Roebuck to Launch Simultaneous Cyber Bidding Auction

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The company is expanding this concept to include properties for sale near its offices in Destin Florida.

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The biggest challenge will be making sure the auctioneers collect the bids in Florida at the same time they do here

If you believe a company can use technology to sell real estate in more than one place at the same time, then Memphis-based Roebuck Auctions has some beachfront property for you.

On April 1, Roebuck plans to use Web cameras, laptop computers and a 71-inch flat screen television to auction off 19 Florida properties to bidders in Destin and Memphis simultaneously.

The process is an electronic offshoot of Roebuck's auction center concept, in which the company holds a regular live auction for multiple properties at its 4932 Park Ave. building once a month. The auction center approach sells several properties back-to-back, often in just an hour to an hour and a half.

Destin-y calls

The company is expanding this concept to include properties for sale near its offices in Destin.

"We decided that we would allow the Memphis buyers, instead of making the trip to Destin, Fla., just to come to our auction center here and we will have a live hookup between Memphis and Destin, so as the auction is occurring there, bidders can be here and bidding on the properties," he said. "It's just a natural extension of what we've been doing, but to allow it in two locations."

Jeff Jourdan, Roebuck's marketing director, will be in Destin during the auction. He'll set up the Web camera and laptop there and stream the video and sound through the Internet to Memphis.

"We decided that we would allow the Memphis buyers, instead of making the trip to Destin, Fla., just to come to our auction center here and we will have a live hookup between Memphis and Destin, so as the auction is occurring there, bidders can be here and bidding on the properties. It's just a natural extension of what we've been doing, but to allow it in two locations."- Jeff MorrisSales manager for Roebuck AuctionsShawn Phelps, a Web designer for Roebuck, will pick up the transmission in Memphis and run the video to the auction house's 71-inch flat screen television and process the sound through the public address system.

Phelps also will make sure the bidding runs in real time.

"The biggest challenge will be making sure the auctioneers collect the bids in Florida at the same time they do here," he said.

Lost in cyberspace

This process uses similar technology to Internet auctioning, which Roebuck has been offering for about four years.

"But this is the first time we've actually had a satellite linked from one auction sale to another," Morris said.

This type of auctioning has an advantage over Internet bidding because an actual auctioneer is in the building to take bids and answer questions.

"A lot of people get on the Internet and aren't sure what they're hearing," Morris said. "By coming here, you can get a better explanation about where the bid is and what they're asking for. I think bidders will have a better idea of what's going on when they have someone here who is knowledgeable about what's happening and can explain it. If you're sitting at a computer and you have a question, it's hard to type in a question and get an instant response."

Roebuck opened an office in Destin three years ago, and now roughly 30 percent of its business comes from that market.

The 19 properties to be auctioned include condominiums, building lots and houses from multiple owners. Potential bidders may preview the properties on the Roebuck Web site. The company also is holding an open house Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

Morris said real estate auctions have been on the rise in the past few years. The entire industry sold around $240 billion in merchandise last year, with real estate accounting for $70 billion of that, according to the National Auctioneers Association. Real estate auctions are the fastest-growing part of the industry, Morris said, and this new approach could be another way for it to grow.

"The benefit to us is that we want more bidders," Morris said. "We represent our sellers and that helps them. If this can increase our pool of buyers, then that benefits our company and benefits our sellers."

The April 1 auction could be a first step of sorts for Roebuck. Morris said the company would like to set up several satellite centers across the Mid-South if it goes well.

"When it comes to Destin property, you've got to keep in mind that there are buyers in Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta, Dallas and Nashville," he said. "They're all spread out because we all vacation there and it's attracting more and more people from across the Mid-South."

The Daily News Publishing Co. Inc.

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