As soon as it is deemed safe enough for business to return to an element of normality, and those transactions which may have been paused prior to the lockdown are once again moved forward, buyers and sellers will be eager to ensure these take place at speed.
However, despite the best intentions of all parties, hurdles to a quick transaction exist; lawyers will have to dust down their files, banks will be invited to get involved again and valuations reviewed. During this process, time will be taken to ascertain whether the tenant covenant is anything like as strong as it was pre lock-down, particularly in the retail sector. At this point, a re-negotiation on pricing may start.
However, a Hybrid sales approach – one that combines the best of both the private treaty offering and auctions is increasingly being seen as an alternative and effective route to market for the disposal of assets in such a climate. This approach includes a longer marketing period to a wider but targeted database as part of the private treaty campaign, backed up with the certainty of sale at auction, on an auction contract.
This Hybrid method can enable the quick and effective sale of assets typically valued between £2m – £10m and usually includes a five-week marketing campaign where queries are answered, surveys and inspections can take place (subject to lockdown) and interest gauged from market feedback.
At this point, the auction process kicks in – details of the asset are included in the auction brochure, a full legal pack will become available online and the standard auction contract (which all lawyers accept) becomes available to buyers. The vendor then has the option of agreeing a sale prior or to run the investment at the next auction.
The Hybrid approach removes many of the complications that arise during private treaty negotiations and there is no reason why a sale cannot take place within 24 hours of a price being agreed. This was the case with the sale of a Job Centre office investment in Tottenham, which we sold at the end of April in the heart of the lockdown. The investment offers eight years of income, let to the Government.
This, combined with its location – close to Tottenham’s new stadium, was always going to generate significant interest among potential buyers. After three days on the market and having received over 100 enquiries, a price of £7m was agreed (well in excess of the guide price) and an exchange on an auction contract took place within 24 hours, just as the auction brochure was being published. Since the lockdown was in place and surveys and inspections were not possible as a result, then the certainty of an auction contract was always going to prove vital.
During the three years this Hybrid approach has been in place, it has proved effective for vendors disposing of assets across all property sectors. This includes secondary shopping centres in Dudley (£4m) and Rotherham (£3.6m), industrial investments in Warrington (£7m) and Ipswich (£1.6m) and office assets in Eastleigh (£2m).
As more investors seek to raise money to ease cash-flow issues or quarterly bank repayments need satisfying, we are seeing this Hybrid method become an increasingly popular method of disposal.