Auction Block

If you are trying to find a bargain on a house, stay away from auctions.

At least that is the claim of auctioneer Jim Halfhill. He says that a savvy seller with a hot property will get more for his house at auction because in that scenario the buyer's competitive nature and ego take over, driving the price higher and higher. This benefits the seller who, furthermore, is able to sell his house "As is" without the stringent disclosures required when selling a house the traditional way.

While what Halfhill says makes sense, it flies in the face of conventional conceptions of the cause and effects of an auction. To the average buyer the word "Auction" is synonymous with "Desperate."

Joe Kane, who previewed the house at 144 Suburban Court last week and may be among the bidders when that house is auctioned, commented that an auction is "a good way to get a house at a good price."

So who is right? Halfhill concedes that sometimes inexpensive houses do "slip through the cracks." But he also says that an auction is the very best possible way to determine market value for a house. In fact, in his words, "It is the finest example of free enterprise in America today because there are arms' length negotiations between buyer and seller."

So if that's true, how does one get a good deal? Because we know it happens.

It took some coercion but Halfhill finally gave up what he believes is the secret weapon needed to walk away with a deal at an auction - a gambit called "Jump Bidding."

The first step is to determine what the house is worth or how much you will be willing to pay. In the heat of an auction bidders can get emotional so before the bidding begins set a ceiling, then decide you will not pay more than that amount. Realize that you may have to walk away without this particular house.

The next step is to simply psyche out your fellow bidders. If the bids occur in small increments, it keeps all the bidders hooked. When you see things start to slow down or the bid increments decrease, jump in with double or triple the amount others bid (without going above the ceiling you set earlier, of course). Often this is enough to scare off other bidders. Hopefully, confident "Jump bidding" will stun the competition into quitting.

You can try the technique this weekend as Halfhill auctions a one-and-a-half story brick bungalow on desirable Suburban Court. A massive brick fireplace, hardwood floors, and a giant pantry give the tiny house mansion-style character.

Robin's egg blue and cream tiles with a maroon border cover the walls and ceiling of the adequately sized full bathroom. The tiles look to be in perfect condition but obviously aren't original and are made of plastic.

The kitchen, like the rest of the house has good bones but needs updating. It looks to have been remodeled in the fifties with the ubiquitous faux-stone lino and wood veneer cabinets. The best feature is a long cast-iron and porcelain sink and drainboard that dominate the wall under a series of windows looking onto the backyard.

An enclosed stairway leads from the dining room to a nicely finished but unheated attic that contains two small rooms and plenty of storage in the eaves.

Furthermore, a full basement with a concrete floor and a garage means that while the house itself is fairly small there is plenty of storage for things like Christmas decorations and out-of-season clothes or the four refrigerators and gas stove that are currently down there.

Jordan Hawley, another potential bidder, says he likes the house because he doesn't want to pay for someone else's cosmetic work. He seems to have found the perfect house; it appears to be in good condition (remember, the seller is not required to disclose flaws) but does need some aesthetic T.L.C.


Auction on Saturday, October 28 at 10 a.m.

144 Suburban Court

$85,000 based on the tax assessment (keep in mind Halfhill charges an additional 10% "buyer's premium" which is tacked onto the sales price)

2 bedrooms (4 including two unheated rooms in the finished attic)

1 bath

garage, basement

Approximately 1200 square feet

Contact: Jim Halfhill 338-5764

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.