Traps to avoid when buying at auction

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Buying at auction is a completely different beast to buying via private treaty – and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily get burnt.
To begin with, different rules apply to the cooling off period. In a normal property sale, the buyer generally has five days to “cool off” after signing the contract, and they can cancel the contract for any reason at any time during those five days. A fee generally applies to rescind the contract, depending on which state you’re in, but it’s possible to do nonetheless.
At an auction, however, the sale is final: when you signed on the dotted line, you are committing to purchase the property come hell or high water.
Also, once you sign the contract, the inclusions listed in the sale contract are also considered finalised – and this is where buyers sometimes run into trouble.
“Many people often assume the inclusion of various fittings, fixtures and appliances in their purchase of a property, and in some situations, it only comes to light upon moving in that various household items – which were present upon earlier inspections – have been removed by the previous owners,” says Paul Mylott, general manager of CENTURY 21 Australia.
“It’s a realisation that can be incredibly frustrating, sometimes tarnishing the experience of moving into a fantastic new home.”
Items that buyers typically expect to be left behind include whitegoods and appliances, such as dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines and dryers, and decorative touches like drapes, shutters and blinds.
“Once your bid is accepted at auction, it is taken that you accept the sale contract in its current form,” Mylott says.
“This means that you will not usually have a chance to change or add any household items once the hammer has dropped.”
To avoid disappointment, it’s worthwhile taking a pen and notebook with you during your inspection of the property, so you can note down any inclusions that you expect (or desire) to be included in the purchase.
Then, it pays to have your solicitor look over the sale contract prior to auction day. It might cost you a couple of hundred dollars, but it’s worthwhile having an expert comb through the finer details so you don’t miss out.
“You should try to get a copy of the contract as soon as possible, giving yourself ample time to go over it with your lawyer, [so you can] clarify any issues you may have regarding inclusions,” Mylott says. 
“For instance, it may be assumed that a set of plantation shutters are included with the house – however, it’s not set out specifically in the contract. This should be discussed with the sellers and the contract amended to reflect the outcome.”
That way, if you’re the successful bidder and you move into your new home only to find that the shutters have in fact been removed, you should have grounds for legal recourse to get them back.
“Usually, the best approach can be to contact the real estate agent who has been handling your purchase, and they can then contact the seller,” Mylott advises. “In many cases a simple misunderstanding has occurred and the items can be easily returned.”

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