The Queen Anne home on Lake Avenue in downtown Orlando sits on what was once known as "Honeymoon Row." the house is across the street from lake Cherokee, formerly Lake Minnie

1887 mansion can be yours

Sentinel staff writer

   Interested in buying a slice of downtown Orlando history?
    The Victorian-era home on lake Cherokee known as the O'Neal House will be auctioned off next month to the highest bidder.  Built in 1887 and updated through the decades, the Queen Anne-style home and its contents will be sold Oct.7.

  And to ensure lots of interest, no minimum bid is required, said auctioneer Alan Frenkel, with Karlin Daniel & Associates in Orlando.
   "That makes it exciting," Frenkel said. "It sends a message to the public that it's a fair-market value sale.  That motivates the market."

   Polished wood floors in the old home whispered softly of the past as Frenkel made a walk-through Wednesday preparing for the auction.  in one room, a dark fireplace mantel with ornate carvings of birds and woodland creatures hints at the rural roots of the home, which is depicted in one Orlando postcard dated 1909.  A skeleton key said to be an original for the property is framed and hanging on a hallway wall.

  The five bedroom, 4 1/2 bath house is one of two surviving homes from six mansions once known collectively as "Honeymoon Row" because prominent young newlyweds lived there along the shores of what used to be called Lake Minnie but now is Lake Cherokee.


    The house, at 614 Lake Ave., was listed for sale at one point last year for more than $1.5 million. It is one of about a dozen homes on the city of Orlando's list of historic landmarks and is in the Lake Cherokee Historic District. As a result, the property comes with deed restrictions that require the owner to seek city permission to make any changes.
   "It's an important home, particularly because of the location - "Honeymoon Row," said Richard Forbes, the city's historic preservation officer.

Four of the six original homes on the row were torn down through the years, he said, but city regulations now require the homes to be preserved as much as possible.

Auctioneer Alan Frenkel visits the billiard room.

A claw foot tub sits in one of the home's 4 1/2 baths.

The restrictions on such a landmark house may not appeal to every buyer, Forbes said, but to the right person with an interest in history and preservation, it's a gem that should only increase in value.

"You know you have to follow certain rules, and your know your neighbors do as well," he said. "So you won't have any surprises."

To buy the house and grounds, a bidder must have $25,000 in cash or a cashier's check on hand, and a 10 percent deposit is required on the day of the auction.  the balance is due at closing within 30 days.

the home's contents, ranging from a Black Forest carved mantel clock to a Wolf 48-inch gas range with six burners, will be sold individually, with payment in full on the day of the auction.

The home is owned by Jean E. Styles, an investor who bought the property in a partnership with two other women in 2001.  Styles was traveling this week, but Frenkel said the partnership is being dissolved and Styles has decided to sell rather than continue to lease the property.

The home failed to sell last year as a regular real estate listing, despite the area's record -hot market, so the owner now is ready to settle for whatever the auction will bring.  Frenkel said, rather than try again with a listing and compete with what has since grown into a record backlog of housing inventory.

"There are nine or ten months' worth of homes for sale" in the Orlando area, Frenkel noted.  So using an auction for an unusual property such as the O'Neal House tells potential buyers "the seller is beyond motivated," he said.

Orange County property appraiser records show that the home was bought in 2001 for $650,000 and now has an estimated market value of at least $1 million.  The kitchen has been upgraded and a swimming pool was added in 2002.

The county's market value estimates typically lag properties' actual market value; one online property estimating service, has the home valued at about $1.85 million. The property was last listed for sale in early 2005 at $1.59 million, according to local Multiple Listing Service records.

Realtor Darryl Hunt, a Re/Max agent who specializes in downtown Orlando, said he is stumped as to why the property never sold last year at that asking price, which was down from $2.1 million in an earlier listing.

"It is a unique property, definitely." said Hunt, who is known as "Downtown Darryl."

"It's a specialty property, so you do have to have the right specialty buyer."

Frenkel said that, while relatively few homes are sold by absolute auction, it's not that rare among unusual properties such as the O'Neal house.

He said he expects the bidding to be brisk and relatively brief.

"I don't think it will take more than a few hours, at most," he said.


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