Friday, October 9, 2015

Commission Auctions and Estate Auctions

estate auction
Photo: Peter H├Ąger

Auction Night is Date Night

My husband, Charles, and I like to go to auctions. Actually, auctions take the place of date night with us.

This is a fairly recent event, since we didn’t start going to them until about four years ago.

We had both always believed that it was dangerous. You never knew if you were bidding when you scratched your nose or ear, we thought.

Our son-in-law was raised going to auctions and often told stories of things he and his mom would find to stock her store with. Charles and I were interested, but again, we believed, based on one event many years before that it would be financial suicide to go (when I bought something for $10 when I thought I was bidding $1—not a big deal, I know, but at the time, that $10 needed to go for baby formula).

About four years ago, our son told us of a local commission auction and the furniture he had purchased. He also bought some boxed end lots, took out what he wanted, then later returned to the auction with the left-overs and made almost all his money back through the sale.

We don’t go out to movies—among other things, it costs too much. We don’t go to fancy restaurants—neither of us wants to. But we did need something to do that we could do together—without spending too much. We decided on a whim to go to an auction and see how it went.

I'll See You in the Corner of the Basement:
Tips and tricks for going to estate sales

(A Kindle Book)

We were hooked. For about four years, we went twice a week. We seldom spent much, if anything, but we met new people, got out of the house, and had some fun together.

In February, we moved to Oklahoma. In our area, there are not as many local auctions as we were used to in Missouri. It took a while to find them, too, but we usually get out to at least one per week.

When money gets tight, we round up stuff we don’t use and don’t need anymore and take it to auction to help with bills. It is much easier than having a yard sale, since someone else sells it for you. Sometimes your items get about what you would have at a yard sale, sometimes they get a lot more for it than you would have asked, and sometimes they group stuff together and let it go for a ridiculously low amount. We probably make about as much as we would at a yard sale, overall, but we don’t have near the amount of work involved. That alone makes it a big plus for us.

Mostly, auctions give a place to go to that doesn’t cost us much if  anything to have a bit of fun. We get to see a lot of vintage items, talk to people we otherwise would not get to meet, and occasionally get a good deal on something we need. The auction we attend most has farm fresh eggs almost every week, and they usually go at a price lower than the grocery store, so we often buy our eggs there.

There is always a food vendor there, so if we decide we want a burger and fries, we can eat there, but usually we just wait until after the auction and have a sandwich at home.

Need furniture and don’t have much money? Go to an auction. Early last year, we found a Flexsteel hide-a-bed sofa in excellent condition for $50. We sold the non-hide-a-bed sofa we had to make room for it at a later auction and got $35, so the Flexsteel sofa’s net cost was $15. Since we don’t have a guest room or extra bed, this was a good deal for us for when our daughter and her family came to stay a few days over the holidays.

You do have to be careful at auction. Before bidding on something, make sure you check it closely for hidden damage. If you find damage later, the item still belongs to you. And before bidding, you should know what you are willing to spend on an item. Otherwise, you may get caught up in a bidding war and pay much, much more than you intended.

Keep an eye on your bid wins. It is a shame to have to say this, but there are dishonest people out there. The auction house is not responsible for your item if someone takes it. You still have to pay for it, even if it is stolen.

Some auction houses will allow you to leave heavy items such as furniture for a day or so. Most we have attended have a rule that if the item is not picked up before the next auction, they will reclaim the item and sell it. You do not get the proceeds of that sale and you don’t get your money back. If you can’t take an item home that night, be sure to make arrangements with the auctioneer to pick it up the next day or so, and be sure to pick it up when you say you will.

Attending auctions can be fun, can be lucrative, if you buy things that you can resell for more, and can be educational.

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