The Pros and Cons of Selling Luxury Property at Auction

Longer Sales Cycles for Distinctive Properties

Distinctive properties can generally involve longer sales cycles than mid-market and everyday level homes. This is particularly true for properties in unique or isolated settings, or for those with very distinctive and personalized features. The simple fact is that the subset of the population that can afford to purchase multi-million dollar and up trophy properties is a very small segment of the population. Move up the food chain to some of today’s international trophy properties which can sell for hundreds of millions of dollars, and there may be less than 200 people on the planet who can make that type of investment.

Is An Auction the Right Solution?

Here in North Carolina, where our ultra-luxury segment probably begins north of $2 million, the question occasionally arises as to whether or not an auction is a right solution to move a property, so let’s evaluate the pros and cons, as well as some recent results.

Two Main Types of Auctions

There are a couple main types of auctions, those with a “reserve price” (a minimum the owner will take the property or they won’t sell), or those sold “without reserve” (the owner has waived the minimum and agrees to take whatever that auction’s appetite for the property will produce at offering price).

Pros:

  • Finality
  • Condensed Period of Making Home Available For Showings
  • Generally Pre-Qualified Buyers
  • Marketing Blitz To Qualified Buyers and Prior Mailing List

The general appeal of selling at auction includes the finality of hopefully being done as a seller (if sold without reserve, the home price garnered at auction generally means the selling of the home is moving toward a closing, pending a likely inspection by the buyer). An auction is a condensed period in which the home is marketed, may be open for a couple of weekends prior to, but otherwise reduces the hassle of having a home for sale and prepping it for showings over an extended period of time. Auctioneers generally verify the wherewithal to buy of all participants.

Cons:

  • If Sold With a Reserve Minimum, A Property May Not Meet The Minimum
  • Sellers Typically Participate in Thousands of Dollars in Marketing Fees
  • Sales Prices Can Be 30% Or More Below Recently Listed MLS Pricing or Comparables
  • Perceived Potential Stigma Or Fire Sale Mentality From Some Buyers
 
While a no-reserve auction can certainly be appealing given the likelihood of being able to move on fairly quickly (many auction sales still require 30-45 days of inspections, etc. to get to closing), there are some risks and downsides to consider. First, if the house is sold with a reserve that the auction audience fails to meet, its’ back to square one for the seller, often after coming out-of-pocket significantly to fund the marketing for the auction. Additionally, some buyers arrive with the mentality that auction properties are being “fire sold” or in some way have been stigmatized, which could result in the property being sold at a discount to what it ultimately might sell for with a conventional realtor’s approach. Finally, in looking at a couple recent North Carolina results, sellers need to be realistic about how a property will perform relative to its most recently listed MLS for sale price.
Two recent sales of properties listed at the $3 million dollar level, brought no reserve auction prices of $1.68 million and $1.994 million, somewhere between 30 and 40% off their most recent MLS listing prices,and it is fairly common to see auction sold price points at 25% or more below a property’s recent MLS list price. Given this discount, some sellers may want to consider adjusting their price by 5-10% prior to see if they can attract an offer above that 25-30% or higher discount that recent auctions have come in with.
Auctions Can Be a Great Option
For a seller with the simple desire to move on quickly and no sensitivity to steeply discounted offers, auctions can be a great option. For those more sensitive to net proceeds, more conventional price reduction strategies for a currently listed property, may yield a premium over the longer term to auction results. It really comes down to the goals each seller has during the property sales process.