If you’re like many people, you’d love to participate in an auction – but you’re not quite sure what to expect or how it all works, and that’s holding you back.

This guide shows you what it’s like at an auction and how first-timers can get their feet wet.

What Are Live Auctions Like?

Live auctions are exciting, and there are a lot of “moving parts.” The best part is that there’s a place in an auction for anyone who wants to participate. You can always go to an auction to watch without participating, too, just to get a feel for how it all works. In the meantime, you can learn about:

  • Auction terminology
  • How to register so you can bid
  • How to bid
  • How to pay for your items

You can also learn how to find the best deals at estate sales and auctions here.

Get Familiar With Auction Terminology

Before you go to your first auction, it’s helpful to figure out just what everyone’s talking about when they throw industry terms around. These are some of the most common terms you’ll hear or read about on auction day:

  • Absentee bid. People can bid on items when they’re not physically present at the auction through an absentee bid by phone, email, pre-delivered letter or online.
  • As-is. When you buy something as-is, the item doesn’t come with a warranty.
  • Bid. A bid is the amount of money you offer to pay for an item.
  • Bidder number. Your bidder number, which you’ll get when you register, is how the auction company tracks what you’ve purchased.
  • Buyer’s premium. When you win an auction, you generally have to pay a buyer’s premium, which is a percentage of the item’s sale price.
  • Conditions of sale. Conditions of sale are usually printed on your registration agreement (more on that later) and announced by the auctioneer. They’re the terms under which the whole auction operates.
  • Lot. A lot is a group of items sold together. The term also refers to an item that has been numbered for sale.
  • Opening bid. The opening bid is the amount the auctioneer expects the first buyer to offer.
  • Pick. When multiple items that are identical are for sale, the first successful bidder gets to pick which he or she wants.
  • Preview. During the preview, you can inspect items that will be for sale during the item.
  • Reserve. The reserve is the minimum price the seller is willing to accept for an item.

How to Register to Bid at Your First Auction

In most cases, you’ll be required to register before you’re allowed to bid. You’ll have to bring identification (like your driver’s license), and sometimes you’ll also have to provide a credit card to pay for any items you choose to buy.

You’ll get a bidder number when you register. Usually, it’s printed on a piece of paper or a paddle (just like you see in the movies).

How to Bid at Your First Auction

When you see an item you want to purchase, you’ll have to hold up your bidder number so the auctioneer knows you want to bid. Auctions move very quickly – some items sell within 30 seconds – so you’ll have to act fast.

If you make a bid and someone else (or multiple other people) want the item, they’re likely to bid right after you do. You can choose to keep bidding as the price of the item goes up or you can stop bidding and let someone else win the item.

How to Pay for the Items You Buy at Your First Auction

You can choose to leave the auction at any time. You don’t have to stay until all the items have sold. When you decide to leave, you must pay for the items you purchased by taking your bidder number to the checkout area. You’ll also turn in your bidder number at that time (you don’t want someone else to pick it up and bid on items – you could be held responsible for payment if that happens).

While some auctions have very specific payment options, like credit cards only, most accept cash, checks and cards. You’ll usually take your items with you, but some auction houses will ship or hold your purchases for a fee.

Are You Thinking About Attending Your First Auction?

You’re always welcome to stop by one of our auctions to check things out and see how it all works. Check out our upcoming auctions – we’d love to see you at one. If you have questions about selling your own items at an auction, please call us at 904-806-4274 today.