Private Treaty, Tender or Auction?

Private Treaty

The vast majority of properties in Northern Ireland are sold by "private treaty". This is the negotiation of price between the buyer and the seller's estate agent resulting in the basic details of price and completion date being agreed. Solicitors then subsequently turn these "subject to contract" arrangements into legal contracts.


Sometimes sellers decide property is to be sold by written offers or sealed bids. This might occur where there was exceptional interest in a property; in such a situation the buyer is advised to speak to his solicitor first.


Two types of property are best suited to sale by auction and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Unique, distinct, difficult to value properties in high demand are best suited to auctioning. Alternatively poor properties needing much remedial work and unsuitable for mortgage purposes are also often auctioned.


  • the market decides the value of the property on the day of the auction
  • all the difficult preparation and legal work is done beforehand so that after the auction the sale is complete.
  • the solicitor attends the auction and the contract is signed immediately after the hammer falls.
  • the process is open and not secretive.
  • the seller maintains ultimate control by setting a reserve price.
  • the buyer has to have finance organised before the auction.


  • solicitors have to make title and contract information available to all enquirers before the auction.
  • the seller must run an open house before the auction.
  • it may not sell.
  • unexpected legal Issues can sometimes arise at the start of the auction causing its postponement.
  • the cost is more (advertising, room hire, brochures, legals).

Legal content supplied by Wilson Nesbitt Solicitors.