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On-site vs. online auctions

Different types of auctions have pros and cons for both vendors and bidders. Read this to determine which type of auction is the best fit for you. 

Determining whether an on-site or online auction will best suit your needs can help make you feel at ease when putting your home on the market or buying your dream property.

Though both auction processes have the same bidding protocols, real estate agents point out that these auctions differ in how they attract bidders. Knowing the psychology behind each could earn or save you tens of thousands of dollars.


As the most common form of auction, on-site auctions are currently making headlines for attracting large crowds and creating bidding wars among frustrated buyers.

Director of Toop&Toop Bronte Manuel says on-site auctions are best for sellers looking for an emotional transaction that encourages high bidding – which is what buyers need to beware of too.

“An [on-site] auction is quite an emotional thing; auctioneers have the ability to read the crowd, pause and allow buyers to chat to each other,” says Manuel.

“That emotion quite often will add 10 to 15 per cent on the sale price.”

Because of the drama of an on-site auction, a quiet crowd offering minimal bidding activity does run the risk of making your home look less appealing.

Though this may not be an honest reflection of your property, vendors should pick an auctioneer who can work a crowd; this, paired with the on-site setting, will allow buyers to become more attached to a property as they stand on the front lawn and bid it out.

Bronte says this is favourable if you’re selling a home with unique features or in a premium location as on-site auctions are naturally more visual.

“Having buyers visually on site allows them to think ‘for another $10,000 I can be living in this bluestone villa under this Moreton Bay Fig’. You can’t replace that,” says Bronte.

This visual also works in the favour of buyers as there is less chance of any surprises in the buying process.

Being surrounded by other bidders gives buyers a confidence boost as they know there is no anonymity – something which occurs in online auctions.

On-site auctions also allow buyers to score a home at a discounted rate if demand for the house is low when it goes to auction.

This is because on-site auctions are only available to people who can attend the property – or have a pre-arranged bidder working for them – on auction day.


As COVID-19 made the real estate market quickly adapt, many realtors across Australia made the switch to online auctions carried out over webcam.

Ray White North Adelaide Principal Rachel Lawrie says her agency is one of a few in South Australia which has continued to host online auctions.

“Online auctions offer a much cleaner process – everyone is registered well before the auction and educated on the process,” says Lawrie.

“Bidders only have to be online 10 minutes before the auction and the successful bidder signs off electronically, minimizing the time at the auction.”

If the auction doesn’t make the reserve price in an online auction, the highest bidder will get to see the reserve figure so they can negotiate a result – allowing for an otherwise passed in property to sell.

Online auctions are likely to attract savvy interstate homebuyers, perfect for those who want to reach a wide range of prospective purchasers.

This virtual alternative also entices buyers who try to avoid the crowds and primal nature of on-site auctions as it allows bidders to participate where they feel most comfortable.

Rachel says the element of comfort results in the winning bidder being less likely to experience buyer’s remorse.

“By having an online auction we’re actually having more participants because they’re comfortable,” says Rachel.

“They’re able to participate in their homes with family, in their office or even in their car.

“[Buyers] don’t have an agent on their shoulder pressuring them to bid another $500 and because of that we’ve found that they’re doing that on their own accord.”

If you fear the digital element will discourage homebuyers, in most cases, agencies will give the option for bidders to bid on-site.

One major drawback to the online method is only a few real estate agents offer it.