Property auctions have changed dramatically over the last 20 years, evolving from small-scale events focused on lower value property to day-long sales featuring a wide cross-section of the market.
My first auction with Savills back in 1998 featured 35 lots and we sold £1.9m worth of property. It was a great result for us then, but when you compare it with our most recent auction, where we sold 214 properties with a combined value of nearly £70m, it puts the rapid growth of the market into perspective. In the last two years alone, the total value of property sold across the whole of the UK property auction industry has risen by £790 million – an extra 1,300 properties per year.
As well as a huge increase in the volume of properties coming through auction houses, the types of properties have also developed. While our bread and butter used to be ex-council homes and repossessions, we’re now seeing an increasing number of million pound-plus properties featured in our catalogues. With everything from London terraces to office blocks in Birmingham on offer, a new demographic is looking to buy and sell at auction.
So what has caused this substantial change to the market? Increased media interest has certainly played a part, with greater exposure in print and by broadcasters making auctions more accessible to buyers and vendors alike. TV programmes such as Homes Under the Hammer have brought auctions into the nation’s living rooms, creating greater confidence and improving understanding of the process. They’re certainly no longer just a playground for property professionals.
Online catalogues, bidding and advances in mobile technology have also opened up the industry to a wider audience. Our website contains property details for our upcoming auctions and past sales, as well as providing legal documents to download. Online bidding is available and live streams broadcast the action on the day, encouraging buyers to get involved wherever they are in the world. You can even pay your deposit with your smartphone using Barclays Pingit app – a real change from the days of cash only purchases.
Looking to the future, the integration of technology will continue to make auctions easier to engage with, further increasing the reach and diversity of our sales. But ultimately, I think the personal nature of bidding and buying will keep the traditional auction process alive and the gavel firmly in human hands.