The Beginner’s Guide to Bidding & Winning at Auctions..
It is natural for first-time (and sometimes, even experienced) auction bidders to get carried away by the whole auction atmosphere. The sights and sounds of a room packed with competitive bidders, the auctioneer calling for higher bids in their signature auction chant and the loud bang of the gavel on the podium during live auctions can arouse certain emotions and significantly influence your bidding strategy. But what is interesting to note is this phenomenon called auction fever has been observed not just in live auction buyers, but also internet or online auction buyers.
This guide will help you navigate the exciting world of auctions – whether live or online – with great success. The expert-recommended tips and techniques you will learn from this guide are applicable to both live and online auctions, unless otherwise specified. Consider following these tips to enjoy a higher chance of winning the items you want and don’t forget to have fun at the auction!
1. Register as a bidder.
This is the first step you need to take to be considered a legitimate, participating bidder of any auction.
For live auctions, you have the option to register days before, or on the actual day of the auction. We recommend registering days before to save you time on the day the auction. The registration process may differ according to the specific policies of the live auction house, but they usually require your name, address, contact information and government issued photo ID as proof of identification. Some auction houses also require a bid deposit and supporting financial documents for certain items, while others collect a registration fee which may be refundable. The auction house will then give you a bidder number or bidder card which you need to have with you throughout the whole auction event, so make sure you keep it in a secure place.
Online auctions, on the other hand, require you to set up an online account on their website. You will need to provide your name, address, contact information, email address, account username and password, but additional details such as your preferred mode of payment may be necessary to activate your account..
2. Read and understand the fine print.
This next step is critical for your peace of mind and enjoyment of the auction process. Live auctions and online auction websites have their unique set of terms and conditions to guide all participating buyers throughout the whole process. Invest the time to read through them and to clarify any questions you may have with their respective representatives. You wouldn’t want to find out that there are additional fees you need to pay after emerging as the highest bidder, especially if you’ve spent all your money on that last bid!
3. Stick to a budget.
This is where most bidders get it wrong. Participating in an auction without committing to a budget beforehand is a sure way to suffer auction fever and that dreaded winner’s curse. Practice financial discipline and humility by refusing the temptation to outbid that competitive buyer in the room, just for the sake of doing so. When you see that another online buyer has placed a higher bid than yours and that last bid you placed is your maximum limit, let it go.
Some online auctions have a feature called “maximum bid” that can help prevent online buyers from exceeding their budget. Buyers are required to input their maximum bid on the items they wish to buy from their website. This amount is automatically stored in the system. When another buyer places a higher bid than yours, the system will automatically override that bid with a higher amount closer to your maximum bid, until the time the other buyer places a bid that exceeds your maximum bid, or walks away.
4. Do your research.
Exercise due diligence even before the auction day comes. Grab the opportunity to view and scrutinise the items in person during the preview days (if possible) organised by some live auction houses. Seeing the items for yourself will always be better than relying on their photographs, as photographs depend on the skill of the photographer, camera or light quality. They may not always give you an accurate representation of the item to be auctioned and bring you disappointment. You may also ask the auction organisers during the preview days for a copy of the detailed list of items for auction, for your reference.
Tap the knowledge of various sources including auction catalogs, shops selling similar items, trusted online auction websites and even your local appraiser to know the authentic value of the items up for auction. We recommend participating in auctions armed with as much knowledge as possible to minimise your risk.
5. Start bidding.
Only after you have fully understood the terms of the auction, agreed to them, committed to a budget and investigated the items, should you start bidding.
If you are participating in a live auction, we recommend you sit or stand in a spot where the auctioneer can immediately see you. Hold up your bidder number or bidder card, then declare your bid in a clear and loud voice. You have two options for declaring your bid: you can either state the amount you’re willing to pay for the item, such as “$500”, or state how much you’re willing to increase it from its last bid, by saying “Another $500.”
To start bidding in an online auction, you need to log in to your account first. Once you are logged-in, simply search for the items you like and place your bid. If you are the first one to bid on the item, you can either bid low, or bid high to attempt to scare off other buyers. Use the strategy which best suits you. You can increase your bid when another buyer places a higher bid than yours, until the time you reach your maximum bid amount. The person who places the highest bid and meets the reserve price of the item wins.
6. Act confidently and fast.
Live auctions are loud, fast-paced events not suited for apprehensive, shy people. If the auctioneer misheard your bid, you have the responsibility to correct him/her on the spot. No one else will do that for you.
Bidding with confidence is a proven technique during auctions. Shy buyers can sense serious buyers in the room who refuse to give up on an item, and may voluntarily stop bidding as a result. Making eye contact with the auctioneer and even your competition is a way to project confidence during the live auction. Refrain from making eye contact or discussing during the bidding with your partner as these are telltale signs you are already nearing your maximum bid limit.
7. Monitor the status of your bids regularly.
This applies to online auctions only. Since online auctions require your bidding to be done over the internet unlike in person as live auctions do, the only way for you to keep track of the status of your bids is to track the items you’re bidding for time and time again. We recommend monitoring your bid status several times a day to give you a competitive edge over other buyers. You can make the necessary bid adjustments before other buyers do, particularly if the online auction does not offer an automatic bidding system. This regular monitoring may take up more of your time, but it can help you win the bid for that item you’re longing for.
8. Master stealth bidding.
This is a technique that many experienced bidders employ, and for good reason: it works. It simply means you place your bid within the last minute or even seconds before the bid closes. The logic behind it is this: bidding early on an item will hike up its price, as other bidders will try to outbid you. Stealth bidding can keep the item’s price down, resulting in a “bargain” for the successful stealth bidder.
Stealth bidding may be used whether you’re attending a live auction event or logged into a live auction website (but read the auction terms just to be sure!), and is commonly used for high ticket auction items such as jewellery, luxury goods and electronics. Stealth bidding is a tactic that proves patience pays big time during auctions.
Follow these eight tips to have an enjoyable and worry-free auction experience!