Why Sell Your House at Auction?
Using an auction is an established way to sell your house if you’re looking for more certainty.
It’s can be a good option if you have a property that needs a lot of repairs. If it’s unusual or difficult to sell on the open market then selling at auction can be a good plan of action.
The good thing is that, once the auction bidding is done and the hammer falls, the buyer has to pay a deposit on the day. He/she must then complete on the sale (usually after a month). This is a legally-binding contract. If not, he/she will not only lose the deposit but also have to pay fees and other penalties. The chances of a sale falling through are therefore slim.
Auctioning a property can seem like a daunting prospect, especially if it’s your first time.
However, the sector is slowly modernising in an attempt to attract a broader range of home sellers. As a result, the process has become more transparent and easier to navigate.
How to Find an Auction House
Across the UK, you can find a number of reputable operators via a simple Google search. Enter the name of your town or county followed by ‘auction house’ or ‘house auctioneer’ and some options should come up.
You’ll also see auction houses marketing properties on sites like Rightmove and Zoopla. Their contact details are usually on the listings. Some are estate agents with a separate department that deals with auction sales.
There is also a growing presence of online auctions and traditional agents selling properties via their own digital platforms.
Pros and Cons of a House Auction Sale
There are many misconceptions about an auction sale, especially when it comes to the speed at which things are done. It’s not as simple as calling an auction house and expecting everything sorted in a few weeks.
In terms of getting things prepared for auction day, in a lot of ways the process is similar to selling through an estate agent. But once a buyer has won the auction, things tend to be reasonably plain sailing.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the pros and cons…
Pros of a Property Auction Sale
- Buyers are generally more business-minded and serious. Compared to estate agency sales, you’re less likely to find time-wasters and ‘window shoppers’;
- There is usually not as much ‘nit-picking’ compared to a conventional sale. Auction buyers know what they want and go for it;
- A reputable auction house usually has a database of serious buyers and property investors. This means you have a ready-made pool of people actively looking to buy;
- Auction buyers are usually less concerned about the property’s condition;
- You’ll normally have no issues when selling a tenanted property. Auction buyers are often landlords themselves looking for new stock;
- You should be able to sell – albeit at below market value – if there are major structural issues, subsidence or problems like Japanese Knotweed;
- There is more security compared to an estate agency sale;
- Buyers cannot suddenly drop the price between exchange and completion (sometimes known as ‘gazundering‘).
Cons of a Property Auction Sale
- The time to actually sell a property at auction takes longer than people think. From start to finish, it can sometimes stretch out to 3 or 4 months;
- Before the auction day, there may well be constant viewings, open days and surveys/valuations. This can be a time-consuming process which may not suit your particular circumstances;
- Selling fees are usually higher than using an estate agent, especially with experienced auctioneers. You’ll have to pay even if you don’t sell. Quick house sale companies will not charge you anything;
- There are often hidden fees that are only mentioned in the small print (see below);
- There is a fine line in terms of what the ‘reserve’ price should be. For example, if it’s set too high, then people may not end up bidding at all;
- Auction houses have been known to over-estimate the value of properties to win business. This places a risk on sellers if auction bidders don’t ‘bite’;
- When properties do not sell at the reserve price, there is a loss of time and money (unless a buyer emerges post-auction with an acceptable offer);
- If you have immediate debts to clear or need to stop repossession, the time it takes for an auction sale to complete may not be enough.
Sell Your House at Auction – The Process
In this chapter, we’ll outline some of the essentials to bear in mind when putting your house up for auction.
The Auction Seller
A lot of properties you’ll see at auction need a considerable amount of work. Sellers of these homes do not have the time, budget or inclination to deal with the issues themselves. You’ll often also see inherited and buy-to-let properties sold at auction.
However, auction houses are trying to remove themselves from the reputation as being a place where only problem and investment properties get sold. These days, you’ll find people selling homes of all shapes, sizes and states.
Some sellers, for example, simply do not wish to deal with estate agencies and the risk that the buyer could pull out after the sale has been agreed. With 1 in 3 sales currently falling through these days, auctions can make a lot of sense.
The Auction Buyer
The majority of buyers at auctions are either professional investors, small builders and people looking for ‘fixer-uppers’ (i.e. properties in need of extensive refurbishment works). But, these days, you’ll also find other buyers that want to buy a home to live in themselves.
Auction buyers need to have their finances in place in order to exchange contracts at the moment the hammer (or gavel) falls. They usually need to pay 10% of the value of the property on the day. The buyer then has between 20 and 28 working days to complete and to pay the remainder of the purchase price.
Note that some auction houses have a longer period between exchange and completion – especially those that sell commercial property and development sites.
Initial Stages with the Auction House
The process will usually begin by contacting a local auction house who will need to understand your current situation.
If you have a unique, commercial, mixed-use or development site, it’s sometimes worth looking out for a specialist auctioneer. They will understand how to sell to buyers more interested in these types of properties.
Some of the questions you’ll be asked include:
- Whether the property is already on the market. Note that the auction house will usually want exclusivity to market your property (to avoid any conflicts of interest);
- The current level of mortgage and other secured debts against the property;
- Ownership status (i.e. if you own the property with others, if the property is held under trust etc.);
- The condition of the house (including the age of the gas central heating system and electrics);
- If there are any legal complications you’re aware of;
- Approximate value and any surveys you may have undertaken in recent months;
- How urgently you need to sell.
The auction house will then download some paperwork from HM Land Registry and undertake some Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks.
Then, after a day or two, you will then be given a rough (‘desktop’) estimate of the achievable value. This is based on the auctioneer´s experience and their own thoughts on current market conditions. Note that you should take this valuation with a pinch of salt.
Beware (!) – Some auctioneers will overvalue your property to win your business, especially if they are aware that you’re exploring different options.
They usually will then visit your property to see its overall condition and confirm other details. Note that if your property has unusual characteristics or some commercial elements, a formal valuation or condition report may be necessary.
Check the auction houses advertising material for other properties. Are you impressed with the way they are presented?
The auction house should then give you some time to think. They will either call or arrange a meeting to confirm whether you would like to move forward or not.
Going Ahead with the Auction Sale
If you decide to proceed, you’ll need to sign a binding contract where you will agree on the terms of the sale. This will include the auction date, fee structure (see below), marketing plan, conditions amongst other specifics.
Before signing, you may want to speak to the auctioneer directly about how he/she will conduct the auction bidding process. Here, there’s a fine line between getting the outcome you want from the sale and allowing the auctioneer to do his/her job.
You’ll also need to agree what the guide and reserve prices will be:
This is the price that the auctioneer will advertise the property for in the marketing material. Depending on the timing of the market, this may be lower than the expected selling price. This is a common tactic auction houses use to generate interest.
There’s a fine balance between getting you a fair price but also ensuring that people will attend the auction and bid.
This is the minimum price that you’ll agree to sell the property for. It will be kept between you and the auction house.
We would recommend being realistic about how you price your property, especially if there’s work to be done. Our post on house valuation will help you get a better picture.
Depending on market conditions, buyers will usually be competing amongst themselves in the auction room. They will factor in their own costs and risks and, in most cases, look for a discount on the open market value before placing a bid.
If the reserve price is not reached during bidding, then potential buyers can make a post-auction bid (on the day). If you’re not happy with any offers you receive, the property can then be relisted at the next auction for a fee or you can withdraw it completely.
Note that the reserve and guide prices can be the same, but much will depend on buyer appetite for a property like yours.
 Remember to read through the auction contract carefully. Seek independent legal advice should any of the terms be unclear.
Legal Considerations at Auction
You’ll need to instruct your solicitors to start the searches and draw up any relevant paperwork – also known as the ‘legal pack’. This will be uploaded on to the auctioneer’s website.
The auction legal pack will have the Title Register and Plan from the Land Registry, information on any leases and other relevant details.
Most auction houses will also require the solicitor to be at hand to handle enquiries from prospective buyers. This means that the solicitor may charge a higher rate.
Marketing, Open Days and Appointments
A good auction house will have solid online and offline marketing processes in place.
This usually means your property appears on the main portals like Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location. The auction house should also have its own website and database of investors for further exposure.
The property should also appear in a professional catalogue that will be made available online and posted out to prospective buyers upon request. On this note, make sure you’re happy with the general standard of photography, floorplan and particulars when looking through existing properties up for auction.
The auction house will handle all the enquiries and liaise with you to organise viewing appointments. Remember to present your property in the best way (see our 101 fast house sale tips).
In many cases, they’ll also suggest ‘open days’ – where a number of prospective buyers will look at the house at the same time. These usually happen 1 to 3 weeks before the auction.
Note also that some people may request a survey or condition report. Of course, you can refuse for this to happen – but remember it may ring alarm bells amongst prospective buyers.
You may find that some buyers may get in touch with the auction offices to make an offer before the day.
This can sometimes make sense, especially if you need to get rid quickly and the buyer is legitimate. If the market is slow moving also, you may want to consider going ahead.
However, we would generally recommend letting buyers ‘battle it out’ at auction. Yes, there’s a risk that it might not sell – but at least you know there’s some demand. You’ll probably find that the pre-auction bidder will be in attendance on the day.
The Day of the Auction
The auctioneer will attempt to drive the price towards the agreed reserve (sometimes more). However, much will depend on the level of interest for properties like yours and where the market stands.
Most buyers will be present, although a number will use telephone or proxy bidding services offered by auction houses. There are also a number of emerging online auction sales where registered buyers bid on properties (usually over a longer timeframe).
Once the bidding is over and the hammer falls, contracts are exchanged and the buyer must pay the deposit straight away – usually 10% of the purchase price. Online auctions may provide buyers longer to pay.
Ideally, you want a situation where buyers competitively bid for your property – pushing the value over its reserve. This will depend on the desirability of your property, local/national market conditions, financially viable opportunities to extend, convert or improve amongst many other factors.
The buyer then has a legal obligation to complete on the sale (usually within 28 days). If not, then he/she could lose the deposit plus incur fees and withdrawal penalties.
If there are no bids, the auctioneer will still open up the property for offers after the auction.
Failing that, you should be able to relist the property at the next auction. Note that extra fees may apply here (check the contract).
Modern Method of Auction
In its simplest form, this is a cross between an auction and open market sale.
Usually offered by estate agents as an extra service, the process starts by interested buyers bidding on properties over a longer period
paying a non-refundable reservation fee.
Here, the buyer has more time to complete on the sale and therefore
Selling House Auction Fees
Although every auction firm works differently, it’s important to understand the fees before going ahead. Some of the fees we’ve outlined below may be combined as one. Also, remember to check the extra VAT costs.
Auction Fee (1.5 to 3% of the value of your property)
As with estate agencies, you will normally be charged a percentage of the sold price upon completion. However, some auction houses will insist you pay some fees up-front.
You may be able to request for the buyer to cover your legal expenses – however, this will probably end up being factored into the agreed guide price.
Marketing Fee (0 to 1.5% of the value of your property)
This is the cost of placing your property on the main portals (like Rightmove and Zoopla). Your property should also be featured in the auctioneer’s catalogue and other marketing material used to generate buyer interest. Note that this may be included in the auction fee.
You’ll also be paying for the auction house to organise viewings and conduct open days at your property.
Room Hire Fee (0-1.5% of the value of your property)
Auctioneers will need a space large enough to conduct the bidding process.
The bigger and more reputable firms hold their auctions in central locations with good parking and accessibility. Whilst the costs may be incorporated into the overall fee, they can be quite steep. But the more people that are in the room, the better your chances of getting a good price.
Online Sales Fees (0%)
Online sales occur on digital platforms whereby buyers bid on properties in an ‘eBay’ style process. This auction process can run for days to ensure maximum exposure.
Note that it’s rare for an auction house to run an online and offline auction simultaneously.
You should not normally be charged any separate fees as they would be included in the overall package.
Conveyancing Legal Fees (set fee ranging from £500 to £1,500 depending on the solicitor’s location)
These may differ according to the size of the property, its tenure and whether there are other complications involved.
Most solicitors will also want to charge more for dealing with enquiries prior to the auction. There may also be immediate issues to deal with on the day (which will come at a cost).
Some auction houses may suggest that the buyer covers the auction fees which, again, will usually be factored into the purchase price.
Sell Your House at Auction – 10 Tips
It is also worth taking on board the following considerations before moving forward:
1. Watch Out For Hidden Fees
The auctioneer has a legal obligation to clearly explain all the associated costs of sale to you at the start. Beware of sliding scale or other hidden fees in the contract that may craftily be announced before the auction.
2. Are the Fees Unusually Low?
Be cautious of low auction fees which often means that the advertising plan for your property will be poor. When in doubt, ask for evidence of previous sales in your local area and references from other sellers. Also, check out the online reviews. A good auction house will have nothing to hide and provide you with all the information you need.
3. Are there Any Up-Front (Non-Refundable) Costs?
Be wary of any up-front fees. If they are charged, make sure they will be deducted from the end fee – i.e. once the sale is completed.
4. Potential Damage During Pre-Auction Viewings
Check that you will be covered for any damage when prospective buyers view your property. Although it’s fairly rare, there has been evidence of damage incurred as people look around. This is especially true when open days are held.
5. The Auctioneer’s House Selling Experience
Check the expertise and qualifications of the auctioneer. The description should usually be on the ‘About Us’ page and you can also Google search the name or look it up on LinkedIn.
6. Don’t Price Too Aggressively
You’ll obviously want the price driven up as much as possible on auction day. But remember that auctioneers need to attract cash-ready buyers. Pushing things too much may lead to people being put off. If no one bids, you’ll still have to pay the auction fees.
Try to look for the balance between realism and getting a fair price. Remember, with a little help from the auctioneer, it will be the buyers that will raise the property’s value up – not you.
7. Confirm Your Place in the Auction
Remember to check your property’s lot number on the day. Some auctions will have hundreds of properties going up with yours. You ideally want your house to appear at the peak time of the auction. This is normally in the first half of the session.
8. Check Your Competition
Ask the auctioneer about other properties that may be going into the auction at the same time as yours. If any are similar and/or close to yours, make sure that your reserve price is competitive.
9. Go Through the Online Auction Terms
Online auction business models may work differently and you should ensure that you read any contract carefully. For example, some may charge buyers an extra fee upon exchange. Others may work in partnership with a local estate agent, in which case a different fee structure applies.
10. Remember the Penalties for ‘Pulling Out’
Make sure you are 100% sure about going ahead. If you pull out, the auctioneer will charge you a withdrawal penalty (sometimes known as an abortive fee). This levy will cover the costs of listing your property, inspections, advertising, legal documents and handling of pre-auction enquiries.
The Property Auction Alternative
Property Solvers offers an effective alternative to auction sales. We have been buying property quickly of all shapes and sizes for over 15 years across the UK. With us, sellers can avoid all the hassles and costs of dealing with auction houses and still get the same price.
You directly with us (no middlemen) and we can get the sale completed in as little as 7 days. There are also no legal or estate agency fees / commissions and we can offer cash advances whilst the sale progresses.
We take on properties in any condition can help in a range of different sales situations. Please click on the box below to find out more about the different services we offer.
Problem / Empty Property
Sell Tenanted Property
Inherited / Probate Property
Selling After Divorce / Separation
Commercial Property and Land
Why use the Property Solvers ‘Auction Alternative’ Service?
In addition to avoiding all of the various auction fees, below are some of the reasons why you may want to consider a private sale with Property Solvers:
- We are regulated with a number of bodies including The Property Ombudsman (TPOS), National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB), Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations amongst others;
- We guarantee to move through the sales process much quicker than any auction house in the country;
- Our experienced solicitors can exchange contracts within as little as 24 hours from the moment you get in touch;
- We can fully complete the entire transaction within 7 days after the exchange date;
- Property Solvers Area Managers are legitimate buyers that can show proof of funds for the cash purchase (through bank statements or a letter from our solicitor);
- We do not use mortgage financing, so are not held accountable by the bank;
- We make ourselves readily available in the most demanding of circumstances;
- There’s a guaranteed sale at the agreed price, with no risk of us ‘pulling out’ at the last minute;
- Our Area Managers are active, cash-ready buyers and there will be no chain;
- We can meet or sometimes exceed the reserve price offered by the auctioneer (see below);
- We take out the necessary insurance policies to cover ourselves in the event of problems with the searches and other contractual issues – meaning that the sale will happen regardless of the circumstances;
- There are no issues with purchasing problem properties. We’ll buy homes with physical / structural issues (including subsidence, serious damp, flooding history, Japanese Knotweed) and/or legal complications (restrictive covenants, negative easements, third-party consents, ransom strips);
- We can offer a cash advance required (for moving costs, rental deposits or other expenses/debts you may have to deal with).
How we Compare to Auction Houses
This service suits home sellers looking to avoid the hassles, delays and costs of auctioning. Some of the key differences are outlined below:
Auction Price Match
Should you have already approached one or more auction houses to discuss the sale of your property, we would be happy to match, and even beat, the proposed reserve price (with a much faster completion).
This means you can get the same price you would at auction, but without having to pay auction or legal fees. What’s more, we’ll be able to get the sale completed much faster – in as little as 7 days should it be necessary.
Should you wish to keep the reserve price private, our offer price will be based on our own independent research of your property’s value.
Express Estate Agency
As mentioned above, with auction sales taking up to 3 to 4 months, another idea worth considering is to use the Property Solvers Express Estate Agency. This can be a good idea if you feel the suggested reserve price is too low and you’re confident of getting a better price on the open market.
We’ll start by discussing our ‘realistic pricing model’ which uses real-time data sourced from the Land Registry to get a broader idea of what properties are selling for in your area. We’ll then apply specific details on your properties comparative size, condition and any other unique characteristics. For example, if your property has a larger garden or an extension then it’s fair to command a higher price.
Realistic and Best Pricing
It’s through using this pricing strategy that we’re able to secure sales in less than 28 days, minimise the risks of buyers pulling out and offer a cheaper service than using an auction. There will be no fees until you complete and no tie-in contracts. There really is nothing to lose by giving us a try.
We’ll take high-quality photos (and won’t publish unless you are 100% happy), produce a floor plan and mount a high impact for sale sign.
SOLD SIGN (28 DAYS)
As well as Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location, we’ll also market your property on more niche property portals. Nestoria, Mitula, the House Shop are often sites that investors and private buyers visit. We’ll get the property in front of the right eyes and follow many of the same aspects of an auction house (open days), at a fraction of the cost.
We can market investment properties through Renovate Me, One and Only, Sourced and our own sister investors property portal PS Investor Services (The Property Investor’s Estate Agency).
Our service includes accompanied viewings and we can organise open days to fast-track the process. We also have a 24/7 enquiry line and chat service. And will send you weekly sales reports from Rightmove and Zoopla (most estate agents and auction houses rarely give out.
To discuss any aspects about the sale of your home, through auction or otherwise, please contact Property Solvers on 0800 044 3733 (freephone). Our lines are open 24 Hours, 7 days a week. Alternatively, fill your details in the contact box below or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to helping…