Using Online Auctions to Score Deals on Home Furnishings?

Whether you're looking for a hard-to-find item or something you simply can't afford to buy new -- buy it and save through online auctions

You might just score the deal of the century on online auction sites like eBay

Looking for a Christian Dell desk lamp or a Frank Lloyd Wright console table?

They are both available right now on online auctions. Don’t be fooled by the minimum bid of $25 for each, though; they are expected to go for several thousand dollars, but who knows? You might get lucky.

The Appeal of Online Auctions

And that is exactly the appeal of online auctions – getting the deal of the century. Sure, a high reserve bid might knock you out of the game right away, but the thrill of the hunt and the possibility of snagging an original piece for far less than its value are the drivers that make online auctions so popular. From used Corning Ware on eBay ($2.49) to a saddle stool (opening bid $500), you can find whatever you dream of for your home.

Online auctions are good for the bidder, says Alison Meredith, director of online auctions at Heffel Fine Art Auction House.

“Pieces at auction sell for the highest amount people are willing to pay. It’s fair. If no one is willing to pay higher, you get it for the lower price. It’s basic supply and demand,” she says. “It always comes down to the end.”

At the end, if you are the successful bidder, comes the thrill of victory, along with shipping charges, taxes, and a buyer’s premium of up to 
25 per cent.

Bernadette Methot became hooked on online auctions when she found a king-sized duvet, complete with bed skirt and pillow shams, for $20. 

The main thing she likes about online auctions is the convenience. “I sit at the computer and shop, and it comes right to the door. It’s good for hard-to-find things, like the china pattern my mom started. It’s been out of commission for years but I can get pieces on eBay.”

How to Get Started Bidding Online

There’s a bit of a learning curve when you start bidding online. Methot recommends you ask plenty of questions of the sellers, make sure you really want the item before bidding, and carefully read the online ads. 

“I once ordered what I thought was a full-sized perfume. I didn’t read it right. It was a tester. My advice is to start off small.”

Thorsten Bonn, president of, an online auction platform for antiques, says his online auction represents exactly what happens on the auction floor. “In most cases, there’s an audio feed. You hear the auctioneers voice and simultaneously look at the computer screen to see the numbers as they stack up and make a decision if you want [and item] or not,” he says.

Typically, items for sale are on consignment and the auctioneer’s mandate is always to get the maximum value for the consignor. The benefit of broadcasting such an auction on the web is that buyers don’t need to travel to bid on the things they want.

“Online auctions create an efficient marketplace,” says Bonn. It’s a secure and efficient way to bid, and it’s shipped to the front door. Otherwise, you’d lose that customer.”

It’s also a safe way to shop. Bonn says that most auctioneers don’t want to sell to anyone without knowing who they are, that they are of legal age, and that they have the credit available to pay for their purchases.

Absentee bidding is by far the most popular way of bidding, where you can input your maximum price (don’t worry, it’s kept a secret) and if the highest bid on closing is less than your maximum, you get the item at the next incremental increase over the last bid, not to exceed your maximum.

4 Tips before You Bid

  1. Give yourself time to understand the 
system, and register early.
  2. Research the item: words like “in the manner of” means it may be a knock-off.
  3. Set a maximum price for yourself – and stick to it.
  4. Calculate extra charges, especially delivery fees, if the item is heavy or being shipped from a 
location far away.

Next, learn about How to Sell Your Housewares Online

Originally published in BC Home magazine. For monthly updates, subscribe to the free BC Home e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the bi-monthly magazine.