CLEARWATER — In the past 99 years the magnificent Century Oaks estate has had seven owners, including a doctor, a church and the man who invented the paint used on Model T Fords.
It will stay with its current owner, champion powerboat racer Hugh Fuller, at least a while longer.
Saturday's auction of the 24,000-square-foot mansion with 10 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms and a separate guest house was continued until Nov. 22 "to refine offers,'' Daniel DeCaro, of DeCaro Luxury Auctions, announced.
Three bidders submitted offers by that deadline, but negotiations will begin in earnest to get the best price above the $8.5 million "reserve,'' or rock-bottom minimum that would be accepted. One bidder wanted the estate plus a neighboring house also owned by Fuller, while another was angling for a longer settlement time.
"A $15 to $18 million sale does not occur after a few days or a few hours,'' DeCaro said. "The function (of the auction) is to identify players for this property. It's not a bim, bam, bang thing and it's done.''
New York developer Dean Alvord began construction on the Mediterranean-style home in 1915 as the showpiece of a new subdivision dubbed Harbor Oaks for its stately trees and waterfront locale. The area was marketed to wealthy northerners as the "Riviera of the South."
In 1996 the home's sixth owner, race car driver Nigel Mansell, sold it to Fuller. He put it on the market for $17.5 million in 2013 but hired DeCaro's auction company in September when it failed to sell.
More than 1,200 people have since toured the estate on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. One man who saw Century Oaks as a boy decades ago recalled the then-owner handing out quarters to kids. Other visitors asked if the Church of Scientology, which has extensive real estate holdings in Clearwater, plans to buy it, or if there are hidden tunnels.
"There have been a lot of rumors,'' said Abner Pires, a DeCaro employee, as he escorted guests Saturday through the game room with leopard-print carpeting, the garage with a three-car lift, the media room with seating for 15 and a ballroom lit by three crystal chandeliers.
He noted the many opulent touches, including gleaming Brazilian cherry wood floors and hand-carved moldings.
But while appearing structurally sound for their advanced age, the houses could also use updating in places. The turquoise fixtures in one bathroom scream 1950s. The counter tops in the laundry/kitchen area of the guesthouse are a yellowed Formica.
Sophia Vasilaros, the Smith & Associates listing agent, preferred to stress the positives.
"There's a lot to work with,'' she said. "You could definitely go in here and make it spectacular.''
Ian Ross-Johnson, a real estate broker representing one of the three bidders, said his client's offer was "well over'' the $8.5 million reserve. He predicted Century Oaks will eventually sell for a hefty price.
"It's such a unique piece of property on the west coast of Florida. It's really irreplaceable.''
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at [email protected] or (727)-893-8642. Follow @susanskate.