House Sale Bid-Ness

Former TV anchor Bill Menish walks you through the real estate auction process.

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Can you imagine being in the room while your home is being auctioned off? You’d be a miserable bundle of nerves. A low opening bid could cause your stomach to knot into a bowline-on-a-bight. A high bid might turn your knees into castanets.

Real estate, though, was the fastest growing segment of the $58.5 billion-dollar auction industry in 2007, says accredited auctioneer Bill Menish. If the name looks and sounds familiar, it’s because Menish was morning co-anchor for a large stretch of the 12 years he spent working for NBC 7/39.

Menish points to three things somebody should have if they’re thinking about using an auction to sell their home:

--A realistic view of the current economy.

--A healthy supply of home equity.

--Faith in a “time-defined” method of sale.

Here’s how it works. When you decide to take the plunge, you then spend 30-45 days marketing your home auction. This usually requires an investment of about 1-2 percent of the home price.

Then you pick your type of sale. Menish prefers an “absolute” auction, in which there is no minimum and no capped price. “These get the most attention, and get the best price ten out of ten times,” he says.

There’s also a “reserve” auction, where a home will sell if it reaches an (unpublished) minimum. And a “minimum bid” auction starts at the lowest acceptable price, and if any bid is made, the sale will go through.

Of note: The commission paid for the sale comes from the buyer, not the seller.

In becoming an accredited auctioneer, Menish learned to talk fast. But he says during the real estate auction bidding process, he slows it down so it’s not a high-stress environment for bidders.

And while sellers are usually in the house, Menish likes to keep them in another room (where their pacing and hand-wringing doesn’t distract the buyers).

Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to and a contributing editor to His Web site ( is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.

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