Powerball mansion fetches $2.58 million at auction

Price is less than assessed value of Howard estate

April 06, 2001|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

In two minutes, it was over.

A 23-room Ellicott City mansion - built by a couple who won a multimillion-dollar Powerball lottery game in 1994 - was sold at auction last night for $2.58 million, several hundred thousand less than its assessed value.

Michael Fine, senior vice president for Chicago-based Sheldon Good & Co. Auctions, which handled the event at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel, would identify the high bidder only as a Maryland resident.

The winning bid was $2.4 million, but $180,000 was added to satisfy the auctioneer's buyer's premium of 7.5 percent. The sellers, Alonza J. and Shirley A. Richardson, accepted the bid last night by signing the sale contract.

Fine would not comment on how many bidders had put up the $175,000 cashier's or certified check necessary to be eligible to bid. But he said 30 people "were in the room" when the auction began.

"Their reaction was that the price was lower than they expected and lower than the price of construction for the house," Fine said. "They think the buyer got a very good deal, and wish them much joy and happiness in the house."

"It shows that there is a buyer for everything," said Tom Pirritano, one of the appraisers used during the construction of the Richardson home. "They found the right buyer at the right moment in time and should be appreciative for what they did sell it for. And I wish the buyer every bit of luck."

The Romanesque-style residence has been criticized for being overbuilt and overpriced. It is in a neighborhood - Gaither Farm - where homes normally sell for from $500,000 to more than $1 million. The property, which has been assessed by the state at $2.7 million, carries an annual property tax bill of $38,394. The energy bill totals nearly $21,000 a year.

The sale price does not represent the highest price received for a property in Howard County. In Cattail Creek, another high-end subdivision in Glenwood, one home went for $2.91 million in 1998 and another for $2.47 million last month.

The Richardsons gained their fortune in October 1994 by winning half of a $42 million Powerball jackpot. According to the Multi-State Lottery Association, which administers the game, the Richardsons receive a yearly payout of $754,560 after federal taxes.

Mr. Richardson at the time worked for the Library of Congress, and Mrs. Richardson worked as a legal assistant. She also has a real estate license.

The closing date for the property outlined in the terms of the sale is expected to be May 22.

Before the auction, few Howard County real estate professionals believed that the Richardsons would get the assessed value of the house. The speculation was that the Richardsons would let the house go for a price anywhere near the $2.3 million mortgage taken out on the property in March 1999 and held by Bank of America.

The gray stone-and-stucco residence is, indeed, opulent - everything a CEO or lottery winner might imagine. A circular driveway leads to a grand flagstone front porch. Inside, there are curved archways, Corinthian capped columns, crown molding and crystal chandeliers.

The back of the home is dominated by a patio that leads to a 50-by-20-foot in-ground, heated pool and an adjoining six-person illuminated whirlpool spa.

The home's multitiered roof line covers three distinct wings. The middle is highlighted by a grand reception hall that features 12-foot windows in a circular design and a ceiling that soars to 30 feet.

There are hardwood and marble floors throughout the home as well as a bridge that spans the lower level. The Richardsons' plans had included an atrium for the creation of a future waterfall and pond that would go from the upper level to the lower.

The Richardsons decided to build in Gaither Farm after their plans for building the residence were rebuffed by the architectural committee in The Preserve, one of Howard County's most prestigious addresses.

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