How Do Real Estate Auctions Work?

Real estate auctions are a way of buying and selling properties through a competitive bidding process.

They can offer a fast and efficient way to find deals on various types of real estate, such as residential, commercial, farm, ranch, luxury, government and bank-owned properties.

Property Auction

However, they also come with some risks and challenges that buyers and sellers should be aware of before participating in an auction.

In this article, we will explain how real estate auctions work, what are the benefits and drawbacks of buying and selling at an auction, and what are some tips and best practices to prepare for a successful auction experience.

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Types of Real Estate Auctions

There are two main types of real estate auctions: live and online.

Live auctions are conducted in person at a specific location and time, where bidders can see the property and interact with the auctioneer and other participants.

Online auctions are conducted through a website or an app, where bidders can view the property details and photos, place bids, and monitor the bidding activity from anywhere in the world.

Live auctions can be further divided into two categories: absolute and reserve.

Absolute auctions are also known as no-reserve auctions, where the property is sold to the highest bidder regardless of the price.

Reserve auctions are also known as minimum-bid auctions, where the property is sold to the highest bidder only if the bid meets or exceeds a predetermined minimum price set by the seller.

Online auctions can also have different formats and rules depending on the platform and the type of property.

Some online auctions are open to anyone who registers and meets the eligibility criteria, while others are restricted to qualified or invited bidders only.

Some online auctions have a fixed start and end date and time, while others are open-ended or extended until no more bids are received within a certain time frame.

Some online auctions require a deposit or a credit card authorization to bid, while others do not.

Some online auctions allow bidders to set a maximum bid amount that will be automatically increased by increments until it is reached or outbid by another bidder, while others require bidders to manually enter each bid amount.

Benefits of Buying and Selling at an Auction

Buying and selling at an auction can have several benefits for both buyers and sellers. Some of the benefits are:

  1. Buyers can find properties that are not available on the traditional market, such as foreclosures, bank-owned properties, distressed properties, or properties that need to be sold quickly due to divorce, bankruptcy, relocation, or inheritance.
  2. Buyers can potentially buy properties at below-market prices, as they only need to outbid other bidders rather than negotiate with sellers or agents.
  3. Buyers can save time and hassle by avoiding lengthy negotiations, contingencies, inspections, appraisals, financing issues, or closing delays that may occur in a conventional transaction.
  4. Sellers can attract more buyers and exposure for their properties by listing them on multiple platforms and marketing channels.
  5. Sellers can sell their properties faster and more efficiently by setting a specific date and time for the auction rather than waiting for offers or showings.
  6. Sellers can avoid carrying costs such as taxes, insurance, maintenance, or utilities that may accrue while holding onto their properties for a long time.
  7. Sellers can avoid price reductions or concessions that may be requested by buyers or agents in a conventional transaction.

Drawbacks of Buying and Selling at an Auction

Buying and selling at an auction can also have some drawbacks for both buyers and sellers. Some of the drawbacks are:

  1. Buyers may face more competition and pressure from other bidders who may drive up the price or outbid them at the last minute.
  2. Buyers may have limited access or information about the property before bidding, as they may not be able to inspect it thoroughly or conduct due diligence on its condition, title, liens, zoning, permits, or other issues.
  3. Buyers may have to pay additional fees or commissions to the auctioneer or the platform on top of the purchase price.
  4. Buyers may have to abide by strict terms and conditions set by the seller or the auctioneer, such as paying cash or obtaining financing within a short time frame, accepting the property as-is without any warranties or contingencies, or forfeiting their deposit or bid amount if they fail to close on time.
  5. Sellers may not get the best price for their property if there is low demand or interest from buyers or if they set a reserve price that is too high or too low.
  6. Sellers may have to pay upfront fees or commissions to the auctioneer or the platform regardless of whether their property sells or not.
  7. Sellers may have less control over the outcome of the auction as they cannot negotiate with buyers or reject any bids that they deem unacceptable.

Tips and Best Practices for Buying and Selling at an Auction

To increase your chances of success at a real estate auction, here are some tips and best practices for both buyers and sellers:

  1. Buyers should do their homework and research the property, the market, the auction process, and the platform before bidding.

They should review the property details, photos, documents, disclosures, terms and conditions, and any other information provided by the seller or the auctioneer.

They should also compare the property with similar properties in the area and determine its fair market value and their maximum bid amount.

2.Buyers should inspect the property in person if possible or hire a professional inspector to do so on their behalf.

They should also verify the property’s title, liens, zoning, permits, or any other issues that may affect its value or ownership.

They should also consult with a lawyer, an accountant, or a financial advisor if they have any legal, tax, or financial questions or concerns.

3.Buyers should register and qualify for the auction in advance and follow the instructions and rules of the auctioneer or the platform. They should also secure their financing or have enough cash on hand to pay for the property if they win.

They should also be prepared to pay any fees or commissions required by the auctioneer or the platform.

4.Buyers should bid smartly and strategically during the auction.

They should set a budget and stick to it.

They should not get carried away by emotions or impulses and bid more than they can afford or more than the property is worth. They should also monitor the bidding activity and adjust their bids accordingly.

They should also be aware of any sniping or shill bidding tactics that may be used by other bidders or sellers to manipulate the price or outcome of the auction.

5.Sellers should prepare their property for sale and make it appealing to potential buyers. They should clean, declutter, repair, stage, or renovate their property as needed.

They should also take high-quality photos and videos of their property and highlight its features and benefits.

They should also gather all the relevant documents and information about their property and disclose any defects or issues that may affect its value or ownership.

6.Sellers should choose a reputable and experienced auctioneer or platform to list their property and conduct their auction.

They should compare different options and fees and select the one that best suits their needs and goals.

They should also work with the auctioneer or the platform to set a realistic reserve price and a marketing strategy for their property.

7.Sellers should be flexible and realistic about their expectations and outcomes of the auction.

They should not overprice or underprice their property or expect to sell it at a certain price.

They should also be ready to accept any bids that meet or exceed their reserve price or negotiate with buyers if they receive any offers before or after the auction.

They should also be prepared to close on time and transfer the title and possession of their property to the buyer.


Real estate auctions can be a great way to buy and sell properties in a fast and efficient way.

However, they also involve some risks and challenges that require careful preparation and due diligence from both buyers and sellers.

By following these tips and best practices, you can increase your chances of success at a real estate auction and enjoy a smooth and rewarding transaction.

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