Counts Realty & Auction Group: Five Decades and Still Going Strong

Issue: April 2011 by in Inside The Magazine, Real Estate

What began as a simple idea of merging the business of real estate with the auctioneering process has now evolved into more than 50 years of auctioneering both real estate and personal property for Lynchburg’s Counts Realty & Auction Group.

Ted Counts founded the Counts Auction Company in 1963. After eight years of operating as a sister company to Counts Reality, Counts combined the two businesses to create the Ted Counts Reality & Auction Co., Inc. In 1988, Counts formed a partnership with Bill Bryant, whose career with Counts Realty & Auction began as a part-time gig.

My interest was real estate and appraisal,” Bill said. “Ted offered me an opportunity to take over the real estate part of his company … but I also built houses and did a little developing in conjunction with working with his auctions.”

Two years later, Bill came on full-time with the company. Today, he is the president and sole owner.

I saw the demand for quality auction companies to represent banks and attorneys and states up and down the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast region,” he said. “There was a demand for a company to step up and do a lot of that business and we did.”

Bill said from a young age, he knew real estate was a career he wanted to pursue.

I had family in the real estate business and so I really wanted to be involved in real estate and the auction was such an exciting and aggressive way to market property,” he said. “Once the bug bit me, I was in with both feet and that’s what I’ve been in since.”

Jennifer Bryant is principal broker of Counts & Realty Auction Group, and though they share a last name, she and Bill Bryant are not related. She says she had a similar attraction to the business of real estate and began working with the company 10 years ago at the age of 22.

I’m the third generation in my family to be in the real estate [and] auction business. It was only natural for me to work in this field; I have been around the auction business my entire life,” she said. “I can remember as a small child helping my parents and grandparents work auctions, filling out bidder cards, selling concessions—anything I could do at a young age.”

In the years since the early beginnings, the company itself has grown and now operates out of various Virginia locations including Richmond, Marion and Abingdon. The company has also worked to evolve with the rapid changes in technology.

Bill says that Counts Realty and Auction Group was one of the first few companies to be able to automate their auction database as well as successfully sell properties over the Internet to people in various locations of the U.S. The company currently offers online bidding and live auctions and recently expanded to include sales for businesses and clients in areas and states such as Washington D.C., Maryland, Georgia and Rhode Island.

We certainly prefer to work in our region here, right at home and we do the bulk of our business right here at home,” Bill said. “But, by expanding out doing sales in Georgia and Newport, Rhode Island, it gives us a broader base of buying power.”

Jennifer says being licensed in multiple states gives the company a needed flexibility with their sellers.

We could sell something for somebody in Forest who owns a second home they want to sell in North Carolina and we have the ability to help them,” she said.

The company has also grown in the way they advertise, as the market has changed throughout the years.

Buyers are doing a lot more homework and searching before they even contact us, so we have adapted to that,” Jennifer said. “We do a wide range of online marketing to promote properties in a much bigger market than just local advertising.”

Today Counts Realty and Auction Group employs about 16 local staff members, making about 40 overall employees when including the combined offices in the company’s other Virginia locations.

Our staff has been together for a long time,” Bill said. “We work together; it’s an exciting business, but it’s very time-consuming at times.”

Especially during the spring and summer seasons, he says the staff sometimes ends up working up to seven days a week.

We’re at the office late at night working on budgets and marketing plans,” he explained.

With expansion to areas outside of the region, the company has been working to maintain strong relationships with their local clients.

Sometimes, there are people who are retiring. That’s a great opportunity to be able to help them sell their assets,” Bill said.

There is also more of a personal touch with the local clients, according to Bill. He says he enjoys being able to get in and feel a part of the issues they are dealing with.

Unfortunately, we have to work with people at times who are having financial difficulties or even the loss of a loved one and that’s always tough,” he said. “At times, it’s tough circumstances that we work under but it is always a good feeling when you get to help people accomplish their goals and their needs.”

As for the future of Counts Realty & Auction Group, Bill says he wants to see the company grow in the areas they reach and continue to succeed.

We certainly want to maintain our base that we have here and expand out, always focus on our home, but I’d like to see us broaden out,” he said.

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