A Guide to buying at Auction
I’ve been going to auctions since a child, my Grandfather used to take me every week so I could spend my pocket-money on ‘treasure’. I’ve grown up knowing the whole process as a buyer and a seller so I don’t find auctions intimidating, but I know a lot of people do. As long as you’re aware of the process and the costs involved bidding at an auction is a lot of fun and you can get some real bargains.
Firstly let me dispel the myth that as soon as you walk into an auction room you are viewed as a bidder. Unless you have registered and have bidding number no amount of scratching your nose or arm waving will allow you to bid on anything so you won’t walk home having bid on a priceless antique that you can’t afford.
First things first, find the type of auction that you are looking for. There are general sales where pretty much anything will be sold and then there are specialist sales such as ‘fine art’. Have a look online or in your local paper for your local auction houses and see when the next auction is and what type of auction it is.
If you’ve never been to an auction before then I would recommend going along to your first one to watch and not bid. Go to the viewing before the auction starts to have a look around and buy a copy of the catalogue, the catalogue will normally list the auction houses charges. Typically there is a buyer’s commission this can be anything up to 25% + VAT added onto any purchases. Most of the auction houses I go to have a 12 - 15% + VAT buyers commission.
First time Bidding
When you feel confident you may want to bid on an item or two. Go to the viewing before the auction and register your details you will be given a bidding number which you must raise to bid on any items. Firstly buy a catalogue; this will be your auction friend. Each lot is listed under a unique lot number with a short description and a ‘guide price’.
Once you’ve found an item that you like look it up in your catalogue see if any damage is listed and what the guide price is. At this stage if I really like it and I’m thinking about bidding on it I normally calculate if it goes for the top guide price how much it will cost me including all of the charges. I can then work out what my top bid would be. Write this next to the item in catalogue. Once you’ve looked at all the items your interested in, you can stay for the whole auction until your items come up and bid for them in the room. To do this just raise your number once the bidding starts. If the price goes too high when the auctioneer points to you just shake your head and keep your number down the auctioneer will move on to another bidder or sell the item.
The other option is to leave a commission bid, which means you don’t have to stay for the whole auction and takes away the need to do the actual bidding. You leave a note with the auction house of your maximum bid for an item and they will bid for you. It is then your responsibility to contact the auction house and see if your bids were successful and arrange payment and collection.
I’ve Won – What do I do now?
Once you’ve won an item if you are still at the auction then go to the desk where you registered to pay for your items (note:- most auction houses will charge you 2-3% surcharge for credit cards) but cash, cheques and debit cards are widely accepted with no surcharge. They will then tell you when you can take your item away it could be there and then, you may have to wait until the auction has finished or you may have to come back the next day. If you have bought a large item you must have a way of getting it home, auction houses will charge you for delivery and also for storage if you need to leave the item with them for a few days.
Auctions can be a lot of fun, and you can find some real bargains, but you need to be aware of the process and all of charges involved before you start. If you are going to be buying regularly from auction houses it really pays dividends to build up a good relationship with them and let them know what you are looking for. Many of them will tip you off if something good is coming up and will also let you store things for free.
I really hope’s this helps to dispel the myths and preconceptions around auction houses. As my Grandfather used to say ‘looking is free’ if you have a look and its not for you then you don’t have to bid.
Happy Bidding xx
Top 10 Tips to Buying at Auctions
1. Always find out ALL of the auction house charges BEFORE you start bidding.
2. Register and get a bidding number, otherwise you can't bid.
3. Set a top bid for each item that you want to bid on and TRY to stick to it
4. Have a really good look at any items that you want to bid on and ask any questions that you have BEFORE you bid.
5. The catalogue is your friend ALWAYS buy one.
6. The ‘Guide Price’ is just that a guide. Items can go for a lot less or more than the guide price.
7. Make sure you can take away all the items that you buy, otherwise you may have to pay costly delivery or storage fees.
8. If you leave a commission bid its your responsibility to contact the Auction house and see if you've won.
9. If your looking for jewellery, its a good idea to take an eye glass with you
10. HAVE FUN