Tips for buying at a property auction: What you need to know

Scott Hendry, auction finance expert at specialist lender Together, shares his best tips for property investors heading to an auction.

Related topics:  Auctions
Scott Hendry - Together
18th October 2018
Scott Hendry

1. Read the legal pack

The legal pack contains documents relating to the property, and is prepared by the seller’s conveyancer.
Each one will be unique, so investors should always read the pack no matter how experienced you become. Make sure you’ve read the small print, as it’s often in these sections where surprises – such as covenants, restrictions and rights of access – are noted.

You can take a look at the legal pack on auction day, but it’s a good idea to request it in advance. If you’re happy with it, get your conveyancer to check it out too.

2. Check the completion period

Most of the time, you’ll have 28 days to complete the purchase and pay the balance you owe. However, rapid completions are not unheard-of, and may mean you have far less time to get your finances in place.

This information can be found in the legal pack, and is often included in the auction catalogue. The auction caller may also flag this before bidding starts.

3. Ensure you have means of payment

When the hammer goes down, the sale is legally binding. You’ll have to make a payment there and then, typically by credit/debit card or cheque. Don’t bring cash.

The payment will include a deposit (10%), an administration fee to the auctioneer, and possibly a ‘buyer’s premium’.

4. Beware the six-month rule

If you’re buying the property as an investment or to let, some mainstream lenders won’t lend on it until you’ve owned it for six months. On top of this, they’ll also insist the vendor has owned it for six months too.

Even seasoned auction professionals can be caught out by this, so it’s important to find out how long the vendor has owned the property. Otherwise securing funding could be an issue with a high street lender.

5. Investigate any tenancies

Is the property you are planning to purchase currently being rented out?

Take the time to find out some background information about both the tenant and the tenancy agreement. Assured Shorthold Tenancies (ASTs) can cause issues for finance with some of the big lenders.
If you buy a property with a regulated tenant, it may be a long time until that property is vacated, as they will have the right to remain. And, usually, at rents well below the market rate.

6. Keep calm

The auction house can be an exciting place, but don’t get carried away.

If a particular property attracts a lot of interest, it’s all too easy to keep bidding. But remember, once the hammer goes down you’re legally committed to the property. Stick to your budget and hold your nerve – often properties earlier in the catalogue tend to attract the most interest, and the crowd will thin out as bidders secure properties. And, although some of the best lots may have been kept back to keep the auction room busy, other lots later in proceedings may be better value.

Remember, also, the guide price is just that: a rough guide. The property could go for significantly over that price, so it’s important to ensure you don’t stretch yourself. Also, it may be worth doing a ‘dummy run’ to make sure you’re comfortable with the auction room environment.

7. Look out for unsold lots

Most lots will have a reserve – the minimum the vendor will accept for the property.

If a reserve price is not met, the auctioneer will withdraw the lot from the auction. However, at the end of the auction the vendor may agree to sell the property at a lower price. Ask the auctioneer if you can register your interest for such properties and you may find yourself with a last-minute win.

8. Arrange your finance in advance

Whether you do this at home, or by talking to us in the auction room, you can get a pre-approved loan decision in minutes. This will tell you exactly what you can afford to bid, and what it’ll cost you. Also remember that there may be additional charges such as lenders’ legal fees.
There are several types of finance available for those buying at auction – and as we work quickly, we can sometimes provide funds within 28 days, even on a long-term mortgage.

The most commonly-used auction finance is a bridging loan, which lasts up to 12 months. There’s no monthly repayments, and you simply repay the loan (plus any interest and fees) as a lump sum as soon as you’re able. This can be helpful if you’re planning to ‘flip’ the property, or you need time to arrange long-term finance.

Be aware that your auction purchase may be repossessed if you haven’t repaid your bridging loan in full once 12 months have passed.

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