Yowser. What happened at the Block auctions last night?

For those who have been watching The Block this season—which let’s face it, most of us here at Perspective have been—last night was a heart-racing, finger-tapping, hold-your-breath kind of evening. We‘ll be honest, there was some yelling at the television.

What? You’re taking a break mid auction? What are you doing????

Ultimately we went to bed feeling pretty stoked, despite the fact that none of that cash was coming directly into our pocket. We have watched these couples slog it out for months. We’ve seen them at their weakest. We cheered for them. And to see them come out hundreds of thousands of dollars richer? It gives us goosebumps. But is it real life?

Not so much.

Cast your mind back to this time last year. Instead of the near record breaking results we saw last night, our hearts broke as we watched one couple walk away with just $40,000 and two others with a paltry $10,000. None of us went to bed that night feeling happy. Australia was devastated along with the couples (although probably not to the same degree).

That level of audience disappointment was not good for Channel 9. In addition to the online backlash they received, they ran the risk of viewers not showing up again. We don’t want to invest months of our evenings just to have our heart battered on like Foreman Dan laying floorboards. (Okay, we’ll admit, perhaps we’re overly invested).

So how could the station avoid the situation in the future? Possibly with unrealistically low reserve prices in the next few seasons is our guess.

Are reserves of between 1.75 and 1.9 million dollars realistic for homes of that quality and size in that location? And if a home does reach $400,000  – $715,000  above reserve? Perhaps your agent didn’t do their job properly when telling you what you should expect from your sale price.

The other big talking point to come out of the auction was the incredibly different auctioneering techniques on display. It didn’t come as a great surprise to any of us that Sasha and Julia would choose an auctioneer with as much drama and theatre as they themselves have provided this season. Philip certainly made for exceptional television.

David, who netted $510,000 for the boys, reminded us of our grandad—calm, measured, polite. “Can I suggest, madam?” “Shall we say…?”, “I welcome …” His low key performance was the perfect capstone to what had been a frantic night, his smooth, regular cadence and low pitched voice slowing down pulses across the country. He single-handedly prevented more than a few heart attacks (okay, reality TV-induced panic attacks).

But without a doubt, the most controversial performance was Damien. He was a rock star, although more than a few times we felt we were back in a classroom watching someone be scolded. His decision to take a bidder outside for a private one-on-one (okay, shades of The Bachelor bleeding into this discussion) definitely added some drama, but even that couldn’t compare to PUTTING THE AUCTION ON HOLD to have a little chat with Kim and Chris. We could hear the cries from our living room

It was over reserve!

Can he even do that?

The furor on Twitter was exactly what we expected.


To get an expert opinion, we spoke to Independent Property Group Auctioneer Mark Larmer for his take on last night’s show.

So what happened? Are they allowed to not sell a property if it has gone above reserve?

It depends on whether or not the auctioneer has announced that it’s on the market. If it hasn’t been announced as on the market, you can take a break and go back to the owners. In fact a good auctioneer will do that. If bidding has reached initial expectations but they feel there’s more money in the room and the reserve should be adjusted, they should absolutely be meeting with the seller to discuss it. Reserves are not fixed in stone and can change throughout the auction process. It’s just once the reserve has been announced that you can’t really change your mind.

Okay…so what is the benefit of announcing it? That just seems to take options off the table for you.

Announcing that it’s on the market talks people that are holding back into bidding. As long as they think it hasn’t hit reserve, they think they still have a chance to purchase by negotiating after the auction, and they don’t bid. By announcing it, people know whoever has the bid at the moment has the property. And that can scare them into bidding if they haven’t already.

Last night we saw a ton of different auctioneering styles. They all seemed to get results, although the best result came from the least interesting of the performances. What are the pros/cons of different styles?

Everyone has different styles, and people like different things in an auctioneer in the same way that you can have the same song sung by three different artists. Despite the same words, same music, people will prefer a different version.

In terms of what is better, it depends on the auction. A good auctioneer will adjust their style and speed to suit the property, the buyers and the price bracket. If you have buyers that want to bid slowly, are a bit hesitant, and like discuss it between themselves, then pushing for a fast, aggressive auction may make them uncomfortable and less likely to bid. In those situations giving them time and talking calmly will get a better result.

How do you know what style people want? And how do you know when a bidder is actually or out or just holding out?

Body language. Reading body language is one of the most important parts of the job. It governs everything we do during those ten minutes. Someone might say they’re out, but their body language is undecided, or they’re talking to each other, still discussing it. In those cases you might put them on the spot and offer them a smaller increment. Will they give you another $1000 instead of $5000. You need one bid in order to get the next one. A $1000 might lead to a big jump in the following one.

Speaking of $1000 bids, did you hear about that Sydney auction last week that went for an hour—230 bids, most of them in $1000 increments.

That sounds like the auctioneer lost control of the auction. They should determine the increments, not the buyers. They should be asking for $5000 – $10,000 bids, not allowing that many $1000 bids. A good auctioneer will have control of the auction while making the buyers feel like they are in control.

As an example, you might take a $1000 bid from one person, but ask the next for a $9000 bid to bring it up to the next round number. You can take different increments from different bidders. The auctioneer can refuse bids as well. They could have said 20 minutes into it “this is taking a long time; I’m only accepting a $10,000 bid at this stage.” The average auction goes for 5 – 10 minutes.

Any last words of advice for potential bidders?

Be confident in how you act and confident in how you bid, even if you don’t feel it.

So there you have it. We know most weekend auctions may not be accompanied by the same media attention, glitz and glamour as The Block, but the emotional stakes are just as high. They’re auctions of homes people have put years into. Despite the lack of TV crews, the elements of an auction are still the same—a realistic reserve and an auctioneer with great strategy to get the best result. Don’t shy away from talking to them about that strategy beforehand. Nothing’s likely to completely calm your nerves, but knowing they’ve got a strong approach can help.

Now we just need to find something else to watch. Unreal Estate anyone?








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