No sale at auction for Venice mansion


PHOTO GALLERY:  DeVita Mansion auction Thursday

PHOTO GALLERY: See Villa DeVita, the House of Life

One of the region's most noteworthy residences — and lengthiest multimillion-dollar real estate listings — went to auction this morning, but the result was a no-sale.

Villa Devita, the Venice estate of Richard and Colleen Devita and family, is one of the largest houses in the region at 19,114 square feet. (Herald-Tribune archive / 2011)

Villa Devita, the Venice estate of Richard and Colleen Devita and family, is one of the largest houses in the region at 19,114 square feet.
(Herald-Tribune archive / 2011)

Auctioneer Craig King of J.P. King Auction Co. closed the bidding at $4 million after only one bid was made after 5 minutes. But seller Richard DeVita, a Sarasota endodontist, determined that the bid was too low and rejected it. The house now goes back on the market through Carol Clark of Premier Sotheby's International Realty. Clark said she was unsure if the current $9.9 million list price would change.

The DeVita Ranch is a 101-acre horse farm containing a 19,200-square-foot mansion called Villa DeVita, "The House of Life." The event was a "reserve auction," meaning the seller must approve or reject the winning bid. By contrast, in an absolute auction the highest bid wins the property regardless of the seller's wishes. Four bidders registered for the auction.

Prior to going on the market four years ago, the house was completed -- "It had been just a shell," said Realtor Carol Clark -- by DeVita and his late wife, Jacqueline. They made it one of the most opulent homes in the region.

The property includes a 2,300-square-foot guest house, a caretaker's apartment, a large barn for motorized equipment and equestrian facilities that include 22 stables, 10 paddocks and a dirt race track with rails.

Both Richard DeVita and his wife, Colleen, Jacqueline's sister, admitted to having a case of the jitters a half-hour before auction time.

"I am more nervous than excited," said Colleen DeVita. "Of course, it might not sell. We could stay another five years if we wanted, but it is time to move on."

Richard and Colleen DeVita. Photo by Harold Bubil.

Richard and Colleen DeVita. Photo by Harold Bubil.

In the background, a keyboardist played "More," which is appropriate music for a bidding situation. He later played "America." And there were beautiful spacious skies overhead.

"Very nervous," said Richard DeVita, adding that the minimum offer he would accept is "nothing fixed."

"I am fluid, but I have certain obligations you gotta meet."

After the auction, Richard DeVita said that $4 million "was substantially off the mark. We couldn't sell it for that."

DeVita also hired J.P. King to auction the house in 2005 after he had an acceptable result selling a Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota, penthouse in an auction. The high bid that day, at the height of the real estate market, was closer to $9 million, said Craig King, but Richard DeVita did not accept it, as he had other distractions.

He was with his wife, Jacqueline, at Duke University as she underwent brain cancer surgery. "At that point, no matter what the bid was, I couldn't sell it because we were dealing with something else. Not because of the value, but because we had other things to worry about."

DeVita said his next step is "to enjoy our house. Look around, it ain't exactly a bummer to have to be here. We will keep it for sale and hopefully the right person will find it. Someone who appreciates it as much as we do."

Craig King said his company will "work with" three potential buyers who attended the auction.

King admitted that on his own property, he has "ridden the market down." He acknowledged that often, the bid at auction is the best bid many sellers will get.

"I have seen that over and over," King said. "I will meet with respective sellers who said, 'I had an offer of this, and we didn't take it,' and they are regretful that they didn't. But that is the beauty of the auction. Those people are always hoping that there is someone else out there who would have paid more money before they take a lower offer than they want. With an auction, you expose the property and you reach those prospects. It brings the best price the market will bear at that time."

There was a winning bid today. Clark won a gift basket for $550 that was auctioned to warm up the crowd and familiarize them with the auction process.

"I don't know what we will do price-wise," said Carol Clark, who was accompanied by her husband and business partner, Paul Clark. She said she was surprised by the "low" bid. "I really thought someone would step up and do better than that, but that is the auction world. You play through it and see how it goes, and then you regroup and decided how you proceed. I am happy to see renewed interest and people taking notice in the property."

Clark gave would-be bidders tours of the property on a sunny, cool and breezy day. The auction took place under a tent just outside the kitchen, where famed chef Emeril LaGasse once served Valentine's Day breakfast live on "Good Morning America" to Jacqueline DeVita in 2006. She died in 2008 of brain cancer.

A half-hour after the auction, things had returned to normal in the DeVita household. The three children -- Richie, Mikey and Gabby -- reentered the house with one of Gabby's friends and made the expected amount of noise that teenagers make. Life goes on in "The House of Life."

Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: January 31, 2013
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