No looking back as auction business celebrates 20 years

A Newport-based property business has ruled out a return to terrestrial sales after almost a year of operating completely online.

The sales and lettings business, which celebrates two decades in business this month, is preparing to post its best ever annual sales figures after operating ‘virtually’ for the past year.

Until spring 2020 Paul Fosh Auctions, consistently number one for sales and revenue in Wales, would attract some 250-300 people to its bi-monthly auctions in Cardiff. A ‘ballroom’ sale planned for March 2020 was axed when the country went into the first lockdown.

Forced online overnight the sale was a huge success and since then the business has operated totally online for its property sales – recording ever better figures over the months.

Owner Paul Fosh, who started the business in February 2001 and still retains three members of the original team of four, said: “Will we ever go back to auctions in sale rooms? Absolutely not.”

Paul, who opened his first office in Gold Tops, Newport, on February 1, 2001 before moving to Church Road and now with headquarters in Lower Dock Street, said: “Although I enjoy standing on a rostrum, in front of a room full of people, the stats prove why we should never go back to a room sale. Online we have thousands of people registered to bid. With the best will in the world in a room sale we have between 250 and 300 people there with probably only half of those registered to bid.

“The online sales attract bids from people across some 60 countries and record more than 100,000 hits on the website during a typical online sale. People bid from wherever they may be, on their smart phones and mobile devices, sitting by the pool and across all time zones.”

The business, which launched a lettings arm three years ago, now offers a complete package from buying to renovation and renting to sales.

“A favourite saying is that if you stand still then you are going backwards so we are constantly trying to evolve.

“One of the evolutions that we have seen is the development of the lettings business under Adrian Smith. We run this business as a one-stop-shop. People can buy a property, we can oversee refurbishment, rent it out for them and then sell on if that is what you want. And there will be further developments of the business in the pipeline.’’

The auction house, a regular on the BBC’s popular Homes Under the Hammer, is in negotiations with a TV business for a new joint venture.

Mr Fosh said: “This financial year is looking like it is going to be a record year for us in terms of volume of sales and the value of those sales. I put that down to the incredible dedication of the staff that we have at the company and the way that they adapt and do whatever is required and whatever it takes to get things done and loyal customers.”

Mr Fosh said: “We were flying by the seat of our pants in the early months. It was incredibly exciting and things went incredibly well from the get go. We had our first sale six week after we launched after I’d been to the car auctions to get cheap cars for the staff.”

And he paid tribute to his long serving staff who had made the difference over the past 20 years. A trio of staff have been at the business the entire two decades while others had been with the auctioneers for almost as long.

“Longevity in incredibly important to the company. What customers don’t want is a churn of staff. It’s something I value personally, and I know it’s something others value highly as well.”

Over the past 20 years Paul Fosh Auctions has sold the full range of properties from two-up two-down terraced South Wales valleys homes to mansions.

The property which got the business up and running was a traditional mid-terrace house in Merthyr Tydfil.

The house, which had a guide price of between £9,000 and £13,000 sold at the ballroom sale for £13,000. A subsequent property in the same sale at Mountain Ash listed with a guide price of £3,000 to £6,000 sold for £4,000.

There were certainly bargains to be had in those days and Paul Fosh, who remembers most of the properties he’s handled over the years, says despite prices rising steadily over the past two decades there are still good value for money buys to be had.

The same properties sold today would now be worth 10 times the price achieved although yields of 20 per cent then, allowing buyers effectively to buy properties outright in five years, were more likely to have halved to some ten per cent these days.

South Wales Argus | Business