Online auctions play bigger role in sales | State and Region

Online auctions have played a bigger role in farm equipment and land sales, according to auction companies. This trend was on the rise and has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aaron Olson is an auctioneer and owner of Zielsdorf Auction and Real Estate, located in Benson, Minnesota. He says online auctions have allowed sellers to find a much wider pool of potential buyers.

“We were 40% online before COVID, and since COVID we’re 100% online,” he says. “It’s been wonderful.”

Zielsdorf Auction specializes in farm equipment and real estate, and Olson says they’ve had bidders from several Midwestern states.

“We’ve seen our auction activity increase,” he says. “While I always love in-person auctions, online has been the way to go to find buyers.”

Tim Elliott owns Atterbury Auctions in Columbia, Missouri. He agrees that online auctions have increased the pool of potential buyers.

“The Internet has really opened up a lot of new avenues for us, now that we can reach people all over the United States,” he says.

Atterbury Auctions sells a variety of things, Elliott says, ranging from personal possessions and tractors to real estate and land. He says his business does about 99% online bidding, with a few in-person bidding.

“Online tends to bring in more money,” he says.

Olson says their online auctions typically last 10 days and potential bidders are encouraged to stop by and view the equipment for sale for those who still prefer to see things in person. He says good photos and descriptions are important for online sales, as well as for advertising so people are aware.

“You can still have sellers, but you have to find buyers,” Olson says.

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Elliott says it’s important to provide good visuals of what people are bidding on.

“Images and descriptions are very critical,” he says. “We have people buying things all the time without seeing them, but if you have good photos, that helps.”

Elliott also says it can be helpful to have preview periods where people can come and see land or equipment that will be auctioned online.

“People still like to see and touch what they’re bidding on,” he says.

Olson says the shift to fully online auctions began when the coronavirus outbreak hit and his business was deemed non-essential. Rather than shutting down business entirely because they couldn’t have stock in person, the company shifted entirely to online sales.

“We shifted gears and went online only,” says Olson.

He says the online model surged during COVID, especially as people were home and looking to buy. But the convenience kept the online model going, although Olson says he appreciated having in-person sales.

“The live setting was just more fun,” he says. “You had everyone, and it was a social event.”

Still, Olson says the online approach has worked well for both buyers and sellers, and he appreciates how it turned out.

“Very happy with how it’s going,” he said. “It’s just different from what we’re used to.”

Elliott says it has been an intriguing time for his business.

“It was exciting,” he says.