So, what’s an online retirement auction like?

Tim Kipper
BigIron Auctions regional manager
It's in the seller's best interest to clean and prepare equipment prior to an auction. This can increase the return on your equipment by four or five times the cost of cleaning the equipment.

My most heartwarming experiences during my nearly decade-long tenure in the online auction industry have come from retirement auctions. For those looking to retire and increase their capital, the benefits of the online auction cannot be understated. A global buyer base means increased competition bidding on your equipment. Yet, many don’t understand the whole process of selling equipment online.

My goal is to give you a better understanding of the online auction process, how to get the most back from your equipment, and the relationship between a retiree and their auction representative.

Brothers and farming retirees from Nebraska, Delton and Delwin Myers, recently went through the retirement auction process and can provide a seller’s perspective.

Choosing an auction provider

Reputable companies that adhere to practices that bring in proven results are few and far between, so it is important to do your research when choosing an auction provider. For example, understanding that unreserved auctions typically bring in higher bids due to higher buyer confidence, is a good sign that your chosen company knows what they are doing. Another is understanding whether your chosen company imposes buyer fees, which can hinder bidding resources of buyers.

Word-of-mouth referrals are a key part of our business. If you’re thinking about retiring, and others are recommending a reputable company, be sure to give that company some thought. Make sure to do your own homework so that you understand what sets one auction provider apart from the other.

[At an online auction] “you get a wider variety of people across the whole United States as opposed to an on-site auction,” said Delton Myers, a recent retiree. [You get a] “wide variety of bidders, and more publicity across the United States for people to bid.”

Building a plan

Once you have an idea of how you want your retirement auction to go, ask your auction company to develop a strategy for how to best execute that plan. This means identifying what pieces of equipment you want to sell, what dates work best for you, payment procedures, equipment cleaning, and so on. If you don’t have a plan, or feel that it could use some tweaking, that is okay. We can work with you to develop a plan that meets your needs.

Once we have the auction agreement signed we will begin building a timeline for taking photos, videos, and developing item descriptions of your equipment. We also help stage the equipment so that it looks its best and review the listings of your equipment to make sure everything is as accurate as possible. We’ll also ask you to provide service records in case buyers want to see them. This is done to help build trust with the buyer, which can help bring in higher bids.

“Even the small items, he would take eight pictures in different angles,” says Delwin Myers when asked about his auction representative. “He wasn’t going to skip anything.”

Visuals are important when selling equipment at an auction. Make sure wherever itmes are staged is aesthetically pleasing.

Another key aspect of a successful retirement is building and maintaining connections between sellers and buyers. Buyers will often have questions or may even want to test out the equipment before they commit to buying it. These calls and visits get more frequent as the actual auction comes closer but by working with a full-service auction company, all you need to worry about is connecting with buyers. We’ll handle the rest.

"The one thing that really surprised me was the number of phone calls we had the last day of the auction," says Delton Myers. "It made the morning go really fast since you had questions to answer instead of time to think about everything."

Informing the public

While seemingly obvious, it is paramount to the success of the auction that people know there is an event happening. Experience has proven that most people are typically willing to travel about 250 miles to pick up purchased equipment. This means that the local community needs to know it’s happening. Full-service online auction firms specialize in getting the word out, and we like to make your auction both an online and local event.

Every auction has its own unique set of challenges to overcome. Sometimes that means that a marketing campaign needs to be designed with those specific hurdles in mind. Typical marketing includes a presence on social media, e-mail, and outdoor signage. For larger items, it’s typical to have local newspaper ads and radio too.

“At a local auction, you would still get the same bidders close by. They still see the sale bill,” says Delwin Myers. “Farther out, people aren’t going to get it. This really helped.”

Where everything comes together, however, is the open house.  Typically done about a week or even days before the auction closes, this is a chance for buyers to come and see the equipment first-hand and gives sellers the opportunity to tell their equipment’s story.

“We didn’t even know how many would show up [at the open house]. We thought maybe 10 people or so,” says Delton Myers. “There was more than that a half hour before it was supposed to start. The people that were here were inspecting equipment and asking questions. That was well worth the time and effort that went in to that. We appreciated that too.”

What’s auction day like?

Finally, after all that planning, equipment cleaning, waiting, answering calls and questions, auction day comes. You’ll have the opportunity to keep engaging buyers and tracking current auction prices. Just prior to the auction closing, my team will start calling buyers to generate more interest in your items, which can help increase the competition and create higher bids.

Buyers and sellers need to coordinate once auction day is over, on how equipment will be retrieved. The auction provider should be able to help schedule removal dates if needed, but our sellers typically manage the pick-up of equipment.

“I was in the shop when we were told the figure of what we made,” says Delwin Myers.  “I was totally blown away. Elation is probably an understatement.”

Final tips

Equipment that is lien-free typically does better on the market, but just because a piece of equipment has a lien on it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be auctioned off. Best-of-breed online auction companies conduct UCC checks and, if a lien is found during the check, the auction companies will communicate with the seller to find a solution. We also see that when you sell multiple pieces of equipment as a package, it typically does better than selling a single item. The more value the buyer sees, the more enticed they are.

If there is anything from this article that I want the reader to walk away with, it’s that the key to a successful auction is a honest and reputable company. While it can be an arduous process, it’s all worth it when I give the client a check, and that inevitable grin forms and I am reminded how truly meaningful and rewarding my job can be.