Is It Risky Buying A House At Auction?

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Purchasing a home is likely one of the largest financial decisions many people will make in their lifetimes. Historically seen as a safe investment that builds equity, the security of bricks and mortar appeals to most buyers. However, tempted by properties marketed at property auctions UK at bargain prices, hopeful buyers should understand the risks before raising their bidding paddle.

The Auction Allure

Auctioned houses may sell for 20% or more below market rates. Such tempting discounts entice potential buyers hoping to gain an advantage. Their thinking runs along the line that even with repair costs, they can still come out ahead in equity and savings. However, buying a discounted property at auction carries significantly more overall risk than purchasing a conventional home.

Getting Swept Away in the Bidding Moment

In the heat of the bidding war common at property auctions UK, would-be homeowners can let emotions and assumptions direct their offers rather than rational calculations and careful research. Swept up in the auction environment, bidders may overpay for unsound properties without complete information. They may overestimate a property’s after-repair value or underestimate the costs to achieve habitability and marketability. Emotionally charged bidding leads to buyer’s remorse in the clear light of day after winning the auction.

Undoing Renovation Fantasies

First-time homebuyers with stars in their eyes about fixing up a bargain property often don’t realise the costs, complexities, and delays from unanticipated repair issues. Cosmetic facelifts seem easy enough, but hidden structural, electrical, or plumbing problems can quickly escalate budgets and timelines. Seasoned house flippers know what to look for and how much to budget on top of the purchase price. Novice auction buyers lack this experience and struggle to accurately estimate renovation costs and schedules.

Discovering Defects Too Late

In standard home purchases, buyers have the option to thoroughly inspect the property, review inspection reports, and negotiate with sellers around defects uncovered before finalising sale contracts. However, auction terms usually do not allow for in-depth inspection beforehand or negotiation around faults discovered after purchase. Buyers must submit offers based almost solely on limited marketing materials and external kerb appeal. While some auctions offer preview periods for visual inspection, this brief walk-through cannot substitute for technical property analysis. Hidden issues often lurk undiscovered until after purchase.

No Recourse for Buyer’s Regret

Another area where auction terms deviate strongly from standard purchase contracts involves backing out after committing to the purchase. Conventional buyers can withdraw their offers with limited penalties if they have second thoughts or if home inspections reveal too many problems. However, auction terms strictly require winning bidders to close the deal as a bid with their irrevocable offer. Even if unfixable defects show up or restoration costs balloon after purchase, the buyer has no option but to proceed or forfeit the purchase deposit.

Losing Financial Flexibility

Mortgages for auction properties also require unusually good credit and higher down payments, reducing options for buyers. Often mortgage lenders will not engage at all until after bidding resolves, so auction purchasers must have financing lined up independently through alternative channels beforehand. Even with preapproval and higher than typical down payments, auction terms contain higher financial risks requiring buyer diligence around household budgets. Unexpected repair costs or delays can overextend resources quickly after an auction purchase if buyers lack adequate cash buffers and financing flexibility.

Outpacing One’s DIY Skills

Buyers who plan to do repairs and renovations themselves as a cost-saving strategy need honest assessments of their skill levels. Taking on demolition, structural enhancements, roof replacements, extension additions or major landscape redesigns requires years of construction experience. Licenced specialists should handle intricate electrical and plumbing projects to meet building codes and pass inspections. Realistic overviews of DIY capabilities allow buyers to budget properly for skilled tradespersons versus their sweat equity and talents.

Losing the Safety Net

For buyers ready to take calculated risks in an auction purchase, contingency plans and safety nets provide key protections if problems arise. Reviewing household assets, bankrolling agreements with family or friends, getting signed quotes from contractors, and budgeting for delays can help minimise downside surprises. However, most buyers underestimate worst-case scenarios, and many simply lack sufficient financial and community resources to back them up when rehabilitation projects go sideways after auction commitments are set in legal stone.

Tapping the Brakes with Eyes Wide Open

None of the risks above mean that a discounted property from an auction cannot become the house of one’s dreams. However, the process requires much more homework on accurate property valuations and restoration costs before bidding as well as contingency financial planning. Attending a few auctions just to observe and learn can provide invaluable insights without getting caught up in the race to win a bid. Emotional attachment to the idea of scoring a deal should never outweigh logical assessments of potential pitfalls and risk mitigation planning. Ensuring sufficient safety buffers, skill sets, and financing increases the odds of happy outcomes from auction purchases.


With so many unknown variables hidden behind auction facade walls, only buyers willing to embrace the risks with open eyes should attempt to navigate these uncertain property purchase waters. Pausing for objective analysis rather than leaping blindly as bids escalate can lead to smoother sailing through auction commitments to ultimately secure that long-desired home.

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