Bid on the City yelps, bares teeth, doesn’t bite

Flickr image by spacecookypk

Raymond Villani, managing director of Bid on the City, has written a rebuttal to my post on the auction that I attended, according to the ever-resourceful Web site,, which said a copy had fallen into its hands yesterday.

Now it’s my turn (in boldface–hey, it’s my blog):

“1. BOTC is ‘gimmicky’ not a problem, we tried a bidding event starting at $1 in a moribund market. Who else is trying something new? It was effective in bringing bidders to every property we had listed, often multiple bids from different bidders. No problem there.”

As I wrote: The company uses what I have to term “gimmicks” – clever ones, I’ll acknowledge – in its mostly unsuccessful attempts to attract participants and push up bids.” Moreover, lots of new marketing techniques are always being introduced.

I have no doubt that Mr. Vallani is correct in stating that the auction was effective in producing multiple bids–if two or three is considered successful in an auction situation.

“2. Most of the properties have open houses, there was one property, Executive Plaza, where the tenant refused to allow open houses, but virtually all the properties have open houses.”

Not a point I mentioned.

“3. Is it working? We are conducting an auction live, that you can watch, hear and bid in real time. We put up 11 properties yesterday and had bids on all of them. We have email, chat and phone lines to ensure every works smoothly . We had over 100 people who registered with their credit cards to bid on properties. Over 95% of the bids came online. The gap between what is bid and what is being asked is a common situation in today’s market.”

True, a live auction visible anywhere is a good thing, though it’s not unique.  And, yes, a gap is common, even big gaps.  But yawning chasms between asking price and offer have become far less frequent.

“4. In the last quarter price cuts on Manhattan condos were almost 20%. Is it any surprise bids are coming in less than asking prices? We are bringing buyers and sellers together to establish a price.”

Price cuts in the last quarter of  “almost 20%?”  Does he mean reductions between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, from original asking price?  What?

According to the Miller Samuel appraisal firm’s report on the last quarter, the listing discount was 12.8% versus 7.3% in the fourth quarter of 2008 and 7.6% in the third quarter of 2009.

Having a 100 registrants – not necessarily active bidders – for 11 diverse properties, including one commercial one that I excluded from my post, is hardly the definitive way of establishing the market value of any one of those properties.

“5. Is it a successful idea? If you are trying to sell your property…in 30 days after national and international marketing (and two open houses) you will have people bidding on your property. If you get the price you asked, you’ve sold your home, if you haven’t gotten your price, it has not cost the seller a dime.”

Yes, and it’s good for sellers when it works.

“6. Is it a successful idea? If you are looking to buy, you get all the comparables, the sales contract , the floor plans, you can attend the open houses, then you can place bids from where ever you are comfortable, at home, at the office, or at our bidding center. You can watch the other bids, and who is bidding. Simple, easy, efficient, transparent and no cost to participate, unless your hid is accepted.”

Although all those supposed bidders said to be participating from 100 countries–100, almost half the countries in the whole world–might have a teeny problem visiting the properties.  Still, it’s hard to argue against the convenience.  I don’t, and I didn’t.

“7. The broker who complained about the clock, would he prefer his bid gets ‘sniped’ as it happens on eBay? Our goal, like any auction, is to get the highest bid for the seller. If adding a few minutes teases out another bid, that is good. Perhaps when time was added and the increments were increased a bid came in that topped his.”

No I wouldn’t want to get sniped.  And I didn’t complain that there was a clock, only that it was manipulated indiscriminately or, depending on your point view, discriminately.

“A revolutionary way to sell real estate in Manhattan using the most sophisticated technology is creating a new market that didn’t exist a year ago. The question isn’t will there be live online bidding for real estate in the future, the question is if there will be anything other than live online bidding in the future.”

And the answer is. . . yes!

* * * * *

You may want to see my original post and the points over which Mr. Villani glided so eloquently.

In a market such as ours, however, the struggle can be only uphill if BOTC has been able to persuade no more than a few dozen sellers to sign up in a whole year.  How many of those that did so actually accepted the bids is a mystery to me, and I infer that a lack of information about them must speak volumes.

The truth is I don’t wish Bid on the City a scintilla of harm.  I think the company is making a valiant effort, and I applaud them for trying.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
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11 thoughts on “Bid on the City yelps, bares teeth, doesn’t bite

  1. I think simulcast (live and internet) auctions are certainly an interesting breed of auction and one that often leaves some parties feeling jilted if not done correctly.

    We adopted online only real estate auctions early (3 or 4 years ago) and we certainly prefer doing either ‘online only’ or ‘live auctions’ and use simulcast only when the situation is appropriate.

    The selling subject to confirmation issue is also something that needs more attention as ‘confirmation’ auctions are rarely what bidders think of when they attend an auction. We prefer ‘absolute’ auctions (no minimum no reserves) whenever possible.

    Anyways, good luck in your future auction experiences and check us out if you’d like. We’re selling all over now, but not NY yet!


    Rowell Auctions, Inc.


  2. Innovation is always welcome in this market! Its up to the consumers to deem which innovations succeed and which dont. In a market so ingrained with the traditional full service brokerage model, innovation is NOT easy. Getting your company branded properly takes money and time.

    Here is the rub. Brokerages and brokers for the most part have a bad reputation. Is it warranted? Yes and no. I know many great brokers, and I know many shady ones. Unfortunately dealt with a very shady elliman broker this past week, losing a deal over it. And the seller is the victim.

    But there will always be a need for full service brokerage services and there will always be a fight by the top firms to maintain and grow market share. The funny thing is, consumers WANT change, the WANT innovation, they WANT transparency and they WANT efficient markets. But they are hesitant to endorse risky innovations that ‘take a chance’…

    And that brings us to the catch 22…as much as the consumer wants change, in this market, its hard to bring hard core change and succeed. I think BOC is a great example of this. Even with all their hoopla, pr work and big time ads on big media outlets, as you say, they only got minimal sellers and who knows how many deals they transacted. Certainly not enough, they need way way more I would guess without knowing too much about their real numbers (i am no expert on BOC, and dont pretend to be!).

    I would think, as a seller, I would be more enticed to list with BOC if they had way way more of a brand recognition, trust, and love affair with the buyers in this great market. If the buyers came, the sellers will try it. But perhaps their strategy is the other way around. If the sellers list, the buyers will come? And I dont think that is working, so they advertise and try to win loyalty and buyers and new audience expansion. Thats costly and wears out after a while.

    if they spent years getting the trust of buyers in another way, built a brand around credibility, and got a cult following, perhaps word of mouth would work in their favor setting them up for the service they have now. Its like a brand new firm that launches and tries to win customers through brand advertising, in this market that is TOUGH against the corcorans, ellimans, BHS/Halsteads, striblings, sothebys, etc..good luck with that.

    Brand acceptance and loyalty in this market when it comes to selling and buying big time homes is a HUGE barrier to entry! That is clear. And more will try to buy their way to a good brand. I guess some may work, most wont. Other than that, the service better be way innovative, way efficient, way consumer centric, and way beneficial to garner the interest and more importantly the loyalty and acceptance of this markets consumers!


  3. Just a clarification:

    It would appear there was no property up for bid on 153 Lexington Ave. as you stated in your earlier post. Not sure where you got the referenced prices and address from, but this was never advertised on the site nor was it up for auction the day of the bidding event. There was one up for bid at 155 Lexington, but not at the price points you mentioned.


  4. BOTC may not be perfect (on a side note, should I remind you that it is quite new, less than a year, so it’s easy to criticize them), but at least they try something new in this market. Nobody is forced to participate, to sell or to buy. I don’t think traditional brokers are doing anything better, and it’s the main reason why brokers all feel the threat. Instead of spending all that energy and time against BOTC, why don’t you spend some time thinking of a better way to sell or buy real estate. Because everyone criticize without offering anything better…

    And by the way, after reading in, his name is Villani, not Vallani. No need to spell a name wrongly by anger.


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