Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
House auctions can be a great place to pick up a bargain but you need to know what you’re doing. Cheap houses aren’t so easy to come by at auction unless you’re good at building. You also need to be very careful if you’re buying a house at auction, which is why you should read our essential guide before doing anything else.
Going to a house auction can be really exciting but scary, too. It’s a lot of money to part with in such a high-emotion situation so you need to be very careful, particularly if you haven’t done it before. Here’s our nine-step guide to getting a house at auction.
It used to be that you could only buy a house at auction with cash or very expensive (and complex) loans.
However, the Modern Method of Auction lets you arrange a mortgage to cover your purchase. You need to have the deposit in your bank account on the day of the auction: this secures your purchase. You’re then contractually obliged to buy the house.
But, you do have 28 days to complete the purchase. This gives you more time than the traditional auction process.
Normal mortgage lenders won’t lend for an auction property. They don’t have time to send their valuation expert to confirm the mortgage amount – and they won’t lend on a property that is uninhabitable. Something as simple as a missing cooker could make the property ‘uninhabitable’. That’s why a lot of properties go to auction: they’re not suitable for traditional mortgages, which limits who can buy them.
Instead, you will most likely need to get a bridging loan. These are more expensive than mortgages but will be valid for renovation properties. They last up to 12 months, rather than the long-term 25-plus years on a traditional mortgage, and you may not have to make payments until the end of the term (giving you breathing space). The aim is to give you the cash to buy the property, so you can renovate it – and then remortgage with a traditional mortgage. This pays off the bridging loan debt and you’ll then pay your mortgage as usual.
If you don’t have the funds to cover an entire property purchase, and want to buy at auction, speak to a mortgage broker. They can help you access the right kind of finance so that you can buy the property you’ve set your heart on! We recommend speaking to London & Country mortgage brokers for fee-free advice.
This is really important! Attend a few auctions as an onlooker first. That way you’ll get a feel for what goes on and you’ll be much less apprehensive when the time comes to bid for real. You’ll know what to expect and you won’t be phased so much by the speed of bidding.
Find out about future auctions in your area as far in advance as possible. Property auctions have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and now it’s much easier to find your nearest property auction than it was a few years ago. Property Auction Action list all property auctions nationwide by auction house, area and date.
You’ll have to contact the auction houses individually to get catalogues, but it’s a good starting point. A different method would be to browse through properties up for auction on sites like Rightmove and Zoopla. Once you’ve found a suitable property, you can then find where it’s on auction and head down there!
Be a step ahead! Make sure you get hold of the auction catalogue as soon as it’s printed, usually about four weeks prior to the auction. That way you’ll have plenty of time to carry out all the necessary preparations.
Once you’ve picked out a property that interests you, get in touch with the auction house selling it to arrange a viewing. Whilst looking around, find out the opinions of local residents and estate agents. Those who are the best informed generally do better at auctions, so make sure you’re up-to-date on the average house price in the area, what a similar site sold for recently and so on.
After the initial viewing, if you’re still interested, make sure you organise the conveyance and get legal advice from your solicitor. You’ll require a legal pack from the auction house, for which there will be a charge. This is at the auction house’s discretion; usually it’s around £10–15. However the Essential Information Group sometimes has these available to subscribers online if the auction house has agreed.
Make sure you have a survey of the property. Mary Sanderman of the Essential Information Group recommends getting a full survey done; it might cost you a bit more, she says, but otherwise you just don’t know what you’re getting. If you have a better idea of how much work needs doing you won’t get any nasty surprises, you’ll be able to make a more informed offer and won’t pay over the odds for your property.
It’s essential to pay for a full survey if you’re interested in an auction property. It costs but it will save you SO much money in the long-run.
Once you’ve decided on your price, you’ll need to allow some time to arrange a firm offer of a mortgage with a lender. Explain to them that you plan to buy at auction.
On the day of the auction, call ahead to make sure there haven’t been any last-minute changes to your lot. This is known as the addendum, a sheet listing any changes to the entries in the original catalogue. This is really important so remember to check it thoroughly before you bid; it’s very common for most of the entries to have had at least some adjustment.
Set yourself a price limit on the property before the auction and stick to it. NEVER get carried away, because successful bidders are legally bound to buy.
Though there are no official figures, experts say buyers save around 30% on average at auction. At an auction we visited, a four-bedroom semi-detached house in Surrey sold for four times less what it would usually go for!
However, it does depend on where you want to buy. Prices at London auctions have recently gone up and it’s likely that you could end up paying a normal market rate for properties in central London particularly.
Remember, too, that very cheap houses could hide expensive legacies. If you’ve got the time – and money – for a renovation project, it’s a great place to pick up a bargain. However, if you want a ready-to-move-in home, you may not save that much by buying at auction.
Property site Zoopla became the first place to launch an online property auction in 2010, a move they felt would soon become the future for property auctions. We can’t find anything on the website to suggest they’ve continued with their online auctions, but they certainly started a trend which has been followed by other sites.
A site called Auction Move did allow you to register, including an identity check to make sure you say you are who you are, but they appear to no longer exist. You can check out other property auction houses at the Future Houses website.
Our advice above still applies, and make sure you don’t get too over-confident – we all know how easy it is to make impulse buys with the click of a button, though most of the time they don’t end up costing us thousands!
Get weekly ideas, deals & freebies
New data capture form 2023
"*" indicates required fields
I read a great deal about this when it became popular a while back, this is a great guide to the pitfalls of buying at auction.
Useful tips for buying a house at auction.