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15 Essentials for Attending an Estate Auction

August 20, 2015 1 Comment

15 Essentials for Attending an Estate Auction

This week, I am excited to share a guest post from one of the founding members of RoofTop Antiques, Tami (AKA my mom). My mom and dad started taking my brother and I to estate auctions when we were young kids. My very first auction memory involves a large box of polished rocks, which served as my prized possession for many, many years. Having attending these sales consistently for the past 30+ years, I think I can fairly accurately call my mom an expert. Today, she shares with you her 15 essential tips for attending an auction or estate sale.

Are you looking for a good deal on furniture, kitchenware, vintage decor or jewelry?   Look no further than your local estate auction. If you've never attended an estate auction, you may feel intimidated by the prospect. This list of essentials will take the guess-work and anxiety out of the experience.

Parking at an estate auction can often be a problem

Be Prepared!  

1. Familiarize yourself with the location of the auction. You don't want to find yourself lost on the morning of the event. Figure out where you are going and what to expect when you arrive.   

2. Will the auction be held indoors or out?  If it's outside, you will need to be ready for the elements - think boots, umbrella, hat, sunscreen or mittens.  For the novice, I recommend attending an indoor auction first so other distracting factors (like a rainstorm or mud) aren't even a factor.

3. Have cash or a checkbook on hand.  Most auction companies do accept credit cards, but you will be charged a 3 to 5% premium. 

4. Prepare boxes and packaging material.  Your new treasures will need safe transport.  Sometimes there are boxes available onsite, but don't depend on the possibility.

Bidding number

Arrive Early

5.  Early arrival insures a parking spot close to the sale.  You will undoubtedly make numerous trips to your vehicle to store your acquisitions.  

6. Get your bidding number.  The auctioneer has a staff that will register you for the auction and keep track of your purchases.  They will be in a designated area.  They will ask to look at your driver license  and will take down your address and phone number.  Hang on tight to your number.  If you lose it, the finder could use it to purchase items on your dime.

7. Locate the bathroom and the food wagon.  Visit each! 

8. Arriving before bidding begins allows you to adequately inspect items.  You'll want to take a close look at everything are interested in purchasing to make sure it is in tip-top condition.  This takes time, and is difficult to do once the auction begins.

Keep track of you purchases

Pace Yourself

9. All the fast talking and hand raising can be exciting.  Don't get caught up in it.  Decide on a price you are willing to spend for each item and don't go over it. Keeping track of the items you have won is also helpful . The blank space on the back of your number is perfect for this. 

10. Don't spend more money than you have.  This would make a great tattoo, don't you think?

Be Attentive

11. All auctioneers have a certain call or way of speaking.  Listen carefully to exactly what he is saying.  You don't want to end up paying $275 when you thought you were paying $75.   Special note: If the auctioneer holds up two items and says "choice", the winning bidder will be given the opportunity to take one or both of the items.  If the both are chosen, the  winning bid amount will be paid for each item.  If the auctioneer holds up two items and announces "two times the money", winning bid amount will be paid for each item and both must be taken.

12. The auctioneer may group items together in a lot or sell a pile of items by the piece.   Listen and be clear on this before placing a bid. 

Estate auction on a farm in Ohio

Be Patient 

13. The best deals usually come near the end of the auction, when the crowd has thinned and the auctioneers are ready to be done.  

14. If you're willing to brave the rain, mud, wind, heat, or cold you will have less competition and will therefore get more for your money. 

15. Quiet, patient observation of how other auction attendees bid and otherwise conduct themselves is always beneficial (and often entertaining).

Rainy day auction

 There is a to learn when it comes to estate auctions, and initially it can be rather intimidating.  Once you learn the ropes, the potential rewards  are well worth the effort.   So jump right in and raise your hand.  Your treasures await.

Estate auction in the heart of farm country

1 Response

Levi Armstrong
Levi Armstrong

July 23, 2020

I like that you said that if I’m planning to attend an estate auction, I should bring cash or a checkbook because although they accept credit cards, they would most likely charge me a 3-5% premium. My husband and I are planning to go on a couple of estate auctions in the city to buy properties to flip and sell. Since this would be our first time doing this, I’ll follow your advice and keep a checkbook in my bag. Thanks!

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