The Traditional Auctioneer: Has COVID-19 put an end to buying a property at auction?

Has the coronavirus pandemic put an end to the traditional auctioneer? Since COVID-19 began to spread on a global scale at the start of 2020, businesses and services have been encouraged to make a move into the virtual world.

To help reduce interaction and the possible spreading of the virus, the move towards online services has accelerated, leading many to ask the question will things go back to normal? And, In the property market, this has also been the case.

The way we buy and sell properties has changed significantly over the year, as many auction houses and estate agents embrace technology to keep the markets moving upward. Like other sectors, auction houses have become exclusively online throughout the pandemic and, more crucially, have made a huge success in the process

With auction houses providing a faster route for both buyers and sellers, more and more people are choosing an auction house over an estate agent. And, with the stamp duty holiday coming to an end in March 2021, many more have been tempted by auction hosues. This year there has been nearly a 40% increase in the number of properties sold at auction than 2019. In particular, two auction houses had an incredibly successful year; Auction House sold £65 million worth of property in October, and John Pye Property saw their transactions double between May and October (according to Unbiased). 

For many auction houses, their transition into the virtual world was relatively easy as many already had the online systems in place well before coronavirus came along. But people are now wondering whether this shift from traditional in-room auctions to the online realm will be a long-term change? Will COVID-19 see the end of the traditional auctioneer?

Property investor Today interviewed Kate Lay, the director of Landwood Property Auctions based in Manchester, to get her opinion on the matter. Landwood Property Auctions is an auction house specialising exclusively in online property auctions before the pandemic took hold. 

Kate Lay feels that the property auction market’s future lies in online auctions, and the coronavirus pandemic has merely sealed this fate. Kate feels the virus is “sweeping aside outmoded ways of working while ushering in widespread efficiencies and improved ways of working” (Property Investor Today).

From eradicating any safety concerns in relation to the pandemic, online auction houses are also being seen as easier and more flexible platforms; Kate Lay believes they offer “an experience far superior to the traditional model”  (Property Investor Today).

Other benefits included were the greater transparency and fixed auction times that online auction houses allow for buyers, and the freedom surrounding when they place their bid, rather than an auctioneer choosing on their behalf.

In regard to those selling property at auction, the timeframe is significantly reduced. All the relevant sales details and guide prices can be updated regularly, with the bottom line being that there is no longer outdated catalogues. 

However, of course, there is still an argument for in-house auction houses, and many of these have been able to operate a hybrid model – replicating the in-house auction room online. Many people as well enjoy the excitement and anticipation of an in-house auction house with its traditional auctioneer at the head. Whether COVID-19 will see the end of the traditional auctioneer, we will have to wait and see, but for now, at least, auctions are here to stay at least in the virtual world.

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