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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

On-site versus off-site auctions

In many markets in the United States, auctions are held in basically one of two locations:

  1. At an auction house, rented facility or the like

  2. On-site, at the farm, house or property

Why would a client prefer an on-site auction over an off-site auction? Why would a client prefer an off-site auction over an on-site auction? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both? We’ll explore that here.

Let’s say Nancy Greer is charged with managing the Estate of Reba Klopper, her grandmother. Reba collected antiques and other items over her 90 years and has a 5-bedroom house full. Additionally, the barn and other outbuildings are packed as well. Nancy is talking to an auctioneer about selling all the personal property, and possibly the real property, at auction.

Upon meeting with an auctioneer, Nancy hears about her two options. As the auctioneer describes it, there are advantages and disadvantages:

Advantage of an on-site auction:

  1. Crowd. The neighbors will certainly be present.

  2. No relocation. Since all the items will sell on-site, trucking and packing can be avoided.

  3. Curiosity. Those always wanting to see inside Reba’s house will get a chance.

  4. Real estate. If the real estate is being sold at auction, an on-site auction is well suited.

Disadvantages of an on-site auction:

  1. Parking. With no paved parking lot, parking will be along the road, and in the fields.

  2. Neighbors. Sometimes neighbors protest people parking on their properties, or in their driveways.

  3. Facilities. Electric and plumbing will be challenged under the stress of several hundred people.

  4. Weather. If it rains, tents will be needed, and fields will be soggy making parking challenging. If it is excessively cold or warm, some attendees may stay away.

  5. What doesn’t sell. Items that don’t sell or have been bequeathed will need to be covered, or otherwise out of sight.

Advantages of an off-site auction:

  1. Facility. Typically, there is ample parking, seating, electric, plumbing, heat/AC and room undercover.

  2. Known location. If the auctioneer has had auctions at this facility before, or has them on a regular basis, the facility will be easy to find and known.

  3. Technology. At a commercial facility, Internet access will be more reliable and accessible to facilitate online bidding.

  4. Security. Most commercial facilities have better security compared to a residential home or farm. Both prior to the auction, and during the auction, door alarms, motion detectors and security cameras are typically enabled.

  5. Synergy. Other bidders will be present due to possibly other consignments at this same auction, and they may bid on the Estate’s items as well.

Disadvantages of an off-site auction

  1. Relocation. The cost and inconvenience of packing, moving, and then unpacking in order to relocate the items.

  2. Damage. More handling means an increased likelihood of breakage or damage.

  3. Less Interesting. Neighbors and friends may be less inclined to attend the auction due to it being a more commercialized, distant event.

  4. Competition. If other items are at this same auction, of the same kind and type, it may cause bidders to bid on those other items, instead of the Estate’s items.

In some cases, there isn’t a choice between these two options. If this Estate only had a few items, an on-site auction would not be prudent as bidders would resist traveling to a location with only a modest inventory. As well, if there was no parking, no utilities or otherwise no way to properly accommodate an on-site crowd, an off-site auction would be a better choice.

Too, there are some auctioneers who report that the client doesn’t want people traipsing through mom’s house. In cases of this emotional factor, an off-site auction may be better as well.

Lastly, sometimes there isn’t time to have an on-site auction. If Nancy had already sold the real estate in this case, and the closing was 2 days away, there would be little time to prepare and advertise an on-site auction; however, all those items could be packed and hauled away within the 2 days, and then sold later, after the closing.

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: He is Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School.

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