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Century Oaks heads to auction with $8.5 million minimum bid

The Century Oaks estate on the Clearwater waterfront features 10 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms and more on 3.5 acres.
The Century Oaks estate on the Clearwater waterfront features 10 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms and more on 3.5 acres.
Published Sept. 27, 2014

CLEARWATER — Even for a spectacular property, $18.5 million seemed high. Turns out it was.

Fifteen months after it went on the market for that princely sum, the 24,000-square-foot Century Oaks estate will be auctioned Oct. 11 with a reserve price of less than half the original asking amount.

For as "little'' as $8.5 million, the winning bidder will get one of Tampa Bay's landmark properties, a Mediterranean-style mansion with 10 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, a theater room, a library, a music room and a ballroom, all sitting on 3.5 lushly landscaped acres overlooking Clearwater Bay.

For visiting friends and relatives, there's also a 5,000-square-foot guest house with a bar, a gym and a billiards room to keep them entertained.

Century Oaks, named for its magnificent trees, was the most expensive home on the bay area market when it was initially listed in June 2013. But with no takers, the owner — businessman and world-champion powerboat racer Hugh Fuller — decided to go the auction route.

"I just think that the right buyer hasn't come forward yet,'' Sophia Vasilaros, the Smith & Associates listing agent, said Friday. "It's a one-of-a-kind property, it's beyond words."

Also up for bid will be a neighboring, 3,046-square-foot home that Fuller also owns. No reserve price — the minimum bid accepted — has been set for that property yet.

"If (Century Oaks) goes well, he wants the ability to structure the reserve on the second one lower," said Daniel DeCaro, whose Naples-based DeCaro Luxury Real Estate Auctions will conduct the sale.

Century Oaks was built in 1915 by New York City developer Dean Alvord on the site of the old Fort Harrison, a military post for settlers during the Second Seminole War. The area became known as Harbor Oaks, Clearwater's first planned residential subdivision, and was advertised to wealthy Northerners as "The Riviera of the Sunny South.''

Since Alvord's day, the estate has been owned by Robert Brown, inventor of the black paint used on Model T Fords, and British Formula 1 driver Nigel Mansell. Fuller bought it from Mansell for $5.5 million in 1996.

The gated compound includes two pools, tennis and basketball courts, a five-car garage with a hydraulic lift, and a bell tower.

The Pinellas County property appraiser values it at $8,531,631 — almost identical to the reserve price. With Fuller's homestead exemption, property taxes in 2013 were $155,862.

Prospective buyers must bring a certified check for $100,000, along with a personal check to cover the balance of the 10 percent deposit required, the day of sale. If needed, they must also have financing lined up ahead of time.

On the day of the auction, water, doughnuts and coffee will be available.

"We don't serve liquor,'' DeCaro said, "because we don't want anybody to be intoxicated when they bid.''

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Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.