Most auctions used to involve just an exuberant auctioneer, a hammer, a crowd of stickybeak neighbours – and hopefully a few genuine bidders.

But an increasing number of auctions, in Melbourne at least, are taking showtime to a new level.

This February, when a rundown Brunswick house that featured in a Beyonce music video went under the hammer, the agents pulled out all stops to draw a crowd. Think: a Beyonce lookalike, a pimped-up car, flashing cameras and live media crosses.

Yes, it was a gimmick, but Steven James, the auctioneer on the day, believed it helped increase the value of the property by around $80,000, particularly given he says the underbidder was a big Beyonce fan.

Mr James said the property had been a difficult marketing proposition, particularly because it was located in a mixed-use zone.

“We wanted to market it as much as possible to achieve the best possible price and have a bigger range of marketing than the usual property would.”

But it’s not the only property that Mr James, director of vendor advocacy firm Find The Best Agent, has injected a bit of razzle-dazzle in to.

“What I don’t mind doing in the summertime is twilight auctions on a Thursday. They work well with some soft music, but it depends on the house,” he says.

Mr James says it’s all about picking a unique property that suits an auction day with a difference. For example he organised a horse and cart for a particularly historic property.

Agent Ryan Currie, a partner at Nelson Alexander Flemington, is well known for organising coffee carts – or even gelato vans – at his Melbourne auctions.

“It’s not there to get all the buyers sugared up,” he says. “It’s saying to everyone: ‘you’ve given up your Saturday – here’s a coffee on us’.

“It’s something a bit different than shoving a brochure in someone’s face so they’ll feel like they’re at a polling booth.”

In summer, Mr Currie carries around a small cooler bag in the boot of his car, with self-branded bottles of water that he hands around.

Some of his other favourite touches are giving away little bags of jellybeans, or commissioning the odd four-piece band at an auction.

“They’re not playing any cheesy songs like I’m in the Money; it’s just to set the mood a little bit.”

Mr Currie says it’s “all about the endorphins”.

“I couldn’t say it increases the value, but I think it lightens the mood of what can sometimes be a tense moment.”

Other unusual auction tactics have included the appearance of a Shetland pony at a sale in Wantirna’s Shetland Drive, and a Michael Jackson impersonator at another property in the leafy east.

Down on the Mornington Peninsula, freelance auctioneer Roger Lemke, who is also a professional opera singer of 30 years’ standing, has been known to wow a crowd pre-auction.

“If it’s a million dollar property with views over the sea I might sing a bit of Torna a Surrinto (‘Come Back to Sorrento’) or O Sole Mio,” says Mr Lemke.

“I finish up with a top note then there’s a burst of applause – and then we go into the auction. It adds a bit of theatricality to it.”



Reporter Larissa Ham