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It’s supposed to be easy … and most of the time it is. However, things happen: The Internet goes down, the online platform goes down, your connection fails or other issues arise and you can’t “win an online auction.”

Bidding early, with your maximum bid is likely the best strategy but that’s no guarantee. If the software emails or texts you that you’ve been outbid, that’s good but also no guarantee.

If this is a property you feel you can’t live without, it’s best to email (and call) the auctioneer and discuss with him or her how you want to be sure your [maximum] bid is placed. You may even want to meet with the auctioneer and discuss your bid, memorializing it in writing.

The good news is buying via an online auction is not generally “life or death” and if you miss out on that desired lot, you can likely find another. In that case, bidding on the platform in a standard fashion may be sufficient, given there are no guarantees.

For that matter, there are no guarantees you’ll be the high bidder at any auction — live and/or online. At a live auction, possibly you arrive late, you don’t communicate your bid to the auctioneer, or someone bids your maximum bid before you do, and … or the auctioneer has some absurd policies: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2022/06/08/auctioneers-claiming-sole-discretion/.

Further, many auctioneers conduct “with reserve” auctions which means no matter what you do, the seller may choose not to sell to you. This is even more reason to reach out to the auctioneer to discuss the complete picture, so you can participate with more knowledge and disclosure.

Most experienced bidders tend to bid late, near the closing time. This can help to win as other bidders sometimes don’t have sufficient time to bid again … but this increases the odds of missing out if the Internet, platform, or connection fails: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/05/16/online-timed-auctions-and-later-bids/.

One further issue is thousands of auctioneers sell online but there is no consistent policy if there are problems. If the platform or Internet goes down, some start the entire event over, some leave sold property sold and unsold property unsold (largely proper behavior,) and some just end the event. Knowing what your auctioneer is planning to do is certainly prudent.

We previously noted that the worst policy with a platform or Internet outage is to start the over (extend bidding) for lots that are complete: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/online-only-auction-starts-to-close-and-we-have-a-problem/. Of course, if you — or a certain group of bidders loses connection — there’s likely no recourse.

There are many other considerations when bidding on property on an auction site. We wrote about 10 of those details here: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2020/03/03/10-things-to-know-when-bidding-on-your-first-online-auction/.

Bidding online is uneventful until it isn’t. If the property is easily replaceable, don’t worry — just bid. If the property is irreplaceable (unique) and you really want it, then contact the auctioneer to ensure your bid is placed as you wish.

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, Brandly Real Estate & Auction, and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.