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The Shopper

The Shopper

Wednesday, December 05, 2012 8:40 PM

Photo By Matt Bristow/The Ottawa Herald

Buddy Griffin, Ottawa, stands next to a vintage horse saddle Tuesday at his Ottawa home. Griffin, a member of the Kansas Auctioneers Association and owner of Griffin Auction Services, has been auctioneering for about the past 30 years. Griffin has recently been selling entire estates in as few as two lots in a concept he started calling “House Wars.”

Auctioneer: ‘House Wars’ balances risks, thrills

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer

Auctions are a treasure hunt for many people.

And Buddy Griffin hopes a new type of auctioning — what he calls “House Wars” — will increase the thrill of the hunt.

The changing economy, as well as the advent of online auctions, have decreased buyer participation at local auctions, Griffin, 58, owner of Griffin Auction Services, said. That means he has to find new ways to draw people in. The potential to land a discarded treasure or forgotten collectible hasn’t diminished, and Griffin, a lifelong Ottawan, thinks a new, quicker-paced kind of auctioning might be the key to bringing buyers back.

Auctions are a game of risk — for the buyer and seller — he said. His new auction technique plays on that risk, putting an entire estate into as few as two lots — selling the contents of a house and the real estate for one price each. It is a concept he started calling “House Wars.”

“You have to find a means to fit what you’ve got to sell,” Griffin, an auctioneer for the past 30 years, said, adding that “House Wars” is a method that could be applied to many kinds of auctions.

Griffin used the technique on a house he auctioned in October in Ottawa, and said people seemed to be receptive to the idea.

Saving sellers more money

Typically used on smaller estates, Griffin said, the idea behind the little-used “House Wars” concept is somewhat reminiscent of the reality TV series “Storage Wars.” People don’t quite know what they might be buying until they bid, opening up the possibility of finding hidden gems. On the reality show, people have only five minutes to look at the storage unit, but they aren’t allowed to touch anything. Griffin, however, said he let people walk through the house he auctioned in October.

While the method might not be a good choice for everyone, Griffin said, people should really think about the value of what they are selling when they choose an auction type. 

By selling an estate in one sale rather than multiple sales for multiple items, Griffin said, the October auction saved the seller money in the long run.

“It brought a little less than it might have at auction, maybe a third less, but it would have been a third or more higher in the expenses to prep for that auction,” he said.

A little bit of everything

Surrounded by antiques and collectibles acquired through the years, Griffin speaks proudly of his days as a professional auctioneer. Though initially motivated by an old country song, Griffin said he never thought his sharp eye and quick tongue would one day lead to a business. 

“Livestock, antiques, collectibles, exotic animals, horses,” Griffin said of the many things he has seen sell at auctions through the years. “I’ve sold just about everything.” 

Griffin didn’t go to an auctioneering school, instead picking up tricks of the trade along the way and learning from experience. As the auctioneer, it is not only Griffin’s job to sell his clients’ property, but to advertise the auction, separate items into lots and research the sale items, so he knows how to price them. 

“You’ve got to keep up on the value of items, and a lot of items, not just machinery, but antiques, collectibles, household,” Griffin, a member of the Kansas Auctioneers Association, said. “Got to have a little knowledge of about everything.” 

Despite retiring recently as crew supervisor for Kansas City Power and Light, Griffin said the auction business keeps him busy as ever. He does about 50 to 60 auctions a year now.

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