Joint Venture Team Auctions Wine Assets
By Lisa Brown | San Francisco
SANTA ROSA, CA—Newmark Cornish & Carey Wine Services and Williams & Williams are now part of a joint initiative to sell Northern California wineries, vineyards and related properties via auction. This process offers clients access to an expanded buying pool and quicker closings. The collaboration aims to capture the growing market for wine-related properties which attracts professional businesses to hobby vintners. From list to close, deals typically take 75 to 90 days, far faster than traditional sales transactions. Real estate auction company, Williams & Williams, through its sister company, the Auction Network, is the only major auctioneer to conduct live auctions simultaneously at properties and online. Remote bidders compete with those at the physical site, providing the full transparency of a live auction, while expanding the buyer base and resulting in bids significantly higher than online-only auctions.
As part of this announcement, GlobeSt.com chatted with Fontana Fitzwilson, Executive Vice President of Williams & Williams, and Kevin Foster, Senior Associate of Newmark Cornish & Carey, about the origin of the joint venture and the benefits of the service.
Fitzwilson tells GlobeSt.com: “We initially contacted Newmark Cornish & Carey about a property for sale to create urgency, competition, market value and liquidity that auctions generate. This led to the broader partnership of two big brands working closely as a team.”
GlobeSt.com: What are some of the business and sale issues wine property owners face?
Foster: Elements outside of human control greatly impact the business of growing grapes and cultivating wine. Sun, water and temperature are factors the winery owner must negotiate every day. A time-definite sale mitigates the risk of crop valuation shifting during the time of marketing to a traditional buyer. Also, timing a sale prior to harvesting the year’s vintage can be an advantage.
GlobeSt.com: Why are wine property clients in particular need of the benefits of an auction?
Foster: Health, financial, partnership or estate issues can influence the urgency of a sale. Auction is of great benefit for sellers who require a time-definite real estate transaction in order to move on with their lives, to stop carrying costs for an asset they no longer want to own, to liquefy and pave the way for another real estate opportunity or simply due to life changes. An aggressive global marketing campaign can reach a large audience. And, auctions can be a very important tool in a broker’s tool chest for unique assets that are harder to sell in the traditional process.
GlobeSt.com: Explain the pairing of Williams & Williams and Newmark Cornish & Carey.
Foster: Residential brokerage firms have traditionally handled the sale of small to mid-sized wineries, vineyards and boutique wineries. However, the leasing and sale of income-producing properties is the core of commercial real estate. Newmark Cornish & Carey is among a few commercial real estate firms in the nation with a specialization in the sale of wine-related properties and the only company that has implemented an auction initiative with the resources to handle these complex transactions.
GlobeSt.com: How does the process work on the actual auction day?
Fitzwilson: On the day of the auction, the as-is properties are open to inspection. The auction itself is typical of most auctions: It goes very quickly once the bidding process starts. The 10% down payment required on auction day is nonrefundable.
About Lisa Brown
Lisa Brown is an editor/reporter for the San Francisco Bay Area region of GlobeSt.com. She has 25-plus years of Bay Area/national real estate experience, with a regional role at Grubb & Ellis and a national communications director position at Marcus & Millichap. Brown also spent 10 years as executive director at NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she led the organization to achieving its first national award honors and recognition on Capitol Hill. She has written extensively on commercial real estate topics and edited numerous pieces on the subject.
10. Gregg Allman’s Bay Area Pad
We jumped at the chance to auction the former home of Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Greg Allman. (Gregg freaking Allman…!) The property is a small paradise located in San Rafael, CA consisting of a 4 bedroom 2.5 main house with a separate guesthouse and recording studio. A wine cellar, pool, waterfall, tropical gardens and expansive decking put an exclamation point on the wow factor. Williams & Williams sold the property in 2009.
9. Divine Living in New Hampshire
A Wall Street Journal House of the Day ( http://on.wsj.com/1KjA5Nm ) this picturesque historic landmark church, blended with a modern-designed home in Center Harbor, NH, awed just about all of us. The home consists of 2 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, while the church is 5,600 square feet of gorgeous woodwork, stained glass and tile. This uniquely beautiful property was auctioned in 2013. The question for us was always would you want to live in a church? (This one? Oh, yeah.)
8. The Lodge at Glendorn. Est 1929.
The world-renowned Glendorn resort is tucked away in a valley next to the Allegheny National Forest near Bradford, PN. Serving for almost 70 years as a private 1,208 acre family retreat, it was made available to the public as a luxury Relais & Chateaux resort in 1995. The property includes the well-known “Big House” and 14 more rustic cabins located across the thousand-acre old-growth forest. It’s breathtaking in ways pictures cannot describe. Williams & Williams auctioned Glendorn in 2009.
7. Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons
Another Wall Street Journal House of the Day ( http://on.wsj.com/18k6Vfi ) this 20,000 sf French chateau in Tulsa, OK was built by satellite TV technology pioneer Ed Taylor – partner of none other than Ted Turner. The 19-room home was built for lavish entertaining, filled with priceless period pieces, hand-painted ceilings and gold plating just about everywhere you looked. The massive residence was intended as a gift for his wife, Nancy, who passed away before its completion. Mr. Taylor never spent a night under its roof. It was auctioned by Williams & Williams in 2012.
6. A Desert Car King Compound
A car lover’s dream home, this amazing Glendale, AZ property was formerly owned by Ron McClure from the TV show Desert Car Kings. The walled compound features a 6,600 sf main home, 2 guesthouses and a 10-car garage on 3 perfectly-manicured acres. It was auctioned in 2013 by Williams & Williams.
5. Former Military Base
No celebrities lived here. And it’s certainly not the most beautiful property you’ll ever see. However, this is without a doubt one of the more interesting properties Williams & Williams has ever auctioned. This 100-acre former military base, located in Havre, MT, just 44 miles from the Canadian border, consists of 4 houses, a duplex, 10-unit motel, commissary, dorms, concrete shelter, wind generators and an iconic 80 ft radio tower. The prepper, survivalist and off-the-grid communities loved the place. Williams & Williams auctioned the former military base in 2014.
4. Rock Star HANSON® Home & Studio
When TMZ covers it, you know it’s big. Just south of their hometown of Tulsa, the suddenly world-famous Hanson brothers created a private family residence far from LA’s cameras. Built on 120 acres, the property features a 6 bedroom 5 bathroom main home with a walkway and gorgeous cabana wrapping around a large pool area. A separate 3-car garage was converted into a world-class studio where many well-known musicians recorded. Now grown up, with families of their own, the Hansons decided to auction their childhood residence and studio with Williams & Williams in 2011.
3. The Log Majal: A handmade 5-story wooden castle. In Alaska. On the ocean.
We do not mince words. It’s handmade. It’s wooden. It’s a castle. And it’s completely off the grid in rural Alaska with a mind-boggling ocean views. Taking 7 years to build, the so-called Log Majal five-story home sits on 10 pristine acres on the Alaskan coastline. The property is powered by 3 windmills and 36 solar panels enabling a truly off-the-grid lifestyle. It was auctioned by our good friends at Grubstake Realty and listed on williamsauction.com. Live bidding and coverage of the auction was made available via auctionnetwork.com. Sadly, a fire razed the home in 2012.
2. The Silverdome
Yes. That Silverdome. It hosted a Superbowl. Elvis. Led Zeppelin. Michael Jackson. Even the Pope. It was one of the premiere American venues of the 70s and 80s. However, after losing professional sports contracts for the NFL’s Detroit Lions and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, the City of Pontiac was unable to afford upkeep on the aging stadium. Fielding investor inquiries from 84 countries, Williams & Williams auctioned the Pontiac Silverdome in 2009.
1. The town of Buford, WY. Population 1.
Billed as the “Nation’s Smallest Town” with a population of 1, the opportunity to “own your own town” in the American West captivated the world’s attention. On auction day, April 5th 2012, the media attention reached a fever pitch. A CNN truck camped out on location. The word Buford was a top 10 trending topic on Yahoo! And viewers from around the world tuned in to watch the auction live on auctionnetwork.com. At the end of a round of spirited bidding, the town of Buford, Wyoming was auctioned by Williams & Williams to a Vietnamese national who flew in for the sale. He said it was his “American” dream come true.
“For sale” signs up for months. Or years.
“Asking prices” too high. Or low.
“No one” seems that motivated. Or will act.
The New York Times “Modern Love” column recently celebrated ten years and its editor noted he’d seen people wrestling with two questions above all others over that time. From the young, “How do I find love?” And from those wallowing through marital malaise, “How do I get it back?” He went on to note “it’s not really love they want back as much as attention, excitement and passion.”
I believe this observation cuts to the heart of global real estate markets too. For all the supposed cures to real estate market blues, there still seems a general malaise in place. From the building of empty cities (China) to the printing of currencies (everyone?!) people seem to sense there’s an unsustainable blight or “wasting” of resources and degrading of values. And the increasing uncertainty and opacity – from what governments will do next to what public market stock values are really based upon – seems set up to doom us from one bubble to another.
Bottom line, whether you are Greek or Chinese, French or American – real estate markets especially seem to be getting ever murkier as to what is really for sale, when or how it actually will be exchanged, or what in the world it might actually be worth.
We, as well as the thousands of real estate agent partners we work with around the U.S., have long known that for every “good” real estate story told at dinner parties, there are dozens of traditional sale efforts that didn’t quite work out as planned. The asking prices used ended up being too high, or too low. The negotiations entered into seemed endless or gamey. The attempted sale of the property privately or via new-fangled online marketing attempts, failed time and again to close. Or they simply received no offers for months or maybe even years on end. And reputations, especially that of the property, become tattered.
Our company gets calls from all types of property sellers and their agents every day. Many have used us before, especially for farms, ranches and luxury estates – and so plan on going direct to the public markets through our onsite and interactive auctions. They’re typically concerned about wasting any time or money on speculative market guessing or “online only” attempts at marketing.
But we also get calls from sellers who have never thought about live auctions before, and their stories are troubling. Beyond all the headlines about foreclosures and short sales these last several years, most sellers do in fact have very real equity in their properties. But trying to unlock that value so they can move, reinvest or simply get on with their life seems to be a path to quiet desperation for more and more people.
Below is the marketing history for a typical new client who calls us for help. I wish I could say this is an extreme example but many sellers who call us have in fact tried for far longer – and at far greater financial loss and emotional strain – to get their own property sold.
Was the property above overpriced two years ago at nearly $1.5 million? Or is it underpriced today at just below $900,000? Has the over two years on market cost the seller anything or hurt the property’s reputation in any way? And rather than speculate, what was or could have been the property’s real net present value two years ago, or even just last year?
From my own experience, but for having gone direct to public market auction in the beginning, a lot of loss in dollars and cents – not to mention immeasurable costs to hopes, dreams and other needs – could have been saved.
Since the latest real estate bubble burst, things seem different. More and more sellers appear to be like deer in headlights while more and more properties also lie underutilized, vacant or simply abandoned. And more and more potential buyers also seem frustrated, confused or simply angry with the status quo.
Thankfully, buyers at our own auctions remain excited that they’re openly invited with time and term certainness to watch, bid and win; as they get to exchange and determine value more transparently whether in person or online.
This makes sense to me. Without a date, how – much less when – will we pay enough attention to a property’s sale? And the one thing we hear most consistently from everyone who attends our auctions is how exciting they are – not something you hear about real estate generally. And for the highest bidders – the ones who zero in and sense this is the deal for them – it’s fair to say passion is even involved.
If we are to move through any malaise in real estate, not to mention our economy, I think we’ll need and want more, not less, onsite and public auctions. At minimum, there still seems to be enough respect for property that the inherent value of onsite public market auctions creates a “market” for real estate that works. That’s the good news for all of us concerned with moving forward, making a difference or simply – selling and buying real estate.
The Long & Foster Companies, the parent company of Long & Foster Real Estate—the No. 1 independent residential real estate company in the country, has partnered with Williams & Williams Worldwide Real Estate Auction. The strategic alliance presents Long & Foster clients with the option of selling their homes via live and online auctions—a growing avenue for properties of all price ranges, including high-end and luxury homes.
Williams & Williams is one of the most respected brands in real estate auction with over 100 years of experience. Its auctioneers specialize in all types of real estate, including residential, commercial, land and real-estate owned (REO) properties, and have sold more than $7.5 billion worth of real estate over the past five years. The company credits its success to the customized global marketing strategies it employs to drive interest and competition for properties sold through its live on-site auctions and Auction Network online auctions.
“We are excited to be working with Williams & Williams and their team of experienced real estate auctioneers,” said Pandra Richie, president of Long & Foster’s Corporate Real Estate Services. “Their proven performance and history of achievement were key in our decision to partner with Williams & Williams, and we look forward to a long and successful relationship as we grow and move into the future.”
Going forward, clients who list their properties with Long & Foster will have the option of auctioning their homes in partnership with Williams & Williams. During the home sale, clients will work hand-in-hand with both their Long & Foster Realtor and representatives from Williams & Williams, who will provide added support in both marketing and advertising properties.
“At Long & Foster, our real estate agents are dedicated to helping their buyers and sellers through a successful real estate transaction, and the addition of Williams & Williams auction services provides our team with one more way to support our clients and help them achieve their real estate goals,” said Larry “Boomer” Foster and Gary Scott, presidents of Long & Foster Real Estate. “We’re confident that with our team’s real estate expertise and the additional backing of Williams & Williams, we’ll be even better positioned to serve home buyers and sellers throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.”
Fontana Fitzwilson, EVP of sales at Williams & Williams, echoed their enthusiasm for the partnership. “Our team at Williams & Williams is excited to work with Long & Foster and its real estate professionals. Not only are they known for their exceptional real estate services and support, but also their open and innovative approach to marketing and advertising properties makes them a perfect fit for our auction services,” said Fitzwilson.
Two former fire stations are going on the auction block this week.
City of Tulsa officials say they hope the buildings will go to the highest bidder with an eye for a stylish office or studio space, as occurred recently with other former fire stations.