$291,000 condominium? At this auction, it's cheap

November 02, 1992|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,Staff Writer

Thrifty shoppers snapped up some of Baltimore's swankest high-rise condominiums for bargain-basement prices at an auction yesterday of two- and three-bedroom suites at the St. James tower in Guilford.

Bidders who sipped white wine and munched hors d'oeuvres paid between $116,000 and $291,000 apiece for 20 condominiums, which were listed last April for between $225,000 and $515,000. Only three units did not sell.

The St. James features 24-hour valet parking, marbled entry foyers, 9-foot ceilings, whirlpool baths, private terraces, panoramic views, a fitness center with sauna and an outdoor pool. The 16-story, 77-unit brick-and-granite building in the 3700 block of North Charles Street is just north of the Johns Hopkins University campus.

The hour-long auction, which drew about 130 bidders and spectators to a ballroom at the Omni Inner Harbor hotel, netted a total of $3,019,000 for the building's owner, John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co.

The average sale price for the units, which also carry monthly condominium fees ranging from $423 to $761, was $150,950. The three unsold units were all two-bedroom models. Two had minimum selling prices of $105,000 and one had a minimum price of $125,000.

"We didn't do as well as we would have liked," said Jon Gollinger, managing director of Kennedy-Wilson Inc. of Los Angeles, the auction firm. "But we're big boys, and these results are acceptable."

About a dozen units, including those that failed to attract bidders yesterday, remain for sale, Mr. Gollinger said. But he predicted the vacant condominiums will sell quickly now that potential buyers have some idea of their value in the marketplace.

"Up until now, sales had been slow at best," he said. "Now we know why. This is what people want to pay."

One satisfied bidder was Charles E. "Ted" Herget Jr., 53, former chairman of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce and head of the Herget division of the W. F. Corroon company. He is selling his current home, which sits on three acres on a Baltimore County golf course.

"I live by myself," Mr. Herget said. "With the lawn and the shrubberyand the leaf raking and the snow removal, condominium living in a very classy, top-of-the-line place is more in keeping with my lifestyle."

After some spirited bidding, Mr. Herget wound up paying $291,000 for a 3,050-square-foot, three-bedroom unit that six months ago was selling for $515,000. It was the top price paid at the auction.

"I think I got an excellent buy for the money," said an excited Mr. Herget as he headed toward a desk to sign the sale papers. He hesitated, then asked a friend: "What did I bid for it?"

The friend reminded him.

Mr. Herget smiled. "Excellent. I'm a very happy person."

Developer Bernard Manekin,chairman of the Manekin Corp., came to the auction with his daughter, Lynn Shapiro, who was bTC looking to move out of her Mount Washington house and into the St. James. Mr. Manekin already lives in the building.

"They just got caught in a market where nothing is moving," the developer said. "I can understand that. This process has been going on all over the country."

Ms. Shapiro was the first successful bidder of the day, paying $206,000 for a two-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bath unit with a den on an upper floor. In April, the asking price was $325,000.

"I feel very lucky," Ms. Shapiro said, still a little breathless after outbidding several rival home shoppers. "Absolutely. It's hard to believe. And unexpected. And wonderful."

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