10 Tips for Bidding in Online Auctions

Is it safe to bid in online auctions?

The popularity of online auctions has increased in recent years. With traditional auction houses such as Phillips, Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonham exploring this area further, expect them to grow further.

Growing in tandem with online auctions are new online bidders such as first-time buyers and millennials who have responded to the many benefits they bring.

However, with any new alternative to buying online, questions have been asked about how they work and what bidders need to do.

To help new and existing bidders, we created this guide to help you have the best auction experience you can.

Online Auction Bidding Guide

Before you bid in an online auction, it’s necessary that you’re prepared for what may happen.

To avoid any hidden or vague surprises, check out these top 10 tips and take your auction experience to the next level!

1) Read the T&C’s

Tips for buying in online auctions - read the terms and conditions

No auction house is the same. They have their own terms and conditions which you need to be aware of. The reason why is because you’re committing to them once you bid or register in their auction.

There have been many instances where a failure to read the terms and conditions have resulted in problems for bidders, so it’s vital that you look at them to see how they will affect you.

At William George, you can clearly find the T&C's attached to the auction. It's usually located at the top of the page.

2) Research The Lots That You Like

Tips for buying in online auctions - research the lots you like

If you find a lot you like, it’s important to conduct some research. The aim should be to understand how much it’s worth and this will influence the bidding strategy you want to use.

In the lot's description, you'll find key information such as the year it was made, the materials used to create it, its origin and more. This information will be enough to build a picture of the relevance or significance of the item. 

Once you have an idea about how much you want to pay, you can factor this into your budget as you will need to take other considerations into account. 

3) Review The Payment Terms

Tips for buying in online auctions - review the payment terms

Mentioned in the Terms and Conditions, or important information, are the payment terms for the auction.

There will be deadlines for payments and also the premiums and taxes that you will need to pay. 

It’s important to understand these payment terms because you can understand when the auction house will request payment and this will give you time to ensure the necessary funds are available.

At William George, our payment terms can be found in the important information.

4) Set Yourself a Budget

How to budget in an online auction

Online auctions can provide a massive thrill and it can lead bidders to get 'lost in the moment' and bid more than they would like to on a lot. 

To avoid this, there are platforms, such as the ones we use, which let you set a maximum bid and this becomes your ceiling.

When you calculate your maximum bid, take into account any premiums and taxes as this will ultimately increase the final price. 

The terms that you need to look for are 'Buyer's Premium' and 'Sales Tax'. 

  • Buyer's Premium - applied to the winning bid. It's usually in the form of a percentage and is applied to the price of the winning bid. 
  • Sales Tax - tax applied to the winning bid. This is added to the hammer price (the highest bid).

If that feature is not there, it's important to stick to your budget and not get carried away in a bidding war.

Only bid what you're willing to pay. 

5) Check the Accuracy of the Images & Description

online auction tips - check the accuracy of lots

There may be a time where the description and image of the lot do not correspond. Before you consider bidding on the lot, scrutinise the description and check the images match.

It's not advised to bid on a lot if you're not 100% sure of what you're bidding on.

If you have questions or fears, it’s imperative that you speak to the auction house for clarification. They will relay your question to the vendor who can answer.

At William George, you can find an 'Ask a Question' feature which is available on all lots. This will allow you to express any concerns you may have. Your question will be presented to the vendor who will respond.

6) Look at The Competition

online auction tips - how to scope out competition

During an auction, you will come across a variety of bidders who will join in at different times.

This is normal and forms part of the varying bidding strategies adopted by online bidders. 

It’s beneficial to gain an understanding of how the competition for the lot evolves because it highlights the interest in the lot. 

It's advised to not bid heavily at the start because it may lead to you being outbid by someone else and pricing yourself out.

7) Monitor the Bid Increments

auction tips - how to monitor bidding increments

The auction house can set their own increments for a lot which can spiral quite quickly as the bids progress through the price bands.

It’s important to monitor the increments so you’re well aware of how much the price is rising by. 

At William George, you'll be made aware of the next minimum bid and this will allow you to decide if you want yo raise your current bid.

8) Narrow Your Interests

online auction tips - how to narrow your interests

Each catalogue will contain an array of lots which you may find appealing.

By understanding what you really want, you can set aside those lots for further research.

Spreading your interests across several lots may be hard to manage and this can become overwhelming.

At William George, you can wish list items and this will help you to narrow your interest and set those lots aside for further research.

9) Keep an Eye on the Deadline

online auction tips - don't miss out on lots

Online auctions such as timed-online auctions can last over a period of time from a few hours to a few days.

This flexibility has made it common for bidders to drop in and out of an auction.

This unknowability can present a fascinating challenge for a bidder. 

For those wishing to periodically engage with the auction, it's important to make sure you know when the lot closes, so you don't end up missing out!

10) Is it Fake?

online auction tips - how to avoid buying fake products

Online auctions can present a massive breeding ground for fraudulent activity. 

Luxury items such as jewellery, watches and handbags are known to circulate and there are things you can do to avoid being caught out. 

Scrutinising the images and making note of serial numbers and trademarks can highlight the authenticity of a lot.

To help online bidders, we create guides to help you spot fakes and not have your auction experience ruined.

We have numerous guides on fake items such as luxury watches. check it out here: Fake Watch Guide Part 1 (2019).

Final Words

At William George, we want all online bidders to bid with confidence whether it's with us or someone else.

Online auctions can be a fantastic alternative to online buying and there are fantastic deals and lots out there to be found.

With these tips, you'll be able to take your auction experience to the next level as you'll be bidding but armed with relevant and important information by your side.

If you're ready to embark on your auction experience then take a look at what we have on offer and Bid, Win and Love today!

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