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Home auction starts bidding at $2 million

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Dove Hill, a 20,000-square- foot, high-tech mansion on 95 acres, goes up for an absolute auction Oct. 6 and may fetch the highest price for a home in Harford County history, with bidding that starts at $2 million.

For Ann F. vonForthuber, a successful auction would represent the highest-priced residential property ever handled by her firm, Auction & Estate Representatives, which deals in many unique and historic properties.

The home features six bedrooms, six full baths, plus a half bath; a four-car garage; two surround sound theaters; a gym; Italian stone, granite, porcelain and marble slab floors and counter tops; European fixtures; commercial grade plumbing, five-zone central air conditioning and radiant heat, and a pond stocked with small-mouth bass from Arkansas.

The owner's passion for high-tech systems, luxury details, materials and workmanship is evident. "Even though you have a lot of square footage there, it is a very smart house," said Charles B. Rosseau, adding that his highest electric bill during the winter was $110.

"The caliber of it, the integrity of it is far superior to anything you see built by traditional residential standards because it is built by commercial standards," vonForthuber said. "He's got a $4 million house. ... There is no doubt about it."

The value of the property is enhanced by the fact that it can be subdivided. Prospective buyers can bid on the entire property or individual lots - a 35-acre parcel with the residence, plus four separate 15-acre lots and an adjoining 3.7-acre lot.

A deposit of $100,000 will be required to bid on the residence, while deposits of $25,000 will be required for the individual lots. A 5 percent buyer's premium will be added to the final sale.

"My hope and dream is that someone buys the whole piece," Rosseau said. "I'd like to see that happen and then maybe down the road subdivide it. It is probably the last largest piece of land near Jarrettsville."

VonForthuber likened the auction to having "a tiger by the tail," adding: "If I could take this property and put it in Potomac, I'd have them fighting over it and it would probably go for $5 million. We know there has never been anything of that price range sold up there before or offered up there before."

In rural Harford County, many high-priced parcels are sold by word of mouth without ever entering the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc., the multiple-listing database used by real estate agents.

But of those that have gone through the system, some of the recent big sales have included a $3 million deal for 66 undeveloped acres on Old Post Road in Aberdeen; $2.25 million for an undeveloped 158 acres on Oakington Road in Havre de Grace; $1.25 million for a residence with 14 development rights on 130 acres off Harmony Church Road in Darlington; and $850,000 for a stone manor house on 116 acres on Darlington Road in Darlington.

'A new high'

A $2 million-plus price tag for Dove Hill could rank among the highest for improved parcels in the county, said Diane Hirschhorn, a top producing agent with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA in Forest Hill.

"I am not aware of any that has sold on the resale market in that price range," she said. "It probably would set a new high."

Dwight Griffith, a luxury custom homebuilder in Harford County, said the land itself makes the auction exceptional.

"I would think [the lots are] extremely valuable. ... It's going to be up there," Griffith said. "Land is becoming a hugely valuable resource. Finding a decent lot is very hard to do ... very hard to do in an area where you want," he said, estimating that a 15-acre parcel near Jarrettsville could command a price in the vicinity of $150,000.

"When you get up in that size lot, it really doesn't make a big difference whether it is 10 or 15 or 12 or 8. You are going to use it for the same purpose ... to build a nice house, garage or barn if you are going to do horses on it. It is certainly worth a lot more than 1, 2 or 3 acres," Griffith added.

VonForthuber emphasized that it is not a distress auction, though the property was put up for auction last year for $4 million.

Rosseau, 53, is retiring with family to Marco Island, Fla., having recently sold his commercial contracting business to his two younger brothers. Rosseau made the bulk of his reputation and fortune by securing government contracts.

His company, CER Inc., had a contract with the National Security Agency for 10 years, doing maintenance, construction and renovation work. His company was also responsible for building the visitors center at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, and just completed the $62 million Anne Arundel County Courthouse.

'15-year search'

"It took us 15 years to find a piece of ground that one of the developers didn't snatch out from under me," Rosseau said of Dove Hill. "And when I saw the old Heaps Farm, I envisioned building a nice home on it that we would sell eventually."

He purchased the Heaps Farm and its original 135 acres in 1995. He took 22 acres and subdivided it into five lots called Dove Hill Estates and sold four of them. Another 13 acres with the original farmhouse on it was sold two years later. Today, about 20 percent of the remaining acreage is wooded, including the pond, Rosseau said. Another 60 to 65 acres is being farmed, and the remainder is used for growing hay.

Rosseau said he planned to stay in the home for five years, but "we cut that plan down to two years simply because the opportunity presented itself for me to go ahead and divest my business to my brothers and sell it in its entirety and move on."

According to vonForthuber, Dove Hill - so named because of wire strung between several utility poles as a perch for doves - was listed with Christie's last year for $4 million.

But Rosseau canceled his contract with the upscale auction house after being disappointed with its marketing efforts. Rosseau learned of vonForthuber and invited her to offer a plan.

"I'm looking around and I can't think of too many people who want 95 acres unless they are going to farm," vonForthuber said. "I said, you have development rights with this property. ... This is what we are going to do; we're going to parcel off part of the land and sell it separately."

That clicked with Rosseau, who agreed to her plan to auction the property in pieces, if necessary.

"Without any doubt, [I] will not get what I put into the home, [but] I will still get a fair price for it," he said. "I'll miss it, but it will be there long after I'm gone. I've moved on and enjoying life right now."

To view Dove Hill

A preview of Dove Hill will be held for the public Sept. 23 and 24. There is a $10 fee, which will be donated to charity. To register, call Auction & Estate Representatives at 410-583-7653.

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