5 Tips for A Successful Seller-Managed Auction

Benefit from MaxSold’s experience of having managed hundreds of online estate sale and downsizing auctions across North America, selling tens of thousands of items for clients as part of the process. Here are MaxSold’s top tips to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your own seller-managed auction.


Organize your items in a way that makes sense to a buyer, grouping like items together into ‘lots’ but ensuring your groups are neither too big nor too small. ‘Lotting’ your items drives competition and the lot ‘mix’ helps ensure lots get competitive bids.

Individual, modest-value items, i.e. items less than $10 in auction value, will not drive competitive bidding alone. Instead, group four to six modest-value items together for the biggest impact. Even smaller items, like miscellaneous tchotchkes, are best grouped into larger lots of eight to 12 pieces; otherwise they may not sell at all.

Group similar items together, but keep in mind that, while three lamps are better than one, too many items will limit the buyer pool. Split high-end furnishings, a bedroom suite for example, into separate lots. Those who want the whole suite can bid on each piece individually, and those that only want one of the pieces can bid on that one item alone – this maximizes competition.

Finally, all boxes should be unpacked and everything unwrapped. Move small, valuable items, i.e. a gold ring, to a central location and lot each piece individually. Grouping modest-value items together while selling high-value items separately, will bring the best results.


Think like a buyer: What is it? What does it do? Does it work? How big is it? Make sure your descriptions tell the buyer what they need to know.

The first three rules of selling items online are: Measure, measure, measure. Don’t just ‘eyeball’ it; provide actual measurements. Simply stating ‘twin bed’ for example, is not enough; pieces made by different companies over time have been produced in different sizes.

Another golden rule for selling online is to be objective. Be sure to note any damage, wear and tear, chips, cracks or flaws, as well as working / not working / untested condition. Be honest! Avoid subjective statements in your descriptions, such as ‘beautiful’, ‘favourite’, ‘best’, ‘rare’, etc., because they expose both MaxSold and the Seller to financial risk. (Please note that subjective statements will be edited at a rate of $50/hour).

State pickup time categories in your descriptions (buttons A, B, or C in the app) to manage your arrival times and make the process go as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Think about the logistical needs to remove everything and use the categories to support your needs:

  • Category A: Items you want picked up first (typically smaller items, articles in cabinets, etc).
  • Category B: Items in the way of other pieces (i.e. a chair on a rug, the car in front of the lathe in the garage, items in the mobile shed that was sold, etc.).
  • Category C: Items that can wait until the end (typically very large items which might be displaying other pieces to be sold or located under or behind other pieces being sold).


Again, think like a buyer. What would they need to see to enter their best possible bid?

Take at least five photos of every lot but don’t stop there; if it is a high-end piece, a large piece or a lot with multiple items, take 10+ photos if you have time and shoot the pieces from various angles.

Take photos of tags, labels, stamps/hallmarks on silver or gold, as well as unique features and details, i.e. dovetails, inlays, etc. Are there any condition issues, such as damage, cracks or discolouration? Take a photo of it! Buyers want to know exactly what they’re bidding on.

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words! Good pictures save you from having to type long, explanatory descriptions.


Preparing the site will save you plenty of time and frustration during pickup.

Be sure to disconnect and remove all hard-wired and/or attached items, i.e. chandeliers, washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators. Buyers must not disconnect gas, electrical, water, etc.

Organize purchased items by buyer name so that pickup goes more smoothly and quickly. Review the items purchased – has the condition changed? Anticipate any refund issues.


Be prepared to provide the refund link to buyers for any purchasing issues encountered. MaxSold manages refunds via www.maxsold.com/refund. Remember though, that accurate cataloging can help minimize issues.

OBLIGATIONS OF THE SELLER (Section 8 of Contract): (a) The Seller is responsible for and will pay all costs associated with: iii. all expenses related to refunds that are required as a result of items being misrepresented, missing, or other condition not communicated to the buyers through the catalogue descriptions and photographs – as identified by buyers during or prior to pickup.

So, there you have it – the secrets MaxSold uses to run a successful auction. If you have additional questions, please reach out. Good luck with your auction and have fun!

Written by: Patricia Ridlon, MaxSold Operations Manager - USA.

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