Published Thursday, August 18, 2005
By Mike Grogan
The Reporter

CHAMPIONSGATE — Land as close to next door and as far away as Alaska was auctioned off parcel by parcel at a first of its kind land sale held Saturday at the Omni Resort Hotel.

“This is our first multistate land auction,” said Taylor Hall, assistant vice president of USALandsale,com, the Orlandobased company that put on the auction, which drew hundreds of potential buyers.

Hall said the company, which was founded in 1999 by David Waronker, a Celebration resident and owner of the Florida Seals professional ice hockey team, has been accumulating land all over the United States over the past six years. Until Saturday’s event, most of its sales have been over the Internet, which accounts for the name of the company.

Waronker had said in a press release prior to the auction that he had started the company for the sole purpose to make real estate ownership and investment simple, affordable and more than just a dream for everybody. In all, 206 pieces of land in 19 states were on the auction block and available for bidding.

“They are all undeveloped properties,” Hall explained. “Some are as small as a quarter of an acre, and they range up to several hundreds of acres.”

Some 70 of the properties for sale were in Florida, one of the hottest land markets in the country.

Thomas Guss, who owns a real estate firm in New York City and is an active investor in property, made a special trip to Florida to attend the auction.

“Well,” he said smiling, “I came for this and a bit of lounging around the pool.”

Guss said the auction gave him a first-hand opportunity to get an idea of land prices in Florida.

“The market is real hot here,” he said. “And I don’t think prices are going to go down any time soon.”

He added he was looking for bargains, land he could buy at auction for less than he could through other sources. But bidding on property without getting a chance to see it does have its dangers.

“Oh yes,” he said. “You can end up with a parcel of land with no access to it at all. You don’t really have time to do the research. But even if you buy something that only increases in value 8 to 10 percent, that is still a liquid investment.”

Hall said pamphlets with a complete listing of the properties up for auction were sent out to perspective buyers weeks before the event was held. That was done to give interested investors a chance to research the land they were interested in.”

Ron Profetta, who is in the business of buying and selling land, came from upstate New York looking specifically for land values in Florida.

“This is the first auction like this I’ve ever been too,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of property up for sale and I’m looking for some possible bargains.”

But not everybody attending the auction was looking to make a killing in the real estate market. Armando Rodrigues, a truck driver from Kissimmee, was looking for a piece of property he can build a home on.

“I heard about (the auction) on the radio,” he said. “I’m hoping to find someplace here close that isn’t too expensive so I can build a house.”

While Florida properties were hot items, so too were parcels in New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Texas.

“The nice thing about an auction is you have an opportunity to get great deals,” Hall said. “You can bid what you can afford and, if the bidding goes higher, you can wait and bid on something else.”

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