Auction stampede

Bargain hunters are stalking the auction rooms, anxious to get out of banks and into property for investment
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Guide price: £180,000 for Old Stone Cottage
Guide price: £180,000 for Old Stone Cottage
Auctioneers report a surge in sales since the start of the year and are now enjoying their busiest period since autumn 2007.

An impressive 80 per cent of homes were sold by Harman Healy in its 178-strong catalogue earlier this month.

Buyers were queuing out of the door. Low “reserve” prices - the minimum amount the seller will accept - are fuelling competitive bidding.

“Sales prices are on average 15 per cent above reserves, proving there is an appetite for correctly priced properties,” says Allsop, the UK’s biggest auction firm.

Lenders and brokers confirm the trend. Auction Finance, a specialist lender, claims loan applications jumped 35 per cent during the latest quarter. Auctions are seen as a reliable barometer of the property market - the first place to reflect changing conditions and confidence. Many homes are distress sales “priced to sell”.

When the surplus of such properties is cleared, the market will be in the recovery stage. But that is still some way off, believe most experts.

The coming months will see a wave of repossessions, likely to account for 80 per cent of the auction sale, being sold by banks and building societies. Also, local authorities and housing associations are seeking to raise cash by disposing of properties before the end of the financial year.

On Thursday 19 February, Allsop ends its latest auction with a bundle of properties in cities such as Birmingham, Bristol and Leeds. A two-bedroom city-centre apartment in Manchester’s Beaumont Building has a guide price of £90,000 to £110,000.

Clive Emson, which specialises in Kent and Sussex properties, starts its three-day auction on Thursday 19 February, at the Hilton Brighton Metropole. For sale are a number of unmodernised farm houses and rural wrecks, suitable for conversion into holiday homes. These include Old Stone Cottage in Crawley, West Sussex, carrying a guide price of £185,000.

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