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What Can Buy at an Auction?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 11 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
What Can Buy At An Auction?

An auction can be a great place to snag a bargain. But when you’re considering buying, an auction is better for some items than others.

At a lot of small auctions, prior to arriving and inspecting the lots available, you will have no idea what’s for sale. The trip could end up being a waste of your time if there’s nothing of interest. Conversely, you might see the exact items you’ve been seeking, and be able to pick them up very cheaply. It’s a gamble. Then again, that can be part of the charm of an auction – you often never know what you’ll find.

But what are the best kinds of items to buy at auction?

Good Items For Buying At Auction

Although people think of auctions as covering all manner of items – and most do – you’re often better off buying at specialised auctions. However, that comes with a warning; you need to know your area very well in order to compete against the experts who will also be at the auction.

In antiques you can find some bargains at auction, but here possibly more than anywhere, you’ll need to have a very strong knowledge, not only because of the dealers there, but because outside of the major auction houses, it’s quite possible that a number of the items will be fakes, and often quite convincing.

You’ll need to watch others and see how they’re bidding, or even if they’re bidding. Think, too, as to whether the item comes with any kind of provenance before buying. As the demand for antiques grows, there are more fakes around and also more people buying. So you need to remain very alert.

For those with very strong mechanical skills, car auctions can be good places for buying. Again, you’re going to be up against the dealers who are looking for cheap second-hand cars to sell. However, you’ll need a good eye and ear, and the ability to get a non-running vehicle home.

When it comes to art, specialist auctions tend to concentrate on relatively high-priced items, which means you’ll not only need an excellent knowledge of art history, but some fairly deep pockets, too. That’s not to say you can’t still pick up the occasional bargain, but you’ll be buying art by someone either unknown or out of fashion.

Much the same applies to a wine auction. Most of the wines on offer will be rarer vintages, which means buying them will be an expensive proposition, and the bargains will be somewhat dubious.

Finally, there are houses. Again, this can be quite specialised, although the properties can vary widely in age and condition. Certainly in today’s falling property market it’s perfectly feasible to find a good bargain at auction, but you’ll need detailed reports on the house beforehand, including an inspection, which can easily run into hundreds of pounds before you’ve even made a bid.

You’ll also need to have your mortgage financing in place prior to the auction, which isn’t that easy any more, and you’ll need to be very firmly aware of your upper bidding limit and stick to it.

Before Buying At Auction

Don’t ever go into an auction unprepared – that’s a sure way to spend too much money on items that are no bargains. Take the time to look at the items and inspect them closely. Know beforehand how high you’re willing to bid on items and stick to it. Never bid on something because it looks good or you think it might be the real thing. Do your research, and be thorough.

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