New eBay-style online property auctions offer transparency as Australian buyers bid from home

When Tyler Hoggard and Jess Farrell recently bought their first house in Wollongong, the auction took place in the kitchen of the Mount Pleasant home that is now theirs.

They had walked around the place, loved it and already pictured what life would look like living there.

“It [being there] definitely made an impact on the emotional connection, as it’s always hard to properly gauge the quality of a home from photos and videos,” Mr Hoggard said.

It is this emotional connection real estate agents bank on at auctions, but technology could end up nullifying the effect as more bidders are raising their hands from their home or office.

Timed online auctions are like buying a house on eBay, away from the theater and pressure of a live onsite auction.

“I think that bidding online would have made for an entirely different experience and it would be much easier to let it go when the bidding had already gone further than we intended,” Mr Hoggard said.

“There’s a strong sense of urgency that comes with being present in the room.”

Neil stands with a blue blazer and dark shirt out the front of his office, with a label saying Stone.
Wollongong real estate agent Neil Webstersays online timed auctions can give buyers more time to consider their options.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)

Online auctions offer greater transparency

Wollongong real estate agent Neil Webster recently sold a house in Shellharbour using a timed online auction.

He said while the technology might not be best for every property, it offered a level of transparency that added credibility to his industry.

“By using these platforms, we can operate in a more transparent way because people register, they’re bidding and it’s like eBay.

“You get notified every time an offer is made and you know someone is genuinely out there bidding against you.”

He said the online auction gave buyers more time to consider their options than an onsite auction.

If a higher bid comes in just before the auction closes, another five minutes is added to the auction each time the highest bid is exceeded.

“Sometimes the auction can go past the defined time because we have people throwing in that little bit more,” Mr Webster said.

“That’s what you’d be doing at an auction with the auctioneer saying, ‘First call’, ‘Second call’, then I can talk to the buyers.

“And online, it’s the same process — I’m calling the underbidder to see if they have more in the tank and if they’ll put another offer in.”

House sold sign outside a row of terraces in the inner-Sydney suburb of GlebeHouse sold sign outside a row of terraces in the inner-Sydney suburb of Glebe
Neil Webster says online timed auctions are better suited to certain properties.(ABC News: Michael Janda)

Removing emotional attachment

By taking someone away from the front lawn or the kitchen of the property they are bidding on, an online auction can sever some of the attachment to a property.

“Being onsite definitely heightened the stakes,” Mr Hoggard said.

“It gave us the opportunity to walk around inside the home and picture how we would live in different spaces.”

Neil Webster knows it might end up swinging some control back towards the bidder at an auction, which is why real estate agents may still choose onsite auctions for properties people are more likely to live in.

“If you’re buying as an investment, it’s a different thing – you’re doing it online where it’s a business decision and you’re [the agent] encouraging people to buy based on price and investment return.”

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