Buying at auction can be nerve-wracking, so knowing how to read other bidders can be a big asset. Rich Harvey, buyers’ advocate and CEO of propertybuyer.com.au, says before auction day, buyers should do their research and prepare well.
“The first thing buyers need to do is do research about the property they’re thinking of buying,” he says.
“Look at the most recent comparable sales data to get an understanding of what the ballpark sale figure will be. Talk to the agent, but understand the range quoted may be over or under, or bang on. You need to do your own research,” Harvey says. The next task is ensuring finance is in place, he adds.
Only then should buyers turn their mind to auction day, Harvey says. It’s vital to have an auction day plan, he adds. Central to this is having a clear maximum bid. “We advise people write down their maximum bid on a piece of paper, so it’s there in writing and unequivocal. Don’t have a range in mind or vague idea. A maximum bid is simple, as it’s the amount you simply won’t go over,” Harvey says. Make a plan and stick to it, he adds.
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Get to the auction early and size up the opposition, Harvey advises.
“In New South Wales, you have to register for an auction, so you want to have plenty of time to do that. Then have a look around at who is there.” Harvey, who regularly buys at auction on behalf of clients, says he likes to position himself so he can clearly see the auctioneer and the other bidders.
“Some buyers like to bury themselves in the back, in the shadows somewhere, but I like to be able to see what’s happening and look confident,” Harvey says.
Body language is one of the best ways to read other bidders, he says.
Crossed arms normally indicate the person is tense and wants to play their cards close to their chest, while someone with their hands in their pockets is usually more relaxed and can be one to watch, Harvey says.
Being able to see bidders’ eyes can also help, although many people wear sunglasses to avoid giving away too much, he says.
“The eyes can really show peoples’ emotions, whether that’s nerves or something else.”
Appearing relaxed, in control and with deep pockets should be the aim, Harvey says.
“You want to come across relaxed and confident and that you have all the money in the world to spend on the property. “I’ve seen a bidder lying on the footpath, with a glass of wine, to give the impression they were relaxed about the whole thing. It didn’t work, he didn’t win the auction!” Harvey says.
The pace of bidding, tone of voice, change to the value of bids and even how people, couples in particular, interact with each other can be telling too and help secure a property, Harvey says.
“There are lots of subtle things you can pick up on and exploit,” he says.
Like anything, practice makes perfect, Harvey says.
“Bidding at auction is not something most people do very often, which is why they’re not particularly good at it. Buyers’ advocates do it week in, week out, so become pretty proficient. Taking the emotion out is the key part,” he says. To buy a property for under $1 million at auction, most buyers’ advocate charge between $500 and $1000, but it can save buyers “tens of thousands” of dollars, Harvey says.