Only a handful of Auckland properties are selling at auction, although auctioneers say some of the properties that are passed in, settle at a later date.
For other properties, it will be several months before the buyer and the seller agree on a price.
Barfoot & Thompson's city auction room is a mini-market for Auckland real estate. By attending a few, you get a good idea of what houses are worth today.
I attended two Barfoot & Thompson auction sessions. The room, in downtown Auckland, was almost full one day, half-full on the second day.
With lots of people waiting to bid, it feels reminiscent of an old-fashioned stock exchange. On the side and back are little rooms, with sellers inside obscured from the bidders by opaque glass.
The auctioneer controls the theatre, with agents running to and fro when buyers are not offering enough money. The halcyon days are well over. It's clear that many properties will sell only after some negotiation, sweat and, perhaps, sellers' fallen expectations.
Buyers are a mix of mainly European, Chinese and Indian. Many, but not all, are couples.
There is an air of excitement, particularly near the start. "Cut down the talk," the auctioneer says at one point, so he can get on with his job.
At one of the auctions I attend, a 30-something Chinese couple, wearing motorbike leathers, sit next to me. They arrive just in time to bid for a modern house on the Ellerslie-Panmure Highway. "A mighty big garage to park your motorbike in," the agent quips, but they miss out and the property is sold for $1.25 million to a bidder close to the back.
When I look up from taking my notes, the couple have left, perhaps to look for another house.
Three brick-and-tile units in New North Rd, Mt Albert, look like investor territory. A white-haired Pakeha man in front of me is one of the bidders. Bidding slows on this one, and the agent negotiates with the seller and the buyer. The property is passed in.
This is a general pattern. The bidding often slows below the reserve. A real estate agent then talks separately to the buyer and seller, the latter in their private viewing room.
There is usually then another bid, sometimes several, particularly if there are competing bidders.
Another property is passed in after vigorous bidding. Back to open homes for the agent, I think to myself.
"No other bidders. A little work to do there," auctioneer Murray Smith says, before the buyer and seller will meet.
Another young Chinese couple are bidding. She speaks clear English. The auction slows.
An agent calls over, after talking to the seller in their frosted glass booth. The male buyer makes a phone call; and bidding re-starts.
"I don't think we're too far away from a sale" says Smith.
On another house, at an auction a few days later, an agent is talking to the bidder behind me, an Indian man in his 60s. The property concerned is a two-storey, four-bedroom semi-detached house in Dominion Rd.
Bidding opens at $800,000, but stalls.
"Will you go to nine?" the agent asks.
"No," replies the buyer.
"So what is your best bid?" asks the agent.
"$830,000," the buyer replies.
The bid is placed, but it is not enough for the seller and the property is passed in. Many auctions continue in this manner. Bidding stalls on the next property.
"[Agent] Tony will give you some guidance on where you need to be," auctioneer Marian Tolich says.
There is more interest in a small, tidy, cedar two-storey house in Mt Eden on a reasonable-sized section. Bidding opens at $900,000, but stalls. The agent goes to talk to the bidders.
Things get fairly vigorous. It goes to $990,000. "Round it up to a million," says auctioneer Tolich. The bidder offers $900,940. "Any other bidders?" Tolich asks.
There are no more bids and it sells. It was one of two properties sold under the hammer on that day, from a dozen listed. However, others may sell to this bidder afterwards, while others may sell to someone else, after the property is passed in.
Buyers at house auctions are now mostly private individuals, rather than investors, says Tolich, after the auction.