Quick Takeaways

  • Real estate auctions are often seen as a result of forclosures, but many real estate auctions arise from a seller wanting to expedite the transaction.
  • Auctions allow a seller to eliminate long-term carry costs for the seller and allow the buyer to purchase properties at the fair market value.
  • Many real estate auctions have moved to online platforms, rather than the traditional property auction.

Real estate auctions often experience unfounded negative images in the marketplace. The majority of auctions today don't result from foreclosure of distress situations, but rather are the result of a seller choosing a cost-effective, accelerate method to sell a property. Auction allows the seller to eliminate virtually all long-term carrying costs, passing the savings directly to the purchaser in the form of a reduced price. The result is a win-win situation: sellers obtain immediate cash and buyers purchase properties at fair market value, the price determined by open, competitive bidding.

NAR can help you understand the basics and benefits of a real estate auction, learn more about the current auction market, and connect you with eduction and resources for auction professionals and REALTORS® working with auction transactions.

See References for more information.


NAR Library & Archives has already done the research for you. References (formerly Field Guides) offer links to articles, eBooks, websites, statistics, and more to provide a comprehensive overview of perspectives. EBSCO articles (E) are available only to NAR members and require the member's nar.realtor login.

The Basics

Buying Real Estate at an Online Auction (The Balance, Apr. 24, 2021)

“Most house hunters don't initially set out to bid on a home through an online auction. They may be conducting online research or attending virtual viewings, but just as these online activities have become more mainstream in the real estate industry, online auctions have become more common as well…[This article discusses] some reasons a house might be sold at auction, the breakdown of the auction itself, and what you'll need to know in order to participate.”

Buying a Foreclosure Home at Auction: The Basics (Auction.com, Apr. 23, 2021)

A brief overview of how to purchase a home at auction, including the steps for participating in an in-person and an online auction.

Auctions (National Association of REALTORS®)

This resource from NAR includes the basics and benefits of auctions, types of auctions, properties suited for auction, factors affecting auctions, how to get involved, auction opportunities, how to find an auctioneer, and courses available to members to increase their knowledge and practical experience with auctions.

The Auction Market

What Happened to Real Estate Auctions During the COVID-19 Pandemic? (New England Real Estate Journal, Jul. 30, 2021)

“In the past couple of decades, a successful and well attended auction might be considered one where 5 to 8 registered/qualified bidders attended with their negotiable bank check…COVID created the perfect storm which generated the ultimate bidding war machine at our real estate auctions. We began to see 15, 20 and even as many as 30 registered and qualified bidders showing up cash-ready to compete. Not only did the lack of foreclosures throw fuel on the fire but in addition, low interest rates and the lowest housing supply of recent record catapulted the process to unseen levels.”

Demand for Distressed Housing Returning (HousingWire, Nov. 24, 2020)

A look at how the pre-pandemic and current trends in distressed housing (foreclosured housing) compare in auction markets.

Co-Star Group Closes Acquisition of Ten-X Commerical, the Leading Digital Auction Platform for Commerical Real Estate (Business Wire, Jun. 24, 2020) E

A discussion of the acquisition of the “leading platform for conduction commercial real estate online auctions” by CoStar “the leading providor of commercial real estate information.” As the US economy recovers from the pandemic, this acquisition will help creditors to sell foreclosed properties in the commercial property business.

Auction Resources &​ Education

Government Auctions and Sales

Search for a variety of government surplus and seized property—including real estate. This includes auctions of real estate through the US General Services Administration, US Treasury, and US Marshals Service Seized Assets. In addition, there is information about obtaining property by auctions through Fannie Mae, FDIC, USDA, HUD, and the VA.

National Auctioneers Association

The National Auctioneers Association (NAA) “is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to auction professionals…The association is dedicated to providing its members with educational programming and resources to help them advance themselves and, in turn, the industry. Members of the NAA abide by a strict Code of Ethics and are connected with an extensive network of auction professionals…NAA serves auction entrepreneurs with services provided based on four cornerstones: promotions, advocacy, education, and community.”

National Auctioneer License Law Officials Association (NALLOA)

“NALLOA serves as a forum of licensing board members and associate members, who communicate, endorse reciprocity and promote the common good in regulating the auction profession.”

eBooks & Other Resources


The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Auctions (Kindle, eBook)

The All-New Real Estate Foreclosure, Short-Selling, Underwater, Property Auction, Postive Cash Flow Book (Audiobook, eBook)

Buying and Selling Property at Auction (eBook)

Buying Bargains at Property Auctions (eBook)

Future Shop: How the New Auction Culture Will Revolutionize the Way We Buy, Sell, and Get the Things We Really Want (Audiobook)

Books, Videos, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Member Support. Up to three hard copy books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Member Support at 800-874-6500 for assistance.

Besner Auction and Realty Policy and Procedure Manual (Acme, MI: Besner Auction, 2004) HF 5438 B46

The All-New Real Estate Foreclosure, Short-selling, Underwater, Property Auction, Positive Cash Flow Book (Wiley, 2009) HD1382.5 .H69

The Pre-Foreclosure Property Investor’s Kit: How to Make Money Buying Distressed Real Estate – Before the Public Auction (Hoboken, NJ, Wiley, 2005) HG 4521 L96

Have an idea for a real estate topic? Send us your suggestions.

The inclusion of links on this page does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this page complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.