What does auction price guide mean?

Every state or territory in Australia has laws to prevent agent underquoting. These laws are meant to make sure that the agent quotes a price that is realistic and close to the figure prospective buyers can expect the property to sell for. The thing is, they’re not all that reliable. So it’s really important, as a buyer,  you learn to interpret agent price guides, and understand what an auction price guide is?

“Quote it low, watch it go. Quote it high, watch it die”

Fundamentally, the agent price guide is a tool to get a reaction from buyers.

Agents have a saying – “Quote it low, watch it go. “Quote it high, watch it die,” and what this means is, if the Agent underquotes, they’ll get lots of buyers interested in the property, but if they quote it too high, then buyers won’t react well and they won’t generate the interest that they need to run a competitive auction.

The logic goes like this. If you quote it low, buyers will think they’ve got a chance. They’ll take contracts, go and do the building pest inspections and all their other due diligence. Then they’ll turn up at auction, they’ll bid, and a whole bunch of bidders will be disappointed because only one person can buy the property.

If you quote it just right, and that means what it’s worth, then lots of buyers are not going to feel like they’ve got an opportunity. The likelihood is that they’re not going to compete and it might sell just for what it’s worth.

Sometimes, agents accidentally quote it a bit high, and I mean accidentally because nobody is going to deliberately quote a price that is higher than what they really expect.

NSW Quoting Options:

In New South Wales, agents have three options for quoting an auction price guide:

  1. Quote the exact price that they put on the agency agreement
    So for instance, if they put $700,000 to $750,000 on the agreement, that’s what they’ll quote. Now I can tell you, you don’t come across many agents who do that.
  2. Quote a single price
    This figure would normally be the bottom of their price range. You can be fairly confident that if an Agent is quoting $700,000, for instance, the range on the Agency Agreement will be $700,000 to $770,000, as the allowable range is 10%.  That an Agent will quote the bottom of the range is a fairly safe bet, but they can quote any price within their range, so be careful of making that assumption.
  3. Not quote a price at all
    Personally, as a buyer, I find that really frustrating.  When agents say, “I’m sorry. I’m not quoting a price,” they’ll normally hand you a list of recent sales, and that can be quite telling, giving you an approximation of the price they are expecting to achieve.  However, I once had a list handed to me, where the prices ranged from $200,000 to $800,000, and I can say, that that wasn’t very helpful.


There are also rules about how and Agent can handle offers. If a prospective buyer makes an offer during the sales campaign and that offer is rejected by the vendor, the Agent is not supposed to quote a figure below that rejected offer any longer.

There are a few loopholes with this though, and if the agent has said, “I’m not accepting that offer,” because it wasn’t in writing, for instance, or it wasn’t on a contract, or the vendor said that they’re not accepting offers, then the Agent can say, “Well, look. I didn’t actually receive any real offer” and they will ignore that rule.

Owners will have their own price expectation

Another thing to consider is that an owner will have their own price expectation, and quite often, it’s a bit more than you’re prepared to pay. Now the agent doesn’t really want to know about that because if they know that the owner has got a price expectation that’s way above market value, they don’t want to be forced to quote a really high price.

You’ve got to be aware that there’s a game going on the whole time. The owner wants a particular figure, the agent’s trying to get it,  but also knows that you won’t want to pay that much.  Somehow the Agent has got to bridge that gap.  In a sales transaction, the Agent is working for the vendor, not for the buyer.  The best protection you have as a buyer is to do your own research.

There is no point just adding a blanket 10% or $100,00 to every auction price guide. You need to do your homework, you need to work out what the property is worth, (or get a professional to help you), and then use that figure as a decision-making point for setting your limit to either go to auction or make an offer.

Further reading:

Guide to understanding real estate auction underquoting laws

Published 10 April, 2018.

DISCLAIMER: Good Deeds buyers tips are intended to be of a general nature. Please contact us for advice that is specific to your individual circumstances. You may also need to get advice from other professionals such as an accountant, mortgage broker, financial planner or solicitor.

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