Here's the Scoop: November 12, 2013

Going, going...crazy
With my finely honed reporter’s instincts (some call it nosey-ness), I was recently drawn to check out a real estate auction in Margaretville.
I don’t often attend auctions, but I find the real estate variety kind of fascinating. Especially when these sales are advertised as “absolute” — meaning that the property will sell, regardless of bidding price.
It’s human nature, in a case like this, to think, “Wow, maybe I get a three-bedroom, two-bath house with granite countertops and a Jacuzzi for about $10,000!”
That type of delusion usually lasts only until the first time prospective bidders make an actual pre-auction site visit. More often than not, the reality of the situation quickly changes to something like: “New roof, new porch, new windows, new floors, new appliances — new mortgage.”
Despite such minor drawbacks, there’s a group of folks who are still drawn to such “bargains.” Maybe, despite the flaws noticed upon their visit to the site, they can’t shake impressions like, “Hey, that dog house out back looked brand new.”
This isn’t to say that all real estate auctions put “fixer-uppers” for sale. But, there’s a pretty good chance that “absolute” auction, translates into: “Absolutely a ton of work needed.”

Cracking under the pressure
At the auction that I attended the other day, a prospective bidder had leaned against a porch railing — and it broke under him! Some would consider that a bad sign. Not this fellow, as he wound up being the “successful” bidder. And, he paid a price that was about four times higher than the “steal” that some people were talking about in the pre-auction chatter.
I’m not certain, but I may have been cured of my obsession of fixing up older buildings. Well, “cured” may not be the proper term, but the “desire” for such projects has certainly been crushed quite a bit. Three projects in seven years will have that effect, I guess.
So, I was not emotionally. or, more importantly — financially — invested in the recent auction. Let me tell you, it’s far less stressful to be an onlooker.
In the early bidding, it seemed like the house was going to sell for a very reasonable figure. But, with three people “in the game,” the price kept rising, $1,000 at a time. The bidding soon became a two-man race. The thousands were adding up.

Leave it to others
Because I had no true interest, I hadn’t done an inspection of the house. By all accounts, though, the needed repairs were substantial. Having been a “winning” real estate auction bidder (with zero building skills) a number of years back, I knew that this house would need lots of money to fix up properly.
At the end of the auction, the top bidder stopped to chat with a group of auction-watchers.
“I’m going to tear it down,” he stated.
I asked him if he thought he had just purchased something in Beverly Hills, where mansions are razed to make room for bigger, uglier homes.
“Open your wallet, save a piece of history,” I advised the apparently un-proud new homeowner.
I then proceeded to tell him about the great sense of satisfaction I’d received by being the high bidder and saving an ancient building from the wrecking ball.
“And you’re making a lot of money from this property, right?” he asked with renewed interest.
“Preserving history is far important than turning a profit,” I explained.
I don’t think he was “sold” on my answer.
— Brian Sweeney