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With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many states in the United States have essentially prohibited any live auctions. At this time, some states are starting to open their economies to more enterprises including live auctions.

So, game on?

I would submit, not quite yet. Even if you as an auctioneer feel it’s safe to be in crowds without any social distancing and other precautions, your bidders/buyers may not feel the same way.

An Associated Press (AP) poll a few days ago suggested the following approximate public feelings:

    • 12% believe all these current precautions are unnecessary.
    • 26% think current precautions are not even sufficient.
    • 61% feel that the current precautions remain prudent.

If you are sensing this 12% is actually a higher number — it appears so as this 12% is significantly louder, more vocal, and actively protesting more than the balance of the population.

So, if you as an auctioneer want to start having live auctions again because your state or other political subdivision says you can, is it prudent if only 12% of your expected crowd shows up to bid? You as an auctioneer better already know the answer to that question.

Your auction house for years has attracted 200+ bidders each week … and now you’re going to open up with maybe 40 bidders? It would seem to me you better advise your clients of this possibility and get their written consent to proceed — and better yet advise those clients you’ll sell their property online or otherwise postpone.

I’ve seen several references to auctioneers saying, “We’re back up and running May 1, May 5, May 15 …” and I would tread carefully as a live auction only works if your bidders/buyers are ready for a live auction — and many aren’t quite yet.

Lastly, and maybe equally important, have you talked with your attorney and insurance agent? Your governor may think it’s acceptable to proceed with your live auction, but even with a mountain of disclaimers, if a bidder/buyer gets sick or dies, you can count on needing both.

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.