Going, going, gone! A few tips for the auction

There are a lot of auctions; you might be able to find what you're looking for at more than one.

√Čtienne Gosselin | Agronomist and Journalist

Encans Breton is an auction house that does 99% of their business in agriculture. Owner Luc Breton took over the business from his father. So as the son of an auctioneer before he became one himself, he knows how to handle a gavel. He was nice enough to give us some tips you can print out before you go to a local auction this summer or find one when you’re on the road.

Plan your needs

An auction can be a good opportunity to find what you need at a good price. “My job is to sell the items at the highest prices possible,” says Luc candidly. “But 90% of the people that come to the auction know what they want. They’ve looked through the paper or the online catalogue a few days before the sale.”

Make and keep a budget

When it comes to budgeting, it’s a good idea to set a cap. “I’m not there to limit what people buy,” says Luc. “People are responsible for knowing the new and the market value of merchandise. For animals, we announce age and stage of lactation; for machinery, the date of manufacture and the original price. These days, rolling stock is expensive and second hand equipment is in high demand, so depreciation isn’t always reflected in the price. Plus sometimes there’s very strong bidding from U.S. buyers taking advantage of the low Canadian dollar.”

Resist impulse buying

Auctioneers put up lots, polish machines and groom animals to make them attractive to buyers. But is it all just for show? “In my father’s day, there were 40,000 dairy farms. Today there are only about 5,800, so the ones still operating generally know exactly what they’re doing.”

Buy out of season

Some producers with deep pockets make the rounds but don’t feel pressured to raise their hand. They don’t buy cows that have just begun lactating or snow blowers in the fall. Being successful at an auction takes planning. And planning leads to getting the items you want at lower cost.

Bring your wallet

Auction purchases need to be paid with cash or by cheque. Preapproved letters of credit from your account manager will also be accepted, but auction tradition dictates that buyers should be able to pay for their purchases on site.

Shop around

There are a lot of auctions; you might be able to find what you’re looking for at more than one. So attend several and try not to get lured into an early purchase. The same principle applies when you’re holding an auction of your own. “Before you sign a contract, go watch an auctioneer at work and find out what kind of follow up they provide after the sale,” says Luc. “It’s just like a dentist, notary or any other professional; you need to go with someone you trust.”

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