|House auctions: Some owners are sold
on swift option
By Connie Cartmell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tenant Victor Wells watches from his front porch as son, Josh, 11, prepares to ride his bike Monday at
the family's Oakwood Avenue home. The home, and the house next door, are scheduled to be auctioned
off with four additional properties around the city.
When Marian DuVall, of Belpre, decided to sell her home, she chose a creative, age-old, and often
misunderstood sales method — a public auction.
Her sale was on a cold and rainy October night, with 28 pre-qualified bidders in attendance. Ben Schafer,
of Caldwell, was auctioneer.
Within two hours, DuVall’s upscale home, valued between $300,000 and $350,000, was sold.
“I was renting the home to a single mom with a small child at the time and for security and privacy
reasons, we didn’t want a lot of people tramping through the house,” DuVall said. “This is another option
for sellers, but isn’t for everybody.”
For this property owner, the public auction was quick and painless.
“My costs were more expensive, but I can see a number of scenarios where this is beneficial to a seller,”
House auctions are a growing trend for a variety of reasons, according to Charlie McLeish, owner, with
son, Keelan, of McLeish Auctions of Marietta.
“It’s an option, a way to market a house very quickly,” Charlie McLeish said. “It’s certainly a growing trend,
particularly in the last year. It seems more so in northern Ohio, in the Canton and Akron areas, from what
it’s been here.”
An uncertain economy overall, a nationwide slump in the housing industry, and the need for more rapid
property sales have all been given as reasons.
Time is a big factor, McLeish said.
“We’ve done a number of large farm sales where not only the personal property is sold, but also the
house,” he said. “It’s quick.”
Private auctions differ from those done by government to recoup unpaid tax money on a property and are
not necessarily a last resort.
“People think that a house sells at auction because the owner is hard up or needs money,” said DuVall,
an agent with Coldwell Banker Landmark Realtor, licensed in Ohio and West Virginia. “This isn’t usually
the case. My house brought just about as much at auction as it would have in a conventional sale.”
People living in Marietta can’t help but see oversized signs advertising upcoming auctions on Saturday,
Feb. 2, for six local properties. Four are in the Norwood neighborhood, one downtown and another on
Ohio 60 in Devola. All are owned by Travis Christman of Lowell.
The property auction is a first for Christman, an owner of the new Stoked coffeehouse, 302 Pike St.
“For us, the main reason we’re selling is just getting out of the rental business and getting into the
coffeehouse business,” he said.
Although marketing costs are greater ahead of the sale-by-auction, Christman figures that by the time he
would market his properties the conventional way and carry them for months or maybe years, costs
Schafer, an auctioneer 12 years and the third generation of a family of auctioneers in Noble County,
said house auctions are quick, “no-haggle deals.”
“It’s my favorite option of marketing property — quick and easy,” he said. “What I tell people is that
your property will bring the price it is worth. An auction is a true sense of value, what it is really
Auctioneers work on a commission. The downside is higher upfront, marketing costs. Expenses can be
anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 depending on the property.
Marketing is intense and focused only on the single property. That’s the advantage, Schafer said.
Some auctioneers, at the homeowner’s request, will set a reserve price that guarantees a minimum
price will be received. This means that even the high bidder may not get the house if their bid isn’t over
the reserve price, which should be disclosed in advance of the sale.
“A ‘no sale’ fee might be in the range of $500, but this is not major,” Schafer said. “I’ve never had anybody
buy at auction and default.”
A buyer usually must provide 10 percent of the selling price down with an approved letter of credit.
If you go
¯ What: Marietta house auction cluster.
¯ When: Saturday, Feb. 2.
¯ Where: 103 and 105 Oakwood Ave., 627 and 629 Phillips St., 201 Washington St., 315 Snearly Drive
¯ Who: Owner, Travis Christman of Lowell; auctioneer, Ben Schafer of Caldwell.
¯ For more information: (740) 584-7253.
¯ Get prepared for a mortgage. Have your financial package ready to go before the bidding begins.
¯ Look in the local newspaper classified section or under “Home Auctions” in the Yellow Pages or
search engines. Call nearby real estate agents to see if they are aware of any scheduled auctions.
Add your name to mailing lists from local auction houses to be alerted to upcoming auctions.
¯ Get a list of properties up for auction. Get as much information as possible beforehand from the
auctioneer to get a feel for which properties may interest you.
¯ Visit the properties up for auction. Auctioneers generally have a preview date during which tours of
the house will be given.
¯ Have any home in which you’re interested inspected by a professional inspector. This can cost
several hundred dollars but will identify any significant problems that affect the value of the home,
such as pest damage, faulty foundations or leaks. You may get approval to have the home inspected
as a contingency, but bear in mind that contingencies of any kind reduce the probability of the bid
being accepted at the lowest price. Other auctioneers only sell properties “as is.”
¯ Setting your maximum bid can stop you from spending more money than might be reasonable for a
property or losing a deposit.
¯ Realize that buying at auction involves some risks. In some cases, you can’t withdraw a winning bid,
even if you’re not able to secure financing later. Penalties for backing out of a winning bid can be
steep, often as high as 25 percent of the bid amount or whatever the deposit may have been
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