HOUSTON – On a Wednesday night, in trendy Sawyer Heights near downtown, dozens of people are gather in search of a steal.
They’re bidding on nearly 300 items, including furniture, jewelry and one-of-a-kind originals. The starting bid on some items is as low as $5.
“I've sold coffee tables that were $2,000-$3,000 for $5,” David Lewis, the owner and general manager of Lewis and Maese Auction Company, told KPRC Channel 2 News.
Lewis has been in business for 30 years.
“I have a lot of people who call this their date night," he said. "We have Star Pizza, cocktails, generally they spend less than $2 or $3 for the night, and they have a great time. If you buy here, you'll literally save thousands and thousands of dollars over time."
Wanda Waters drove four hours to Houston for the event. She owns a shop in the hill country and was looking to stock up for her customers.
“I really like the small, Italian leather furniture, some china and silver,” Waters said.
Most of what’s being auctioned comes from people's homes, including the estates of wealthy Houstonians. Items for auction on the night KPRC 2 visited included leather chairs, a mid-century modern glass dining room table and a large desk, all up to 75 percent off retail.
Jewelry and art are big draws, too.
“On artwork, at times you'll buy it at what it costs to frame,” Lewis said.
The key to finding a bargain starts with research. Visit the auction house before the bidding begins. Preview what's on the list, sit in the chairs and look for imperfections.
“We always encourage everyone to examine everything before they buy it because it is used,” Lewis said.
On the night of the auction, things move fast. Know the lot number of the item you're interested in and be ready to raise your hand.
“Bid once early on so the auctioneer knows you're one of the contenders," Lewis said. "They'll always come back to see if you want to get back in. You want to let the bid play out and get back in at the end."
Keep in mind you could be bidding against someone who's participating online or on the phone. And take it from Waters. If you want it, you have to stay in the game.
“If it's something I really, really want, I'll go for it. I'll fight for it,” Waters said.
Have a budget in mind and give yourself a limit. Most auction houses charge a fee called a buyer's premium of around 20 percent that will be added to your final bid.
“That's how we make our money to stay in business,” Lewis said.
So in general, if your budget is $100, you'll want to stop bidding around $80.
Selling your belongings at auction can be an easy way to downsize and make a little money. The auction experts at Lewis and Maese said you can expect to get about 25 to 30 percent of the original value, and up to 50 percent for big brand names like Rolex.
Click here for a list of upcoming auctions at Lewis and Maese.
Take a look at some upcoming auctions:
Lewis and Maese Auction House in Sawyer Heights -- 1505 Sawyer Street
- Wednesday, May 3 - Fine Art & Antiques Auction at 6:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, May 13 - Saturday Estate Sale - Katy, TX.
- Wednesday, May 24 - Fine Art & Antiques Auction.
- Wednesday, June 7 - ManCave Auction.
- Wednesday, June 28 - Fine Estate Auction.