May Property Auction Market Update

What Does the Decline in Auction Sales Mean?


It’s sometimes said that selling auction property is part art and part science. That’s certainly true when it comes to analysing auction returns too. Just when a mathematical trend seems to be emerging in the market something unexpected comes along to disrupt it.

The variable (although not entirely unexpected) date of Easter can affect the auctions market in several ways – and all at a critical time just when the spring market is getting going. It affects the dates on which auction houses are able to (or want to) schedule sales, with many aiming to avoid the entire two-week school holiday period. It can also affect the timing of any political announcements which might affect the property market overall.

In short, it’s difficult to know whether the auction returns in whichever month Easter falls have been affected by the holidays or perhaps some other factor. With the break falling slap bang in the middle of April this year let’s look at how this might have affected the auctions market at the moment.

A lot less lots

Despite the break, there were only three fewer sales in April than the previous month. However, the number of lots offered at the auctions we track declined considerably. The 1,584 lots offered in total were only around half those offered in both February and March 2023.

Who held sales? (And just as importantly who didn’t?)

Several significant auction houses, such as Allsop Residential, Clive Emson, Bond Wolfe and Strettons, didn’t hold a sale at all in April. For example, Allsop Residential held a sale right at the end of March and have one scheduled in early May as well. This is bound to have been a major contributor to the reduced volume of lots this month.

Top of the charts in the live/live streamed arena this month were Barnard Marcus who raised £30.4m from a catalogue of 300 lots and Savills who raised £32.8m, but from a catalogue of just 113 lots. In third place by amount raised SDL Auctions raised £14.8m from an offering of 132 lots.

In the online arena the Auction House network raised £40.4m from 271 lots. Within this figure Auction House London offered 191 lots raising just over £31m (whilst also enjoying an impressive sales success rate of 85%).

Percentages sold hold up well

Neither sellers nor auctioneers need have worried that Easter nor a sharp decline in the number of lots offered would affect their chances of selling. Sales rates were strong this month at 74.73% on average across all sales methods. This was 5% up on March and is in line with the strong sales success rates established since the beginning of this year.

Looking at individual sales, sales rates were generally good. A handful of sales sold 100% of their lots and very few sales had a sales rate below 60%.

This strong sales rate could suggest that buyers are as keen as ever to buy at auction, or lots are being offered at reserve valuations which are allowing them to sell… or perhaps both.

Amounts raised also well down

It will come as no surprise, given the reduction in lots offered, that the amount raised at the auctions we track was well down too in April. The £203.53m raised this month was approximately half of the amount raised both in February and March.

Perhaps interestingly (or perhaps not) the number of lots offered and amounts raised online saw a much greater fall in April compared to live/live streamed sales. The £87.5m raised online was just 45% of that raised the previous month.

Does this mean that the popularity of online auction sales, which have come into their own since the start of the pandemic, is waning …. and that buyers are gradually going back to live sales? It’s far too early to say whether this is a trend. But it is interesting that major auction house Allsop are going back to live ‘in room’ sales with a major sale in London on May 11. So this will certainly affect these statistics going forward.

Check out our monthly updated statistics below, courtesy of the Essential Information Group (click on the key colours to highlight / dehighlight):

Live / Live Streamed Property Auctions Data

Online Property Auctions Data

Prices holding firm

Lastly, the amount raised per sale at the auctions we track in April 2023 was approximately £128,000. Although this is a tricky statistic to interpret as auction lots vary so much this was almost identical to the previous two months. If, as some reports and indices suggest, property prices in the UK are falling then this certainly isn’t being reflected in this statistic.


Some people may be of a different opinion, but it’s probably fair to say that the decline in lots offered and amounts raised at auction in April 2023 doesn’t mean that much. It probably had more to do with Easter than the state of the market.

If that is the case, the theory of auction selling being both an art and a science will certainly be tested in May, as auction houses try to negotiate a trio of bank holidays to get their lots away.

Looking even further ahead, the fallout from the local elections in England this week could be a factor to consider. It could prompt the major political parties to start making announcements about what they will do if they win the next General Election. That in turn could affect sentiment in the property market, and subsequently in the property auctions market, over the summer.

May 2023 Property Auction Market Update