• The day was finally here. After weeks of buzz and excitement around our most popular story to date, the Orlando real estate market was getting ready to make headlines about buying and selling condos, rather than the usual doom and gloom stories of decline. Some saw it as a sign of things to come like ‘rock bottom’, ‘panic sales’ and further depreciation of property values. Others saw it as an ideal opportunity to aquire a new condo, either for their own use or as an investment.

    Around 600-700 hopefuls showed up at the Marriott Lake Mary Hotel to try to get their hands on a cheap condo at either “The Village Townhomes” or “The Reserve at Wekiva Bend” communities. Phrases I haven’t heard for a while, like ‘flipping’ and ‘first time buyers’ were flying around the room. Everyone in the room was a buyer since everyone had to pre-register, present financial pre-qualification and even show a cashiers check to indicate their seriousness. TV crews also hovered around and together with some live entertainment, the whole event was given an air of significant importance.

    The bidding started well with the first winner making the highest bid of the day. The 3-bedroom town home model sold for $160,000. The fact that it was a model and that the developer threw in the entire interior furnishings helped to push the price, but perhaps still not as high as the organizers might have hoped for.At the other end of the price ‘Richter-scale’ things didn’t meet the expectation of some of the first-time home buyers who were hoping against hope to pick up something beyond cheap in the widely advertised opening minimum bid area of $30,000 to $40,000. The best bargain to be had on the day was $86,000 and that price went to a few die hard buyers willing to sit through 3 hours of sometimes frantic and at other times painfully slow proceedings.

    It was clear right from the beginning that just like before the auction, The Village Townhomes were seen as the more desireable property. Only after most deals on the Village were closed or removed from the offer board, did Wekivia Bend finally start moving units.

    The way the bidding was set up seemed more geared towards maximizing ‘safe’ sales (now there’s a surprise) rather than taking the risk of buyers pushing the price by out bidding each other: Firstly, there were always large numbers of properties from either community to choose from on the offer board so there was never a feeling of urgency to raise your bid because something special was on the block. This was very apparent when looking at the bidding history throughout the day. Winning bids were always equal to or slightly lower than the previous bids, and very often there was no bidding at all with properties simply offered at a “step-up” and sold for the same price as the last winning bid until there were no more takers and a new round of bidding started to set the new lowest offer.

    At the end of the day, the developer stuck to his contractual obligations but went no further. Three bedroom units were quickly taken off the market as soon as sales requirements were met and the auction came to a swift end once the mandatory number of units were sold. Before leaving, buyers were tempted with the option to purchase the remaining condos at pre-set prices – a few did so – but the auction was basically over.

    The day saw some great and some not so great deals. One lucky bidder was able to grab a town home which was left by accident on the offer board at a lower price, while one lady who couldn’t make up her mind fast enough on a bid and ended up paying $18,000 more simply on a time rule technicality. I don’t think she even realized what had happened.

    Overall, the whole event could be considered a success if you went into it with reasonable expectations. No complete give-aways for the bargain hunters and no large scale movement of inventory at high prices for the developer. For most people it was neither an out of reach, classy ‘Sotheby’s’ auction nor a desperate feeding frenzy (despite the often pushy tactics by the auction staff to ‘encourage’ buyers to up their bids.)

    If, as some suggest, this auction is a taste of things to come here in Orlando, then I’m going to invest in a comfy chair cushion and settle in for a busy auction season.

    Jens Raduschewski is a licensed real estate associate and co-founder of Condo Metropolis.

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