BANKER & TRADESMAN - Profile In Commerce

May 31, 1999

By Chris Haraden
As seen in Banker &Tradesman
 Jerome Manning's resume includes selling everything from restaurant equipment to dairy farms, Martha's Vineyard hotels to foreclosed homes. And that eclectic mix of properties suits the nationally known auctioneer just fine.
"It's an exciting business," said Manning, who touts his Boston firm, Jerome J. Manning and Co., as one of the state's largest real estate auction houses.
"My deal this year will be better public awareness of what we are, and to get us into the 21st century," Manning said in an interview last week. 'There are a tremendous number of educational courses out there that many of our local members might not be aware of."
Manning is also a member of the board of governors of the Auction Marketing Institute, the arm of the National Auctioneers Association that focuses on education. A licensed Realtor, Manning also serves as vice chairman of the National Association of Realtors Auction Committee. He said he is looking forward to his new duties with the MSAA.
"One of the things we're responsible for is being the watchdog for the industry try at the State House," Manning said.
"We want to be sure ours and the public's interests are protected when in comes to auctions in Massachusetts."
Manning said one of the most significant consumer protections sponsored by his group was a strengthening of the licensing law for auctioneers in this state. The newest revision to the licensing requirement, approved in April, requires prospective auctioneers to graduate from a recognized auction school.
"We've always felt that licensing was necessary if we are going to be thought of as professionals," Manning said. "We still run into a lot of rogue auctioneers and out-of-town auctioneers who misrepresent themselves."
"You have to be pretty streetwise, and you have to be able to think on your feet," Manning said.
Competition Stiff For Trophy' Homes
 Manning, who lives in Yarmouth, began his career in the mid-1970s buying and selling used restaurant equipment on Cape Cod, and often bought coffee urns, pizza ovens, sinks and bar stools at auctions, In 1976, he became a personal-property auctioneer,' specializing in restaurant supplies.
 In the early 1980's, Manning "made the decision that real estate was the direction for me to go, and I started pushing the business in that direction." The decision to concentrate on real estate paid off during the market crash of the late 1980s.
"By the time it hit the fan in the '80s, I was in a great position," he said. "I was ready and was one of the few companies that focused on property auctions."
Although many people think auctions occur only where a property is distressed, either through foreclosure, neglect or inability to sell, Manning said many upscale homes and one-of-a-kind properties are being sold at private auction. In response to this trend, Manning said his company has expanded into the niche market of selling highend properties by competitive bid.
"During the real downturns in the market, the majority of what we do is foreclosures for corporations, bank REO departments and insurance companies,"
Manning said, "When times are good, we have more of a niche in unique and trophy properties."
Manning said that when preparing for a sale, his firm concentrates on the marketing aspect of the auction process.
"We didn't go after the small work and didn't win a lot of proposal contests because we always proposed what we thought was good marketing, not the cheapest way," he said.
The 20-year-old company is a family affair, as Manning's sons, Joseph and Justin, work as auctioneers with their father. Manning keeps an active schedule of speaking engagements, association meetings and, yes, even auctions. He has no plans to cut back on his activities anytime soon, and said he is happy to have a legacy to hand down to his sons.
"That's why I got into real estate," he said. "It's a great business."