By Matt Reese
Online only auctions can offer some advantages.
“The online auction has really exploded and online only has also really exploded. Nothing against a live auction, but if you’re a farmer and you’re going to have a liquidation sale, a live auction does come with a cost. You’re going to need to be prepared to have 300 to 500 people on your farm and 200 to 300 pickup trucks parking in your field. On a great day, with beautiful weather, it’s great. On a bad day, it can be stressful,” said Jeff Lentz, owner of Buckeye Online Equipment Auctions, LLC. “And sellers do not have to haul their equipment to an equipment yard. It saves them time. For a buyer, it’s the same thing with time-savings. They don’t have to stand at an auction all day long. They don’t have to travel three states away. A lot of the buyers are in their tractor or in their combine bidding on equipment while they’re working, so I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Lentz got started with online auctions back in 2015 and the platform has grown dramatically since then.
“I’ve been in the auction business for 38, 39 years. I was watching the crowds at live auctions taper off and I could just see that there were other opportunities out there. I watched a lot of dealers starting to go online,” he said. “And then I thought, why don’t I try online too? So, we put a Cat 95 Challenger tractor on there and had a lot of response selling online and sold it to a guy in California. It worked. From that point forward, our business has grown 30% every year.”
Success in the online auction format depends upon clear communication about the items for sale.
“If you tell us you want to have a complete liquidation or you want to sell one piece, we come to you,” Lentz said. “We take a lot of pictures for when we advertise your items. We’ll take 30 or 40 pictures, two or three videos, and answer every question that we can possibly answer. Anything with an engine, we take a video of it so we know it runs and moves. And then we write the description. All the calls come to us, and then if a customer would like to speak to the owner, we are more than willing to give them their phone number and tell them where the equipment is located. We would prefer to have the buyer go out and inspect it before they start bidding. And if you’re from out of state, we suggest you call a local dealer or an appraiser and have them go out and inspect it.”
Many buyers familiar with online auctions have a different bidding strategy.
“It’s not like a live auction where you try to bid at the very last minute and get that last bid in,” Lentz said. “If you’re going to put a bid in, put your max bid in. So, if you’re willing to go to $10,000 on an item, you put a max bid of $10,000 in, and it’s going to bid for you. If somebody bids $5,500, it’s going to put you in at $5,600. If someone bids $7,500 it’s going to bid $7,600. If somebody bids $10,100, it is going to notify you’ve been out bid. Then if you want to keep bidding, you can bid more. But I tell everybody just put your max bid in. I have a lot of customers who just put a max bid in and that’s their budget. And they say, if I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t. And that’s how they go at it.”
Online only can be a good option when an in-person auction is not a fit.
“We just did a retirement auction for a gentleman in a rest home. He did not want to be there to watch his tractors drive out the driveway. So for him, it worked out very well,” Lentz said. “It really is just a new way of liquidating equipment with less stress on the buyers and the sellers. I totally understand the live auction, the social event, you get to see all your neighbors. But when it comes down to dollars and cents, you have to remember when you’re selling your life’s accomplishment, of all the equipment that you’ve invested over all the years, you have one shot of selling that equipment. And my job is to get you as much money as I can possibly get you.”