How covid re-shaped the future of Nottingham property business

It has been a year and a half like no other. Working from home, limiting social contact, and the ever presence of Zoom.

For auction houses, whose businesses thrive on a packed sale room, the restrictions of the past 18 months or so due to the pandemic have created their own problems.

Nottingham has its fair share of auctioneers selling everything including luxury goods, antiques, surplus stock, house clearance items, and property, to name just a few.

So what was it like when the auction rooms were forced to close? One of the city’s property auctioneers offered their account of the past year or so.

Andrew Parker is auctioneer and managing director at SDL Property Auctions.

“I don’t think an 18-month period like the last, has ever, or will ever, be such a catalyst for change in the auctions market,” he said.

“Looking back at February 2020, with no idea of what was to come, we were still running regional auctions to a room full of bidders. Although we had already invested in the appropriate technology to host live-streamed auctions and had been doing this successfully for over 10 years, we certainly didn’t anticipate the switch to fully remote auctions that followed, at least not overnight.”

In March last year all of the firm’s auctions moved online and were live-streamed.

But Mr Parker says: “We were well-placed to react to the property auctions market moving behind closed doors due to lockdown restrictions. We simply had to adapt our strategy and keep a close eye on the market.”

Unlike some industries, which had to close completely, the firm was able to change its way of working and actually thrive. Mr Parker says it continued to see regional success, particularly in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, adding that it had also grown into a national property auctioneer.

“Our growth through 2020, which has continued into 2021, has been fuelled by sometimes quick decisions.

“It’s that mix of ambition and often bold decision making that has enabled us to grow – and we haven’t looked back since the property market initially took a hit in the first lockdown, which is highlighted by our figures.”

In March this year, results for the firm showed a 184 percent increase in sales year-on-year, while in August 2021, is traditionally a quiet period for the property auction industry, the firm held a property auction that offered a quarter of all auction properties in the country.

So, will the company ever return to in-person sales?

Mr Parker says that online auctions meant the sale room is now more accessible for more people.

“It means now we are in a position where we have more bidders, more lots and bigger audiences for our National Property Auctions than ever before.”

He added: “It was always the aim, just the pandemic has led to us achieving it in a different way to how we anticipated.

“As we are a Nottingham-based business, the area is still very much home and a core focus for the business. Although we don’t hold physical room auctions in Nottingham, Derby and Leicester at the moment, we still work with partners, estate agents and thousands of buyers and sellers across the region month-to-month to help them complete their property transactions.

“Looking ahead, we already have plans in place to take advantage of the next opportunities.

“It is clear that the property auctions market is beginning to shake the misconceived reputation that selling and buying by auction is only for neglected, unwanted or repossessed properties. When in reality, many properties now sold by auction have little or no more work needed than a home bought via private treaty.

“Taking this into consideration, we anticipate more and more people in Nottingham and the East Midlands will look at auctions as a viable option to find their next family home or sell their property and we are partnering with more estate agents in the region to offer auctions as a service too.

“Regardless of the sudden changes that had to be made, we have seen huge development both internally and externally.

“We have seen a year-on-year company growth of 100percent from 2020 to 2021 and a 20perecent increase in our workforce, mainly in the East Midlands.

“We are still looking to grow our teams and are currently hiring for eight new positions across our valuations, instructions, sales and legal teams.”

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