AUCTIONS – The Magic of Bagging a Bargain

Auctioneer Stephen Ardley Lowestoft Auction Rooms Suffolk

Auction action at Lowestoft Auction Rooms in Suffolk

THE best interior makeovers  are those that don’t break the bank. A thrifty home-maker loves her bargains and what better place to get them than at real-time or live auctions. Live auctions as distinct from internet auctions are when you physically go to a local auction house to furnish your home or to find a great bargain. At auction it is entirely possible to completely furnish your home from top to bottom for a fraction of the cost of new.  Among the huge variety of items for sale you will find your new dining room furniture, chest of drawers, sofa, your new bed or even washing machine, television and vacuum cleaner. Live auctions are places you can physically view the items (known as Lots in auction speak) you intend to buy.  You have the opportunity to check measurements to make sure your prospective Lot will fit into your intended space, find out what the general condition of the Lot is and get an idea in your mind of how much you are going to pay for it. 

But before you get carried away by the magic and atmosphere there are a few things you need to be aware of and who best to introduce you to the joys and pitfalls, the sheer excitement that is buying at auction ,than a qualified auctioneer. The man behind the gavel. Stephen Ardley has over 20 years experience as an auctioneer and can currently be found wielding the gavel at Lowestoft Auction Rooms in Suffolk.

“Alway view,” he says, “and be prepared to be self disciplined, have a ceiling limit on what you want to spend and stick to it. Don’t feel scared by other bidders and unless it’s a clear bid the auctioneer will not take it so don’t worry about scratching your nose – but don’t wave to a friend on other side of room! Always ask advice and assistance from auction room staff on things like buyers premium and how items are sold i.e as one lot or as a job lot or as options.”

Here are a few guidelines on buying at a real-time auction:

Registering before you can bid at auction you have to register. The clerk at the front reception desk will take your details including, if you want to leave a commission bid further details might be required and some auction rooms may require photographic ID such as driving licence. Once you have completed the registration process you will be issued with a paddle this will display your registration number. It’s this number that is used to identify you as the buyer when you have ‘won’ a Lot.

A few commonsense rules Auctions are busy places where things move fast so you have to be on your toes when it comes to bagging your bargain. Distractions can cost someone a winning bid so turning off your mobile phone for instance makes sense (in many cases the auctioneer will remind bidders to do so before the sale begins).  A couple of others would be making sure you have registered and have your bid number to hand.

Things to be aware of when buying at auction it is a case of Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware which is why attending the viewing day is so important here are few other things to look out for especially if you are buying furniture.

  •  Make sure you get the auction catalogue – always useful to see lots some may have estimated prices and short descriptions of all the Lots. Always ask member of staff if you need anything clarified.
  • Check your prospective Lot carefully (although you have seen it on viewing day it’s a good idea to reexamine the Lot on the day of the auction and before the auction begins. The reason for this is that the item could look wonderful at 9am on viewing day but it could also get damaged during that time as well and may not be ok at end of bidding. It is your responsibility to check, check, and check again. Remember Buyer Beware!
  • Woodworm – give the affected area a hard tap if any sawdust falls out you know it is still live. Woodworm is treatable but you do really want it in your home? Remember a bargain is only a bargain if the quality is good and the price is low enough.
  • General condition is everything because if you have to begin restoring that badly gouged top it could run into £££s. So make sure there is no major damage, all the legs – if it is supposed to have legs, make sure they are firmly in place. The odd little wobble is ok as long as it is just a screw that needs tightening or some wood glue.
  •  Make sure the item will
  • fit into your car when it comes to taking it home or be prepared to hire a transit van or better still find a kind friend with a large enough vehicle to help.  However transport is usually available from most auction rooms but will cost extra.
  • is the item the correct size for your room and – very important this – will it fit through your doorway once you have got it home.

TIP  Beware Of Impulse Bidding.   Always make sure you have a value for the item in mind (there will be an estimated price range in the auction catalogue) and stick to it – get carried away and you may have bought a pig in a poke as they say. It’s called bidding fever – women are the worst  and are an auctioneer’s dream. They love to get two women in the room bidding against each other on a popular item.

Bidding and Commission bids at live auctions even seasoned auction buyers will tell you it is easy to get carried away at auction. This is especially true of the live sale room experience when the pace and excitement of bidding is such an adrenalin rush that it can cloud the judgement of the best of us.

It is important to remember that for the Lot you are bidding on to be a real bargain it has to be bought at the best, lowest possible price. If you have not been to a live auction before don’t rely on keeping the highest figure that you are prepared to pay just in your head. Write the highest bid you are going to go to against the Lot number in your catalogue and stick to it! It is so easy for our competitive spirit to kick in and a kind of red mist descends where we determine that “Nobody will have that Lot but me”. Be prepared to let a Lot go if it goes way beyond your set price.

The safest way to avoid that kind of thing happening is to set a commission bid. This is when you have inspected the Lot on viewing day, decided how much you are willing to pay for it and then leave that amount with the auctioneer who will bid up to that amount for you in your absence. That’s right, in your absence. You’re not even on the premises and so cannot get carried away in a bidding war, of course the down side is that you could lose the Lot for the sake of one more bid. The same rules apply for collection if you have the winning bid so be prepared to ring the auction or arrange for them to call you if they offer that service, and arrange pick-up for the Lot. Generally an auction room will hold your goods for 24 hours some offer to hold goods for up to three working days, after that you are billed for the extra time it is left with them but always enquire .

The gavel

Once the gavel is down on an item – it’s sold!

The Viewing Day is usually held the day before the actual sale day. Always go to the viewing day. As I have already explained this is when you get the chance to really look at the Lot you intend buying and check out whether it has woodworm, three legs instead of four. Even those who know the rules of auction buying inside out can become complacent and slip up at times or switch on  and test electrical items. Once the gavel is down on a winning bid that’s it – sold no returns!

I well remember the story a good friend of mine and a veteran auction hunter told me. He had missed the viewing day and arrived on the sale day late. I’ll let him tell the story.

“I walked in late and the auctioneer was in the process of selling a pair of good-looking binoculars. I had been looking for a pair for ages and thought my luck was in. Anyway the bidding was already up to £7 which is low. No way was I going to miss this bargain of the month so I bid £8 and won! It was a comment from the chap standing next to me that should have warned me “Only got one eye have you?” he said with a grin. “You guessed it I had just parted with £8 for a pair of binoculars that only had one lens.”

Paying for your Lot once the hammer goes down on the Lot payment is expected same day.  Remember at auction you must be especially aware of Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware because there are no refunds and you can kiss goodbye to any action involving trading standards too.  This is why it is so important to attend the viewing day and make sure everything is in order with your prospective Lot before the sale day – remember the binoculars with only one lens.

 Good luck bagging that bargain but beware the magic of auctions and the spells that they cast.

Rhonda’s Tip for Today is brought to you direct from the desk of Rhonda Deal – Interior ReDesigner and Home Stager. Rhonda is available as a speaker, teaches and provides consulting services B2B and private residential clients who want to improve their work/living space

You can find out more about what Rhonda has to offer at

Please feel free to reblog Rhonda’s Tips. All I ask is that you reproduce the whole article including the by line with all contact details.




4 Responses to “AUCTIONS – The Magic of Bagging a Bargain”
  1. Cindie says:

    I am not really good with English but I come up this really leisurely to understand.

  2. You got a really useful blog. I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.
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