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What does an Auctioneer do?

By Koren Allen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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The word auctioneer, for many people, conjures an image of a fast-talking pitch man who can easily excite you into bidding on a glass of ice water in the dead of winter. While bid-calling is the most memorable part of an auctioneer's job, it is only a small part of the work that auctioneers do. In fact, most of an auctioneer's work is done before the actual sale day. Auctioneers spend a great deal of time finding clients and building relationships, appraising the items to be sold, studying the market, and determining the best way to advertise a sale for maximum turnout. If you are looking for a challenging and unconventional career, auctioneering may be for you.

An auctioneer's basic goal is simple: he must make as much money as possible for the client who hired him. To accomplish this, it is important for an auctioneer to have a good feel for the value of the item or items on the auction block. More importantly, the auctioneer must know the market that will be most likely to buy the items and how to advertise most effectively to entice them to the sale. The auctioneer must also have a thorough understanding of any laws that govern the sale of a particular item. If other professionals, such as attorneys or realtors, are required to sell an item, the auctioneer is responsible for choosing the professional and securing their services on sale day.

On the day of the auction, the auctioneer is "on stage" and needs a tremendous amount of energy and focus. A good auctioneer is both a salesman and an entertainer, able to capture the crowd's attention and hold it for several hours. A great sense of humor helps, because it simultaneously puts the crowd at ease and keeps them energized and focused on the sale. Personality is also important for building a following; an auctioneer that puts on a great show is more likely to pull in larger crowds at the next sale. For this type of work, it is important to be comfortable in the spotlight, with confidence, good verbal skills and a strong voice.

Auctioneers often become specialists in one or two types of auctions, such as real estate, livestock, jewelry, or art. Specialization allows the auctioneer to build strong business relationships within his field, as well as a steady following of regular buyers. It is also much easier to stay on top of the applicable laws and market trends when the auctioneer focuses on just one or two fields. Some auctioneers become so knowledgeable about their specialty that they are able to provide appraisal services to their clients in addition to auction services.

States and localities vary widely in their requirements for licensure for auctioneers. Some states do not require a license at all, but localities within the state may require a license or permit for sales within their city limits. There may also be additional licensing requirements for certain types of sales. For instance, in some states, real estate sales must be completed by a licensed real estate professional, even when being sold at auction. Check with your local licensing authority for more information, or consider joining a professional auctioneering organization to learn the specific licensing requirements in your community.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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