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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 2 years ago

Talk this way

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Champion auctioneer Sara Rose Bytnar plans to boost the number of homes sold at auction in Florida.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

Sara Rose Bytnar wants you to think differently about real estate auctions.

After all, auctions of foreclosed homes and businesses were often part of the sad state of the real estate market during the bust. “Floridians have had a bad taste in their mouths because of the recession,” Bytnar says. “They associate it with divorce, death and distress.”

The 29-year-old partner of Beth Rose Real Estate & Auctions says that's not the case in her firm's home state of Ohio, where auctions are often the preferred way to sell real estate.
“Auctions are so common in Ohio and Michigan,” she says.

Bytnar, who recently won the Florida auctioneer competition against a cast of men and was a runner-up last year in the national competition, is the third generation of a family of auctioneers. Her mother and three aunts are auctioneers, too, and she says the firm is the only mother-daughter-owned auction firm in the nation.

Bytnar's grandfather David Rose started the business. Aunts Dawn and Karen work for Sara and her mother, Beth Rose. Aunt Pamela runs a competing firm. “At one point we were so close to a reality show,” Bytnar laughs. “I've grown up in the craziness.”

Bytnar moved to Naples in 2009, where husband Brandon Bytnar runs an estate-planning law firm. She says Florida is ripe for auctions because of the recovery in real estate. “Florida's in a competitive market now,” she says.

The amount of auction work has grown in Florida because many Midwesterners own property in the state. Today, 20% of the firm's revenues come from Florida, and Bytnar says it could make up the majority of sales. “We'd like to see more,” she says.

Bytnar doesn't disclose financial information about the firm, but she says 80% of the business is residential real estate. The firm is keen on auctioning unusual properties, such as a haunted house it sold in DeFuniak Springs in the Panhandle recently. “You're selling a story,” she says.

The business fluctuates from one year to the next. Bytnar says the firm sells 100 to 400 properties a year and the average sale is around $500,000. She believes the higher prices and volume of real estate transactions in Florida will boost the business.

Auctioneers make money by adding a commission onto the final sale price (10% for Beth Rose Real Estate), which the buyer pays. Beth Rose will share the commission with real estate agents who bring a winning bid. “We pay them their normal co-broke, 3%,” she says. “We've done really well with Realtors. We don't want to be seen as the competition.”

Estate-planning attorneys are another source of leads. Bytnar says women auctioneers are more empathetic than men to help grieving relatives with the sale of a family home. “Selling real estate is emotional,” Bytnar says. “We're counseling them.”

Bytnar says technology will increase the reach of sales, too. The firm recently launched an application that lets anyone bid on a property from their handheld device. “If we don't change, we won't be relevant,” Bytnar says.


Watch Sara Rose Bytnar compete in the 2014 International Auctioneer Championship in the video below:

 

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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