Which Is Fastest: Auction Sale vs. Private Sale?

Auction is known as a fast way to sell a property. But how much quicker is it, exactly? Here we’ll look at the figures…

When you want to sell your house, time is of the essence. Everybody wants to move as quickly as possible. The main options for selling are a private treaty (or “open market”) sale via an estate agent or an auction sale. So how do they compare in terms of time to sell?

How long does the average private house sale take?

Sale times by private treaty are notoriously difficult to judge. Here are a few estimates from those involved in the market:

  • An extensive ‘time to sell’ survey by The Advisory in normal market conditions, back before the pandemic, looked at the average time to sell a house from the first day of marketing to legal completion. It calculated this was 16 weeks in a hot market up to 25 weeks in a cold market;
  • Earlier this year a report from property portal Zoopla suggested that selling privately can take between 17 and 34 weeks from start to finish, with an average of 25 weeks;
  • Estate agent comparison site GetAgent say that selling privately is likely to take 2-3 months to get an offer and then a further 2-3 months to complete the legal proceedings. So 4-6 months on average in total.

Remember to also check out Property Solvers’ Speed of Sale Tool (where you can see the average time of property sales between listing and completion in your local postcode).

Most commentators point out that a number of factors can affect time to sell privately. These include the state of the market, the time of year, asking price, quality of the estate agent and  solicitor/conveyancer used.  On the former, the debate remains over whether online estate agents such as Purple Bricks result in a faster sale.

Generally, most seem to agree that you should allow up to 6 months to sell with a private treaty (open market) sale.

These estimates are based on the past property market. However, right now a buoyant market appears to be cooling due to rising interest rates and the cost of living crisis. So it’s not unreasonable to expect that private sale times could rise to 6+ months next year.

How long does it take to sell a house by auction?

Property auctions have always had more predictable sale times. But there is a difference depending on whether you opt for a traditional auction or the modern method of auction.

Traditional auctions are a fast way to sell once the hammer falls and a buyer is found. With a traditional auction the sale legally completes 28 days (4 weeks) later. It is even possible for a seller to specify a shorter completion period.

It needs to be remembered though that with a traditional auction you must wait for the property to be marketed and the next sale date to come around. Depending on the auction house you choose that is likely to be at least one month away.

The modern method of auction or MMoA has slightly different timescales. The modern method of auction is a conditional sale arrangement. It permits a longer period for contracts to be exchanged and the sale to be completed of, typically, up to 56 days (8 weeks).

There is the possibility to save time if the auction you use is an online one. Once you have decided to sell your property can be listed online and potential buyers can begin bidding for it immediately. You don’t have to wait for the physical auction date to come around.

Which Is Fastest: Auction Sale vs. Private Sale?

So which is really the fastest way to sell your house?

According to the different estimates we have looked at a general rule of thumb suggests that auction selling your property will take at least 2 months or possibly 3 months at most while a private sale will take a minimum of 4 months and probably up to 6 months.

Interestingly, as GetAgent point out, just the legal work alone on a private sale may well take longer than the entire start-to-finish sale time by auction.

It’s also important to bear in mind that while an auction offers pretty much a guaranteed sale after a month or so once the hammer falls a private sale is an open-ended method that comes with no guarantee of a sale until exchange of contracts.

Of course when it comes to selling property there are other factors to consider. You need to consider the cost of selling and very importantly the price obtained at the end of the day.  By and large, sellers will take a hit on value through selling at auction.

However, when it comes to speed of sale – unless you’re working with a We Buy Any House-type company – it’s extremely unlikely that a private treaty sale could ever be faster than an auction sale.