Neighbors bidding adieu to island with an auction Friends who grew up together and moved to Kent Island with their families will sell their homes and leave together


In a story last Sunday about an auction of 151 Mullar Lane on Kent Island, Dorian Mullar was incorrectly identified as starting Jailcraft Inc., a jail amenities business. His brother, Ronald Mullar, started the business, and Dorian sold his portion of the business back to Ronald, who still heads the company.

The Sun regrets the error.

STEVENSVILLE -- Richard McKenzie and Dorian Mullar grew up together in the same Essex neighborhood, close as brothers despite a four-year age difference.

They went to the same college -- the University of Maryland -- and joined the same fraternity -- Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

After college, they each got married, had children, started successful businesses, and in the late 1980s moved their families to Kent Island, where they built big waterfront houses less than two miles apart.

On Tuesday, McKenzie and Mullar will again be moving in tandem, selling their houses in an unusual double auction that has attracted inquiries from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii. The auction is absolute -- both houses will be sold with no minimum bid.

The decision to move was made more than a year ago, both men said, when Mullar, who had started a jail-construction company after working as a contractor, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Time suddenly mattered more than money -- and an auction looked like a better bet than staying with the traditional real estate route where large properties can languish indefinitely.

"We're going to do what we planned on doing when we retired -- a little early," McKenzie said.

"Dorian and I grew up next door to each other in Essex. We've been like brothers since childhood," McKenzie said. "We always fished and crabbed together -- just like brothers we were both in business for ourselves all these years.

"We made a conscious decision we're going to do what we want to do now, not wait until we're 65. We're going to sell our assets and move down to Florida."

"You gradually deteriorate," Mullar, 45, said matter-of-factly about his multiple sclerosis. "I know I have it. I want to be with my children as much as I can."

"Houses like these could be on the market for years," McKenzie, 41, said. "We don't have years. We know on June 3, this house will sell. The amount is important, but it's not all-important. It'll go for what it will go for.

"We've really loved it here. But we've gotten to the point now that we decided we want to do a little more travel and a little less yard work," McKenzie added.

Mullar sold his jail-construction business. And McKenzie delegated the day-to-day running of his plumbing and bathroom business to subordinates. All that was left to do was sell their Maryland homes and start building in Florida.

So they listed their houses with a broker in the spring of 1996 and waited and waited and waited. By April 1997, neither house had been sold.

"I think we had maybe five people look at it," said Sandy McKenzie. Both properties were priced more than $1 million and nothing in that range has sold in Queen Anne's County for more than two years, according to the McKenzies. For the Mullars, the delay was particularly inconvenient.

"We're in the house all the time," said Stephanie Mullar, who home-schools their two children, Paige, 13 and Brandon, 11. If someone wanted to see the house, she said, it meant a frantic rush to straighten up the normal clutter a family generates, including confining the family Labrador, before the prospective buyer arrived.

Then the two families saw a newspaper story about the auction of the Toad Hall estate in Annapolis last fall. They did some research about auctions and auction firms, and decided to approach the same company that had sold Toad Hall, the Alabama-based National Auction Group Inc.

Emotional appeal

For McKenzie, the idea of an auction had emotional appeal as well.

"It's a little bit of a roll of the dice -- an absolute auction," he said. "That piqued my interest. I'm the risk-taker and Dorian is extremely conservative -- if we're playing golf and betting, I'd rather win a dollar from him than $10 from anybody else!"

Both men said they were interested in the "market value" concept behind the auction -- that the house will sell for what it is worth to the highest bidder, but that the figure won't be set until the auction is concluded.

"We're of the feeling that houses like this, there's no way to know what they're worth -- there's no comparable [house] around," McKenzie said. "We are of the opinion that the house will bring market value at auction. We just don't know what that is.'

Bidding requirements

All bidders are required to bring a cashier's check for $75,000 to the auction. The McKenzie house will be sold first, with registration opening at 11 a.m. The auction starts at 1 p.m. The Mullar house will have registration that opens at 2 p.m. and the auction there will start at 4 p.m.

Both properties can be viewed by appointment from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until the day of the auction. To see the Mullar house, call 410-643-0381; the McKenzie house number is 410-643-2260.

Terms of the sale for the McKenzie house are 10 percent down with $75,000 in certified funds and closing within 60 days. For the Mullar house, the terms are identical, with one addition: 80 percent owner financing is available, with a 9 percent interest rate and a 6-month balloon payment.

The two-story McKenzie house at 200 McKenzie Lane has 1,200 feet of water frontage on Cox Creek, and includes a pier and dock. It is a five-bedroom, four-bath brick house with more than 7,000 square feet.

McKenzie designed the house, including a state-of-the-art master bathroom that has a steam/sauna/tanning area called a habitat, as well as a whirlpool and separate shower.

The house also has a staircase rising above a marble foyer, a 30-foot ceiling in the main living area, a 90-foot patio with a heated pool and a substantial garage with a carriage house apartment above it.

There is also a little history connected to the 8-year-old house: It sits on 25 acres that were once part of a farm belonging to Tom Billman, a Maryland banker convicted in the savings and loan scandals of the 1980s and extradited from France to serve his jail term. It also has a secret room (McKenzie won't say exactly where the room is located, except that it is somewhere on the first floor) with a separate phone line and alarm system.

The Mullar house, at 151 Mullar Lane, is also a brick mansion. Patterned after Gunston Hall, a historic Virginia house built by George Mason, it has 2,000 feet of waterfront on Eastern Bay and sits on 15 acres. The three-story house has 5,400 square feet of space, five bedrooms and four bathrooms. It has a two-car garage and a barn with a finished second floor. The foyer has a marble floor and a large staircase. The main living area offers a 20-foot ceiling, a fireplace and built-in bookcases. The house has a lower level, with two bedrooms, a recreation room and a bathroom; the remaining bedrooms and bathrooms are on the third level. The house is distinguished by dormer windows on the third floor and a large circular driveway paved in brick. Like the McKenzie house, it too has a pier, a swimming pool, a large patio and a secret room (and like the McKenzies, the Mullars won't say exactly where the secret room is hidden).

For the two families, the auction will be a kind of going-away party as well as a final sale.

"We'll have a band at the auction, a jazz band," McKenzie said. "And there's a mock auction first, for charity." There will also be a bar serving cocktails and for the sellers, a bottle of Dom Perignon to celebrate the occasion.

"I have a lot of confidence we'll get a fair price for the house," McKenzie said with an eager smile.

Pub Date: 6/01/97

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