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South African virtual auction studio launch sets new global bar for auctioneering technology

A full-size, dedicated live-stream auction studio on a scale equivalent to those routinely used by major television networks for news or sports broadcasts has been launched by premier South African real estate and movables specialist auctioneers, High Street Auctions.

This purpose-designed auction studio, integrating a variety of real-time bidding software options for clients including mobile app and Zoom, is understood to be the first of its kind in the world developed for permanent use by private auctioneers.

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

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.

“We 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.

“Fortunately auction technology has evolved rapidly in recent years, but unfortunately until recently the industry’s digital development was organically split into two main areas of specialty because there was a fairly sharp divide between traditional and online auctioneers.

“There were in fact very few companies like High Street that straddled the divide; opting to go entirely digital with every aspect of its business coupled with live auction days.”

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 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.

“The live-streamed virtual auction we conducted in May with bidding via the app and Zoom proved us so right that since the sale more than 30 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 – in the case of today’s sale their spaces on four continents. Bidders hailing from North America, the UK, South America and Africa were registered in the auction.

Van Reenen explains that the new digital 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 compliant and registered bidders may participate and bid in sales. The next virtual auction will be streamed live from noon Central African Time on 9 July 2020.

  • Watch Joff van Reenen describe the new studio technology.

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