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Realty Check

Home sellers still stuck with their properties due to the slow market and high inventories might be wondering if an auction would end their pain. Maybe, says Paul Drake of Naples-based Rothschild International Realty.

"The auction process isn’t for everyone," he cautions. "The sellers who might benefit most are those with the most cash in their pockets. Owners of properties in the $2 million-plus category will accept what the market dictates their property is worth." Sellers of more modest properties are likely to have unrealistic expectations, he explains. "If they come in saying, ‘My bottom line is ...,’ they’re probably not good candidates for the auction method."

Drake explains that the auction agent’s job is to saturate a likely audience with all the details of the property. If the best price is disappointing to the seller, it is what the market is dictating.

Another reason upscale properties are better suited for the auction block is that the bidders understand they need to have the financing quickly. Those who bid on seven-figure homes usually have the money to conclude the deal, but bidders on low-priced homes might have trouble getting mortgages.

"That’s one of the reasons that auctions are such good sales vehicles," he says. "There are no contingencies. And if the winning bidder has a change of heart, he forfeits his deposit, which typically is 10 percent of the sale price."

Developers looking to recoup capital or improve cash flow are also good candidates for the auction process, Drake points out, because they are also realistic about prices.

Auctioning a condo unit has its complexities, so Drake advises prospective buyers to read the documents and house rules before the auction. If, for any reason, the condo review board rejects the new owner, the situation could become a legal matter.

Although auction sales are a large segment of the sales market in other parts of the country, Drake says they’ve always had limited appeal in Florida. "They are the ideal sales tool for some properties," he says, "but they’re not a miracle solution for everyone."

Models We Love

The Verona at Grey Oaks takes a different tack in its presentation of gracious Florida living. "We wanted to offer a refreshing environment for our clients," says Steve Watts, president of Gulfshore Homes. "We created it with clean lines and transitional furnishings. Our floors are polished marble, many with inset designs, more suggestive of a Manhattan co-op than a rustic villa." The four-bedroom home on Thistle Lane has four full baths, two half-baths and a three-car garage. A balconied loft houses two guest suites and a media/game room. The floor plan’s total 6,231 air-
conditioned square feet includes a spectacular contemporary kitchen, and the total footprint of 9,619 square feet encases a glamorous, open-air, landscaped pool area. The Verona, which backs up to a cypress preserve, is priced at $5,550,000, furnished.

Clever planning provides plenty of practicality in Residence 603, a three-bedroom, three-bath model in the 27-story Esperia South tower at Bonita Bay. The Lutgert Companies composed the 2,418-square-foot floor plan to take full advantage of spectacular views. For example, the kitchen, great room and master suite enjoy wide-screen panoramas of the pool and golf course, while the guest suite and den provide sweeping eastern views. The savvy layout has the third bedroom viable as a cozy den, illustrated in the model by a sleeper sofa, compact desk and wall cabinetry. Gary David Designs assembled an interior that personifies sophisticated casual style with rich woods, tropical components and stone floors. Residence 603 is one of five floor plans priced from $816,000 to $1,446,000 in the 118-home building. It is sold but is available for viewing throughout 2008.

In the Trenches

There are run-of-the mill listings, and there are those that sell properties, says Cindy Oneto, a real estate agent with Prudential Florida WCI Realty, and anyone who wants to sell a home in this tough market better know the difference.

"You have to have it together right from the start," Oneto cautions. "Real estate professionals scan the [Multiple Listing Service] looking for new properties all the time. If yours doesn’t make a good first impression, it’s likely to get lost in the crowd." Oneto, who has ranked in Prudential’s top 14 percent of producers nationwide for the past two years, says the work starts as soon as the ink dries on the listing agreement.

"It’s important that the home is staged to be easy on the eye and that all personal traces of the owners are removed," she advises. "And everything has to pass inspection. If prospective buyers see any evidence of neglect, they assume the whole property hasn’t been kept up properly." Next, she pre-shoots the premises. "I bring in my camera and take my time studying each room and what angle shows it to its best advantage. I recommend a professional photographer for the actual photo shoot. That gives the best results, but my homework can guide that person to making the most of every opportunity." Oneto sold real estate part-time for 10 years and has been selling it full-time for the past four. She says that the agent should supply as many photos as the Web site allows and expose the property on as many Web sites as possible. The right description is equally as critical, she says. Taking the time to find the best words, by checking the verbiage in upscale magazines, for example, and reporting all the home’s virtues could mean the difference between a potential buyer being interested enough to read straight through or getting bored and moving on.

"With things the way they are, would-be sellers should do what they can to make sure their listings won’t be passed by," she says.

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