Online Mayo auctioneering business is a ‘sold-out’ sign of the times
By Tom Gillespie
COVID changed the working practices of many enterprises, forcing them online to stay in business.
One such example is Castlebar auctioneer Barney Kieran, and post the pandemic he found he was still doing the same level of transactions - so he decided to stay online.
Barney is 30 years auctioneering this year, having opened at Linenhall Street, Castlebar, 26 years ago.
Barney explained his decision: “During lockdown we were closed and there was no traffic and the whole business model just transitioned online. The only way you could communicate was on Zoom meetings, WhatsApp, text and emails. Everything was automated.
“When we opened up again I was still doing the same level of business and I decided then I did not need the overheads. I decided to move the business totally online. Touch wood, it has worked well. People find it a little bit strange.
“The Eureka moment for me was when we were doing a lot of transactions during lockdown and people would ring me up wanting to drop keys back into the office and several times I was asked where was my office?
“These were youngsters who were buying houses off me and they never stood in my office. Since then, which is even more bizarre, I went online with three of my seller clients. I have never met them. They don’t live in Castlebar and I have sold their properties but I have never physically met them.
“However, you have to meet your buyers and that is one of the limitations of online.”
He added: “A lot of people went over to virtual viewings. I won’t go down that road because it is one of the biggest transactions a person is ever going to make.
“I don’t think anyone is going to buy a property unseen. You have to physically go in at some point and view the property.
“Occasionally we would get offers on an ‘unseen’ property but I would not accept them until they actually viewed the property. You need to look over the neighbour's fence or there could be a slatted house in the next field.
“You can dress a property up to look very pretty in video. But you have to see what the neighbours are like, or what’s over your back fence.”
Barney had the EBS franchise for 25 years, which took up a lot of time and energy.
He continued: “Linenhall Street was a big, big building. We had moved there to facilitate the EBS offices and when they moved up to Main Street we had a load of empty spaces.
“I was very glad to step away from that and luckily during Covid I did not have the responsibility of staff contracting Covid which was a great relief.
“I enjoy the property market.
“During lockdown we had to convert part of our home garage into a den as our two lads came home and were working remotely during lockdown so we had to create a space for them.
“I had the area insulated and wired up with high speed broadband. Then after Covid they went back to where they were and suddenly there was my office, which means I am not in the house, which is fantastic.
“Really I have gone full circle as I remember my dad, Barney, when I was a young fellow in Spencer Street, had the insurance brokerage in the house in the living room. But as the family grew he converted the garage into an office.
“I used to think it was most bizarre and here I am, 40 odd years later, working in the garage.”
Barney, son of Barney and Monica Kiernan, went on: “Prior to opening in Castlebar, we had an office in Swinford. I started in the auctioneers business in 1993. I have seen a lot of changes and comings and goings in that time.
“We had laid the foundations in Swinford. People wondered why I opened in Swinford. It was because of a lot of family connections. My mother Monica’s family are from there and my wife Fiona’s father, the late Val Donegan, was also from there. The connections were there and my uncle had a business that was not really being used.
“It was great groundwork dealing with farmers and small plots of land and stuff. It was a good education.
“Later we saw the opportunity to open in Castlebar and we kept the two offices going for about two years, but it got too much of a stretch. Castlebar was beginning to hop so we decided to consolidate everything into Castlebar and a year later we took on the EBS agency.”
Barney admitted that after going online he has had to engage a bit more on social media and he writes a regular blog on property matters.
He went on: “With the move online I have cut out a lot of time wasting. The people coming to me are generally quality leads so you don’t have the classic scenario years ago of being in the office and a fellow would wander in saying the wife is gone shopping and he would stand there chatting for an hour - an hour lost out of your day.
“Now every conversation we are having is leading somewhere. It has cut the workload down considerably so what you are doing is quality work.
“Years ago when you were 9 to 5 in the office you resented having to deal with anybody out of hours, but now it does not bother me. I find myself answering emails on a Saturday or Sunday because this is what I do now. It is on my phone and I might as well deal with it straight away.
“Now we do a lot of Saturday viewing but when we were stuck in the office all week you hated being dragged out on a Saturday.
“Now I block book my appointments so that I will get my administrative work done and then I am out on the road for a few hours in the afternoon. Now I have got to the point in my life where I work smart and not work hard.”
Now the Linenhall cafe, on Linenhall Street, is Barney’s meeting point where he can converse with a client over a coffee and he has another location in town as a key drop off location, so everything is in town that needs to be in town.
Everything he lists is on his website - castlebarproperty.com - and on daft.ie, or Barney can be contacted on (087) 2617054.