SEBRING - Lloyd Gadd, of Lake Placid, bragged that he'd already pocketed a quick and easy $7.50 after outbidding 40 others during a public auction a week ago.
Gadd bought a scuba tank and gear for $12.50. Moments later he sold the equipment to another auction-goer for $20.
Gadd has never scuba dived, nor does he intend to explore the crystal clear waters of Lake Denton anytime soon. The gear was not purchased for personal use, but as a money maker.
With gas selling at $4 a gallon and home foreclosures on the rise, more Highlands County residents have turned to buying and selling at estate, public and real estate auctions, while even garage sales are steadily gaining popularity.
Just prior to the usual Saturday morning auction held by Lee Begley Auctioneer in Lake Placid, a crowd of mostly regulars poked through dozens of boxes spread over tables and stuffed with everything from an artificial Christmas tree to a pair of crutches and even a couple of framed graduation photos.
The bidders were given numbers after submitting a driver's license for identification.
The buyers squeezed several rows of folding chairs into what was left of the late morning shade, but when Begley started hawking goods, most stood while squinting to get a closer look.
Begley looked around at the cardboard boxes and at the bidders while he talked about sellers who are often a payment or two behind on the mortgage.
"Within three hours, this will all be gone," said the auctioneer. "They're trying to survive and pay their bills.
"They load up a bunch of stuff to sell that they ordinarily wouldn't, that was just sitting around. Sometimes they'll miss their stuff and it's rough on them at times."
Auctiongoers Regularly Seek To Resell
The economy has helped nudge Donald and May Loy toward regularly attending auctions. They often resell what they buy through garage sales or at yard sales. A dollar bedroom headboard bought at auction once netted Donald $50.
What he pays $120 to $150 for at the auctions, Donald Loy can often peddle at a yard sale for $300 to $400.
"We're making extra money to pay for gas, living expenses and to eat a steak every once in awhile," said Donald Loy.
A Unique Property Sold By Auction
Johanne Lauchman recently sold the 30-acre Henscratch Farms Vineyard & Winery at an auction. Acres of grapes, strawberries and blueberries and the onsite winery attracted visitors from near and far.
Forty-six parties asked for information packets and Lauchman was thrilled by the final result of the auction.
The grape grower said she sold by auction during an uncertain real estate market following much research, partially because she wanted more control of the sale process. Lauchman was pleased to know in advance when the farm would sell.
"There was a beginning, middle and an end - and an established day it will close," said Lauchman.
The award-winning winemaker took a calculated risk by selling through absolute auction. No matter what the highest bid had been, she would have been forced to accept it.
"Absolute auctions drag buyers to the table," said Lauchman. "By removing the reserve, you're encouraging people by saying, 'I'm not wasting your time.'"
REMAX Realty Plus Realtor Chip Boring said real estate auctions are growing in popularity. A seller typically pays the auctioneer a preset fee to cover advertising if that reserve or minimum price is not met.
Sellers can benefit from auctions several ways-the buyer usually pays a premium of about 10 percent, rather than a typical real estate commission paid by the seller.
"It's a double-edged sword - sellers don't want to spend anything, but neither does the agent," said Boring. "The seller ultimately has the choice, but it's better than being put in a position of foreclosure."
With advertising, Boring said absolute auctions are viable sources of generating more interest in a property.
"You'd be surprised what kind of activity is generated as a result of an auction company's advertising," said Boring. "The bidding can become like a feeding frenzy, like throwing chum in the water."
Selling The Sale
Scott Oglesby, United Country-Oglesby and Company Auctioneers of Bartow, works often with Boring and helped sell Henscratch Farms.
With the Internet, it had become simpler and cheaper to put the word out and advertise to the right market.
"It's easy to put the information out there," said Oglesby. "We develop a very comprehensive property information package."
While not all properties are good candidates for auction, said Oglesby, unique or desirable properties will create an excellent selling environment.
"The auction process gets them off the ledge," said Oglesby. "Let the buyers tell us what it's worth," he said. "The buyers are the ones shopping.
"They know more about the values than we do. The buyers are able to bid on the property under a common set of terms and conditions. It's a transparent process - open and fair to all."
Garage Sale Shoppers Seek Bargains
Joanne Fleming closely examined items for sale while talking about past bargains found at garage sales: a mixer for $3, a new crock pot for $5 and a brand new pair of leather shoes for $5 (and they fit).
Her husband, Bill Fleming shook his head and grinned.
"What she is going to do with it all I don't know," he said.
But then he confided that he enjoys the chase and discovering bargains.
"You'd be surprised what they give away for a quarter or 50 cents."
Howard and Shirley Decker, of Sebring, were visiting a garage sale last week and both husband and wife agreed that their shopping habits have changed.
"The economy is making a difference," said Shirley Decker. "We spend money this way, and then spend it on what's necessary," said Shirley Decker.
The Deckers bought five hardback books at the sale. Howard Decker talked about bargain hunting.
"It gets me out of the house to shop economically," he said. "You can't afford to buy new books at the stores, but if you wait a couple of weeks, you get them at garage sales for one-tenth, or one-fifteenth the cost."
Carol Hayden of Avon Park shops the yard sales and talked about pinching pennies.
"It's going shopping cheaply," she said.
Husband Dean made a suggestion.
"Don't pay retail at a yard sale," he said. "If they want a quarter, give them less."
Bill Rettew can be reached at 863-386-5857 or e-mail email@example.com