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  • Tammy Miller

What to expect when the contents of a home sold at auction are also up for bid


In many cases, when the accelerated marketing method and selling a home at auction is used, the owner will opt to have the contents of their home sold at auction as well. This choice has implications for both the seller and the buyer and we'd like to take a moment to walk you through them.

When the seller opts to divest of their possessions through auction, they will incur added costs. Typically, the auctioneer will send in staff to organize the contents into appropriate "lots" for bid. Lots are typically put together in such a way that something the auctioneer believes will be highly prized and sell for a good amount is grouped with other items that are less likely to sell. This is a purposeful and carefully thought out technique that is designed to help the seller empty the house of all possessions. Buyers, through auction etiquette, take everything they purchase with them and anything left over is the responsibility of the owner to deal with. Don't worry if you think this will make an item less likely to sell ... especially if the majority of your possessions are in good condition. Most auction bidders understand the grouping and are often happy to have the lot delivered to their seat as is. But we digress. The cost of the auctioneer helping with this step of auction prep is typically recovered by the auctioneer by charging the seller a percentage of the income realized by selling the household items.

In addition to financial cost, the auctioneer may ask you to include in the household items you put up for sell possessions that have some value. Thus, there may be an emotional cost to your sale. It would be counterproductive for a seller to withdraw all possessions that have value (for example family antiques, vintage collectibles, limited edition books, and hand-crafted furniture) and leave behind only those that don't (for example box store furniture, miscellaneous and small kitchen utensils, and paperback books). If, as a seller, you know you don't want to include those precious, high-quality possessions, you would be better off clearing out your home by donating to local thrift shops than you would be holding an auction for household possessions.

One last note regarding the emotional cost of selling your household items. Unlike selling your home, which is without doubt an investment to the bidders and the final selling cost will reflect that investment, when bidders purchase your possessions, they are looking for a deal. Even precious, antique collectibles are subject to these terms. Although there are sometimes bidding wars for unique items, household possessions typically auction off at below retail value. Please talk to your auctioneer about these considerations prior to the auction. If an item is particularly precious, it is possible to set a minimum bid for it ... but be advised having multiple items up with this restrictions is often a disincentive for potential bidders and may reduce the size of the crowd that shows up to buy. It is important that you make some logical decisions about how you want to deal with these items. Once items or sold, they cannot be recovered, no matter how pained you are by the final value they brought in. A good quality auctioneer will give you guidance on how to proceed.

Just as there are costs for the seller, there are also considerations for the bidders. Some bidders who hope to be the high bid for the home itself, would also like to retain some or all of its furnishings. If bidders ask for a walk-through prior to auction day, it's helpful to have this conversation with them at that time. Knowing what the expectations are, the auctioneer can craft the household auction in such a way that those present to bid on the property itself are alerted when household items they would like to purchase come up for bid. For example, it is common for someone bidding on the property to also want to bid on appliances, unique furniture crafted specifically for the house (such as a breakfast nook), and out buildings that might otherwise be sold during the household auction. If the auctioneer is aware the bidder would like to purchase these items, they will typically hold the sale of the items until after the property itself has sold -- thus affording the new owner the opportunity to bid on them.

Which brings up the final consideration for bidders as they relate to the sale of household items. If both the home and its contents are to be sold at auction, the auctioneer will typically sell the property at an advertised time ... for example, noon on the day of the sale or the evening prior to the sale of the household items. If you wish to purchase both the home and some of its contents, it's important to pay attention to the auctioneer's advertising or to check in with them regarding the timing of both sales.

If you are considering selling your home (and possibly its contents) using the accelerated marketing method, please contact us. We'd love to discuss the possibilities with you.


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