COVID-19 brought a slew of changes for businesses nationwide, but Halderman Real Estate Services was ahead of the curve when it came to online auctions. In 2019, Halderman hosted only 10 online-only auctions, but the following spring found that number growing hand over fist.
“We knew our customers weren’t ready for online-only auctions quite yet, but COVID kind of forced everyone’s hand,” said Halderman Vice President Pat Karst. “COVID just accelerated what was already coming. Now 3 out of 4 auctions we do are online only. It was literally in the blink of an eye that things switched.”
Gone are the days of driving to an auction only to battle the elements. You can now have a bidding war from the comfort of your favorite recliner or even in the tractor cab.
“We strongly suggest the online-only, timed auctions when it makes sense for our customer,” said Rusty Harmeyer who’s a Real Estate Agent and Auctioneer for Halderman. “It’s about as convenient of an auction as you can get. In my opinion, online-only is the future of the auction business.”
As an auctioneer himself, one of Harmeyer’s favorite past times is calling bids behind a podium to a live audience. He still gets that opportunity at the live auctions which now all offer simulcast bidding.
Adding the online element to the live events opens the sale to a whole new pool of bidders. Back in early 2020, Karst did some digging to find out what his customer should expect from online auctions.
“After taking into account land quality and all that, we saw that online auctions had a slight edge over the live ones,” Karst explained. “Most people would rather sit at home and bid rather than drive four hours round trip to attend a live event.”
Typically, the online auctions are only open for 8 hours. Many customers wonder if that’s enough time for bidders, but when you think about the length of a live auction, an online auction gives bidders significantly more time to bid than anything they ever attend in person.
“We usually see a flurry of bidding in the last hour of the auction,” Karst said. “The auction has an automatic extension so nobody can place the final bid at the last second. The auction won’t close until five minutes after the last bid is submitted.”
While land typically sells to someone in the local area, Halderman sells farmland and farm equipment to just about every state in the U.S., Canada, and even overseas. The online element is the only way to reach those buyers.
In one respect, the online element makes Halderman’s job easier because they don’t travel to live auctions. However, access to and use of the internet made their job a bit harder than it was even just a few years ago.
“We work really hard to nail the estimated value of a product while also marketing it as honestly as possible,” Harmeyer said. “There is so much info out there now and we have to make sure we get all the details about the land and equipment because our buyers demand it. We work really hard to make sure we represent everything we sell as accurately as possible.”
An educated decision is easy to come by when a search engine fits in the palm of your hand. Combined with virtual tours of the farm from 200’ in the air (via a drone) buyers today can complete their research on a farm property faster than ever before from wherever they might be. Achieving a fair-market value for any item Halderman sells is pivotal for keeping repeat customers both as buyers and sellers.
Every sale is unique and Halderman treats them as such. That’s why there is no one-size-fits-all answers when it comes to choosing between a live or online-only auction.
“The complexity of the sale really determines what our recommendation will be,” Karst said. “The more tracts there are to sell, the more complex the sale will be. And usually, that leads us to recommend a live event with an online simulcast. However, sometimes we also recommend a private sale. It just really depends on the goals of our customers and what they’re selling.”
The online element opens the door for bidders who might not want to raise their paddle in front of their friends and neighbors.
“When you’re bidding online, you’re just a number on a screen,” Karst said. “It takes out the personal fear or hesitation that bidding in a public place can add. It allows people to make good business decisions without the added pressure.”
One other perk of the online auction is for the seller. Especially for those sales that might be more emotional than others.
“It’s not uncommon for the seller to shed a few tears because it’s the end of a chapter for their family,” Karst said. “That emotion and anxiety can be handled privately instead of in public with the online option and I think a lot of people appreciate that.”