January 27

Charles Billig on Maximizing Your Profits Through Auctions


Fourth generation auctioneer, joining A. J. Billig & Co., Auctioneers full-time in 2006. Graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law; graduate of Elon University, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management; licensed Maryland Associate Broker; graduate of Missouri Auction School; member of Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, Maryland Association of Realtors, National Association of Realtors.

Charles Billig is a highly motivated person with an intuitive feel for local markets and trends. Well trained in property analysis, marketing and sales techniques, Charles has steadily developed the skills and knowledge of a successful real estate auctioneer.

[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone! My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on the No Limits Selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you, do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed, not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes, click on it to find out more. All right! Let's get started.

Umar Hameed 0:41
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of the No Limits Selling Podcast. Today. I have Charles Billig, known as Chuck. He is an interesting business. They're in the auction business. They work in real estate, but they use auctions. And I want to take a deep dive into the psychology of humans when they get to an auction. Chuck, welcome to the program.

Charles Billig 1:01
Thank you for having me.

Umar Hameed 1:02
So it's A.J. Billig & Co., Auctioneers. And how long have you guys been in business?

Charles Billig 1:08
103 years, I'm a fourth generation, family owned proprietor of the business and been selling real estate almost exclusively for probably 40 or 50 of that...

Umar Hameed 1:21

Charles Billig 1:21
..100 change.

Umar Hameed 1:23
Are there generations in the company?

Charles Billig 1:26
Right now just my dad and I, up until very recently, it was my grandfather, father and I and a few years before that my uncle was involved. Unfortunately, both my grandfather and uncle passed away. So as far as family goes, it is just my dad night at this point.

Umar Hameed 1:40
And the reason I bring it up is it's I was doing some work with a marine distributor in New Jersey and it was a multi-generational family. And on the management team, some management members are family and some are just, you know, executives. And the executives were convinced that the family has secret meetings to figure out what's going on the business they like, "Believe me, this is not happening. There's no secret meetings going on." But...

Charles Billig 2:04
There may be secret meetings to the extent of they have family holidays together,

Umar Hameed 2:09

Charles Billig 2:09
or you know, lunches and dinners together. But yeah, at least for us, nothing is discussed, you know, internally and a family construct that isn't then conveyed to the employees so

Umar Hameed 2:20
What interesting...

Charles Billig 2:20
Little secrets.

Umar Hameed 2:21
What's interesting is just the psychology of it. Like as human beings, we have these two driving factors. One factor is very much I want to be part of a tribe. But we're stamp collectors, we play hockey together, whatever that thing is, we're Republicans and Democrats doesn't make a difference. We need to belong to a tribe. And at the same time, we need to be an individual and kind of be ourselves too. And it's that balance of the two. And in family on businesses. There's the s&m kind of mentality, whether it's true or not, but it's only human nature to get it. Your thoughts?

Charles Billig 2:54
I haven't really encountered that, specifically, at least not in the way that would have favored being a family member versus a standard employee. And the way that I would frame that is the, you know, with a general corporate construct or business construct, there's a certain amount of barrier that one would have between a manager and subordinate, or an owner and a general staff member, you really don't have that barrier in families, at least not with mine. And so when I started, I was an employee, there was no favoritism shown for me. And quite the opposite. I think I was put through the wringer specifically. So I had a more similar experience that they had, that there would be, you know, discourtesy, as much as I love you as much more frequent in a family member to family member environment than it would be, you know, in a standard manager subordinate context,

Umar Hameed 3:48

Charles Billig 3:48
that created some, some challenges, some learning hurdles to crest, and my first two or three years working. And then once I got past that, I think we all knew each other's working style a little bit better, but it took some time.

Umar Hameed 4:01
Nice. One of the reasons I wanted to chat with you about was just the psychology when people come to auctions because it's a different way of selling real estate. So I'll give you an example, I am not heroic in any way. But when I go to the gym, and I'm on my elliptical, and somebody comes up next to me, I can't help but look at the other side, and I start competing. It's just a natural reaction, and I just catch myself doing it and going, "Wow, where did that come from?" So when you go into an auction, talk to me about the psychology when people step into an auction environment versus a traditional real estate, I'm going to make an offer and we'll see what happens.

Charles Billig 4:36
Yeah, I think that's a great reference point that you've mentioned the you know, for you personally, you wouldn't conceive of yourself as perhaps being that competitive and you know, there are certain environments that it will draw it out of you real estate, as a whole draws a lot of different emotions from people, especially if you're looking at, you know, the single family residential side or, you know, an owner occupied commercial property they're envisioned some portion of their life in that space. And that is more than the dollars and cents of the transaction itself. But you do see it with investors as well, that sometimes, you know, it may be somebody that they had a hard transaction with, you know, previously, this is an opportunity for them to maybe get even. But I still think that those are largely anecdotal, I think there is a positive sense of excitement. With the auction, you have something that is leading up to a very specific time period. So I would relate it in the traditional transaction sense to that imminent See, prior to submitting an offer, that when you're submitting an offer, whether it's a letter of intent from a commercial standpoint, or the Association of Realtors form that you might for a residential transaction, that feeling that that buyer would have in that moment is similar. It's just extended over multiple parties that are bidding at that one time. There are certainly buyers who are able to remain sort of cold, that they will have done their analysis come up with a really firm set of numbers that works for them, they will bid up to that amount and stop. But I do see frequently enough that you know, there's a little bit of juice left in the tank that may be more attributable to the emotion of the thing, the you know,

Umar Hameed 6:20

Charles Billig 6:21
The feeling one gets at being in that environment.

Umar Hameed 6:25
Walk me through one of the transactions where somebody came to you guys and said, "I've got this property I wanted auctioned." So think of a specific deal, you don't have to name names, but walk me through it like how they found you and how you educated them on what's going to happen and not to get nervous and the whole shebang.

Charles Billig 6:45
So we're fortunate enough to have a pretty consistent client base. So that will include some attorneys as an example some individual investors, some non-profits, that there isn't as much of that front end pitch about our services and why they should rely on us personally, just does this deal make sense for our sales model? And where do the numbers shake out? But in the context of a new seller, we deal with a lot of different circumstances. And so an example could be as something as basic as an estate, somebody has passed away there is a personal representative who has been appointed in most cases that will be a family member, but not always. And so what are the advantages that the auction provides? And how does that meet them where they are. So the needs of somebody who's in an estate circumstance, or obviously to get the estate closed, to get the assets, you know, liquidated or distributed in the fashion that is described by the will or intestate as mandated by law. And so the efficiency of an auction has a lot of appeal for them that the property is sold in as is condition on a schedule that they can set for themselves and gives an even playing field to the buyers with the terms of sale that are largely favorable to the seller, as as I mentioned non contingent as to financing and with the buyer paying the lion's share of the closing costs. So that you know will accomplish a lot of what they want, but how do you meet them on the emotional side of things that there is a brother or a cousin or someone who has a really intensive tie to the property? And how does the auction model fit for them. And one of the conversations we might have is that that family member can bid at the auction that they are on the same footing as anybody else. So they're not being prohibited from keeping that property, from a structural standpoint, from a financial standpoint is an entirely different conversation. But it does help that personal representative from those family members who have a tendency to be the loudest, you know, in an estate context. And in my experience, many of the family members who tend to be the loudest, have a weaker financial position that, you know, this is their opportunity to get money that they could not have foreseen. And so their opinions may be a little bit stronger than somebody who's already financially sound. And again, the transparency that an option affords helps deal with some of those headaches.

Umar Hameed 9:22
What's interesting is, we all have rules that we live by. So I'll give you an example for someone get to the point on real estate. So let's take any police force, they've got to mandate so most cop cars have this on it serve and protect. And the service part is you know, hey, we need to look after our citizens and help them out point directions when their hour of need. And then there's also the sense of we need to be respected. A cops need to have power and they need to be respected because you know, in certain situations is command you need to do it. But in certain contexts, one initiative has more potency than the other. So a good example is, I saw it here in Toronto, Canadians are very polite, me included. And it was a New Year's Eve celebration and the cops that particular year, were being really aggressive in their policing. And because of being aggressive, there was a reaction and people actually started that turned over a car, and had the cops not been super aggressive, I don't think that would have happened. But it's like you got one set of rules that seemed competent, other contexts would have been, "Absolutely, I'm here to serve." In this context with the crowd, it just flipped the switch went to another set of roles. So when family members come together to sell a property, a particular family member might be generous and caring and understanding in one context. But now money's involved, another set of rules come in. So your thoughts on that theory, that sometimes different rule books come in, depending on the context and how you've seen that play out in real life?

Charles Billig 10:51
I think what you're getting at is that, you know, we're all human, the external circumstances that surround us are going to guide our decision making, I think it's hopeful that our moral compasses are sound enough that we're going to make the same decision in most of those contexts. But that's just not the case, you know, at least not in my personal experience and you see it in, you know, hyper fictionalized environment, certainly in movies and TV, but you also see it within the media and how they frame certain instances and certainly police conduct is, you know, popular at the moment, but how families behave, I think, is part of that as well. And I think what you said is on point that it just has to do with money. And so that puts a lot of different circumstances into play, that people's needs are different. And so if somebody is financially sound, their worries about where food is coming from, or where the rent money is coming from, or their power bill is less of a concern, it's less front of mind, and so it'd be less likely to factor into their decision making about a potential financial windfall. And so those family members who are more financially sound are going to look at it more within the context of what is best for our family overall, what was the intent of the decedent? Are we following the wishes that they would have wanted, whether it's financially in their interest that not and so I think those impacts of what people's background circumstances are, would have to factor into their decision making, you know, I can make an argument that it should, you know, the market is going to bear what the market is going to bear is the sales strategy, the best means of getting you the best value for the property, in addition to providing a service type, that eliminates headaches. And so you know, that is part of my pitch, but also, I have to see their side of things, you know, I'm an empathetic person, to the degree that we can discuss that we are not selling your memories of being in this space is how I would frame it for those people who are emotionally attached to the property, it's not actually a dollars and cents decision, they have a really clear emotional attachment to that piece of property. And so, you know, reminding them that we are not selling, you know, Christmas morning with grandma, we are not selling Fourth of July cookout memories, we are not selling their collection of, you know, photos of those events, we are really selling the dirt and bricks of the thing. And so, you know, that's something that just needs to happen, unless, of course, they're in a position to buy and keep it themselves, which gets back to the earlier point that I was making, at least as far as our sales strategy. They have the ability to do that if they have the financial [garbled].

Umar Hameed 13:48
So in any kind of leadership position x setting expectations is critically important. Like say, you and I were going to go on survivor or whatever. And I said, you know, hey, Chuck, this is going to be a time where you're gonna start doubting yourself, you're gonna want to give up when that happens. This is what it feels like. And this is what you need to do. And it had we had that conversation, there's a, there's a potential and when you get to that stage, you'll recognize and go, "Okay, this is just a normal thing. I can get over this," but had I not had that conversation, there's a good chance you might have totally missed it. So how well do you set those expectations for your clients? This is what the process is gonna be like, when the bidding first starts is gonna be low. So don't freak out. Like, are you? Is that a set piece that you do? Or is it always being improved as you go?

Charles Billig 14:36
I think there's a certain level of improvement that has to go along with that that any professional should strive for. If you are satisfied with the quality of work that you're providing at this time. I think your perspective is a little bit skewed that there are always ways that we can improve whether you're you know, a chef and feel like you cook a steak perfectly and you know, are there different things that you haven't heard of before you know, cooking on wood versus cooking on gas or any number of different circumstances a plumber would be a great example, an attorney, we're always striving to improve as the short version of that. And I think there's two columns, we can prepare them for what we know. And what we know is the means of marketing that we're going to be engaging in our ability to assist them through all of the facets of the transaction, what we can presuppose from buyer behavior based on past experience and statistics that we can look to whether those are comparable sales, or turnouts that we've had in the past, and more verifiable facts. The other part of it is preparing them for what we cannot prepare for that there are certain elements of all real estate transactions, but certainly within the auction context that may be unexpected, to your point regarding when people are going to be bidding that has more variability than folks might suspect, especially with the capacity for both online and in person bidding. And so when we were scaling, online bidding for us largely at the beginning of COVID, there was a higher incidence of people bidding early in the online bidding process. And I think that was more of a testament to people who were new to the platform new to the process, and in some cases having owner occupied product that, you know, would skew somebody's decision making versus a traditional investor who will bid on dozens, if not hundreds of properties in a given year. Even within that investor context. Sometimes people will simply open the bid at a very healthy number, they will skip the process of the intermediate bidding the low numbers and try to scare people off. In other cases, it'll go down to the very last minute. So I think having preparation conversations with the sellers are necessary about that, I also think there's a means of discerning before a seller proceeds as to whether this methodology is going to be emotionally or mentally constructive for them that if I have somebody who is a really anxious, uncomfortable seller, they're very uncertain about the process, the auction can breed more anxiety hand, so I don't want to put them in a position that ultimately is going to create an uncomfortable 2-3-4 week period of time for them leading up to the option that they may be better off with that traditional listing, you know, in the exact opposite sense, having a traditional listing when somebody doesn't know when an offer is going to be made, whether that's in day one or day 90, you know, could be more uncomfortable for that seller. And so the auction provides a perfectly reasonable solution for that person. So knowing the person I think is part of that, and, you know, having those conversations and asking those questions as to what they will be most comfortable with is an important part of the job. But again, you know, explaining what we can explain and also explaining what elements have more variability to them, and how they can anticipate what the outcomes of that more erratic side,

Umar Hameed 18:10

Charles Billig 18:10
the transaction process could be.

Umar Hameed 18:13
So when you think to one of your more successful buyers, think about who that person is, and kind of describe their psychology, their strategy, and what makes them so good at winning the auctions that they truly want.

Charles Billig 18:29
We have this conversation internally, especially between my dad and I fairly often that, you know, is the most educated, well researched, and, you know, well planned buyer in the best position to make money, or is it the buyer with the best risk tolerance? And I think the answer is, it's a balance, but I have seen, you know, the most impressive investors have a higher degree of risk tolerance. To be fair, I have seen that same same type of risk tolerance result in people, you know, going bankrupt, you know, being totally upside down. So, you know, it certainly cuts both ways. But as far as real estate is concerned, I find that risk tolerance is probably the most pertinent, emotional characteristic or, you know, intellectual characteristic that someone could have, we find that those buyers and especially in the younger generations, who in a lot of cases are relying on other people's money, you know, whether that's financing or syndicated funds or a variety of other means of obtaining the funds to close on a property that aren't coming out of their own pocket. They simply have to have a sharper pencil. And so what we see in some cases is that they will analyze themselves right out of a deal that if you're looking for every possible risk, in a real estate transaction, you're going to find it. And so that goes back to that there being some balance between your ability to plan, research the market, you know, for see what could be an improving element of that asset that you're looking at. And ultimately having the tolerance to just jump in from a risk standpoint. So, again, I think that's what we see as being most pertinent. I think there's also a level of diligence that goes along with it, which can cut in both cases that if you look at a lot of deals, you're going to get a better feel. So that people who try to cherry pick that one perfect deal, and they wind up not getting it and don't come back out into the marketplace for six months or a year, of course, their success rate is going to be low. And so if you're able to look at a lot of deals, you're going to learn even if you don't wind up with that deal, specifically.

Umar Hameed 20:51
Brilliant. Chuck, before we part company is their mind hack that you use to be more efficient, more productive, or more happier?

Charles Billig 21:00
I don't think so. I mean, I think for me, I'm learning a lot from my children at the moment and an amazing thing, it is gauging how much happier they are with routine. And so for me, structuring my day to day and structuring the transaction in a fashion that I feel would be more fulfilling for a four year old, you know, is actually having some success for me. And it's not to say that I'm speaking down to my clients or you know, I'm belittling myself by giving that perspective. But you know, being able to really explain to a seller, the nuts and bolts of what we're doing, allowing them what to expect and you know, what routine they can anticipate from us has been helpful for me as a salesperson, but also just putting into my own internal structures has been both fulfilling to give me you know, a happier time at work, but it's also yield a much better productivity too.

Umar Hameed 22:02
Nice. One of my favorite quotes is, adults don't raise children, children raise adults, and it's so true. Chuck, thank you so much for being on the show. We're gonna put all your contact information so people can find you from LinkedIn to website and telephone number and stuff. Any last words before we part company.

Charles Billig 22:21
That's it. Just come on out to our auctions, buy something if you got something you want to sell, give us a shelf.

Umar Hameed 22:27
Brilliant. Thanks so much for being on the show.

Charles Billig 22:29
Thank you very much. Bye.

Umar Hameed 22:34
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.



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