Practical Tips for Buying a Home at an Auction

Rates and Fees verified correct on April 25th, 2017

Before heading into an auction, make sure you are prepared and that you know exactly what you’re bidding for. Cooler heads will prevail.

Buying a home at auction can be a pretty stressful time. The money stakes are high and most people are well out of their comfort zone. But there's no reason to dive into an auction all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. Here are six expert tips to help you wrangle an auction like a professional.

Auction advice from The Block 2015 winning auctioneer Damien Cooley


Damien: I think the best advice that I can give a first time buyer, I mean, obviously, they need to do their homework and whether that fits for them, the property is right for them. And I say to them, "Well, are you investing or are you buying where you wanna live?"

If you're buying where you wanna live, just go and buy in the area that you wanna live in. If you're investing, you need to be a little bit more strategic about where you buy to try and get the best yield rental return that you can for that property.

Affordability also comes into play. If you've got half a million dollars to spend, well, you know that you can't go and buy a three-bedroom house in Rose Bay. So, you're gonna be saying this off, "Well, where can I afford to buy? Let's look at where I can afford to buy then. Let's find what sort of property. Is it a one-bedroom unit, a two-bedroom unit, or a three-bedroom unit can I afford to buy?"

When that first time buyer then goes to auction, the best advice that I can give them is to take some along to the action with you, take someone who's got the experience. You can employ a buyer's advocate or a buyer's agent in any area throughout Sydney, Melbourne, or any state or territory in Australia and you can actually just employ them.

If you prefer to, if you can afford the full service to get them to find a property for you and search, you can employ them and even a real estate agent to go and bid at auction for you. Having a professional bidder represent you at an action can save you tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

My role is to get as much as I possibly can out of the buyer and I make no apology for that. That's what I'm being remunerated to do and that's why I think it's always good to get somebody to represent you, to bid for you at auction because their role is to buy it cheaply as they possibly can. They remove emotion. They bid at thousands of auctions and they understand how auctions work and I understand what I'm thinking and how I'm trying to get the most out of them.

So if I was a first time buyer, I'd really be investing in getting someone to represent me at auction. And if I couldn't afford somebody like that, I'd have my mom, my dad, or somebody who's been to auction before, that been around the traps and know what they're doing.

Want more? We spoke to Property Expert Chris Gray and Buyers Agent Adam Vernon for some more auction tips.

Tips for buying at an auction

Visit auctions before you bid

If bidding at auctions wasn't a skill, buyers agents wouldn't exist. It is an experience you don't want to be dropped into cold.

"Just go and see 10, go and see 100 auctions. See the language the people are talking. Go and talk to buyer's agents, real estate agents or auctioneers," says property buying expert, Chris Gray.

A little bit of knowledge can be very useful. Just like someone with a bit of car knowledge buying a car at a used car dealership — learning some of the simple elements of a property will help protect your interests when buying property.

Related: What should you ask of your real estate agent?

Ask the selling agent for comparable sales

A selling agent should provide evidence as to why a property should sell at the asking price.

"They can definitely help by providing you with past sales within a block or in a street. That's probably the best way in which they can help you," says Adam Vernon, owner of Vernon Partners.

"The selling agent will try and help a buyer," says Vernon.

For buyers who are keen to increase the value of their investment through home renovations at some stage in the future, making enquiries before purchasing a target property is ideal.

"Ask the agents, 'Has anyone renovated in the block?' That will give you an idea of what you can and can't do, from a strata perspective. Sometimes, that agent might get you to go and see property that's been renovated. Then straight away, you can see what you can achieve if you just spent $20,000 on the apartment you're thinking of buying," says Vernon.

Bid early, start low

Confidence is key. If you bid early and low, you're far more in control of the situation than if you jump in late. By the time the property goes on the market and the serious bidding begins, nerves should settle slightly.

"The truth is if the market's there, it's going to find its value anyway. Start low and go slow," says Vernon.

Go slow

It's not a race. Drawing the process out allows time to put pressure on the seller to adjust the reserve price downwards. If they really want to sell their property, they will have to accept a fair market price for it.

Set yourself an upper price limit loosely based on a property valuer's valuation range.

Set yourself a limit

It's not a good idea to bid more than your budget. Your absolute limit should be what the bank is willing to lend you plus your saved deposit. Getting pre-approval is probably a good idea before heading into auctions.

Decide on a price ceiling for the property itself as well. Remember that there are some cashed-up buyers not concerned about your beliefs of what is a fair market price for a property.

Tips for buying a home at an auction with property experts

Property experts Chris Gray a Investment Property Expert/Buyer's Agent and Adam Vernon from Principal Vernon Partners shares some insights and tips for any new auction buyers.

Tips from the experts

Adam Vernon: I think one of the keys to auction is bid low to start with, open the bidding low. If the agent wants $900,000 for the property, don't be scared to open it at seven. The truth is, if the market's there, its going to find its value anyway. Start low and go slow.

Chris Gray: So again, kind of tips for auction is to just go and see 10, go and see 100 auctions. See the language that people are talking. Go and talk to buyer's agents or real estate agents or auctioneers. Read books. Just try and learn the language and see what's going to happen there.

Adam Vernon: Get comfortable with bidding in $10,000 lots. The auctioneer will try and get you to bid high lots, so maybe in increments of $25,000. Don't let them bully you. Offer five, and the truth is that once you've made two or three bids, you're going to be very comfortable in bidding and just take your time.

Chris Gray: It's all a bit of a theatre. A lot of the pressure is put on by the agents and the auctioneers to pressurise you into pushing the price up, and again as professional buyers, we see people bidding against themselves, paying hundreds of thousands of dollars more purely because they haven't got the knowledge.

Adam Vernon: Set yourself a limit. I really think people should set themselves a limit for auction. That's almost done for you by the bank, but don't go over it. Don't start thinking, "Well, I can put $10,000 on a credit card." Set a limit, and that's where you bid to. If you get it cheaper, then that's fantastic, but start low and bid slow.

Did you know we have a Home Buyers Guide course with Finder Academy? Test your knowledge and become an expert today! Take the course

Calculate your repayments

Before you head to the auction, it is a good idea to check how much you borrow and how much the repayments will be. Use the calculator below to work out these figures.

Be sure it's the one

There's no cooling off period when you buy at auction, so if you win the auction, you are obliged to purchase the property off the vendor.

You'd want to ensure that you have completed pest and building inspections before the auction if you intend to buy. And you can't make the contract subject to conditions, it's as it is at the day of sale. So be sure you have home loan pre approval before bidding at an auction.

Adrian Barclay

Adrian spends most of his working hours writing about home loans and everything property, as well as interviewing finance experts.

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6 Responses to Practical Tips for Buying a Home at an Auction

  1. Default Gravatar
    roger | November 5, 2014

    We won an auction conducted by a real estate firm to purchase a house. However we refused to sign the contract and were threatened for breech of contract when we never sign anything at all. Can we forget the whole thing or are there repercussions. Our objection was that we didn’t think the auction was fair as the real estate agent who was selling the house was bidding on our behalf asd he thought he had an understanding that he could represent us

    • Staff
      Elizabeth | November 6, 2014

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for your question.

      You may want to get legal advice on this matter, but if you haven’t signed a contract then you really can’t breach anything. You might also want to take a look at this page and this page for more information on cooling off periods, which may apply, and understanding property contracts.



    • Default Gravatar
      | November 6, 2014

      Regarding not signing the contract after winning the auction to buy a house I found out that because it was an auction there is no cooling off period. The agent demanded that we sign the contract and we refused. That is when he said that under NSW law the auctioneer can sign on our behalf even though we refused to sign. We just walked away but I expect to hear more from him. We maintain the auction was unfair and we were pressured into buying with the estate agent selling the house actually bidding on our behalf as he said he thought we had given him authority to do so

    • Staff
      Elizabeth | November 6, 2014

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks for clarifying that. As I mentioned, seeking legal advice may be the best course of action in this scenario especially if the agent is citing NSW law as a reason to hold you to the contract.



  2. Default Gravatar
    Angie | April 2, 2014

    Which bank has the cheapest interest rate?
    Thank you

    • Staff
      Marc | April 2, 2014

      Hi Angie,
      thanks for the question.

      We’ve carried out a comparison of home loans which you can order by interest rate. Simply sort the table out on that page to show the lower interest rates first, to give you an idea of what rates are available.

      I hope this helps,

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