Going once, going twice…: Brothers to auction mansions

Cardiologists and brothers, Steven and Robert Fox moved to South Florida from Philadelphia to set up practice, and in 1990, they bought matching homes in Golden Beach, the exclusive oceanfront enclave.

Now retired and empty-nesters, it’s time to sell. Like most everything else, they’re doing it together.

But there’s a twist.

Instead of brokering traditional sales through a real estate agent, the Foxes have decided to auction off their multi-million dollar mansions to the highest bidder — a practice usually reserved for properties that have been foreclosed or seized.

But these sand-dune palaces are not in distress. Rather, Steve and Bobby Fox simply tired of waiting after their homes languished on the market for years, and decided to force the issue.

And so, on Nov. 10, the bargain-hunting ultra-rich can gather in Steve’s Ocean Boulevard estate home for what could be the most lucrative voluntary property auction in South Florida history.

“In these economic times, everybody is counting their money; everybody has less,” said Steve Fox, 64. “But we felt the best way to get the most flies on the wall is an absolute auction.”

Lamar Fisher, whose Pompano Beach-based company is handling the auction and will rake in a 10 percent premium — payable by the buyers — said more than 100 deep-pocketed prospectors from at least seven countries have expressed interest. Fisher expects roughly 20 registered bidders to participate in the auction, which will be conducted both in person and online.

They’ll need to make serious commitment just to get in the door. A refundable deposit of $500,000 is required merely for the right to bid on one of the houses. Those interested in both homes will need to deposit $1 million.

The winning bidder’s deposit will then be applied to the 10 percent cash down payment required to buy the home. From there, things move quickly. Closing is within 30 days — a relief to the Fox brothers and their wives.

“I’m ready to downsize,” said Helene Fox, married to Bobby. “It’s been 21 years, we’ve raised our children, but we’re ready for a simpler existence.”

But with speed comes risk.

When listed traditionally, both four-bedroom, 6,000-square foot homes had asking prices that topped $11 million. That assured Steve and Bobby the right to brush off unacceptable asking prices.

But on auction day, they have no choice but to accept the winning bid, no matter how low.

“In the last five years, the high-end market is down, but not as much as the rest of the market,” said Fisher, perched in Steve’s living room Wednesday. “The wealthiest are still willing to spend.

“There’s no more of that left,” Fisher added, pointing over his shoulder to the swelling Atlantic Ocean. “Can’t build any more of that.”

Steve and Bobby, 58, are poised to turn an enviable profit, even if their homes go for half their original asking price. Steve bought his home, a one-story with pool, private beach, wide open layout, graceful palm trees and attractive courtyard, for $1.6 million, and even with the real estate crash, the county estimates its market value is still $8.4 million.

Bobby’s two-story house has a fountain, hand-painted tiles in every bathroom and Pecky cypress ceilings, in addition to the requisite pool and private beach.

While popular overseas, non-bank auctions are rare in the United States, usually occurring in areas where property sales are not strong, said Ron Shuffield, president of Esslinger-Wooten-Maxwell Realtors.

Shuffield believes a properly priced home — regardless of its opulence — can always be sold in the traditional method.

“An auction creates a lot of excitement, but also the expectation you’ll buy something at a low price,” he said. “My experience has been that [auction homes] sell for less, but the counter side to that is they sell it very quickly. They’re going to know that they’ve sold it. For some people, that outweighs what they’re losing.”

The Fox Brothers believe they can have a sale that’s both quick and fair. Certainly, Fisher hopes so.

“We’re going to get the best possible prices for our homes,” Bobby Fox said. “We’ve advertised internationally. We’ve extensively marketed. Whoever’s interested is going to show.”

Source: The Miami Herald