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Do I Need a Solicitor to auction my property?

Sam Kinloch

Do you need a solicitor to sell at auction? Yes, you’ll certainly need to hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer and you’ll need to instruct one as soon as you submit a property for auction. While selling at auction is often the fastest and most certain way to sell a property, the completion of an auction sale is just as legally binding as any other – and both sellers and buyers will usually need to hire a solicitor.

Any property transaction, whether an auction sale or private treaty sale, requires a certain amount of legal work or pre auction conveyancing, such as conducting title searches and registering the change of ownership with the HM Land Registry.

The difference with an auction sale is that the majority of the solicitor's input from the seller's perspective is beforehand when they prepare the legal pack. Following the auction sale, the seller can then rely on their solicitor to perform the necessary tasks for a change of ownership.

Are you thinking of selling your property or land at auction in the UK? Get a free property appraisal with Clive Emson Auctioneers. Our experts can advise you on all legal matters relating to the sale of your property, guiding you through the process. Get in touch here.

Do I Need a Solicitor to auction my property? Pre auction conveyancing

Legal Packs in Property Auctions Explained

A legal pack is a comprehensive set of documentation relevant to the property being listed for sale by auction. While the auctioneer can certainly assist with some aspects, it is the seller's solicitor who is responsible for preparing the legal documentation. .

The legal pack is an important aspect of selling via auction. Buyers assess the contents of the legal pack to make informed decisions about the property they intend to bid on, so it is important this covers all areas of relevance, allowing buyers to review:

  • Planning permission or provisional planning consent granted.
  • Layouts and plans showing the boundaries and property lines.
  • Searches such as title searches and bankruptcy searches.
  • Conditions of sale, leases and building regulations certifications.
  • Energy performance certificates and title deeds.
  • Tenancy agreements if the property is rented
Legal packs can also include other relevant information, such as an inventory of all the fixtures and fittings included within the sale and an information form summarising the details of the lot.

The legal pack is essential, and it is highly advisable for any auction seller to ensure the documents included are accurate, up-to-date and valid, providing buyers with all the information necessary to decide whether they wish to bid.

Related Reading: How to Sell a Property at Auction 

Hiring a Solicitor Before Selling a Property at an Auction

Property sellers should instruct either a solicitor or a conveyancer to help with the legal pack preparation. This pack is then made available to all interested parties prior to the auction, who can download the legal pack from the Clive Emson website.

Sellers can also consult a solicitor or licensed conveyancer around other aspects of the sale, such as:

  • Checking there are no legal issues, securities or other encumbrances that prevent them from being legally allowed to sell the property.
  • Confirming their ownership status and navigating the negotiations if the property is jointly owned and being sold for all ownership parties at auction.
  • Acting as the recipient of the funds, managing any mortgage repayments, and disseminating funds between owners.
  • Producing property deeds and approving deeds of transfer.
While some highly experienced property investors with a strong knowledge of conveyancing may have the skills necessary to use a ‘DIY’ approach, this is rarely recommended. Most buyer’s solicitors or other involved parties will be unwilling to accept undertakings from an individual rather than from a conveyancer or solicitor.

Hiring a Solicitor to Purchase a Property at Auction

If you are planning to buy a property at auction and have access to a complete legal pack, will you still require a solicitor? In short, yes, it is advisable to consult a solicitor before the auction begins to receive independent advice on the contents of the legal pack.

When representing an auction buyer, the solicitor is primarily responsible for conducting due diligence by inspecting the legal documents and advising on what they mean, for example:

  • Understanding special conditions of sale and establishing whether they are acceptable or possible within your circumstances.
  • Determining the situation where a rental property has sitting tenants or is otherwise currently occupied.
  • Advising on limitations or potential for improvements, renovation or development work, particularly for listed properties or those within conservation areas.
Clive Emson Auctioneers provide full access to the legal pack linked to each auction lot, available to download online or request via post with an additional administrative fee to cover the postage costs. Buyers can also visit our offices to review legal packs in person, where more convenient.

On the day, if you are the successful bidder, your bid will be binding and final, and the auctioneer will advise on the next steps to complete the purchase. However, at this stage, any valuations or surveys you wish to be carried out should already have been concluded, and postponements are highly unusual and rarely possible.

Therefore, your solicitor, and you, as the buyer, are responsible for ensuring you have reviewed the legal pack, conducted any research or investigations necessary, and are prepared to proceed with the transaction once the auction concludes.

Legal Work Required After a Successful Auction Sale

Whether you are the seller or buyer, once the lot has sold, both parties will require a solicitor to manage the next steps. Contracts are exchanged at the fall of the electronic gavel – when the auction timer reaches zero and the auction closes to further bids.

Both parties are legally bound to the sale and meet the sale completion date outlined within the contract.

Completion is usually 20 business days from exchange of contract unless amended within the special conditions of sale. Therefore, the seller needs to be prepared to complete accordingly, and the buyer must have the funds available to move ahead.

The contrast with a private treaty sale is that the solicitors representing the parties cannot generally negotiate the completion date, as this is set out in the conditions of sale, which the buyer commits to when submitting their bid.

Instead, the auctioneer will send the seller's solicitor the Sale Memorandum, with a counterpart issued to your solicitor or conveyancer, to inform both parties of the sale and the terms therein.

Auctioneers have the legal authority to sign for the buyer and seller when completing the Sale Memorandum.

Does this mean I’ll need to pay solicitor fees?

Yes, this means that you’ll have to factor in the cost of your solicitor when selling at auction. This is no different to a private treaty sale although the cost structure may vary as the conveyancing process differs.

The cost of a solicitor for an auction may also depend on the type of property you’re purchasing. Leasehold properties require additional checks in comparison to freehold properties, so additional time may be needed.

If you’re a buyer and need a bit more reassurance when considering a property, some conveyancing firms may also sell add-on services such as a pre-auction report to outline the particulars before an offer is made on the property.

Related Reading: How much does it cost to sell a house at auction? 

Frequently asked questions

What should I consider when selecting a solicitor for auction property transactions?

When choosing a solicitor for auction property transactions, several factors should be taken into account:

  • Experience: Look for a solicitor who has expertise in property law and experience with auction transactions. They should be familiar with the specific challenges and legal requirements associated with auctions.
  • Reputation: Research the solicitor's reputation and consider reviews or recommendations from previous clients. A reputable solicitor will have a track record of providing reliable and efficient services.
  • Communication: Effective communication is crucial throughout the transaction process. Ensure that the solicitor is responsive, accessible, and able to explain legal matters in a clear and understandable manner.
  • Cost: Discuss the solicitor's fees and charges upfront to avoid any surprises. It's advisable to obtain multiple quotes and compare them while considering the solicitor's reputation and expertise.

Do I need to hire a local solicitor?

It’s not a requirement to hire a local solicitor however, some clients prefer to use a local firm due to the perceived accessibility and ease of communication. Local solicitors may also have the following knowledge which puts them at an advantage:

  • Knowledge of Local Laws: A local solicitor often has a better understanding of the specific laws, regulations, and property market conditions in the area where the auction property is located. They can provide insights and advice tailored to that particular jurisdiction, which may prove valuable during the transaction.
  • Familiarity with Local Practices: Local solicitors are often well-versed in the processes and practices followed by local auction houses, real estate agents, and other professionals involved in the auction property market. Their familiarity can help streamline the transaction and ensure compliance with local procedures.
  • Accessibility and Convenience: Hiring a local solicitor can offer convenience in terms of face-to-face meetings, document signings, and property inspections. If you prefer to have in-person interactions or if there are specific local requirements, having a solicitor who is nearby can facilitate smoother communication and coordination.

What happens if the auction property fails to sell? Will I still need to pay the solicitor's fees?

In the event that an auction property fails to sell, you will still be responsible for paying the solicitor's fees for the work they have already undertaken. Some fees are actually charged up front (for example fees for local searches and to cover the initial time spent).

Of course, we would hope that the sale is successful as auctions have a very high success rate (exceeding 80%) but it’s always best to review the terms of engagement with your solicitor and discuss any potential scenarios where fees may be incurred even if the transaction does not proceed as planned.

Are you thinking of selling your property or land at auction in the UK? Get a free property appraisal with Clive Emson Auctioneers. Our experts can advise you on all legal matters relating to the sale of your property, guiding you through the process. Get in touch here.

Related Reading

About the Author

Sam Kinloch

Sam Kinloch

Director & Senior Auction Appraiser

Sam’s career in the dizzy world of property auctions began when he hung up his chainsaw and headed in from the forest. Joining the team in 2003 Sam now sits on the Board of Directors and has been instrumental in the adoption of online auction services.
Out of the office you can find him flying around the velodrome or sipping coffee at a local café.

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07968 780714

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