Property auctions in Singapore are not just known for selling distressed properties.
They are also significant marketplaces for property buyers to find real estates at a discounted rate and strike a bargain.
Consider yourself a property investor or an opportunist? Then property auctions might provide the platform to find your “Star Buy”.
But before I get your hopes up high, please know that given the nature of Singapore’s real estate industry, you won’t be making astronomical gains just by shopping around in the auction market.
Although the gains are marginal (in a sense), it’s still worth a shot for those who don’t mind modest gains.
Let’s dive into the details of property auctions in Singapore so that you can manoeuvre your way through and potentially make some gains from it.
What Is A Property Auction?
Property auction, like every other form of sell-offs, is the public sale of properties which are sold to the highest bidder.
These auctioned properties may be residential, commercial or industrial.
Such auctions are commonly referred to as distressed sales because the owners are not able to pay off the mortgage loan and are forced to sell them.
However, in the Singapore context, it is not that common.
That said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find any good deals from time to time.
If you’re looking to find the best property deals available, property auctions can be an excellent place to look out for sweet bargains as there’s a possibility of acquiring properties at a discounted rate – which is hardly found in our inflated economy nowadays.
Why Are Properties Put Up for Auction?
Properties are put up for auction for various reasons and are classified under distinct categories based on the profile of the seller.
The five most common types of properties made available for bidders are namely:
Sale of estate
1. Sale of Estate
Purchasing an estate from such transaction is not for the faint-hearted, and especially not for those who want a peace of mind.
This type of auction is equivalent to selling and buying a “dead man’s house” as the owner of the estate is a deceased person.
This sale is put up for auction by the representative of the deceased owner.
In the case where the deceased owner has left a will, an executor will be representing the sale of the estate.
However, if the deceased owner does not have a will, an administrator will be the representative instead.
*The difference between an executor and administrator is that an executor is nominated within the will of the deceased, while an administrator is appointed by a court to manage the estate.
2. Owner Auction
As the name suggests, such auctions are initiated by the owner.
If you’re looking to maximise your monetary gains as a property seller, this is not the path that you should take unless you know for sure that your unit is guaranteed to fetch a higher price in the auction market.
The owner puts his property up for auction for two main reasons:
1) He has been ordered by the court to give up his assets on the grounds of divorce
2) He wants to sell his property urgently, and auctioning his property is the fastest way
3. Mortgagee Sale
The mortgagee sale is initiated by the bank and the properties put up for the auction belong to a person who had previously mortgaged his estate to the bank in exchange for a loan and failed to repay the debt.
Selling off these properties to the highest bidder is the bank’s way of recovering from the bad debt that it had lent out.
4. Sheriff’s sale
A sheriff’s sale refers to the auction of properties that have been seized by the court to pay off the owner’s creditors.
In many situations, the debtors might not be able to return the money to the creditors.
Hence, the creditor requests for the seized property to be sold via auction to recover the debt.
5. Public trustee
Lastly, the Public Trustee auction is the rarest kind of property sale initiated by the Public Trustee’s Office.
They administer the estates of deceased persons where wills are not made, and beneficiaries are not appointed.
Things You Need to Know About Property Auctions in Singapore
Property auctions conducted in Singapore are quite different from any other place in the world.
Unlike other countries, it’s relatively more flexible and welcoming for people attending property auctions in Singapore.
Before the Auction
In most cases, auctioneers like Knight Frank will publicise the essential information of the units that are listed for auction two weeks before it is conducted.
You Can Walk in Without Registering
One of the good things about such auctions in Singapore is that you don’t have to pre-register to attend them.
Just Google for the scheduled time and location of the property auction on the auctioneer’s website and start making your way there.
You Don’t Have to Pay (Most of It) In Cash
Unlike other countries, our local property auctions are not purely cash sales.
A successful sale requires 5% to 10% as deposit (usually in cheque), and the rest often comes from a bank loan – which requires you to get an In-Principle Approval (IPA) with the bank.
Some countries do not set reservation prices for real estate auctions; but in Singapore, there is a strict reserve price set by the seller, and it is undisclosed to the public.
It’s like a safety net to protect the seller’s interest.
To illustrate, if the seller’s reservation price is set at $1.1 million, any bid lower than that will not result in a transaction.
So, if the highest bid does not satisfy the reserve price, the property will not be sold.
Check Your Eligibility
Apart from all of the information mentioned above, you will also need to check the eligibility criteria and conditions attached;
1. Singapore Citizen
If you are trying to obtain properties from the auction as a Singapore Citizen, there aren’t any issues except for any applicable HDB restrictions such as satisfying the five years Minimum Occupation period(MOP) on owning private property for owners of HDB flats.
2. Permanent Resident or Foreigner
However, if you’re a Permanent Resident or Foreigner, you must obtain approval from Land Dealings Approval Unit before the auction to get access to the restricted residential properties (e.g. bungalow, terraced and detached houses.)
Mechanism of Singapore’s Property Auction
1. The auctioneer starts the auction by presenting the property and offering it at the opening price.
Buyers make bids by raising their hands – such attempts may be higher or lower than the offer price depending on the buyers’ sentiments on its valuation.
2. The auctioneer continuously asks for a higher offer until the audience makes no higher bids.
3. If the highest bid fulfils the reserve price, the property is announced as “sold” on the fall of the gavel.
*Do note that both the buyer and seller can’t carry out further negotiations after the property is declared “sold”.
After a Successful Bid
After winning the bid, the buyer is required to submit the following documents to facilitate the sale of the property.
2. Company Stamp
3. Power of Attorney
Besides preparing a cheque for the deposit, the buyer might need to arrange another separate cheque for the payment of GST (if there is any) – as it is a necessary procedure in the sale of Singapore auction properties.
Then, the buyer will have to make the remaining payment according to the terms stated in the Conditions of Sale.
Once all necessary payments are made, the buyer can move to his property according to his convenience, which is usually within 8 to 12 weeks of the auction.
If the buyer breaches the Condition of Sale (e.g. not paying on time), the seller has the right to take legal action against him.
After an Unsuccessful bid
The property will not be sold in such scenarios.
But, keen buyers may sometimes contact the seller and negotiate in private.
If they come to an agreement after the auction, it follows the standard sale procedure.
How Can Sellers and Buyers Benefit from Property Auction?
The roles of sellers and buyers are inversely related.
When the situation is in favour of the buyers, it is unfavourable for the seller, vice versa.
As A Seller
If you’re looking to sell your property fast, an auction may be a good idea as your property is placed in front of dozens of buyers without investing in any advertising.
That also means you don’t have to spend months negotiating for the perfect price point as well!
But, selling your property at an auction may result in a price lower than market valuation – simply because how much you get is purely subjected to how much the highest bidder is willing to offer.
So, if you’re rushing to sell your property off in an auction, be prepared to settle for something less than the current market price.
However, some unique properties are given exceptional treatment by the group of property-evaluating experts present in the auction.
Sometimes, these experts may perceive that some unique properties can fetch a much higher price than the price offered by the auctioneer.
Hence, they will try to get their hands on it whenever a profit seems possible, resulting in a bidding war.
If you happen to own an asset like that, then there’s a good chance that it’ll fetch for an above-average price in the auction market.
Otherwise, there’s no reason for you to take the risk of trying to get an above-market valuation for your property.
It’s not advisable to put your property on an auction if you can wait – once the auctioneer’s hammer falls, your unit is considered sold even if you’re not very satisfied with the price!
As A Buyer
If you’re going to walk in as a buyer, there’s a chance that you can get your hands on some great bargains and deals that is tough to find through conventional means.
Apart from discounted prices, you may also find unique and extravagant properties that are not available in the open market.
On the other hand, the pool of selection is small.
Unlike how you can enter and filter the range of properties based on your preferences on property portals and discover multiple units that match your tastes, these auctions are not precisely the buyer’s best friend when it comes to diversity – due to the limited supply of auctioned properties (around 20 properties are available for the public in each round of auction.)
If you belong to the conventional camp of property buyers who prefer having a pool of selection to choose from, then the auction house might not be your thing.
However, if you aren’t looking for anything too specific, then there’s a chance that you might strike a brilliant deal for a hidden gem out of the properties put up for sale.
The Buyer’s Strategy
When you’re looking to buy, you need to conduct thorough market research on the units listed.
For instance, you should form a clear idea of the additional costs of the property that go along together in its repair and maintenance.
After that, check with the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) Master plan and the potential developments of the surroundings that are most likely to increase the value of the property in the future.
As you won’t have information on the reserve price as the buyer, there’s no way that you can tell how high or low the seller has set the reserve price.
Thus, one strategy employed by many seasoned buyers is to approach the owners of unsold properties privately.
With the information of the previous asking price obtained from the auction, the buyers can make an informed judgement on the reserve price and leverage on this information when negotiating with the sellers.
Are Property Auctions for You?
The answer is – it depends entirely on your expectations and the point of entry.
What Are Your Expectations?
In Singapore, some bidders can save up to 5% – 7% of the valuation price.
Compared to the auctions in other countries, 5% – 7% might not seem a lot.
However, if you place such discounts in the perspective of more significant numbers like $1 Million, a discount of 5% – 7% still results in substantial cost savings of $50k – $70k.
So, if these numbers don’t appeal to you, you should stick with the conventional property purchasing method.
Point of Entry
The point of entry is one of the essential factors in determining whether you’re going to make a profit or loss in the property market generally.
There’s potential in making some decent gains in the property auction market.
But, you need to be very discerning when it comes to choosing the right property and make sure to work out your economics before proceeding with such purchases.
Still unsure about how you can buy or sell your property through property auctions? Leave me a message below!