A world-first full-size, dedicated live-stream real estate auction studio on a scale equivalent to those routinely used by major television networks for news or sports broadcasts has been launched by an African company.

This purpose-designed auction studio, integrating a variety of real-time bidding software options for clients including mobile app and Zoom, has been launched by High Street Auctions in Johannesburg, South Africa, and is the first of its kind globally to be developed for permanent use by private auctioneers.

The professional broadcast studio, unveiled in the knockdown of commercial, industrial and residential real estate valued in the hundreds of millions, will henceforth be used to present every one of the company’s virtual live-stream real estate sales.

Joff van Reenen, Director and Lead Auctioneer of High Street Auctions, says in just a matter of months Covid-19 has shredded a global industry’s operating guide that saw its first incarnation drafted some 2 500 years ago.

“Auctioneers are unquestionably more adaptable and better equipped now than was Greek historian Herodotus when he grappled with describing the auction process in 500BC, but the profoundly different socio-economic environment created overnight by this pandemic means the business world is in similarly uncharted territory.

“Likewise, auctions will not – they simply cannot – ever be the same again, and that’s especially true for big ticket items like real estate.”

Van Reenen says Covid-19 is now forcing all traditional and non-traditional buyers online and there’s no going back for the industry, but it’s not going to be enough for companies that want to stay in business to simply go digital in this “new normal”.

“If you’re not innovating on a gargantuan scale the way High Street Auctions has done over the past year with a series of technological ‘firsts’ in Africa that have now culminated in the global debut of a dedicated virtual live-stream real estate auction studio, you’re going to lose market share.”

High Street Auctions started its technology investment prior to the Covid-19 outbreak with the launch of its app, which permits interested parties to view catalogue lots, virtually tour real estate in 3D, place bids ahead of an auction or participate live on the day, bidding through the app.

“The 3D virtual tours of all real estate lots – industrial, commercial and residential – are also a new offering and a first for Africa across comprehensive portfolios.

“When High Street took the decision to make such a substantial investment in technology to offer comprehensive 3D virtual tours of every property we auction, there were numerous naysayers telling us we were wasting money; that nobody would make a large investment unless they’d physically seen and been inside a property.

“Our executive team looked at digital traffic and user statistics, did the analysis of how many of our previous buyers had distance-purchased, and looked at their decision-making processes prior to that.

“When on-site visits were suddenly impossible with the pandemic lockdown it became a no-brainer and we trusted our research. We knew that if we provided comprehensive property information coupled with 360-degree virtual walk-throughs that potential investors could take 50 times if they wished, they would still bid and they would still buy.

“Our stats echo international trends such as the study published by Realtor Magazine in the US in May, which indicated that two out of five buyers were prepared to purchase property on the strength of virtual tours without onsite visits.

“The live-streamed virtual auction we conducted in May with bidding via the app and Zoom proved this right. Since that sale more than 50 new sellers have contacted us.”

The next step, he says, was the completion of the virtual auction studio, which brings the sale into the buyer’s living or office space. Bidders from across Africa, North America, South America, the UK and Australia have since registered to bid on properties in these virtual studio auctions.

Van Reenen explains that the new digital real estate auction studio has the technological capability to virtually live stream in expert auctioneers from anywhere across globe for specialist sales to assist High Street’s sellers with the most expedient and professional disposal of their assets.

“In specialist real estate sales the various screens around the auctioneer’s podium also allow for High Street to showcase seller’s assets – whether residential, commercial or industrial – in full 3D, 360-degree virtual walkthrough format – the same walkthrough that buyers can do at their leisure on the company website prior to a sale.”

The High Street Auctions mobile app can be downloaded free of charge from IOS and Android app stores. The auction live stream is open to public viewing, but only FICA compliant and registered bidders may participate and bid in sales. The next virtual auction will be streamed live from noon Central African Time on 6 August July 2020.

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