Auctions go on-line
Purchasing a foreclosed property in Lee County got a little easier this month when the Clerk of Courts office unveiled a state-of-the-art online auction Web site.
Users who used to go to the facility in downtown Fort Myers to bark the highest bid in effort to win a dream home or maybe just a great bargain, can now sit in front of their computer to do the same thing.
Having gone live on April 5, Clerk of Courts Charlie Green said the site operates similarly to ebay.
Users create an account, keep a list of properties they’re watching, and track the auction in real time.
The site, one of just 15 others like it in the state operated by Plantation based Realauction.com, is away for people to participate in the auction process without having to cram into the justice center.
“We don’t have a big enough facility to handle the number of people who are showing up for the auctions,” Green said. “But we also wanted to expose the property to as many people as possible, and the internet is the best way for us to do that.”
Lee County posted the fewest number of foreclosure filings in March 2010 since January 2008.
There were 1,138 foreclosures filed in March 2010. Compared to the 2,199 foreclosure filings in March 2009, the number is certainly decreasing.
And while 1,138 properties were foreclosed on in March, 2,128 properties were sold in the same timeframe.
In March 2009, while 2,199 foreclosures were filed, 2,066 homes were sold at auction.
Green said the county’s inventory continues to shrink, and the Web site will aid that process.
While the inventory is still somewhat deep, Green said there headway being made.
“We’re starting to dig into the backlog, but still not as much as we’d like to,” Green said.
Local Realtors have said they support the Web site, and that it will help to decrease the inventory of homes.
Yet, they are preaching caution while using the site, saying that a thorough investigations needs to be conducted before making a purchase, no matter how great the deal might seem.
Gloria Tate from Raso Realty said she’s heard positive feedback about the Web site, adding that it was important to find out if there were liens against property prior to making the plunge.
“The most important piece of advice I could give would be to hire a title company to do a lien search on the property before they move forward,” Tate said. “If people are not getting a title search, they don’t know what they’re getting.”
Paula Hellenbrand, owner of Encore Realty Services, said she doesn’t think the Web site effects the Realtor community directly.
She did echo the sentiments of Tate, saying that buyers need to beware when using the auction to land their dream home.
Aside from liens, Hellenbrand said homes can have mold problems, or been built or rehabilitated using Chinese Drywall.
“Who is at risk of being affected is the consumer who thinks they saving money by buying a home this way,” Hellenbrand said. “They have to do their homework.”
Like both Hellenbrand and Tate, Charlie Green understands the pitfalls of purchasing a house using the auction method, but also praised the bargains buyers can find.
Even though the site is almost brand new, Green said they’re also looking to find ways to continually update it, if funding will allow.
Even with the inventory seemingly being reduced, Green is also expecting a new slate of commercial property foreclosures to come down the pipe.
He equated the forthcoming commercial slate to ripple across a pond as opposed to a tidal wave, but any more foreclosure activity is still unwanted.
As more people start to discover the site, he said, the easier it will be to make that serious dent he’s looking for on the inventory.
As the Web site has yet to complete a full month of service, Green said he didn’t know exactly how many people were using it, but he suspects those numbers to increase, whatever they are.
“I hope by the end of the month, we’ll have a good data base,” he said. “I think it’ll get better, as more and more people get used to it.”
The Lee County Clerk of Courts foreclosure auction Web site can be found at www.lee.foreclose.com .