The long road to the top for New Zealand's champion auctioneer - Cooper & Co

The long road to the top for New Zealand's champion auctioneer

While many of us will have attended an auction at some point in our lives, the art of auctioneering remains a mystery to most.

Competing at the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) National Real Estate Auctioneering Championships, which was held in Auckland last week, is a bit like competing in the New Zealand Open or the Coast to Coast. Professional auctioneers train for this annual event with a level of commitment similar to that of an elite athlete.

“To the average person, auctioneering looks easy”, said Aaron Davis of Harcourts Blue Fern Realty in Henderson, “but that’s because a seasoned auctioneer makes it look easy.”

Davis has been calling auctions for Harcourts for 10 years and has made it to the finals of the national championships eight times. This year he took out the top spot after two gruelling days of competition against 27 of the country’s most experienced auctioneers.

A good auctioneer requires a high level of industry knowledge, excellent communication and numeracy skills, and most importantly, the ability to build rapport with people from all walks of life.

“Auction competitions are not the same as a real auction”, said Davis. “It’s all scripted, but there are always plenty of curve balls thrown in. You have to think on your feet and then there’s the pressure of being scrutinised by the judges. It just takes one small slip up; you get a number wrong or you don’t handle a question as well as you’d like. The negative self-talk in your head can quickly take you down.”

In the weeks leading up to the competition, Aaron practices for several hours a day over and above the ‘on the job training’ he gets as a full time auctioneer. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been calling auctions”, says Aaron, “you need to be constantly perfecting your skills to get the best result.”

Amongst the exceptionally large field of auctioneers competing at this year’s event, half were from Harcourts. “We’re a very competitive bunch”, says Aaron, “but there’s also a strong camaraderie amongst auctioneers. We get together regularly to learn from each other and to help mentor the up and comers.”

The top two spots in the senior competition were both won by Harcourts auctioneers, with Robert Tulp from Harcourts Cooper & Co in Hobsonville named the runner up to Aaron Davis’ win.

Mark Morrison from Harcourts Auckland was the winner of the ‘Rising Stars Competition’, where a 13-strong field of novice auctioneers competed. Chris Greenhill from Harcourts Marlborough was a runner up in the Rising Stars section.

“Historically Harcourts has always had a culture of excellence in auctioneering in New Zealand and internationally”, said Harcourts Managing Director, Bryan Thomson. “The quality of the auctioneering can have an enormous impact on the outcome of an auction, so it’s gratifying to see so many of our auctioneers competing and winning at this level year after year.”

And like any good sporting event, the Kiwis love to take on the Aussies. Aaron Davis and runner up, Robert Tulp, will do just that when they represent New Zealand at the Australasian Auctioneering Championships in Melbourne this October.