Coronavirus real estate: how to bid at a digital auction

Harcourts Rata & Co auctioneer Tony Lombardi knocking down 16 Sherwood Drive, Thomastown, on Anywhere Auctions.

Melbourne’s auction market has gone digital since sending homes under the hammer publicly and in boardrooms was temporarily outlawed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Auctioneers are rapidly adopting purpose-built streaming and bidding platforms, as well as video conferencing apps, as a result.

Only a small proportion of the 1464 Melbourne auctions originally scheduled this week went ahead digitally, with the others switched to the private sale method or hastily sold.

But Anywhere Auctions managing director Garry Giritharan expected bigger volumes of online-only auctions over the coming weeks, when agents had been afforded more time to adapt, assuming lockdown measures didn’t become much more extreme.

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Anybody can watch live auctions via the Anywhere Auctions website and app by entering their name, email address and phone number to make a profile.

To bid via the platform, a user has to select the property they’re interested in and register by submitting their drivers’ licence, passport and credit card details.

Once the bidder is approved to bid by the listing agent, Anywhere Auctions puts a hold on their credit card worth between $1500-$2500, depending on the value of the property. This is only charged if they win, to form part of the deposit payment.

“This feature is about verifying the intent of the buyer,” Mr Giritharan said.

On auction day, the participant watches a live stream of the auctioneer and types their offers in full dollar amounts (eg. $750,000) into the “place your bid” box. The auctioneer calls out the bid if it is accepted as the highest offer at the time.

6 Norman Street The Basin auction

On-site auctions are temporarily banned due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

When the hammer comes down, the selling agent calls the winning bidder to instruct them on how to digitally sign the contract of sale.

This is just one of the digital platforms being adopted by Australian real estate agents, with Gavl and Auction Live other major players.

SoldOnline and Openn Negotiation offer eBay-style bidding, while Zoom and Google Hangouts are being used to run conference call-style auctions.

EYS Auctions is one company using Zoom. Managing director Fabian Sanelli said bidders would be emailed a link or URL to gain access to the auction after creating a Zoom account and registering to bid with EYS.

Participants submit their bids by posting the full amount in Zoom’s messaging system.

EYS auctioneer Manny Zennelli sold 4/121 Gillies St, Fairfield, on Zoom.

Ray White Carnegie auctioneer Tom Grieve — whose company is using a mix of Anywhere Auctions, Gavl and Google Hangouts to run digital auctions — said the sale method remained vital in the uncertain coronavirus-impacted market.

“Now more than ever, an unconditional sale is going to be critical for vendors,” he said.

“Some of the innovation that comes out of this will be game changing for the industry. It will never be the same again.”

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