With hopes that the economy has healed enough to lure prospective homeowners to a lakeside subdivision, a LaGrange, Ga., development group plans to auction 75 parcels of property next month.
The group, called Riverfront Partners, will put 41 waterfront home sites and 34 more interior lots up for bid 11 a.m. May 14, Jared Jones, managing partner for the investors, said Thursday.
The 200-acre development, essentially a gated subdivision with a clubhouse, swimming pool and tennis courts, is situated off West Point Lake, about seven miles from downtown LaGrange.
Called The River Club, the project was started in 2004, well before the wheels fell off the U.S. economy. The developers initially sunk about $5 million into the subdivision, which has about five miles of road inside it.
“We sold a good many lots right out of the chute,” Jones said. “What ended up happening is we just got crashed in the market. We were fortunate that we didn’t owe much money on the property. Now we’ve just decided that the auction was the best way to move on with what we were doing.”
Since its opening, 30 lots have been sold in the subdivision, which has 15 houses. But the last three or four years, the group has managed to sell only one lot per year, Jones said.
That led to Riverfront Partners hiring National Auction Group, a Gadsden, Ala.-based company to set up the auction to include preview tours via land and pontoon boats starting April 29.
The auction firm has handled some high-profile properties for a number of celebrities and other public figures. They include the late cosmetics entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash, former U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Aubrey McClendon, owner of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
For McClendon, the company peddled a 4,391-acre ranch for just over $5 million. It also auctioned off three properties for anti-virus software company founder John McAfee, including his Pike’s Peak estate in Colorado for $5.7 million.
Despite those heavyweight listings, Jonathan Bone, senior market executive with National Auction Group, called the West Point Lake offering unique in its own way.
“One thing I like about it is it’s a very secluded development. It’s a gated community and it provides plenty of activity just within the development itself,” he said, citing the pool, tennis courts, clubhouse and the ability to fish the lake’s 29,500 acres of water.
In fact, that will be used in the sales process, with the auction coming only days after the ESPN Bassmaster Elite tournament. The event is scheduled May 5-8.
“I think we’ve picked the best time that we could dealing with the situation that the economy is in today,” said Jones. “We’re going to have so much traffic up here on the lake at that time.”
There also should be something for everyone during the auction, both Jones and Bone said. Lot sizes range from a half acre to two estate-sized parcels of 22 acres and 17.5 acres.
“They’re beautiful pieces of property,” Jones said of the larger parcels. “They sit up on top of two pretty good-sized hills there with really nice views. I hope they’re going to bring north of $10,000 an acre, but they may not.”
An interesting element of the auction -- which is open to the general public and will start off May 14 with food, beverages and music -- is that 10 of the lots will be sold “absolute.” That means they will sell no matter the price.
“The auctions give bidders a chance to get a great property at a discount,” Bone said. “So there’ll be a lot of bargains on auction day and a lot of opportunities for people to get a great waterfront lot or interior lot at a great price.”
The developers and auction house are expecting bidders at The River Club to come from Columbus, Atlanta, Newnan and LaGrange. Jones said he believes there will be a healthy turnout by LaGrange residents who have long coveted a lake property with a dock, but couldn’t afford it at $100,000 or more previously.
For many, Bone said, now may be the time to buy their dream property. He also said auctions such as that being held at the West Point Lake site have actually been increasing over the last couple of years even amid the economic downturn and sluggish recovery.
“Sometimes recession can actually lead to more auctions because it’s harder to sell property,” he said.