Property: From Hackney town house to Herts desire

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AUCTIONEERS report record numbers of requests for catalogues for this month's property sales. Allsop & Co, which is holding the largest auction, of 207 lots, on 15 February, had 1,000 requests before the sale had been advertised. Strettons, whose sale of 130 lots is to take place the day before, says the response level has been much higher than for previous auctions.

The Strettons auction kicks off a series of nine sales within 10 days. Although repossessions still dominate, regular sales are reappearing in the catalogue lists.

Strettons is selling nine lots on behalf of a north London housing association, including a classic terrace property in Canonbury, Islington. The Grade II listed house requires some repair and redecoration, and is listed at pounds 170,000-pounds 180,000. Farther east, the London Borough of Hackney is selling 15 houses needing renovation for prices ranging from pounds 30,000 to pounds 70,000.

The Allsop list includes a six-bedroom family house with billiard room and studio in five acres near Hindhead, in Surrey. Like most of the houses that come to auction, this one is in need of some work. It has a guide price of pounds 320,000- pounds 360,000.

If you are thinking of buying at auction, it is vital to see the property and to arrange your survey, search, mortgage - and sometimes even insurance - before the sale takes place. When the hammer goes down, you pay a 10 per cent deposit and the place is yours.

The main February auctions are: Strettons, 14 February, 1pm, New Connaught Rooms, London WC2 (081-520 8383); Allsop & Co, 15 February, 10.30am, Berkeley Hotel, SW1 (071-437 6977); Edwin Evans, 16 February, 11.30am, Four Seasons Hotel, N1 (071-228 5864); Winkworths, 23 February, 12 noon, Kensington Town Hall, W8 (081-686 6667).

BRITISH Rail is auctioning one of its few remaining cottages in the Scottish Highlands next Wednesday. The cottage is close to Achnasheen station on the spectacular line from Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh; it has a kitchen, bathroom, living room and two bedrooms, sits in half an acre of land with a dilapidated wooden bothy, and has been empty for a year. The auction takes place at 2pm in the Logie Baird room, of the Central Hotel, in Glasgow.

IF YOU dream of leaving London for a rural idyll, but are not sure that you can survive without your city fix, Sopwell Mill Farm could provide an excellent halfway house. Tucked away off Cottonmill Lane, the small, riverbank farmhouse and large mill buildings come with two acres of watermeadow, looseboxes, a byre, piggeries and an optional 16 acres of extra land.

What makes this different from your average smallholding is its position. It is situated just two miles from the centre of St Albans, in Hertfordshire, and is only half an hour from London. So you can have the best of both worlds.

The farm is available to let from the Gorhambury Estate, for what the agent, Strutt & Parker, describes as 'flexible terms and rent'. The house itself has a small sitting room, dining room and kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom. It has been lived in since the Thirties by two sisters, who took it over from their parents. Contact Finola Doyle on 0721 840295.