The Thrill of Buying at a Used Furniture Auction

First of all I must confess that my favorite place to buy  is at a used furniture auction.When visiting local auctions most include used furniture as well as smalls.  Smalls are glassware, pottery, and just about anything that can sit on a table or fit into a box.  Furniture auctions are fun but most of the ones I have seen lately have been going out of business sales.  And, of course the downside of furniture auctions is that everyone there is looking for furniture.

However, local auctions usually have used furniture mixed in with smalls and an assortment of other goodies.  For those who shop online — eBay in particular — and enjoy the thrill of a win, imagine being in a room full of people bidding in record time!

So, let’s get down to business.

Why Buy at a Used Furniture Auction?

Once you figure it out, you will get the best prices — the very best prices.  Think about it logically.  Many of the used furniture dealers buy at auction.  Almost all of the antique/collectible dealers shop at a used furniture auction.  In fact, if you have visited the antique malls mentioned earlier, chances are when you get to the auction you will see many of the same faces.

Here is the logic.  If the people who own the stores where you shop for used furniture are attending the same auction, you have as good an opportunity to purchase the used furniture as they do.  If you have the winning bid, you have cut out the middle man saving more than if you had purchased the same piece of used furniture in their store.  Plus, there is just the thrill of bidding on a good piece of used furniture and winning.

The bottom line is simple.  You are saving more and having fun doing it if you buy your used furniture at auction.

Do I Get to Look at the Furniture Up Close Before I Bid?

Yes, absolutely.  For example, if you know the auction is Tuesday night, the used furniture and other items will be in the auction house no later than Monday in most cases.  There are always stragglers, but most items will be in the auction house on Monday.  The auctioneer and his helpers will set up the arrangement on Tuesday before the furniture auction.

All auction houses open their doors the day of the auction for inspection.  Many local auctions don’t mind if you pop in during the week to take a look as the used furniture and other items are brought in.  When you inspect the used furniture depends on how much time you have.  I always like to go to inspect the used furniture while it is being placed.  It is easier to determine defects before the used furniture is placed for the sale.  By the time the auction starts, the used furniture — tables and chairs — will be covered with small items for sale.

What Should I Look for When Inspecting the Used Furniture to be Auctioned?

Look at everything and look for everything.  I pretty much covered what to look for when buying used furniture in the article about buying solid wood used furniture.  Of course, if you are looking for used patio furniture make inspection adjustments to suit wrought iron furniture or other non-wood solid furniture.

Determine How Much You Will Pay for any Used Furniture Item

After you have inspected the used furniture at the auction, decide exactly what you are willing to pay for it.  Carry a small note pad and write down the item number or description of each piece of used furniture you would like to bid on and put your top price beside the item number or name.

This is a very important step in buying used furniture successfully at auction.  Set your price and do not exceed it.

Can Anyone Bid at a Used Furniture Auction?

If the auction is a public auction, anyone can register and bid.

In some cases, antique or furniture auctions are for dealers only.  If you have a tax ID you can register and bid, or in some cases you can ask one of your new friends from the antique mall/collectible shops if you can attend an auction with them.  You may offer to pay the dealer 10% over the price of the winning bid if he will bid for you.  That is a good deal for both of you.  The dealer makes 10% without having to invest his money.  Because the dealer will use his tax ID you will not have to pay sales tax.  Of course, in some areas of the country tax rules do come into play, so know if it is okay or not.  But, let me just say that it is done everyday somewhere.  Or, you may consider getting a tax ID.  It is easy to do.

What Do I Do Once I Get to the Auction?

Assuming you have inspected the used furniture and know that you want to bid on a piece or two and you have set the price you are willing to pay, it is time to register.

Registration is easy.  All you have to do is to go to the auction window, give them a little information such as your name and maybe an address.  They will assign you a number.  At most local auctions you will get a little card with your number on it or you will be handed a large note card so you can write your number on it.  Write the number large and legibly.  You will hold it up for the auctioneer to see when you bid.

I Have Never Bid at a Live Auction.  What Should I Do?

If you have never been to a live auction for used furniture or anything else, watch for a while.  In fact, I would become familiar with the auctioneer’s voice and watch very carefully to how the bidding is done before getting started.  I usually suggest that a novice watch a couple of live auctions before bidding.

Watch those who bid as well as the auctioneer.  As with most things, you will become familiar with the process as you watch and listen.  When possible sit with someone who is experienced and is willing to tell you what is going on.  Sometimes you can find someone who is a seller at the auction.  He won’t be bidding, but in most cases people who attend local auctions are friendly and helpful.  Find one of those people and latch onto him or her.

I Am Ready to Bid.  What Do I Do?

Never make the first bid.  Usually the auctioneer will start off with a high price just to see if anyone will bite.  Wait until he settles into his rhythm and settles in on the lowest bids.  Be patient.  Notice if anyone is bidding every other bid.  If so, the bid will begin to run up.

When you are ready to bid, hold up your card with your number.  It will get the auctioneer’s attention.  Once you make a bid, even if someone else bids after you, the auctioneer will look back at you to see if you are going to bid again.  Remember the price limit you set for the piece of used furniture.  If the bidding exceeds your limit, look away or turn and walk away.  Never exceed what you have set as your limit.  You will not win every piece of used furniture you bid on.  But, there will always be more used furniture at the next auction.

What Happens If I Win the Bid?

If the auctioneer indicates that you have the winning bid, hold up your card with your number.  The auction tracker will take down your number and the price you bid.  When the auction is over go to the window, give them your number.  They will pull your tickets and give you a total.  Match your tickets to the items you purchased to make sure you have paid for everything and not paid for something you didn’t purchase.

Be prepared to pay in cashMost auctions do not like checks until they know you.  Some accept credit cards, but may charge you an additional fee if you use a card.

Be prepared to take the used furniture home with you that evening or make arrangements to pick it up the next morning.