Get good deals and thrills at estate auctions

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Home Improvement Tips, Old House Musings, Old Houses

Since I moved from my old Victorian to a much newer 1950’s Rambler, I have found things I love about the new place and things I miss about the old place. One of the things I love lately is all the space in my new home. Rather than many tiny rooms that are a challenge to furnish, I have large, open spaces that lend themselves to whatever style I might choose. On the other hand, I miss the creaky hardwood floors and tall, stately windows that graced my Victorian treasure.

One of the surprising things I miss about my older house becomes clearer as the springtime nears — I miss the auctions.

An estate auction. Image credit: Continential Auctioneers School

Auctions lead to big scores

Estate auctions can be an absolute thrill. They are fast-paced, full of discovery and best of all, everything is cheap. It’s the place where you can find the right kind of furnishing or accent for your house at a price that would be ridiculously low anywhere else.

Over the years I have honed my auction skills. Here are a few tips for the uninitiated:

  1. Get there early. Walk through the doors in plenty of time to look at all the goodies and pick out what you really want. If you don’t see something that strikes your fancy, getting there early means you can head to another auction to try your luck.
  2. Get good measurements. Before you leave your house, measure the rooms, doors, windows and any other space that might matter if make a perfect find at an auction. You don’t want to let those beautiful replacement windows go just because you don’t know if they will fit.
  3. Have a budget. In fact, go a bit further than that. Choose how much you will spend and if you worry that you will go over your limit, pull that amount of cash from the ATM before you go. Once your cash is gone, you’re done.
  4. Have a plan to move it. Maybe that gorgeous hardwood flooring is perfect, and right within your budget, but how will you get it home? You’re going to need a truck. How about that delicate lamp that you had to have? You’re going to need a box and bubble wrap to transport it safely.
  5. Do your homework. How much is that armoire really worth? Is that really a good deal on those kitchen cabinet doors? Before you lift your bid paddle, make sure that your choice is financially smart.
  6. Prepare for the little things. Estate auctions are often held on front porches, front yards, in warehouses and barns. Some have concession stands; some don’t. Bring your own snacks, bottled water and a fan to keep cool. If the auction is to be held outside, dress in light clothing and bring a hat, sunscreen and lawn chairs. You won’t want to leave when the bidding gets heated, so make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Think auctions are just for those with old houses? Think again. I am planning to attend several spring auctions in the hope of finding the perfect bookcases for my small library, and I am keeping my eye out for a new silverware set. The true fun of auctions is finding that perfect piece you never knew you wanted — and getting it for a sweet price.