Private Sale is the most basic selling platform that has been around for centuries. One of its benefits is it that it saves on third party fees. Private Sale usually involves limited marketing by the Seller, either online or in conventional media, or it may be as basic as a deal made with a neighbour at the kitchen table. This platform often fails to maximize value due to limited exposure of the property. Further, a Private Sale can often create a division between neighbours, as some may feel they were not given the same opportunity as the chosen Buyer.
Listing with Professional Realtors
The value of a Professional Realtor tuned into a specific market sector speaks for itself. For a Seller, using a Professional Realtor means listing the property for sale at a set price. Many would argue that the problem with listing property for sale is the fact that the Seller sets a limit price (called listing price) at the outset which would seem backwards (as opposed to letting the market set the upper limit). Further, if you asked most Sellers if they would be willing to sell their property by Dutch Auction (where price is lowered incrementally until a bidder is willing to accept the auctioneers price) most would say ‘definitely not’. Yet the listing process is in reality a Dutch Auction (albeit slow) wherein the price is lowered incrementally until a single Buyer is willing to pay the price.
To complicate matters, most Buyers view the list price as a number in excess of what the Seller actually thinks the land is worth. The list price then becomes a negative cap set by the Seller while signalling to the Buyer that the value of the land is likely some amount below the list price. At a time when the Seller should be in control by setting a list price the Seller shows their hand first — often a sign of weakness in negotiating.
Determining a ‘list price’ for agricultural land (as opposed to generic residential or commercial property) is problematic to say the least. A 1000 sq./ft. townhouse in the City with twelve comparable townhouses built by the same builder makes it rather easy to come up with an accurate list price. With non-urban land, however the uniqueness often includes physical, agronomic and locality factors making it much harder to determine a proper list price. At best, the process can be somewhat of a guess. Get it wrong on the high side and it may sit stale on the market for years. Get it wrong on the low side and the dairy farm sells during the night within hours of listing (arguably for well below market value).
When dealing with agricultural land, complex variables, not applicable to residential or commercial land, such as ‘assemblage’ and ‘market concentration’ come into play. The phenomenon of ‘assemblage’, is one in which area producers covet land that’s close to their existing farm, sometimes paying well above what many would think a property should be listed for in the first place.
Forty years ago, with most farms being small in size, factors such as economies of scale and market concentration were non-issues. However, the trend to fewer larger land holdings has changed things. Today if a producer has forty quarters in an area, adding one quarter across the fence adds little to fixed costs. To further complicate matters, the physical qualities of agricultural land is not nearly as significant a factor in ascertaining value as it once was. Advancements in farming practices have meant the productivity differential between poor land vis à vis higher quality land have been greatly diminished.
Another drawback with setting a list price is our human nature. It is often said 80% of farmers sell on a down market. When the market is going up they tend to think it will continue (until it suddenly reverses). The same mentality is true when land is listed for what is perceived as a high number. As the list price is reduced over time many believe the trend down will continue. The result being there is a built-in bias for the listing price to drop just because potential Buyers wait on the sideline in expectation it will drop. Buyers are also very conscious of not wanting to look unwise in the eyes of their neighbours. A parcel of land can sell by auction well over what would be considered the appraised value, and no one questions the logic of the Buyer. Yet back up the clock and list that same property at what it just sold for, and most buyers aren’t willing to make an offer for fear of looking foolish for over paying.
A final drawback of the listing process is that there is no ability to plan ahead, not knowing when a sale may occur, or perhaps worse yet, what to do if only a portion of the farm or ranch offered for sale finds a Buyer. For a Seller, holding on to only a percentage of land is fraught with carrying costs and economies of scale issues. To alleviate some of these issues, often the listing will require the farm or ranch to be sold as one parcel. This is in itself problematic, in that it excludes those buyers wanting just one parcel and who are willing to pay a premium for it.
Public Auction with a National or Multi-National Company
Proceeding by way of a Public Auction using a National or Multi-National Company incurs higher selling costs than Private Sale, but often the benefit is in exposure and, more importantly, access to the auction format. From the Seller’s point of view, often a reserved bid is not allowed, meaning on auction day the Seller is ‘all in’. With that said, often a Guarantee can be purchased by the Seller at an increased fee to lessen any downside risk. In some cases, a reserved bid may be allowed.
A significant benefit to such an auction is professional marketing and hopefully full transparency for all parties, including neighbours. Everyone has an equal opportunity to bid at the end of the day. Few would argue that utilizing the English auction (as opposed to Dutch auction) process does not go a long way to maximizing value. One drawback, aside from the fees, of using this approach arises when a Seller is selling numerous parcels on choice. It is very hard for a large Buyer to acquire the entire ‘en bloc’ farm or ranch to gain economies of scale. Often Buyers trying to assemble a large block of land refuse to bid at such an auction out of fear of ending up with just one ‘rubber boot’ so to speak (getting only a portion of the parcels and missing some key ones).
Also at these auctions, often the home quarter sells first and any Buyers missing out on it, wanting the entire farm or ranch, stop bidding and head for their pickup in the parking lot (unlike the CLHbid scenario where you can miss out on the home quarter at the outset but still acquire the entire farm or ranch at the conclusion ‘én bloc’). Although one cannot discredit the marketing potential of these large firms, given advances in the Internet, social media, etc. it is arguable that the marketing advantage associated with these large firms has been greatly diminished in recent years.
The use of the Private Tender platform for selling has been receiving more attention in recent years, it seems, whether warranted or not (at CLHbid we would argue it is not warranted). This increase in attention, perhaps, is driven by the desire of Sellers to have a set exit date. Private tenders offer potential Buyers a one-time opportunity to bid on land that likely will not come up for sale again in their lifetime. The process is relatively simple — 3 or 4 advertisements are placed in the local newspaper with a date set for the opening of sealed tenders. Marketing costs are kept to a minimum, as often the Buyer is seen as being someone within 50 kilometres of the land (although one can never be certain) and someone within hearing distance in the local coffee shop.
Often Private Tenders are administered by the Seller’s law firm. The process however, is not overly transparent as I am sure we have all heard of Tenders being ‘shopped’ to either a preferred party or a lower tenderer in an attempt to ratchet up the price. Given our human nature it is very likely the Buyer submits a Tender that equates to his/her best guess at what they can ‘get the land for’ as opposed to ‘the maximum price they would pay’ for the land. We all know no one ever bids the highest price they are willing to pay on their first bid at an auction. At CLHbid we believe the tender process compromises value and integrity in exchange for simplicity. It is not even not uncommon to hear of tenders submitted that state “We hereby tender X% more than the highest tender” making a mockery out of the entire tender process.
CLHbid.com Online Timed Auction
Several innovative attributes have been incorporated into the CLHbid format in an attempt to address the shortcomings in existing formats available to Sellers. The CLHbid format offers:
- An online auction removes the stress on a Seller that comes with a long negotiation process involving variable terms and parties. The Seller also avoids getting caught up in stressful situations which often arise between competing neighbours, such as pickups they may not have seen for years, pulling into the Seller’s yard, with potential Buyers expecting to be granted more favourable or special opportunities to buy — just because.
- At CLHbid we recognize the Buyer is often forgotten about, yet the Buyer is the one spending the money and the one making the deal happen. Most Buyers, if they are being forthright, will tell you they like the CLHbid format as it gives them an opportunity to be on an equal playing field. With that said, Buyers being Buyers will likely try and convince the Seller that Private Sale is the preferable format. However, this only confirms the Buyers goal is always to maximize value, and for the Buyer that means buying as cheaply as possible!
- Using the CLHbid format Buyers know the Seller is serious about selling. The property is not listed at an inflated price. A sale date is set with some finality and significant money is spent in marketing. If the Seller elects not to sell it is at a significant financial penalty to the Seller. Under the CLHbid format, the Seller is under contract with CLHbid such that if the bid price reaches a certain number, we take away the Sellers right to decline a sale (this number is not disclosed to the public).
- By setting a Starting Bid, the CLHbid platform attempts to diminish the “what if” if there is really only one interested bidder. Whereas, at an unreserved public auction, if there is only one motivated buyer on the day of the sale it can mean land sells for well below what that one bidder was actually willing to pay.
- The online timed auction format offered by CLHbid is timely, yet decisions do not have to be made in a matter of seconds. The actual timed auction has a refresh function on the clock removing any opportunity for a Buyer to buy cheap by waiting until near the end of the auction to bid. If outbid near the expiration of time the clock resets allowing you a chance to bid again. Buyers are offered an opportunity to discuss final bids with family within the confines of their home, office or even in the pickup while bidding on their mobile app.
- The process is fully transparent and fair for all — it is the surest way of having neighbours still talking after the sale. Everyone has as an equal opportunity to bid.
- The number of potential bidders is maximized, which in turn ensures maximum value to the Seller. The CLHbid format caters to all Buyers, whether they are seeking single parcels or the entire farm or ranch.
- The Seller can plan for the future. The sale date is certain. It is not a case of, “I wonder if I need to buy inputs for spring or perhaps rent out the lake cabin until it sells?”
- Confidentiality and honesty are paramount. We have all heard of tenders being shopped, where one party is played against another preferred party. At CLHbid a bidder knows instantly if he/she is the current high bidder on a parcel — at CLHbid transparency is real. We give all parties the assurance that bids will not be shopped. Bidders have no knowledge as to who might be bidding unlike at a live auction. Further, unlike a Tender where the Seller can review and then try and contact lower tenders, in the case of CLBbid the Seller has no access to the identity of bidders during the bid process. Sale day is supervised by our legal team, all accustomed to working in the strictest of confidence. Only the name of the successful high bidder is disclosed to the Seller following the close of the auction. Not even the Seller knows the identity of unsuccessful bidders.
- At CLHbid we utilize ‘State of the Art’ target marketing to ensure all auctions receive proper exposure. Both drone and rotary winged aids are utilized to assist with still and video photography of the property. We use a national advertising firm to assist in the marketing process.
- Buyer’s remorse is eliminated. There is no saying, “If only I had known I would have for sure tendered $2,000.00 more so I could have owned that land.”
- Even though we anticipate most final bids will be accepted, at CLHbid we allow Sellers the choice of having the sale subject to their final approval. This opting out provision is important, even if never used, as it eliminates the need for an expensive Guarantee required by lenders if land is being sold unreserved. Sellers may feel they need final approval in the unlikely chance of Buyers collusion wherein potential bidders agree ahead of time on which parcels to bid on. We don’t see this as being a big risk however given the fact the Seller has final approval in itself probably dispels any chance of collusion. Also, as referenced earlier, Sellers are under contract with CLHbid to sell at a certain strike point.
- CLHbid offers Sellers a simple solution when feeling pressured by competing Buyers. In the past, it was not uncommon for a tenant to ask the owner of land for a Right of First Refusal (‘ROFR’). Often a ROFR was given with neither party fully realizing the serious implications that a ROFR can have to a future sale. Often all the tenant really wanted was a fair chance to buy the land in the event it was ever sold — exactly what a CLHbid timed auction provides. Yet the ROFR in reality means the tenant doesn’t have to bid but rather can ‘lie in the weeds’ as he merely has to match any offer. It is not hard to figure out that taking a highly-motivated Buyer (the tenant) out of the equation will often significantly reduce the price the Seller will receive. With CLHbid there is no need for ROFR’s to adversely affect the outcome of sales as all parties have an equal chance to buy.
- On certain multi parcel sales at CLHbid, once all bids are in, our ‘en bloc’ process offers those bidders that have been high on multiple parcels to then bid against other multiple high bidders for the entire ‘en bloc’ land up for sale. Yet to be fair to prior individual bidders ‘en bloc’ bidding starts at a ‘premium amount’ that is in excess of the aggregate of all prior individual bids. It is only if high bidders of multiple parcels are willing to pay the Seller a significant premium to acquire all the land that they are they allowed to bid for the ‘en bloc’ Parcel.
- At CLHbid we offer the Seller flexibility that many large multi-purpose auction companies cannot. Wish to sell by auction but carry some of the debt back at an interest rate better than you can get at your Bank? We can facilitate that. We always tell Sellers our only constraint is that of the combined imagination of both the Seller and CLHbid team.