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Strong nerves needed

I am interested in buying a house at an auction. How different is it from buying a house in the "normal" way?

AS, Sutton Coldfield

Buying a home at an auction is not for the faint-hearted; there is no turning back once the auctioneer's hammer has dropped.

Your finance must be in place before the auction as normally 10 per cent of the price is deposited when your bid is accepted. The outstanding balance has to be paid within 28 days.

Often there is a reserve price (the minimum amount the seller will consider). If this price is not reached, the property will be withdrawn. There is no redress if you find things wrong with the property once bought, so ensure that a survey is carried out and your solicitor has completed any searches beforehand. If you are unsuccessful, you must still pay these costs.

Remember, too, to decide in advance on the maximum amount you will bid.

When repossession looms

I have missed eight monthly mortgage payments and defaulted on repayment plans. My building society wants to repossess. What I can do?

RP, Bradford.

When arrears have been built up over a substantial period, the mortgage lender may instruct a solicitor to apply to the courts for an Order for Possession (repossession). This order is for 28 days and can be suspended if the customer and lender agree a repayment programme.

Providing the repayment programme is kept up, the order ceases when the arrears are cleared. If more payments are missed, the lender can apply to enforce the order and obtain repossession.

Talk to your lender about the options.

George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services.

Send your queries on practical property issues to: Home Truths, 'Independent on Sunday', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; fax 0171-293 2043; e-mail sundayproperty@independent.co.uk. Home Truths is not a substitute for professional advice. Readers are urged to take appropriate legal and tax advice.