I am not in Real Estate but work in an industry that involves auctions of all types - phone, internet, physical, sealed bids etc. Minimum lot size is about 20m but can go way higher than that. Being doing for over 7 years now (sigh).
One of our senior people asked me to attend an auction of a luxury house in Dublin a few months ago by [mod redacted] property agents. They also had their own local agent also at the auction, but was interested in getting my view as well.
The house in question was 36 Belgrave Square Monkstown Co. Dublin which was profiled in the Irish Times for 3.25m.
According the local agent, it was one of the best luxury houses to come to market in Dublin for a while - beautiful period, huge size, newly renovated, south facing garden, gable end, great location. etc etc. He also said that it was also the first auction of a luxury house in Dublin for well over a year (never explained why). I never heard of [mod redacted property agents name] property agents or seen their signs around in Dublin. He said that is was an usual choice of agent for a luxury house sale.
The only bidder in the room was another property agent bidding on behalf of a client. This property agent specializes in luxury Dublin houses. The local agent said that the client in question was one of two possibilities, neither of which was a local Irish buyer. According to the local agent, the rest of the room were other agents, neighbors and some local buyers, none of whom are bidding on 3m houses (he knows most luxury buyers in the market at any time).
I was surprised there were no local buyers. Shows how severe the crisis was on Irish upper wealth. The agent said that from 2012 to 2015 it used to be about half locals and half foreign (or returning Irish). He said that since 2016, it is almost all foreign (or returning Irish) above 2.75m. He said that this was pretty well known in the market (no new news here)?
I expected the luxury property agent to do well therefore on behalf of his client and he opened up with a bid of 2.8m (sensible). There was a minutes pause before a voice was introduced from the far side of the room. There was a telephone bidder. The telephone bidder was speaking via a [mod redacted property agent’s name] agent.
Telephone bid 2.85. Property agent bid 3.00. Telephone bid 3.05. Property agent bid 3.2. Telephone bid 3.25. Property agent bid 3.40. Telephone bid 3.45. Property agent bid 3.60. Telephone bid 3.65. Property agent bid 3.75. Sold.
I felt like I was watching an episode of the series “The Irish RM”, where the locals manage to get the “Major” to bid up for the best village bull. I relayed this to my colleague after who spoke later with their local agent. His agent’s view was:
The bidding property agent in question is one of the biggest agents of luxury houses in Dublin, is highly respected, and would never be involved in anything odd. He can still bid his heart out for his client (what is good for the goose is good for the gander). He had already made a firm bid for the property before it was put to auction.
It was odd that [Mod redacted name of property agent] was chosen as the agent for the auction of a luxury Dublin house. There wasn’t a huge lead time from marketing to auction date, so it was strange that it wasn’t one of the bigger established luxury house agents. Perhaps the fact that they had a firm bid from the bidding property agent (who is from a big luxury house agency) helped.
He was more circumspect on the telephone bidder. He has seen telephone bidders at luxury house sales before however in most cases that he can remember, their lawyer relays the bids (not the selling agent) and can sign there and then. There didn’t seem to be any lawyer in the room associated with the telephone bidder and [mod edit - property agent] said nothing.
There is no auction I have ever attended where someone would be allowed to chip in bids on a phone without a recognized lawyer in the room who can vouch for the provenance of the bidder, and demonstrate their authority to sign if successful. Otherwise any seller could submit their own bids and even if they won, they could claim some issue happened and then approach the known under-bidders (and their highest prices) later. It is auction 101.
Ultimately we left it at that. Our business is large, global, very liquid and very professional (full of lawyers). Maybe we can’t expect a smaller business like occasional sales of Dublin luxury houses to replicate it.
What did stoke our concern again were the e-mails from other Dublin property agents that my colleague received in the next few weeks about this auction. I won’t quote to preserve anonymity. Suffice it to say the auction I attended of a lone luxury Dublin property agent bidding aggressively, on behalf of a client, against an anonymous voice on the phone, was nowhere to be seen. This was a cauldron of bidding and the only surprise is that it didn’t get 4m.
I thought I would put this to thepropertypin community for feedback.
[mod note - I have redacted the property agent’s name if anyone wants it feel free to PM the poster]