"We were disappointed," said Joan Lessans, who said she and her husband had wanted to downsize and turned to auction when the 4,450-square-foot home didn't sell via the traditional route. "It was puzzling. ... It seems like it has to do with the market and what people are looking for today."

Lessans said her family is enjoying the estate this summer, but the home, which has an indoor pool and tennis court, remains listed for $1.3 million.

"It's on the market … but we're not going to auction again," she said.

The method is not for everyone, said Ross Mackesey, sales manager of Long & Foster in the Green Spring Valley-Lutherville area and president-elect of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors.

"There are properties that are difficult to sell, and maybe that opens it up to a wider audience, but typically people that go to an auction want to bargain," he said. "I deal with impatient clients all the time, and it's been two years since any of our listings went the way of auction."

Even so, some say the efficiency of the method may now be appealing to the everyday home seller, as well.

Seven years ago, William Z. Fox started a firm focused exclusively on residential auctions, and unlike many other firms, he doesn't sell distressed properties.

Fox said he believes there's a growing market for these services, pointing to other countries, such as Australia, where the method is more common and was used for a majority of sales in the country's largest cities, according to a report last year.

"The concept at Fox Residential Auctions is trying to separate auction marketing and sale by auction from distress," he said. "A real estate broker is a professional marketer of real estate. I am a professional marketer of real estate. We both do the same thing. The only thing that's different is the method we use."

Fox, whose firm is based in Timonium, said he expects to handle about 50 auctions this year, including a 19.5-acre waterfront property in Chester on the Eastern Shore that will sell at absolute auction in September. The home was most recently listed for $2.1 million, he said.

"I think that people are coming more and more to realize the efficiencies, the economics and the time considerations of auctions," he said. "Our business has grown fairly dramatically in the teeth of the bad market that we have had for five or six years."

More agents started offering the services during the downturn and have become members of the National Auctioneers Association, even as the market recovers, said the organization's CEO, Hannes Combest.

"It's not an unusual tool for luxury markets at all … but for some reason the everyday consumer hasn't thought of auction as the preferred method," Combest said. "Now they're looking at auction as a very viable way to sell real estate."

Rawlings Auction Appraisal & Realty LLC started doing residential real estate auctions during the downturn. The firm is still seeing demand, said Patti Rawlings, one of the owners of the firm, which is to auction a 45-acre horse farm July 25 in Taneytown that is valued at $1 million but listed for $675,000.

"We've seen the popularity," she said. "People are becoming educated about it and why it works."