House Auctions Are Back at Their Peak; Property Sales by Local Councils and Housing Associations Have Brought a Boom in London Auction Rooms, Says Michael Holmes

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

House Auctions Are Back at Their Peak; Property Sales by Local Councils and Housing Associations Have Brought a Boom in London Auction Rooms, Says Michael Holmes


Byline: Michael Holmes

THE chance to grab a bargain home at auction is proving irresistible for many Londoners, as the market returns to near-peak levels. The number of homes sold at auction in the London area rose 23.5 per cent year-on-year in the quarter to June 30, according to figures compiled by Essential Information Group, whose information on UK property auctions is used by Revenue and Customs and the Bank of England. The increase is being led by sales by local councils and housing associations, rather than by repossessions.

"Whereas the private treaty market (conventional methods of buying) has fallen more than 50 per cent since 2007, sales at auction are nearly back at pre-recession levels," says EIG's David Sandeman.

"The number has been growing steadily since 2009. The majority of residential lots are unmodernised, representing an opportunity for owneroccupiers looking for a way to save money, and a challenge."

Savills holds 18 auctions a year with an average of 200 to 300 lots on offer.

Its head of national auctions, Chris Coleman-Smith, says: "There has been a great deal of interest from owneroccupiers recently.

"I don't agree with the view that auctions are only for investors and developers.

I like to think that homebuyers have as much chance or more of being successful at auction as anyone else.

"The auction process offers certainty.

It is also very fair: one person's money is as good as anybody else's and there can be no cosy deals between estate agents and their 'favoured' customers."

Andrew Binstock, director of auction firm Auction House London, reports that there is a growing audience for auctions from owner-occupiers.

"We've just had our best auction to date with some exceptional prices achieved for homes in the London area," he adds. "There's a surprising number of people with money, at every level of the market."

Though the number of repossessed properties and distress sales at auction has fallen recently, salerooms across the market report that there is still a steady supply, together with the estate and probate market. The most active sellers currently are local authorities and housing associations.

"Most of the properties need work," reports Binstock. "But there is no finance available at present for developers, so in the current market owner-occupiers with access to funds can pick up a home that could prove very good value."

GIVING IT A GO If you are tired of the uncertainty involved in the traditional route to buying a home, with its chains, gazumping and gazundering, endless procrastinating and occasional sharp practice, then auctions might be for you.

The process is very businesslike but offers transparency and certainty for both buyer and seller, usually taking only four weeks from auction to completion, and treats everyone equally. …

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