Complete Guide to Buying a Property at Auction



Buying a property at auction could bag you a bargain, but it is a risky business. It also avoids the lengthy purchasing procedures and the uncertainty of a seller pulling out at the last minute.

However, when the hammer falls the property is yours, so it certainly pays to do your research first. It is best to ensure there are no hidden unpleasant surprises. Also don’t forget there will be auction house fees to pay.

It also requires you as an auction bidder to be ready and organised if you decide to bid, as there are certain criteria which must be met even before you think of bidding. Most auction houses will require you to register to bid, and some may request a refundable deposit from you. If you successfully purchase a property, it will be added to your account as a part of the deposit or if you are unsuccessful it will be refunded to you.

Once you have registered, you can arrange to view the property and download the legal pack. Often, the auction house will arrange an open day. Both aspects are very important because once you bid and win, there is no going back.

Here are some helpful hints when viewing:-

- Does the property require updating? If yes is the work needed just cosmetic or will more serious work be required. Decide, if more serious work is needed if you should obtain a quote so that you have an idea how much the work will cost.

- It will tell you in the legal pack if the property is listed or in a conservation area as this may restrict the  works that you would wish to do.

- Find out what is and is not included in the sale.

- Find out how much the regular bills such as council tax, electricity, gas, water are.

- If there are signs of subsidence you should ask a surveyor to look at the property.

- Have a check list to remind you to look at things such as double glazing, central heating, the state of the boiler, power points, fuse box and roof insulation as it is easy to overlook and could later be a costly omission.

Also download and read carefully the Auction Terms and Conditions as there could be fees you are unaware of. It is always advisable you appoint a conveyancer to carryout a pre-auction title check before you consider bidding on any property. You may think you have covered all aspects of the legal documents however, you will be surprised by the shear issues we encounter regularly with clients having committed to purchase a property. Contact Online Conveyancing Solicitors to obtain a quote if this is a service you require.

The next step is to look at the location, its proximity to schools, main roads etc. Then look at the neighbouring properties; are they well maintained? It is also worth checking if there are any new development plans nearby as this could affect the value of the property or even perhaps be the reason it is up for auction.

Not forgetting, if you are successful at the auction, whatever is in or on the property becomes yours.


If all the queries you have, have been satisfactorily answered and you are happy with the property then the next stage is the legal pack.  Most auctioneers have the legal pack available to download.

The pack will contain documents you require to confirm that legally everything is in order and whether there any covenants for instance, affecting the property.

The legal pack should contain at least:-

- Official Office Copy with title number, this should include any charges and/or restrictive covenants.

- Local search

- A coal search if there has been any coal mining in the area

- An official site plan

- If lease hold - service charges, management rules and regulations, title of the lease and length remaining.

- Any special conditions of sale including the title level guarantee.

It is always advisable to have a legal professional look through and advise you on any areas which may cause concern. For example, properties which are repossessed by the lender are sometimes sent to auction if they lender has been unsuccessful at selling it privately.

Such properties may not have a good and marketable title. In these circumstances, other lenders would be very unlikely to lend against that property. It may also pay to carry out further land and property searches if concerns are raised at this stage.

You will also find that you are up against time as usually a property which when placed to go up for auction you will only have four (4) weeks to organise the financing.


Your finances will have to be ready and available for the day. You must have with you the 10% deposit and the balance available in most cases, within twenty eight (28) days after the auction day. We are also seeing a growing number of auctions where the completion date is now less than the traditional 28 days so be mindful of this.

It is worthy of note that if you cannot come up with the balance by the date of completion, you may lose your 10% deposit plus costs incurred by the sellers and the auctioneers. Therefore, you must be fully prepared financially before you bid.

When expressing an initial interest with the auctioneers, ask them to keep you informed, in case the property is withdrawn or the details are changed.

On the day of auction, arrive early on the day and make sure that you can see and be seen by the auctioneer. When you bid, also make sure he is aware you are bidding. Don't lose the property by being overlooked because you are hidden by a pillar or too far away!

On arrival you must register, bringing with you the required identification ( passport and recent utility bills with you current address ). The auctioneers details will explain exactly what they need. They will also require proof and confirmation of availability of your 10% deposit funds.

The anticipation will now be rising in the room. It is always best to write the lot number down and the maximum you are prepared to bid too. It is very easy to get carried away and bid more than you can afford which could be a financial disaster. If you are uncertain you could always ask someone to go along and bid on your behalf.

The auctioneer will indicate, during the bidding, by the use of certain words, that the property has reached the reserve price. The reserve price is often around 10% higher than the guide price, the auctioneer will likely become more positive in his approach once the reserve has been met.

If the reserve is not met at the end of the bidding the auctioneer will be clear that the property is “not sold”. If this happens you can have a chat with the auctioneer when the sale has ended, and they may still be able to offer you a deal from the vendor at that stage.


When the bidding is over and if you have been successful you need to arrange there and then to pay over the 10% deposit. You will be given the details of the vendor’s solicitor and you should provide your legal team’s details.

Occasionally there can be an unexpected hold up from the vendors side, but normally the transaction is completed within 28 days, and failure to complete can have severe consequences such as the retention of your 10% deposit.

However, if all goes smoothly, the upside is you have the property you wanted, without the usual delays and uncertainties. Also, you will likely have bagged a bargain at the same time.


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