PHOTO: The ball was in the buyer’s court for this heritage-protected house at 9 Wardoo Road, Willoughby.

The Sydney auction market stumbled on Saturday with clearance rates dropping below 60 per cent. Auctioneers across the city found themselves presiding over standoffs as prospective buyers endeavoured to stare down vendors on asking prices.

The strategic tension between buyers and sellers was highlighted by the large number of “pass-in negotiated” auction sales.

The clearance rate of 58.1 per cent was one of the lowest results of the year.