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Home: 2363 Heavenly View Drive in Ooltewah
Size: 8,700 square feet main house, 2,800 guest house
Land: 10 acres
Bedrooms: four in main house, two in guest house
Bathrooms: five, with one half-bath in main house; two in the guest house
Price: Originally $5.3 million, selling at auction without reserve
Auction: May 10, by appointment only
Source: Concierge Auctions
Chattanooga's most expensive mansion cost $15 million to build. It's listed on the market for $5.3 million. The tax assessor says it's worth $2.5 million. The property next door sold for $1.1 million in 2005.
So how much is it really worth?
That's what auctions are for, said Laura Brady, who will sell the house and grounds to the highest bidder on May 10 -- without reserve.
"The sale price is up to whatever the bidders are willing to pay," Brady said. "There is no minimum bid."
Come hell or high water, on May 11 the panoramic views at the Windy Hills Estate will belong to someone other than Elizabeth Fuller, who built the mansion as a dream home in 2002.
"Many buyers today feel as if they're in control, but the auction process really turns the tables on that and shows the buyers that the seller has made the decision to sell," Brady said.
Selling the house is a business decision for Fuller, wife to the late trucking magnate Clyde Fuller and mother to David Parker, founder of Covenant Transport. She's the step-mother of Max Fuller, the co-founder of trucking giant U.S. Xpress who was just inducted into the UTC Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. She doesn't use the home anymore, though each brick and bedroom is still a reflection of her style.
That individual style is part of the difficulty in selling high-end homes. Hauling in a particular type of stone from Italy or hiring an artisan to craft a statue may cost millions, but future buyers don't care about the hard work that goes into designing a dream home. Their own dream may be different.
A quarry full of marble forms the basis for the Chattanooga home, which features a grand staircase in an entrance marked by bronze statues and stone busts. A large kitchen leads out to an infinity pool and marble patio suitable for political fundraising events or garden parties. Large bedrooms include generous bathrooms, and two-story windows reflect the setting sun in the valley below.
"Everybody can look at it and see there's $15 million work in that home, and they're going to get a good deal on that home, the guest home, the multilevel patio and pool," said Sandy Poe, a real estate agent at Alliance Sotheby's International Realty. "But people can go do their thing to it, too."
For those intimidated by stone lions guarding their yard, an auction provides the perfect venue to set their own price, said Debbie Elliott-Sexton, president and CEO at Alliance Sothby's International.
"It's gated, it does have a guest house and it's just a fabulous home for full-time residents or for a second home," Elliott-Sexton said.
So far, the house been a toug h sell. Buyers have looked at the mansion but passed on paying $5.3 million for it. Real estate agents have come and gone. But in an auction, the excitement of the moment and the knowledge that other bidders are also interested can help spur interest, Brady said.
"In an auction, buyers are able to overlook any setbacks that may have been within their original criteria, because price comes out of the equation and it becomes what are you willing to pay for this property," Brady said. "Buyers will say, 'I really wanted seven bedrooms instead of six, but I'll just take that into account when I'm bidding.'"
The auctioneers will reach out the millionaires and billionaires around the world, she said. But at day's end, the buyer will most likely come from Tennessee. She expects a crowd of roughly eight -- small by the standards of most auctions, but just about average for luxury home sales.
"This is likely going to be, I think, someone who is going to live in and enjoy the property, as opposed to buying it as a vacation residence," she said. "As long as we expose the property to all the potential buyers out there, the price will be fair."
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6315.