Selling Sunset Hall: Now, the luxury auction

Sunset Hall — the 1912 mansion on Old West Mountain Road, where magician Harry Houdini visited, actor Robert Vaughn lived and, most recently, a plan for a rehabilitation facility was withdrawn after furious neighborhood opposition — will be sold Friday, May 19.

At auction.

“It’s a luxury option. It’s getting more popular,” Realtor Laura Freed Ancona said of the auction route to selling a high-end property.

Sunset Hall, with its marble-floor ballroom, 10 bedrooms, and views of the New York skyline, on seven acres with a guest house, heated pool and tennis courts, has been on the market at $4,750,000.

“There’s not that many buyers, typically, for a property like this, so there’s not that much pressure,” said Ancona, of William Pitt Sotheby’s.

Without the pressure of other buyers, people tend to dawdle, delay, think it over.

An auction brings together a number of buyers, and the format manufactures pressure to bid.

“It’s a way to expedite the process and create a lot of enthusiasm and excitement and, hopefully, get a good end result of a sale of a high-end property,” Ancona said.

The auction is scheduled for Friday, May 19, and while there is no minimum reserve bid, people interested in attending are asked to demonstrate their seriousness by putting up a $100,000 registration fee — which will, of course, be returned.

The auction is being conducted by Platinum Luxury Auctions.

“They market to high-end targeted audiences all over the country,” Ancona said. “They perform auction services all over the country.”

According to the firm’s website, Platinum has closed more than $660 million in luxury real estate sales, and has advised or consulted on nearly $2 billion in additional luxury auction property volume.

The firm adds: “Through its considerable experience, Platinum has built an extensive, global database of high-net-worth buyers. Many of these buyers prefer auctions as their venue for very high-value purchases.”

Platinum is expected to attract bidders, as well as conduct the auction.

“The theory is they provide marketing to a targeted audience,” Ancona said.

The property’s owner, Jennifer Nobandegani, bought the place in 2008, but lives in New York City and had been using it largely on weekends. She’s been interested in selling it for some time.

“I’ve had it since last spring or summer, but there were other agents before me,” Ancona said.

New approach

The auction approach made sense.

“At this point, she really just wanted to consider all options. And it is becoming a more and more popular way to sell these very unique high-end homes,” Ancona said of the auction.

The property’s price has been coming down over the years.

“This owner had it at $5.75 [million] and dropped it to $4.75,” Ancona said.

“The former owner had it listed at $11 million.”

If people who can afford the property see it, Ancona thinks, there’ll be interest.

“I don’t think it’s a question of price. I think we have to have the right buyer,” she said.

“Attracting that buyer to Ridgefield is challenging, but this luxury auction company, they market to high-end buyers and they have a following.

“In theory, the buyer, when they hear the word auction, they think they’re going to get it at a really advantageous price,” Ancona said.

Platinum appears to have generated some interest.

“People have been coming through. They’ve been conducting tours. There’s a number of interested candidates,” Ancona said.

“So we’ve gotten a great response so far. And hopefully the bidding process will prove to be effective and the buyer will be happy, the owner will be happy, and it’ll be successful.”