From the miamiherald.com:
The United States government had more than two million reasons to celebrate Saturday.
A longtime Coral Gables resident designated $1 million and his historic home to the federal government in his will to help wipe away the nation’s $15 trillion public debt.
Uncle Sam put the home on 1248 Coral Way on the auction block Saturday.
The winning bid: $1.175 million.
The 1929, Spanish-style home belonged to James H. Davidson Jr., who lived in the home since his teenage days in 1938 and died childless last December at 87.
The home was officially designated a historic landmark in November by the Historic Preservation Board of Coral Gables.
The Miami-Dade property appraiser’s office values the two-story home that sits on four lots of land (double the size of most houses in the area) at just over $700,000.
The average list price for similar homes for sale in that area is $1.2 million, according to the real estate website Trulia.
“It’s incredible, the house really has remained untouched,” said Kelley Schild, a Coral Gables resident who came out Saturday to check out the house and see the auction.
The auction attracted about 100 people Saturday. Fifteen people registered to participate in the auction, which required them to turn in a $25,000 cashier’s check to the auctioneer that was promptly returned at the end of the auction.
George Richards—owner of the company that auctioned off the house, National Auction Co. — said the house was open to visitors all week and about 700 people went to scope it out.
He said he was thrilled with the turnout and conducted the auction in a traditional manner, speaking at what could only be discerned as 1,000 words per minute.
“Folks. you need to spend that money, it’s only money,” he reminded the bidders during the auction.
For many, the auction itself was a spectacle worth attending. “The auction fit the house, it was an antique way of bidding,” said Frank Chamoun, who placed the opening bid at $100,000.
Ultimately, the winning bid went to Barbara Perez, who kept a low profile throughout the auction and only starting placing bids once the auction participants dwindled down to two serious bidders. On top of the $1.175 million, she will also have to pay an additional 10 percent for auctioneer and broker fees.
“My heart has to stop racing and then I’ll be fine,” Perez said after her big purchase.
The purchase was a joint venture with her husband, a general contractor, and another couple.
The four view the purchase as an investment and plan to restore the house, estimating that they will have to put at least $1 million into the project. They said they are focusing on the house for now and are still unsure if they want to sell the other plot of land, build another house on it or leave it as is.
“We want to bring it back to its 1920s form yet give it modern amenities,” said Perez’s husband, Greg Lopez.
From bidders to spectators, everyone could agree on one thing: While leaving a house to the government was a generous gesture, they would not be following Davidson’s example.
“It’s nice, but absolutely not,” said John Flasco, when asked if he would ever leave his house to the federal government.
It is unclear why Davidson, who has nieces and nephews in the area, opted to leave his house to the government, and his family members said the news came as a surprise to them.
“We in the family found it highly unusual,” his nephew, David Harum, said in an interview with The Miami Herald last week.
Although now bare (except for an antique television and pencil sharpener) the 3,900-square-foot home with six bedrooms and five bathrooms was filled with antique furniture and artwork. The contents of the house, which were also left to the government, will be auctioned off sometime in January.
The home was constructed by Ambrose Becker, a man instrumental in the development of Coral Gables in the 1920s and 1930s.
Coral Gables pioneer George Merrick himself credited Becker for reviving interest in the city after the real estate bust of the late 1920s, according to the Historic Resource Department’s report on the property.