Public Property Auction in San Pedro: Questions Answered, New Questions Formed

When you read the local paper each week you see at least one paid advertisement like the one below.  Houses, condos, properties around Ambergris Caye and around the country that are going up for Public Auction.

At the end of each listing is a Date, a Time and a place for the auction.  Sometimes properties that are worth 10s of thousands of dollars,  sometimes a neighboring house, sometimes a huge resort or an island that’s worth millions.

And for years, I’ve been curious about this whole process.  But not curious enough to do anything about it.  I seem to harbor 1000s of things in that “folder”.

SO…when a sign went up at a intriguing property just south of me, I NEEDED to put it on my calendar.  I noticed the sign about a week and a half before the auction…

…and took a walk down there.  This whole area – Miles 6 to 7, North Ambergris Caye – has one of the prettiest stretches of ocean. The Mexico Rocks Marine Reserve.

Here’s my walk from about Mile 7 (near X’tan Ha Resort) to about Mile 6ish and the Costa Blu Resort.   Old gorgeous coconut trees and low density housing and resorts.

I took a photo of this large lot for sale – to remember to look it up (and it’s listing price) later.  And I did.  Big beachfront lot.  A comp of sorts.

An interesting property called Diamond Reef.

And one of the more beautiful (to me) locations on North Ambergris Caye – Costa Blu Resort.  This was, for years, a large diving oriented resort called Costa Maya.  It then closed for 3 or 4 years and last year re-opened.  It’s a HUGE property…lush and green…with a surprisingly small amount of rooms for the size.

They are re-building some of their palapas that were taken down by last August’s Hurricane Earl.

Just south of Costa Blu and away from the beach, to the west of the road, was the property for sale.

2 lots from the road to the lagoon.  With a few concrete structures that haven’t been lived in for years (if at all).

I’ll just fire out the questions as I have them.  And I did ask some of the auctioneer and the representative from the bank when they arrived.  Both very nice helpful guys.  And easy to ID.  It’s not often, away from the Mormons, that you see someone in a tie in San Pedro.

The advertising for a property of some value is just a poster and a listing in the newspapers?  Answer:  Yes.  Apparently it is a system that has been used for a while and works well.

I can’t imagine that it would hurt to have nice photos taken and a website of the auctions?  Some nice real-estate-y phrases “turn-key operation!” or “rustic project for DIYer!”.  Maybe “lush native greenery!”

The auctioneer does have a website listed on Facebook – but it has expired.  His facebook page has information and updated photos.

The property was open, the doors were open and I took a quick look around.

Why was this property of not insignificant value being sold this way?  I asked the representative of the bank – and this was a loan that was left unpaid.  It was now owned by the bank.

Would it help the bank to have a real estate office?  Perhaps that’s a conflict of interests?

Two different buildings, what was a large sunken outdoor kitchen area, lots of tiling…it’s a really cool property.

And not in terrible condition.  A handyman’s dream!

A nice grassy lawn and a small dock out onto the shallow lagoon.

Slap some paint on this property!

There were a few people around – perhaps 6 or seven and we met over by the front of the lot.

The money would be paid in cash (some at the end of the first week, the rest at the end of week 3), the amounts and payments would be in US dollars, stamp tax would be paid by the buyer.  And the auction began!

But wait…we are in Belize, where the largest bank, the Bank of Belize is offering $1.98 or $1.99bzd for a US dollar…why are we dealing in US dollars?  I asked the bank representative later – he said that is was a loan made in US dollars and that the banks involved are not necessarily Belize banks.

Back to the…

The auctioneer began:  May I have your offers please…

Silence.   No one wanted to kick it off.  After about 30 seconds, the auctioneer suggested $100,000US.  Someone instantly went to $110,000…$125, $128…we were up to $175,000 and it was over.

The auctioneer said that he could now reveal the Reserve (the minimum price that he was able to accept on the spot) and it was…ONE MILLION DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Uhhhh…what?  That’s absurd I say.

The top bidder went up to $190,000US.  And a phone call was made to the bank.

They would take $350,000US.  Again…we weren’t even close.

The bank now had one day to think it over.  Would they take $190K?  If not, there would be another auction.

What an interesting process.  And I’m sure there is a TON at play.  How the banks keep value assets on the books, what is going on away from the auction – are there other big players, people who get the results after the auction is over and then can bid higher?

AND WHERE DID THEY COME UP WITH $1,000,000!!!!!!!!!

I have never owned property in my life – I am sure there are nuances galore.

But it all seems a bit…non-transparent…a bit murky to me.  Is this really the best way to sell real estate at the best value?  Hmmmm…

I’ll have to think about that.  I actually got a ride home from the bank representative and the auctioneer.  They were headed further north for a Noon auction – a unit at Sapphire Beach Resort.

And then Monday there is a HUGE auction – 1pm for the entire property that was Sueno Del Mar.  One of the sadder developments to take place on our island.  You can find lots on-line about it.

It’s a gorgeous location and I do hope someone rehabilitates it.

So that is my experience at the Public Property Auction.  I think it is time I get on this circuit.  SUPER interesting and super strange to me.

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