The UK’s largest auction houses have axed their forthcoming ballroom auctions in light of the government’s ban on public gatherings in the face of Covid-19, instead holding their sales online.

Online auction

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Allsop, the UK’s largest auction house, had hoped to hold its commercial and residential auctions in London on 30 and 31 March at The Berkeley Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel, respectively.

Both auctions will now be held via live streaming and remote bidding only.

Richard Adamson, partner in Allsop’s residential auction team, said: “Telephone, internet and proxy bids are very easy for us to prepare for as that is all supported by our website.

“From a seller’s point of view, currently it doesn’t look like this [coronavirus] is phasing them. But next week or the week after, who knows.”

George Walker, a partner and auctioneer at Allsop, added: “In light of the escalation of Covid-19, we have decided to protect the welfare of our staff, clients and buyers by holding both our auctions on 30 and 31 March via live streaming and with remote bidding only.

“Buyers can take part in these auctions by phone, proxy or online, as 25% already do. In anticipation of this, we ask all prospective buyers to set up remote bidding for any lots they have an active interest in purchasing, via the Allsop website by Thursday 26 March.

“We are confident that the systems we have in place will allow us to continue the marketing process as normal, and thank everyone for their cooperation.”

Strettons expects to hold its next auction on 7 April at the Grand Connaught Rooms in central London. Andrew Brown, auctioneer at Strettons, said the company hoped to use the ballroom as its auction base.

He added: “We are putting additional resources into proxy bidding, so that people can bid on properties over the phone. If necessary, we will move the auction online, so buyers and sellers can still be confident that our sale will take place, be it online or in the room.”

Commercial auction house Acuitus had been scheduled to hold an auction on 26 March at The Montcalm Hotel in Marble Arch, central London, but the sale will now take place online.

Remote bidding

Richard Auterac, partner and auctioneer at Acuitus, said: “We are endeavouring to ensure that our staff are safe by following government advice and promoting remote working where necessary. We are expecting an increase in remote bidding.

“We offer the three options of online bidding, telephone bidding and proxy. We are promoting these services more strongly and simplifying the procedures for the bidders by providing personal assistance and guidance.”

Oliver Childs, commercial auctioneer at online auction platform BidX1, said that because it used a digital platform, its services would not be disrupted in the coming days or weeks.

“All our software is proprietary, developed and managed in-house, which means we can be fully flexible and proactive in the face of changing market conditions,” said Childs.

“While Covid-19 remains a threat across each of our territories, our unique business model allows us to confidently override the challenges of holding fixed physical gatherings and ensures business continuity for both our customers and ourselves at this challenging time.”

Savills was due to hold its auction on 26 March at The Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square, central London, but it will now take place remotely via online bidding only.

Chris Coleman Smith, head of auctions at Savills, said: “We are closely following official advice regarding coronavirus. Given the evolving situation, we have decided that our national auction on Thursday 26 March will be held via remote bidding only.

“The auction will run in its normal fashion with an auctioneer conducting the bidding with buyers able to bid via telephone, online or by submitting a proxy bid. As with all Savills auctions, a live video stream will be available on our website as well as live results.”