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Auctioneers all over the United States have had their businesses affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) — some live auctions have been canceled and/or postponed and many online pickups have had to schedule buyers to avoid mass gatherings.

There has even been the concern that the actual property itself may need to be disinfected or quarantined for 14 days. It appears we know far less about this virus than we know for sure.

However, here are some things we know for sure. People are becoming infected with the Coronavirus, people are dying of the Coronavirus and there’s yet any vaccine or other cure in sight. Are all infected people staying at home? They are not.

Most experts are saying that the less we all interact close-up with other people, the better, as someone can unknowingly have the virus but be asymptomatic. The prevailing thought is 6′ or father away from anyone else lessens the risk considerably.

Most live auctions jam a whole bunch of people into a relatively small space — the opposite of social distancing. Bidders touch property to inspect, potentially spreading this virus from person-to-item-to-person. What makes live auctions great with no virus makes them not-so-great with a virus.

The good news is, auctioneers, sellers, bidders and buyers have choices. A significant number of auctioneers already sell exclusively online-only. It’s so easy to do, there’s probably not a single auctioneer who couldn’t navigate almost any online software. Most buyers are familiar with online bidding/purchasing.

Further, even if you and your seller are ready for a live auction — the question remains if your bidders are ready. Nationwide, over 60% of the public feels going out into a mass gathering is still ill-advised. This issue needs to be seriously considered as well.

If a live [particuarily indooor] auction is truly your only option — mandatory social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer, hand washing, out-of-state attendance restrictions, frequent area/property disinfectant procedures, and possibly even temperature checks of auctioneers, staff, and bidders to allow admittance would be prudent in our opinion.

This and more information is outlined here in the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), May 2020: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html.

Outdoor live auctions would certainly benefit from mandatory social distancing, masks, hand sanitizer availability, and hand washing as well. At least outdoors, distancing would be likely more easily managed. Too, bidders and buyers might feel more comfortable participating in less tight quarters.

It has seemed to us that until this pandemic (and the risks of such) has passed, auctioneers and their sellers should sell online-only or virtual online-only. Then, when this is all over, those auctioneers and sellers desiring a live auction should get busy conducting live auctions — or any other type of auction desired.

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.