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auctionsOnce reserved for only the most tech savvy individuals, online auctions have quickly become more user friendly. From robust, image-heavy platforms like ebay to stripped down and simple sites like Craigslist, online auctions and classifieds are more accessible than ever. But like any new skill or experience, if you’re unfamiliar with the landscape it can be a bit daunting to create a listing or buy an item. To help get your feet wet, below we’ve compile a list of helpful tips for any first time online auction participant. While it doesn’t get into the nitty gritty of listings or bidding, this list should help ensure you’re not flying blind for your first auction experience.
Examine the Listing Closely
There are tens of thousands of sellers on internet, and each one will have a slightly different style to their listings. Some sellers are meticulous in listing every detail about each item they place on the block, while others will only provide a bare bones description. If there’s something missing from the description of an item you’d like to bid on, message the seller. If it’s a reasonable request most sellers will answer any additional questions you might have. If you’re the one listing the item, be prepared for potential buyers to ask additional questions. If you’re unable or unwilling to provide answers, you may want to reconsider your listing.
Know Your Auction Types
Not all online auctions are true auctions. For example, ebay has listings that don’t involve bidding at all. The seller simply sets a price for the item and, through the listing creation process, will select options showing whether or not the seller is willing to negotiate on price. Those listings that do have a traditional auction bidding process will also list the time remaining for users to place bids. Be aware that bidding will get fast and furious during the closing minutes of most auctions – especially if the item in question is rare or highly sought after.
Check Comparables
Just because an item is rare or has a set price doesn’t mean you can’t shop around. See what similar items in a similar condition are selling for around the web and then crosscheck with your preferred listing. If the pricing is too high or, more importantly, way too low you may want to pass. Items listed dramatically under their accepted or appraised value are often indicative of scams. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Once you close on a listing, be sure to keep an open line of communication with the other party. Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, responding promptly to emails and phone calls can make all the difference when trying to arrange for shipping and payment. Keeping a record of your communication is also important should any type of dispute arise.
Know Your Payment Options
If you’re new to an auction site, be sure to carefully review the accepted forms of payment. While some sites will have a checkout process integrated into their auction listings, many will simply display the types of payment the seller prefers and leave the decision up to you. For high dollar value items, online escrow is a great method for both buyers and sellers – especially if the two parties are relative unknowns to each other or are separated be great distances.
If you’re new to auctions or to a specific platform never be afraid to ask questions. Taking a few minutes to chat with a customer service rep or posting a note to your social media network of choice can save you quite a bit of time and hassle.

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