Under the hammer: The female auctioneers breaking the mould

17 May 2021

It goes without saying that women have an equal footing throughout the real estate industry from front of house operations, to selling homes or leasing them out. However, one corner of the business is still calling out for more women to make a bid for equality…auctioneering!

Becoming an auctioneer is as simple as successfully completing the Auctioneer Accreditation Course with REINSW, which allows licensed agents to work in accordance with NSW Fair Trading. Emerging auctioneers can also flex their proverbial gavels by entering the Novice Auctioneers Competition (NAC) which is currently holding heats across the state, with the final hammer falling on July 29.

Four women who have been blazing their own trail as auctioneers share their stories in the hope others will follow.

Sarah Tabac of Cooley Auctions

Although some members of the industry have old school ideas, Sarah Tabac says she doesn’t let that phase her.

“Auctioneering can definitely be a bit of a boy’s club. I’ve heard male auctioneers identify as being part of the ‘auctioneering fraternity’. I absolutely identify as being an auctioneer, but I’m not part of a brotherhood. Having said that, being in a minority doesn’t scare me. I feel like it actually gives me a slight edge,” she adds.

“When it comes to purchasing property, women are often the decision makers. It’s those women that I get comments from saying - it’s about time women started doing this job!”

She says a female auctioneer can also give an agent an advantage.

“We’re more approachable and less intimidating. I feel like I can ask for bigger increments and it comes off as cheeky rather than pushy - and it works, which helps the vendor achieve better results,” she explains.

Sarah is hopeful the ratio of men to women will level out because she believes the flexibility of the job is a win-win, especially for mothers.

“It allows me to be there for all of the school drop offs and pickups and allows me to be present with my kids,” she says.

In 2018, Sarah put her skills under the spotlight at NAC and ended up in the final.

“It taught me to have the confidence I needed to call a live auction and to have the discipline to train in order to perfect my call. It also taught me how to deal with taking bids from a crowd without the pressure of having someone’s largest asset at stake,” she explains.

“Sarah Tabac competes at the Awards for Excellence Auctioneering competition.”

Karen Harvey of auctionWORKS

Despite there being few female auctioneers on the ground, Karen says she has never felt like the odd one out.

“I can honestly say I never feel like I’m in a minority when auctioning. The agents I work with trust me and value me for my skills and experience, the focus is never on my gender, just the great results achieved on the day,” she says.

Karen says while the buying public are largely unfazed, heckling does happen.

“I’ve had the odd cheeky comment here and there. A ‘gentleman’ asked if he could take me out for coffee if he increased his bid by $10,000. Confident he was at his limit, I told him if he increased it by $100,000 he could take me out for dinner,” she adds. 

Given there are large numbers of women in almost every other corner of the industry, Karen says the lack of women in auctioneering is baffling.

“I really don’t understand why there aren’t more female auctioneers, given the number of incredible female agents in our industry. Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence, or the perception that it’s a boys’ club, but it’s truly not,” she says.

Her own experience in REINSW’s competitions has allowed her to grow as an auctioneer.

“I was in the state final of the NAC and it was a great platform to not only learn and develop, but to showcase myself in front of the state’s best auctioneers - that’s how I’m now working at AuctionWorks. I can’t wait to see the entrants in action in this year’s competition. Hopefully there will be a few great females in the talent pool,” she says.

Briannan Davis of Cooley Auctions

After eight years as an auctioneer, Briannan Davis says people can still be taken aback by a female auctioneer at the helm.

“At a recent auction I was registering buyers and one asked me where the auctioneer would stand. I said ‘I’ll just be over there’ and they were surprised. A lot of people still expect a man to walk in with the gavel in hand to take front and centre,” she says.

But agents appreciate the unique traits a female auctioneer brings to the table.

“A lot of clients say they really like how it's not an intimidating environment when I'm the auctioneer. I always like to put everybody at ease, but I still have the firmness you need to give buyers push back. Perhaps some males can come across as a little intimidating and overpowering,” she says.

It’s that self-assurance that can be a major roadblock to entering the career.

“Confidence in front of a crowd is the biggest hurdle you’ll face when doing an auction. Being able to confidently control the room is important, but once you've got that down, then that's half the battle won!” Briannan explains.

As a successful applicant in the Awards for Excellence Auctioneer Competition, she agrees that a challenge can help tackle the nerves.

“The main reason I go in them is to practice my call and push myself, while also trying new techniques. And obviously if you're a finalist, or you win it, then you're there at the REINSW Awards and your name is up there, which is a really big thing to show the industry,” she says.

“Mel Payne won the Newcastle heat at NAC 2020.”

Asha Kerr of LJ Hooker

“After being in real estate for over 25 years I can say there is now more equality in the auction space then ever. LJ Hooker has a strong female auctioneering team, which is fostered in our training and mentoring programs,” she says.
Ms Kerr says although some women might initially be put off auctioneering because of the perceived challenges of holding a crowd, anyone interested in the career should trust their intuition.

“I believe women have a better feel for a room or a large space as we can read a crowd and, often I’d like to think, be more engaging and entertaining!” she says.

As a business owner, Ms Kerr says she has always encouraged newcomers to challenge themselves.

“Competition conditions are somewhat different to a live auction, but provide valuable opportunities to hone your craft,” she says.

For anyone hoping to work under the hammer, Ms Kerr has some simple advice.

“To develop a great call, you need to find a mentor, watch as many videos of top auctioneers as you can and make sure you know the legislation. I’m also a firm believer that you need to understand how important your role is, and how hard that agent has worked for the past three to four weeks to bring the auction to life.”

If you would like to get involved in the Novice Auctioneers Competition, the next heat is being held in Sydney CBD on 28 May 2021 – find out more here. Sarah Tabac will be competing in the Awards for Excellence Auctioneers Competition which is being held in Sydney on 23-24 June. If you would like come and watch please contact the REINSW Events Team at [email protected].

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