A s a Sotheby’s client, you deserve clarity when buying and selling property with us. So in 2024, we’ve made the most significant changes to our fee structure in more than 40 years.
Most notably we’ve reduced our buyer’s premium, which is the amount above the hammer price that is paid as part of the total purchase price. We’ve also introduced a uniform commission rate for sellers across all categories.
All in all, it’s a streamlined approach to doing business that sets a new industry standard.
Here’s how it works.
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Highlights of the new fee structure include:
A reduced buyer’s premium at every price point.
To remove barriers to entry and to provide buyers with increased spending power, Sotheby’s is reducing its Buyer’s Premium across all price points, representing a 26% reduction of Buyer’s Premium for the vast majority of lots. The new rate will be 20% on purchases of a hammer value up to $6 million – and 10% of the portion of the hammer price above $6 million. An object that sells for $10 million, for example, will carry a 20% premium on the first $6 million and a 10% premium on the remaining $4 million. (Buyer’s Premium rates will continue to be subject to local currency exchange rates where applicable.) The reduction in the Buyer’s Premium will incentivize more bidding from clients and result in higher hammer prices for sellers.
Sotheby’s will also no longer charge an Overhead Premium, which was previously a 1% administrative fee on all sales.
A uniform commission rate for sellers across categories.
Key changes include:
Sotheby’s will introduce across all categories a uniform seller’s commission rate of 10% on the first $500,000 of the hammer price per lot. Sotheby’s will not charge a seller’s commission on the portion of the hammer price above $500,000 per lot. This eliminates the complexity associated with varying rates and, instead, grants every client access to consistent and unambiguous pricing.
In recognition of the need for different terms for consignments at higher consigned values, Sotheby’s will waive the seller’s commission for consignments valued above $5 million low estimate. The standardization of selling terms pivots away from private negotiations, prioritizing transparency and simplicity, and fully focuses on realizing the highest value based on Sotheby’s unparalleled expertise, client experience, vast reach to clients around the world, and global selling strategies.
Lastly, for consignments with a total low estimate in excess of $20 million and up to and including $50 million, sellers will receive 40% of Sotheby’s Buyer’s Premium in addition to the hammer price.
Sotheby’s is also implementing a new success fee of 2% on all lots where the hammer price exceeds the high estimate.
All terms outlined above apply to lots that do not have a guarantee, which account for the majority of Sotheby’s auction business. For guaranteed works, Sotheby’s will introduce a fixed guarantee commitment fee of 4% of the guarantee amount, chargeable to the seller, to align with this new structure.
“Since 1979, when Sotheby’s first introduced buyer’s premium in our salerooms, the market has largely shifted the transaction burden onto buyers. The result has been high costs for buyers and tiered commission structures that require a calculator to even understand, as well as an entirely opaque fee structure for sellers which distracts from what is most important to them. We are confident our simplified and clarified terms will benefit both buyers and sellers going forward.”
Consignments signed after April 15, 2024 will reflect these new terms for sellers, and the new buyer's premiums will go into effect globally on May 20, 2024. The new standardized fee structure will apply without exceptions to all Sotheby’s auctions globally, excluding cars, real estate, wine, and spirits.
We’ve designed our streamlined fee structure in part to welcome new clients who may have previously found auctions intimidating. Newcomers might also find it helpful to read our glossary of auction terms like “hammer price.”
Going forward, we will publish jargon-free rate cards for both buyers and sellers, providing an easy-to-use guide to the fee structure. And the terms will remain here on our website for your reference.
Sotheby’s is proud to launch this simplified fee structure, reflecting our commitment to delivering the best-in-class experience for our clients.