Vaughn Mansion Auction Draws Interest

A Preston Hollow mansion billed as an architectural “masterpiece” went to auction in February, but this was no “fire sale.”

Known as the Grady Vaughn home, 5350 S. Dentwood Drive, it is among high-end Dallas properties with sellers sidestepping traditional listings and going straight to auction.

The 9,500-square-foot home on 1.37 acres listed at $6.9 million but dropped to $5.5 million. It didn’t sell at auction—starting bid was $2.9 million—but the event stirred lots of interest. In early April, a potential buyer was in negotiations with the heirs of the last owner—late Dallas developer Allan Zidell.

“The auction did exactly what it was supposed to do, and that was to draw in the interested parties,” said Mike Jones, president of auction services at United Real Estate Holdings, Dallas, which handles luxury homes all over the world.

Jones, who worked on the Vaughn project, explained auctions show what the market is willing to bear, especially for properties that rise above the neighborhood “comps” because they have more valuable amenities or features.

The Vaughn home, for example, is prized for its architectural significance.

In 1951, oilman Grady Vaughn Jr. hired architect Robert Goodwin to design a home in midcentury modern — a style that illuminates interior spaces by exposing them to nature.

The Vaughn home does precisely that with floor-to-ceiling windows that invite views of exquisite landscaping, including a pond and majestic century-old trees.

In 2017, Preservation Dallas added the home to its roster of “Most Endangered Historic Places,” and called it “truly a midcentury modern masterpiece in Dallas and one that hopefully will not meet the fate of a wrecking ball.”

That’s no exaggeration. Jones said a lot of high-end real estate in Dallas is bought only for the dirt.

“They’re tearing down a perfectly good home to build a more stylish home,” he said.

Auctions also have advantages for agents/brokers. The National Association of Realtors reports the process can generate a list of ready and qualified buyers, help assure property is sold quickly at true market value, and even spark interest in other listings.

However, not all properties are suited for auctions. Scott Swenson, a longtime friend of Jones and fellow auctioneer, said two factors help decide when they’re appropriate.

“One, time needs to be of the essence,” said Swenson, president of Jones Swenson Auctions in Austin. “Like, a customer might have a great deal of cash tied into a property and decides there’s something else they want to use that money for; they need it now.”

The next thing is “they have to have equity in the property,” he said, about 50-60 percent.

Jones added, “Say you have a client who says, ‘Look, we need $5 million,’ and the appraisal is four-point-nine. Well, there’s no margin there. It would be better for a traditional listing.

“Your best client is an educated client and, as long as they know the odds, you’ve done your job.”

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