Frequently Asked Questions
What do we do if we think we might want or need an auction?
Call Doug Ross at 513-523-4423 to set up a time when he can come and preview your situation.
When he makes that first visit, there is no cost and no obligation for either party. He will listen and look and let you know if it would be to your benefit to have an auction.
What does an auction cost?
An auction costs a percentage of the gross proceeds, additional hourly labor, and advertisement.
There is no money “up-front”. All the costs of the auction come out of the auction proceeds and are paid for you by Robin. You then receive a final settlement report that outlines what the costs were and your net total with a check. The percentage is based on what and how much you have to auction. If you need and agree to a port-o-potty or if we need a dumpster delivered, that, too, would come out of the sale proceeds. Each auction is different.
My family member died and his/her house is jam-packed with stuff---what do we do?
If you have decided on an auction with us, the only thing you really have to do, other than sign a contract approved by the state of Ohio or Indiana, is take out what you are going to keep and then stand back and let us do our jobs. We have a select team of trusted, experienced people who come in and take it from there: We organize everything in boxes from the best items to the toiletries and cleaners under the sinks. We will take care of trash--everyone has collected paper and plastic bags, empty margarine containers, etc. that just need to go. More of what we do will be covered in following answers.
We are moving and want to auction off what we are not taking with us. How does that work?
The best situation is to move first, give yourself a little time to see if you want anything else or want to bring back some furniture that didn’t work out in the new place, and then to have an auction of everything that’s left in the house. That’s the best situation, but if it does not work for you, we can work around almost anything. Sometimes clients will move what they want to keep to a bedroom and then we can see clearly what sells and what does not sell. When Doug visits the first time for a consultation, this is often a problem. It’s hard to get an idea of the volume of what sells because a brother wants this, an in-law wants that, and you’re taking these, etc. Eventually there has to be a physical separation and the best scenario is getting those items you need to keep out of the sale site. If that doesn’t work, we can come up with some other plan for clarity. One of the things we always need to avoid is advertising an item that the family later decides they want to keep. It’s akin to false advertising even when done innocently. Folks will often drive from miles away to come for that one item and it’s not right that they then have no chance to buy that item after it was advertised.
We would like to save money by doing a lot of the work ourselves. Is this a good idea?
For some clients, this works well. Most of the time, however, you should really let us do the job for which you hired us. Our team works quickly and efficiently. Many families, over the 25 years we’ve been in business, have told us that it took them several months to go through a family member’s house to prepare for auction. That same house would have taken us a week at most. The difference is that we are not emotionally attached to the items and can quickly decide what goes where. We rely on our experience to tell us how much time should be spent on what things. Two of the chief problems of families doing their own preparation is that they throw out things that would actually sell well or they pack the boxes too full, with a Rookwood vase on the bottom of a box and metal saucepans on top--yes, this happens all the time…. After saying all that, some families feel the need to look at everything and really want to do the work themselves and we understand that and can work with it.
But don’t we need to clean out desks and closets before you get there in case there are personal items?
We make it a policy to save back any personal items, any letters, any photos--anything at all that looks personal--so that the family can go through it later. Usually we designate a closet for that purpose. Don’t ever underestimate what one can find to sell in a desk, for instance. We’ve found fountain pens that went for $200 or more. We’ve been told more than once, after that, that the family had thrown out some just like it, thinking an old dried-up pen wasn’t worth anything.
Paper items like old cards and Valentines/post cards and old decorations are another casualty of the trash when a lot of that does sell well these days.
Hasn’t the poor economy hurt auctions?
There are many opinions about the economy, but here “in the trenches”, people are buying at auction. The change in tastes and trends has dictated which items have dropped in price rather than the economy. For instance, folks seem to want more modern, stream-lined furniture these days. The formally expensive Victorian parlor set is going a lot less than a mid-century bentwood chair. No one wants entertainment centers, no matter how beautiful or expensive they were to begin with because they’re watching flat screen TVs. Folks don’t have formal dining rooms as often and that nice dining room suite, whether old or new, will not bring anywhere near what you might expect. We are noticing that more people are coming to auctions to buy useful items rather than spend their money on new. The television programs about auctions are making people more familiar with the whole process, so new folks are coming all the time.
Why is an auction better for me than a garage sale?
It’s our understanding that, with a garage sale, the items that don’t sell go back in the garage!
You might end up with almost as much as you put out. With an auction, most items do sell. If there are left-overs, we can contract to take them away for trash or donation, leaving you with a “broom-clean” house. With an auction, there is no pricing--everything goes to the highest bidder.
What if I have a car or tractor or grandfather clock that I just can’t let go for less than a certain amount?
That is what is called a “reserve”. An auction is either “absolute” or “with reserve”. An absolute auction is one where everything sells to the highest bidder no matter what. Publishing that your auction is “absolute” tells the buyers that they will definitely be able to buy what they want if they’re willing to pay more than anyone else. An auction “with reserve” means that you have a minimum price set for something in the auction. An auction can only stand a few reserves and they should be reasonable. Otherwise, you should just keep the item or sell it yourself where you’ll have control of the price. It is, after all, an auction.
I’ve heard of absentee bidding and phone bids. Do you do that?
Yes, we do both. We want all the bidding we can get so that you realize all the profit that you can--and we work on commission, too…. Once your auction is on the web, you might get folks from all over the US interested in one or more of your items. One time Doug previewed an auction site and saw an empty box that used to hold Slim Jims that had the 3 Stooges on the front. He told the client to be sure not to throw it away, that it would sell. The client just laughed and said it was sitting right there waiting to go to the trash. That box ended up selling by phone bid for $925 to a fellow in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, there were 2 interested buyers at the auction bidding against him and each other.
There’s a lot of jewelry and I don’t know if it’s good or not. What should I do?
All jewelry is good, whether it is costume or fine gold and silver. We go through the jewelry and separate out the fine from the costume. If we miss something, the customers usually find it and bid accordingly. We organize the costume jewelry into lots that will sell. Gold and silver are selling extremely well at auction and is a good draw for your auction. Recently we sold just a few pieces of gold and silver jewelry and brought in $1000.00 for the client.
How do I tell if my grandma’s silver service is silverplate or sterling?
Most silver we encounter will be marked “sterling” or “925”. If it’s not marked sterling, chances are it’s silver plate, which sells by the boxed lot these days. A few sterling spoons, however, add up in profits! That’s why we go through the kitchen drawers so carefully, too.
Sometimes silver is old enough that it carries silver hallmarks on the bottom rather than the word sterling. We check for that, as well.
Do you have an auction house where we can take things?
Our business is based on the old-fashioned auction model. We perform auctions on site, at a person’s residence, 95% of the time, but we can and do rent facilities for clients who need it.
The benefits of having an auction on site are mostly monetary. On site, at a person’s home, not only do items bring better prices because folks can see where it came from, but the cost of boxing up an entire house, moving it, setting it up for sale day, and paying the rental fee can be cost prohibitive. Your auction may not be able to withstand that kind of outlay.
I really don’t want people wandering around the house, so what happens then?
We have to look at each site to determine what space is needed. It’s great to be able to take everything out to sell it there, but sometimes it’s not feasible or advisable. At some houses, we use the basement and garage areas because the yard is small and space is needed to show off your things. One of the necessities of an auction is a restroom for customers. If there is one off the garage, for instance, we can arrange to shut off the rest of the house and leave the bathroom open for use. We can rent a port-o-potty, which, at this time is $116.88 from AK Butler, delivered and picked up by them. This cost comes out of the sale proceeds.
If your concern is that the house looks bad and you don’t want people seeing it, don’t worry.
By the time we get done, everything looks different. We will have put down drop cloths if it’s to be a wet day and we will have wiped off furniture, etc., so everything looks as well as it can.
It’s to our benefit as well as yours to have a pleasant and safe site.
What if there’s no parking at our site?
If there’s a will, there’s a way--most of the time. We have hired a shuttle service that travels back and forth from a good parking area to the sale site. Again, like with the cost of moving items to a facility, this cost comes out of the sale proceeds. It can range from around $250-$350. for this service.
Some auctioneers charge for the use of their display tables--do you?
The gear we use to perform an auction is of no cost to you. This does not include port-o-potties, dumpster rentals, or any tents that are needed other than the three 10’x 20’ that we have already. Sometimes a bigger tent is needed and we know where that can be ordered. These types of charges would be agreed upon before ordering.
What if you have 2 or 3 auctioneers and a couple of clerks at my auction? Do I pay commission to all of them?
The agreed upon commission rate is shared by any and all auctioneer(s), clerk(s) and cashier(s).
This means that the commission of, for example, 15% of a gross total of $4000.00, which would be $600.00, would not all go to Doug Ross. It would be shared by at least himself, a clerk, and a cashier--that’s the minimum needed who work on commission the day of the auction. If there were 2 auctioneers, then that $600.00 would be shared by 4 people, etc. The hourly wages go toward workers who do the boxing up, trashing, organizing, moving furniture, etc., as well as working the actual auction and it’s clean-up.
How much is advertisement for my auction?
Things have changed a lot on the advertisement front since we began 25 years ago. We used to type up sale bills on a typewriter and take them to the newspaper offices. Newspapers were the best way to advertise a sale. Now, we get most of our auction crowd because of www.Auctionross.com and www.auctionzip.com, which is free to us and free to you. When folks sign in at an auction, we ask them how they heard about the sale: 80% or more say the internet. The 2nd runner-up is the sale bill for your auction that we would’ve had out for people to take at previous sales. Then we have newspapers, word of mouth, and signs in the front yard. Still, clients like their sales to be in the newspapers. We do think they work, that readers see the ad in the paper and then go to the web to see the photos and forget to say they saw it in the paper. With the internet, however, we don’t have to run the ad in the paper as often, so advertisement costs less these days. An auction that would have used $350.00 in advertisement in the past, spends approximately $250.00 or less today. We gear the advertisement to the auction--there’s no set amount. We try to keep all costs as low as possible without cutting service or efficiency.
How soon do I need to contact you if I think I need an auction?
The sooner, the better, but we have had as little as 2 weeks to prepare and advertise without adverse effects. With a busy schedule, for which we’re thankful, getting the date you want or need may be a factor, so soonest is best.
What’s the best day of the week and the best time of the year to have an auction?
The popular conception is that a Saturday is the best day and Summer is the best season for an auction, but this is not necessarily true. Of course, Saturday is a good day for an auction, but everyone thinks that, too, so this means your auction is up against heavy competition. We like to save Saturdays for the bigger auctions that can handle that kind of competition. Some of our best auctions have been Sunday afternoons at 1:00 and week day evenings at 5:30.
As to the best season for an auction, the Summer heat keeps people at home more than the Winter cold. It seems like folks are itching to go somewhere in the Winter and early Spring and we have some of our biggest crowds then. So, January and February are a great time for an auction. It might snow and it might sleet, but people still go to auctions. We always say that bad weather doesn’t hurt an auction outcome, but it does entail more work to prepare because of drop-cloths on floors, plastic, and tents. There have been sales where we’ve shoveled snow from the front yard in order to bring out the items. The near hurricane winds we had a couple of years ago happened during an auction and auction goers just pitched in and held down the tents and avoided the port-o-potty set under a tree while limbs and leaves blew around and the power went off. The auction continued. Bottom line is that any day or any season can be a good auction time.
What do you do about bad checks?
Ultimately, a bad check is a loss to you. In the 25 years we’ve been in business, we have only had 3 checks on which we couldn’t collect, so that’s not a bad record. Checks written the day of the auction are written to Douglas Ross Auctioneer and all funds are then deposited into the auction escrow account. It takes about 2 weeks for those checks to percolate through. If we haven’t gotten notice of a returned check in that 2 weeks, chances are there aren’t any and we issue you your check of the net proceeds. If we do get a returned check and haven’t retrieved the funds before it’s time to pay you, we subtract that amount from your net and continue to try.
When we do get those funds, they are then paid to you. If we can’t, then it’s a loss to you.
If phone reception is available at your site, we can accept credit cards, as well as cash and checks.
Do I need to keep track of what sells and for how much? How do you know who owes what and how much?
We have a clerk to write down what sells, for how much, and to what bid number. These sheets are then relayed to the cashier who tears off a copy for the auctioneer, a copy for you, and a hard copy or “ticket” for the buyer. When buyer number 59, for instance, comes up to pay, the cashier then takes out all the tickets for number 59 and adds them up. At the end of the sale, you will receive your copy of the clerking sheets to take with you.
Do you sell real estate at auction?
Doug is a licensed realtor in Ohio with Freeman Realty (www.FreemanRealtyHomes.com). Offering your home at auction is not much different from the traditional method. A traditional listing contract is signed with all the usual paperwork. If an offer or bid is accepted, then a purchase contract is signed by all parties.
The home is advertised on MLS and the newspaper, websites, etc. The house is shown to interested parties--all like traditional real estate. However, the thing to remember about offering your home at auction is that there has to be some “wiggle room” between the minimum you’d accept and the appraised value. In other words, you will need to decide what your bottom dollar is and be prepared to accept an offer for that amount. With an auction of real estate, you start with that bottom dollar and try to work upwards instead of the traditional sales technique of starting with your ideal price and working downwards. It’s an auction, so the reserve or minimum has to be reasonable enough to generate interest. Even with a reasonable minimum, there is no guarantee the house will sell. If that happens, we can still handle your listing.
If nothing else, with the excitement generated by an auction, you may come to realize that the price must still be too high if there are no bidders. Meanwhile, if the real estate auction is in conjunction with the sale of our household things, you’ve just had a huge open house!