Tips and advice for bidding at auction

Well, following an article about selling at auction, we thought it very appropriate to write about some advice on how to bid at auction. Again, an overlooked art that comes with some dangers, pitfalls but plenty of opportunities. 

We at Manor House Clearance of course have a general interest in antiques, fine art and collectables. Accompanying this interest is a long history of bidding at an auction. We love the process too. We also understand the pitfalls, and we have seen first-hand how this can become rather obsessive. Taking the emotion out of the bidding process is a big part of the tips we provide in this article, and it is true to say, you cannot get too emotional or hung up on becoming an owner of a particular item.

So, what tips and advice is needed to become that accomplished auction bidder?

Research, research, research and some more research

If you have never participated in the fun activities of auction bidding, you should be spending some time observing your local auction, or tapping into one of the live streaming auctions you see on websites like Learning about the auctioneers, how they work and getting a feel for the process is very important. Secondly, study the catalogues. Look at what you are interested in buying, study the reserve prices, and do some research on previous sales. At Manor House Clearance, we always tell everyone who is interested in bidding for the first time, to get an understanding of the market, and what kind of value or price you want to go to. We have noted on many an occasion at Manor House Clearance, it is not unusual to see two rather naive bidders pushing each other over a cliff edge by bidding against each other. No one wants to pay a silly price for a purchase!

Arrive in good time

Get there early if you are visiting in person or online. You need to register first to be able to bid, and if you are going in person, it is a perfect time to view that item/s you have your eyes on. You may not like it in person, or the condition may not be as good as it looked in the catalogue. The early bird always has an advantage.

Be aware of the absentee bidders when bidding at auction

If the auctioneer starts bidding below the lowest estimate, it is likely there aren’t absentee (commission) bids. If he/she starts on the lower estimate or higher, there probably is at least one. He may well say ‘there’s a lot of interest in this lot’ or ‘I have multiple bids’ which means he has absentee bids.

Don’t rush, life should be a stroll at auction

When the speediness of the auction is in full flow, it is actually very good to not get caught up in that. Take your time to observe first. If you are in person, check out your competition in the room. See if you can observe others who are interested in the items you are interested in. It’s good to keep your eyes wide open and take some time to get a feel for everything happening around you.

Don’t get sucker-punched

Typically, lower value items go up in £10 increments, but these incremental rises are at the auctioneers’ discretion. Very often the incremental rises are dictated by the interest in the item. A lot of interest can quickly see the incremental change go up. So, listen carefully and judge how it is moving. Prices can shoot up rather alarmingly when an item is of interest to many parties. So don’t get sucker punched or caught up in the wave of bidding. Keep it calm and rational.

Check if a lot has sold or not

You may find a lot didn’t sell and it might be something you are interested in. Go check after the auction and you could be the recipient of a great item at a lower negotiated price with the seller.

Always have the maximum in your head

Probably the greatest piece of advice we can give. After doing your research, looking at the market, understanding the market forces, the interest in the saleroom and combining all of those things into a thought process is how you come up with your maximum bid price. If you are prepared to pay that price, bidding confidently can put off other bidders, and you get it for less than the maximum. Yes, there is some psychology going on here, and it is worth participating in and becoming good at it.

Be aware of any commissions and costs

Yes, there are purchasing commissions to be aware of too. Saleroom for example adds around 25% of the hammer price. Standard is about 20% and remember, you will have to pay VAT on top of that too. The other big cost is shipping. If you aren’t attending the auction room, or cannot collect your item, the auction houses, or most of them do not provide a logistics service. You need to choose an auction collection, packing and shipping company to get your goods to you. This can come with a cost, so be aware of that.