Candles add drama to French property auctions

The candle auction system was formalised in 1794 but is believed to date back much further

There are various ways to buy property at auction – from an ancient candle system to the internet

Buying a property at auction in France means following different rules to an ordinary purchase – including making your bid before a candle goes out.

Almost all property auctions follow an ancient tradition of taking place before a large lit candle and two smaller candles, which burn for 30 seconds, then go out in a puff of smoke.

The auction starts when the large candle is lit and bids are taken. When there are no more bids, one of the small candles is lit. If no one speaks while it burns out, a second small candle is lit.

If no one speaks before that one goes out, the bid stands.

If someone makes a higher bid while the candle is lit, the auction returns to the hall.

A spokesman for the Conseil supérieur du notariat said: “It is an ancient tradition and, quite frankly, we like doing it like that. There is a sense of drama that is created.”

The candle auction system was formally introduced in 1794, but is thought to be ...

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