Sunday, August 9, 2009

Luxury homes at auction

Homes that were valued in the multi-million dollar range just a few years ago being auctioned off for an order of magnitude less in some cases. Bankruptcy is sometimes the culprit behind the auction.

Mr. Warner, 61, bought his house and an adjacent property that once had a trailer park on Little Torch Key, north of Key West, in 1993. It was appraised at nearly $14 million just two years ago. But after losing a large amount of money, he liquidated his construction business in Elkhart, Ind. Last year, another company he owned, Lucky’s Landing, which essentially owned his Florida real estate, filed for bankruptcy protection and its assets came under court oversight.

When no buyer emerged at the listing price of $5.9 million, Mr. Warner asked the United States Bankruptcy Court in Miami to approve the property’s sale at auction. He had a lot riding on the request. To avoid personal bankruptcy, he said, the sale had to generate more than $3 million, roughly the remaining amount of the mortgages.


Stacy Kirk, who together with her mother co-founded Grand Estates Auction Company in 1999 to handle multimillion-dollar homes exclusively, said her business had grown to 30 homes last year, from 20 homes sold in 2005. “We have been receiving more inquiries from homeowners in the $1.5 million and up price range,” she said. “And we are talking to banks for the first time about whether we can help sell similarly priced homes that are headed for foreclosure.”