Technology has always had a fundamental role in our business. In the early years, this was more geared towards remote bidding, web development and the set-up of our Auction Management System.
More recently, the advance of multimedia platforms has added a whole new element to our marketing process by giving us the ability to target different audience demographics. Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and the likes have opened a seemingly endless business networking pool connecting people that wouldn’t have necessarily interacted before now. Advances in artificial intelligence and bio data will further change how we conduct our day-to-day business.
When it comes to real estate sales, it is widely accepted that selling at auction is the most effective and transparent way to achieve market value on the day. But even the most old-fashioned proponents of traditional auctions have encountered situations in which, for one reason or another, it is hard, if not impossible, to sell a particular lot during a ballroom sale. In such scenarios speed is the key to keeping up momentum and the use of technology can truly make a difference.
One of the biggest changes to our industry has been the rise of online auction platforms. Love them or hate them, they now play an important part within our sector – and for good reasons.
Intuitively, some may think that these two methods of sale, ballroom and online, are going to fight against each other. Nothing can be further from the truth. At Clive Emson Auctioneers we have combined both methods in a way that complements and utilises their strengths, effectively translating the benefits of traditional auctions online.
We launched our online services in the summer of 2016 to stay ahead of the curve. This opened up our auction room to a national audience. We deliberately took a soft-start approach to iron out any issues and to start increasing our online exposure.
One of the first things we asked ourselves while setting up the new online platform was: how can we avoid the two methods of sale stepping on each other’s toes?
Initially, I was concerned by the possible impact of running our own online auction service and whether this would adversely affect the number of lots we offer through our regular ballroom auctions. After the launch, however, it appeared that the impact was negligible thanks to one key feature: our fee structure.
I didn’t think that charging all fees to the buyer, as many auctioneers seem to do these days, would be the right thing to do. I strongly believe that you ‘get what you pay for’ and by passing all the seller’s fees on to the buyer, you are somehow removing any incentive for both the agent and seller. No risk, no reward.
One of the most crucial aspects for us was to provide a fair and balanced service offer, so our fee structure has remained the same across all our auction platforms.
The fulfilment of anti-money laundering requirements is another area where it would almost be impossible to carry out our obligations without the use of technology. However, it is also true that the facilities available to us will increase or decrease the cost and time spent conducting due diligence and background checks.
At Clive Emson we still manage most (if not all) of our multimedia platforms in house. This means that we can constantly review and update the software and programs we use.
During the testing period, we soon realised that our online platform proved very effective. If a lot didn’t sell in the ballroom, we could give the seller the opportunity to put it straight into one of our fixed-date online sales, offering each seller and buyer a second bite of the cherry.
Many of our clients have now familiarised themselves with the process and ask us specifically to use this route. But for those on a really tight schedule who need to sell within a timeframe that doesn’t fit with our auction calendar, we also offer single-lot sales. In many cases, this proved to be even more successful than the multi-lot ones.
About a year and a half ago, we were approached by a corporate client who needed to sell a former office building in Essex – and quickly. The client gave us only seven days to market the property and put it up in a sale, so there was no time to wait for our next ballroom auction. Therefore, we decided to organise an online sale specifically for that lot.
The property was marketed with a £1m guide price and it was the largest lot we ever offered online. It received 15 bids and ended up selling for £1.25m. We hoped the lot would receive good interest but didn’t expect it to be so successful – particularly with only seven days of marketing.
At the same time, a similar situation presented itself with a client in Bristol who needed to sell a freehold residential investment. Again, they had a very tight schedule and gave us a seven-day window to do the marketing and conduct the sale, so we opted for a single-lot auction. The block was guided at £400,000 and proved even more attractive. It received 42 bids and eventually sold for £622,000.
”Intuitively, some may think that these two methods of sale, ballroom and online, are going to fight against each other. Nothing can be further from the truth”
While our core business is still driven by the ballroom auction, we have seen more and more of our clients opting to utilise our online platform, despite it being relatively new. This year, we decided that we could further complement our services by providing a fixed-date online auction that would follow each ballroom sale, while we continued to conduct single-lot sales for those with a specific date criteria. This, we believed, would add to the feeling of excitement and buzz to help achieve the best results for our clients and customers.
The method is the same and is as secure as in the ballroom. After all the bids have been placed and the timer runs out, the fall of the electronic gavel marks the exchange of contracts.
Our clients are very happy, as we’ve effectively given them three distinct routes to sell (and buy) their properties. Our experience proves that online auctions work – they just have to be used in the right way.
Ultimately, technological advances are designed to help us and that is exactly how we should embrace them. By combining ballroom auctions, online auctions and fixed-date online auctions, we are now able to offer a greater cache of options, while still providing the professional service we pride ourselves on.
Clive Emson Auctioneers was founded in 1989 as a high-profile auction house for corporate and independent estate agents, private clients and statutory bodies. Our success is attributable to a firm commitment to quality and service, reflected by both our Investors in People and ISO accreditations. Our concept is to provide a specialist land and property auction service that does not compete with the traditional estate agent, mortgage broker, insurer or any other aspect of the property world. All properties we are instructed on are offered for sale in the 20,000 to 25,000 colour catalogues produced for each auction, which are available by post or through a network of over 850 estate agents in southern England. Our marketing is supported by more estate agency offices than any other auctioneer.
PW Perspectives: industry responds to changing needs
- Currently reading
Online sales complement traditional ballroom offer