through an open home, but those days seem to have gone, now we are sometimes getting lower numbers through open homes and not as many buyers on auction day.

There are a number of reasons for this. Sometimes, despite the marketing, we get the wrong buyers coming to view. We are often amazed when we talk to buyers and they say “oh no, that one’s not for me, we need four bedrooms, not three” when the property is clearly marketed as a 3-bedroom home. Or they say they can’t deal with stairs when the property is headlined as a “Two-story Town House in Double Grammar Zone”. So don’t be too worried, if your agent has done a good job you should have at least one buyer there, and if you have a good auctioneer all he needs is one buyer!

Of course remember that every home is different, and your home is not going to suit everyone. Some people can’t see past the color of the walls despite that being a simple fix. This is where you rely on your agent to encourage buyers and handle their objections.

We find that we get lots of neighbours through open homes. While they may not be the buyer, they could well know someone who is.

Finally, not everyone who comes through an open home is able to buy unconditionally at auction. Some of these potential buyers will have started to look for their new home while their property is still on the market, and others may be looking before they go on the market. In either case, they may not be able to manage bridging finance and are just looking to see if it sells at auction. If not then they will be able to make a conditional offer.

At the end of the day it’s really about numbers: The more people you get through your open homes the more likely it is to sell under the hammer. The main thing is, get a good agent and the whole process should not be a problem.

Are auctions still working?

Q: Are auctions still working?

A: With the ‘softening’ of the market we are often asked if auctions are still working. Or actually, people are often saying to us “auctions aren’t working now so we want to sell by negotiation, or with a price.”

This is absolutely not true. In our current market, an auction is still THE BEST WAY to sell your property.

There are several reasons for this, but let’s start with the facts: In Ray White NZ 82% of properties taken to auction sell, while only 34% of properties sold by private treaty (priced, by negotiation, tender etc.). In other words, you have twice the chance of selling when you go to auction as you do if you sell any other way.

Why is this? When a property is listed with a price or by negotiation, and a potential buyer sees it and quite likes it, there is no reason for them to take any action. With the slower market right now they know there is unlikely to be a queue of people lining up to make an offer. So they say to the agent “let me know if anyone is going to make an offer” and off they go to the next open home.

An auction, on the other hand, forces all interested parties to take action because there is a deadline.

At the end of the day, an auction still provides the vendor with all the benefits: you stay in control, there is a strong call to action/deadline, all bids are unconditional and the sale is final on the drop of the hammer and payment of the deposit.

If buyers are conditional (e.g. have to sell their home before buying) they will be at the auction hoping it won’t sell and ready to put in a conditional offer if the property doesn’t sell under the hammer.

Interestingly when the market turns from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market there are plenty of agents who just find auctions too much work, and too scary. After all, if it doesn’t sell under the hammer the agent is the one who gets the blame. It’s so much easier to hide behind a By Negotiation sale, hold endless open homes and blame the lack of activity on ‘the market’.

So, there you have it: Auctions are still working and working better than any other method of sale, regardless of the market.

Can you trust online valuations?

Q: We are looking at buying, but find it really hard to get a price indication on auction or ‘by neg’ properties. How accurate is it to use the CV of an online estimate of the sale price? 

Julie and Bruce

A: Didn’t your mother ever tell you “Don’t believe everything you read online”! There are some real problems with online valuations. No-one has actually looked at the property. Basically, the estimate is the result of a computer algorithm and doesn’t take into account interior condition, renovations, aspect, charm or just the general feel of the home. The Auckland property market moves rapidly, and online estimates are based on historic data of settled sales – sales that settled in the past month may have actually sold at auction several months earlier so the sale price is way out of date.

Remember too that there is more than one price for a home: It will be a different value for a buyer who wants to make it their home versus an investor. It may be worth more to you if it’s close to family, or in a school zone that you particularly want. These are the kind of factors that can lead to one buyer paying much more than another.

We have written before that we bought our apartment for just under $1m. Would we care if we had paid just over a million? Not at all. It just doesn’t matter in the scheme of things as long as you get the home you want and you are going to live in for the medium to long-term.

We see online valuations that are both too low and too high. Don’t let an online valuation pressure you into paying more than you think it’s worth to you. It is your opinion of value that counts, not computers!

When you find a home that you really think will work for you, our very strong recommendation is to do your own in-depth research on sales in the area. Take the time to visit other open homes nearby and ask the agents what they think. By all means look up the values online, after all, the more information you have the better, but don’t let a computer-generated valuation stop you from trusting your instinct and getting the home of your dreams.


Q: I am curious about auctions. Is it best to have them in rooms or on-site? And what exactly is a “vendor bid”? Danny S.

A: What a great, topical question – especially with all the talk in the media about how auction clearance rates have dropped in the past few weeks. Auctions are a very popular method of sale in Auckland and it surprises me how some agents fail to explain the process to their clients when it is so important to the sale. We almost always hold our auctions on-site. This helps in several ways: Firstly, it is all about your property – it’s not lost amongst another 20 or 30 properties. It also means that we can take as long as we need to take bids and negotiate. Did you know that can take over 40 minutes to add $100,000 to the price in bidding increments of $1,000? You don’t get that opportunity in an in-room auction where there can be a time-limit of less than 10 minutes per property. (It always amazes me that people are willing to spend just 10 minutes auctioning a property after spending so much time and money on open homes and marketing.) The extra time available with on-site auctions also gives us the opportunity to re-inforce potential buyer’s emotional attachment to the property. We open the property 30 minutes prior to the auction and have plenty of time to introduce the auctioneer and allow them to re-engage with the property as they walk around “their new home”.

A Vendor Bid is essentially a bid made by the auctioneer on behalf of the seller. It must always be announced as a Vendor Bid by the auctioneer and must always be under the reserve price. We firmly believe that vendors should be allowed to take advantage of their right to have the auctioneer to “vendor bid’ on their behalf. What it means is that the auctioneer can get auctions going and build some momentum when there is maybe just one buyer for the property. We have found that in recent times, with fewer buyers at auctions, a vendor bid is invaluable in getting the auction moving. This is borne out in our auction clearance rates: Our office clearance rates for auctions for the past 3 months is well over 85% (most, but not all, under the hammer). In terms of our own (The Stones) last 4 weeks of auctions – 5 properties – all sold under the hammer with the exception of one selling 24 hours later. All auctions are not created equal!

Q: I have been to several auctions over the past few weeks. At some auctions the auctioneer announced that he may make a bid on behalf of the vendor, while at others they didn’t mention it. What’s the story here? Don B.

A: Thanks Don. The story is that under NZ law a vendor has the right to have the auctioneer bid on their behalf at the auction – provided it is clearly announced as a ‘vendor bid’ and it is BELOW the reserve price. Our auctioneer often uses the vendor bid to get things started. Us Kiwi’s can be a little shy when it comes to auctions and the auctioneer’s request for an opening bid is often met with complete silence. The auctioneer then has the ability to place a bid on behalf of the vendor and this very often gets things underway. It’s not as useful when the market’s ‘hot’ but if not then it can be the difference between getting the property sold or having it passed in. We use the vendor bid often, to great effect: Our auction clearance rate is almost 100% (our office’s clearance rate is around the 80% mark). It is certainly a very useful tool.

Q: I am going to be bidding at auction in two week’s time. The agent selling the property has told me I need 10% deposit on the fall of the hammer, but I can’t raise it until just before the settlement date of late April. What options do I have? Sarah W.

A: Our first suggestion is to talk to the agent and explain your situation. Although auctions usually call for a 10% deposit you can ask the agent to approach the vendor with a variation allowing you to pay, for example, 5% deposit. If the vendor agrees then you are all set for auction day. In our opinion it is short-sighted for a vendor or agent to reject a lower deposit – at the end of the day we want every interested party to be at the auction and able to bid, and with property prices in Auckland the reduced deposit is usually still a significant amount. This is another reason our auction clearance rates are so high. The same thing applies to settlement dates: If the vendor’s settlement date doesn’t work for you then you can approach the agent and ask for a variation. This variation will only apply to you and no other buyers will be told.

  1. It frustrates me, as a buyer, that almost every home on the market in Auckland is for sale by auction. It seems really unfair to buyers, while it just keeps driving prices up for the sellers. David R.
  2. A common complaint from many people we meet at our open homes! “Why does everything have to go to auction?” Interestingly auction is a method of sale that has been popular for hundreds of years, not just for property but for art, wine and many other items. In fact web sites like eBay and TradeMe have made auction even more popular in more recent times and almost everything now can be bought and sold at auction. The reason for the popularity is that it is an open and transparent method of sale. There are no hidden surprises – you know the terms and the settlement date in advance, you know that you’re bidding unconditionally, you know who your competition is and you know exactly what other buyers are willing to offer. So while they may appear to favour the seller auctions really do work for the buyer too.

Q: I’m going to auction my home for sale later this year and I’ve been seeing lots of houses being sold before auction. How does a pre-auction sale work and is it a good thing to bring the auction forward? Thanks, Lily W.

A: No problem Lily. When a property is being marketed for auction, provided the agent has advertised it as “unless sold prior (USP) the agent can present a pre-auction offer to the vendor. Once an offer is presented the vendor has three options: (1) Accept the offer, sign it and it’s a done deal (2) say ‘no thank you, we will wait for the auction date’ or (3) say “yes that’s enough for me to sell’ and bring the auction forward. In this case (#3) the reserve is set at the offer figure and the auction starts with that as the opening bid, and if no higher bids are received then the property is sold at the offered price. Of course other buyers can still bid and the property will then sell to the highest bidder.

In our opinion, 99% of the time pre-auction offers only benefit the buyer. And what are those benefits? Firstly, bringing the auction forward means that less potential buyers will view the property (one or two weeks fewer open homes) so the buyer is cutting down on competition. Secondly, most pre-auction offers are not at the maximum the buyer is willing to pay. We have seen many auctions brought-forward where there has been additional bidding and the buyer that made the original offer has bid many thousands of dollars more than their first offer.

The only up-side for the seller is that they get sold earlier, and they don’t have to go through the stress of an auction where they don’t know if they are sold until the day. In our experience most vendors ultimately care more about getting a good price.

Some real estate companies have a policy to automatically bring the auction forward if an acceptable offer is received prior, but we think that it should be the vendor’s choice to decide how they want to handle the offer – it’s their property after all! We are always willing to give advice of course, but that is all it is – advice. Remember that the selling/listing agent works for the vendor, not the buyers, so always bear that in mind when talking to the agent who is selling the property.