Spring Property Survey: Let bargain-hunters beware of the bid: Do your homework before buying, says Margaret St John

A COLD, wet night did nothing to deter more than 300 people in search of a bargain. The seminar on how to buy property at auction had been organised by the auctioneers Kennedy Wilson UK Ltd and the audience listened carefully to all the basics. Many were foreigners learning how to find a bargain while sterling is low.

Auctions have burgeoned in recent years because of the huge amount of property repossessed by building societies. One of the first questions on Channel 4's controversial spoof game show for the homeless, Come On Down and Out, concerned the number of repossessions. The answer: more than 68,000 in 1992 alone. Although lower mortgage rates mean fewer repossessions, business failures mean that these type of auctions will remain part of the property market for some time.

Buying a repossessed property can save you money. Many auctioneers are going out of their way to make it easier; buyers' reports are sold and mortgages are offered by agents working with the auctioneers.

The fact that repossessions seem cheap does not mean they are always bargains. Most need a vast amount of work and it is advisable to bring a builder to a preview to get an idea of how much work is involved. On the other hand, most properties to be auctioned are vacant. The absence of a buyers' chain is another advantage for the first-time purchaser.

I toured a typical auction property. The flat on the New King's Road in Parsons Green, south-west London, would have been perfect for a single person who wanted to rent out the second bedroom. The last asking price was pounds 74,950 for a 79-year lease and the minimum bid at the auction was set at pounds 50,000. According to the survey, it was structurally sound. But, by my estimate, it needed at least pounds 12,000 to pounds 15,000 spent on it. I calculated that it would be good value at anything up to pounds 60,000.

Phoning around for details of future auctions, I detected a weariness with the enthusiastic bargain-hunter. Some agents had answering machine messages warning that the call was costing 48p per minute. Others told me to call back when the brochure was ready. Despite the fact that there are fewer bargains now, interest in auctions continues to grow.

More than 500 people registered to bid at the auction of the Parsons Green flat and other properties. It was held in a huge conference room at a hotel in Hammersmith. Most of the properties went for close to - even above - the last asking price. Two were genuine bargains, where only one bidder was interested.

Toby Baxendale, at his first property auction, bought the property in Parsons Green. At pounds 60,000, he felt he had a bargain; he would have gone up to pounds 65,000. 'I'm a meat trader at Smithfield market so auctions are a way of life for me. I have all the contacts I could possibly need to help me do this property up nicely.'

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
Courtney Love has admitted using heroin while pregnant with Frances Bean Cobain, her daughter with Kurt Cobain
people
Sport
Murray celebrates reaching the final
tennis
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer - Java

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital publishing solution...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Financial Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness