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How to win an auction, using illusion
04/27/2009 - By Jesse S. Somer
Jesse S. Somer isn’t a real estate guru, but he knows that false identities pervade both the housing industry as well as the Internet websites relating to it. It’s easy to be ingenuous, and sometimes it may work for you.
I’ve only ever been to two house auctions. At the second, I ‘won’; I bought the house, well, it’s a unit. Let me tell you how it happened; it was one of the most intense weeks of my life.
I was living overseas and I had to come back to Australia to get some medical tests. I’d be back in Melbourne for one month, and my partner told me it was a good time to buy a house. She had her mind set on this one apartment in Hawthorn. It was to be auctioned on a Saturday, a couple days after I arrived back in this English-speaking realm (In rural Japan, English was rarely spoken and when it was, usually at quite a basic level: Hello, how are you? I’m fine thank you. What’s your favourite colour? Purple.). All of a sudden I found myself listening to an auctioneer rattling off English so fast it was like a machine gun to the head. Why do they have to be such motor mouths?
I got to look at the place for fifteen minutes before I had to make the decision whether or not to spend the next thirty years of my human existence paying it off with my blood, sweat, and tears. After having a bit of a look around the joint I realised I didn’t really like it, but nonetheless my lady is often ‘boss’ and she wanted me to start bidding. It was a hot summer day and people started rolling in like dogs around a freshly slaughtered buffalo carcass. There must have been close to 150 of us standing in front of the red brick complex, not including the owners of other units, vultures and wide-eyed Tawny Frog-Mouths out on their balconies watching the ‘show’.
I stood right in front of the man barking off rules and information about the property. I knew how much money we had, so I had a limit in my head that no matter what I wouldn’t go over. The flat was advertised at $300,000, and bidding was to begin at 280 grand. After the first bid, a woman yelled out 350 thousand! That took the crowd by surprise. However, that was the last we heard of her once-confident voice. I made a couple of small bids afterwards, but two other guys were in an all-out battle that culminated in the yuppie-looking bloke wiping the floor with the tradesman. The ‘tradie’ had looked so calm as he rattled off bids; I thought he must have been one of those wealthy builder types who dress like street bums, but have more money than some developing nations. However, the wealthy yuppie couple wanted this apartment and the man was going to stop at nothing to get it. It sold for $445,000; now that’s just a little higher than the asking price isn’t it? It wasn’t looking good for our dream of owning our own place (not that one really owns anything but a lifelong mortgage-joke!). Was the market truly this overblown?
Before I went out to the auctions on the next Saturday I met up with a friend who gave me some advice/words of wisdom. He’d recently bought a house down in the bay side area of Brighton East, beating out a fellow driving a brand new high-class Mercedes. He said, “Bid like your pockets are empty. Be so confident that people think you’re not going to give up under any condition. Bid strongly and in large denominations right up until you reach your limit. If you look tough, people who are only in it half-heartedly will bail out early.”
That’s exactly what I did. Conditions couldn’t have been better on the day. It was the weekend just before Christmas, so most people were out shopping for presents, not houses. It was raining. Who wants to trudge around looking at houses in the wet? We checked out a few places, but then we found one unit we really liked. Half an hour later we were bidding on it. Out of fifteen or so people only two other guys even opened their mouths, and in the end it was just an Asian man versus myself. I have to admit; he wasn’t looking too sure of himself right from the start.
As each time after lengths of nervous deliberation his bids went up by $500 or a thousand dollars, I quickly shot back with $2,000, $3,000, and $5,000 retorts. Wearing an Indonesian batik shirt, I have a feeling I must have unwittingly expressed the identity of a guy who’s so wealthy he isn’t concerned about what he looks like. To my great surprise, after a short while the other fellow threw in the towel and we had ‘won’ the right to live in the humble abode in which I currently sit as I write this story. I actually got the ‘cave’ for a fair bit less than I was considering I’d have to shell out to be victor. (I won’t tell you how much we paid, but let’s just say it’s going to take a helluvalot of writing to pay this set of walls and roof off!)
The real estate agent said that it was one of the most confident displays of auction bidding that they’d ever witnessed in their whole career. I don’t know if they just wanted to make me feel good, but if not, I have to say that it was one of the best displays of acting that I’ve ever acted out. I’d only ever been to two auctions, but bystanders might’ve thought I was a hungry buyer with a huge wad of cash. However, my confidence must have come from somewhere real…this world is made up of so many illusions and ingenuous images. My only concern is that this house isn’t as inauthentic as the person I portrayed to buy it!
By Jesse S. Somer