Assessing the Performance of Real Estate Auctions Assessing the Performance of Real Estate Auctions

By Christopher J. Mayer

This paper investigates the performance of real estate auctions in selling real estate relative to the more traditional method of negotiated sale. Estimates from auctions in Los Angeles during the boom of the mid 1980s show a discount that ranges between 0 and 9 percent, while similar sales in Dallas during the real estate bust of the late 1980s obtained discounts in the 9 to 21 percent range. This evidence is censistent with a theory that predicts larger percentage discounts in down markets. Although these results differ from previous studies of U.S. auctions that find much larger discounts, a comparison of methodologies suggests that previous papers that use a hedonic equation suffer from a selection bias problem, pushing auction coefficients towards finding larger discounts. Another interesting finding is that publishing a reserve price does not affect the estimated auction prices. Finally, the study notes that scattered-site auctions sell at a larger discount than the more homogeneous sales of single-site condominiums and finds no evidence of price declines over the course of an auction. The paper concludes that despite the discounts, auctions are still a viable sales strategy, especially for large sellers that face high holding costs and long average sales times, and for developers of single-site condominium complexes.