Buying a property from Tony Clegg's Mountleigh in 1988 was tricky, not only because it always got the best price but because you had to move like lightning before Mountleigh sold it on.
Today's market does not yet echo the glory days of the 1980s 'turn', but some of property's cleverest operators are cashing in handsomely on what many saw as risky investments just two years ago.

Driving all this is the continuing malaise in equities. Institutions are under huge pressure to buy properties that others bought in 2001 to 2003. One big institutional player says he feels like he has £20 notes spewing out of the back of his car as he travels around inspecting opportunities.

But are they doing the right thing? Is this the top of a market where, when the music stops, institutions will be left holding a tatty looking parcel, with shorter unexpired leases, rising interest rates and weak office demand?

Against that, there is the argument that we are just returning to a pre-1970s world where investment yields ran at around 2%. There are also some who believe we are now in a world in which property yields will nestle between equities at 3.5% and gilts at more than 5%.

Land Securities' decision to sell its £350m industrial portfolio is intriguing, because it should test this column's argument (27 February, p25) that industrial is about to have its day in the sun. These will be good quality properties. But others say now is a good time to sell rubbish.

Yes, institutions are right to buy property: yields are unlikely to rise for years and tenant demand is on the way back. But institutions must not bid recklessly to satisfy asset allocators who have only just woken up to property's charms.

Piece of the auction
Internet auctions, driving down costs and apparently belittling the services offered by property managers, have not gone down well. The pinstripes are supposedly being treated like the boiler suits who do grubby facilities management. But are internet reverse auctions really such a bad thing?

Those who took part in pitches by Royal Bank of Scotland and Royal Mail did so with trepidation, but are now among the keenest converts to the cause. RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin has instilled a genuine fear among suppliers, but their support for the new procurement system seems reasonably clear.

The internet reverse auction dispels suspicion about deals done by rivals in smoke-filled rooms, and allows firms to pitch their bids at just the right price to win the job – avoiding cutting their own throats.

Up to eight firms are engaged in a ferocious pitch organised by the Office of Government Commerce to win all the government's property management, valuation and rent review work. The complexity of this bid militates against internet auctions; but for one-off contracts, public sector agencies should try to use a healthy combination of quality assessment and online bidding to avoid any suspicion of a cosy stitch-up.