A unique real estate company that allows potential buyers to live in a luxury house for sale was inspired by an unlikely source: oil and gas equipment auctions.
"It was a transparent process," explains Alex Lambert, founder of The Garage Sale Luxury Auction House (TGS) based in Kelowna, B.C. "You could kick the tires."
Lambert is taking that hands-on ability to examine a potentially large purchase and translating it to real estate. Potential buyers of high-end homes listed with TGS can book a stay at the property for up to seven days. It includes a "live-in host," a gourmet chef, and 24-hour concierge service.
"When you’re viewing real estate, people often will be looking at six, eight, 10 homes in a day. It can be overwhelming and you have to think back about all the things you learn about each property," says Lambert in an interview with The Huffington Post B.C.
"We really like to encourage everybody to take the time — it’s a multi-million dollar decision and one that you’re going to be living with after that — to really spend the time at the home with no sales pressure, with no one around to bother you ... and just get a sense of whether you’d enjoy living in the home or not."
Interested buyers can really experience if there are any noise issues, or how bright the sun shines into the home at certain times of the day for example, says Lambert.
"You test drive a new car before purchasing, so why wouldn't you test drive a luxury home?"
At Madrona Grove, a Pender Island, B.C. property currently for sale, chef David Weslowsky is around to cook meals — and answer questions.
"People want to know about the kitchen, how it works," says the chef, who usually caters to heli-skiiers at the exclusive CMH Valemount Lodge. "They'll ask: 'What do you think about the stove, David?'"
The "live-in host" will do everything from the dishes to arranging tours of the neighbourhood.
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Lambert started TGS in 2009 after selling a successful oil services business he started with his brother as teenagers in Drayton Valley, Alta. TGS began with auctioning high-end cars and boats, but now focuses on luxury properties.
Ever the entrepreneur, Lambert eschews the traditional buying/selling real estate process by auctioning off homes with no minimum or reserve bid. It's a business model that came out of experience, and not a gimmick.
In 2009, TGS was selling a new home with a reserve bid of $5.2 million. Bidding went as high as $4.4 million but didn't meet what the owner set as the minimum amount. The owner ended up keeping the house for three years when it was finally sold for $3.1 million, says Lambert.
So why would someone want to auction off a multi-million dollar home?
"You can plan around the fact that the house will be sold on that date," says Lambert. The unusual process also distinguishes a home from others that are for sale.
The Madrona Grove property is actually owned by the B.C. Cancer Foundation. It was a gift from cancer survivor Robert Conconi and his wife. The foundation's Lou Del Gobbo says using TGS' auction service gives the house, as well as the non-profit group, some marketing exposure.
"Live-in viewings and auction events facilitate emotional connections with buyers," says the TGS website.
To prove it's viable, Lambert bought and developed a five-bedroom, five-bath property in Kelowna that included a 1,200-bottle wine cave and yoga studio. After 90 viewings and two live-in stays, the house sold for $4.7 million at auction last summer with nine registered bidders.
(Bidders must pass a vetting process that includes a $150,000 deposit held with a bank draft, and a bank's letter of guarantee for the range of value they're offering.)
A few months later, TGS sold a West Kelowna home for $3.65 million at auction with five registered bidders.
The current Pender Island listing will be auctioned off on August 22. It's open for private viewings but there is a "buy it now" option for $1.425 million.
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