Thursday, 4 July 2013

Buying At Auction - Part One

Viewing Days

Of everything I do in relation to my business venture, the one thing that elicits the most interest among my friends and clients is buying at auction. I think in general most of us are fascinated and excited by auctions, perhaps it's the thrill of potentially getting a bargain, the competitive nature of the buying, or if you're like me it's the ability to take my time on viewing days and sift through all the goodies on offer imagining what I could do with them.


All general auctions will have a viewing time, this may be a few hours before the auction starts or it may be for several days prior, you should check in advance. If you are looking for something in particular, or looking for inspiration, then it pays to take advantage of the viewing times. It is at this time when you can rummage through the 'lots' (a numbered item or group of items on offer). You can pick things up and measure them, check for damage, check for quality and markings, wipe off a bit of dirt and dust to see real colours and look for hidden pest damage (like wood borers in wooden furniture). This is very important as all items sold at auction are sold 'as is' without warranty. If you buy it, you can't return it.

 It's also the only time to search for a gem among the rocks, as it were. Often because many auctions are selling off deceased estates, the 'lots' will be packed with a mixture of desirable and less desirable items. If you bid and win the 'lot' you take everything in that lot with you, even if there was something you didn't want. So casual glances are not really enough. You need to pick things up and look underneath for something that may really appeal to you.

Most auctions sell a mixture of everything. There may be an antique section, which usually includes items that are at least 100 years old, or of great interest and value. The 'general' sale items are really only limited to your imagination. Tools, furniture (old and modern), memorabilia, kitchenware, garden items, computers, household items, toys, rugs, cars, office supplies, white goods, the list could go on and on. Often whole businesses that are closing or updating will sell off all their equipment. In the picture above it was a cafe closure.

Each 'lot' will numbered and so as you inspect the goods at the viewing time, you need to take down the number of the 'lots' you are interested in and write a little description to remind you, alternatively you could take a picture with your phone, just make sure the number is visible. Most auction businesses also have a printed list of every lot on offer, or you can often download it from their websites. This can be really helpful, especially if you are after a lot of things.

 If you're like me this whole viewing process can be very exciting, but now is the first time when you really need a cool head, remember check and double check. Oh and just a heads up, wear comfortable casual, even old clothes, to viewing day so you're not worried about getting dirty. Some places are so packed in you'll be brushing up against all sorts of cobwebs and grime. I always like to have some wipes or antiseptic gel with me too, so I can clean my hands after.


Many auction businesses now have websites, like the ones I regularly attend here and here . Some have photos of the lots they are selling. Often the photos will be the best quality things and those that will attract the most interest. If there is nothing on their websites that appeals, or that you think might be in your price range, don't despair, they probably put up less than a third of their items. All the things I love are seldom pictured on the websites.

Next week I'll talk about registering as a bidder at auction. I hope you get to go to an auction viewing day soon. Lisa xx


  1. Thanks for this info Lisa, I've always been curious how it all works & never felt knowledgeable enough to participate. Glad you are doing something you obviously love. Love the blog btw :)

    1. Glad you like the blog Lisa and I'm glad you got something out of that post. Thanks :)