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Going once...going twice Father-son team put houses on block

March 05, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

When J. Alvin Massey decided to open a nontraditional real estate office in Hagerstown, for a partner he looked no further than his son.

John Massey might be young, but at 24 he already is thinking of a day in the future. Asked about his goal for Massey Real Estate Auctions, John Massey said nothing related to growth or profits.

"My biggest goal is to have a company my daughter can take over when she gets old enough," John Massey said.

His daughter, Taylor, is 8 months old.

With their endeavor, the Masseys plan to sell real estate at auction.

Unlike the common perception, however, the properties to be sold will not be those that are the subject of a bankruptcy or foreclosure.

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Instead, the Masseys' clients will be people who simply want to avoid selling their homes or businesses via more traditional methods.

Selling a property at auction has a number of benefits, the Masseys said.

First, they said, the seller can pick the auction date and will know exactly when their property will be sold. Second, no lockboxes are placed on doorknobs - instead one or two open houses will be held before the auction.

Also, all properties are sold in "as-is" condition, with no contingencies in a contract. Prospective buyers must be preapproved for financing and those wishing to bid must bring cashier's checks.

"Then it's the creation of the excitement of the auction," Alvin Massey said.

Anyone who has competed with another bidder during an online or in-person auction knows it's easy to get caught up in the moment and pay more than planned. The Masseys are aware of that and list it as a benefit of selling a house at auction.

Before the auction, marketing will be targeted to the most likely buyers and the Masseys' fees can be split by the buyer and seller or paid entirely by the buyer.

If needed, a "reserve" - or minimum price - can be set to ensure the property sells at or above a desired amount.

Anyone who uses the Masseys to sell their property will meet with them and be kept apprised of the process.

"We're not putting blinders on their eyes," John Massey said.

Typically, 45 to 60 days will pass between the time a client meets with the Masseys and the auction date.

Residential, commercial and investment properties will go on the block.

Working together

Alvin Massey said his company is the only one in Washington County that is both a full-service brokerage firm and that sells properties at auction.

Alvin Massey, 58, and his son John, were both born and raised in Washington County.

Alvin Massey has been active in the community for years, and has worked in real estate development and as a stockbroker. In the late 1980s he was part owner of the Hagerstown Suns baseball team and ran a hydroponics vegetable growing and marketing business for 13 years, ending in 1999.

He has served as vice chairman of the Hagerstown/Washington County Economic Development Commission and chairman of the Hagerstown Downtown Task Force.

In 1993, he was named Small-Business Person of the Year by the Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

His son said he has lived around the country, but always knew he wanted to go into sales.

"The day finally came when he (Alvin Massey) talked about going to auction school. I thought he was crazy," John Massey said.

The younger Massey spent a week at Continental Auction School of Real Estate in Minnesota, and he and his father have undertaken additional training courses.

Working with his father, John Massey said, has been fun.

"I learn a lot," he said.

"We have a lot of the same personality. And tempers, too," his father added.

Alvin Massey said some arguments are father-son related, while others would happen between any two business partners. When they get into a heated discussion, Alvin Massey said, they have to step back and realize which situation it is before working it out.

Alvin Massey said he brings to the partnership experience and patience that has come with age, while his son brings energy and a hunger for knowledge.

They said they believe that with Washington County's continuing but stabilizing growth, auctioning properties will have a place in the market. It can be a complement to traditional real estate sales, since some properties might be more suited to one selling method versus the other.

Last fall the Masseys opened their office on the third floor of the Grace Building at 1329 Pennsylvania Ave. They expect to hold their first auctions in April.

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