Auctioneers are regularly engaged by sellers to market and sell their personal or real property. Such marketing involves describing the property adequately so that potential bidders become engaged/interested.
However, what if an auction advertisement said, “Buy this at auction and ski down the hill from your back door,” or “Buy this at auction with a short walk to camp at a state park,” or the like? Other than possible fair housing violations for using “ski” and “walk” (disability,) can a seller or auctioneer essentially guarantee the future?
In our example, Julie owns a home in Colorado where she has for years skied down the hill behind her house and has walked to camp at a state park nearby. She contacts an auctioneer to sell her home and his advertisements note both these so-called features of this property.
The property sells at auction and the new owner finds six months later no snow (thus no skiing) and the state park closed (thus no camping.) The new owner is not happy and we all know what unhappy people can do when their unhappiness is material — at minimum they shop elsewhere and tell all their friends, and at worst they file a lawsuit.
What is the lesson here? Auctioneers can certainly advertise features and/or benefits. The caution is to suggest or warranty future performance because it can not snow, and state parks can close. Would it be better to say, “Current owner skis from her back door,” and “Current owner camps at nearby state park?” Probably.
We as auctioneers have to be careful what we say — affirm — unless we are assured that such is true and/or available in this case. Quite frankly it’s the difference between representation and misrepresentation. We explore further in an upcoming treatise regarding if you can warranty that online bidding is indeed available.
Of course countless retailers spout the future benefits of their products every second of every day — but these same retailers offer exchanges. refunds and/or other allowances when promises are not realized — something auctioneers historically have not typically offered.
What’s the solution for auctioneers? I would offer to be more mindful in marketing/advertising … and further to consider making purchasing at auction a more equitable experience. For instance, do terms and conditions in this day and age saying “no returns, no exchanges” attract the most bidders/buyers?
Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.