Low Country Auction & Real Estate, founded by Jeff Raines in 2006 and affiliated with industry leader United Country Real Estate and Auction Services since 2011, exposes antiques, collectibles and other household and commercial items from southeastern Georgia and South Carolina to nationwide and international bidding.
The Statesboro-based company, a very small, family business in terms of workforce, handles real estate auctions as well. It offers clients the option of live auctions and "simulcast auctions" that include both on-site and Internet bidders in competition. But Internet auctions for estates and transitional moves are where Low Country has been racking up some impressive statistics.
"About 95 percent of our auctions are what are called timed, online auctions," Raines said. "We just finished one up that was very successful."
That "multi-estate online auction," concluded last week, offered 250 items, brought to Raines' warehouse on Georgia Highway 24 East from several estates and transitional households with holdings too small for separate auctions.
In the seven concluding days of the auction, more than 14,000 people — by a count of unique visitors rather than duplicated hits — looked at those assets, as compared to perhaps 100 that Raines said might gather for a live auction.
"A lot more people are getting involved with the online business," he said. "Number one, they can do it from the convenience of their home or office. They don't have to stand in line all day to wait on one item, and in our case, from the local side, whereas I might not bid against a real close friend of mine if he's standing there, when I'm at home, I'm going to bid."
Plus, there's the sheer reach of the Internet. United Country bills itself as "the largest integrated auction and real estate company in the country." In other words, there are bigger companies that handle real estate, and bigger platforms for auctions, but United Country is the biggest company that combines the two functions.
Low Country Auction & Real Estate also uses the online auction platform Proxibid. Through United Country and Proxibid, the Statesboro-based firm reaches a pool of more than 300,000 registered bidders.
In 2013, when Low Country mainly handled estate sales, it sold items to buyers in 48 states as well as Argentina, Belize and Mexico, Raines said. When he auctioned the contents of a hardware store, including more than 1,200 lots, online, about 600 of those lots were shipped to Belize.
Shipping costs, incidentally, are always the buyer's responsibility.
In addition to actual sales following a death, the category loosely referred to as estate auctions includes transitional moves, such as when senior citizens downsize their households to move in with adult children or to an assisted living home.
Low Country's job is to make any sale as convenient to the seller as possible, and never more so than with estate sales and transitional moves, Raines said.
"That's an emotional time for everybody," he said.
He maintains business relationships with moving and storage companies, cleaning companies and even landscapers to make their services available to clients.
Low Country offers different degrees of service, including the choice of selling the items while they remain at the client's location or bringing them to the warehouse. Leaving items at the client's place is generally more cost effective, but sometimes isn't possible, such as when the real estate has already been sold.
The online platforms' software performs some background check functions to insure bidders are qualified. In the case of major items such as real estate, Raines will call and ask the bidder to provide a letter of credit from a bank if there's a question.
"We do everything we can to include everybody that's capable of buying something," he said.
For bidders, Low Country tries to maximize transparency, providing detailed descriptions and offering photos from multiple angles of even simple items such as dishes and plates, Raines said. When items are in the warehouse, times are advertised for potential bidders to see them firsthand.
The online bidding process lets bidders see other bids, including each bidder's user name.
Raines has earned Certified Auctioneers Institute accreditation. Low Country Auction & Real Estate is also Graduate, Personal Property Appraisals accredited and able to perform Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice-compliant, personal property appraisals. For the sale of guns in auctions, the company is a federally licensed firearms dealer.
Raines, previously the founder of University Tire, sold his interest in that business and went into real estate in 2005, first as an agent for Coldwell Banker Tanner Realty. He remained with the agency until 2011, after starting his auction business.
His daughter, Ashley Raines, is the office manager at Low Country Auction & Real Estate. She started working with her father in real estate as a young teenager and is now 21 and completing her Bachelor of Business Administration studies at Georgia Southern University, where her dad received his BBA in 1985.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.