Toby Limbrick Talks Online Auctions and the Post Covid Landscape

Property Investor Today asked leading UK auction houses to find out how the industry might look after the pandemic.

Network Auctions which sells homes across the country, has found that buyers are quickly adapting to the convenience of online auctions.

“The mass migration online is the biggest change the auction market’s seen since the Sale of Land and Property Act of 1867 required bidders be notified when a property was to be sold subject to a reserve,” Toby Limbrick, director at Network Auctions, says.

“An online auction might not recreate the buzz and excitement of a live room but it’s a transparent and efficient way to conduct business and our buyers and sellers have embraced it. Network Auctions have no plans to return to live auctions for the time being.”

But is there strong desire from consumers to return to in-room? Or are they happy to carry on remotely?

“We offered phone and proxy bidding as an alternative to online at the start of lockdown but there was no take-up. Every lot we’ve sold in the last seven auctions was to an online buyer,” Limbrick explains.

“It’s straightforward to register and bid and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – not just from new buyers but from seasoned auction investors, too.”

Limbrick has been impressed with the support and advice provided to auction houses during the pandemic from NAVA, with the trade body reacting quickly with relevant advice whenever government guidance has been issued to the sector.

After Network Auctions’ mid-July sale, which achieved an 82% success rate and raised £2,295,200, Limbrick said that ‘online is proving its viability’.

“Before Covid-19, online was starting to take hold, but now with buyers unable to travel to the auction room, we’re seeing a continued upsurge and also a preference for this method of auction,’ he claims.

“Buyers enjoy the convenience of being able to bid online. In our recent sale we saw 394 individual bids – an average of 18 bids per lot sold. This also works well when the properties are geographically spread; we offered lots from Dundee to Exeter.”

The sale included a freehold residential development site with outline planning for 4x detached dwellings in Woore, Cheshire, which sold for £202,500 against a guide of £150,000.

“The virus has ushered in changes which were already in the offing and are now bearing fruit. People continue to want to invest and we are providing the tools for them to be able to do that,” Limbrick concludes.