VENTNOR — The villa owned by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia sold at auction Saturday for more than $4 million to Steve and Ilene Berger, of Philadelphia.

The Bergers are owners of Berger Rental Communities, dealing in apartments in eastern Pennsylvania. Their winning bid was $4.125 million. Adding in a required additional 10 percent, their final cost will be more than $4.5 million.

“I feel very blessed,” said Ilene Berger after signing the papers. Steven said he was relieved. The couple are spiritual and said they have plans to keep groundskeeper Fran McManus, as well as have an annual reunion with the priests of the archdiocese every year.

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“You were the best option. We are so glad you got it,” said Judy Grinspan, a new neighbor to the Bergers.

Mel Rosen, of Ventnor, echoed the sentiment. “I’m glad they are not tearing it down, because we were afraid it would get turned into four or six lots,” he said.

“Everyone was going to tear down the house except us,” Ilene Berger said.

The couple won by a $25,000 lead over bidder Mark Hankin, who had bid up to $4.1 million. Hankin is a developer and president of The Hankin Management Company from Elkstown, Penn.

The auctioneer had called out for a bid of $4.15 million after Hankin bid $4.1 million, but the Bergers called out $4.125 million, which the auctioneer accepted, said Max Spann, Jr., president of the company managing the auction, Max Spann Real Estate and Auction.

St. Joseph by the Sea, a 19-room villa located on the Boardwalk at 114 Princeton Ave., takes up a full beach block and includes an expansive garden to the south of the building.

Sitting with the Bergers in the backyard during the auction were Marty and Debbie Buchalski of Ventnor.

Debbi Buchalski is the designated renovator. Her new clients intend to keep the property as a home for their three children and four— soon to be six — grandchildren, Marty Buchalski said.

“We’re best friends,” said Ilene Berger of Debbi Buchalski, adding that the two women have been friends for more than six years.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia sold the property, assessed at $6.2 million, to help cover a $17 million deficit in its budget. Last year, the taxes paid on the property paid were $114,563.

“We are very satisfied with the sale,” said Thomas Croke, director of real estate services for the archdiocese. “We are glad to have it done in three months rather than let the property sit for two years.”

Built in 1905, the 9,800-square-foot property includes 11 bedrooms, all identical in size except one, which was built to allow wheelchair accessibility.

To qualify to bid, a $100,000 bank cashier’s check was required, plus 10 percent of the purchase price. The closing of the sale will be in October, Ilene Berger said.

Contact Anjalee Khemlani:


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