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Revealed: how is coronavirus affecting auctions?

The Covid-19 pandemic is having a drastic impact on all parts of life, and that includes the auction process. Here, we outline how auction houses are coping with this unprecedented situation.

Clive Emson auction to be held remotely

Britain’s biggest independent regional firm of land and property auctioneers says it is inviting remote bids only for its next auction due to the coronavirus outbreak.


Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers will be live streaming its March sale online over five days from Monday March 23 to Friday March 27, with prospective bidders able to bid remotely online, by proxy or telephone instead of attending in person.

Each sale day – covering different parts of the South of England – will begin at the later time of midday instead of the usual 11am start.

“Following recent advice regarding the continuing spread of Covid-19, we will be implementing our plan to live video stream our March auction via the internet only,” managing director James Emson said.

“The safety of our clients, customers and staff is of paramount importance to us as is the commercial interests of all those involved. By live streaming our auction, prospective bidders will be able to bid remotely online, by proxy or telephone.”

He added: “This is tried and trusted technology which we have been using at auctions for the past eight years. With many venues closing their doors to the public we believe now is the right time for this decision to be made in order to ensure adequate time for all prospective bidders to register for our remote bidding services.”

The auction broadcast for Essex will be on Monday March 23 and the auction broadcast for Kent will be on Tuesday March 24, followed by Hampshire on Wednesday March 25, the West Country on Thursday March 26 and Sussex on Friday March 27.

You can visit here for more details about bidding online, via proxy or on the telephone.

Allsop releases its largest residential catalogue since May 2019

Allsop’s upcoming March residential auction, which will offer a total of 288 lots, will be carried out online and via the telephone in light of the current health crisis.  

Richard Adamson, auctioneer and partner at Allsop, said: “Our March 2020 catalogue includes a total of 288 lots which represents our largest residential catalogue for almost a year. The catalogue includes a wide variety of investments and developments that cover the length and breadth of the country.”

He said events surrounding Covid-19 have changed quickly over the past week or so and it’s currently very difficult to predict how this will evolve or escalate over the next two weeks. “With the welfare of our staff, clients and buyers in mind, we have decided to implement our contingency plan so we can prepare accordingly. This means our March 31 auction will be streamed live on our website by video stream, and all bidders will be required to bid remotely - by phone, online or by proxy as many already do. We have already increased our resources to facilitate this function.”

Highlights from the catalogue are set to include:

  • Lot 17, Cedar House, Mill Road, Cobham, KT11 3AL – a vacant detached Grade II-listed former hotel with planning consent from hotel to residential use. Guided at £2 million-plus.

  • Lot 35, Parade Mansions, Vivian Avenue, Hendon, NW4 3YD – seven leasehold self-contained flats with each property subject to assured shorthold tenancy. Guided at £1.5 million-plus.

  • Lot 43, Indigo House, Mulberry Business Park, Wokingham, Berkshire, RG41 2GY – a freehold former office building with planning for conversion to 54 self-contained flats. Guide price of £4 million-plus.

  • Lot 51, 5 The Green, Wimbledon, SW19 5AZ – a freehold detached five-bedroom house with gym, cinema and views overlooking Wimbledon Common. Guided at £5.15 million.

Prospective buyers will need to register to bid remotely by Thursday March 26. To view the full details on how to bid remotely, click here.

Seel and Co add VR service to its auction properties

Seel and Co auctioneers is offering virtual reality (VR) viewings on some of its auction lots – useful for the increasing numbers of people who are self-isolating or social distancing.  

The century-old Cardiff-based auction house is offering potential buyers the chance to have a VR tour of certain catalogued properties, especially those which are difficult to access.

The move is aimed at innovating the auction market and attracting new buyers who may otherwise be put off by the fact that they can’t view a property in person – relevant at any time, but particularly relevant in light of the current coronavirus outbreak.

Seel and Co, one of the oldest independent chartered surveyors, block management, lettings and auction houses in the UK, moved its auctions to a bigger venue last month at the Cardiff City Stadium, enabling more prospective buyers than ever to bid on the properties on offer.

“It is really important for us that we give bidders as much information, help and support as possible but sometimes, due to the types of properties we sell, gaining access for a viewing isn’t possible,” auctioneer Huw Edwards said. “We didn’t want this to put people off these properties, some of which are the ones offering the most potential.”

Edwards said that so far Seel and Co is only offering VR viewings on a few selected lots, but the hope is to extend the technology across all of its catalogued properties: “So far VR viewings are proving very popular and are attracting a lot of new buyers to the market, which is great news for us and the auction market as a whole.”

He added: “We want to introduce more people to the auction world and help both sellers and buyers see the advantages of a quick sale through an auction house. VR is an extension of that ease of buying and selling.”

Seel and Co’s next auction is set to be at the Ricoh Suite at Cardiff City Stadium on March 31 at 5pm, but with the current fast-moving situation this is likely to be subject to change. It’s worth checking in advance that the auction is still going ahead as planned.

Details of lots available at the March auction can be seen here, including everything buyers need to know about purchasing at auction and what they need to bring if they are looking to acquire a property. Proxy and telephone bidding will also be possible for those unable to attend.

An example of a VR tour of 29 Alexandra Road in Cardiff can be found here: https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=GhFq6Rf7fxz.

Online auctions set to thrive

With restrictions on gatherings and social contact set to become even tighter, day by day, as a result of the pandemic, the pressure on businesses across the country is huge. The public, too, are more and more cautious of their surroundings, contact and, of course, their loved ones. But how are the government’s measures calling on everyone to social distance – by avoiding pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, theatres, non-essential travel and busy public spaces – impacting auction houses?

“We would all be lying if we said it was business as usual and in fact there will be no effect to our businesses moving forward,” a spokesperson for Connect UK Auctions said. “We are all reassuring our clients, vendors and purchasers as much as physically possible, but there may come a point, when guidelines from the government cause this to change.”

With physical ‘in the room’ auctions set to not go ahead for many auction houses in the upcoming months, Connect UK Auctions insists it is set to thrive after introducing Connect Realtime earlier this year.

While Connect UK Auctions had a full room for its February 14 auction and sold over 70% of its lots, its most recent auction, on March 12, suffered from a lack of bodies in the room, but this meant that clients had turned to internet bidding instead. As a result, the auction house sold 88% of its lots.

“The proof that buyer momentum is still in full swing and that internet bidding will help carry the auction house through this time,” the spokesperson added.

Connect Realtime, launched in February as the QVC equivalent of the auction world, allows buyers to bid on any lot, as the auction unfolds, live, in real-time. Viewers can watch every auction, from their chosen device, streamed directly from Connect UK Auctions’ website, bidding against other buyers at their convenience. 

All lots – operated by the auctioneer and presenter - are introduced and sold via the traditional method of auction but with an enhanced, interactive experience. “This ground-breaking technology has enabled the biggest exposure to buyers on any particular lot. Your property will be marketed to thousands of potential buyers across the UK and worldwide, resulting in the highest price in the room,” the spokesperson continued. “No need to attend the auction room. No need to put yourself at risk.”

Robert Jenkins, director at Connect UK Auctions, commented: “We all value the safety of our clients and to ensure minimal, social contact, Connect Realtime©  will allow the operation of Connect UK Auctions to continue as it would normally through this difficult time.”

Adam Partridge, an auctioneer who has appeared on the BBC and Channel 4, added: “Connect UK Auctions are one step ahead of the game. This technology works and with the current climate and fear instilled into the public this will allow them to flourish. I am thrilled to be able to work with them.”

  • Lou Valdini

    This will be our first foray into the MMOA world and we would benefit from any advice available.

    We are interested in a property just a few minutes walk away but we can't view it, and the online auction ends on 1st May. The one piece of advice you always get is... always view before bidding!

    I appreciate the need for social distancing, but surely they could open the front door and sit in their car while we walk to the house during our normal exercise. The auctioneers have said there are hundreds interested and if they allow one to view, they would have to allow all.

    I asked if they or the seller would take responsibility if there was a significant structural problem after buying, and they said no; buyer's risk!

    What are other auctioneers doing? More importantly, how is a bidder expected to know what to budget for any structural issues which are unlikely to show up in a [poor quality] video?


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