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For everyone who’s ever been to any live auction, there’s that first time. I think my first time was probably at age 2 or 3 with my mother and father very nearby. By the age of 16, I was driving to auctions on my own, and buying a few things of interest.

Some people have never been to a live auction. Today we discuss 10 (ten) things to know when attending your first auction:

    1. Check the auctioneer’s advertisement for registration requirements, start time, preview time, payment terms, parking guidance, “sale order” and other material information. If you have a particular question, it’s best to ask before the day or morning of the auction.
    2. Bring a seasoned auction-goer with you so that he or she can clue you to what to listen for, how to bid, when to bid, etc. Some (live) auctioneers can be difficult to understand at first, so a partner can help you listen for the numbers and bid accordingly.
    3. Are these lots (or which lots are) being sold with reserve or without reserve (aka “absolute?”) In a with reserve auction, lots can be withdrawn and not sold if the seller doesn’t like the high bid, where lots selling absolute must sell to the highest bidder if put up for auction and any bid is placed within a reasonable time.
    4. Are ring persons being used who can relay bids? Sometimes auctioneers take bids themselves as well as bids from ring people working the floor. In other words, you can bid to a ring person and/or the auctioneer in most cases.
    5. Take advantage of the preview period. Many times property is being sold “as-is” and “where-is” meaning that you as the buyer may be responsible to note defects or imperfections prior to that property being sold — and if you are the buyer, you may not be able to exchange or return if later you decide you are unhappy with your purchase.
    6. Inquire if the property must be removed the same day as the auction, or if it can be left and picked up later. What hours/times are available (if any) to pick up at a later time? If items are left, do you need to tell someone you’re coming back to pick up later, or mark those items in some manner?
    7. Can you bid absentee? In other words, if you need to leave before your items come up for auction, can the auctioneer (or staff member) bid for you on your behalf? Inquire how absentee bids are managed — as in if your bid is executed competitively or if your bid is started at some fraction of your maximum bid.
    8. Sometimes property is sold as one lot, by choice, or times-the-money. For instance, if there are 10 identical office chairs up for bid, will they be sold as one lot of 10, or can the high bidder choose 1, 2, 3 … or all 10 chairs at the high bid price each? Or, are all 10 being sold, but the bid price is for each chair (times 10?)
    9. Buyer’s premiums and sales tax. What charge — if any — will be added to your final bid price to constitute total purchase price? For example, if a 10% buyer’s premium is being charged and you bid $235 for your items, your total due will be $235 + 10% or $258.50. If a 7.5% sales tax is being charged, your total bill will likely rather be $277.89
    10. Where can you find out about future auctions? Does the auctioneer have a website that lists upcoming auctions? Are there fliers available for other auctions scheduled in the near future? Can you join (or have you already joined by registering) this auctioneer’s email/text list?

Live auctions can be fun with an entertaining auctioneer, a treasure hunt of sorts to look through, music, food and social interaction with others in attendance. Plus as many auctioneers will tell you, you only pay one more bid than someone else was willing to pay — and have the chance (prospect) of getting a deal.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.