Auctions Barometer: Q4 2023

For the last quarter of 2023 in the property auction sector, catalogue numbers continued to grow substantially, although high numbers of properties continue to be withdrawn before auction. In the commercial auction sector sales and instructions are experiencing a notable surge propelled by corporate insolvencies spanning various sectors. In the goods, chattels, and fine art sector there continues to be a plentiful supply of buyers to create competitive open market bidding in all sectors.

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This report is based on responses to a survey of Propertymark member agents conducted in Q4 2023. Analysis is based on data provided by around 30 agents across the UK and a variety of third-party data including data from the Bank of England, ONS and HM Land Registry.

Economic outlook

Despite the interest rate being held in December 2023, uncertainty continues to pervade the UK economy. GDP growth is anaemic and there has been little change in inflation. 

The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee voted (6 to 3) to hold the base rate at 5.25% in December 2023. Three members voted to increase the rate to 5.5%. This relative stability is welcome although the rate remains high in comparison to December 2021 (0.25%) and December 2022 (3.5%).

Biggest issues facing auctioneers 

We asked our members what issues they faced in Q4. As in the last report, several pointed to the ‘economic climate’, ‘market uncertainty’ and ‘rising costs’ as key issues. Many members also pointed to increasing legislation as a challenge and also noted a range of industry-based challenges:

“Sloppy marketing with legal packs with little or no information in them being produced on the eve of the auction in the hope inexperienced online bidders will not read them.”

“High buyers’ premiums discouraging bidding and reducing the amount on sale that would otherwise be achieved and sellers not being told about this.”

“The biggest barrier for chattels auctioneers will be the National Minimum Wage increase. Salerooms are labour intensive and are unlikely to be able to take the pain of yet another increase.”

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