#MeetTheMarket –
a day at the auction

Ben Hodge Commercial Auctions

As I made my way through from our reception to the rostrum at our recent commercial auction I was welcomed with the usual hand shakes, back pats and “Good to see you”s.

I could see that Martin and Samuel were catching up over a coffee whilst Muhammad and Ryan were, rather intensely, discussing management issues ahead of the sale. There was activity wherever I looked; buyers meeting buyers, buyers meeting sellers and intrigued parties keen to find out who is buying what, as well as a team from a large global surveying firm maximising the value of their research by tracking the sales and the market throughout the day. Buyers in the room reflected our mailing list and the lots on offer, with many travelling from far and wide to experience the auction first-hand.

Buyers in the room reflected our mailing list and the lots on offer, with many travelling from far and wide to experience the auction first-hand. By the end of the day we had learnt that 22% of our buyers were internationally based. Each person had their own reason for being there and it created a vibrant atmosphere. As the morning progressed people moved in and out of the auction room. Some sat and some stood.

They all interacted and talked to either fellow bidders, perhaps to run their investment appraisal past a second mind one last time before it was tested, or to ask one of us a question and nullify that last crumb of doubt before it was offered. At one stage, and I counted this myself, there were 350 people in the auction room and another 100 in the upper room either having coffee, chatting or reading legal papers. Or in the case of the Deputy Editor of the EG, they were just there to watch. These sorts of numbers create noise and an unrivalled atmosphere which results in sales momentum, all to the benefit of our clients.

Before the auction, significant interest had been generated in the press about a lot in Covent Garden, an office and residential investment in a prime location guided at over £12m, the largest guide price ever to be in an Allsop commercial auction. Given the attention it attracted, it was to be expected that the room would be busy when this lot was being offered, and it was. When it was offered a little after 2:30pm there was genuine excitement by all. And when the hammer fell on Covent Garden at £12.4m, the room spontaneously burst into applause.

And when the hammer fell, the room spontaneously burst into applause

Despite the atmosphere, not everything sells under the hammer. In the last 12 months we have sold 143 properties after auctions, on the auction contract, raising £87.6m for our clients. In many of these instances the buyer of these properties originated in the room. Once the hammer fails to fall on a lot, interested parties who are in the room will invariably approach the client contact for that property and express their interest, often beginning negotiations to secure the property, away from the public eye. For buyers, it’s their chance to open raw negotiations with the agent. For sellers, it’s their chance to take advantage of the auction momentum and secure a sale right there and then. It’s a valuable opportunity to sell before the sale is over.

As I asked my final questions of our buyers survey, I reached into my pocket and I noticed I was low on business cards. One card I know went to Jason. Jason was in the room to track a property in Walthamstow. He was so impressed by the demand in the room for this lot he came to find me. He told me he had a similar investment close by that he’d like me to consider for our next commercial auction but wanted to see the market response for Walthamstow first-hand and meet me before entrusting me with his own asset.

When I stood back and reflected, from the start to the finish of the day, the auction room played host to a full array of people. Buyers, sellers, stakeholders, under bidders and even nosey parkers all gathered to observe, partake and share ideas. These people all chose to come to the room. On the day there were also 89 bidders choosing to bid by phone, online or proxy who did not attend and 12 were successful in their purchase. The people that did come, met the market.