While Facebook Marketplace is my go-to for secondhand shopping, I still actively watch and participate in auctions around the country.
My go-to auction website is Live Auctioneers. They’re essentially the umbrella site of international auction houses. I set up alerts for specific things I’m looking for and although their daily notifications often flood my inbox, it’s a great feature they offer if you happen to be hunting for specific items.
I recommend setting up an account and browsing different categories to get a feel of their website. I also recommend downloading their app. LiveAuctioneers’ website has an overview of how auctions work.
Once you’ve browsed and found item(s) you want to bid on and hopefully win, here are the steps to take:
1 // MAKE SURE TO “FAVORITE” THE ITEM
Once you’ve created an account, you can “like” items. I have a bunch of favorited items that I’m either serious about bidding on or I’m just curious to see what they will sell for. You can find them under “My Items”
2// ASK FOR A CONDITION REPORT
You can ask the auction house for a condition report on any of their items. You can do so by clicking “ASK A QUESTION” on the same page as the item you’re interested in.
Someone from the auction house will then send some additional information and photos about the item, and disclose whether there is any damage or things to be aware of. Try to ask for a condition report at least a few days before the auction.
3// CHECK MEASUREMENTS (AT LEAST TWICE)
Measure a few times just to be sure. It won’t be a good feeling if you win your dream sofa and realize it can’t fit through your door!
4 // REGISTER TO BID
You have to have a credit card on file in order to register to bid. Don’t worry, you won’t be charged unless you win an item you’re bidding on.
5// SET REMINDERS & NOTIFICATIONS
Live Auctioneers sends me a text message when an item I’m watching is 10 lots away from live bidding.
If I’m going to bid on it, I’ll log in on my computer and bid there in the live auction.
If I know I’ll get too emotionally wrapped up in bidding, I usually set my best and highest offer before the auction begins so if the item sells for lower than my highest bid, I automatically win.
6 // IF THE ITEM ISN’T LOCAL TO YOU, GET QUOTES FROM SHIPPERS
uShip is my go-to. Try to get a few quotes from multiple shippers before settling for someone, and don’t forget to check reviews. I personally wouldn’t use someone with less than 4.7 stars.
Some auction houses have a list of recommended shippers. I recommend messaging the auction house and asking for that.
7// SEE WHAT SIMILAR ITEMS HAVE SOLD FOR RECENTLY
Search for similar items and make sure “Price Results” is selected. To get a gauge on what the item you’re looking at may sell for, I’d only pay attention to items that sold within the last year
8 // BE AWARE OF AUCTION FEES
Be aware of the Buyer’s Premium and taxes (taxes will vary depending on the state the auction house is located in). Buyer’s Premium is whatever the price an item sells for PLUS x% on top of that final price. So if something sells for $100. and there’s a 28% Buyers Premium, that’s $128 (then add tax).
Then of course the fee if you plan to ship. Shipping fees will vary depending mostly on distance needed to travel and item size.
9// CHECK THE PICKUP WINDOW
If you do win something, there’s a limited time frame to pickup, so make sure you check the pickup day(s) and time(s) to make sure you’ll be able to make it (or your shipper is aware)
10// DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP
The most important tip of all (and really this applies to all online secondhand shopping) is to not get your hopes up, especially if you are after something that has a lot of eyes on it.
Live Auctioneers has a fire symbol next to a highly watched item. I never get my hopes up for those items because chances are, you’ll be bidding against tons of other people who may have higher budgets (i.e. resellers).
I bid and lost out on at least 15-20 Louis XVI-style chests before I won this one in Texas and had it shipped to me.
More about how I did that in this post
I share more tips on how to shop auctions and a list of my favorite auction houses in my Secondhand Shopping e-book!