Among a fabulous bag of opportunities at the salerooms starting next week is the old Shoreditch train station, a remarkable lot being sold by Transport for London. Tucked away behind Brick Lane, the single-storey station became redundant when the East London line was upgraded and the building is now semi-derelict, though the original lobby and ticket hall is in place and the total internal space is 1,688sq ft - guide price, £180,000 (Andrews & Robertson).
On Monday (St Valentine’s Day) London’s romantics can impress a lover with a proposal, and a new love nest to move into. Savill’s February 14 auction is offering a very pretty period flat in Gloucester Terrace, only two minutes from Paddington station, with a guide price of £280,000.
Car and cab travellers rushing to get to Heathrow cannot have failed to notice splendid St Paul’s Studios, a terrace of eight houses built in 1891 for "bachelor artists". The huge, distinctive, barrel-vaulted, north-facing windows excite interest despite the unpromising location on traffic-clogged Talgarth Road.
One of these rare listed specimens goes under the hammer next Wednesday (at Willmotts) in what the auctioneer describes as a "unique purchasing opportunity".
Plenty to choose from
Young families and gentrifiers with lower budgets have plenty more to choose from. A bumper crop of properties is available at this month’s auctions, including bargain repossessions and vacant houses being sold by local authorities and housing associations in sought-after inner-city districts.
"Public bodies and government agencies are under pressure to sell off surplus property assets," says Paul Mooney of Savills.
"There’s a mood of realism. They want a quick, clean disposal and will accept the best price on the day, meaning buyers can get a bargain."
Properties that have been split into self-contained flats can often be converted back easily into a single residence.
"Some young buyers may want to leave the house as flats, living in one and renting out the others," adds Mooney. "This way they can build up a pot of money to pay for a better-quality refurbishment at a later date."
Other properties are "oven-ready", requiring only a lick of paint and new curtains and carpets.
Unless you are a cash purchaser it is imperative to have mortgage finance agreed before bidding for a property. As soon as the hammer falls, contracts are exchanged and there is no going back. If you fail to complete the purchase, you could be sued for the total price and other costs.
Some properties are in need of expensive renovation, are blighted in some way or may be part-tenanted.
"We find a lot of younger buyers do not understand the difference between assured shorthold tenants and statutory tenants," says John Weatherall of auctioneers Andrews & Robertson.
With shortholds there is a limited contract, normally 12 months maximum, after which the tenant has to vacate. But statutory tenants have rights to stay indefinitely as long as they pay the regulated rent.
Buyers have to be quick off the mark
The timescale for auctions is rapid compared to buying in the conventional manner through an estate agent. Catalogues are printed no more than three weeks before the sale, and during this period you have to cram in all the necessary legal, survey and mortgage work.
Buyers are in a really good position if they have recently sold a property and have a big deposit to put down or have been waiting on the sidelines for the market to turn. You can pick up something decent or with loads of potential for a very fair price.
Andrews & Robertson, whose patch includes "nappy valley" in Wandsworth and the leafy Alleyn’s estate in Dulwich, is selling properties on behalf of Greenwich, Southwark and Lambeth councils. These include a handsome Georgian semi-detached house in Camberwell (guide price £285,000) and a double-fronted Victorian house in Blackheath (guide price £625,000).
Executors are selling a four-bedroom bay-fronted Victorian house in Stamford Hill (Savills, guide price £625,000), while Allsop has an imposing five-bedroom detached house in Woolstone Road, Forest Hill - guide price, £425,000.
A freehold terrace house in Cassland Road, Hackney, comes with a rear yard (Allsop, guide price £300,000) - suitable for a homeworker or designer who wants a separate studio.
Something for a long weekend
Weekenders searching for a seaside home or a rural wreck to renovate have most to see at the Clive Emson auction. This firm, which covers Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Cornwall, also sells self-build plots as well as commercial premises ripe for redevelopment in improving south coast towns such as Dover, Folkestone and Margate. A dilapidated Methodist chapel in Penzance has a guide price of £40,000.
February 14: Savills (savills.co.uk/auctions)
February 16: Andrews & Robertson (includes Willmotts; a-r.co.uk)
February 15 and 17: Allsop (allsop.co.uk)
February 14-18: Clive Emson (cliveemson.co.uk)