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Live auctions, like government and military surplus auctions, offer both an enjoyable and an exciting opportunity for people from all walks of life. All manner of various sorts of items are able to be obtained from live auctions that are going on all over the country all the time — and, very often, the items available at these live auctions can be acquired for prices well less than market value. However, if you’ve never been to such an auction, or have attended only a few, you might not be entirely clear on just how to best conduct yourself in order to maximize the potential for successful bidding. You’re looking for some live auction bidding tips. So, in this article, I’ll try to cover some of the basics, and walk you through a few important do’s and don’ts.
Locating Live Auctions to Attend
The very first step you’ll need to take, of course, is actually finding exactly when and where such auctions are going to be taking place. Doing so will either require some amount of research on your part, or you can use the services of a live auction locating service in order to be informed of exactly when and where live auctions will be happening in your area. Such services (such at the one located at this link) will eliminate all of the research and leg work you’ll need to put in to discovering any upcoming auctions that are available to you.
However, if you don’t wish to take advantage of such a service, you can spend some time looking up local auction houses in your area — either in your local phone book, or on the internet — and then contacting them each individually and asking if they have any auctions coming up that are open to the general public. Sometimes, the auction houses will post information regarding upcoming live auctions to their websites. But, since dates can change, and auctions can sometimes be organized very quickly, a lot of times they wont list every auction on the website, and only an actual phone call to the auction house itself, or a visit there, will assure you of the most up to date and complete information.
Along with this, you’ll want to check your local newspaper’s classified sections often and thoroughly, as notices for upcoming auctions will often be posted there. Also, make sure to check any on-line local classifieds websites for your area and make use of online resources like Craiglist.
The Various Auction Types
When you’ve discovered all of the upcoming auctions that are taking place in your area, are open to the public, and you’ve compiled them all into a list, you’ll need to learn the specific rules for the different types of auctions that you wish to attend. This, again, is another area in which the auction locating service mentioned above proves highly valuable. As, along with listing every auction scheduled to take place in your area, the services will also provide you with precise and complete details regarding the rules for each of the auctions to which it informs you. But, again, if you’re not interested in using such a service, you’ll need to contact the organizers of each of the auctions directly and inquire as to the specifics of the individual auction.
It’s common for some auctions to have limited availability and require pre-registration by a certain date, and you’ll need to register before that date if you wish to take part. Many such auctions operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. So, you’ll want to make sure you get that information and register as early as possible in order to secure yourself admittance.
Some auctions will require an entrance fee. This is usually a relatively small amount, and is usually deductible against any successful bid you place. So, let’s say the entrance fee is $50.00, and you end up winning a bid for an item with a bid of $100.00, the auction house will simply keep your $50.00 entrance fee and require from you just another $50.00 when it comes time to pay for the items you won. They do this because space usually is limited and they want to make sure they fill the limited space with people who are serious about bidding.
Some auctions may require you to enter a larger, entirely refundable deposit as well. This works the same as the deposit described above, except that even if you don’t bid on anything, the money is returned to you at the end of the auction. This is done as a safety measure to guard against people who might obtain the winning bid on an item and, for whatever reason, decide not to pay for it when it comes time to collect the item. Some auctions may require you to provide your credit card information for this purpose, while others may require a cash deposit.
Along with this you may encounter different styles of auctions, and you’ll certainly want to know ahead of time which style the auction you’re attending will be conducted in. The different styles are:
- A traditional, or sometimes called an “English” auction. This is the type of auction that most people think about when they hear the word “auction”. It’s the traditional type, where bids start at a low price and bidders ‘bid each other up’ until people stop bidding. The person with the last and highest bid wins the auction.
- A Dutch Auction. This is sort of the reverse of an English auction. In a Dutch auction the price for an item starts high and gradually lowers over time until someone places a bid. The first person to place a bid wins the item.
- A ‘closed bid’ or a ‘silent auction’. In this type of auction bidders enter the price they’re willing to pay for an item in secret, usually by placing their written bid in a sealed envelope and submitting it. Nobody at the auction knows what anyone else’s bid amount is. After a certain time, the auction stops accepting bids, all envelopes are opened, and whoever submitted the highest price wins the item.
These are the three most common styles of auction you’re likely to encounter. There’s also what’s known as an ‘absolute auction’, which is similar to a closed bid or silent auction, but without any minimum, or reserve, price being set on items.
Live Auction Bidding Tips — Bidding!
One thing you should keep in mind is that, according to the laws in most places, once the auctioneer’s gavel falls, the item is yours. It doesn’t matter if money has exchanged hands or not. When you place a bid and the auctioneer informs you that yours is the winning bid and stops the auction, as far as the law is concerned, you’ve now entered into a legally binding contract with the auctioneer. You now legally owe him the money you agreed to pay, and he now legally owes you the item he agreed to sell you at that price. So, make sure you only ever place a bid if you’re completely willing to pay that amount for that item. Once the auction for an item stops, if you had last bid, then you’re going to have to fork over the money.
The bidding can be conducted very quickly, and it can be confusing for inexperienced attendees. Auctioneers have the right to reject your bid if you seem confused or unsure, and if you’re slow, they wont wait around for you. For this reason it’s advisable that you might want to think about trying to locate a couple of auctions that don’t require non-refundable deposits and where space isn’t very limited, and attend one or two before you even try placing bids, just to get a feel for how things transpire, and for what you can expect when actually bidding.
Depending on exactly what style of auction it is, and a number of other factors, it can be surprisingly easy for an inexperienced auction attendee to overbid. If you don’t have a lot of experience, the process can be somewhat fast paced and confusing, and it’s not difficult at all to get completely caught up in the excitement of it all. Believe it or not, an auction can be very exciting! There may be times when an inexperienced person enters into a competitive mode — it becomes like a game — a competition, and the desire to just win an auction becomes overwhelming. When this happens there is a real danger that you can overpay for an item. It feels good to win, but if you end up paying more for some item than you could have gotten it for had you bought it retail, that feeling wont last for too long after you leave the auction house.
The surest way of avoiding this is to make sure that you do your homework to the best of your ability. A lot of auctions will publish a list of all of the items that will be made available at the upcoming auction. Obtain that list if you can, as far in advance as possible, learn as much as you can about each item you think you might be interested in bidding on, and do some research into what the items would be worth to you and what the highest you’re willing to bid on the item would realistically be. In a good number of cases the auction house might even set a date before the day of the auction wherein interested parties can view the items that will be made available at the upcoming auction. Take advantage of this if it’s offered and take careful note of the condition of the items. Do as much good research as you can into the real value of the items. Use this information to determine a maximum bid for yourself and stick to it.
Above all, just use a little wisdom and common sense and you’ll likely do just fine and have a lot of fun.
Do you have any of your own live auction bidding tips? If you do please consider sharing them in the comment box below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!