There was champagne and cake when Michele Mossop’s apartment sold just over the auction reserve on a crisp winter’s day in June, but there were tears too.
Mossop was grateful to have found a buyer for her two-bedroom, art deco apartment but it had been a reluctant sale of the place she’d called home for 23 years. The photographer had decided to sell for financial reasons.
“I knew I didn’t have enough super and I’d been thinking about it for a while,” she says. “I thought I’d do it at the end of this year so I was talking with agents but I kept putting it off. Then in March [the agents] said, ‘listen, we’ve got an overflow [of buyers] from properties we’ve sold and they’d be interested in your place’.”
Just as Mossop decided she was ready to list with McGrath Coogee’s Angus Gorrie, the COVID-19 lockdown kicked in and uncertainty gripped the economy.
“Everything started to slide, my freelance work dried up, my clients were mostly corporates – a lot of conferences and things like that and it just shut down,” she says.
Mossop sat tight for April, making the most of the sunshine and district views from her top-floor home, then when the ban on open homes was lifted in May, Gorrie encouraged her to list.
“The agent said, ‘listen, people are rushing in to look, your place will do really well’,” Mossop says. “I thought about going off-market but we got a lot of interest so the agent wanted to go to auction.”
Mossop says she chose McGrath Coogee after years of “checking out agents”.
“I thought the best option is the agent who sells the most apartments in the area because they would have a good database,” she says. “I was watching the sales results and being very practical about who’d sold the most.”
Mossop admits to being quite pessimistic about the market at the beginning of the pandemic and nervous about achieving her minimum price.
“I thought I’d really lost any opportunity, I thought I’d have to wait it out for two or three years,” she says. “I had no idea how it was going to turn out at all, you can’t step back and be objective.”
The whole auction process was entirely new to Mossop. She had sold a property once before, but she sold off-market to a colleague without an agent.
“It was during the coup in Papua New Guinea in 1997,” she says.
“I hadn’t put [my apartment] on the market but Andrew had heard I was selling and said he’d like to buy it as an investment. So for about three days, while he was dodging bullets in Port Moresby, we’d haggle over the phone. After he bought it, I rented it back from him until I found Clovelly.”
Gorrie says with 30 groups through the first open he expected to sell prior to auction, but there were a couple of buyers around the same price point so the agency ran a “short, sharp auction campaign”.
They employed the usual marketing tools, listing on real estate portals and giving the property a social media boost. They also scored an editorial in the local paper which generated inquiries.
“We didn’t lose any buyers, the five keen buyers that saw it in the first week stayed on it,” says Gorrie.
He says there wasn’t too much quality competition on the market in June and buyers liked the architecture of the building and the top floor position.
“We were one of the freshest campaigns running and there wasn’t a lot of other stock,” he says. “I was pretty confident that they were all going to turn up [to the auction] and they did.”
A good crowd of onlookers also turned out for the on-street auction, but Mossop says she was “a mess” on the day.
“A friend of one of my neighbours came up and said, ‘you can tell you’ve put a lot of love into this place’,” she says. “I just burst into tears. I loved my place, [selling] was just the practical thing to do.”
Mossop and a couple of close friends decided to distance themselves from proceedings, heading around the corner where they could still hear the calls from the auctioneer.
When the final call was made at $1.312 million, Mossop says the overriding feeling was one of relief. A buyer’s advocate bidding on behalf of a local man was the successful bidder.
Gorrie says all five registered bidders took part in the auction and four of the five bidders remained active over the $1.3 million reserve, which showed unusually healthy competition.
“I don’t think it could have played out any better,” he says. “The campaign length was perfect. It was the best auction we’d had this year.”
Mossop has just finished packing up her apartment ready to move out.
She had originally considered making a sea change to the north coast, but decided she wasn’t ready to leave Sydney. She’s found a character rental in Little Bay and says the plan is to eventually buy a smaller apartment and invest the cash she’s freed up with the aim of gradually boosting her super.
Reflecting on the sale, Mossop says she wouldn’t do anything differently.
“Angus was good because he understood the emotion involved with selling and also the anxiety of an auction,” she says.
“He also understood what my financial limit was and respected it. There were a couple of moments when I felt everything was going too fast, but I did trust he knew what he was doing.”
This is part of a series looking at how Australians sold their homes. For more advice, read Domain’s ultimate guide to selling your home.