Last year, despite the absence of ballroom sales, the auctions market saw private investors turn up to their live-streamed counterparts in their droves, with many residential and commercial sales exceeding expectations in amounts raised and success rates.

Robin Howeson

Robin Howeson

Richard Auterac

Richard Auterac

Property Week asked Savills head of auctions Robin Howeson and Acuitus chairman Richard Auterac what they expect to happen this year – and if they think there will be a meaningful return to the ballroom.

What sort of transaction volumes do you anticipate?

RH: Savills research suggests that housing transactions are expected to fall back to normal post-GFC levels after 2022, after hitting a projected 1.5 million transactions in 2021.

Auctions are partially countercyclical to the rest of the residential market. It is worth remembering that there were around 17,000 residential auctions transactions in 2021, which was only up 11% on 2020. I am hoping that the momentum we saw in 2021 will carry through into 2022.

RA: The key factor is asset supply; there is no shortage of investor demand across the board. Hopefully, as we move through the Omicron period of the pandemic, business confidence will continue to strengthen and sellers will bring properties to market to capitalise on the competitive bidding that is characterising the auctions sector.

What are the biggest threats to the auctions market?

RA: As was seen through the 2016 referendum and Brexit, economic uncertainty is always a major negative. That has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, although it was interesting to see last year that investors are now taking a view that looks beyond the current situation towards a more normalised world once again.

When will we see a return to the ballroom?

RH: At this point in time, a return to the ballroom in the immediate future is not something we are planning for, especially as clients have really taken to the live-streamed sales. Plus, with the success and efficiency of our live-streamed auctions, we would expect that this could impact attendance levels in the room.

Gavel and laptop

Source: Shutterstock/ Smolaw

Our primary focus is on generating the best prices and achieving the highest amount of interest in catalogue properties for our clients and, right now, our live-streamed sales are delivering on that.

RA: To a large extent, it will be investor-led. Just about everyone acknowledges that the lack of in-person auctions has removed a valuable dimension of the market. It would be good to see them have a continued place in the auction programme, but clearly online sales have come of age in the past two years and are definitely here to stay.

What are your hopes and expectations for 2022?

RH: Last year was really strong for us and we have more than 100 lots already lined up for our February sale, which is a positive indication to suggest that we can expect some good activity, certainly in this first part of the year.

Development sites and commercial properties in particular did very well last year. There continues to be plenty of demand for them and if we can bring more of these types of assets to market as part of a strong catalogue, I would hope we will be in good shape as 2022 progresses.

RA: Auctions thrive on a free flow of assets that meet the varied needs of investors. Increased sale volumes bring greater choice, transparency and dynamism to the market.

We have an opportunity to attract an entirely new segment of investors who are drawn to property and what it can provide as an investment medium. However, being able to provide a wide range of assets is essential to engaging them.