Are we returning to traditional, in-house auctions?

For some time now, in-room auctions have been on hold due to social distancing guidelines and lockdown restrictions. Like-minded people have not been able to meet up and battle it out in bidding wars, but they have been able to continue investing. Live streams and other alternatives to online auctions became the norm during the pandemic. So, will there be a return to traditional auctions, or will the online versions be a regularity as we move forward?

According to various property auctioneers across the country, there are no plans whatsoever to hold in-room auctions. That is until the government gives the green light, though. James Emson, managing director of Clive Emson Auctioneers, said: “This is partly due to the fact we still don’t know what restrictions there will be, even following the government’s current roadmap.”

He also says that due to the possibility of capacity limitations, they and other auctioneers would be forced to turn potential buyers away, something which is damaging to both parties involved. With this being the case, online auctions are the best and safest form given the current circumstances. And, they do not alienate any investors wanting to participate as well.

Emson and other auctioneers have been able to make the switch online relatively easily. Surprisingly, these online auctions have been a success, despite the traditions being completely absent. Bond Wolfe Auctions were able to raise over £30 million during one of their recent online auctions. A total of 205 lots sold from a maximum of 218 on offer. They saw 814,817 website views, 161,168 video tour views, and 34,336 concurrent viewers live on the day of the online auction.

As can be seen, if done right, there is a high potential for online auctions to surpass the norm. Almost 35,000 people at a single auction on one day is unheard of and not even possible in person. Having that much interest is only good for the auctioneer. Competition is elevated, and more lots can get sold on the day, which is efficient for everyone involved.

Bond Wolfe Auctions’ chief executive, Gurpreet Bassi, believes there is scope for hybrid events – those which combine both the online and traditional versions of auctions. “The future is a hybrid version with our regular clients from London and Hong Kong, for example, still bidding online and by telephone, and everyone can choose,” he said.

Even with such success surrounding online auctions, Bassi says the traditions of their in-room auctions are sadly missed. Things such as “the buzz in the room, the networking and the dealing” cannot be replaced. The sooner they are back, the better, most people would agree. Many, like Bassi and Emson, however, believe that this will not be realistic. Nothing is set in stone as of yet.

Next year is looking like the best bet, according to most. The June 21st date set out in the government’s roadmap cannot be given as gospel. As sales are skyrocketing due to the rising popularity of the auctions being moved to online, there is also no rush to move back to pre-Covid traditions. In the near future and beyond, we will for sure be looking at a new model—one which will see the auction traditions changed forever.

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