I’ve observed that often bidders will stand very close to the auctioneer, so they can read the information about other bidders, presumably including each qualifying amount . Although the rules of auction state that bidders must stay at least five feet from the trustee’s sale officer (absent express permission of the officer), that rule seems to be ignored by the auctioneer and bidders as far as I’ve seen. Is it just generally accepted that this happens so you have to assume your qualifying amount may be known to some other bidders?
Interesting observation … Like a good poker player, a good bidder will keep his checks close to the vest and only show them to the auctioneer. Unlike poker, however, nothing that prevents you from pulling out more checks later from another vest pocket. I’ve never had a problem with someone (other than the auctioneer) getting a look at my qualifying amount, but it could happen if you’ve never played poker ;).
Several inexperienced auctioneers in our area ask each bidder to qualify and then write the amount down, even if you just showed them checks. I’m guessing that they write the name and amount down because they cannot remember if there are a lot of qualifying bidders. And, I often see some of the experienced bidders get very close (behind the shoulder) of the auctioneer. I don’t think this is a professional way to run the auctions.
I like the reference to poker, although I’m no expert. If other bidders may improperly see your qualifying amount, it’s an interesting question what initial amount you would want to choose:
- Less than your true maximum bid (perhaps just a penny over opening if it seems plausible that might be sufficient?), and qualify for more later if necessary
- Your true maximum
- More (perhaps much more?) than your true maximum
Sean seemed to suggest option 3 in an old comment: “Common practice is to show more than you plan to bid so friends of the auctioneer can’t look over his shoulder and find out that you can only go to a particular number.” If you qualify for much more than the property is worth, perhaps that would reveal very little actual information, because someone who sees the number would realize it’s not really your high bid. The effect of the other potential choices seems less clear, since no one can know whether you are willing to increase your qualifying amount further. I’d love to hear any further thoughts about why a particular approach might be best.
Sean’s reference to “friends of the auctioneers” also reminds me that I have wondered how else other bidders (who are not friends with the auctioneer) may be disadvantaged (aside from their qualifying amounts being revealed, or a sale being delayed at a friend’s request).