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What are Auction Sales?

Tess C. Taylor
Tess C. Taylor

Auction sales are events whereby personal or commercial property and merchandise are sold at the highest price to bidders who place monetary offers on the items. Auction sales can take many forms from selling wholesale merchandise on an online auction site to holding an auction at a particular location to sell off unwanted belongings or settle debts. Some auction sales are conducted remotely by unseen bidders via the computer or telephone while other auctions sales are live and bidders place their bids in person in a fast-paced fashion.

Auction sales generally use similar formats, in that property is presented as available for viewing and purchase to others. The property can be anything from personal or household belongings to vehicles, real estate and promised goods or services. Many times, auctions are good ways for buyers to find bargains on the items they most want and make purchases that are far below current market value.

Online auctions are conducted entirely online using the Internet.
Online auctions are conducted entirely online using the Internet.

In some cases sales for merchandise, real estate and online car auctions are conducted entirely online using the Internet or some form of auction software on a computer. The auction software includes a means to list pictures and descriptions of the items for sale, keep track of bids placed by interested parties and a timer which counts down to the end of each auction listing. Once the highest bid is placed at the very end of the auction sale, the winning bidder makes payment to the seller and the item is released or shipped to the winning buyer.

Livestock auctions are common in rural communities.
Livestock auctions are common in rural communities.

In many cases, auction sales are held in person such as with public auto auctions, tax or estate sales. The announcer of the auction, called the auctioneer, presents each item available for sale to the interested parties then conducts a verbal promotion of the item to obtain the highest bid from the crowd of bidders. This can often be a very fast-paced and loud banter, but it’s the way traditional auction sales have been conducted for centuries.

Auction sales are frequently advertised in local newspapers.
Auction sales are frequently advertised in local newspapers.

An auction sale provides the owner of property the opportunity to offer items to a multitude of buyers with the hopes of obtaining the highest selling price. Once the items are sold, buyers are obligated by legal guidelines and ethical behavior to purchase the items for the price that they decided in the bidding process. An auction is a straightforward means for sellers to get the most financial return for the property being sold.

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Discussion Comments


@Sunny27 - I saw this show in which people went to auctions for abandoned storage units. They only were able to inspect the unit for a few minutes before it was auctioned off.

It was really fascinating because one man bought a storage unit for $2000 and it ended up being worth over $7,000. They say that they bid on a lot of units and the profitable units more than make up for the duds.


@Comfyshoes - I also wanted to say that many people that go to these auctions are professional investors that have the money to finance their real estate investments.

I also think that bank auctions may have some bid shilling even though it is illegal. Bid shilling is when the price is artificially bid up in order for the auction house and the bank to get more money.

It is hard to prove but I always wonder how much of this goes on. I think that auctions are fun to watch but I don’t know if I have the nerve to go to one.

They have them all the time now and it is a great way for the bank to liquidate its real estate inventory.


@GreenWeaver -I have been to foreclosure auction sale for homes and I have to say that the nice thing about a bank owned foreclosure auction is the clear title.

In these bank owned auctions the banks clear the titles of these properties and have paid all liens associated with the property which is one less thing that you will have to worry about.

In addition, these properties are vacant so you won’t have to worry about evicting someone.

By contrast with a judicial auction that is auctioned at the courthouse steps you do have to worry about liens and possible evictions. There was a story that I read about in my local paper about a man that bought a house for $20,000 below market at a judicial auction but it had $60,000 in liens that he had to take care of.

I think that these types of foreclosure auctions can yield great deals but they are not without its risks.


I went to an auction like this once -- at the time I was looking for an oceanfront condo and when I made an offer I found out from our realtor that the property was going to go to auction.

So I had to register for the auction online and bring the $5,000 deposit with me in order to bid for the property at the auction. Luckily it was the tenth item to be auctioned off and my husband and I had a sales figure in mind that we stuck to because we also had to figure that there was a buyer’s premium assigned to the sale of the property that was an additional 5% of the selling price.

The bidding goes so fast and you are so emotional that you have to be careful. I was able to get the condo that I wanted and there were banks offering financing as well.

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    • Online auctions are conducted entirely online using the Internet.
      By: Ana Blazic Pavlovic
      Online auctions are conducted entirely online using the Internet.
    • Livestock auctions are common in rural communities.
      By: caspernhdk
      Livestock auctions are common in rural communities.
    • Auction sales are frequently advertised in local newspapers.
      By: Kurhan
      Auction sales are frequently advertised in local newspapers.