Here is a general buyer's guide to real estate auctions, based on advice from experts in the field:

Read the papers, get on a list. The Sunday newspapers often list advertisements in real estate sections for property up for auction.

Get a brochure. The auction company will send you material that provides basic information on the property, such as total square footage and the latest asking price.

Learn the lingo. Auctioneers have a language of their own. For instance, an "absolute auction" means the property will be sold to the highest bidder regardless of price, while an auction with "reserve" means the owner can reject even the highest bid.

Inspect the property. Most auction companies have open houses at least a week before the auction.

Ask questions. You will want to know what is included in the property -- such as kitchen appliances or carpeting -- or how long any remaining tenants will be occupying a residence.

Register. To make a bid you must register with the auction company. You should do this only after you or your lawyer have completely evaluated the property. Arrive early, listen. On the day of the auction, usually held away from the property, try to arrive an hour early to ensure a seat.

Hang on to your seats. Usually there will be a practice round of bidding to give first-time participants a feel for the auctioneer's tempo and the bidding process. Be ready to pay. The highest bidders are required to sign a real estate sales contract when the bidding is concluded. Your cashier's check is taken and used as earnest money. At that time, bidders may have to increase their earnest money to the required percentage amount, usually 10 percent of the bid.