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Bidding war at Central Beach house auction

Photo: Ron Rennick of Rennick Auctions

A house auction in Central Beach produced some drama last Saturday, when two women got into a prolonged back and forth bidding war that lasted 25 minutes and pushed the sale price of the home up from around $380,000 to more than half a million.

Ron Rennick of Rennick Auctions was offering the 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath, 2,550-square-foot house at 716 Conn Way in what he characterized as an “absolute auction,” meaning there was no reserve or minimum price. “Whoever has the high bid will get the house, absolutely,” Rennick said the day before the auction.

Built in 1953 and later enlarged, the frame ranch-style home has the great virtue of being located on a .31-acre lot just a block and half from the ocean, but it is noticeably dated, with obsolete bathrooms and bedrooms and an old kitchen.

Still, it drew a large crowd of bidders and onlookers on a sunny morning in Central Beach. The stretch of Conn Way between A1A and Ocean Drive was lined with parked cars and a least 100 people packed the living room, family room and front porch ahead of the auction.

Auctions without a reserve often do better than those with a minimum price because they are more exciting and more people show up, hoping to snag a desirable property at a bargain price, said Rennick, who predicted the home would sell for “between four and five [hundred thousand].”

The house was previously listed for $539,000 and homes in the neighborhood have sold recently for between $450,000 and $650,000, according to

“I think they will get a good price,” Dale Sorensen agent Aggie Szymanska said shortly before the auction started at 11 a.m. “People get excited in situations like this and end up bidding higher than they might have planned.”

She turned out to be right – though it didn’t seem like that would happen at first.

The opening bid was $350,000 and there wasn’t much action for the first 10 minutes. Incremental increases pushed the price to $380,000, where it stalled.

“Is that it? Are we done? Looks like this may be a short auction,” Rennick said.

But then the bidding gradually heated up as a back-and-forth struggle developed between two women, one of whom happened on the auction by accident while driving by, according to her daughter, and who initially bid from her car, with a Rennick associate relaying her offers to the auctioneer.

The second bidder was outside, too, leaning on a window sill on the front porch, putting in her bids through the screen. She said she had driven overnight from North Carolina and slept in her car in order to be at the auction.

When the price topped $400,000 the lady in the car got out and came in, assisted by her daughter and leaning on a walker, to look the house over, firing off bids as she made her way through the home, ending up in the family room, looking into the living room where Rennick was set up by the window through which the other bidder peered in.

The two women then settled into a prolonged bidding war, with the woman on the porch going up in $1,000 or $2,000 increments and the woman in the family room stubbornly adding $500 to each new bid.

Tension mounted steadily. There were pauses between bids that made it seem at times like the auction was coming to an end in favor of the bidder on the porch, but then the other woman would say, “add $500,” eliciting a loud murmur from the crowd in the living room and a groan from the porch.

One of Rennick’s associates mimed the moves of a boxer in the middle of the living room, bobbing and weaving, punching and counter-punching, to illustrate the battle.

Both bidders were visibly frustrated and annoyed but refused to give in.

Finally the bidder on the porch, who said her name was Sarah Huff, bid $503,000 and the woman on the walker shook her head. “She can keep it,” she said, and started toward the front door.

“If I woke up tomorrow and realized I lost the house because of $500, I would have shot myself,” Huff said afterward, while sitting with Rennick signing documents and making financial arrangements.

Rennick said the prolonged tit-for-tat between the two bidders was unusual in his experience, lasting longer and moving the price more than in most other auctions he has called, and other real estate professionals present said they had never seen anything quite like it.

The winning bidder had to pay a 10 percent buyer’s premium to compensate the auctioneer and listing agent, bringing the total price for the home to $553,300.

A 10 percent payment – $55,000 – was due immediately after the auction, and the buyer has 30 days to close. Huff said she will be moving to Vero Beach where she has an aunt and uncle when she settles her affairs in North Carolina.