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12 Tips to Buying at Auctions – How to Get the Best Deal

Monday, July 27th 2015.

Auctions can be great fun to attend. You can get in on the bidding or just watch the action. But, before you start bidding, make sure you know how to get the best buy. Keep these tips in mind at your next auction.

1. Start By Observing

One of the best ways to learn is by observation. Attend a couple of auctions with the intention to simply watch and learn. You’ll get the feel for how things work and be prepared to avoid costly mistakes.

2. Attend the Preview

The preview can be held a few days before the auction or just a few hours before the auction begins. It is open to the public and free of charge. This is your chance to look items over thoroughly and to get up close to see any damage or problems with an item.

3. Be Prepared

Know what you are looking at. Here’s where reference books and price guides and the internet come in handy. Doing the legwork before hand, increases the likelihood that you will pay a fair price at auction. Not doing so, can lead to disaster.

4. Learn the Terminology

There are a few terms that you need to understand so that you get the best buy at an auction.

· Pre-sale estimate – The auction house bases this price on their past experience. It the price they expect the item to sell for.

· Provenance – It is the history of the piece detailing past owners. This information is not always available, but it can be a juicy tidbit depending on the owner.

· Start Price – This is the price at which the auction will begin.

· Reserve Price – This is a pre-set amount that the seller has agreed is the lowest amount he/she will accept. Not all items will have a reserve.

Keep in mind items with no reserve will sell even if there is only one bid at the start price. When bidding on items with no reserve, if you win, you pay.

On the other hand, items with a reserve will only sell if the reserve price has been met. You’ll find out if the reserve has been met, after the bidding is completed. The reserve price is not disclosed at the close of bidding.

· As-Is – Just as it sounds, as-is means the items is selling in the condition that is currently in. It likely means that the item is a fixer-upper or needs work in some way.

· Hammer Price – This is the price that the item sells for when the gavel comes down.

· Conditions of Sale – This refers to the terms and conditions of the sale including any warranties, special instructions etc.

· Lots – There are two meanings for lot at an auction. First, all items up for auction are assigned a number. This is referred to in the catalogue and described by the auctioneer as a lot. Second, a number of small items such as a collection of costume jewelry can be grouped together and sold as a lump sum. This, too, is referred to as a lot.

· Absentee Bid – Bidders do not have to physically be in the auction house at the time of the auction to bid. Bids can be placed by phone, fax or online. Arrangements must be made before hand to place an absentee bid.

5. Read the Auction Catalogue

Get the auction catalogue and read it thoroughly. It will list the lots in selling order. The catalogue may be a hard copy or available online.

6. Register For Auction

To bid at an auction, you need to register before the auction begins. You give your name, address and phone number and may be required to make a deposit. In return, you receive a bidding number. This helps the auction house keep track of who won what item.

7. Stay Cool Once the Bidding Begins

Before the bidding begins, decide want to bid on and what you want to pay for it. Stick to your plan. I’ll say it again – stick with your plan. Don’t get into a bidding war. You may be sorry if buyer’s remorse kicks in.

8. Know About Additional Costs

Often auction houses charge a buyer’s premium. It is an additional surcharge that the auction house adds to the hammer price, taxes are calculated after these two are added.

9. After-Sale Bid

If a lot doesn’t sell, ask if the auction accepts after-sale bids (a reasonable offer that a bidder makes after the auction closes for an item that did not sell). Some auction houses allow it.

10. Find Out About Payment And Shipping

Make sure you know before hand what forms of payment are accepted. If your purchase is big, have a plan for how you’ll get it home. Auction houses will hold on to your item while you arrange for moving it. But storage fees may be charge.

11. Attend Midweek Sales

Midweek sales can be less crowded than weekend sales. Less competition may lead to better deals.

12. Attend A Variety of Auctions

Don’t discount an auction that is not geared to your area of interest. An office furniture auction will likely have computers, filing cabinets and basic office furniture but there may be the odd piece of antique furniture. You’ll find this out at the preview. At this office furniture auction, most attendees will be seeking the computers and filing cabinets. There may not be as many attendees interested in the antique furniture. So, you may come away with a great deal.

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