Happy to go the extra mile…at least to Surrey

Biddle & Webb sell a property for £460,000. Not much of a news story as we are property auctioneers.

However, if I take you behind the headline figure there is a story.

It starts with me sitting in a solicitor’s office, a lovely Georgian building a mile or two away from our Birmingham saleroom.

The solicitor was chatting about an estate that was causing a few headaches. I asked if we could help. It emerged the deceased had experienced a difficult last few years and had turned into a hoarder, although there were reputedly some vehicles possible including a Rolls Royce on the site.

The property I leant was in Surrey and never scared to get my hands dirty we offered to travel down and be the eyes and ears of the solicitor. So a couple of days later I was parking the Biddle & Webb van in the National Trust carpark near Bookham that my sat nav had taken me to. I walked down the track crossed a foot path and saw for the first time Greendell Commonside.

It immediately became obvious that hidden behind the rubbish piled up to window sill height inside and outside the house, behind the vegetation and rotting cars was a potentially delightful property.

There was a Rolls Royce in front of the house, and three other cars all in varying states of disrepair. The house had rotten window frames, missing panes of glass, and with no key I clambered through a window and was immediately hit with a sense of sorry. How had the poor man survived in this house? It is here we often sympathise with our solicitor clients, who deal with similar situations on a daily basis.

The rubbish out the back was even more extensive and with a caravan, old ambulance, old Range Rover and a Land Rover, shed collapsing, asbestos sheets, and vegetation like I had never seen before.

In the “garden” I could identify four or five rusty and incomplete motorbikes and another vehicle at what I thought was the far end of the garden but this was inaccessible due to the forest like vegetation.

I returned to Birmingham, informed the solicitor, sent my report and then the work started.

We organised a car transporter and removed the Rolls Royce, and four other vehicles. We also pulled the motorbikes out of the rubbish and loaded them into our two company vans.

Next was the erection of a fence across the front to keep children and the curious off the potentially dangerous site.

We then had tremendous fun lotting and promoting the motorbikes. We use social media extensively to promote lots and the motorbikes broke all records with website visits in the tens of thousands by the time the three lots of bikes sold for over £44,000. The buyer of the BWM motorbike travelling from the Czech Republic to buy the lot.

We then returned to the Bookham site with men, chainsaws and petrol strimmers to cut a  route through the garden to get to the far plot boundary to help the solicitor decide how next to proceed. In the undergrowth we discovered three other vehicles and found that the site stretched far past the visual spot I had initially noted. The final site length stretched to over 120metres.

We advised that an auction sale of the plot – warts and all – would be a good option for the estate and following an RICS valuers appraisal the decision was made to sell by auction.

Another site visit including using a drone, erecting the auction sale sign and photographs for the catalogue meant the catalogue went live and then the phone started ringing.

I spoke to over 80 potential buyers, welcomed nearly 50 onto the site over the three viewing days and looked with amazement as the count of the legal pack downloads clicked up and up and up.

The run up to the auction day saw hectic final enquiries and we arranged phone lines and on line bidding for those at distance bidders that a property in Surrey was always going to generate. Biddle & Webb have invested extensively in software. We broadcast our auctions live and bidders can watch and hear in real time the auctioneer, giving bidders via our website real confidence and involving them in the auction.

The auction day is of course the culmination of all the hard work and is the show, and with the gavel falling at £460,000 against an auction estimate of £280,000 to £320,000 we were delighted for our client. We were also pleased to have helped a solicitor with this challenging estate.

Jeremy Thornton


Leave a Reply