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Public auction a new twist in Greater Victoria’s hot real estate market

A Rockland mansion built in 1910 is going up for live auction in what is an unusual method to sell a house in Greater Victoria.
Grierson Mansion
Grierson Mansion in Rockland, designed by architect Samuel Maclure, has six bedrooms and six bathrooms, a ballroom and 2,000-bottle wine cellar.

A Rockland mansion built in 1910 is going up for live auction in what is an unusual method to sell a house in Greater Victoria.

“We think we are going to have a nice crowd of people there,” said agent Andy Stephenson of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

Anyone interested in the Samuel Maclure-designed strata property can view it in daily open houses from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The open houses began this week and continue until auction day, June 22. A professional auctioneer will take bids that day, Stephenson said.

An undisclosed reserve price has been set for the property.

The home is being marketed through the Victoria Real Estate Board’s Multiple Listing Service, at $1.998 million, with a two per cent commission to an agent representing a buyer.

Contract details for the updated 7,200-square-foot house are set out beforehand. Possession is July 29. The only item to be filled in is the price, to be determined at auction. The decision to sell through an auction came from the property owners, who are originally from Australia where homes are often sold this way, Stephenson said Sotheby’s also offers auction services.

Mike Nugent, president of the Victoria Real Estate Board, said he is not aware of any home auctions taking place in Victoria in the past. But he noted auctions are common in other countries such as Ireland and England.

Stephenson, who has represented buyers at house auctions in Calgary, called the Rockland event “a good trial to see if there is an appetite for it.” The property is being marketed internationally, he said.

In Greater Victoria’s hot housing market, properties are increasingly changing hands after bids are accepted on a set date and time once the home has been on the market for several days. Sale prices have been tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond asking prices.

The Rockland house is known as Grierson Mansion. Contractor E.D. Grierson lived in the house from 1910 to 1922, according to the Victoria Heritage Foundation, which describes it as a “stunning example of the British arts and crafts tudor revival.”

It has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, re-leaded stained glass windows and a 32-foot-long ballroom. There’s a billiards and media room, 2,000-bottle wine cellar, mahogany panelled walls and ornate fireplace. Maclure also designed the garden.

The home was originally built on one acre, which has since been strata-titled with other homes built on the original site. The house is used as a single-family property, but consists of two strata titles, meaning that a buyer could divide it, subject to approvals, Stephenson said.

Much of the furniture has been removed to give visitors the chance to view the house and its features as a gallery to highlight Maclure’s work, Stephenson said. Storyboards illustrate its history.

Maclure was a prolific architect in the early part of the last century, designing several stately homes as well as Hatley Castle in Colwood and the Temple Building downtown.

Pianists will play a Bechstein concert grand piano in the ballroom during the open houses.

Bidders must register in advance for the June 22 auction, which starts at 5 p.m. in the ballroom of the house, at 906 Pemberton Rd. A $100,000 bank draft will be due from the successful bidder.

Greater Victoria’s luxury housing market has increased in strength year-over-year, said a Sotheby’s report released this month.

In the first five months of this year, a total of 388 single-family houses priced at $1 million and more were sold, up from 114 houses in that price category in the same months in 2015, it said.

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