Property: Be prepared before you make that bid

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The Independent Online
The last property auction I attended was a few years ago. Two near-identical flats in the same block, both of which I had viewed, were up for auction.

Except that one looked as if it had been redecorated by someone who had gulped down a bowl of illegal substances for breakfast. It had also been extensively vandalised.

The much better flat went for pounds 60,000. The second, psychedelically decorated one came up. It finally sold for pounds 72,000.

Later, when I spoke to the buyer of the second flat, I discovered he had not even looked at it before bidding. Nor had he discussed a loan with a lender.

Before you bid, carry out all necessary surveys on the property, but also sort out how you will pay for it. Take your time and do the research thoroughly. Choose a lender who can move swiftly: completion is usually 28 days from the auction date.

`The Independent' has just published a free 27-page Guide to Mortgages, sponsored by Barclays Mortgages. For your copy, call 0800 585691. Or fill in the coupon on page 4.

In search of a bargain basement

Are repossessions a bargain, anyway? Duncan Moir, auctioneer at Allsop & Co, says: "The volume that goes out at an auction may make people think they are bargains. Part of the appeal is that you know exactly where you are. You are only bidding pounds 500 more than the next person."

The downside is that you have to buy unconditionally, which means paying for your survey and local authority search beforehand. Prices at auction can even be higher than through an estate agent. You can pick up cheap properties but they may have been empty for a while, or you may have to take a leasehold property with an absentee landlord.

Duncan Moir says that the best service listing properties up for auction is Faxwise. For pounds 100 plus VAT, Faxwise gets all catalogues of property auctions sent to you for three months with guide prices where available, and on the night of the sale it sends out the auction results. Auctioneers say that as much as 60 per cent of properties sold now go to private buyers.

Faxwise: 0171-720 5000;

Allsop & Co: 0171-494 3686.

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