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  • Writer's pictureMike Brandly, Auctioneer

Will there be no more live auctions?

This current pandemic: the Coronavirus (COVID-19) — or any other pandemic — suggests to some that live auctions are essentially extinct and there’s no need for them.

“Once all auctioneers move to online they will see how much better those are and never go back …” and “People will eventually see the ease and convenience of buying everything online and you won’t get anyone to your live auctions down the road.” were both proclamations I heard recently.

I’m not convinced that live auctions are gone for good and rather I believe once this health crisis is over, they will return largely to what they were prior. I also believe that sit-in restaurants, malls, stores, concerts, airlines, cruise ships and hundreds of other businesses will be back as well.

I’ve also heard loud and clear from some auctioneers that putting each item online (multiple pictures, descriptions, associated fees, online questions, shipping …) is much more work than their live auction was a month or so ago.

Even if the online prices are higher, are they sufficiently higher to compensate for the additional labor? Or, does the seller (or buyer) incur those supplemental costs and therefore is bidding and/or seller net proceeds suppressed?

In other words, somebody has to get the item online, maybe pay packing/shipping and somebody has to pay the online platform. Live auctions as well have costs, but for many auctioneers, those costs have already been mitigated.

Will some live auctions/venues not return to so-called normal after all this? Certainly, some will have substantial financial difficulty which will lead to a closure which could persist for some time. For that matter, some online auctions could suffer as well.

This could be akin to the real estate business — in 2003 there were about 1,300,000 licensees and after the 2009-2013 recession nearly a third were gone. We’re seeing an increase since, but we’re not back to 1999-2007 levels yet.

The live auction business is enjoyed by countless auctioneers, sellers, bidders/buyers and it’s inconceivable to me that we as an industry don’t largely start all that back up when this crisis is over. Personally, we’re anxious to get to that restaurant to sit down for a steak dinner, maybe take a flight, cruise and/or attend a concert as well.

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.

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