Practical tips for buying a home at an auction

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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 feeling out of your depth. Here are six expert tips to help you navigate an auction like a professional.

Auction advice from The Block 2015 winning auctioneer Damien Cooley

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

The best tactics for buying at an auction

Be prepared

Before you arrive at auction, make sure you have home loan pre-approval. This puts you in a better position to bid, as you'll already know your limit.

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.

Don't give too much away

Don't share specifics with the selling agent or be drawn on the amount you're willing to pay.

Bid early, start low

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.

Be confident

Call out your bids loudly and with confidence. State your bids in the whole dollar amount rather than the increments the auctioneer is calling out. In other words, "$505,000", not "$5,000".

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.

Consider using a buyer's agent

A professional buyer's agent can help you navigate the complexities of an auction and even bid on your behalf. Learn more about buyer's agents here.

What happens after the auction?

If you've won at auction, you'll need to pay your deposit. This will usually be at least 10% of the purchase price. This is why it's important to be ready with a form of payment when you attend auction.

You can use a personal cheque or a bank cheque. If you're planning to use a bank cheque, have it made out for an amount that's 10% of your budget limit. If you end up winning at auction at a price lower than your limit, the deposit will be larger than 10%, but this just means a smaller home loan debt.

You'll also need to sign your contracts. Remember, until the contract has been signed the seller is under no legal obligation to follow through on the sale.

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.

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

  1. Default Gravatar
    rogerNovember 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
      ElizabethNovember 6, 2014Staff

      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.

      Thanks,

      Elizabeth

    • 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
      ElizabethNovember 6, 2014Staff

      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.

      Thanks,

      Elizabeth

  2. Default Gravatar
    AngieApril 2, 2014

    Which bank has the cheapest interest rate?
    Thank you

    • Staff
      MarcApril 2, 2014Staff

      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,
      Marc.

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