Auction Property

Would You Buy A Property At Auction Without Reading The Legals?

Today I am annoyed!

Monday morning the property auctioneer calls me and gives me one hours notice to see a flat being sold in Middlesex which is going to auction on Wednesday (today). The property was a 120 mile round trip – but it looked like it would be a good buy. So I drop everything, leg it to the car and raz down the motorway.

Having narrowly avoided the speed cameras on the way – I am there at the appointment. Then it turns out the locks have been mysteriously changed over the weekend and they have now called out a locksmith. And so I have to sit and wait for almost 2 hours while they break into the property and change the locks (honestly, I swear I could have done a quicker job with a chocolate fork!)

Anyway so I get into the property and I like it – it needs work, but it’s in a popular area for both owner occupiers and renters.  However, my concern is that it looks like it’s been converted without building regulations or planning permission – but these are all obstacles that can be overcome (with time and money!) but they need to be factored in.

My major concern was with the extension at the rear which had been built in single brick and with a flat roof. While I felt planning permission should be able to be got retrospectively I wanted to check the legals to see what the lease said so that I could compare what it should have been to what it was. I had an inkling it should have been a studio rather than a 1 bedroom flat. However, the legals weren’t available.

Despite my constant calls to the auctioneer, they still didn’t have them – the seller’s solicitor (mortgagees) had not provided them – despite the auctioneer’s constant chasing. Without the legals it meant I had no idea how long the lease was, what the actual layout of the flat should have been, no office entries from the council which would have shown planning history and building regulation approval.  I knew nothing of what I would actually be buying.

To make matters worse, I had also found out the top 2 flats (one of which really looked like it didn’t conform to any regulations at all from the size of the skinny smurf doorway) had also been repossessed, but by a different bank. This could end up a potential minefield in terms of leasehold and freehold issues and who owned what.  There was also then the small matter of 3 flats, but only 1 gas supply and 2 electrical supplies. Hmm – again – issues, but these can be sorted at a cost (as long as they’re factored in to your purchase price).

So close of business Tuesday night – the auctioneer tells me the property will be withdrawn from the auction as they do not have the legals.  They tell me it will be entered into the next property auction.

Wednesday 9.30am (just 1.5 hours before auction) they email to say they have some of the legals and the property will still go to auction. They admit they don’t have all the legals and they don’t know what they will have prior to the sale.

I am flummoxed – I want to be able to bid for the flat, but with only some of the legals available I just don’t know what is going to be missing.  I already know there will be legal issues surrounding the leaseholds, the planning and building regs – not to mention the utilities issue.  And so I decide to do the (un)brave thing and leave it.  It’s too risky – even if I buy it cash I am opening myself out to a potential legal minefield.

So I have just had an email from the auctioneer. The flat sold for £30k less than my budget. I am royally miffed. I don’t know if it was a bargain, as I never saw the legals. But I have to say at £30k less that what I was willing to pay it sounds too good to be true – and you know how that saying ends!

  1. Rich Greenland

    Honestly Sam, if there are issues with building regs and an illegal conversion, you could easily spend £30K and more on remedial work, enlarging floor joists (and moving doorways up if you don’t move ceilings down). Then sound-proofing. Then thermal insulation to all outside walls. Then any issues with ventilation, waste-pipes, and very likely foundations if there was an extension. You are better off without it.

  2. Sonia Ali

    Old but fantastic guide. I am a newbie in the real estate field and looking for some good acknowledgment how I can invest in real estate. Love your blog especially the way you explained everything. It’s too easy to understand. Have you wrote something on Dubai’s related. I am thinking to buy a home in Dubai. What do you suggest?

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