Parking is often at a premium, you will want to be able to pick and choose your parking spots, this will make loading easier. Also, it is not at all uncommon for neighbors at an estate auction to call in the police for people parking on the edge of their lawns. You don't want to be one of these people.
Arriving early also allows you the ability to really take a good look at the items before you bid. We in the auction industry, usually call this a “preview”. If you arrive just before the start of the auction, you will be competing against a much larger crowd for access to inspect key items. This extra time also provides you with some extra time to pull out your smart phone and do some all-important research before bidding.
Get a Bidder Number.
At every auction I have attended, a bidder number was required to bid. Usually, there is a dedicated group of cashiers with whom you check in with first. You don't want to miss your item, because the auctioneer did not accept your bid because you had failed to obtain a bidder's number. This is another reason to arrive early, it stinks waiting in a long line just to get registered, you may even miss the first few items of the auction.
Know the Terms.
Auctioneer's generally post their terms in print ahead of the sale in their advertisements. But, just about any time you read the small print, you will see a clause similar to “Announcements made by Auctioneer just prior to the sale trump any other declarations and will take precedence.” These announcements usually take place just a minute or two before the first item sells. Things may have changed from the time the ads were placed and the sale day, do not make assumptions.
This is extremely important on big-ticket items like real-estate. Often, all sorts of stipulations can be attached and it's necessary for you to know what's going on, exactly.
Don't be Shy!
Auctions are often, chaotic, noisy and crowded. It's quite easy for novice bidders to get confused at what item is actually being sold and how much the current bid is up to. The auctioneer wants to keep the pace of the auction going at a clip, but even more important to them is NOT MISSING YOUR BID. Don't be shy to waive your hands, ask for a pause, and seek clear confirmation on what's going on. The auctioneer will always prefer you to briefly halt the auction and seek clarity before the hammer is dropped, as opposed to having to deal with an awkward situation after the fact.
Wait A Little to Bid.
You don't want to raise your hand to bid as soon as an item as soon as it is presented.
Auctioneers often follow this pattern on when auctioning an item. They start the bidding high, sometimes unrealistically high on an item. Then they gradually reduce the opening bid in increments until someone raises their hand or paddle to bid.
Something like this for an item that may end up selling for $50.00...
Do I hear $100, Do I hear $100 for this xxx?
I need $100, who will give me $100?
Okay, how about $75, do I hear $75?
$50, I need $50.
This will continue down until somebody raises their hand. Even if your willing to pay the $50, wait until the price drops down to a relatively low number before jumping in. If it were me, I'd probably raise my hand at $20 or so.
Advanced Tip: Don't let the opening bid drop to an embarrassingly low amount. The auctioneer may be inclined to just yell out “PASS” and continue on to the next item. It is their job to get the most money for their clients and instead of selling an item for a ridiculously low amount, they may elect to rather not sell that item altogether. This is definitely a means of gaining the attention of the crowd. This generally happens more at the start and near the of the auction.
Lastly, Come Prepared.
If you have a truck or trailer available, bring it! Even if your not planning on making any larger purchases, you just never know and will kick yourself later. Also, don't forget boxes, blankets, and perhaps most importantly for outdoor estate auctions... a comfortable chair!
We hope you have fun at your next auction!