Auctioneers have hit their verbal stride in reality TV shows. Not so much stride as sprint with a waterfall of “Who’ll gimme 200,” or “Do I hear 1,200,’’ and “Going once, going twice. SOLD.” M16s are slow compared to these guys and women.
There is of course the fine art and jewelry auctions where someone with a British accent calmly takes bids from bored millionaires who raise numbered paddles. It’s an exercise that only a PBS donor would find compelling.
Somewhere in between are those who sell properties sold with the legally mandated public outcry on the courthouse steps. Foreclosure auctions happen the first Tuesdays each month in Glynn County and the auctioneers? Well, don’t look for them on Storage Wars.
These auctions have the heart, soul and drama of a Soviet wedding. Part of that is the reading of the boilerplate writ large in state law to ensure that everyone’s rights are upheld.
Among other things, the buyers have to sit through a reading of the metes and bounds, the disclosure that a creditor was a Delaware limited liability partnership, the dates of every legal ad, that one property boundary runs east for 98 feet and that another was in the 1356th militia district. If you have a militia looking for a home, the 1356th district in Glynn County is available for immediate occupation. We on St. Simons are in the 25th militia district, and we’ve already been occupied.
In case anyone wondered why they had to stand in the sun on a morning hot for October, an auctioneer announced the property was to be sold “before the courthouse door of Glynn County.”
And they’ll be on the courthouse steps again even if a cold nor’easter whips rain into their faces on a first Tuesday. Come rain, come shine, come sand gnats, come the Lord a second time, they’ll be there. Well, perhaps not the latter.
There is no dress code for auctioneers. One wore cargo shorts and Crocs and had his hair secured in a sort of man bun. Suzette Davis of Valdosta, with four properties to sell, wore a chartreuse golf shirt with the company name, Auction.com.
There were similar houses on St. Simons and on the mainland in foreclosure. The main difference was the dirt they sit on. (By the way, I’ve been thinking of filling two Duke’s mayonnaise with dirt, one from St. Simons and one from the mainland. I was going to ask the championship FFA soil-judging team from Brantley County High to tell me which was better. I’m betting they’d find them identical. As real estate agents, say it’s the location, location, location of the militia district, or something like that.)
The only remotely exciting auction of the day was one of Davis’. She auctioned a house on Broadway on St. Simons. Chris Boufette, who closes his bicycle shop every Tuesday, offered the opening bid, the minimum $43,748. It was his last because, Boufette acknowledged, he couldn’t match the financial pace.
“We have 46,’’ Davis said. “We are asking 47.”
She got that and inquired quietly, “Any interest in the property at 48.”
There was indeed. After it sailed past $65,000, a bidder pumped it up to $77,000.
“It’s getting hot out out here,’’ Boufette observed, and indeed it was.
“I’ll go a hundred,’’ a bidder said.
“Thousand?’’ Davis asked.
“Yes ma’am,’’ he said.
The bidders picked up the pace and, as Davis tried to field their bids, she announced, “One-oh-twelve thousand,’’ which any math teacher would tell you is a highly irrational number. The heat and humidity notwithstanding, it turned out Jack Chastain had $175,000 burning a hole in his pocket and nobody matched him.
Davis announced the property sold at “11:25 a.m. subject to the receipt of funds.” That’s 1525 GMT for those of you who follow high-brown British auctions.
A man who had matched Chastain bid-for-bid walked over, shook his hand and congratulated him.
Unlike the mobs on the TV auctions, the crowd brought chairs, drinks and all the notes they had on the property. As Davis auctioned on the west side of the courthouse steps, another woman began reading out the description of another property on the opposite side.
Sitting on a wheeled walker, Chastain wasn’t interested in anything but St. Simons Island property. He came three hours from Rochelle, Ga., “a two red light town,’’ where he had been a peanut processor for decades. If you’ve eaten M&Ms in the past 20 years, you may have eaten some of Chastain’s peanuts.
“We’re retired,’’ he said, “and just wanted something to do.”
He’ll remodel and resale the St. Simons house although he figures with the price, “We might not make much.”
Calford F. Jones of Brunswick had bought a more modest property, a small house near the Norfolk Southern yard that was foreclosed on for a $20,000 debt. He got it for $20,001.
“It’s rough outside,’’ Jones said of the house. He couldn’t look at the interior because someone lives in it. He plans to “fix it up” and make a little money like he did about 50 other times.
He has plenty to do. The window air-conditioning units appear ready for the Antiques Road Show and parts of the roof appear capable only of discouraging rain and not repelling it.
Jones has no idea what’s inside, and that’s the risk for all the buyers. The floor tiles could be asbestos, the well water could be sulphurous and the living room could be painted black with purple crown molding.
But he’s done it before, and he keeps coming back.
Boufett came out of curiosity, mostly, and who knows if he’ll be back.
“I was hoping nobody would show up, that it’d be raining,’’ he said.
That way, he may have bought it for $1 over the minimum. He could have had his way at 2 p.m. when a lone auctioneer sat alone in the shade of a big column reading to herself because all the bidders had left. The metes, the bounds, the length and breadth and the money owed and to whom. So what if an auctioneer calls for bids on the courthouse steps and no one’s there to bid? Does it still make a sound?
Terry Dickson has been a journalist in South Carolina and the Golden Isles for more than 40 years. He is a Glynn County resident. Contact him at email@example.com.