Blog | Residential Auction

Diary of an Auctioneer – Gary Murphy

Auction minus 8 weeks

My career is an annual cycle of seven auction sales. You’re only as good as your last deal, they say – or, in my case, your last auction. As soon as one sale finishes, we celebrate at Allsop, always have, regardless of how we feel about the result. It’s important. Today’s the day after the 30 March auction – and the post auction celebrations. I’m tired and a little hungover – but happy. £53m raised from a challenging market. Today we go to work on those lots that didn’t make their reserve prices. I sit down with our PR team to draft our press release – how many times can I say that pricing is key to success? It’s the golden rule. Pretty much the only rule.

When I tell people I’m an auctioneer, some ask if I’m on the rostrum every day. No, we hold seven sales a year. So, what do you do for the rest of the time? Well “the rest of the time” starts today. We have a room at the Cumberland Hotel in London’s West End booked for the next auction and a big blank canvass on which to paint the best possible catalogue we can before deadline in exactly four weeks’ time.

Auction minus 7 weeks

Monday morning and an important meeting with a housebuilder to discuss arrangements for a global online auction of new, off-plan homes later this year. I had the idea a couple of years ago and I’m convinced that this will be the future for selling this sort of stock in a fair and transparent way.  There’s wide demand for UK residential property from both domestic and overseas investors and Allsop is uniquely positioned to advise. I love the pitch line. The largest auctioneer of UK real estate in the world. (I was so excited about the business prospects, I called it Project Rodney. As Del Boy said…This time next year…). We leave with signed terms for a major sale later in the year.

Auction minus 6 weeks

I’m in Dublin this week with our Irish auction team. We’re holding our 14th online auction sale. The Irish market has completely embraced the method and our in-room auctions may now be a thing of the past. Nothing changes prior to auction though. Our sales team has been busy inspecting, valuing, cataloguing and marketing lots for auction day. It’s still all about best advice. It’s just that the bidding is closed by the software in the virtual room – not by me in the ballroom. OK I admit it. I miss it. But this is the future. There’s nothing more certain than change. The sale raises over €26m.

Auction minus 5 weeks

Our deadline for May is approaching. There’re around 100 lots on our system but we need to be over 250 to create a major event and a full room on the day. We’ll get there.  We always do.  But we can’t be complacent about looking for clients. Nor can we compromise on stock or sensible pricing. Do this just to fill the catalogue and the final result will be punishing.

I receive a call from a mortgagee who wants to enter a Grade II listed family house in the Cotswolds. It’s a stunning home for someone – six bedrooms, four bathrooms plus a two-bedroom barn conversion, studio, pool, five acres of ornamental gardens and paddocks. We view it together a few days later and agree our marketing strategy.

Auction minus 4 weeks

Catalogue deadline week. Everyone’s in the office. There’s a serious head down atmosphere. We’re up to 280 lots, at least 100 of which seem to have come in within the last week (always the way). We have until Friday evening to ensure that our descriptions, plans, measurements, etc. are accurate and approved by all clients and solicitors. Each set of particulars forms part of the sale contract. They can’t be wrong. It’s that simple. We sign off on Friday evening and on Saturday morning our website is live. The link will be emailed worldwide to 170,000 voluntary subscribers.

Auction minus 1-3 weeks

Monday morning and the phones are ringing constantly. Email alerts notify of documents downloaded.  Certain lots go crazy from the off. Some take more nurturing.  Over the next three weeks we’ll know if we’ve got the pricing right. The trick is to acknowledge any need for correction early and to advise the seller. Remember the golden rule.

Auction day minus one day

The auctioneer’s catalogue is the bible. Each page must give a complete summary of lot details, reserve price (the only thing I write in red), addenda, pre-auction interest, document downloads, remote bidding, and principal selling points – and all at a split second’s glance. Any gaps will show in the performance on the day. This is the time to get that right. Just don’t leave it on the train.

Auction day

Prep is over. It’s 9.30am and it’s show time. Everyone knows exactly what to do – from the telephone desk to the legal room, the runners to the auctioneers. It’s a well-rehearsed operation – and it’s fast paced. My sale rate is about 3 minutes per lot – and my colleagues say I’m slow! Mid-morning and I turn the page to see the house in the Cotswolds. This one has paddle bidding only, and I’m passed a note which tells me that three paddles have been taken, two in the room and one for a phone bidder. It sells in the room for £1.555m to a husband and wife team. It’s their first time in an auction room. They look nervous when bidding – and then elated as the hammer drops.

By 7.30 in the evening the last lot has gone. £72m raised and 81% sold. It was a stronger room than March. The market has gathered confidence since then. Relief. Satisfaction. Celebration.

Auction day plus one

OK, another sore head. And a very nice email from the buyers of the house in the Cotswolds. They’re thrilled – even if they did pay more than they wanted to. That’s what I want to hear. I’ve done my job.

The next sale is 20 July. The canvass is blank …

Notes to editor

Gary joined Allsop in 1987 and was invited to join the Partnership in 1991. Since then, he has been head of the Residential Auction Department with Chris Berriman. The department is now the largest residential auction house in the UK and sells up to 2000 lots each year to a value of around £400 million.

Gary is vice chair of the RICS Auctioneering Group, a member of the RICS Auction Legal Review Group and a former member of the RICS Estate Agency Group. He is past chair of the RICS Agency Skills Panel and past chair of the ISVA Auctioneering committee.

Gary is also a director of Allsop Ireland, a joint auction venture with Space Property Consultancy in Dublin, Ireland. He was the first auctioneer to conduct multi lot auctions in the Republic.

Gary is the author of many articles in regular trade press, a frequent speaker at professional conferences and a regular charity auctioneer.


If you would like to get in touch with Gary, please contact him: or +44 (0)20 7344 2619

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