We have always said that, regardless of what’s happening in the world, people will always need to buy and sell property and, while the pandemic confirmed this for us, perhaps the most important lesson we learned is if you serve people’s needs, then success will follow.
When lockdown began in March 2020, we knew there would be many people who simply couldn’t wait for restrictions to be lifted as they needed to sell their properties right away. Sadly, for some the need to release capital was even greater than ever. With estate agents forced to close and many auction houses pausing their operations, we offered one of the few safe routes to selling.
Nobody really knew how long the lockdown would last and the benefit of hindsight makes us all the more grateful that we took the decision to carry on as close to normal as possible, taking our auctions behind closed doors and launching our live-streamed monthly National Property Auctions.
We did this to serve a need and, as a result, within three months we had become the UK’s most successful live-streamed auctioneer.
Change can be for the better
While tools were already in place for customers to bid via the internet if they wished, lockdown meant all of our customers would be operating remotely so we instigated many changes and enhancements to our systems to create a fully remote auctions service.
It was important that any changes didn’t feel like a compromise to customers and I’m pleased to say they haven’t. In fact, the enhancements have streamlined our systems, making registering to bid and making payments faster for everyone, especially our frequent buyers who now only have to input their details and ID information once. Even changes that are forced upon you can turn out for the best.
Remote auctions can still be exciting
In our Auction Events live-streamed from our head office studio, instead of a sea of faces I am faced with a row of screens. Whether there are people working remotely as they did during lockdown or within the studio as they are now, we still enjoy the buzz of a live auction and recreate the excitement of a crowded auction room as closely as possible. Our remote bidders and spectators tell us that the atmosphere is still just as compelling – which is something we could not have predicted.
Our remote auctions are more efficient, too, especially for investors, who no longer need to travel to a venue, arriving early to secure a parking space. Instead, they can just log into the auction to watch the relevant section featuring the properties they want to bid on.
Auctions can be for everyone – and every type of property
We have learned that there is an appetite for auctions among private buyers and sellers as well as investors. We’ve shown ordinary private buyers and sellers not only that they can buy and sell safely in a pandemic but that auctions are a fast, efficient and faff-free method of sale at any time.
Property investors are reaping the rewards of this growing appetite for auctions, too. More buyers and sellers means more properties to choose from and more bidders on any properties investors are selling. Private buyers can also tend to drive up prices as they may be looking for a long-term home; this is more good news for investors realising their assets.
As our audience has widened, we have learned the importance of creating a fully accessible environment for our auctions, ensuring nobody is left out. Technology may be essential to the smooth running of any business during a pandemic but not everyone is comfortable with it or has a reliable internet connection. To make sure everyone is included, we continue to offer proxy and phone bidding in our National Property Auctions. We have also learned that by creating a friendly bidding environment, more women are empowered to bid, too. At the beginning of the pandemic, just 20% of our bidders were female; a year later this percentage had more than doubled.
At SDL Property Auctions we already knew that auctions are suitable for all types of property and the pandemic has helped the public to appreciate that, too. We are seeing more and more well-maintained family homes go under the hammer, both in our live-streamed Auction Events and in our Timed Auctions which we run on our website every day of the year.
SDL Property Auctions is forward-thinking and adaptable
Everyone likes to think they can cope in a crisis but it is not until the crisis hits that this is put to the test. As I look back over this most challenging of times, I have learned that SDL Property Auctions is a forward-thinking company with the flexibility to adapt to a changing property market and the changing needs of our customers.
This final lesson is not much a lesson as a reminder – but it is also perhaps the one I am most proud of. I am reminded that SDL Property Auctions has a fantastic team of people who really care about the business and our customers. They have shown they are willing and able to adapt to help the business not only survive but thrive and grow, while supporting each other through difficult times along the way.
*Andrew Parker is the Managing Director and Auctioneer at SDL Property Auctions