Real estate broker ends home auction with no sale

Owner says he 'miscalculated' the number of people who would participate

— The auction of Steamboat Springs real estate broker Thomas Willman's three-bedroom house on Blacktail Mountain ended Saturday without a sale.

The auction was billed as an "absolute auction," in which there is no minimum bid and there is no reserve, the lowest price the seller says he or she will accept. It's feasible that in an absolute auction, a million-dollar property could sell for $1.

On Saturday, however, the auction was called off when bids for Willman's $650,000 home barely got above $200,000.

"Pretty much what happened is that this was our property and we kind of miscalculated the number of people that were going to step up to the plate," Willman said. "It's highly unusual."

Willman said that only five of the nine bidders who were planning on showing up were able to make it to the auction. About 40 people came to watch the auction and enjoy the free food and music.

Willman decided to start the auction on time, but 10 minutes in, the auctioneer called for a break when bids stagnated around $200,000.

During the break, Willman had a discussion with the bidders and said the man with the highest bid voluntarily withdrew his bid. Willman did not name the highest bidder.

Because of that withdrawal, the auctioneer had the right to call the auction off, Willman said.

"The auctioneer has control of what is happening on the block," Willman said.

He said the bidders received a package before the auction took place explaining the rules of the auction.

Bruce Jarchow, a real estate lawyer in Steamboat, said each auctioneer would most likely send out or discuss the terms of the auction.

"With an absolute auction, that means that there is no limit," Jarchow said. "But I'd be surprised if there aren't some safeguards for the sellers."

Willman said that if the man with the highest bid at the time hadn't withdrawn his bid, he would have "absolutely" sold the house for one-third of its market value.

He also said he wasn't happy with the results of the auction.

"It was really disappointing," Willman said. "The issue is, this is our property. Whenever you're individually involved in it, you maybe don't see things as objectively as possible."

Willman has auctioned other homes successfully in the past and said that usually the seller ends up with true market value for the home because of the competition among bidders.

There are three choices for how to sell a home: Sale by owner, multi-listing or auction.

Auctioning is often a good choice because it lets the seller let go of a property quickly, Willman said.

If Willman's house had sold, it would have been marketed for only 27 days.

He said he has no plans for auctioning the house in the immediate future.

To reach Susan Bacon call 871-4206 or e-mail intern@steamboatpilot.com

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