Ask the Auctioneer - The 28-day completion

Ask the Auctioneer - The 28-day completion


Benjamin Tobin, Chartered surveyor and director of Strettons, has been selling properties by auction since 1979. Each month he has corrected our common auction misconceptions, giving us the real answers from the Rostrum, but now he opens the floor to your questions…

Over the past few years there have been a stream of television programmes on the subject of buying properties at auction. Frequently these have followed a similar format; the camera follows a buyer or buyer around the property market, inspecting buildings, most frequently houses or flats (but occasionally small business premises) with the suspense provided by following the auction process and watching either the joy or the disappointment of the successful bidder at the auction.

I have featured on numerous such programmes and I am still questioned by clients who see me on daytime satellite TV selling a property that went through our auction sometimes several years earlier. One lady tells me that her trips to the gym would not be the same without me selling (or occasionally not selling) a property.

But why the fascination with part of the property market that the vast majority of buyers never get to engage with? My guess is that it is the element of the unknown with the roulette of whether the buyer, the seller or sometime both, are overjoyed, disappointed or merely satisfied with the price, particularly when competition forces them to pay over their target price!

Bridging Lenders frequently use auction and yet sometimes without a detailed understanding of how it works. The rational seems to be “it does work, so don’t get involved”.

In any event, there is never any shortage of questions when people (whether or not they are from a property background) find out that I am a property auctioneer.

With that in mind I have gathered some of the most frequent questions and answers which will follow as a series over coming months, but why not start at the beginning.


What happens in the 28 day completion period after a bidder has been successful at auction?


The first thing that the auctioneer sends is the signed auction contract and legal pack back to the seller’s solicitor who then prepares a transfer and drafts a completion statement in liaison with the managing agents (if any).

Hopefully the buyer does the same and instructs their solicitor. However, before doing that they should speak to our insurance team who have a desk in the auction room, or to their insurance broker to place cover. This is essential because if there is a fire or other loss between the auction date and completion, the buyer is at risk as they will still have to complete, even if the property has burnt down!

The buyer’s next step will be to crack open their piggy bank, look under the mattress and even in these troubled times go to their lender. Again, hopefully, if they need to borrow, the buyer will have put arrangements in place before they started bidding. If they haven’t done so, in the current market, their high street bank is probably not going to be much use and they would be better off approaching a reader of Bridging and Commercial!

Bear in mind that the completion period is not always 28 days. In some (rare) cases the completion period will be less and auctioneers will normally bring this to bidders’ attention. In other cases, particularly over the Christmas period, sellers will extend the time, perhaps to six weeks.

Finally, the buyer needs to be ready for completion, especially where the property is vacant. You may need to check that the building is vacant (and vacant possession may mean clear of all rubbish and debris). Some sellers, particularly public bodies, will secure vacant buildings with “Sitex” or other security shuttering, or with guardians or on-site security. The sellers will usually cancel this at some point between exchange and completion and the buyer needs to consider whether such measures should be continued. At the very least locks should be changed on completion.

Where the property is tenanted, contact needs to be made with the tenants to ensure a smooth transition, especially if rent becomes due in the days following completion. Also, bear in mind that corporate tenants may set up quarterly rent payments some time before the due date and will need time to make changes.

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