The following information may help you decide which method is best for you and your family

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Should I Have An Auction or Estate Sale?

"Auction" or "Estate Sale"
Many people use these terms interchangeably, and many estate representatives we have spoken with are not familiar with the auction method of marketing and the benefits to their estate. Though there are differences, they share some similarities. The real difference is the method by which the sale is accomplished.

An Auction: Price is determined by competitive bidding and sold to the highest bidder.* An Auction may be conducted live or online or a combination of both.Usually the public is present for only a day or two, if a preview is held.

An estate sale: Price is determined by the estate sale operator. The sale is carried out over a series of days, usually three and the public is present in the home during the duration. (Also known as a tag sale, etc.)

Auctioneers for years have used the term “Auction Method of Marketing,” and that’s exactly what it is! It is a highly-effective method by which your items are brought to the public and offered for sale. Whether online or live bidding is used, the key components are the same. There is nothing else like a Auction! Bidding allows each item to be maximized without capping potential price sales price.

When conducted live, it is “The Sound That Sells!,” and when online, it is equally exciting. Professional Licensed Auctioneers are licensed by the State of Texas under the auspices of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and covered by a Recovery Fund. Professional Auctioneers have had specific training and/or classes in their fields and may seek additional professional designations in a specialty. Most importantly, there are specific rules and laws that outline the conduct of Professional Auctioneers.

In addition, Auctioneer conduct is also addressed and outlined in the Uniform Commercial Code Texas Motor Vehicle Code Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and the State Comptroller’s office with regard to Sales Tax. Professional Auctioneers also must complete approved Continuing Education hours every year to maintain licensure. A consciencious professional Auctioneer will maintain professional associations, hold themselves to higher ethical standards, and always strive to improve the services offered to their Sellers.

There are specific laws and rules that govern the sale of certain assets. Auctioneers must follow or be subject to fines and penalties, including a possible loss of license! You can be assured that if for some reason you are not paid by the Auctioneer after your estate is sold, you have somewhere you can turn that will hold that Auctioneer accountable, pay toward your losses, and pursue the situation to a satisfactory conclusion. There is no such organization to help you if you use a disreputable estate sale company. You are on your own to hire whatever legal assistance you may need. There is no governing body or regulating entity issuing a license to an estate sale company. Anyone who wants to can put themselves out there and say they “do estate sales.” While there may be situations where an estate or garage sale is more appropriate -- and there are some good estate sale operators out there in fact, some auctioneers will even conduct them -- please do your research and know who you are dealing with.

Is there a possible conflict of interest created by estate sale companies? The possible conflict arises by virtue of the fact that an estate sale operator who is pricing and evaluating your items may have an interest in owning the very items they are setting the pricing for. Oftentimes the estate sale operators have been, or are currently, owners of an antique or resale shop. They often bring in their own additional items, and those of others, overfilling the house and thereby directly competing with your assets for the consumers' dollars. In addition, their offer to haul away or dispose of anything that doesn’t sell by the last day of the sale could also be a disreputable owner’s way of restocking their own inventory on your nickel, either by overpricing or underpricing. Sadly, they have left money on the table that should have gone to the seller but the disappointment doesn’t always stop there. I have seen situations where those very items then become consignment items to an Auction house, only now it’s the property of the estate sale operator. If Auction is the right choice for the estate sale operator, it was probably the right choice for the original seller.

Along those same lines, many estate sale operators are unlicensed and conducting "online auctions." Once again, even they are trusting the Auction's bidding method for a better return due to competitive bidding situations. For now, I'll forego commenting on the "unlicensed" auctions aspect. The Auctioneer’s ultimate goal is that everything sells and that there isn’t anything left over when they conclude an estate Auction.

We are often hired to liquidate -- be it an estate, business or restaurant – and that is what we do: Turn the assets into cash for the Seller. Another possible difficulty with estate and garage sale leftovers – and we see this countless times! -- is that the homeowner or estate sale operator comes in, conducts an estate sale and leaves a mountain of remaining items behind. They have successfully sold all the best items now you are left with only the lesser items.

What do you do now? You still have a houseful of items, but now all the best items that would have drawn a nice Auction crowd are gone. I can’t begin to tell you how many times this happens. The potential seller may have been happy at first with the results of the estate sale but in hindsight, they wish they had gone the Auction route to begin with. Despite what some may think, Auction companies do not sell the "left overs." We have the capability to market whatever asset class may arise, and we do not have buyers for the leavings, either. We are experts at marketing and professionals in our field. Luxury and high-end assets are offered at Auction regularly because of the many benefits our method affords to the Seller.

Then there is always the unfair advantage of the “early birds,” those early risers who chase around town finding all the best goodies at all the best estate and garage sales. Early birds snag those choice, underpriced items and they are chuckling all the way to the bank! At Auction, those early birds don’t have the unfair advantage of purchasing the item simply because they happened to be there first.

At Auction, that item comes up to the Auction block in full view of the public and is put up for competitive bidding on by ALL interested buyers. The bids will be advanced by the potential buyers until a high bid is reached. The competition drives the price up. Each bidder has the same opportunity to purchase the item as the others. The most obvious advantage to this method could be huge in your pocketbook! The Auction method is completely transparent, conducted in public for all to see, hear, and witness with full disclosure. In an Auction situation, everyone has an equal opportunity to bid. All negotiations go up, not down! Whatever the starting bid is, any subsequent “offers” are on the way up! At Auction, you can expect your items on Auction day to bring what competing buyers will reasonably pay for that item. Ask yourself, “Why do people attend estate sales?” People attending estate sales tend to look, to haggle about pricing, and maybe make a purchase. They will often browse through and leave.

Conversely, most people attend an Auction with the intention to buy! Regular Auction attendees to live events will get up early, pick up friends or family, drive for hours, and show up at an Auction with a truck and trailer, boxes and packing supplies. They will come with their own chairs snacks and refreshments, if need be planning to spend the day – rain or shine! Auctions are truly an “event.” They are exciting, entertaining, social and enjoyable.

An Auction will make your home, farm and ranch, or estate liquidation a positive thing that many in the community will remember for years! In our online bidding format style, the excitement is also created with a sense of urgency! The cataloged items close at a specific time with a countdown clock and extended bidding for bids placed as the item's bidding is closing. This simulates an Auctioneer's cries to the bidders that the item is about to sell, and they must bid NOW!

If you are still asking yourself, “What difference does it make if I have an Online style Auction or an estate tagged sale?” please call a Professional Auctioneer in your area to discuss your situation fully. A Professional Auctioneer may be able to better advise you further of a solution for your area, or offer a solution you have not yet thought of.

(There are additional Auction solutions that can be offered, such as a Live Auction event, an online only "Internet Auction” event, or “Live and Simultaneous Internet Auction” events (Simulcast).

A good Professional Auctioneer can be a professional problem-solver!

* There are situations where a reserve price must be met before an item will sell. Reserve prices are usually determined by the Seller. (Don’t forget to sign up on our email list to be notified of Martindale Auction’s upcoming Auction events, both LIVE and ONLINE!)

The opinions expressed are those of the author, Valerie Grimm. She is a licensed Realtor with Keller Williams Realty Clear Lake/NASA, Professional Auctioneer and owner of Martindale Auction Services, Licensed by the State of Texas, and a member of Texas Auctioneers Association (TAA) and Fellowship of Christian Auctioneers International (FCAI), National Association of Realtors®, Texas Association of Realtors® and Houston Association of Realtors®. She has served on the Board of Directors for the TAA (2011-2012, 2012-2013 & 2014-2015). Texas Auctioneer’s License No. 16230.

This article is not intended as professional advice or counsel and may be very different from where you live. Use your best judgment and consult an attorney in your personal and business dealings. You may reprint or use this article only if used in its entirety and for the express purpose of promoting the Auction industry

Still have questions? Feel free to call!