If you’re walking down a suburban street on a weekend, you may spot a large group of people standing outside a property, with another person standing in front of them yelling out stuff – in which case, you’ve probably stumbled across a domestic hostage situation, there are terrified homeowners trapped inside, and the yelly person is a deranged maniac, possibly armed. But if the deranged yelly maniac is wearing a nice suit or quality blazer, then there’s a chance that this is actually a property auction, which is not dissimilar to a hostage situation in the sense that it goes on for way too long and there are also terrified homeowners trapped inside.
The first person you notice at any auction is The Auctioneer: they’re the ones in the $2000 outfit, with the $4000 watch, and the $6000 white-glo laser-bleached smile. Auctioneers are loud, confident people who love performing: at school they played Snoopy in a production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown; in their early 20s they sung in a Hall & Oates cover band; but deep down they were always attracted to a life in real estate – but the showbizzy side.
Beside them, slightly to the back, you will spot the Auctioneer’s Assistant: for now they’re just a quiet, low-key person in a white shirt holding a clipboard, but one day they dream of growing up into a showman in a suit swinging a rolled-up piece of paper.
Now we turn our attention to the large group of people. About 2 per cent of them are committed bidders, 5 per cent are possible bidders, and 93 per cent are sticky-beak neighbours who want to know what local property values are worth, thinking to themselves, “Wow, if this property is worth THAT, then my property must be worth the same! If I wasn’t renting, I’d be soooo rich!”
Standing at the front of the group are The Super Keen Yet Hilariously Naive First-Home-Buyer Couple. They bid with great enthusiasm, they go right to their financial limit, they think they’ve bought the place with their final desperate bid … then The Auctioneer heads off to “refer the bid to the vendor”, reappears five minutes later, and the proper auction begins. You will not hear from this couple again.
Right in the middle of the group is The Mildly Confident Middle-Aged Amateur Bidder: they think they know what they’re doing, they’re showing tremendous swagger and pizzazz, and they’re completely unaware that they’ve been bidding against themselves for the past two minutes.
Down the back is The Repugnant Cashed-Up Buying Profesh, biding their time, waiting to strike with a killer bid – you can always recognise them by their unique guttural squawk, “Is it on the market? Is it on the market?”. Lurking to one side is The Mysterious Nonchalant Phone Bidder: they have no fear, they do not care, it’s not their money – for this reason, they are shunned by the other bidders and forced to stand in the neighbour’s unmown nature strip where the dog turds hide.
Also making an appearance at the most tense and dramatic moment of every auction, Dopey Slow-Moving Car-Peeper will drive past, completely disrupting the momentum, and knocking a good five grand off the property. And if you’re very, very patient, if you’re very, very lucky, you may catch a quick glimpse of The Terrified Homeowners themselves, peeking out from behind a curtain, faces pale with anxiety, eyes bloodshot with stress, mumbling their haunting, plaintive chant: “One more bid … c’mon … just one more …”