Buying At An Auction

Background to UK Property Auctions

This is where great deals can be made. You can save up to 40% on a property by buying it at auction.

Mortgage Lenders often put up their repossessed properties for sale, usually at deliberately reduced “reserve” prices to ensure they sell quickly. Local authorities and housing associations use them for similar reasons.

These guys have a lot of flats/houses on their books and don’t seem to see the value of them as much as you might. They basically just want to get rid of them and recoup some money as fast as possible .

Other properties put up for auction will be those with development potential or difficult to sell.


Of course there are some downsides to buying property at auctions – though these can be dealt with fairly easily.

One is that you’ll need to have got your Valuation/SurveyConveyancing and mortgage sorted beforehand.

Even though you’ve paid up to a few hundred pounds for these, there’s no guarantee you’ll be the successful bidder.

However, if you’ve got the spare cash the sort of savings possible could make it very worthwhile.


You also have to move fast and there is much greater uncertainty than buying a home the normal way – until the auctioneer’s hammer falls on the highest bid.

The timescale from the announcement – basically when the auction catalogue showing all the “lots” for sale is printed – to the date of the auction is often only three or four weeks.

However it’s quite possible to arrange everything within that time if you organise yourself properly.

Basically the process is the same as that outlined in Completing Your Property Deal ie as if your offer has been accepted and you now have to arrange the actual purchase. (Of particular relevance would be the section on Get ready to hassle – to make sure things move quickly)

Many normal individuals from all types of different backgrounds, with no experience of auctions, have done it succesfully and are very glad they did.

A further benefit of buying at auction is that you can buy your home more quickly because it isn’t part of a slow moving and stressful Property Chain.


How to Buy at Auction

If you’re nervous about the auction process (which isn’t nearly as scary as it’s made to look on films) you could get your solicitor or surveyor to do the bidding for you. You can either stand beside them or, if you prefer, could stay at home clutching teddy and waiting for the phone to ring with the news.

You should always set a price limit on the property.

If you’re doing the bidding yourself don’t get carried away and exceed it. Just because someone else is bidding higher doesn’t mean the property has suddenly gone up in value.

You would know what to pay for your chosen property because you’d have conducted a Valuation/Survey and the Conveyancing and arranged a mortgage beforehand.

The Mortgage Lender will need to be satisfied with the valuation so make sure they’re in agreement with your arrangements … otherwise there’ll be a delay.


You should also consider having a full survey done to protect yourself. Perhaps the property is for sale because it’s got serious structural problems… which a simple valuation may not pick up… It might cost more but it could save you from a potential huge loss.

If your bid is successful you are legally bound to buy the property and will need to put a down payment deposit there and then of 10% of the property’s price.

You would sign the contract (which you’ve seen beforehand) in the sale room.

The seller is legally bound to complete on the day. You would pay them the rest of the price (ie 90%) within the next 28 days.

If necessary you could use a bridging loan to pay this off. These are short-term loans which are often used for auction purchases. Click here to read more about bridging loans..

A good idea is to attend a few auctions as an observer and get a feel for them.


How to Find Auctions



Unfortunately, finding the auctions is not that easy.

Most auction houses only send out information to trade professionals. Advertising and publicity are expensive and there even seems to be an underlying attitude that they don’t really need the general public.

So you’ll be fairly hard pressed to track them down. But – with the huge savings you could make – it’ll be worth it.


A Few Tips on Finding Auctions

Obviously you can do Google searches. But your local phone directory may have quite a few entries for auction houses. (These are old fashioned institutions and will probably still be using things like the Yellow Pages). But you’ll find that these often turn out to be auctioneers for unrelated subjects like art or furniture. There may hardly be any for property.

When searching, the other thing to bear in mind is that the areas covered by auction houses are not necessarily local to them. For example, an auction house in Northern Ireland may well be selling property in London.


One method of finding auctions is to take note of any “For Sale” signs in your desired area which mention that the sale will be by “Auction”.

Phone the number on the board. It’ll either be an Estate Agent or the auctioneers themselves.

If it’s an Estate Agent ask them who the auctioneers are. Then phone the auctioneers and ask them to put you on their mailing list. There might be a charge for this.

Even if you simply want the catalogue – showing what’s for sale in the forthcoming auction – you may well have to order it via a premium rate phone number, costing you money. (Strange but true).

If the experience of this writer is anything to go by, getting information on auctions from Estate Agents is not that straightforward.

The agents may try to strip you bare of any information – just in case they can “help you” – before giving you details of the auction house. And then the auction house might not send you anything despite, in our case, several increasingly irate phone calls.


Time is precious. On average you’ve only got three or four weeks to play with. So you need to know what’s coming on at auction as soon as possible. And to get a head start over your competition you need to be one of the first to get the catalogue – ie as it’s printed and released – just like the trade professionals.

It’s not much good getting it a week before the auction takes place.


Useful Websites

Basically finding auctions is a major pain but worth the slog. There are various websites that can help you cut out the effort by providing this info.

Some are free but the problem with these is that they only give limited info and you don’t know what you’re missing. Typically they’ve been put out by a small group of Estate Agents and are out of date.

We tried cobbling together as many of the freebies as possible but frankly the picture we got was inadequate.

The best way to go really for websites is to pay for one of the subscription types. It may cost but at least you know that the info is complete and up to date.

Try a good search engine like Google and search for “UK property auctions” or a similar phrase to find the best property auction websites.


More Auction Buying Tips

Don’t buy a property before you’ve sold yours ie before the completion has happened – assuming you’re relying on that sale to buy at the auction.

Don’t buy a property without having had a survey done. Not only will you limit the potential nightmare of building problems but you’ll also have a basis on which to bid, as well as knowing your mortgage limit and how much of a deposit you’ll need.

Always set a price limit on the property.Don’t get carried away and exceed it.


Read on about other ways to look for your home