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The 11 words that homeowners dread at auction

Clearance rates in Sydney and Melbourne are at record lows, but agents say they’re still achieving strong results. Photo: Peter Rae“Well, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll have to pass the property in …”
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It’s the 11 words that homeowners dread. But, according to a real estate tech firm, an auction flop is not necessarily cause for alarm.

Auction streaming service Gavlanalysed the results of 463 Sydney and Melbourne properties that sold after auction, and found they fetched an average of $41,660 more than the highest bid.

With the nationwide clearance rate hovering slightly above 50 per cent, auctions are proving nerve-racking for many sellers.

Gavl’s Justin Nickerson said most homeowners believed that if their property was passed in, it would sellfor less than the last bid.

“It’s a misconception that sellers have,” he said. “If it goes a certain way they think that’s the highest bid and after the auction they will have to negotiate down, but chances are it’s going to be above that.”

Mr Nickerson said it was often the case that buyers wouldpay a premium to secure a home outside auction conditions.

“Going to market has shifted a little bit, but there’s still opportunities to sell within the 24 hours after the auction,” he said. “People with terms and conditions in their contract can pay more afterwards.”

45 Queen Street, Beaconsfield in Sydney was sold by Ben Forsyth for $2.03 million a fortnight ago, more than its highest bid. Photo: Forsyth Real Estate

He said falling clearance rates in Sydney in Melbourne didn’t mean the art of auctioning a property was falling by the wayside.

“Understanding the role that the auction plays is important,” he said. “Sometimes it can set up a point for negotiation.”

In Sydney, the weekly clearance rates have recently hit their lowest in 10 years,falling to47.8 per cent. In thepast few weeks, though, the rates have risen above 50 per cent.

Agents in the harbour city said auctions still had value, and both buyers and sellers were growing more sensitive about pricing.

“Auctions still work. They work if your guide price throughout the campaign is transparent,”Ben ForsythofForsyth real estatesaid.

That is, houses are more likely to sell at auction if the vendor lowers their price following a lacklustre response to the listing.

“[Buyers] are very price-sensitive at the moment,” he said. “Vendors are still getting their heads around the change in market conditions.”

Peter GordonofCobden and Haysonsaid buyers risked becoming too confident among falling prices and clearance rates.

Justin Nickerson of Apollo Auctions. Photo: Jim Malo

“Some buyers are reading too much into the market, lowballing the vendors and expecting them to just take the offer,” he said. “If the buyers aren’t prepared to sell on auction day, someone will pay more the following week generally.”

In Melbourne, agents reported similar experiences. The inner city has recorded the steepest median price falls, but the citywide clearance rate has not yet to dipped below 50 per cent.

In the city’s leafy east,Buxton BalwyndirectorAnton Zhouksaid he was seeing some properties sell for more after auction, but it could take days of negotiation.

He had two propertiespass in at the weekendwhich, as of Friday, were both yet to sell.

“If you don’t get the price right the first time, it’s difficult to get a better result. If you don’t, it becomes less about the price and what’s wrong with the home.

“I can almost guarantee they’d get a much better sale price if they put a realistic asking price.”

Buyer and vendor advocate Mark Brilliant said a pass-in could also be used by agents as a way to extract more cash.

“With a buyer, my advice is hold your ground as long as you can,” he said. “If you are the only bidder, you are the market.”

Mr Brilliant said most post-auction prices could be above the highest bid because buyers get caught up in the emotion of auction day.

“[Gavl’s] data is probably correct but it’s important buyers listen to more than just what the real estate agent says and just pay the reserve,” he said.

“It gets passed in because the reserve is too high.”

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