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Auction Etiquette: What To Do At An Auction? - Clive Emson

Bidders hold their paddles to bid in an auction. An auctioneer stands at the front with a gavelWe’ve been a successful property and land auctioneer for over 30 years. In that time, we’ve seen countless bidders come and go — experienced and first-time. 

We’ve come to realise that not everyone knows their ‘auction etiquette’. That is, what to do and what not to do during an auction. Not all bidders come into an auction prepared for what to expect, but we’re here to change that.

Read on to learn the best practices for online (and in-person) property & land auctions.

1. Timing is everything 

It is always advisable to be on time (if not early) for auctions. If in person, get yourself a good seat in the auction venue and, if online, get yourself settled in a comfortable position at home, make sure your laptop is plugged in, and that you have a suitable Wi-Fi connection. It is also a good idea to regularly refresh the webpage throughout the auction process to make sure no internet outage-related issues affect your ability to bid successfully.

Often, before auctions, auctioneers will announce any important changes to the Lots listed (usually in the form of an Addendum). Turning up early and reading over any important documents will stand you in the best stead for making informed decisions during the auction

A gavel and a microphone sit on the table at an auction

2. Get familiar with fees 

It’s essential to know exactly what you’ll need to pay if you buy a property or piece of land at auction before you go into it, so you can be well prepared.  One of the most common auction errors is bidders getting confused between guide price and reserve price. While we have a whole other blog dedicated to unpacking this topic that you can read here, in summary:

  • Reserve price is the minimum acceptable price for a piece of land or property, as identified by the seller. The auctioneer cannot legally sell a Lot for lower than this price. The reserve price is not disclosed to the bidders or the general public at all and is kept confidential between the seller and the auctioneer.
  • The Guide price is the range in which the reserve price should fall. This is a general recommendation for sellers and auctioneers to use for a realistic valuation of the property or land being sold. The guide price can also take the form of a single figure within 10% of the reserve price. 
There will, of course, be other fees to pay as well if you are successful in your bidding. These include:

  • A deposit 
  • An administration fee added to the sale price (this includes VAT).
  • Other additional fees. These may vary depending on lot type. 
  • Stamp Duty 
  • Land registry fees
So you don't get caught out, we advise that you read the relevant legal documentation (or ‘legal pack’) for each Lot you are interested in. You can register to read the legal information for our Lots here.

3. Know your limits

When you’re in the heat of the auction, it is easy to get carried away or caught up in a bidding war. However, and we can’t emphasise this enough, it is crucial to keep a clear head when waving your paddle around or (if online) clicking ‘bid’. 

If you set yourself a budget before you go into the auction, you are much more likely to stick with it and not overspend. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t realise that if they’re the highest bidder when the (electronic) gavel falls, they now legally have to buy that property. 

A good way of staying in control of your money is by setting bid limits. This is one of the benefits of online auctions. Before the auction begins, you can enter the maximum amount you are willing to pay and let the automatic bidding tool bid for you. These bids will be placed incrementally to ensure that you remain the highest bidder until (of course) your maximum bid is reached. 

4. Pay attention 

If you’re new to them, auctions can seem chaotic. For one, they’re fast-paced and, for two, there is a lot of information being shared and multiple processes going on at any one time. This is why it's really important to stay vigilant and focused. Being at home and taking part in an online auction gives bidders a huge advantage, as they are able to access a screen with all of the important information on it.

Clive Emson’s auction page shows bidders the following:

  • A handy countdown timer to show you how long is left until the bidding for a certain Lot ends
    • The current bid price (that constantly changes as the bidding process develops)
    • An indication of whether the reserve price has been met
  • Alerts when you get outbid
You can use these alerts and dashboard notifications as strategic tools to help you get in the best position possible when the auction is ongoing.

A person celebrates online auction success

5. Don’t be disheartened 

It is easy to get disheartened during the bidding process. The luck of the draw might not always go your way. However, the opportunity to purchase land and property doesn’t end when the auction ends. If a lot isn’t sold, there is usually the opportunity to make an offer afterwards. 

If there’s a property you are particularly interested in, be sure to register your interest with the auctioneer first and then stick around after the auction ends to discuss potential outcomes.

6. Bid properly

Please note: this point is particularly important when attending physical auction houses. When the time comes for you to bid, make sure you aren’t discreet about it. Use something like a paddle (some auction houses provide these) or a piece of paper to signal when you want to place a bid. The less confusion, the better.

If you aren’t able to bid for on the day, don't worry. Proxy bidding is very acceptable. But there are certain procedures you need to follow first in order for proxy bids to be valid. The name of the person bidding for you will need to be registered before the auction takes place (in the same process as an individual bid registration is carried out). Alongside the valid forms of ID required, a letter of authority from you will be needed, authorising them to bid on your behalf.

Speak to Clive Emson today

If you have any other questions about the auction process, get in touch with our team of experts today. In the meantime, you can view our current auction here and browse through any unsold Lots that might take your fancy here

About the Author

Sam Kinloch

Sam Kinloch

Director & Senior Auction Appraiser

Sam’s career in the dizzy world of property auctions began when he hung up his chainsaw and headed in from the forest. Joining the team in 2003 Sam now sits on the Board of Directors and has been instrumental in the adoption of online auction services.
Out of the office you can find him flying around the velodrome or sipping coffee at a local café.

01273 504232

07968 780714

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