Get your paddles ready.
If the Sperry Van Ness/Guardian (SVNG) auction of 35 commercial properties (including 19 multifamily assets) held this week in Los Angeles comes off as successful as the L.A.-based brokerage house promises, more auctions of multifamily land and distressed assets could be coming downstream. In fact, SVNG’s pre-auction sales and contracting of six properties on the block in L.A. this week encouraged the company to preemptively announce a second auction in Seattle on Sept. 30 that will likewise feature motivated commercial land and assets up for bid across the Northwest.
According to Sperry Van Ness/Guardian COO Karlin Conklin, market uncertainty in the acquisition and disposition space is commanding more creative approaches to the traditional book-and-bid asset brokerage process. “We’re all trying to get a platform where we can get enough energy around buyers to get deals to close,” says Conklin, who notes that fail-sales—where buyers walk away from contracts at the last minute—have been plaguing motivated REO sellers all year. “We went to the auction platform because we felt that with sale date certainty and competitive bidding, we could get transactions done. Buyers go non-refundable if they win the bid, so there is much more certainty of execution.”
Encino, Calif.-based multifamily brokerage firm Marcus & Millichap has been examining the auction route for some time but has yet to conclude that it is a good disposition outlet for the firm’s listed and unlisted assets. “We’ve been looking at all kinds of auction strategies, but to date, we have not seen a lot of mainstream commercial deals go through auction successfully,” says Marcus & Millichap managing director in charge of special assets services Bernie Haddigan. “The auction format seems to be best for odd lots and unusual type situations where you are trying to generate broad interest.”
Still, Haddigan agrees that supercharging some buy- and sell-side excitement into the transaction arena is paramount to getting deal flow going again. “We’ve done more accelerated bids lately: Conventional books promoted to the universe of likely buyers under accelerated timeframes, maybe 20 days to bid,” Haddigan says. “We are trying to create a situation where buyers are excited, and we’ve been pretty successful with those types of timeframes on conventional deals.”
While final SVNG auction results weren’t available at press time, Conklin was upbeat on both the results and the prospect of future auctions. “The fact that we sold one-third of the product at prices that were on average $125,000 above reserve before we even opened the doors is great,” she says. “It’s a way to say we can get this thing sold, and that is working for our clients.”