Real Estate & Construction  March 11, 2011

Auctions move ‘stuck’ properties

FORT COLLINS – Curtis Vernon has a notion that the time may be ripe for turning to auctions to help move property stuck in a slow real estate market.

“When it’s a more difficult sale, sometimes an auction is the best way to go because you’ll find a buyer that’s not really otherwise in the system,” he said.

Vernon, a real estate agent  with Keller Williams Realty in Fort Collins, said he decided to start his own auction company – Western Property Auctions – to add to the services he offers his real estate clients.

Vernon assisted in setting up the December land auction in Wellington that raised $6.2 million for its Parker owner, Delmer Zweygardt. He’s also keenly aware of the March 17 mega-auction planned by Windsor developer Martin Lind, who’s looking to shed several of his commercial and residential properties for millions.

Vernon notes that taking property, particularly commercial property, to auction seems to be an idea that’s growing in favor and he’ll be in on the ground floor if it’s successful.

Vernon’s first auction was set for March 10, after the Business Report went to press. The property – a 2007-built commercial building at 6833 Antigua Drive in south Fort Collins, the former home of the Hach Scientific Foundation – was in need of something to get sold, he said.

“As long as I’ve had it on the market, it’s hardly had any interest,” he said. “But now that I’ve put it up for auction, I’ve gotten interest from around the country.”

Vernon noted that the suddenly heightened interest could even result in it selling before the scheduled auction date. He said the two-story building is owned by the American Chemical Society, which gave the go-ahead to take it to auction – with a “reserve” or minimum price – but did not want to comment on the hoped-for sale.

Vernon said he’s teamed up with an auctioneer to create a website – www.westernpropertyauctions.com – where properties will be listed.

Come off the fence

Vernon, who’s been in the real estate business for more than 20 years and the last eight years in Northern Colorado, said the commercial property market is “stagnant,’ particularly for properties of 5,000 square feet or less.

“This gives people an opportunity to come off the fence,” he said. “It forces the market to say what is this property worth today.”

“I do see the value in auctioning,” he added. “It gives your seller the opportunity to choose his day and his property will be sold on that day.”

Vernon said even though he’s starting small, he has hopes of making auctioning a big part of his realty business.

“It’s a secondary service. But the marketing that I do is exactly the same as the big auction houses – exactly,” he said. “I’m interested in whatever portfolios sellers have in mind. I’m hungry, and I’ll work hard to get the job done.”

Kevin Brinkman of Fort Collins-based Brinkman Partners, which specializes in commercial properties, said he’ll be watching Vernon’s first auction closely. Brinkman Partners is currently listing a property adjacent to the property being sold by Vernon.

“It’ll be interesting to see this auction and Martin Lind’s to see what kind of interest there is,” Brinkman said. “We’re glad to see the attention out there (on Antigua Drive) and perhaps we’ll see some more interest in our property.”

Brinkman said the jury is still out on how successful auctioning may be in today’s market. “It’s all about marketing and getting attention, but we’ll have to see what the interest level is and what they actually get.”

Still, Brinkman said he’s hopeful the tactic bears fruit.

“I hope it stimulates the market into coming back,” he said. “If it works, it helps the whole economy and the market to move forward, so it could help everybody.”

Vernon said he thinks the time has come to be bold and try some new things in real estate sales.

“It used to be you’d put up a sign and in a couple of months or so it would sell,” he said. “Now, you have listings that are up for a year or more. It’s such a lax market right now that you need to try some new tools to get things sold on the market. I really feel strongly that (auctioning) is the wave of the future for the next five years.”

FORT COLLINS – Curtis Vernon has a notion that the time may be ripe for turning to auctions to help move property stuck in a slow real estate market.

“When it’s a more difficult sale, sometimes an auction is the best way to go because you’ll find a buyer that’s not really otherwise in the system,” he said.

Vernon, a real estate agent  with Keller Williams Realty in Fort Collins, said he decided to start his own auction company – Western Property Auctions – to add to the services he offers his real estate clients.

Vernon assisted in setting up…

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