The return of the in-room property auction

October 8, 2021

Over the last eighteen months, in response to the pandemic, in-room property auctions switched to being held online.

As we reported in our post, Online property auctions continue to thrive in lockdown climate, livestream auctions achieved new highs.

Now we’re witnessing the return of the in-room auction; however, not in the numbers seen in previous years.

A successful first event

Barnard Marcus Auctions was the first big auctioneer to return to a live in-room event. Its auction held on 14 September 2021 at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London, a venue they used regularly before lockdown, was a great success.

However, as online auctions have proved to be so profitable, will other auction houses follow suit? With live online streaming facilities in place, do auctioneers need the additional work and expense of setting up an in-room event?

Some have said they’ll look at it on a region-by-region basis, feeling that what works in one area may not be as successful in another. In-room events are more likely to return in locations where local knowledge is key to sales.

Mixed feelings over in-room auctions

Although some auctioneers have said they won’t return to in-room events, others think there’s still a place for the in-person experience.

Gurpreet Bassi, chief executive at Bond Wolfe, commented, “Although our live-streamed, ‘behind closed doors’ auctions have produced some amazing results, I still don’t think that you can replicate the buzz of a full auction room. We therefore want and believe that we will return to in-room auctions at the earliest opportunity, and we are gearing up to be back in the room for as early as the December Auction.”

Andrew Brown, director of auctions at Strettons, said, “This is something that we are giving careful consideration to. We have recently surveyed our auctions database to gather the opinions of our clients as to whether they would like to see a return to in-room auctions. We do not have the full results of the survey available yet, but initial indications are that in-room bidding would be people’s preferred choice of bidding even if we retained the option of bidding over the internet.”

Record numbers at livestream auctions

There’s no doubt that livestream auctions have been phenomenally successful. The convenience of online property auctions has led to a significant increase in the number of buyers attending these types of events.

Allsop’s September residential auction catalogue was set to offer 236 lots, with 21 lots guided at £1 million or above.

Richard Adamson, partner and residential auctioneer at Allsop, commented: “Our latest catalogue presents investors with an array of opportunities as they return to business after the summer holidays. Not only does it include a high number of premium-quality lots in various locations across the country but also a healthy choice of more affordable prospects for private investors, owner-occupiers and developers… Even though we are hoping for a safe return to multi-channel in-room sales in the future, there is no question that our online auctions continue to function with extreme efficiency.”

SDL Property Auctions held another record-breaking National Property Auction, achieving the UK’s largest live-streamed September auction, featuring over 240 lots. The auction house has topped the table for the biggest UK August property auction for two years running.

Andrew Parker, managing director and auctioneer at SDL, said: “There’s a lot of talk about whether auctions will return to rooms. With our live-streamed National Property Auctions hitting audiences of 15,000-plus each month, we don’t plan to return to the amount of room auctions we used to run as we couldn’t fit anywhere near that amount in a single venue. It’s clear people love the online format and I think the flexibility it affords buyers and sellers is key to attracting more people to property auctions.”

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