askST: Spot choice home buys at auctions where repossessed properties are sold

With recent market turmoil putting pressure on mortgage holders, the property market has seen a seven-year high in the number of repossessed properties being put up for auction.

The Straits Times also reported that the value of property sold under auction has hit a five-year high of $102.27 million, with residential units dominating the listings.

But bad news for some overstretched property investors could mean good news for serious househunters who could possibly pick up some choice units going on the block.

Property research house DTZ is holding an auction on Feb 25, which will offer several "attractive" properties, it said last week.

Among them, a cluster bungalow in Hua Guan Avenue, off Dunearn Road. It comes with a private pool and basement, and was transacted at $4.5 million in 2010.

There are also two maisonettes and one apartment on the auction list that were formerly HUDC units. They have a floor area of slightly more than 1,600 sq ft and are likely to go below $1 million.

Here is a quick guide for interested buyers who want to know about the whole process.

1. View the property before the auction

For interested buyers who are unfamiliar with the auction process, DTZ said arrangements to view the property can be made before the auction.

Typically, ads will be placed in the classifieds two to three weeks before the auction. Those who are keen on the property can contact the agents directly to set up a viewing appointment.

2. Get legal advice and check your eligibility before the auction

Prospective buyers should also seek legal advice and check their eligibility to buy properties prior to making the purchase.

"Buying at an auction is a firm commitment and carries the same legal implications as a signed contract in a private treaty sale. In most cases, copies of relevant legal documents are available before an auction so that you and your solicitor can review them," DTZ told The Straits Times.

In addition, buyers who require loan financing should consult their bankers on their eligibility requirements. However, there is no need for the buyer to bring an in-principle agreement on their loans to the auction.

Under the Residential Property Act, an interested buyer who is a foreigner or a foreign company needs to seek prior approval from Land Dealings (Approval) Unit for any landed residential property purchase.

3. Check for late amendments

An inquiry desk is set up at the auction for potential buyers to check for any changes to the particulars and conditions of sale.

4. The bidding process

Do stay in the auction room once bidding starts as some properties sell quickly and the one you are eyeing may be sold while you are away. Indicate each bid to the auctioneer by raising your hand. Once the bid is successful, the buyer should inform the banker so that the loan application can be processed. The lawyer should be contacted as well, who will then get in touch with the seller's solicitor.

5. Settlement after a successful bid

After-sales settlement of the property is prompt, once the hammer comes down on an accepted bid, a contract is drawn up.

DTZ said the successful bidder will need to furnish the auction staff with his or her identity card or passport, company stamp and/or Power of Attorney and a cheque (two cheques required if GST is payable).

The successful bidder will pay a "10 per cent deposit of the successful bid price and immediately sign the contract".

For commercial and industrial properties, where GST is payable, the successful bidder will need to pay the GST amount together with 10 per cent deposit.

The date of completion of sale is usually between 10 and 12 weeks.

DTZ said the buyer does not have to pay any commission, which will be paid by the vendor.

6. Leave your contact details

Should the deal not go through because the bids do not meet the reserve price, DTZ said interested buyers should leave their contact details behind

"It may be possible that the vendor may decide to sell later," it added.

The reserve price is set by the seller and it is not publicly disclosed.

7. Go with realistic expectations

DTZ said the prices of properties sold at auctions tend to be slightly lower than prevailing market rates.

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