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Selling a house at auction in the UK? Here's how to sell a property by auction.

Are you thinking of selling your property or land at auction in the UK? You’re not alone; around 18,000-20,000 homes sell by auction each year (and that’s just residential properties)

Selling property at auction is arguably the fairest and most transparent way to sell land and property, obtaining the best possible price on the day in open competition with the highest bidder at or above the reserve exchanging contracts at the fall of the electronic gavel with completion within a set period of time, usually 20 business days after the exchange, although this can be varied by your solicitor.

A sale by auction is often used where the seller is perhaps an Executor, Local Authority, statutory body, Power of Attorney, private or limited company and anyone who needs to show an arm’s length transaction. But of course, is also available to private sellers too. 

If a property or parcel of land is likely to generate competition, then a sale by auction could be a better alternative than private treaty – no lot is too small and no lot is too large. 

Having said that, if you’ve never bought or sold at auction, it may initially feel like a daunting prospect.

Here at Clive Emson, we demystify the process of selling your property by auction so that you can assess whether it is the right choice for you. In this guide, we explore some of the common questions that potential sellers ask and document all you need to know about selling by auction. 

Looking for a FREE independent auction appraisal? Let us know the details of your property and we’ll let you know whether your property is suitable for auction and provide you with our recommendations for the guide price and reserve price. Get in touch here.

Looking for a FREE independent auction appraisal? Let us know the details of your property and we’ll let you know whether your property is suitable for auction and provide you with our recommendations for the guide price and reserve price. Get in touch here.

Why Sell Your Property At Auction?

Anyone who has sold a property in the UK knows that the traditional process of selling via an estate agency can be full of potential pitfalls, with numerous parties involved. There are many situations in which selling a property at auction is more suitable than the traditional route – especially if you want to achieve the best possible price on the day, in the quickest possible time!

Firstly, is your property suitable for auction? 

All properties may be suitable, but some are more suitable than others. 

As you may have seen on our website, we offer a varied and wide selection of lots on behalf of our clients, which can include: 

  • Vacant residential properties: from studio flats to vast detached houses (often in need of improvement, renovation, refurbishment and/or repair). Fire damaged properties.
  • Commercial premises: from lock up shops to whole parades, High Street or neighbourhood locations 
  • Investment properties (those with tenants in situ) 
  • Garages: from single units to entire compounds; car parks 
  • Residential and /or Commercial ground rents
  • Land: from woodland, grazing and amenity land to farms and small holdings 
  • Conversion Projects and land with planning or potential 
  • The Unusual: from churches, chapel, Martello towers, underground bunkers.

Here’s why so many selling their properties at auction:

1. You can achieve the best price

If your property has the right mix of attributes (i.e. a great location, the possibility to improve and the potential for great rental yields), you just might achieve a higher price than you expected. Auctions are competitive by nature and require quick, instinctive decisions and when there are more potential buyers for a property – this may drive the price up.

The whole point of entering land and property into an auction is not to find just one potential buyer, but to find several all at the same time and then allow them to bid competitively and transparently to achieve the best possible price.

2. You can complete on the sale of your property within 20 business days

You may be in a situation in which you need to sell your property quickly. For example, you may be relocating for work, downsizing or in need of access to funds to address other personal matters.

In this case, an auction is ideal as exchange and completion MUST happen within a predetermined time frame. You’ll effectively exchange contracts on the day of purchase and the completion date can be in as little as 20 working days. If not, the buyer may lose their deposit or incur fees and penalties, giving buyers an incentive to move quickly.

If you’ve ever sold a property in the UK via an Estate agent, you’ll know that the process can take months – and that is if your sale doesn’t fall through the first time. In fact, the average sale takes around 25 weeks (view source).

3. You can sell with certainty

Have you ever sold your property, had an offer accepted on your dream home and progressed all the way to exchange of contracts before the sale falls through? Somewhere along your chain, a buyer has had to pull out – leaving you in the lurch. This frustration is avoided with the auction process. Once a buyer commits to bidding on a property and the reserve price is met or exceeded they’re legally obligated to complete the purchase. As the sale will happen on a definite date, you can safely make plans without the fear of a looming disaster and a failed sale.

4. Auctions have a high sales rate

According to Auction Link, the average success rate at auction is as high as 75%-80, meaning there is a very high chance that your property will successfully sell. Traditionally, a non-auction seller may be waiting for months to find a suitable buyer. As a comparison, it’s reported that traditional agents sell only around 50 per cent of the homes the first time around.

5. High Transparency

Due to the open nature of auctions, the process is very transparent, with a lower number of ‘middlemen.’ The traditional process of selling your home in the UK can be quite covert and secretive. For sellers, you may never know how many people are interested in your property and for buyers you may not be privy to how many other buyers you are competing with. When you sell a house at auction in the UK auction, everyone can see when someone is bidding and the amount they are bidding. You’ll be able to keep track of exactly how bidding progresses.

6. There is a buyer for every type of property

Auctions are ideal when you have a property that is unique or difficult to value, or one that appeals to a broader audience than, say, your local estate agent is able to offer. For example, we’ve sold everything from former primary schools in Tunbridge Wells, to World War 2 Bunkers in Devon.

This also extends to the condition of your property. An auction property may have fire damage or be in need of complete renovation, which may seemingly make the property difficult to sell. However, we’ve seen that there are buyers for every type of property regardless of the condition of the property.

7. You can set a reserve price

We’re often asked whether the property will end up selling for significantly less than expected. This is never a concern as your property will have a previously agreed reserve price. A reserve price in a property auction is the minimum price that you, the seller, are willing to accept for the property being auctioned. This price is typically set before the auction begins and is kept confidential from the bidders. The auctioneer will continue to solicit higher bids until either the reserve price is met or the bidding stops. If the highest bid at the end of the auction does not meet the reserve price, the property will not be sold, and the seller is not obligated to accept any of the bids.

8. Your buyers are ready to purchase

Selling a house at auction gives you access to ‘hungry’ buyers who are ready to move. The typical auction buyer is looking for a variety of different lots. These may be; fixer-uppers, investments, unusual or unique opportunities and land of all descriptions.

The main attraction for sellers is much the same as buyers – speed, transparency and surety of sale. This means that buyers are ready to go with funds and finances already in place. It’s also unlikely that a buyer will be purchasing the property with funds from another sale – which aids the speed of the transaction.

What are the risks associated with selling a property at auction?

Of course, there are risks associated with any house purchase transaction, however, selling via auction in the UK is a fairly low-risk strategy. The main risk is that the property may not sell – although sales rates are high (between 70% and 80% as previously explained), there is a percentage of properties that will not sell (generally around 20%).

This could be due to market conditions, the type of property that you’re selling or simply the timing of bringing the property to market. This could also be due to a high reserve price or other administrative issues such as documentation not being available in time for auction day.

To minimise this, our experienced auctioneers are on hand to guide you through the process and equip buyers with everything they need to make a sound buying decision. We’ll also advise you on a suitable reserve price and how to get the very best price for your property.

Ready to find out how much your property could sell for at auction? Tell us the details of your property here and we’ll let you know whether your house is suitable to sell via auction along with a recommended guide price and reserve price. 

How to sell a property at auction in the UK

The process of selling a property by auction in the UK is actually a straightforward one once you know the ins and outs. The process of selling a house at auction typically involves the following steps:

Step 1 – Find a local auction house and arrange an auction appraisal.

It’s sensible to work with a property auction house that has local knowledge as well as years of experience and great testimonials.

“A good property auctioneer will make the whole selling process much smoother and easy to understand. They’ll guide you through each step of the process. If you’re based in Kent, Sussex, Cornwall, Devon, Surrey, London or Hampshire, or anywhere on the South coast we can provide a free auction appraisal based on our knowledge of local markets.”

Step 2 – Instruct the auctioneer by signing and returning the auction agency agreement.

This agreement protects your interests as well as the interests of the auction house. It outlines the property details, the auction company details, as well as the terms and conditions under which the auctioneer will sell the property on behalf of the seller.

Once the agreement is signed, the auctioneer can then act on your behalf to market and conduct the auction. The agreement seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. Details of your property: What is the type of property that is being sold at an auction? What are the details of the property location and is there any other relevant information?
  2. What are the details of the auction?: What is the scheduled date, time, and location of the auction? The agreement will stipulate whether the auction will take place online or at an auction house.
  3. What is the agreed reserve price? – This is the lowest price that the seller is willing to accept for the sale of the property.
  4. How much will the auctioneer charge? The agreement will outline the fees and the amount that the auctioneer will charge to sell the property at auction. This generally includes any marketing expenses and other general fees.
  5. How will the property be marketed? The agreement will include the details of how your property will be advertised to potential buyers. A good auctioneer will be in constant contact with a pool of buyers, but may also advertise on various property websites
  6. What are your obligations as a seller? The agreement will describe any obligations or responsibilities that you must personally fulfil before the property can go to auction. This may include providing access to the property for inspections or repairs as well as any legal obligations.

Step 3 – Instruct a solicitor

Instruct a solicitor or licenced conveyancer to prepare the legal documents which will be made available to all interested parties prior to the auction. These legal documents are a requirement when selling your house at auction in the UK.

A solicitor can also help you understand the legal requirements of selling your property at auction, such as ensuring that all necessary documentation is in order and that your property is free from any legal encumbrances or other issues. They can also help you prepare the contract of sale, advise you on any legal implications of the sale, and represent you during the auction process if needed.

“When we receive your confirmed instructions we will write to your legal representative requesting the necessary legal documentation in order to offer your property/land for sale by auction. You may require an Energy Performance Certificate and we are happy to provide further information upon request.”

Step 4 – The property will be advertised

The auctioneer will market the property via different channels – There are a number of ways that an auctioneer will market your property. Your house may be listed on sites such as Zoopla and OntheMarket to attract interest, but if the auctioneer is experienced, they will have other means of advertising your property. For example, we have a large database of potential buyers. Clive Emson lists our properties on our own website which generates tens of thousands of visits each month.

We have over the last 30 years built solid relationships with local and national media owners – from local newspapers to National radio brands. This ensures our media coverage and campaigns get the very best possible outcomes for our sellers and our Auctions.

Step 5 -The auctioneer will conduct block viewings on the property.

Your auctioneer will invite all prospective buyers to view your property – so be prepared to give your auctioneer access or the ability to conduct viewings. This is typically arranged as block viewings taking place at a set time over multiple days to create a buzz and competitive atmosphere which can increase the sale price of your property. If you’ve ever seen Homes Under The Hammer, buyers are always advised to view the property before purchasing.

Step 6 – The auctioneer will set an auction date

Your property will go to auction on a specific, pre-agreed date. For example, at Clive Emson our auction dates are disclosed here, with auctions taking place every 6 weeks on average.

Since the Covid 19 pandemic, online auctions have increased in popularity. In fact, we provide an efficient, online auction platform that has opened up auctions to a much wider number of buyers and sellers. We find that online property auctions offer a fast and easy way of buying and selling property – regardless of your location – without missing out on any of the excitement.

Step 7 – Your property is sold if the reserve is met

At the end of the auction, the property will be sold only if the reserve price is met or exceeded. At this point. Contracts are exchanged and a deposit is paid. At this point, your property is officially sold. Both the seller and the buyer’s solicitor or licensed conveyancer are informed in readiness for completion.

Step 8 – Completion

Completion will be scheduled to take place in 20 business days unless otherwise specified within the special conditions of sales.

Other factors to consider

The process above is typical for the majority of our auctions, however, there is also a possibility for pre-auction offers.

A pre-auction offer is – as the name suggests – an offer made by a potential buyer to purchase a property before it goes to auction. After potential buyers view the property, they make take a liking to the property and attempt to secure it before the property goes to auction. This is a great sign as it shows that your property is highly desirable.

A pre-auction offer can be great for both the buyer and the seller. For the buyer, it provides an opportunity to purchase the property before it goes to auction and potentially avoid an inevitable bidding war with other interested parties. For the seller, it offers the possibility of a quick sale and the certainty of a sale price – but you’ll need to assess each offer and make a judgement call as to whether to accept.

If the seller chooses to accept a pre-auction offer, the auction won’t proceed as planned and the sale can go ahead. However, you may miss out on the potential for higher bids at the auction – so think carefully. Both the buyer and seller should carefully consider the pros and cons of a pre-auction offer before making a decision. Our expert Auctioneers are available to advise you and provide guidance in the scenario of a pre-auction offer.

How much will it cost me to sell a property via auction?

As the seller, you are responsible for a contribution towards the catalogue expenses, as well as a commission on the sale. The contribution towards auction expenses is paid upfront while any commission will be taken by deduction.

Typically your fees may fall into three categories:

  • Auctioneer fees – Every auctioneer will operate differently when it comes to setting fees, but generally, you’ll pay an entry fee plus a % of the sale price of the property. This is the industry standard and is also the case with estate agents. The fees will also take VAT into account – so make sure you’ve factored this into your calculations.
  • Marketing fees – This will cover the cost of advertising your property (and the materials to do so) to ensure you have a sufficient pool of buyers interested and elicit healthy competition between buyers. You may find that this fee is absorbed into the auctioneer fees.
  • Conveyancing fees – As with all house sales, you’ll be required to pay fees for conveyancing and legal documentation. Conveyancing solicitors generally charge up to £1,500. We offer the facility to download legal documentation directly from this website, subject to registration and log-in.

In truth, these costs can vary depending on the type of property being sold. It’s best to contact us directly so we can provide a free in-person appraisal and advise on the predicted selling costs. Arrange an appraisal by contacting the Clive Emson team on 0345 8500333, by email at, or by using the contact form here.

If you choose to sell with Clive Emson, all fees will be agreed upon prior to instructions being confirmed — so there’ll be no unexpected costs once the sale goes through. 

Once you’ve established the expected fees, it’s completely natural to compare the fees of an auction house and an estate agent to see which method of sale suits you. In this scenario, you’ll need to weigh up the pros and cons and ask yourself whether the fees are a fair trade-off for the speed, transparency and certainty offered by the auction process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I sell land or property at auction?

Yes — it’s easy to sell land and property by auction. In fact, selling at auction is typically a much faster process. So whether you have a flat, bungalow, house, development site, farm, garage, or freehold, auctioning might be the route for you. Regardless of the state of the property – fire-damaged or pristine, in need of renovation or conversion – there’s bound to be a buyer to match.

Can a seller change their mind after the exchange?

No — on the fall of the electronic gavel, the highest bidder above the reserve is contracted to buy. This means that the buyer and seller have entered into a legally binding contract to buy or sell the lot at the agreed sum.

This guarantee is part of the appeal of an auction. It does mean that, as the seller, you have to be certain that you are ready to sell and are happy with the reserve price.

When the gavel falls, a £5,000 holding deposit is taken from the highest bidder, with the remainder of the 10% deposit being due within 24 hours. Completion then typically happens 20 business days after exchange.

Is my property suitable for selling via auction?

There is no definitive answer to this question. All properties may be suitable, but some are more suitable than others. Lots can include

  • Houses, flats, bungalows and cottages for improvement, renovation restoration, refurbishment and/or repair (inc. fire damaged premises).
  • Tenanted properties (both commercial and residential).
  • Vacant commercial premises, building plots, development sites and conversion projects.
  • Farms and small holdings, woodland, grazing and leisure land (inc. ponds, rivers and fishing lakes).
  • Garages, from individual lock-ups to whole compounds.
  • Freehold and leasehold ground rents.
  • Unusual lots such as Martello towers, nuclear bunkers, car parking spaces, churches, chapels, theatres, barns, oast houses and even sea forts!

What happens if my property doesn’t sell?

If your property fails to sell at auction, don’t worry — all is not lost! Unsold lots are made available to buy after the auction, stating the minimum price for which you’ll be willing to sell.

Offers will be submitted to you and, should you accept, auction contracts will be exchanged immediately.

Related reading: What happens to unsold auction property? Find out here.

What information do I need to sell my house at auction

You will need to provide the auctioneer with a number of documents and information to be able to sell your property via auction in the UK. Of course, the exact requirements may vary depending on the property being sold and the auction house but to summarise, you’ll need the following:

  • Proof that you own the property: You will need to provide proof that you are the legal owner of the property by providing title deed, land registry documents, or other similar documents.
  • Property information: You’ll need general information about the property such as the address, size, age, and any notable features or defects.
  • Legal documents: As we previously mentioned, you’ll need to provide any legal documents related to the property, such as any lease agreements, planning permissions, or details of any home improvements completed.
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC): You will need to provide a valid EPC certificate if applicable to show the current energy efficiency rating of the property. This is becoming increasingly important to buyers.
  • Personal ID: Can you provide proof of your identity, such as a passport or driving license along with proof of address in the form of a utility bill or bank statement.

It is always best to consult with the auction house or a solicitor to determine the specific requirements and documents needed for your particular property.

What is the difference between the guide price and the reserve price?

The guide and reserve prices are of paramount importance and must be set realistically in order to generate as much pre-auction interest as possible. In practice, the lower the guide (and therefore the reserve) potentially the more prospective buyers will inspect the property and, inevitably, the more that inspect the more will attend the auction to bid – which may result in a higher price being achieved. If the guide price is perceived as too high, prospective buyers will simply not inspect, not make further enquiries and, ultimately, will not bid on the day – something to avoid!

The guide price

When properties and land are submitted for sale by public auction it is traditional to quote a pre-auction guide price. This figure is quoted within the auction catalogue and marketing material and provides prospective buyers with, literally, an estimated guide of where the reserve is likely to be set. However, by the very nature of the auction, if there are two, three or more prospective bidders on the day then the eventual price may very well exceed the guide and reserve.

The reserve price

This is a confidential figure agreed with the seller and auctioneer prior to the auction, below which the seller will not want to sell and the auctioneer cannot sell.

Why sell with Clive Emson?

Clive Emson auctioneers offer all our sellers maximum exposure to the property market. Thousands of property owners choose to sell with us because:

  • We offer a fast, professional, and friendly service to all those looking to sell land or property across Southern England. With 35 years of experience, we have built up a strong presence in auctioneering and today sell more lots than any other independent auctioneer within the region.
  • Our five strategically-placed offices across Southern England have teams with both local knowledge and national coverage that they offer to buyers and sellers alike. This local and national expertise afforded by our fully-trained, professional teams is what sets us apart.
  • Giving our clients professional and unbiased advice has been our priority since we were founded. Find out what our clients think in our testimonials here.
  • Our clients’ lots are currently offered online but receive local, national, and international coverage with our extensive and high-profile marketing campaigns online and in print.
  • Over the years we have developed a close working relationship with a large number of corporate and independent estate agents. Our auction catalogues are available in over 600 local estate agency branches throughout southern England, often with several agents in one town. Agents will tend to ensure that “their” clients are aware of lots on offer so that they can sell the refurbished and new buildings or manage the rented properties in the future.

FREE Appraisal: Sell a property by auction with Clive Emson

So, if you are thinking of selling your property at auction or have any questions about the process, then please call us on 0345 8500333 or complete the online form below for a free independent appraisal.

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