Guide on how to sell at auction

Selling at auction might sound easy enough. Choose an item, take it to an auction house, listen to an auctioneer talk really fast and shout out loads of numbers. Sold!

But, there a few things it’s worthwhile knowing before you sell at auction to make the most of the experience.

There are two different types of people who sell at auction. Private individuals, which will be most of you reading this, selling an item you might have bought, found, collected or already own.

Or, there are those of you who have had a family member or loved one pass away and you’ve been left with a house full of stuff and you might want to sell some or all of it at auction.

Here at Windsor Auctions, we cater for anyone and everyone.

If you’re in the category of vendor looking to sell a handful or even just one item, we’ll take it all. Unlike many auction houses, we have no minimum price for an item.

We sell everything all the way from £55,000 vases and £10,000 table dividers, both of which were sales we made recently, all the way down to a spoon for a tenner, we’re not fussy and would rather it comes to us than ends up in a landfill.

And, if you have a whole house that needs clearing, we’ll come over and sort that for you, our own staff, our own lorries and our own teams, unlike most auction houses who will outsource all of this.

Once we’ve got to the house, we’ll appraise every item and we’ll provide you with a stock list including all the individual items with descriptions, guide prices and estimates, before you decide what you want to sell and what you want to keep.

When you’ve chosen what you want to sell, we’ll decide where to put the reserves on the items, which is the lowest price you’re happy to sell for, to make sure they’re protected.

After that you’ll sign what you want to sell over to our care and do not fear, everything is insured, as we decide which of our auctions would be most suitable to place your item and then we’ll put it in front of hundreds of bidders in attendance at the auction house and online.

Ahead of the auction, we have a few tips for you to get the best price possible as a seller.

Firstly, trust your auctioneer. We know what we’re doing and we have countless years of experience to know how much an item will sell for, so use that experience to your advantage because if your item goes for a higher price, it benefits both of us.


A live auction in action at Windsor Auctions

One of our live auctions in action.


Secondly, provide as much information for your item as you can, which is known as provenance in the industry. It gives us the best chance of valuing your item as accurately as possible and in turn selling it for the best price possible.

Last weekend, we sold an 18-karat, solid gold Cartier watch for £9000. If the vendor had brought that to us with a box and the papers guaranteeing where the watch was bought and sold, then it would have gone for £15,000-£18,000. That’s how much a lack of information can affect the value of an item.

And finally, be brave. Research has shown that vendors who start their items at a lower price than it might be worth will end up receiving more than they had hoped.

For example, statistically if you have something worth £100, but you put it in the catalogue for £50-£60, then bidding patterns suggest you’ll likely sell it for somewhere around the £120 region.

The risk is that your reserve can’t be higher than your bottom estimate figure, meaning there is less protection should the item sell for less than you had hoped, but in some cases that is a risk worth taking.

Once the item has sold, we receive our fee of 20% of the hammer price, plus VAT, which works out at 24%, although the VAT is only taken on our fee, not the overall price of the item, and then you get the rest.

We also take a lot fee, which means we charge £2 plus VAT on anything we take in, whether it sells or not, but we have an 85% sale rate.

In the unlikely event that your item does not sell, you can come and collect it within a week to ten days, or we can place it in another auction at a lower price, or if there was an offer during the auction below your reserve price, we keep the details of that person and you’ll have the option to accept the offer.

And in the event that your item sells but someone refuses to pay, which is even more unlikely as we have a 1% delinquent pay rate, then we’ll pursue the buyer for the money and if they bid online, they’ll be blocked from using that platform in the future, so they can no longer bid at any auction house, which usually focuses people’s attention.

So, if you’re looking to sell something at auction, don’t be shy, give us a call or come see us at Windsor Auctions and we’ll act as your one-stop shop auctioneer to handle everything you need from start to finish.