America is going under the hammer. On Saturday there will be an online auction of hot, sunny Florida properties, so UK buyers can snap up the property bargains of the year. This is America’s worst housing slump in living memory. Homes are pouring into the auction rooms from distressed private sellers, developers and banks off-loading cut-price homes.
For British buyers, with sterling’s continuing strength against the dollar, there will be a great temptation to take advantage of this slump — especially at this cold, damp and dark time of year.
The sale takes place on 19 January. Dozens of Florida properties with no minimum reserve price will go on sale in the auction to be run by Sotheby’s International Realty in association with mortgage broker British Homes Group. In theory, homes could be bought for hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.
The live sale is known in the United States as an “absolute auction”, which allows properties to be sold regardless of how low the price offered, with a sale secured on the day.
Homes being auctioned include new three-bedroom, 1,600sq ft houses with integral garage and set in three acres at a scheme called Lely Landings, five miles inland from Naples on Florida’s west coast. The houses were independently valued at £196,500 last November.
“This dramatic move by top developers shows how desperate sellers are,” says Virginia Cowie, managing director of BHG. “If you’re looking for a well-priced villa or apartment, arguably this is the ideal time to buy. Sellers are very motivated.”
A week later on 26 January, condo apartments at Smyrna Beach, near the Disney attractions on Florida’s east coast, will be auctioned. These homes range from 1,350sq ft to 2,050sq ft and have been on sale at prices between £125,000 and £220,000. They will be sold to the highest bidder, however low the bid.
Potential buyers can register online at: www.stirlingsir.com/auctions.
The rules of auction firms vary from state to state. Typically, auctioneers charge buyers 10 per cent of the value of the property sold. Not all sales are absolute auctions. Often there will be a reserve price below which the vendor will not sell.
Among the most eye-catching auction deals are repossessions (called “foreclosures” in the US) sold by the federal government. These homes are the result of property seizures or defaults on loans. They can be viewed online.
Visit www.homesales.gov for an exhaustive state-by-state address list of properties. When you click on an individual property, you get a description, the estimated market value, the broker’s commission and the deadline for the bid.