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The language of auctions in New South Wales

18 November 2014
In recent weeks there has been discussion regarding the rules and regulations for auctions being conducted in a language other than in English. The Property, Stock and Business Agents Act 2002 (NSW) and the Property, Stock and Business Agents Regulation 2014 (NSW) control the way in which auctions of residential property and rural land are conducted in NSW.

A spokesperson from NSW Fair Trading said an auctioneer should conduct the auction in English if the agent is reasonably aware that a bidder participating in the auction can only speak English. By doing so, the agent is meeting their obligations to the vendor and working to achieve the highest possible price for the property.

“The law does not prevent an auction being translated into a different language. If the auction is subject to different conditions of sale, these conditions must be clearly displayed and communicated to bidders before the auction starts. The conditions of sale are required to be displayed in the English language,” the NSW Fair Trading spokesperson said.

“By law, an agent must complete a Bidders Record in the English language. The auctioneer and other agents present at an auction should refer to the Bidders Record to assist in determining the language that bidders may speak or understand, but this should not be the only determining factor.”

The rules of engagement
auctionWORKS Founder and Principal, and 2014 Awards for Excellence Woodrow Weight Award recipient, David Scholes does not have a problem with dual language auctioneers conducting auctions in another language in areas where off-shore buyers predominate.

“As long as the auction is conducted primarily in English, and when I say primarily I mean completely in English with parts such as prices and relevant topics regarding terms and conditions being translated into other languages, then I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with it,” Mr Scholes said.

“In saying that, I would never allow an auctioneer to conduct an auction primarily in a language other than English, even if the participants were all foreign language speaking.

“I always make sure the terms and condition are displayed in English, but they are also translated so the non-English speaking people understand what the rules of engagement are.

“Competent agents who operate in areas influenced by Asian money often employ Cantonese or Mandarin speaking staff members, and we always make sure we position them in the audience as the bidding starts so they can qualify everybody.

“We always encourage non-English speaking bidders to bring an advisor or family member that can sit with them, or if they hold the right authority they can bid for them. We also use bid display boards in our auction rooms, so that non-English speaking people can visually see the bid as well as hear it.

Bidding technology
Century 21 Cordeau Marshall Principal Craig Marshall has gone one step further than in-room bidding display boards and has created an LED display board that is used at on-site auctions. The LED display board shows the price and bidder’s number on the board as soon as the bid is made.

“The reason this system is effective is because it makes the process of auctions comfortable for all parties involved. There is no confusion, it takes the stress out of what is happening in that moment and it alleviates the problem of understanding the current price on offer,” Mr Marshall said.

“For foreign buyers it stops agents writing down the bid on a piece of paper, which I’ve found can get very confusing. It also removes the issue of having to call an auction in another language, because everyone can read numbers and make an educated decision on whether to put a bid in or not.”