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Hillhigh Resort sells cheap; future uncertain

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Joe Wilson, of Wilson Auctioneers, works to encourage bids, as the Hillhigh Resort and golf course were auctioned off on Sept. 14. The historic Horseshoe Bend resort and golf course sold for $250,000 at a Sept. 14 absolute auction, a price many spectators found shockingly low. The buyer, Cooper Realty of Melbourne, has not decided whether the resort will remain in operation. /Photo by Richard Irby
The historic Hillhigh Resort and golf course in Horseshoe Bend sold at absolute auction on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at a price a spectator called "unbelievable."

Cooper Realty of Melbourne made the winning bid of $250,000, far below the $500,000 opening bid suggested by auctioneer Joe Wilson.

The estate of long time owner Carlie Smith hired Wilson Auctioneers of Hot Springs to sell the aging hotel complex, golf course and 72 undeveloped acres.

While more than 80 people were present in the Hillhigh lobby as the auction began, only a few people registered as bidders.

Wilson first auctioned the resort property, golf course and undeveloped land separately.

One bidder claimed all three properties for a total bid of $193,600, bidding $800 an acre for the 72 undeveloped acres, $56,000 for the Glade Golf Course and $80,000 for the resort property.

The auctioneer then began bidding to sell the entire property as one.

Bidding was slow and Wilson struggled to get the price to $200,000, before suggesting a five minue break.

After the break, Wilson said, "I have a $250,000 bid," asking if anyone was willing to top it.

When no one stepped up, Cooper Realty emerged as the winner with its $250,000 bid.

The total price is actually $275,000, because the auctioneer was entitled to a a 10 percent "buyers premium."

After the auction, Horseshoe Bend residents and resort employees gathered around Daniel Taylor of Cooper Realty, inquiring what the company's plans were for the property.

Taylor said he and his three partners did not come to the auction intending to buy but, "It was a good deal and we decided to give it a shot."

Taylor said company owners would have to meet to decide whether to keep the resort open, and whether to make a major investment to renovate the facility.

The Hillhigh Resort opened in the early 1970s to great success, as Horseshoe Bend was developed as a retirement community. In recent years, it has struggled, however.

Community leaders were hoping that a company which specializes in resort management would buy the property, restore it to its original glory and market it was a regional getaway.

Auctioneer Joe Wilson seemed frustrated, at times, at the lack of competitive bidding.

"Guys, that's too cheap and you know it," Wilson said as bidding lagged. "You will wake up tomorrow and kick yourself (for letting this slip by)."

The new owners must close on the property within 30 days.

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