4 tips to win an auction through body language

If you want to improve your chances at taking out the next auction you attend, learning to read someone else's body language can give you insight to help you  outplay others and win that property.

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Auctioneers are known for their charismatic body language, but it is not just something exclusive to just them; the way that everyone moves says something, and it is possible for investors to pick up on this to use it to their advantage.

One of the biggest mistakes Damien Cooley, an auctioneer and director of Cooley Auctions, sees is they do not look at the body language of others in the middle of an auction.

“One of the biggest mistakes I think buyers make is that they don’t watch their competition; they’re not looking at the body language of the buyers they’re bidding against,” he said.

“From an auctioneer’s perspective, body language is probably one of the most important things that we concentrate on because there are telltale signs that let us read what a buyer is thinking, and what they may be prepared to pay for a property.


“It affects our judgment on whether we’re looking for a lower increment bid, a higher increment bid, how bullish we are with a buyer, or how much time we give a buyer to make a decision.”

Start it with a handshake

Watching your competition as they shake the hand of the auctioneer before the auction even begins can be telling, with the typical nervous signs of sweaty palms indicating someone is out of their comfort zone and may be overzealous.

“The first thing I like doing, if I have the chance, is to shake people’s hands before the auction because people who are really quite nervous will be perspiring,” Mr Cooley said.

“If someone is nervous it means they’re emotionally engaged,”

Carding the competition

At least in NSW, bidders need to register before an auction, and those that do are required to have a registration card. Mr Cooley believes those that make their registration card visible exude seriousness and distance themselves from spectators.

“Some buyers have their cards in a prominent position because they want to be ready to hold it up and bid, [while] other buyers have their cards in handbags, or hidden away in folders,” he said.

“One thing I’ll say at the beginning of my auction is ‘If you are intending on bidding you need to hold a registration card, I need to see that card every single time you bid’. That’s when we can see those buyers who get their cards ready, we know straight away that they are fair dinkum because they’re prepared.

“Another sign during the bidding might be that one of the party shakes their head, or they might put their card away in their handbag.”

Couples’ conversations

Couples that do not have a clear plan in mind going into an auction can be undone if bids are placed at the right time, according to Mr Cooley.

“Whether it’s two guys, two girls, a husband and wife, or whatever, usually there is one party in a relationship who is more emotional. That’s the person who is looking for guidance more from the other party and that differs; it’s not always the female or the male in the relationship but usually it’s the person who’s not doing the bidding,” he explained.

“Usually the person who’s bidding is the more confident one, but it’s the less confident one who’s giving off more telltale signs.

When one of the partners looks at the other and asks ‘What do you think?’, Mr Cooley said this was the perfect time to place another bid.

“That’s when [buyers] needs to come in straight away with a bid like a dagger in the chest saying ‘I’m going to buy this property, why are you wasting your time?’”

Going to the professionals

Bidding through a professional buyer can give you an extra advantage, as everyone, even the auctioneer, will treat the bidder differently.

“More often than not the agent feels they need to be a bit more frank with a professional buyer than they do with an unseasoned buyer,” he said.

However, professional bidders cans till be read, particularly if they have yet to call their client.

“If they hold the highest bid and won’t increase that bid, or say they’re not going to pay anymore I can tell that they have more because they haven’t had to make a phone call to their buyer, or they haven’t reached their agreed limit,” Mr Cooley said.

Similarly, if the selling agent goes to ask the owner for further instructions, Mr Cooley added it may be a sign the auction is nearing its end.

“As a bidder I’d be watching the agent when they’re going into ask the owner for instructions, because usually that’s a sign that they’re nearing the reserve, or at a point where the agent thinks it’s time to sell,” he said.

“If the vendor is not present, but is on the phone, then watch how the agent is talking to the vendor.”

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