Understanding Auctions

auction hammer laying on paper

Understanding auctions and the process.

What’s an auction?

An auction is the process for selling or buying items or goods, that includes real estate, cars, planes, computers, jewelry and more, to the highest bidder.

What’s an auction house?

There are auction companies and auctioneers that have a building, store or office where they hold the auctions.

How does an auction work?

When a person, a business, entity, or estate wants to dispose of unwanted items they can contact an auctioneer (person that conducts the auction) to sell the item.  Many auctioneers will do an appraisal on the item(s) to determine the best price.  The auctioneer can receive a commission, flat fee, or on consignment.  The auctioneer would usually set a date for the sell, and start marketing the auction.

On the date of the auction the public or invitees will show up at the auction house or site where the property is located, or by phone or online (depending on the rules set forth by the auctioneer).  At some auctions those invited to bid will be given paddles with individual identification or marks (sometimes numbers), some auctions will allow hand or facial gestures.

The winner of the auctioned item is the bidder with the highest offer.  Some auctions will require a deposit for the item, and give the winner time to pay off the item and take possession of the item.  Some auctions will be just cash and carry (you must pay for the item and transport it with you).

This is a general idea of how auctions can work.  You must contact the auctioneer or auction house to find out the specific rules for their auction process.

What are the different types of auctions in the United States?

There are many types of auctions in the US.  We won’t get into all of them.  There are 2 main types of auctions that we will deal with in the United States, the open auction, where people gather and view an item then each person signal their bid to the auctioneer.

The second is the sealed bid auction.  This is done through either mailing in or posting your offer for the item.  You don’t see the bids that others made on the item.  The auctioneer or company holding the auction will check the offers at a certain time, then notify the winning bidder.

What is a reserve price in an auction?

Many items up for auction have a set price that the seller wants to receive.  If the bids do not reach that price the item is not sold, the item might be withdrawn then relisted.  Sometimes the property might be relisted with a different price or some other incentive.

What’s an absolute auction sale?

An absolute auction is an auction where whatever the highest bid is, the bidder will win the item.  With an absolute auction there is no reserve price set.  Some absolute auctions will set the opening bid at the price that the seller actually wants for the item.  This way any bids above that price just increases the amount the seller was actually looking for, and will receive.  The great thing is that you will receive the item whatever the bid is.

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Is an online auction or live auction better?

There are different types of auctions, some online, some at an auction house, some at the location of the property.

We can’t say whether online auctions or live auctions are better.  Better depends on your views.  There are auctions throughout the United States.  There can be items in a state that you might not be able to get to by the time of an auction.  In that case many auctions will allow online bidding so that you can bid on an item no matter where you’re located.

The biggest downfall to the online auction is that you might not be able to examine the item.  Many auctions will provide photos, and details.  You might also to be able to hire someone to inspect the item for you.

Many people like the live auctions.  It provides you an opportunity to actually examine the item that you might want to bid on.

Some like the live auctions because it gives them a chance to see who they’re up against.

Again, it’s a personal preference.

What items are sold at auctions?

Auctions can provide a whole range of items.  Remember you have real estate auctions (residential, land and commercial properties), boats, planes, auto, art work, jewelry, clothing and much more.  Almost anything you can imagine could be up for sale at an auction.

How often are auctions held?

Auctions are held throughout the year.  Each state has auctions throughout the year.  View our state auction pages you’ll see links to auctions happening on and offline.

Are there auctions in all 50 states?

Yes.  Each state has auctions throughout the year.  View our state auction pages you’ll see links to auctions happening on and offline.

Can anyone participate in an auction?

To participate at an auction you must contact the auctioneer, auction house or site.  Each auction will have it’s own rules about participation.