by Tim O’Dwyer M.A., LL.B
Walk away to bid another day – but not before the auction is over.
Picture yourself as a duly registered, cashed-up bidder at the auction of a seaside mansion. Bidding starts at $6.5 million. You join in as bidding progresses to $7.5 million.
Then the auctioneer announces that the property is “on the market” – meaning that the reserve price has been reached and any higher bid will, on the fall of the hammer, secure the property.
Another bidder (let’s call him “Cheng”) bids $7.525 million. You counter with $7.53 million. Cheng responds with $7.535 million. At this point the auctioneer asks for Cheng’s bidding number. Surprise, surprise, the man is not registered. So the auctioneer reverts to your $7.53 million bid. Going once, going twice. Suddenly the auctioneer says he will “hold it over”.
“No, stop,” you shout, “this is illegal!” While the auctioneer moves on to other properties, a salesman from the owner’s real estate agency accompanies you from the auction room. You are in an emotional state. After the salesman assures you “it would all be settled”, and checks on you between auctions, you go outside for a smoke. Not wise.
Cheng, in the meantime, is registered as a bidder. The auctioneer then announces that all bidding registrations, with the owner’s approval, are in place for this property.
He further announces that all previous bidders are present except yourself, whereupon the salesman reports that you have left the building and are unreachable on your mobile phone. The auction restarts immediately with Cheng’s revived bid of $7.535 million. There are no other bids. The property is knocked down to Cheng who promptly signs a contract with the owner. When you find this all out later, you are livid. What to do?