There I was, $10,000 in hand—when the auctioneer dropped his bomb.
By Robert Plunket
Guess what? They cancelled the auction! Yes, I show up with my cashier’s check for $10,000 and a valid Florida driver’s license and join the little crowd of people milling around 1685 Laurel St. I’m totally psyched to buy this town house. I see a guy who looks just like Neil Malamud, only younger, arrive. He also has a check in his pocket. It is Neil! I try to quickly put some scheme together in my mind, whereby Neil and I, via clever hand signals and facial expressions, will not bid against each other and then get it real cheap, go into partnership, sell the damn thing and split the profit.
But before I can accomplish this, a guy addresses the crowd. The auction has been cancelled, he tells us. Why? We all gasp in shock. He can’t seem to give us an answer. All he says is that the seller ordered it. Oh, and by the way, here’s the seller standing right next to me. And guess what – he’d love to sell you a condo. He’s still very motivated.
The little crowd moves slightly away. And little crowds being little crowds, they start to murmur amongst themselves. What’s going on? Do you feel cheated like I do? It’s not easy coming up with $10,000 in cash. How high were you willing to go? The general consensus: around $400,000. (The original list price was around $670,000, by the way.)
Then who should walk up but the seller. He seems a little skittish facing the little crowd but bravely forges ahead. Make me an offer, he pleads. I’m willing to listen to any and all offers. What kind of money are we talking about, Neil says. The guy won’t say; he just stands there hemming and hawing. You’ve got to give us a clue, says Neil. We’ve done our part, now you do yours.
The guy takes a very deep breath. “OK. Somewhere in the 550s.”
Well, you should have heard the derisive hoots of laughter that greeted that remark. The little crowd quickly disperses, shaking their heads in disbelief.
What’s going on here? Is the gap between buyers and sellers really that large? Have we reached a Mexican standoff? Neither side will blink? What do we do next?
P.S. I had dinner with one of the town’s leading mortgage brokers the other night. She says it’s all Harold Bubil’s fault. I keep hearing this from more and more people. If only the Herald-Tribune will come out and say, the worst is over, the bottom has been hit, then people will start to buy. But the Herald-Tribune won’t. They just keep gleefully reporting the downward death spiral. Any comments?