Don Erler, CAI, AARE, Senior Advisor and Real Estate Auctioneer, Sperry Van Ness/Ward Commercial Group

May 23rd, 2013 by engineadmin

Spotlight on . . .Don Erler

We recently spoke with Don Erler of Sperry Van Ness/Ward Commercial Group. Don belongs to the Sperry Van Ness National Accelerated Marketing Team and is Secretary to the Board of the Asset Recovery Team  (SVN-ART.). With clients that include financial institutions, state and federal courts, consultants and private investors, Don’s diverse experience in the real estate auction market has made him an authority on surplus dispositions, liquidations, foreclosures and other accelerated marketing endeavors. Our discussion includes topics on the current economy, online and social media marketing, and what lies ahead for the summer market.

PA: Tell us about Sperry Van Ness and your role with the company.
DE: I have been in the real estate auction profession for more than 26 years, joining Sperry Van Ness (SVN) when our agency, Ward Commercial Group, joined SVN 2004. Since joining SVN, I have continued to work for Sperry Van Ness Ward Commercial Group as an active real estate auctioneer in our region (primarily in the Midwest) serving my clients that include banks, the courts, developers and private individuals. I work with the Sperry Van Ness national auction footprint, SVN Auction Services, coordinating efforts nationwide with other real estate auctioneers in the Sperry Van Ness system and participating in the national and international auction events sponsored through AuctionPoint. SVN continues to expand its auction marketing coverage with the rollout of SVN Auction Services in many of the 180 markets now served by Sperry Van Ness commercial brokerage offices, an activity in which I am an active participant.

PA: How would you say the economy over the past 5 years has affected your business?
For real estate auctioneers with solid past relationships with banks and other institutional sellers, the recovery period has been a boom time. 2010 was my best year ever in this business and a great time for finding my new auction business partner, Bill Menish. Bill and I have continued to stay very busy with the marketing and auction sale of distressed assets of all descriptions that were generated by the economic downturn. We have sold many commercial properties and recently have been selling hundreds of single family homes and other small residential and commercial properties held primarily for investment. Our auctions are repricing these assets into today’s marketplace.

PA: Would you say the amount of commercial auctions in the Kentucky/Indiana area is higher or lower than the rest of the country? Why?
DE: The Kentucky/Indiana region did not see the amount of distress in commercial properties as some other parts of the country because the economy in this area was not as overheated as was found in other areas. However, we have sold many office, industrial and retail properties in larger markets like Cincinnati, Kansas City, etc. What we did have was huge numbers of failed subdivision, patio home, condo and PUD projects that drove our auction business to new levels in this and other regions.

PA: Your firm seems to handle properties from varied sellers – municipalities, financial institutions, etc. Do you see an increase or decrease of inventory going for auction by a particular type of seller in the past 12 months?
Over the past 12 months our auctions have been primarily bank owned properties and properties owned by small investors that banks are encouraging to sell with their approval and lenient forbearance agreements on how they deal with the mortgage deficiencies. With these smaller assets, the banks do not want these properties back and on their books with the management issues associated, but on larger assets, the banks seem to be moving more toward a structured workout rather than just taking what the market will pay today.

PA: What type of buyer pool is frequenting your commercial auctions? (ex. foreign investors? large companies? local business owners?)?
DE: Buyers continue to be primarily local or regional, however, we are now having the REIT’s that are investing in single family residential properties participate in many of our residential investment property auctions. Buyers of land from the many failed subdivision sales we conducted in the past 3-4 years were farmers reacquiring the land they sold to the developers 10 years ago.

PA: Our recent survey showed that most auctioneers still choose print as their number one method of advertising, despite online advertising rating as the most effective. What marketing vehicle would you say brings the most buyers to your auctions (Internet, signage, print, etc.)?
With the Kentucky/Indiana/Ohio region still being much more traditional in how people obtain their information on properties available at auction, we continue to use a fairly large amount of print media, although the percentage of our marketing budgets spent in print has declined steadily over the past 10 years. Signs continue to be critical in this region. We now dedicate a much larger percentage of marketing dollars to electronic media both in conjunction with our print advertising and with independent email blasts, especially to the brokerage community that obtains most of their information via the Internet. We also do a large amount of online presence through the newspaper companies. Sperry Van Ness’ IT platform does an exceptional job “pushing” our property information to the syndicated commercial MLS portals now available in the marketplace.

PA: Does online advertising and social media play an active role in your marketing plan?  DE: Absolutely – although I personally struggle with these sources, but my partner, Bill Menish, “gets it” and oversees these resources. We do generate good information exchange with online ads and social media, especially with younger generations who don’t read the paper but get all their information electronically.


PA: What are your thoughts or projections for real estate auctions this summer?  
DE: We are continuing to see many upcoming projects, especially in the continued pressure from the banks to sell off or encourage their customers to sell off unprofitable (with old mortgages in place) investment properties and stalled residential and small commercial developments. With changing laws in many states, we are also seeing plaintiffs in foreclosure suits requesting that their sheriff or master commissioner auctions be conducted by licensed auctioneers to truly try to find an acceptable third party buyer at the foreclosure auction.


PA: What would your three top tips be for buyers? For sellers?
For Buyers: 1) There are great opportunities for cash buyers in auctions; 2) come to the auction ready to bid, but with a pre-determined maximum price established (don’t get drawn to an uncomfortable level by emotion); and 3) this is the time to purchase investment real estate that is being repriced to make sense in today’s economy. For Sellers: 1) The distressed asset marketplace is crowded, so don’t wait until you get “lost in the crowd”; 2) monetizing today may be a much safer option than guessing what the market will look like in the future; and 3) don’t be afraid of auction marketing – when properties are booked and positioned properly in the market by professionals who do not “give away” assets, this method can be a very productive way to resolve current uncomfortable ownership.


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