Spotlight On: Stephanie Wilkinson, Chief Operating Officer, Sheldon Good & Company

October 4th, 2013 by melissa

Spotlight on . . .Stephanie

We recently spoke with Stephanie Wilkinson, Chief Operating Officer of Sheldon Good & Company. Representing a host of clients with varied portfolios that include residential properties, developmental land and commercial institutions, Stephanie’s expertise in the real estate auction industry applies to all facets of every deal. We recently spoke with Stephanie on several topics including the current economy and recent uptick of real estate sales, social media marketing, online auctions and what lies ahead for 2014.

PA: Tell us about Sheldon Good and your role with the company.
SW: Sheldon Good & Company has a 45-year track record of proven results. We have sold billions of dollars of properties and have the highest closing ratio in the industry. Our firm specializes in analyzing real estate and creating the proper deal structure to maximize return, utilizing a sophisticated array of alternative sales strategies that include open-outcry auction programs, sealed bid offerings, private sale campaigns, phased auction plans and structured loan sales throughout North America and the Caribbean. As COO, I oversee a team of real estate professionals that develop and execute the disposition strategies for all of our real estate transactions. This includes evaluating potential real estate opportunities, crafting the specific sales program, developing and executing the marketing campaign and effectively concluding the sale of the asset.

PA: How would you say the economy over the past 5 years has affected your business? Also, how do you think the recent surge in real estate sales is affecting property auctions – positively or negatively?
SW: Regardless of economic conditions, auctions will always be a strategic approach to the sale of real estate assets. For hard-to-value properties or for time sensitive sellers, the auction is usually the most effective approach to maximize value while minimizing the days on market. Successful auction companies need to be fluid to move with change in market conditions and to understand where the value opportunities remain. The last five years have certainly changed the types of properties we are conducting. There was a heavy concentration in multi-family condominium auctions several years ago as the banking crisis hit that sector fairly hard. Our portfolio of sales has definitely become more diverse. One sector that has increased has been the luxury single-family home market. The surge in real estate sales is certainly changing market conditions for auctions, which I believe has had a strong influence on the resurgence of the luxury segment. An increase in real estate transactions provides the consumer with a better sense of the overall market. Auctions therefore, create a powerful sales strategy that is less about price discovery and more about price maximization. The negative aspect is less about the changing real estate conditions but more about the false sense from the overall marketplace that auctions are only for fire sales, foreclosures and/or distressed properties. As an industry, I believe we have a public relations issue that affects us more than an upward moving market.

PA: With the real estate market and current economy appearing to move in a positive direction, what are your predictions for the property auction industry for 2014?
SW: I think the overall auction industry will remain level for 2014. Auctions will always be a disposition method, particularly with respect to bankruptcy deals. So, this segment will remain active. I believe there are still a lot of non-performing or underperforming assets and that the inventory has not been completely worked through. There is a potential that the bank will be looking to address those properties more aggressively in 2014, especially if the vampire REO situation is as deep as the current projections. The luxury single-family space is certainly active and an area in which Sheldon Good & Company will continue to expand.

PA: How do you apply your strong experience in East Coast residential real estate to now marketing national properties in all sectors?
SW: Auctions along with other disposition strategies do not vary a great deal from one asset class to the next. Neither do the fundamentals of the marketing campaigns. It is much more about the individual property. The real magic is understanding an individual asset, the real goals of the seller, the local market conditions and the target audience. Once again, those elements transcend the asset class. I have the benefit of working with an amazing team of qualified real estate professionals who are experts in their specific discipline. This has made my transition a rather smooth one.

PA: What type of property auctions are drawing the most potential buyers – Commercial? Residential? Land?
SW: I don’t think anyone is trending over the other. It is more real estate asset specific. The nature of the individual deal has a great influence over the depth of market. An income-generating investment opportunity in the booming oil region of North Dakota will naturally have a stronger interest than a dairy farm in Nevada. The same applies to a close-out auction of a downtown San Antonio condominium project versus a $15 million estate in Aspen. The assets determine the depth of market, and the auction is the mechanism that drives the buyer off the sideline.

PA: You have a medical facility coming up for auction. How do you market this type of property as opposed to a standard commercial property?
SW: The marketing of this medical office is unique. Since this is a New York City co-op, our sales program has to take into account the nuances of a sale with which the co-op board can approve or reject the buyer at will. This is a great example of understanding the asset and the intricacies of the business and crafting a sales strategy that will meet the seller’s objective while satisfying the requirements of the board.

PA: How strong of an advertising vehicle has social media been in your marketing plan?
SW: Social media is a strong aspect of our marketing plans, particularly in the residential sector. Much of the effectiveness of these campaigns deals with the target audience for the property that you are selling. There is a greater capture rate of buyers when you are targeting a generational buyer where social media is just the fabric of their life. Social media is certainly an important tool when promoting the company as a whole.

PA: How do you see the development of online-only auctions for real estate?
SW: I think that online-only auctions have gained a lot of popularity, especially around foreclosure properties. The development of this aspect of our business will continue to grow, especially for commercial and investment properties. Non-distressed residential is a more complicated segment to develop when it is online only. Transparency is even more critical for this buyer profile, since the emotional investment is that much greater. A person’s home purchase is usually the largest investment they will make in their lives. The personal interaction in the transaction process is still an important factor.

PA: Lastly, what would your three top tips be for buyers and your three top tips for sellers be?
SW: For buyers:

Tip 1: I cannot recall the number of times I have had this conversation with a prospective bidder – know your market and determine your price! Give yourself a little contingency but do not go over your top value. Competitive bidding is exciting so have fun participating but do not get so irrationally caught up in the process that you buy something above your comfort zone.

Tip 2: Get comfortable with the auction concept. Ask lots of question not only about the property but also about the process. It is critical to understand if the property is being sold absolute, with an undisclosed reserve or if it is a published minimum bid sale.

Tip 3: Do not be intimidated by the auction concept. Every reputable auctioneer will manage the sale so that every bidder clearly understands the current price. The auction will move as quickly or as slowly as needed. The bidders in the room drive the pace of the sale, not the auctioneer.

For Seller:

Tip 1: Do not be intimidated by the auction concept. It does not telegraph to the community that you are in financial difficulty. The auction is a very strategic and smart approach for maximizing value and minimizing the transactional timeline.

Tip 2: Like every other consultant that you would hire, research your auction company. Make sure you have a marketing strategy that is clearly articulated and outlines the roles and responsibilities of all parties. This firm will be representing the sale of a significant personal or business asset. It is critical that the program and process illustrates transparency and integrity. If the consumer doesn’t believe in the honesty of your program, your ability to sell and your ultimate price will suffer.

Tip 3: Try and take the emotion out of the transaction. The consumer is not going to pay more than market for your property just because you raised a family of four in the house. A properly conducted auction campaign will deliver current market value.

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