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How to Sell a Unique or Unusual Home or Property

Sam Kinloch

While we might envisage a residential home when we talk about a property, there are countless variations of properties in the UK, from lighthouses to converted pubs and schools, barges and houseboats and even nuclear bunkers. Every week, owners are selling these properties as well as high-value barns, heritage or period properties, listed buildings or structures with historical significance.

Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers has decades of experience successfully managing auction sales for some of the UK's most unconventional, exciting and specialist properties. You may have seen the Victorian fort in Gosport or this Isle of Wight cottage that sold via one of our auctions.

At Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers, we regularly sell unusual and unconventional properties and plots and can provide expert guidance if you want to set a reserve price that reflects what you believe the property is worth. Fill out the form here and we’ll provide an appraisal. 

How to Sell a Unique or Unusual Home or Property

What Is Considered a Unusual or Unconventional Property?

We've mentioned several of the memorable lots and properties previously sold at auction through Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers - from this, we can see that there is a sliding scale for what is considered unconventional, from an older period property to a large property that is far removed from residential living.

In between, there are many examples where homes are sold via property auction because they are non-standard in size, value, appearance or original use.

A property that was constructed for a different purpose such as a Martello Tower or Windmill are great examples, when fully converted for modern living. However, because of the unique nature of the conversion, there are no similar properties for a sales comparison.

Land can also be considered unusual. The nature of a property auction means that land of any variety can be listed for sale, whether a plot of land with or without planning permission, woodland, a lock-up or block of garages or a barn that could make a good residential conversion project.

Why are buyers interested in unusual properties?

Many buyers, investors and developers are interested in unusual plots or properties because they present opportunities to live in or own a home that offers a different lifestyle or unique layouts or access to features that don't exist in modern houses.

In recent years, certain properties have also been trending, including converted churches and water towers, often due to features on TV programmes or property renovation shows.

Some issues commonly associated with selling a quirky property are less about the structure or aesthetics and more related to the practicalities and end usage of the property. Therefore, compiling detailed particulars or information packs can be useful, including aspects such as:

  • Current property condition, repairs or renovations completed, and any ongoing upkeep requirements or areas for potential improvement.

  • Insurance arrangements, access to reliable heating and lighting, and any non-standard elements of the property.

  • Any restrictions on how the structure can be used, lived in or modified, particularly relevant to listed or protected buildings within conservation areas.

How to Sell a Unique or Unusual Home or Property

The three main considerations when selling a unique property

We find that there are three key considerations when selling a unique property:

  • Marketing to a wide range of buyers
  • High profile Marketing campaign
  • Expert advice on property pricing

How to Find the Right Buyer for a Non-Standard Property

Thousands of buyers find unconventional homes a compelling investment, and a truly one-of-a-kind property can achieve a fantastic value – provided it is marketed to the best possible audience.

There are several options, but selling at auction is typically the fastest, most convenient and cost-effective option because:

  • Auctioneers invite bidders to peruse the property details and pre-book viewings, usually scheduled in a block, to minimise the inconvenience of showing visitors around – many of whom may be curious rather than serious buyers.
  • Bidders looking for something different from the norm are unlikely to browse properties listed via a conventional private treaty sale and know that special lots often arise at property auctions.
  • Selling on the open market can be a missed opportunity – professionals such as artists, architects, designers and property enthusiasts tend to place the most competitive bids and put the greatest value in living somewhere unique.
Before the auction, you pre-agree a reserve price with the auctioneer, with the assurance that your distinctive or unusual property will not sell at anything less than the minimum you have agreed to accept.

Auctions are streamlined and efficient, and you only need one bidder to offer your reserve price or above to achieve a sale without delays, endless months of viewings or time spent on negotiations.

The Importance of Marketing a Unique Property

Establishing your target buyer audience is important because this informs the way you choose to market your property. As we've discussed, some types of homes are popular with professionals in the property industry. In contrast, other properties typically sell to creative buyers who see something uncommon far more attractive than a standard home.

Before an auctioneer compiles the property details, including quality photography and detailed legal packs provided by your solicitor, they will assess the building to ascertain the most effective marketing strategy, for example:

  • Does the property have special features such as original furnishings or woodwork, design themes or focal points, including spiral staircases, exposed beams or stone fireplaces?
  • Is the property used primarily as residential accommodation, or could it be used as a rental investment or holiday let?
  • How would the building best be described – is it hyper-modern, luxurious, elegant, traditional, or something else?
Highlighting unique features and aspects of the property can make a marked impact on the sale value, so the marketing materials should include all of those details that will be relevant to your target buyer group – factors like ceiling height, outdoor space, accessibility, original characteristics and picture windows.

Investing in marketing such as aerial photography, video walkthroughs, and high-resolution imagery is also valuable. It can fully showcase the property, particularly if it comes with large areas of private land, woodlands, a lake or other outdoor features that are difficult to represent with static photos.

Selecting a Guide Price and Reserve Price for an Unusual Property

The more unique your property, the less likely it is to appeal to all buyers, but that doesn't necessarily mean a home or plot of land with an uncommon appearance or history should sell for less. In fact, the uniqueness of the property can actually garner a higher price!

In most scenarios, we recommend the seller have the property valued or appraised, providing an independent and reasonable idea of what it should be worth. However, a valuation may have limited relevance as the saleability of a unique property depends more on the interest it draws than the bricks-and-mortar valuation.

Comparative market pricing is also unlikely to be useful since there may be no other properties of a similar size, style and design that have sold. As a seller, the pricing you select is at your discretion. The value of the property is likely to be in the eye of the beholder.

Auction sales, while managed by the auctioneer, allow the market to determine the price of a property to a certain extent. Where there is compelling demand or competitive bidding, an auction will typically mean a niche property sells faster and for more.

At Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers, we regularly sell unusual and unconventional properties and plots and can provide expert guidance if you want to set a reserve price that reflects what you believe the property is worth. Fill out the form here and we’ll provide an appraisal. 

We can also advise before the auction begins if enhanced levels of interest indicate that you might stand to achieve a far higher sale value by revising your guide price or adjusting the reserve – you can amend these values as you wish, provided the auction has not yet begun, and no bids have been placed.

How to Sell a Unique or Unusual Home or Property

Why Do Unusual Properties Sell Well at Auction?

Around 80% of all properties listed for auction, including non-standard, irregular and unconventional lots, sell the first time – which means they achieve at or above the reserve price on the day.

While sellers may perceive that they will receive a lower sale value, the opposite is often true because the competitive, high-paced bidding environment and the nature of the cash buyers keen to bid on properties that may never become available to purchase again drive the price upward.

Higher-priced properties also sell extremely well, whereas it may be difficult to find a buyer with the budget and vision to invest in a premium property or a plot in a high-demand area, with some auction lots such as piers, coastal mansions and windmills selling at auction at far above the reserve due to exceptional interest from developers and commercial buyers.

Many unique properties that are not necessarily designed for modern living present a strong business opportunity, such as redeveloping a property into multiple rental units or using one structure as a B&B, hotel or tourist venue – hence the suitability of an auction which attracts the types of buyers most interested in these lots.

Please visit the Clive Emson auction listings to browse current lots for sale or get in touch for independent advice about selling your distinctive home or unusual property at auction.

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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