FRANKIE DeGROOT | News | CONTACT
A lively auction has ended in farce yesterday after the rookie auctioneer accidentally sold the property to a Magnolia Tree which he was using as a fake bidder.
The impeccably restored Californian bungalow, in the heart of Betoota’s Croquet Belt looked set to challenge local price records with a healthy attendance and over 40 registered bidders.
The economically-diverse crowd, made up of both people with money and people looking for decorating ideas were in high spirits when the auction started at 10:30am yesterday.
An opening bid of $100,000 elicited giggles from the crowd until the vendor snatched the man’s paddle from his hand and slapped him with it. From there the bidding increased in $50,000 increments until it stalled at $550,000, the auctioneer then allowing increments of $5000.
Empty-nesters Jim and Dulcie Zenner were locked in a fierce bidding war with investor Kim Nguyen and a Magnolia tree which was being used as a fake bidder to artificially drive the price up; a practice which is illegal but often difficult to prove.
At $575,000 Nguyen bowed out, leaving only the Zenners and the Magnolia tree in the race. The price then climbed in $1000 increments until it reached $578,000.
At this point the auctioneer was expected to drop the hammer and sell the house to the Zenners but instead threw in another fake bid from the tree and, failing to elicit any further response from the crowd, sold the house to “the very tall man up the back with the purple flowers”.
At this point the disappointed crowd dispersed, with the exception of the vendor who was last seen advancing on the auctioneer with a croquet mallet.
“Look, these things do happen” admitted auctioneer Alistair Flail.
“Embarrassing, sure. But the market is very dynamic at the moment and having some sort of spectacle occur at an auction is quite common. It seems strange that a tree would buy a house, but it is a great time to buy, and it just goes to show how popular heritage properties in established suburbs are right now”.
The Magnolia tree was unavailable for comment.