Written by Andi

This year, as our industry has been forced to adapt rapidly to conditions never seen before, something really fascinating has happened.

And I don't mean, 'Prince Harry reading Thomas the Tank Engine' or 'Donald Trump talking about injecting disinfectant' fascinating, I mean, the evolution of an industry and perhaps the birth of a new real estate profession, right before our eyes.

Now, maybe you might read this and think I'm some sort of real estate nerd, but auctions have always been really fascinating events to me.

Not because of the nervousness of the bidders, or pace of the calls or even because of the finality of the sales process itself, no, auctions are unique and intriguing and the best sales method around, because of the way they can play out at the hands of an intelligent and strategic auctioneer.

What makes a good traditional auctioneer?

Before we dive into the evolving skill set of an online auctioneer, first we have to look at who online auctioneers have always been -- and that is traditional auctioneers.

Most auctioneers who are now controlling an auction from behind a keyboard, are the same people who stand up, weekend-after-weekend, projecting grandly into a crowd of onlookers, waving their arms around and spitting numbers faster than Eminem spat rhymes.

But is that all they're doing?

Ask any really great auctioneer, and interestingly, you will find they are the absolute epitome of multi-taskers. Because while they are waving and roaring and throwing in the odd joke to really draw in the thrilled crowd, they are also strategising.

They are reading the room, the expressions, the body language, the numbers themselves and the bid increments suggested by the bidder, they are doing the math, calculating the gap between right here and now to reserve, and they are planning every step to a successful auction outcome.

Sale by auction is deeply psychological, and while the bidders are the ones lying on the couch, bearing their souls whether they like it or not, the auctioneer is peering over his specs, reading between the lines to ascertain not what they're saying, but what they're thinking.

The glory of it is, the really good ones are so good they sometimes forget they are even doing it all.

What makes a great online auctioneer?

Answering this question -- in Australia at least -- is difficult, because while US companies like Auction.com have notched up billions in online auctions, our country has been a little slower to adapt.

Despite our vast lands and geographic distribution, our busy lives and our impressive online connectivity, online auction has really only plodded along until Covid-19 and its social restrictions shocked auctioneers and agents into trying something new.

When that happened, two styles of auctions emerged -- streamed live auctions, and ebay style auctions. Both valid, both binding, both competitive -- and both really drawing on different skill sets and strategy to achieve the perfect outcome.

Streamed auctions essentially take a live, quick-talking, fast-yelling auctioneer and ask him to do his job on camera. Easy right? Much less stage fright...

Wrong!

Without being able to see his or her crowd, to read them and understand them, his approach needed to shift. He needed to re-analyse, re-plan and strategise in a completely different way.

For an auctioneer of an ebay-style auction, this was again, another shift. Not only was he not shouting numbers and pointing blade hands, he also could not see his buyers camped out in front of him.

Like a traditional auctioneer, a truly successful online auctioneer must be strategic. But in a completely different way.

An online auctioneer needs to have some understanding and knowledge of his buyer before the big day. He or she must be able to shape and tailor the auction process so it best suits those buyers -- and the market conditions, seller expectations, the location and the property itself.

He or she needs to be able to read new indications that will alter and inform next steps -- the bidders voice on the other end of a phone, their hesitation, how high or low they are bidding and the frequency, how quickly they respond to a competitor's bid, what he knows about who is standing next to them and what their influence will be.

Like traditional auction, everything the auctioneer knows, sees and hears should inform the strategy and how he or she moulds the auction and works towards that desired goal.

See... fascinating!

Can a great traditional auctioneer be a great online auctioneer?

The short answer to this, is yes, of course. In fact, as a professional strategist, they already have an advantage, and learning to develop their skills in an online space diversifies what they can offer to their clients and of course, how they can generate their income!

But an agent does not have to have been a traditional auctioneer in the past to become a great online auctioneer.

In fact, if you are a born strategist, a thinker, a problem solver -- but you've just never wanted to stand up call bids publicly, or the idea of doing maths on the run is not your cup of tea -- online auction may be where you find your next sales passion!

Creating an online auction strategy with Sale Ezy

One of the greatest benefits of Sale Ezy's platform is the way it caters to a everyone -- from a relatively inexperienced, first-time auctioneer to a true auctioneer strategist.

Our two sales modules -- best offer and public bidding, can be used separately or consecutively, to create a unique auction process, specifically designed for your property, buyer and ideal outcome. Here are just a couple of different strategies:

  • Use best offer like private treaty: with best offer, you can list the property and enable bidders to start making unpublished offer straight away. While their competitors know when every offer is made, they don't know the offer value. When the offer reaches reserve and momentum dies down, or the seller is happy with an offer, simply click, accept, and drop the hammer!

Why do it? In regional areas especially, buyers are often more comfortable with private treaty and there is a real stigma around auction. This makes them feel more comfortable, but gives everyone the benefit of legally-binding conditions.

  • Use best offer like tender: rather than open up best offer from today until sold, why not promote the property for three or four weeks, and then allow best offers between 9am and 5pm on a specified date. Buyers can make as many offers as they like in the time, offer amounts are unpublished, but everyone is alerted when anyone else makes an offer. Best of all, when the highest offer is accepted, the hammer falls and auction conditions create a legally-binding contract.

Why do it? The envelope system is popular and a big favourite of agents in Victoria, but just like private treaty, when that highest offer is finally accepted, the buyer has every opportunity to change their mind -- there is no real commitment!

  • Use final call, just like live auction: A quick and public auction can be a good one. If you have a handful of competitive buyers, set your auction to start at 9am and finish 15 minutes later. While the countdown is on, have your agents 'working the room' -- on the phone to all buyers, helping them understand their position and shape their own strategy for success.

Why do it? Based on our research ( and the MANY reads of our auction strategies for bidders articles), bidders welcome the opportunity to have expert advice and support when it comes to developing their approach to winning at auction. Allowing your team to build genuine relationships with them, so they can be more individually supportive on the day, can lead to a better experience and outcome for everyone.

  • Try a combo: When you go to Maccas and they ask you if you want the chips too, you always say yes, right? Why? Because combos are the best! It's the same with auction!

Try starting your auction with 15 minutes of open, public bidding, that enables buyers to see (on screen) who they are competing against, throw in their public bids and get a feel for the pricing, momentum and competition. Then, once the bids start to die down, transition to silent bidding with best offer, to enable them to submit their final bids (unpublished values, but everyone alerted when a new bid is made) within a strict 15-minute deadline.

Why do it? The public section of the auction enables bidders to transparently kick off the bidding and set the momentum for the auction. The transition to best offer, still under auction conditions, gives them a little bit of time to consult, calculate and work out what they need to do to be successful, without letting any other buyer in on their strategy. At the same time, it allows the auctioneer and agents to be on standby to support.

Selling real estate is changing -- and really, it was bound to do so. It's not to say traditional auctions will become a thing of the past -- we certainly hope not and don't think so -- but that consumers are looking for more convenience, access, control, and agents and auctioneers will inevitably branch out to find the best way to deliver.

Maybe looking at auctions as the confrontation between the expert strategy of the auctioneer, and the carefully-planned tactics of the savvy buyer, is a romanticised view of a process that has been around for centuries.

But I've been attending these action-packed events since I was under 5 years old, and to this day, offline or online, I still hold my breath the whole time, waiting to see what strategic spells that auctioneer can cast with his wildly swinging gavel.