- Photos by Anthony Jinson
Tim and Crystal Elliott broaden Atterberry Auction & Realty Company’s horizons.
Call it divine providence.
The only connection Tim Elliott had with auctions was as co-chairman of the fundraising auction at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School in 2018. As it happened, Larry Atterberry Jr. was on-hand to call the auction. Tim had hoped to close a business-purchase deal earlier that day, ending a 10-month search assisted by Columbia business broker and advisor Jeff Guinn.
But the business purchase fell through, Tim says, and he mentioned the business-buying search to Larry.
Later that night, Tim got an email from Larry, explaining that Larry and his wife, Marla, were looking at selling their company, Atterberry Auction and Realty Company LLC, which marked its 50th year in 2020.
Enticing and Intriguing
Tim and Crystal Elliott, parents of four girls, gained an additional family when they bought, took over, and renamed Atterberry Auction & Realty Company in July 2019. Tim looks back at the night he talked with Larry Atterberry Jr. at the fundraising auction.
“That’s really how the whole thing got started,” Tim says. “It’s kind of like the good Lord put Larry and me together on the right day at the right time.”
It didn’t take Crystal long to buy into the idea.
“What are we going to do with an auction company? That was my initial thought,” Crystal says. Once she learned more about Atterberry Auction & Realty and found that most of its auctions are done online, Crystal’s attitude shifted from “intrigued” to “more promising.” Learning that Atterberry’s auction company was a member of MarkNet Alliance — a consortium of 60-plus auction companies that post their sales on each other’s websites — that was “another big, enticing factor.”
Making His Own Mark
When they bought the company and pursued new ways to build their audience of online bidders and sellers, both Tim and Crystal relied on 19 years of community connections they’ve made as a busy married couple. They’re Columbia College alums; they’re on the college’s athletics advisory board, and they attend sporting events at Columbia College and MU. They’re also active members at Our Lady of Lourdes and volunteers at Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School, Father Tolton Catholic High School, and other charities and organizations.
“It’s going really well,” Crystal adds. “It was definitely a good transition.”
Tim’s background in sales and business management was another bonus that made the business purchase even more palatable. He grew up working in the family business, Mid-Am Building Supply, working in the warehouse, the front desk, and outside sales. Before that, he was a sales rep for Cumulus Media — his first job out of college — and a chemicals sales rep.
Tim’s desire “to find something to make my own mark” led him to contact Jeff, eventually leading to that fateful conversation with Larry.
A New Set of Eyes and Ears
Crystal is a full-time mom — the Elliotts have four daughters, ranging in age from 10-year-old twins to a 15-year-old — and she keeps the administrative wheels of Atterberry Auction & Realty Company churning from home, a seemingly natural extension of her background in the insurance industry. Tim manages the day-to-day operations.
“We had a lot of contacts ahead of time that really helped us get out there in front of people,” he adds.
There wasn’t a big announcement when the Elliotts bought the business. “The only difference,” Tim says, “is Larry is not physically sitting in the seat here.”
An added bonus of the Elliotts’ purchase was gaining a new family, too. That’s how Tim views the “very, very valuable” staff, like Marla Oglesby, the broker and real estate auction consultant, and Scott Sapp, a second-generation auctioneer and personal property auction specialist.
“I rely on them to keep doing their job and help lead us along,” he says. “The Atterberry family created a really strong base and business here. We’re just a new set of eyes and ears and coming in to push it to the next level.”
Expanding the Footprint
“On the real estate side, it’s been a good year,” Tim says. “The housing market right now is really strong. We’ve seen significant growth since we bought it.”
Although 2020 will forever be the subject of doomsday memes, it’s been a good year for Atterberry Auction & Realty Company. One property sold this year for just over $1.5 million, and another sold in Joplin, a bit outside the company’s previous footprint.
“We’re reaching a different group and keeping the audience we had, trying to get a bigger piece of the pie,” Tim explains. An ongoing objective is getting past the public stigma that insinuates that online real estate auctions only deal in foreclosed properties.
“People see a real estate auction and wonder why it’s being auctioned. ‘Did someone die in this house? Is it falling apart?’” Tim explains. “We’re breaking down those walls. Why would you not put your house up for auction? You know, within 45 days your house will be sold, and in another 45 days, the sale will close.”
Some of the innovative steps towards building a larger audience is using 360-degree camera angles — as other realtors do — and, especially with COVID-19 in mind, “having more avenues for people to be able to experience the properties and items we’re selling without having to be there to see them.”
Atterberry Auction & Realty Company is also boosting its efforts to be a one-stop-shop for selling personal property along with real estate. As Tim puts it, “They can turn the keys over to us and we can handle all of that.”
With online auctions now all the rage — and for good, practical, economic, health-related reasons — does that mean the good-old-days of an on-site farm or estate auction, complete with apple pie and hot dog food stands, are a thing of the past?
“If someone wants to do a live auction and that makes sense for them, we have the resources to do it,” Tim answers. “It just seems like what’s best for our customers. Online is really the way to get max dollars for what they invested when they hired us.”
Tim and Crystal also set the business apart by letting auction-sponsoring fundraisers keep more of the auction proceeds. And that’s important to them, based on their own fundraising experience.
For now, the Elliotts are focused on “just keeping the Atterberry business name out there and letting people know we’re still here.”
Tim adds, “And, we’re wanting to help the community in any way we can.”
Atterberry Auction & Realty Company
7912 I-70 Drive S.E.