In normal circumstances our clients will have agreed to purchase a property at a set price prior to instructing us to undertake a survey. That’s not possible if the subject property is being sold at auction.
Auction houses tend to publish their catalogues, both in hard copy and online, about a month in advance. In the 2-3 weeks leading up to the sale there will be block viewings arranged at set times and they tend to be the only opportunity to view, and indeed to survey, the properties.
When the hammer comes down the successful bidder enters into a contract to purchase the property and will typically be expected to put down a 10% deposit immediately. The contract is not subject to survey so you need to be sure there are no unexpected horrors lurking beneath the surface.
Chartered Surveyors, such as ourselves, typically offer 2 types of survey; an RICS Homebuyer Report and a Full Building Survey. The choice of survey will be dependent upon the age, type and condition of the subject property but both are good value for money (in my admittedly biased view) as they will give you peace of mind and will often allow you to negotiate more than the cost of the survey off the purchase price. That’s not the case if you lose out on the property at auction.
I will normally suggest to a client who is thinking of buying at auction that we do the Homebuyer Report in 2 parts; the inspection and an email summary in advance of the auction with the full written report to follow if they are successful. The summary will include the key points including the “biggies”; structural movement, dampness and timber defects.
Part one can be done for approximately 60% of the full fee so it softens the blow if it is ultimately wasted money.
We’re forced to work within the timescales of the auction house for access. Some are very good and will post us a key and allow us to return it in the same way following the inspection. Others will insist that we attend during set viewings times but may allow us to continue on afterwards and pull the door behind us. If time is tight 2 of us will survey the property together to ensure that all parts are inspected. It’s generally possible to inspect the exterior at our leisure following the block viewing.
A Homebuyer Report includes a valuation so that will form part of the emailed summary and help clients to fix a maximum price that they are prepared to go to (always a good idea!).
If you’re thinking of buying a property at auction and would like and would like the reassurance that comes with an inspection by a Chartered Surveyor we’d love to hear from you.