Vail Valley’s biggest real estate company jumps into the auction business
The once-roaring Vail Valley real estate market has slowed to a crawl. Looking for a spark, some sellers are turning to auctions.There have already been a handful of auctions in the valley this year. Now, the valley’s biggest real estate company, Slifer Smith & Frampton, is getting into the auction business. The idea was first discussed at a manager’s meeting last fall.”We got together to talk about what we could do to break the logjam in the market,” said Ric Souto, coordinator of the company’s new auction division. “Some of our clients had started suggesting we look into the auction business. We didn’t see a downside to it.”While a lot of brokers in the company are familiar with auctions, Souto said the company didn’t have any real in-house expertise, so Souto volunteered to coordinate the project, and an outside consultant was hired. The company’s marketing division was brought on board, and the new group started looking for a good first project.That project turned out to be a pair of homes on Streamside Circle in East Vail. Having two homes available led the auction team and the seller to come up with an idea that hasn’t been seen locally: Whoever wins the auction gets to choose between the two homes. The other one will stay on the market.If there is a buyer, he or she might get a pretty good deal. Both homes were last listed for just less than $2.8 million, and the last home that sold in the Streamside Circle development went for more than $3 million – but that was in 2007. The opening bid at the Aug. 26 auction is $1.6 million.”If we get a bid at that level, we’re going to have a sale,” Souto said. A minimum bid auction held in July had no bidders, but Souto said he thinks the opening price on the East Vail property might be low enough to be attractive.”That’s what we’re all hoping,” company co-founder Rod Slifer said. “Once you’re past that minimum, maybe people will bid it up.”While there have been a handful of auction sales in the valley this year, all have been at so-called “absolute” auctions in which there’s no minimum price.But, Slifer said, “absolute” auctions sometimes don’t come off for various reasons. One such local auction was canceled the day it was to be held. That’s why his company went with an auction with a firm floor.But the last auction with minimum bids didn’t have any bidders.”It’s important to have a minimum price that attracts potential buyers,” Slifer said. “It has to be low enough that buyers say ‘If I bid at this price, I could be getting a good deal.'”But getting bidders requires marketing, and lots of it. That’s where Slifer, Smith & Frampton has an advantage, Souto said. The company has its own marketing department, and has a lot of brokers calling clients.”We’ve marketed this event nationally, and in the region,” Souto said. “And if our brokers make personal contact with clients, that’s not like just putting out an e-mail.”While there’s been a lot of planning for this auction, no one really knows what’s going to happen Aug. 26. Souto thinks the minimum price is attractive, and said his colleagues have been getting pretty good feedback. Slifer said he’d heard the same thing at a sales meeting this week.”It’s a calculated risk,” Souto said. “The outcome will tell us where the market is for this property.”And, Slifer said, he and just about everyone else in the local real estate business continues to look for something that will put a spark in the current market.”It’s been awfully quiet, as quiet as I can remember,” said Slifer, who first came to Vail not long after the slopes opened. “But the other side of that is that now’s a pretty good time to buy.”Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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