Buyers who can't attend auctions are choosing to seal deals via laptops.
The excitement of auctions is enough to raise most people's blood pressure and now you needn't be in the same room - or even the same country - to take part in Auckland apartment auctions.
Mike Richards, sales director at Auckland's City Sales, says his company's decision to broadcast live internet streaming every second Wednesday afternoon from its auction room is proving popular with sellers and buyers, and the general public wanting to keep their fingers on the pulse.
Originally the service was designed for absent sellers, to enable them to feel part of auction proceedings.
"Our vendors are all over the world. From New Zealand, of course, Australia, up through Asia, Singapore, China to the UK and the USA," explains Mike. "We have them on the phone, of course, but the ability to see as well as listen is proving very powerful."
Buyers, too, say the online option is a godsend because it can be difficult to attend auctions during business hours.
Like vendors, pre-registered buyers watch while maintaining phone contact to bid.
"We have found live viewing encourages participation and promotes confidence in the process for both buyers and sellers unable to be present," says Mike.
But the biggest surprise is the wider interest the broadcast has attracted.
"We decided early on to provide unrestricted access to anyone interested. Viewing registrations regularly include members of the legal fraternity, colleague agencies and many from further afield. Log-ins to a recent broadcast showed viewers from Taupo and Whangarei, to Melbourne, Singapore, Coventry (UK) and San Antonio, Texas."
The online audience certainly would have been glued to their screens this month.
"A Statesman apartment vendor unable to attend the auction watched online as bidding for his property set a new record for comparable properties in his building. He was absolutely delighted to participate online," Mike says of the August 8 auction.
The record price was for a 64sq m two-bedroom apartment (with deck and car park) in the Statesman (pictured above) in Parliament St near the High Court.
The auction started with four interested parties and the property was declared on the market and selling at $430,000. Bidding continued until two final bidders pushed the price up another $100,000, selling at $531,000.
That transaction also reflects the change in who is buying apartments, says Mike. Traditionally, the CBD apartment market has attracted 70 to 80 per cent investor ownership because comparatively low capital outlays combined with relatively high CBD rents provide good returns on investment.
But now owner-occupier activity has increased to close to a 50 per cent split because younger buyers are finding properties in desirable suburbs are beyond their means and, instead, are looking to buy comfortable-size apartments in the inner city.