After shot at slot machines, try a bid on a house

Fifty would-be sellers are counting on an auction at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

Published February 23, 2007

TAMPA - Dreary times call for desperate measures. That's why 50 Florida property owners are willing to take an unusual gamble at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Saturday.

Everything from $130,000 condominiums to commercial lots to multimillion-dollar mansions will be for sale to the highest bidders, many of whom will be competing inside a 400-seat casino ballroom at the All In Mega Auction. If all goes as planned, homeowners who have struggled to sell their houses for months will watch them go within six minutes.

"We've basically created a new medium of bringing sellers and buyers together, making it kind of like a shopping mall for properties," said Jay Bailey, owner of Bailey's Realty & Estate Auctions in St. Petersburg, who is running Saturday's auction. "It just doesn't make sense to put a sign in the yard anymore."

With the real estate market dipping, more and more sellers are turning to auctions to unload their properties. Bailey said he sees the phenomenon as the wave of the future for the housing market, in good times and in bad. Even though sellers have traditionally turned to auctions as an act of desperation, Bailey believes an event like the All In Mega Auction can attract enough buyers and create enough of a frenzy to get sellers a good price.

Bailey said he is averaging about 1,000 hits per hour on his Web site, www.bidonproperties.com, and 200 calls per hour. He has been interviewed by several local newspaper, television and radio reporters and has billboards around the Tampa Bay area advertising the auction.

That could translate into a successful sale for people like Angelique Lochridge, who has been trying to sell her parents' Valrico home for seven months. The four-bedroom home was purchased more than a year ago to accommodate her grandmother, but after the grandmother died, her parents decided to stay in their north Tampa home and sell the one in Valrico.

"We'd be happy to just sell it for what we owe at this point," Lochridge said. "It would be a huge, huge relief to get rid of it."

Lochridge said the 50 sellers, who come from all over the state, were told it would be best to watch the auction's online broadcast so they wouldn't get cornered by prospective buyers trying to cut a deal at the casino. So that's what she and her parents will do on Saturday.

"It could be a win-win situation for everybody," she said. "Let's just hope that's the way it plays out."

Emily Nipps can be reached at 813 269-5313 or nipps@sptimes.com.

If you go

Property auction

Where: Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 4223 N Orient Road, Tampa.

When: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Online bidding and property viewing: www.bidonproperties.com.

For more info: Call Jay Bailey at (727) 543-6561 or toll-free at 1-800-541-3584.