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The property I want to buy is being sold at auction. As I have never done anything like this before, what should I expect?

Ali Rimnail

Perry Barr, W Midlands

Buying a house at auction is relatively straightforward but do ensure that you have done all your preparation and investigations in advance.

First of all you should get hold of a copy of the catalogue which will provide viewing instructions. Assuming that you still want to go ahead after viewing the property, you need to employ the services of a solicitor and surveyor to ensure that the appropriate legal and structural inquiries are made prior to the date of the auction. While this will cost you money initially, it may save you much more in the long term.

If you need a mortgage, it is important that you have a written offer from your lender before you attend the sale. The maximum advance that you will be able to borrow will depend on the valuation. It is also worth making a written offer through the auction house before the date of the auction as the vendor may consider your offer.

On the day of the auction there will be a reserved price as set by the vendor.

Make sure you have set your own limits and stick to them as it is very easy to get carried away.

At auction contracts are exchanged on the same day, and you must be prepared to pay a deposit of 10 per cent of the purchase price immediately in the form of cash, a bankers draft, or building society cheque. Once you have signed the contract, it will usually be 28 days to complete. If you fail to complete you will usually lose your deposit.

Auctions work under "caveat emptor", the principle that the buyer must bear the risk for the quality of goods purchased. It will be assumed that you have made all the necessary enquiries and that any fault arising after the sale will be your responsibility.


What does flying freehold mean and what would the drawbacks be of purchasing a cottage, part of which is a flying freehold?

Edward Dance

Pitenweem, Fife

A flying freehold usually applies to a part of the building which is above the ground floor level, and extends over someone else's land.

A common example can be found in Victorian terraced properties where there is internal access through a shared passageway, running from the front to the back. Any part of the property which was situated over this walkway will invariably incorporate a flying freehold. It is also fairly common in older buildings which have been divided and sub-divided.

There are important legal implications to consider if you wish to purchase such a property. Because part of the building may overhang another property, you need to be sure who will be responsible for any damage and also if you and your neighbour have adequate insurance. The solicitors drafting the conveyances must be made aware of the situation, to enable them to build into the conveyance the exact apportionment of repairs to avoid the possibility of a future dispute. They must also ensure that all rights of way are established, maintenance liabilities are clearly defined and both the lender and applicant are fully aware of the implications of purchasing a property with flying freehold.

In some instances a flying freehold can affect the resaleability of the property.