What are the steps to buy at auction?

What are the basic steps?
Have your cashier checks made out to yourself.
Check liabiities against property.
Check with city for any citations.
Bid in $100 increments at times.
What else?

Check for past due property taxes with the tax collectors office.
Bring your drivers license or other photo ID.
Inspect the house to the best of your ability (even if only from the street).
Estimate repair costs.
Do comps and get comfortable with value.

check past hoa’s they stay with the property.

That actually is not true in most states - though some HOAs may claim otherwise. I believe only about 12 states allow HOA liens to be super senior like property taxes currently. See: http://www.foreclosureradar.com/forum/general/foreclosure-housing-markets/california-super-lien-state

I have purchased two CA properties this year with delinquent HOA fees, the HOA did not blink an eye, all past due fees were wiped out.