What happens to land and property that doesn't sell at auction?

Leading property auctioneers, Clive Emson, provides their insights into what happens to properties that fail to sell under the hammer....


While putting your property up for auction is an excellent idea with many benefits, it doesn’t always guarantee a sale. In the UK, about 78% of properties sell successfully at an auction. But what happens to that other 22%? 

Here at Clive Emson, we are dedicated to selling property and land as a high-profile auctioneering facility. But, with so much on offer during our auctions, it isn’t uncommon that a handful of lots go unsold each month.

If you’re a potential seller with nerves about your property not making a sale or are just curious about the auction process, read on to find out what happens to lots when they aren’t sold.


Why do lots go unsold?

There are a variety of reasons why parcels of land and property may not be sold on auction day.  

For one, the legal documentation for a property might come in late, not allowing potential buyers enough time to investigate the property and gain enough information to feel as though they are making an informed purchase. 

Another reason may be limited viewing slots. There may not be enough time slots available for everyone that wants to view a property to do so. This may put some buyers off. Or, it could just be that the right buyer wasn’t in the room when the auction happened. All of these factors can have an impact on the outcome of an auction. 

What happens if a property doesn’t sell?

If a property or a piece of land doesn’t sell at auction, there are options. The general process, though, is as follows:

  • The auction ends without the property being sold.
  • The seller is contacted after the auction by the negotiator they have been dealing with. 
  • A discussion is held about the auction interest and the next course of action.
  • Clive Emson lists the unsold lots here, on our Unsold Lots page so that any buyers who are still interested or, for some reason or another, were unable to make the auction, can browse through at their convenience and make an offer if they’d like. This page lists the minimum price at which each lot can now be bought. 
  • If a buyer is interested, an offer can be submitted based on an immediate exchange of auction contracts upon acceptance by the seller.
  • The lot is sold or remains on the Unsold Lots page until further notice. 

These post-auction negotiations may happen straight away after an auction ends. However, sometimes this process can take several days before an agreement can be reached. Why? 

Because there might be multiple parties interested in a property, the auction rep might be extremely busy, or the negotiation process may well be tricky or involve other bodies. 


Other options when your property doesn’t sell…

Some sellers may wish to take matters into their own hands if their land or property fails to sell at auction. 

Selling at auction again

It makes sense to try to put the lot up for auction again. This is a good option if a reserve was not met, if viewings couldn’t take place for any reason, if there wasn’t a sufficient legal pack, or even if the lot was incorrectly prepared for viewings the first time round. 

Selling with an estate agent

For some sellers, selling property with an estate agent becomes a viable option. This usually occurs when the auction house fails to meet the reserve price and the sellers are not in a position to reduce the asking price.

If you are planning to sell via this route, make sure the estate agent has all the correct information in advance, including any issues with the property and the outcome of the auction.

Sell to a house-buying company 

Another option for properties that don’t sell at auction is to sell them to a  professional house-buying company. The only downside being is that this is often the cheapest option, with house-buying companies usually only offering 80-85% of the market value.

Keep hold of the property 

As a last resort, some sellers prefer to hold onto their properties until a better chance at sale comes up. They may also consider other options such as remortgaging or renting. 


Can l make an offer on a property that didn’t sell?

As stated above, it is expected that not every single property will sell at its first auction. As a result, it is always possible for buyers to make offers on properties that didn’t sell. 

If your offer is accepted, the same process as if the property was bought at auction entails. That is, you are required to exchange contracts as if you are bidding (with a 10% deposit). You can find out more about buying at an auction here.

Yes – if a property fails to sell you are still able to make an offer. If your offer is accepted, you will be required to exchange contracts as if you were bidding at auction with a 10% deposit.