Buying and selling your home

How to succeed at property auctions

an auction from the point of view of the auctioneer

So you have seen an auction advertised in your local paper and as you have nothing else to do with your time you decide to go along and have a look to see what is available.  

You don’t need a solicitor before the auction – or do you?

Well the answer to that is an emphatic “yes”.  You should ensure that you do all of your research before going to the auction as, in the event of you bidding successfully, contracts are exchanged when the gavel goes down and you will have a contract which binds you to purchase the property on the date specified in the contract.  

What is more, you should make sure that all of the searches and surveys are carried out before contracts are exchanged, just as you would if you were going to purchase a property in the usual way (which is known as by Private Treaty). 

A purchase by auction should not be viewed any differently.

How do I start the process of buying at auction?

After seeing the advert you should get a copy of the catalogue.  Most of these are now available online.  You should then consider which particular properties you might be interested in.  

The catalogue will show a guide price for the property.  This is not the price for which the property will actually be sold but the agents guide of their estimate of the price the property may achieve.  The property may sell for significantly more than that although it may also sell for less.  Do not however make the mistake of believing that you will be able to pick up a bargain.  

Properties do on occasion go for significantly higher than the guide price.  It only takes a number of people to be bidding for the property to go significantly higher than anyone thought possible.   The seller may well have set a reserve on the property which means that the property cannot be sold at the auction for anything below that figure.

What about a survey?

When you have selected properties that you would like to look at then you should arrange to visit them if at all possible and you should also arrange for a proper survey of the property to be conducted by an appropriately qualified surveyor.  The surveyor will be able to advise you about the state and condition of the property ensuring that it is structurally sound and also advising on any work that may need to be carried out.  This will enable you to obtain quotes if necessary as you do need to go into the auction with all of the relevant costings available.

What will my solicitor do?

The catalogue will show that a legal pack is available and that is what the solicitor needs to look at.  This should contain copies of the title deeds to the property and any searches that the seller’s solicitor may have completed. Most catalogues should be available several weeks before the actual auction and you should give your solicitor as much time as possible to check through the documents for you.  

Properties which are going to auction often have some form of problem with them.  This can be either a legal problem or structural one.  Your solicitor will check any legal issues for you and will ensure that there are no problems evident in the title deeds or searches.  

Common problems include:

  • Issues with rights of way or rights for services to be connected
  • Boundary issues 
  • Missing or inaccurate title deeds
  • Planning restrictions

Regarding the last point, if the property is being sold with planning then the contents of the planning documents should be checked carefully to make sure that there are no hidden concerns.

You may find that you have to carry out further investigations in relation to such matters as contamination on the site particularly if you are going to convert something to residential use.  Make sure that you give yourself enough time to carry these out.  “Marry in haste repent at leisure” applies equally to this situation.  

Call our specialist solicitors on 0808 231 1320

Financial considerations

Before attending the auction you must make sure that you have enough money to complete on any purchase.  Remember that as well as the amount that you bid for the property the auction house will add a percentage as their fee.  You should also take into account any stamp duty that you have to pay and the land registry fee that you will have to pay to register you as the owner of the property if you are successful.  

The cost of any searches that have been provided by the seller is often added to the price that you will have to pay and on occasion, the seller also makes it a term of the auction that their solicitor cost have to be paid by the buyer.

Offers in advance of the auction

If you are particularly keen on the property then you may well be able to make an offer before the actual auction.  If that offer is successful then the seller is likely to require that you exchange contracts in the conventional way before the auction takes place at which point they will withdraw it from the actual auction.

Auction day - what happens when the day arrives?

Once at the auction try not to get carried away with the excitement of the situation.  It is vital that you set a limit on the amount that you can pay for the property.  Do not bid more for the property than you can afford or that it is worth to you.  This may sound obvious, but it is all too easy to get caught up in the moment and get carried away.  

The auction house will ask you to provide them with proof of funds and ID before issuing you with a number which is used to identify you when are bidding.  This is required to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations so make sure that you take these with you or you will not be able to bid.  

It is possible to bid in a number of different ways.  You can bid on the telephone, the internet or via a proxy bid.   You will need to comply with the Money Laundering Regulations whichever method you use to make your bid.

Success! Now what happens?

If you are successful you will have to pay the deposit there and then and the bringing down of the gavel signifies exchange.  You cannot refuse to complete the transaction on the basis that you find something out after the auction that you should have known before.  

The completion date will be set in accordance with the conditions set out at the back of the catalogue and will usually be 20 working days after the auction although this time frame may vary.

If the property is not sold at the auction it may still be possible for you to purchase it as the agents tend to approach any underbidders to see if they would be interested. You will often see agents in a huddle after the auction trying to secure a deal if the highest price offered is very close to the reserve that was set.

Remember auctions can be a very stressful environment but can also be a great deal of fun.  Also remember to consult your solicitor as early in the process as possible to make sure that you know all the ins and outs of the property that you want to bid for.

Fast and efficient service

Our Residential property solicitors are members of the Law Society's Conveyancing quality scheme and experts in dealing with transactions involving property purchased at auction. 

We understand that speed of service is an important factor when buying at auction and will take care of all the legal formalities as quickly and efficiently as possible right through to completion. 

Tees are here to help

We have many specialist lawyers who are based in:

EssexBrentwoodChelmsford, and Saffron Walden
HertfordshireBishop's Stortford and Royston

But we can help you wherever you are in England and Wales.

Chat to the Author, Anne Elliss

Executive Partner, Residential Property, Brentwood office

Meet Anne
Anne Elliss, partner and conveyancing specialist in Brentwood | Tees Law

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