In an era where people buy their Christmas presents from eBay, it’s not surprising that buying property at auctions has never been more popular – one in twenty houses now go under the hammer.

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With no commission paid to an estate agent, no gazumping, no failure to complete, and full payment in 28 days, auctions are a fast way to buy and sell.

But as you might expect, there’s a pretty mixed bag of properties, ranging from repossessions to local authority housing stock to quirky or unique houses that are difficult to value. Some are there for a quick sale because their owner wants to go abroad; others are hoping the buyer will overlook the property’s faults. Amateurs should be wary of placing a hasty bid in the excitement of it all – read why, by clicking here.

Whatever the property, it is essential that you do your homework well and prepare.

Follow these steps:


1. Do your research.

Identify what type of property and area you’re interested in and find out how much houses are worth. Websites such as, and all have house price data; while has area guides.Talk to estate agents about who’s selling what. Talk to locals and find out if there are any problems with the area. Google the address – you might be surprised what comes up. Get on the mailing lists of local auction houses. Go to a couple of auctions and ask experienced bidders for their tips. Get used to the atmosphere.

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2. Sort your finances:

  • Get a mortgage agreement in principle. Expect to be questioned about your plans – lenders will be worried about their money and usually want to make sure the borrower understands both the auction process and the costs involved.
  • Find out not only how much they’ll lend you but also how fast they can move. You’ll have to hand over 10% of the final price there and then as a deposit and pay the rest within 28 days.
  • Remember to factor in the auctioneers’ fees and stamp duty. (Stamp duty is 1% of the sale price on properties between and £250,000, 3% between £250,001 and £500,000, and 4% on properties worth more than £500,000.)

buyers beware

3. Buyers beware:

You’ll need to get a survey done before you bid, even if you don’t win it. This means you could spend a thousand pounds on a house you’ll never own – it’s the major disadvantage of buying at auction, but don’t even think of skipping this stage.

4. Try getting in first:

The seller may take bids in advance if the property is listed as “unless previously sold” and could well be in a hurry. Alternatively, it’s worth asking the auctioneer if they’ll accept a bid for a property that’s failed to meet its reserve price.

5. Set a bidding limit:

Don’t exceed what you can afford. It’s easy to get carried away in the adrenalin-soaked atmosphere of an auction, and the auctioneer’s job is to get you to spend more than you want to. If you don’t trust yourself, try getting a friend or relative to bid for you.

For further information, see:

  1. – the industry standard for information on auctions
  2. – a major source of information on auctions and auction houses
  3. – UK property search engine
  4. – members-only newsletter with advice and news
  5. – The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors provides a guide to buying at auction
  6. – one of the leading auction houses

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