Barney Spera throws his bid paddle and raises his hands in excitement after outbidding seven others for a house that sold for $1.43 million in Ashland Thursday. - Jamie Lusch

Bidder buys his dream house

When Barney Spera woke up Thursday morning, he almost gave up on his dream.

The 77-year-old Rogue River resident thought he couldn't muster the financial muscle to become the high bidder at an auction for his much coveted hilltop Ashland home.

"This is just a fantasy," he said, looking around at the 75 people who nibbled at a buffet to the accompaniment of a pianist at 260 Skycrest Drive on Thursday afternoon.

Spera was probably the most surprised person in the house when his $1.3 million bid clinched the deal and brought the high-stakes auction to a close after what seemed like a very long 10 minutes.

"That's the happiest day of my life," said Spera, literally jumping for joy on his new Brazilian cherry floors covered with oriental carpets.

Spera, who acknowledged he'll be a bit overextended, said he had reached the limit of what he could bid for Ashland Manor, which boasts three granite fireplaces.

"This is a steal," said Spera, looking out at views of the valley through some of the home's 118 windows. "I thought it should have sold for $2 million."

Spera, a retired purser with United Airlines who invested heavily in real estate, was featured Sunday in a Mail Tribune article that described how multimillion houses are still selling in a poor real estate market.

The auctioneer, Christie King Ray of Alabama-based J.P. King Auction Co., started the bidding off at $2 million, but then ratcheted it down as no one raised his bid paddle. When she dipped below $1 million, the bidding war started and the paddles were raised, though tentatively.

"You can't build it today at this price," said Ray as she encouraged the eight registered bidders, including one from Texas, to offer more while neighbors, real estate brokers and others looked on. Auction assistants scurried about the room encouraging people to stay in the game.

The 4,500-square-foot home with four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half bathrooms came fully furnished, including a sub-zero freezer, Viking range and cherry cabinets in the kitchen.

Ray told the bidders that the plaster used on the walls had the paint color mixed in so that it changed hues as the day progressed. She told them that the house had a view of Ashland, a town she said offered Shakespeare, restaurants and other amenities. Just that morning, she said, she saw three deer and a fox walk across the property. She reminded the bidders of the waterfall in the front, but to no avail.

As Spera's bid held, the auctioneer finally said, "I really thought I would do more than this."

After a few more attempts to squeeze out another bid, her gavel came down and Spera, who held bid paddle No. 310, realized his dream.

In addition to the $1.3 million, Spera had to pay an extra 10 percent to the owner. The total cost of the house came out to $1,430,000, payable in 30 days.

Spera had to sign over a cashier's check for $50,000 and also provided another non-refundable check for 10 percent of the sale price.

He said eventually he would sell homes he owns in both Rogue River and Brookings to feel more financially secure.

After signing some paperwork, Spera said, "I'm still in a bit of a daze."

The owner, Gerald Bibler, was noticeably unhappy with the selling price. He'd had the property for sale for about $3 million previously. Bibler declined to be interviewed after the auction was over, but did show Spera around the property and told him more about the house. Spera said he wanted to keep the house just as he bought it, except that he will bring in his baby grand piano.

Spera toured the house last week, falling in love with it immediately.

"When I walked in the doors, I thought, 'This is my house,'" he said.

He received congratulations from others.

"We're your neighbors," said Marjorie Lininger, a retired principal from Hedrick Middle School, who shook his hand.

Spera's dream came true, but he said there is still one thing missing from his life.

"I'm a bachelor looking for a good woman," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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