Lights, camera, auction

A motivated seller takes a La-Z-Boy approach: seduction by living room.

By CRITINA SILVA, Times Staff Writer
Published September 23, 2007

St. Petersburg- Natalie Goff doesn't usually film her parties, but on a recent night at her Snell Isle home a camera rolled as more than 100 people gathered for a purpose: to make sure her house looks good on television.

The 2,810-square-foot Brightwaters Boulevard property will be sold in a televised auction next month, and the party scene was just one of many showcasing the home that will air before the sale.

"We wanted people to see the property at night," said Goff. "The Realtor asked us if we wanted to hire actors for the party, and I thought why not just invite people we know and make it more fun."

Televised auctions featuring scenes like Goff's party and elaborate home tours are the latest selling tool in today's tepid real estate market.

"We have reached a new frontier in marketing real estate," said William Tourtelot, a Realtor behind the sale of the home. "A lot of people don't want to come out for an auction. A televised auction allows them to view and purchase a home in the privacy of their own house."

Creative real estate schemes have become more common in Pinellas County in the past year as the real estate market has sputtered to a crawl. But local Realtors say a televised auction is definitely a first. And staging a party to showcase a home's best features?

"It seems like a lot of trouble for one house," said Frank Malowany, a Realtor who specializes in Snell Isle homes. "I don't know if it is going to set any kind of trend."

The auction will be televised on America's Auction Network, a home shopping channel based in St. Petersburg that until recently focused on jewelry sales. Locally, the network broadcasts on Channel 165.

Goff's Snell Isle home will be the network's first venture into the real estate market. Commercials advertising the home's auction will begin airing on the network Thursday. The auction will be held Oct. 27.

The Goffs are also selling two waterfront lots with 74-foot docks.

For a little more than a year, Goff had tried to sell her waterfront home the conventional way through local Realtors. She originally wanted $3.4-million, but later realized that price was too high.

Her Realtors, Tourtelot Brothers Inc., suggested she sell the home on America's Auction Network. With its ornate stone floors, Parisian bath fixtures and custom pool complete with waterfalls, the house seemed made for television.

Only one thing was missing. The auctioneers wanted to show just how great the home would be for entertaining, so they suggested that Goff throw a party.

The invitations advised guests to "be prepared to look like you are having a great time."

During the get-together, guests mingled by the pool, some swaying softly as a steel drum musician played Calypso tunes. Meanwhile, a television crew made its way through the crowd, looking for the right shot. Richard Price sat with his wife and observed the scene as they munched on tortilla chips.

"This is the way to show off your home for darn sure," he said. "You keep everyone happy by giving them wine or beer and maybe someone decides, 'I have to buy this house.' It's a great idea."

Cristina Silva can be reached at 727 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

Other approaches

In the past year, homeowners have tried creative ways to get their houses sold. In September 2006, a Belleair Beach man painted a bright red "4 SALE" sign on his home's roof, hoping to attract a buyer for his waterfront home. He was asking $1.6-million. The house sold in April for $965,000. This past July, a Snell Isle home on Brightwaters Boulevard was auctioned off by an Oklahoma firm for $2.6-million. The 6,172-square-foot home was sold in what is thought to be the first residential property auction on Snell Isle.