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How to win at auction

Ben Smith
Ben Smith

Whether you’re new to the auction process or an old hand, here are our top tips on how to secure a winning bid…

Look for a bit of history

Used doesn’t mean broken. There are plenty of pre-loved items out there that are like new and people who only want brand new goods, but honestly if it’s utilitarian product, what does it matter?!

Then of course there are items which might benefit from a bit of history; a nice bit of furniture with a story or some shelving with a naturally distressed look. It’s all a talking point. If it’s got the word used in the description, don’t discount it, because other people may and that could give you the edge in an auction.

Fix it up

Be prepared to put some work into your purchase. If you’re handy with a spanner, or know your way round a soldering iron, you might be able to buy a doer-upper.

Let’s face it, most people these days don’t know a hammer from an adjustable wrench, so they are going to pass up on the chance to buy anything needing time spending on it.

There are plenty of lots out there, especially returns, that are listed as not working or to be sold as spares.

If you know what you’re doing or you’re happy to follow one of the many brilliant explainer videos on YouTube, then go for it, take the plunge. Not only are you more likely to win that bid, but you’re doing the planet a solid and saving on waste.

Do your research

Have a look around, see what’s up for grabs, and take note – don’t just bid on the first thing you spot. If you’re looking for something specific then doubtless you’ve already done a bit of that but if you’ve got a wallet stuffed full of new-found wealth, just whispering in your ear to “spend me, spend me baby”, then you might be tempted to gamble a bid on the first thing you spot but it’s always good to take your time looking for the right product. Keep an eye on auction closing dates and times and sign up to our mailing list so you’re at the front of the queue when an auction opens.

You should also know if the item you’re bidding on has reserve price or not. If it has a reserve on it, the item will only sell if someone matches that bid or places one that is higher. Those lots which have no reserve at all will sell to the maximum bid, whatever that bid is. If it has a reserve price, and you’re bidding on something at William George, this will be blind – this means you the buyer will not know what that reserve is. There will be a guide price to give you an idea of what you might expect to pay.

Look out for duplicates

Sometime when viewing auctions you’ll notice there are repeated lots. Clearly not on one-offs such as art or jewellery, but if you’re in the market for some household goods, then you could be in luck. Keep a close eye on these – if there’s more than one of the same thing it stands to reason that you’re in with a better chance of winning it.

Watch the clock

If it’s an extended auction, take note of the closing date and time then mark it in your diary if you have to, put a note in your phone but whatever you do, don’t miss out on that rare art print because you forgot the sale was ending.

If you've registered for the auction though we'll send you a reminder anyway!

And remember, an auction will automatically extend by 10 minutes if someone places a new maximum bid in the dying moments so don’t worry about someone trying to swoop in and snatch it from your fingers. You’ll still have time to raise your bid.

Watch the price rises

As you become more accustomed to the auction process, you’ll start to notice at what time bidders join an auction or place their bids. Watch this closely so you can gauge the competition. You should also keep an eye on the increments – the amount the price is going up by each time and consider where you need, or are prepared, to increase your maximum bid.

Now you’re fully up to speed on how to win, take a look at what you could be bidding on now in our live auctions!