Tuesday's auction on Kent Island will be the latest in a string of Maryland and Delaware properties handled by the National Auction Group Inc. of Gadsden, Ala.
Company President William R. Bone said his firm has sold properties in Rehoboth Beach, Toad Hall in Annapolis, Ragged Island, in addition to other "trophy" properties across the country.
"We sold 34 homes last year, and the average price was around $2 million," he said. The company looks for unusual properties and prefers to deal in properties that are not heavily leveraged or encumbered -- an auction can be too risky for such owners.
His firm, which employs about 50 people, earns between 6 percent and 10 percent on each sale, he said.
How it all began
The company began almost by accident in 1992. Bone had sold real estate in Montgomery, Ala., and one day a friend called looking for help.
"He had a farm he really wanted to sell bad, and I said, 'Let's auction it off.' People who already had looked at it came -- and paid more than we had been asking for it! I said, 'This is a fluke.' Then it happened again."
When a second property was auctioned for well above the listed price, Bone said, he realized that he was on to something. So he began auctioning condominiums in Florida -- "thousands of them," he recalled.
In 1992, he found a market niche he liked even better: large, unusual properties like the Mullar and McKenzie houses.
Some well-known bidders
Bidders at other National auctions have included Tom Clancy, Jack Nicklaus, governors, members of Congress -- and one bidder who bought a property via the Internet.
The auction method works, Bone said, because it usually represents the fair market value of any given property.
"We feel it brings what it's worth," he said. "There probably is a wild-card factor there -- but the people who own these big estates usually made their money because they're risk-takers."
There's an added factor of familiarity, he said.
"You get into these high-income levels and these people are very familiar with auctions, very confident.
"They buy art and antiques at auction. And it's not like they're betting their life savings."
All he needs for a good auction, he said, is five or six serious bidders.
"It's streamlined -- all you have to have to do is get the highest bidder," Bone said.
Pub Date: 6/01/97