They can be described as dream homes, these two waterfront mansions in Fort Lauderdale that take luxury to new heights.
One is a sprawling $27 million estate owned by the late billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga, whose auction begins Tuesday. The other is the $36.25 million Bella Fortuna estate, patterned after a Venetian palace.
So why are the owners of such trophy properties turning to auction companies to make the sale? Despite the presence of millionaires and billionaires across South Florida, the available pool of people who can pay lofty prices is thin. So it takes a special marketing and sales effort to generate enthusiasm for the properties, experts say.
Concierge Auctions of New York and Austin is working with local brokers to attract buyers for each.
In 2017, when veteran South Florida luxury real estate broker Katrina Campins first listed the waterfront Bella Fortuna estate, she enthusiastically took to Twitter to announce the listed $39 million sale price.
It didn’t take long for the wisecracks to roll in.
“I was really looking for something more in the $37 million range,” wrote one poster. “Darn it.”
Another wrote, “I got $75. What can we work out?”
The home, built by entrepreneur Jim Barnett, is now scheduled to go to auction April 9-12.
The 17,350-square-foot residence has a panic room, seven bedrooms and six full bathrooms. A yacht owner could take advantage of its 750 feet of water frontage with a 350-foot concrete dock. The interior is adorned by hand-painted murals by the late Buckingham Palace artist Leonard Pardon. The five bedroom suites are accompanied by private balconies.
There also is a gym, massage room, yoga room and two home offices.
Meanwhile, to the west along the New River, the sprawling Huizenga mansion is scheduled to go up for auction, starting Tuesday and ending Thursday.
The 20,653-square-foot estate was placed on the market last year — shortly after Huizenga‘s death.
Located at 1575 Ponce De Leon Drive, the property occupies 1.41 acres and offers over 590 feet of riverfront with room for mega yachts that extend up to 135 feet. The asking price: $27 million.
South Florida has been fertile territory for Concierge, which is orchestrating auctions of multimillion-dollar mansions in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Concierge is the firm whose auction fetched a Broward record $42.5 million for Playa Vista Isle, an 11-bedroom mansion in Hillsboro Beach. The 58,000-square-foot estate had been listed at $159 million.
On Friday, Concierge was running an auction for a sleek-looking mansion in Gables Estates on Biscayne Bay with opening bid range of $15 million to $30 million.
Whether Bella Fortuna or the Huizenga property, known as Tarpon Pointe, will command their listed prices, is uncertain.
“We’ve gotten offers and they were not bad offers,” said Campins of Bella Fortuna. She didn’t mention any figures.
Inquiries about Bella Fortuna have rolled in, she said, from Italy, the United Kingdom, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, the northeastern U.S., California and Texas. A prominent real estate commentator on national television shows, she pitched the property on Fox News.
But late last year, a scheduled auction for the property did not materialize for lack of qualified offers, said Lamar Fisher, whose Fisher Auction Co. of Pompano Beach took an initial shot at auctioning the estate.
And that was when a reserve price — which means a property can’t sell below a certain amount — was set at $19.5 million. Now, the auction scheduled for early next month will be “without reserve,” which means it will not carry a minimum bid requirement.
Billy Nash of Nash Luxury at The Keyes Cos., the broker spearheading the sale of the Huizenga estate, said auctions help force the action among would-be buyers.
“We just don’t put a property up on the market and cross our fingers and hope it sells,” he said.
“When you create a timeline, people step up to the plate now,” Nash added. “Sometimes when you put a property on the market and there is no definitive timeline, properties can drift for years. We have a set time frame for when this property will be sold and it creates demand in the marketplace.”
Solving a challenge
Trayor Lesnock, president of Platinum Luxury Auctions in Miami, who is not involved with either property, said a bidding event offers a bigger stage for a home. “You have a $4 million home and trying to sell with Jane Smith the broker for four years and nothing is happening. You’re just frustrated. Not that agents are bad people. It’s the natural chaos of the real estate business. An auction offers finality.
“We provide a date certain sale,” said Lesnock, whose firm is auctioning properties from New York to Santa Fe to Washington State and Mexico. “That is a reason they look for the auction to solve a challenge that has not been solved doing things the normal way.”
Auctions, Lesnock added, offer a “bigger platform to expose properties to a much bigger audience.”
In South Florida, the bigger the media platform the better as the buyers are in control.
“There’s no doubt it is a buyer’s market,” Fisher said.
Fisher’s firm is conducting the auction of an oceanfront Palm Beach mansion belonging to developer Robert Matthews, who was indicted in a federal fraud case in Connecticut. The home, which covers nearly 16,000 square feet, was listed for $44 million. The minimum bid is $31 million.
The court-ordered auction, which is set for March 28, is part of Matthews’ personal bankruptcy case.
“The market’s changing so much that your buyers are becoming so limited,” Fisher said. “You’re focusing on millennials and a new challenge is to get them to want to buy a luxury property.”
Some, he said, prefer to buy a 6,000-square-foot penthouse “and move on.”
Auctions, of course, are good for making worldwide media splashes for high-profile properties in search of high sale prices.
In 2013, Fisher’s firm orchestrated the sale of the former Versace mansion in Miami Beach for $41.5 million to VM South Beach LLC, an investor group that includes Jordache jeans’ Nakash family.
The lavish 10-bedroom, 11-bath mansion, known as Casa Casuarina, drew Donald Trump as a bidder. He fell short by $500,000.