What Price Can I Expect From An Auction?


Almost in every instance when I discuss an auction with a perspective client, the infamous $64,000 question is always asked, “What do you think it will bring at auction?” In a lot of cases, that question is followed by, “I paid $xxx for it when I bought it,” as if that will somehow effect the price at auction.

Have you ever been to an auction when someone asked during the bidding process, “How much did the seller pay for it.” I don’t think so. There are certain “rules or understanding” that must be understood or observed when it come to an auction. One of those rules is that “nobody cares what you paid for your things whether it is personal property or real estate.” While those words may be harsh, they are true.

Along with this train of thought, nobody cares what “you” think your things are worth. They care what “they” thing they are worth. I have seen items at auction sell for a lot more than I thought they would. On the other hand, I have seen items sell for less than I thought they would bring at auction. Remember the old saying, “One man’s junk is another man’s riches”? I have found that to be true in many cases.

An auctioneer friend told me that some of his clients would say something like, “I saw the same thing sell on EBay for $xxx.” Or I saw on TV, the Antiques Road Show, that this thing is worth $xxx,”  when in all probability, it wasn’t the exact same thing.

About two years ago, we were preparing a home and personal property for auction in Wake Forest when I came across a nice incomplete set of china plates, platters, and tea cups, etc. I went online and found the same items. The prices were much higher than I expected for this pattern. I also found a company in Greensboro www.replacements.com   that would buy them in bulk. I mentioned this to the sellers and they said to sell them to this company as they were afraid the pieces might get split up at auction.

I had my son take these items to the company in Greensboro. However, upon close inspection by this company, we received only about 40% of the price we expected because of some “slight” imperfection in many of these pieces. You see how easy it is for someone to say. “I saw it online for $xxx,” when in all probability, it was not the same thing.

And finally, nobody cares how much money you (the seller) needs. I think I mentioned this before in a previous article but it bears repeating. I received a phone call from a lady that wanted to sell her home. I asked her what she thought the home was worth. She gave me a figure. I then asked her what she was willing to take for the home. She gave me a figure that was about $25,000 above what she had just told me the home was worth. Taking a deep breath, I then asked her how she expected to receive this figure in a sale if the home was worth $25,000 less than what she was asking. She told me she needed the money to pay off other bills. End of conversation.

When attending an auction and in other sale situations, the value of your property is what a “ready, willing and able buyer” sees as value, not what you as the seller, think it is worth. While we can give you a professional opinion, it is the buyer(s) who determine value.

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