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Auctions: a survival guide for sellers

March 23, 2019

“My husband Mark and I were both shaking, listening from where we stood in the kitchen. The Independent team reassured us and made sure everything went well. They’d been through it all before and so we knew what to expect, but for us, it was still something we’d never experienced before.”

Such was the experience of Raquel Valerius, a recent seller at auction. We spoke to Raquel about what she describes as a positive auction experience that resulted in a bidding war.

An auction is a curious mixture of retail stocktake sale, theatrical performance and, if the sale goes well, Christmas morning. For sellers, an auction is potentially anxiety-inducing, but it can be a very lucrative way to sell a home.

An auction needs careful planning and there’s a lot riding on the outcome. So how can you make the most out of your home in the pre-marketing phase and come through the auction experience successfully without going mad? Award-winning auctioneer, Mark Larmer, offers his top tips on how to survive an auction below.

The Preparation

Raquel had never sold a property via auction before, so her and her husband Mark spent a significant amount of time researching auction outcomes, fees and the recent experiences of other vendors in Canberra. They decided to auction their home as the area was highly sought after, which could possibly lead to multiple determined bidders and, ideally, a bidding war.

“I did my homework and looked up the common fees and commissions – we ended up paying a little more than average but we were very happy with the service we received. In the end, it was a couple of thousand dollars difference, but it was so worth it,” Raquel explained.

“I think you have to have everything prepared at the beginning. Do your checks, have your agent come and look at your home. We were very happy with Our Team because they came and spent time with us, explaining what the team does and the whole package. The auctioneer answered a lot of our questions about how the process would run and reassured us at every stage.”

“We tweaked the way the house was presented, changing the layout and dynamics from a 3 bedroom to a 4 bedroom, aiming at families who might prefer a larger home,” she said.

Despite all their preparation and a perfectly presented property, Raquel explained that there’s an element of fear of the unknown that made her nervous leading up to auction day.

Some things are simply out of the seller’s control. Take for example, the weather; a rainy day can dramatically reduce the number of attendees at an auction.

The Auction

Auction morning came, and Raquel and Mark were both excited and anxious about the day ahead. They knew exactly what they had to do, though, and set about preparing the house for its final inspection. They were both experiencing a potent mix of nostalgia, nerves, an element of fear and a deep sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

Having tidied the place to perfection, they thought the best course of action would be to go out for a while, coming back just in time for the auction to begin. When it was time for the auction to start, both Raquel and her husband were fighting to keep their emotions from bubbling out.

As recommended by their agent, Raquel and Mark stayed in the kitchen during the auction proceedings, where they could hear the bids as they happened.

Raquel explained, “We were back in our kitchen when the auction was actually going on, with the window open so we could hear what was going on. Once it got past our reserve, we were so happy and overjoyed. It ended up in a bidding war, so it was better than we could have hoped for.”

Raquel and Mark’s place ended up selling for well over the reserve, and they put it down to solid preparation, a good agent, an engaging auctioneer and a slice of luck on the side. The roller coaster of emotions they endured on auction day was well worth it, according to Raquel, and they both agreed that, if they were to sell another property, an auction would be the way to go.

So, there you have it, an idea of what to expect from someone who has come out the other side, as well as a few tips on how to manage your stress and achieve the best outcome on Auction Day from one of the industry’s best and most experienced hammer-hitters.

Mark Larmer’s Tips for Auction Survival

• Choose the right agent.
Shop around and find someone who will work for you, working behind the scenes to build relationships with potential buyers and overcome objections.

• Clean, clean, then clean again.
Pre-market presentation is very important – buyers look through the property 30 minutes prior and that first impression could add say $50,000. Buyers pay more money for a property with a nice feel that doesn’t require so much maintenance and upkeep.

• Trust your auctioneer.
Try not to think about the ‘what ifs’ before the day, or to agonise in the last couple of days of the pre-auction campaign. The auctioneer is paid to take the stress. Once the home is presented nicely, the seller’s job is done.

• Get a babysitter.
You should hire a babysitter or organise a family member to look after the kids. You may need to make fast financial decisions and it can be much harder if your baby is crying or your kid is having a meltdown.

• Stay out of sight but within earshot.
You want to be able to hear the proceedings so that when the auctioneer walks in, you already know what’s happening, for example, if the bidding is close to reserve.

• Trust the reserve price.
It’s not about getting a free car or a holiday at the end. The success of the auction could be based solely on the reserve price and getting that right. If it’s wrong, it can make or break the entire deal.