6 auction-winning secrets every property buyer should know

How to get the home you want when it goes under the hammer.
Photography: Martina Gemmola | Styling: Aimee Tarulli

Auctions are daunting, and it can be hard to not get caught up in the thrill of outbidding the competition. But with a good auction strategy at the ready, you’ll be well-placed to be the proud owner of your dream home when that hammer drops, without overpaying. While an auction may not be your first choice when it comes to buying a house, there are a lot of benefits to you as the buyer.

“Auctions can work for a buyer who is willing to pay market value,” says Charles Tarbey, chairman of Century 21 Australia. “It’s definite and on the fall of the hammer it’s yours,” adds Mr Tarbey, who notes that during private sales there’s always a risk that the vendor may change their mind or accept another offer without giving you the chance to negotiate. Auctions allow you to see your competition and know exactly where you stand. While every auction is different, there are some strategies that can help you go in strong and hopefully come out on top. Here, we share expert tips for winning an auction.

contemporary beach house black front door
Walked through the home of your dreams and need to win it at auction? Follow these insider tips. (Credit: Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Jamee Deaves)

1. Wait to place your first bid

“Often it is best to let the bidding start and move in at a later stage with a strong bid,” advises Mr Tarbey. This gives you a chance to size up the competition, figure out when the property is on the market (once the reserve price has been reached), and it also weeds out those who are just looking for a bargain.

2. Make your first bid a strong figure that reflects the market value

In today’s transparent world where property values and estimates can be found on bank apps and the like, there’s little point starting off too low. Everyone at the auction will have a clear idea of what the property is worth and will have come prepared to pay that price, just like you. It’s advisable to start near where you want to end and that way you knock out a lot of the low bidders immediately.

Start with a strong bid that reflects the market, says Charles. (Photography: Martina Gemmola | Styling: Aimee Tarulli)

3. Bid with rounded figures

It is best not to place bids of odd numbers, such as $649,500, as someone will always go the extra $500. Instead, go in with an even number – and if your opponent tries to slow down the bidding with small increments, go in above them with that extra $500 or so, to immediately put yourself back into first place.

4. Go in with a counterbid quickly and confidently

Bidding quickly after another bid is received lets people know you are serious and will also help you identify who your competition is.

(Photography: Sue Stubbs | Styling: Samantha Torrisi)

5. Talk with the real estate agent

It can be tempting to hide away in the back corner and fly under the radar, but it’s important that the real estate agent and auctioneer see you and know that you’re a serious bidder. “Agents will always be available to guide you through the process, so you need to keep them updated on your position, without giving everything away,” says Mr Tarbey. “I have seen many instances where buyers were upset at missing out, making comments such as ‘I would have paid more if I knew it was going to sell for that amount’ and blaming the agent, but were coy when the agent was seeking information.”

6. Set a budget and stick to it

One of the biggest mistakes buyers make at an auction is not setting a maximum price they can afford to pay… and sticking to it. At the end of the day, as much as you may fall in love with a property and as close as you might think you are to winning, you should never exceed your predetermined budget.

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