Tensions rise as buyers do battle

By Lane Nichols

As the market braces for the post-election spring surge, Lane Nichols tests the water at auctions

The property at 14 Rockwood Place Epsom sold for 2.1 million.
The property at 14 Rockwood Place Epsom sold for 2.1 million.

"Who will give me a starting bid of $1.8 million?"

An uncomfortable silence falls over the auction room floor. The auctioneer scans the sea of faces urgently for a raised eyebrow that could signal an opening bid.

Nada.

The property in question is a "conveniently located" four-bedroom Epsom home at 14 Rockwood Place.

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Close to schools, shops and motorways, it features polished floors, a deck and double garage.

It's lot four on the schedule. The three previous properties in New Windsor, Mt Roskill and Avondale have gone under the hammer for around $750,000, more than $300,000 above their 2011 CVs.

It's just a few days on from the election and the property market is already showing signs of buoyancy after a slump in sales.

The number of "pending listings" has spiked this week, fuelling expectations the spring surge is under way.

The Weekend Herald spent a day at Barfoot & Thompson's downtown auction house this week to gauge activity and sample the drama. And there was no shortage of both.

A total of 27 properties went under the hammer. Eleven were sold outright, 10 were passed in having failed to reach the reserve and six homes failed to attract a bid.

An additional nine properties were sold prior to auction (article continues after the interactive).

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About 80 people attended the morning auction session and about 100 crammed in for the afternoon, when the Rockwood Place listing came up.

An Asian couple are the first to commit - dutifully opening proceedings at $1.8 million.

With no other bids and the reserve not met, a Barfoot staffer negotiates with the couple in whispered tones. They up their offer to $1.95 million.

"Round it up to $2 million," the auctioneer chimes in, "it will sound better when they tell their friends."

Another bid and the auctioneer announces: "We're on the market!" An electric charge passes through the room.

After a final bid of $2.1 million, staff confer with the vendor before announcing the property has been sold. It has gone for $670,000 above its CV.

The room erupts into applause while a man at the back mutters under his breath: "Another one to the Chinese."

It's unclear what nationality the couple are but people of Asian descent make up about half the auction room crowd.

A short time later lot 11 comes up on the big screen - a "gorgeous" four-bedroom Mt Eden bungalow at 32 Milton Rd.

With its designer kitchen, polished floors and indoor-outdoor flow, it's clear the property will attract strong interest.

An Asian man in a hoodie and jeans clutching a cellphone is making an international call. The phone glued to his ear, he launches into a bidding war with a couple who look to be in their late 40s.

Bidding starts at $1.2 million and the two parties trade blows in $20,000 bids. The tension is palpable.

The casually dressed couple confer nervously as the Friends theme tune blares from overhead speakers during an adjournment.

They push through the $1.5 million mark.

A new bidder - a short guy in a dark suit with cropped hair - makes a play but quickly fizzles out.

The reserve finally met, "selling now" splashes across the screen in bright red letters.

We're in business.

A final bid of $1.558 million and the couple wait anxiously for the auctioneer's hammer to fall. "Going twice."

The man on the phone shakes his head dejectedly. Sold - for $578,000 above CV.

The couple look shell-shocked, their hard-fought victory yet to sink in.

Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson said 55 per cent of Wednesday's auction listings sold under the hammer or after pre-auction offers.

That figure was likely to rise to about 80 per cent once buyers negotiated purchases on passed-in properties - in line with recent months.

Election win fuels leap in realty listings

A spike in post-election property listings this week and strong turnouts at open homes signals the start of the housing market's traditional spring surge, experts say.

Auckland realty firm Barfoot & Thompson says it has seen a "phenomenal" jump in vendor activity in the days since Prime Minister John Key's Administration swept back into power last weekend.

There were also reports of busy open homes last Sunday - the day after the election - despite foul weather.

Prior to the election, sales volumes had slumped nationwide with listing numbers well down on the same time last year. Several major real estate firms and property commentators put the weak market activity down to buyers and sellers holding off until the shape of the new government was known.

However, Barfoot & Thompson managing director Peter Thompson said he had noticed a big jump in "pending" listings this week - properties that were not yet on the market but would be in the next two to three weeks once photography and marketing material was finalised.

"It's phenomenal how many have just come on in the last few days," he said.

"Having the election out of the way, people just move on with things. They're always a bit cautious not knowing what the outcome is."

Mr Thompson said he had always expected an uptake in listings after the election, "and that didn't matter which party was in government".

He expected listing numbers to rebound in the next few weeks, "which hopefully will bring the market back to where it was this time last year".

Harcourts chief executive Hayden Duncan said the firm had noticed a significant change in confidence this week "in both people coming to the market with listings but also people making positive buying decisions that we weren't seeing prior to the election".

On Thursday at Harcourt's Christchurch auction, 23 out of 25 properties sold under the hammer.

"We were lucky if were doing 50 per cent in the weeks leading up to the election."

He said the numbers coming through open homes and inquiry levels had certainly jumped this week.

- NZ Herald

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