If it shows up, type domainyouwanttobuy.com. If the site doesn’t show as #1, it has a penalty.
If not, it could just be deindexed because of not being picked up for a while. Check the history of the site on archive.org for any spammy looking changes (chinese, russian, dodgey niche like viagra, complete niche changes, redirects etc.).
Look in majestic / ahrefs / Moz for unrelated, spammy or asian/russian backlinks/anchor text.
always better to aim for new domain. If you found some “sexy” domain at auction there might be something fishy behind. I gave up wasting time at auctions – more and more crap, less and less “good catch” since 2009.