The auction giants Christie's and Sotheby's have once again quietly raised their commissions to buyers. It is now 25 percent on the first $50,000 and 20% on the next $1 million. The 12% rate now only kicks in above that mark. It had previously been 12% above the $500,000 mark. Other auction houses have not followed suit yet. It is always interesting to me how both of these two houses always seem to raise their rates identically at the same time, especially in view of their past history of rate fixing. It is also odd that I am bombarded by press releases about other news from these houses, but I had to dig up this major news of a rate change by searching through their websites under "buyer's premiums".
Buy-ins (unsold lots) have been increasing steadily at these houses as bidders finally are factoring in these much higher premiums with their bidding. Consignors must also face up to the fact that these higher percentages will also clearly effect the final bids that they receive on the hammer price of their items as the houses take an ever bigger cut of the pie. It now usually makes more financial sense to place work directly with dealers, even at 20-30% commission rates. At the least other houses are now at a 5-12% price point advantage where Christie's and Sotheby's must outperform those houses by at least that much for a consignor to break even.