Whether you’re looking to buy or sell a house at a property auction, when auction time actually comes there’s a lot riding on it. Tt can be really tense!
But how long do auctions actually last?
Auctions for individual properties usually last between 60 seconds and 7 minutes. There’s no set time for them. If an auction offers 50 separate lots, the entire event can last between 3-6 hours. The time taken depends on:
- The types of properties on offer,
- The experience of the bidders and auctioneer,
- And the amount of competition between bidders.
Some auctions go at a steady pace, leaving all bidders time to make a considered decision. Others seem to zip by in an instant. This can leave sellers and buyers wondering whether or not they got the best result.
1. How long does an individual auction last?
According to SDL Auctions, one of the largest property auctioneers in the UK by market share:
"Each lot varies; there is no set amount of time although generally it is approximately 5-7 minutes per lot."
One of their biggest competitors, Auction House, say their auctions generally happen faster. On their website they say auction events can go at a pace of 20-30 lots per hour. This means just 2-3 minutes on average for each property!
As an example, data from EIG, the property auction data company, shows Auction House North West averaged 53 lots per auction over the last 12 months. Based on their times above, you’d expect each of their events to last only around 2-3 hours.
2. Why do some auction lots take longer than others?
There are 3 main factors that determine how long the auction will last:
- The level of competition amongst bidders.
- The experience of the bidders.
- The experience of the auctioneer.
- The complexity of the property on offer.
2.1. The level of competition amongst bidders
At the start of the auction the auctioneer will quickly introduce the property. This usually only takes a few seconds. The rest of the time allotted to the property is for bidding.
If no one wants to bid the auction will be over pretty quickly! (Literally in under a minute). If there are no bids the auctioneer will gradually reduce the starting bid to try and draw some interest.
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If this doesn’t work, they’ll simply move on and mark the property as unsold. (The auction company will still continue working on the property when the event has finished. They’ll try to tie up a post-auction sale, but this may still be unsuccessful if there were no active bidders at all).
At the opposite end of the scale, imagine an auction with 10 interested parties. There’s going to be a lot of bidding, a lot of back and forth, and this takes time.
Exactly how long it takes will depend on the experience of the bidders and the auctioneer.
2.2. The experience of the bidders
Experienced auction buyers tend to know their ceiling price and be strategic in their bidding. This means they can act quickly and decisively. This reduces the time between bids and speeds up the overall process.
Inexperienced buyers tend to act more cautiously. This can create long pauses between bids while they consider their next move, and this adds to the time the auction takes.
2.3. The experience of the auctioneer
Auctioneers manage the whole process, and they have a large bearing on how long the auction will last.
Sometimes there are a lot of active bidders and it’s clear the property’s going to sell drastically higher than the guide price. In this case the auctioneer may increase the "bid increment" to skip past any needless bidding. This helps draw the auction to a close more quickly.
For example: If each bid is for £1,000 more than the last, it can take a couple of minutes of bidding to get a price up by £30,000.
However, if the auctioneer increases the increment to £10,000 they can get there in a few seconds.
Once bidding slows at the higher increment, they’ll reduce it to a lower level, perhaps to a £5,000 jump. Bidding usually then continues until the auctioneer needs to reduce the increment again. Eventually the maximum bid is found and the auction is over.
Auctioneer qualifications vs experience
Qualifications and experience are two different things here. Property Auctioneers will have a Property Mark Qualification in Real Property Auctioneering. But the ability to “read a room” and speed up (or slow down) bidding is a skill that comes with experience.
Auctioneers also need to manage the overall length of the event to prevent fatigue among bidders and staff members. If there are a lot of properties on offer you may find the auctioneer setting a faster pace to reduce the overall length of the day.
2.4. The complexity of the property on offer
More "complex properties" include things such as land, commercial buildings and development opportunities. These will take longer to introduce, and bidders will often be given more time to make a decision.
This tends to be because the sums of money involved can be much larger, and the workings are more complicated too. A bidder may need to factor in the cost of the land, but also cost of obtaining planning permission, the build cost, and likelihood of success.
These factors complicate the decision-making process, and auctioneers will tend to give a little more time to account for this.
3. How long does a Modern Auction/Online Auction last?
Modern Auctions and Online Auctions are different from what we’ve covered above.
With traditional auctions properties are advertised in the run-up to the auction, and culminate in the auction itself. As we’ve discussed, this is over within a few minutes.
Online Auctions, on the other hand, accept bids throughout the marketing period. The auction simply has a fixed deadline and the highest bidder at that time wins the property. If you’ve ever bought something on eBay, you’ll know exactly how this process works.
These auctions typically run for either 21 days or 28 days, but this will always be made clear on the auction listing page.
Auctions can be a great way to buy or sell a property.
For sellers, the main thing to consider isn’t how long the auction itself will last. It’s about how quickly you can sell your home overall.
This is one of the main selling points of an auction sale: You can sell your house quickly and easily.
Auction sales are much faster than selling through an estate agent, and come with a higher chance of success.
There’s often some level of compromise on the price you’ll end up with. However, this can be more than worth it for home sellers who value certainty, convenience and speed, or whose properties have an issue that could make it difficult to sell.
By Matthew Cooper, Founder of Home Selling Expert