Online only: auctions take to the internet

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Medina County Fair livestock sale
Harold Farnsworth catches bids during the Medina County Fair livestock auction (Farm and Dairy file photo)

The show must go on … line.

That’s what auction companies are doing now that it’s forbidden to gather in large groups. It’s been a big switch, but one that they were prepared to make.

Companies like Kaufman Realty and Auctions and Kiko Auctioneers already had some online-only sales and an online platform for auctions, but it wasn’t the preferred method of doing business. Now, it’s their only option, at least until Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine lifts the stay-at-home order, which is in place until May 1, currently.

“The live auction is a tremendous tool in northeast Ohio,” said Anthony Kaufman, president of Kaufman Realty and Auctions. “A tremendous wrench was thrown into those sales.”

Part of life

Auctions are a part of life in eastern Ohio. For as many people gather at an auction with plans to buy, there may be nearly as many there to socialize.

Kaufman said their market in eastern Ohio was about 75% live sales to 25% online sales. For Kiko Auctioneers, too, business was predominantly the traditional, live, in-person auctions.

“We historically have really thrived with on-site auctions,” said Richard Kiko, chief executive officer of Kiko Auctioneers. “We have really had a great following for on-site auctions.”

Auctions and real estate are considered essential businesses in Ohio so they are allowed to continue operating, but must heed public health protocols. When it became apparent how serious the situation was becoming, agents got in touch with sellers to discuss options.

“A lot of our sellers hit the pause button for a couple weeks,” Kiko said. “Now, it’s started to come back.”

What to do

With all the uncertainty, some sellers canceled sales. Others postponed or rescheduled for dates in the summer. Kaufman said they had about 20 sales that initially postponed, and then went online, when they saw the market stayed strong.

In addition to online auctions, Kaufman said they’ve also been doing some live simulcast sales, meaning an auctioneer still calls the sale but it’s broadcast live online.

“The crazy thing is our online sales have been as strong or stronger,” Kaufman said.

He thinks this may lead to less resistance to online sales in the future.

“This whole crisis has forced people to think in a different way,” Kaufman said. “They’re a lot more open to these ideas.”

Because not everyone has internet access, Kaufman said they’ve also been offering bidder assistance to buyers. It works in different ways, but it could mean they register for a sale and an agent is made available to them as the sale is closing, or one or two people at a time could come to one of a Kaufman office to make a bid in person.

Other changes

Some other changes may stick around in the future. Kaufman said they started using an online portal to sign up for load out or showings. People can sign up for a specific time block to keep people as separated as possible. They’re also doing more virtual consultations with buyers and sellers.

Kiko said they also converted some real estate auctions to for sale listings, with the option to hold an auction later on.

“Both methods work. It just depends on what the seller’s objective is,” he said. “An auction gives clients so much power.”

Going online has resulted in a little more work up front for these companies, Kaufman said. When people can’t view equipment or real estate in person, you need to make sure there are thorough photos, drone footage from above or a virtual tour of a property.

But when it comes time for the auction to open, no one has to set up a tent, get all the equipment in line or park cars.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be contacted at 800-837-3419 or rachel@farmanddairy.com)

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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