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Many people hire auctioneers.

  • Bob owns a car auction and needs an auctioneer for his new Friday night run.
  • Carla’s father died and she needs an auctioneer to sell his remaining tool inventory.
  • Evan’s Rinewood Livestock auction is opening a new auction facility and needs an auctioneer for Tuesday mornings.
  • Frank and Martha are moving from into a condominium and need to sell furniture and household items they no longer need.
  • Grace’s mother has been moved to a nursing home, and her mother’s home and contents needs sold.
  • Melanie buys storage unit contents, wholesale lots and the like, and needs an auctioneer to sell her inventory.
  • Valerie’s nonprofit organization wants to hold an auction to raise money for a child with health care needs.
  • Darren is closing his family’s hardware store and needs to auction the contents.
  • Ed and Darlene are retiring from farming, and want to auction their 670 acre farm and related equipment.

So, when Bob, Carla, Evan, Frank, Martha, Grace, Melanie, Valerie, Darren, Ed and Darlene need to hire an auctioneer, what should they look for?

Actually, when anyone is hiring an auctioneer, the criteria is fairly uniform. Here’s our ten most important things to consider when hiring an auctioneer:

    1. Empathy
    2. Market knowledge
    3. Personal compatibility
    4. Education/Specialties
    5. Reputation
    6. Experience
    7. References
    8. Properly licensed
    9. Properly bonded & insured
    10. Membership

Let’s look at these in more detail:

Empathy
Empathy may well be the #1 auctioneer trait to evaluate. Does the auctioneer you are talking with seem interested in your situation and circumstances? Until an auctioneer knows about your story — why are you looking to have an auction and/or why are you hiring an auctioneer — no auctioneer can prescribe what services you require. Secondly, does that auctioneer genuinely appear concerned for your welfare — more-so than his own? Does the auctioneer suggest the best day for your auction per his schedule, or yours? Does the auctioneer suggest ways to save you expense, or just ways to enhance his profit? In other words, does the auctioneer seem “loyal” to you, or himself?

Market knowledge
Market knowledge is essential. Is the auctioneer knowledgeable about the property you wish to sell? Does he know how and where to advertise your auction? Does the auctioneer know how prospective buyers are looking for property such as yours? The more your auctioneer knows about your property and knows how to attract ready, willing and able bidders to your auction, the more your property will demand, and the smoother the entire auction will be.

Personal compatibility
Feeling comfortable with your auctioneer is paramount. If you are not comfortable with an auctioneer you interview, your instincts are probably right, and you should hire someone else. Your choice of auctioneer must be someone you can talk with — as well as listens to you. You will be sharing details about your own financial and/or personal life; you have to trust your auctioneer to give you sound advice based upon your situation. Said another way … do you seem to “click” and share some common perspective? You’ll be spending time with your auctioneer, so getting along is important.

Education/Specialties
Simply put, does your choice of auctioneer have a sufficient education about the property you wish to sell at auction? Even better, is your auctioneer a specialist in the type of property you wish to sell? Potential buyers will have questions — and if those questions are answered accurately and in an intelligent manner, the more confidence they will have in the auction, and the more likely they will be to participate. Too, auctioneers must be educated enough to properly describe, promote and sell your property. Lastly, does your choice of auctioneer have an education commensurate with the likely bidder pool? Bidders’ education and specialties will be better served with an auctioneer with similar achievement.

Reputation
Bidders participate in auctions to the degree they can trust the auctioneer. From the simplest notion of trust — that when the auctioneer says, “I have $500 here” he really does — to fair, equitable, honest terms and conditions with a lack of small print and adhesionary tactics … bidders respond with more, higher bids when they have faith and confidence in the auctioneer. And sellers need to be able to trust their auctioneer as well, from assurances the auction will be conducted as promised — to payment will be made per the agreed method and timeline. To the extent your auctioneer has a good reputation, the better your odds are of a successful auction.

Experience
It is reasonable to assume that an auctioneer with ten years experience selling cars probably can service your car auction needs better than an auctioneer with only two years experience. The more auctions an auctioneer completes — the more expertise is acquired and the more likely an “unusual” situation is less unusual to a more experienced auctioneer. The fewer times your auctioneer thinks, “I’ve never had that happen before …” the more likely your auction will go according to plan.

References
Don’t hire any auctioneer without at least being provided references … and better yet, contact at least three of those references to inquire about their experiences. There may be no better measure than a prior client’s opinion of an auctioneer — and while the willingness to provide some references is certainly encouraging, their opinions and evaluation can help you decide if this auctioneer is likely to meet your needs. Imagine the difference between, “I was completely satisfied, and I’d hire her again without reservation,” to “I really wasn’t happy with him .. there were several things he had promised to do that he didn’t.”

Properly licensed
It is absolutely imperative that the auctioneer you hire is properly licensed in the jurisdiction of your auction. While about one-half of the states in the United States license auctioneers more or less statewide, the other half have little or no licensing requirements. Nevertheless, an auctioneer who acts without the required licenses is, by default, being dishonest with you and the public at large. Further, an auctioneer lacking a license in a jurisdiction where one is required suggests even more concerning issues — “Why isn’t he licensed?” or “Was he licensed, but isn’t anymore?” Insist your auctioneer holds all required licenses.

Properly bonded & insured
Even the best of auctioneers can have things happen which are out of their control — the money is stolen, someone trips over an extension cord, or the caterer’s food causes an illness. Bonding provides sellers a form of guarantee in cases where the proceeds of your auction are not provided to you per your agreement; a bond pays you those monies. Similarly, insurance helps to pay for expenses related to lawsuits and/or other claims against you and/or your auctioneer. It is reasonable to expect your auctioneer to provide both some type of bonding and insurance.

Membership
Sellers should inquire if their auctioneer is a member of their state auctioneer association, and the National Auctioneers Association. With all that’s going on in the auction industry, there is little other way for any auctioneer to stay, “up-to-date,” than being a member. Too, meeting with, networking with, and learning from other members allows auctioneers to offer the most current and profitable services to their clients. By hiring a member auctioneer, sellers can leverage powerful alliances which can only make their auction a bigger success.

More and more sellers are choosing the auction method of marketing to sell their real and personal property. As such, more and more sellers are hiring auctioneers. By using this guide, sellers can help themselves maximize their auction experience by choosing a creditable and capable auctioneer.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. His Facebook page is: www.facebook.com/mbauctioneer. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Columbus State Community College and is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.