The author is a local blogger who has his own real estate watch column. Some of these properties look very nice, and the selling prices seem quite attractive, given the amenities. Some of the more splashy properties didn't garner even a single bid. The author observes that some deals were probably done post-auction, where the 10% premium etc wouldn't necessarily kick in. I suspect the unsettled homeowners insurance situation could also give pause to some potential buyers (some insurers are cancelling coverage anywhere in FL).
These are the $275,000 units...
They started out in the $500s and $600s. They are now down to the low $400s, maybe even less. If I could get one of these babies for under $300, 000, I’d grab it.
Sarasota magazine reports
One question was paramount: Did they sell or didn't they? Of the 79 properties on the sales list, 18 were offered "absolute," meaning that the seller hadn't set a reserve price and supposedly would accept any bid. But the median sales price these attracted was less than half of the original asking price. Ouch.
Thirty-seven properties were sold "subject to owner confirmation," meaning they didn't receive bids above their reserve price -- the minimum that the seller had told the auctioneer beforehand would be acceptable -- and thus maybe sold or maybe didn't, depending on whether the seller would accept the low-ball bid.
What did go were the more unusual homes in premium locations.
The $20 million estate went for about $14 million -- a 30%-plus discount, but still a record price for a single-family home in Sarasota County.
The Longboat Key mansion, apparently not quite so special despite its home theater, billiard room, four fireplaces, four-car garage, boat dock and infinity pool, couldn't get the $5 million bid at which the auctioneer had hoped to begin the sale.
But the three-story Georgian, perhaps the most refined and distinctive property on the block this day, precipitated a bidding war.
The Bottom Line:
Luxury housing is merely, well, housing. Once prices run amok on the upside, there's always eventually a toll to pay on the downside.
A prosperous-looking young man who happened to be standing next to me really wanted that house. At $6 million, the bid came to him. Would he raise it? The spectators were riveted. After an agonizing moment, he made his decision. "Let Jason have it," he snarled, and turned away. Whoever Jason is, he got the $8.9 million mansion for $6.1 million, plus the 10% commission the buyer pays the auctioneer.
Very high-end condos also did OK. What didn't do well was the mundane. It was a bad day for your typical $2 million Spanish Med. The auctioneers seemed to put the good stuff first, and when the run-of-the-mill came on, well, the crowd was getting tired. The woman sitting next to me was keeping tally -- as were many others -- and after a while, her DNS (did not sell) list got longer and longer.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the local newspaper, reported last week that only $31.9 million in confirmed deals had resulted from the big day.
So, was the auction a success?
It depends on whom you talk to.
"I am absolutely 100% satisfied with the outcome," SKY Sotheby's president, Chad Roffers, declared, although he admits he lost 10 pounds in the process. "We brought buyers out of the woodwork." His arch rival, Michael Saunders, has a different opinion. "I think the results were dismal," she told me later. "Many people were very disappointed. It was much ado about nothing."
One person who analyzed the reported sales concluded that, for the properties sold "absolute," the median sales prices was just 45% of the original asking price, and that 35 properties didn't even get an acceptable opening bid and so remained unsold at the auction.
And, of course, some competing real-estate agents, as steeped in schadenfreude as they are in mortgage rates, quickly came up with a catty saying: If you want to sell your home, call a broker; if you want to give it away, call SKY Sotheby's.
But still, something had happened, and Chad Roffers was the catalyst. The clever real-estate agent had tweaked the auction to his own purpose. It was no longer a gavel-driven, sold-to-the-highest-bidder experience, but rather, a multipart sales tool. It generated massive publicity -- front-page news locally for several days running. Anyone who bid -- no matter how low -- was considering bidding, or wished he had bid, was invited, or rather urged, to meet the seller in one of the private tents that fronted the golf course and see what they could work out. And deals were reached this way on at least several properties.
Drawing-broad conclusions about what one auction in one market says about the U.S. luxury-home market is dangerous. But the Sarasota sale certainly said something about the once-torrid Florida luxury-home market...and similar markets around the country. And what it said wasn't reassuring for those with high-priced property to sell.
Chad Roffers has another auction coming up in March. Will it work any better? No one has any idea. After all that Sarasota's realty market has been through lately, the only thing local people are betting on is that he'll probably lose another 10 pounds