Editor's note: This is one in a series of profiles of businesses nominated for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award.
Yes, Braden McCurdy can “cry an auction,” as the rapid-fire, alliterative practice of driving up bids is known.
No, it’s not his favorite part of running McCurdy Auction.
“For me, I really enjoy the variety,” the CEO said. “It’s a fun business. We see something different every day.”
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That could be auctioning a golf course, cell phone tower and country airfield one day, a farm, commercial building and luxury home the next.
McCurdy Auction is among the nominees for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award for “tier one” businesses with 25 employees or less.
The company is much different than when it was started in 1982 by Braden’s parents, Lonnie and Annette McCurdy, who remain involved with it. Back then, the company focused on the sale of personal property such as furniture and farm equipment. Braden says he and his sister, Megan Niedens, who is the company’s COO, grew up cleaning out houses to get ready for personal property auctions.
“We learned early on that child labor laws don’t apply to family business,” McCurdy joked.
Since that time, however, the company has transformed itself into a real estate auction business. “We do about 600 auctions a year, and real estate is about 90 percent of that,” McCurdy said.
That’s made for a good business strategy as residential and commercial properties are generally worth more than items stored on them.
Braden obtained his real estate license while still in college. Megan, meanwhile, may be the more accomplished auctioneer, winning an international competition for female auctioneers in 2013. The company employs 22 people, including four more auctioneers, an in-house attorney, appraisal and marketing teams. Several are “30-, 20- or 15-year employees. We have a strong, strong team.”
McCurdy said the company has adapted and benefited from two big changes in the auction industry. One was a move away from the idea that property is only auctioned when the owner is under some kind of financial duress.
“The majority of properties we sell have no distress,” he said. “It’s just property owners that are ready to be finished with their property owner responsibility.”
An auction held at the right time can bring a higher price than a traditional sale, he said.
“The time to sell at auction is when everybody wants it. We’ve witnessed this time and time again. Maybe you’ve got a premier home, it’s on 5 or 20 acres 10 minutes from town. Sometimes at these auctions, there will be 200 people ready to compete for that property.”
On the other hand, a home sitting in a development with numerous vacant lots may not be the best fit for an auction.
“We like to have a consultation with sellers on the front end, so we can learn their goals and expectations.”
The other big change is technology. Today, potential buyers can participate in many McCurdy auctions online in real time.
“We’ve sold properties to people in the last year, one was in the Galapagos Islands. One was in Hawaii. I had a $3 million farm that went to somebody out of state.”
McCurdy Auction still handles some personal property, such as the contents of Southeast High when it moved. Online bidding of those types of goods is attractive to people who don’t want to “stand there all day” waiting for the chance.
“Certainly, technology is an element that continues to grow as buyers and sellers are connected today,” McCurdy said. “We’re kind of in the people business, connecting buyers and sellers.”
Despite the march of technology, McCurdy noted, people still expect to hear somebody cry an auction at most of the company’s sales.
“It’s a skill, it takes practice,” McCurdy said. “For us, our unique product is auction.”
Address: 12041 E. 13th