Enrollment at auctioneer schools stay strong nationally
MANKATO, Minn. — Rich Haas became a believer in the importance of auctions when a farm he couldn't sell for a year as a real estate broker sold in 30 minutes, for a higher price, at auction.
He's been an auctioneer for 44 years. In 1986, he started the Continental Auctioneers School in Mankato, the only auctioneer school in Minnesota.
"A lot of people think auctioneers are born," Haas said. "They're not. They're made."
In 2007, he was inducted to the state's Auctioneers Hall of Fame.
Five of the 12 instructors at his school are also Hall of Fame members. An estimated 4,000-plus students have attended.
The program teaches the auctioneer chant plus all aspects of running an auction business.
"It takes years of work to establish yourself in the auction profession," said Frank Imholte, executive vice president of the Minnesota State Auctioneers Association. "Rich understands there is so much involved in being an auctioneer, from learning the chant to proper marketing, disclosures and settlement, as well as being a source for appraisal and valuation of assets."
Students come from all over the world to take part in his seven-day program. It's held five times per year. Average class size is 25 students to 30 students.
Many start with no previous experience. They leave as a certified auctioneer, online auctioneer, real estate auctioneer, charity/fundraising auctioneer and, if they stay for a two-day class, a personal property appraiser.
Most students want careers in the business. As many as half are real estate agents or brokers who want to sell real estate, farm land or single family homes.
"We've had people, from dentists, doctors, lawyers, morticians, ministers, highway patrolmen," Haas said.
Graduates find jobs for the federal government as property disposal specialists, on cruise lines and at auction companies. Most people start their own business.
Enrollment numbers at auctioneer schools aren't tracked nationally but the industry is hearing of a slight increase, said Chris Longly, deputy executive director of the National Auctioneers Association.
"Enrollment continues to stay strong and possibly grow," he said.
A cause could be unemployed people turning to auctioneering as a new career. Others, mainly Realtors, attend auctioneer school to broaden their skills. Just more than 1,200 people are licensed auctioneers in Minnesota.
"The auctioneering profession is by far unique in character and rewarding for folks that are problem solvers and love to help people," Imholte said.
Auctions are valuable because they allow buyers, not sellers, to determine the value of products. Selling an item with a price already attached to it caps the amount of money a seller can receive, Haas said.
"No one with a brain will pay you any more," he said. "...So the advantages to the auction are these: Number one, it's a quick sale. Two, it attracts attention, and third, it freezes the market. Four, it creates an urgency to buy...We are out there to get the biggest and best price possible and in most cases, we do."
The fastest growing segments of the industry are a sign of the times: Sales in real estate, bankruptcies and business liquidation, Longly said.
When the National Auctioneers Association last conducted an industry survey, in 2008, gross revenue at U.S. live auctions — which does not include eBay — was approximately $268.4 billion, a decrease of slightly less than one percent compared to 2007.
Auctions touch every market place, from cars to airwaves, said Longly.
"There is an auctioneer in every element of commerce, most people don't see it," he said.